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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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May 19, 2009 3:06 AM

Pri0 status update: Not at desk

Posted by Sharon Chan

I'm on vacation until May 29 so I won't be updating this blog. I am writing this post from Incheon airport in Seoul, Korea, which provides free Wi-Fi. I've seen two Starbucks stores and one Caribou Coffee in the terminal.

While I am away, Mark Watanabe, the Seattle Times technology editor, will be posting sporadically.

While i'm gone, I invite you to scroll back through the archives and check out videos of the latest ad volley between Microsoft and Apple.

Comments | Category: Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 20, 2009 6:01 PM

Repaired Xbox 360 finally reaches Nome

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Xbox in Nome.JPG In the end, Microsoft's customer service reps came through, though not with out a lot of haranguing on the part of the Gallehers of Nome, Alaska.

The family's quest to get their Xbox 360 console repaired under warranty -- which I first wrote about last week -- ended Thursday after a full two months of frustrating calls, e-mails and a letter to the company's top executives. A repaired console arrived at their home in the small town where the Iditarod Sled Dog Race ends via UPS delivery man Al Burgo (pictured).

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Miscellaneous , Xbox 360 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 19, 2009 11:40 AM

Seattle small businesses can enter to win makeover from Microsoft, other vendors

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

This seems like a no-brainer for local small businesses in this economy. The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce enlisted Microsoft, DEX, BizXchange, FASTSIGNS Seattle and Queen Anne Upholstery to donate a makeover to a Washington small business.

You must be a small biz or organization (fewer than 10 people) with at least three computers, two years in business under your belt and the appropriate city and state business licenses. Chamber membership is not required. You have until 5 p.m., April 24 to enter. Rules and entry info here. (Update, 10 a.m. Friday: Fixed broken link.)

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Small business |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 12, 2009 11:53 AM

Woman struggles to prove to Microsoft's Xbox service agents that Nome, Alaska, exists

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Kim Galleher's nightmare may be coming to an end. The Nome, Alaska, mother has been trying since mid-February to get Microsoft to send her a shipping box so she could return her 13-year-old son's Xbox 360, which died of the Red Ring of Death in the depths of winter when going outside to play wasn't really an option. Microsoft extended the warranty on the Xbox 360, including shipping costs, in summer 2007, responding to what it called an "unacceptable" rate of hardware failures. But representatives at the company's repair center could not find a way to ship an empty box to Nome for the Gallehers to send back the game console for repair. Their address wasn't recognized, probably because the town of about 3,500 people on the remote Seward Peninsula has only post office boxes. And so began a month-long back-and-forth with Microsoft agents, nearing a dozen contacts, that starts to read like an Abbott and Costello routine, or an episode of the Twilight Zone, as Galleher put it.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Miscellaneous , Xbox 360 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Billionaire Bill, down $18 billion, is back on top of Forbes list

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Scroogeswim.jpg The Forbes list of the world's richest people is practically a rite of spring around here. Are we home to the richest, second richest or, gasp, third richest person in the world? This year, as billionaires around the world saw their fortunes cut by the global economic downturn, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost the least among the top three -- $18 billion -- and edged back to the top spot on the list with about $40 billion in his money bin. Gates' friend and partner-in-philanthropy Warren Buffett is No. 2 on the list, with $37 very large. (He had moved to No. 1 in last year's survey.) Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who surpassed Gates as world's richest in summer 2007 (by a different estimate), is third on the global list with $35 billion. Another software titan, Larry Ellison of Oracle, leaped from 14th in 2008 to 4th, at $22.5 billion.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Compensation , Financial , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Philanthropy , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 8, 2009 12:01 AM

Microsoft Songsmith gives amateur songwriters a backup band

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Amateur singers and song writers, it's time to come out of the shower.

Microsoft has a new tool that automatically generates backup music to go with original melodies and lyrics sung into a computer. Listen to songs created with the software after the jump.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Miscellaneous , Music , Research |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 6, 2009 5:52 PM

CES: The Vegas economy through the eyes of a cab driver

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Lim Seng, 45, has been driving a cab in this city for 15 years. When he picked me up at the airport today, I peppered him with questions about the International Consumer Electronics Show ("everything is smaller than usual") to his outlook on the Vegas economy (not so good).

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Miscellaneous , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 19, 2008 5:58 PM

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Chanukah

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Bryan Le, 7, does his best to get some air Friday during a sledding run in Newcastle's Lake Boren Park. He and his friends took advantage of yet another day of canceled classes.

I'll be out celebrating the snow and holidays next week. All the best to you and yours on Christmas, Chanukah and Winter Solstice (technically the beginning of winter... Yikes.)

See you back here on Monday, Dec. 29.

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December 19, 2008 9:16 AM

A very 'Halo' wedding

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Halo Bride and Groom.jpg

Desirai Labrada and John Henry met in December 2004 on Xbox Live. They were playing "Halo 2," the blockbuster second installment of the game series from Kirkland-based Bungie and Microsoft that helped fuel growth of Microsoft's video game business. She was in New York, he was in Florida. They logged on daily to play together, blasting away as love blossomed.

Now, they're planning a "Halo"-themed wedding for a gaming show in January. And their school -- Full Sail University, an entertainment-focused institution near Orlando -- sent out a press release to announce it. (Engagement photo of Labrada and Henry distributed by Full Sail University.)

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Digital media , Games & entertainment , Halo , Miscellaneous , Online Communities , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 6, 2008 1:14 PM

Microsoft workers mourn Mumbai victims

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

More than 200 Microsoft workers, many with close ties to India, gathered Friday to pay tribute to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Seattle Times reporter Charles E. Brown covered a candlelight vigil at Microsoft on Friday for victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

On a grassy sports field on Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, more than 200 company workers, many of them expressing close ties to India, gathered to end the workweek in remembrance.


From the outset, Sandeep Singh, a Microsoft senior finance manager who, as a younger man, served his homeland as an Indian navy officer and National Defence Academy instructor, set the tone. The purpose of the gathering, he told the group, was to show solidarity against last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, where more than 170 people lost their lives and many more were injured.

Continue reading this post ...


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November 21, 2008 11:19 AM

One puppet's interpretation of Ballmer's message to Yahoo (language advisory)

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

During Microsoft's shareholder meeting in Bellevue on Wednesday, there was an old guy in the front row sleeping as CEO Steve Ballmer repeated the same message he's given on Yahoo several times in the past few months: "acquisition discussions are finished." But a search partnership remains a possibility.

Ballmer puppet.JPGMaybe if his delivery, instead of being calm and measured, was more along the lines of this glove-puppet Ballmer's "final statement on purchasing Yahoo," posted by Loren Feldman at 1938enterprise.com, the old guy would have perked up.


Note: You might want to turn down the volume on your computer before viewing this, or avoid it entirely if you're sensitive to f-bombs, mf-bombs and other blue language. Enjoy.

How much more do you think Yahoo's stock would have fallen if glove-puppet Ballmer gave the statement?

Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 11, 2008 11:01 AM

Microsoft, other tech companies outfitting hotels with latest gadgets

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The New York Times has an interesting look at how hotels are working with technology companies to provide guests access to video games, PCs and other gadgets. The first example is a partnership between Microsoft and Sheraton Hotels and Resorts to create computer lounges in the hotel lobbies, where guests can check e-mail and record video greetings using Microsoft software. But there's no mention of Sheraton's use of the Microsoft Surface tabletop computer in its Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston properties, which we reported on in August.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Devices , Games & entertainment , Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 6, 2008 8:51 AM

More John Hodgman on the radio

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The PC guy from Apple's biting commercials, John Hodgman, is scheduled to join Steve Scher on KUOW's "Weekday" this morning at 9 a.m. Hodgman, a comedian and author, is touring public radio and other venues to promote his book: "More Information Than You Require."

He was the special guest on another public radio show, "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" last weekend.

Hodgman also is speaking in Seattle tonight at Elliott Bay Books at 7:30 p.m.

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November 3, 2008 4:02 PM

Microsoft news roundup: Salesforce beats the cloud drum; GOOG-YHOO revamp search ad deal, while Icahn says a Microsoft search deal still makes sense; MSN vet goes to Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Salesforce.com, the software as a service company that loves to put Microsoft's business model in its cross hairs, today announced a Web hosting service for enterprise clients called Force.com Sites. It was one of several Salesforce announcements Monday, including partnerships with Amazon.com and Facebook, all of which elevate the company's cloud computing offerings as competition for these services continues to intensify. (See Microsoft's cloud platform expansion from last week.) Here's coverage from Reuters.

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Comments | Category: Carl Icahn , Cloud computing , Coming and going , Google , Miscellaneous , News roundup , Salesforce.com , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 1, 2008 11:50 AM

Apple's PC guy John Hodgman takes Microsoft quiz on NPR comedy show

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

"Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" is a Saturday morning ritual in my house. John Hodgman, the comedian, author and perhaps most famously, "PC guy," in Apple's "Get a Mac" commercials, was the special guest on the show this morning, which I heard on local National Public Radio affiliate KUOW.

The "Get a Mac" campaign, including Hodgman's biting portrayal, has significant role in defining the image of the PC and the Windows Vista operating system in popular culture, while also boosting Mac sales in the last two years. So much so that Microsoft earlier this fall launched a $300 million campaign -- including a major series of television ads -- to take back control of the brand and restore dignity to Hodgman's line, 'I'm a PC.'

Hodgman was asked to answer three questions about the history of Microsoft. Here are some excerpts from his 11-minute appearance on "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." You can also listen to the segment here.

Continue reading this post ...


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October 31, 2008 1:05 PM

Microsoft blitzing San Francisco; Mayor Gavin Newsom to declare Nov. 2, 'Microsoft Innovation Day'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I wonder what the tech companies headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area are going to think about this one: Microsoft is running several events in San Francisco on Monday to highlight the "transformative power of technology in today's society and global economy." That would be Microsoft technology, of course, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is scheduled to "formally proclaim Nov. 3 as Microsoft Innovation Day" at a VIP mixer ahead of a San Francisco Chamber of Commerce event.

The media advisory is here.

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October 15, 2008 12:51 PM

Uptight Seattleite's kind words for Microsoft Word ... sort of

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

One of my favorite features in the Seattle Weekly is Uptight Seattleite, an advice column written in the voice of a stereotypical Emerald City denizen. Occasionally, Uptight fields a question about technology, as is the case today.

"Dear Uptight Seattleite,


"God, I'm so irritated. I just want to paste some text into Microsoft Word, but it insists on trying to reproduce all formatting and hyperlinks and pictures and anything else I may have incidentally highlighted. Why does Word do so many things I don't want it to, and is unable to do the very simple things I do want it to?

"Word Smitten"

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Office |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 17, 2008 10:47 AM

'Office' star Rainn Wilson, not Seinfeld, to emcee Microsoft employee meeting tomorrow

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Justin Lubin / NBC

Rainn Wilson, star of "The Office," rumored to be hosting Microsoft company meeting.

A tipster tells me that Microsoft has enlisted local boy Rainn Wilson, star of the NBC sitcom "The Office," to host its annual company meeting Thursday. People initially thought the host would be Jerry Seinfeld, who has recently hitched his wagon to the high-profile Windows campaign. "We were told the host would be 'comedic,'" the tipster says, "so [Seinfeld] was the natural assumption, but Wilson, I think, will be a much more enjoyable emcee. ... [T]he Rainn carrot is enticing some of my co-workers to now go to the meeting."

I'm trying to get confirmation from Microsoft on the logistics of the company meeting, which is typically held at Safeco Field and can surprise some commuters with heavy traffic for a weekday morning in Sodo. Last year, the company also delivered some significant local news on the morning of the meeting, including a major investment in downtown Seattle real estate and a private shuttle network to save employees from driving alone to Redmond.

(Update, 11:40 a.m. and again at 12:13 p.m.: Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos confirmed that the meeting will be held at Safeco tomorrow morning from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is shorter than normal. Wilson is indeed the emcee. Other presenters include Microsoft execs Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie and Kevin Turner. No definitive word on whether Bill Gates will be on hand. Bill Gates will not be there.

So far, about 21,000 23,000 employees have registered, which is a few thousand more than in previous years. Gellos noted that the company deliberately scheduled the meeting in the middle of the day to avoid impacting the morning or evening commutes. It also has a fleet of 212 buses to bring employees to and from Redmond and minimize the traffic impact. Buses will leave the Eastside between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and return beginning at 3 p.m.

Microsoft is conducting a food drive at the event to support Northwest Harvest and the Food Lifeline, agencies that are straining under the pressure of higher fuel prices and the slowing economy, Gellos said.)

Meanwhile, we've done some interesting stories on Rainn Wilson over the years, so check out these tidbits about the guy who ran with a posse of "Dungeons and Dragons aficionados" in his days at Shorecrest High School.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Corporate culture , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Real estate and facilities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 28, 2008 10:04 AM

What words would you add to the Microsoft spell-checker?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Mike Calcagno, general manager with the Natural Language Group for Office at Microsoft, and members of his team identify and vet new words to add to the spell checkers that ship with Office in many different languages.

After today's story on the team at Microsoft that makes the spell-checker, people wrote in to share the words they wish it would include and their favorite spell-checker corrections.


A friend who works in the sciences said it's difficult to trust the spell-checker in her field. "You think Bromodichloromethane or 4-Methyl-2-Pentanone are in there? Or whenever we use borehole the suggested correction is brothel..."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Microsoft , Miscellaneous , Office |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 2:06 PM

Latest versions of Office spell checker recognizes 'Obama,' doesn't change to 'Osama'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

New York Times technology writer David Pogue published a reader question in his blog and weekly e-mail today:

"Q: David: I've noticed this for a year, and have not been able to get Microsoft to change it: Type 'Obama' or 'obama' in Microsoft Word or Outlook, and the spelling checker recommends 'Osama' as the corrected spelling. How could this continue month after month, especially now that Mr. Obama is likely to be the Democratic candidate for president? Hope you can connect with appropriate folks at Microsoft and get this changed."

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July 2, 2008 5:11 PM

Independence Day

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Time to grill. We'll be back on Monday. Here's hoping Microsoft and Yahoo don't do some major deal over the holiday weekend.

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May 29, 2008 11:40 AM

Microsoft to offer multimedia training on Holland America Cruise Lines

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Ballroom dancing, shuffle board, lounging on deck with a pina colada, hitting the buffet again and again. Great cruise activities. But you've got to be able to show it all off for the folks back home. To that end, Holland America Cruise Lines is bringing Microsoft aboard to offer digital media workshops on its ships.

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Comments | Category: Microsoft , Miscellaneous , Nintendo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 28, 2008 10:01 AM

Report: Microsoft's Xbox 360 to sponsor Seattle's new Major League Soccer team

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Seattle Sounders FC are set to announce a major sponsorship deal with Microsoft. The $20 million, five-season deal will put the words "'Xbox 360 LIVE' on the front of the Sounders' uniforms," according to the story, which cites unnamed "people familiar with the arrangement."

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Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 20, 2008 2:59 PM

Arianna Huffington credits Ballmer's egg-dodging skills

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Speaking to an influential audience of Microsoft advertisers on the company's campus today, Arianna Huffington started out by asking the crowd whether there were any Hungarians in the audience. Then she asked if there were any eggs.

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Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Personalities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 15, 2008 11:48 AM

Gossip: Microsoft CEO Summit spouses cooking with Tom Douglas

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

As Bill Gates hobnobbed with the chief executives invited to his CEO Summit yesterday, their spouses were getting a personal cooking lesson with Seattle restaurateur and chef Tom Douglas, according to a source familiar with planning for the hush-hush Microsoft event.

Updated, 5:43 p.m.: After the jump, details on a Douglas-led tour of Pike Place Market and what was on the lunchtime menu.

Continue reading this post ...


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May 6, 2008 1:09 PM

New CEO at Microsoft's consulting joint venture, Avanade

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Beginning Sept. 1, Adam Warby, will become the second CEO of Avanade, an 8-year-old Seattle-based IT consulting company founded by Microsoft and Accenture. Warby, who has served as executive vice president of sales and marketing, and general manager of the company's European and Americas markets, will replace Mitch Hill, who has led the company since the beginning, Avanade announced today.

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April 30, 2008 6:36 PM

Music from Baudboys, Microsoft's a capella group

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Baudboys in concert in Building 16 on Microsoft campus.

While it may not score them points at their next performance review, the men of Microsoft's a cappella group, the Baudboys, have met their goal.

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Comments | Category: Microsoft , Miscellaneous , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 15, 2008 4:45 PM

PopCap's 'Bejeweled' used in N.J. marriage proposal; Nintendo prices Wii Balance Board; Peter Gabriel launches Web content 'Filter'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A few fun items for your afternoon perusal.

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March 31, 2008 10:33 AM

Yahoo not holding back new initiatives with Microsoft bid pending

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Clearly not content to sit still as the Microsoft boa constrictor patiently tightens, Yahoo has churned out several new initiatives in the past two months. The latest is Shine, an Internet site focusing on women that it launched today. The site is getting a positive initial reception.

Continue reading this post ...


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March 26, 2008 4:00 PM

Microsoft to advertise small business offerings on NASCAR

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

For the 2008 season, Microsoft will be one of the sponsors of the No. 49 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

Continue reading this post ...


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March 20, 2008 11:35 AM

Survey: Microsoft's corporate brand declining steadily since 2003

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A survey of U.S. corporate brand recognition and favor shows Microsoft on a five-year skid, even as it ranks highly on other such lists.

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Comments | Category: Advertising , Microsoft , Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 6, 2008 5:13 PM

Mix: Microsoft's Steve Ballmer mum on Sonics

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would not comment on the fate of the Sonics at Microsoft's Mix conference here this afternoon.

After today's story by Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Ralph Thomas linked Ballmer to a group of investors looking to buy the team and pay for half of a Key Arena expansion, I asked Ballmer what he'd like to see happen with the Sonics and what he was prepared to do to make it happen.

"I'm not talking about that today," he said.


Check out our complete coverage of Ballmer's Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

Continue reading this post ...


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March 6, 2008 11:06 AM

Microsoft-Yahoo bid rumors; Ballmer joins Sonics full-court press; iPhone works with Exchange

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The New York Post chimed in this morning on Yahoo's move to postpone the deadline for nominating candidates for its board of directors -- seen as an effort to stave off Microsoft's acquisition. The Post's unnamed sources expect this to push Microsoft to take a more aggressive strategy.


"'[Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer is just one of many highly emotional people involved in this,'' said a source who has spoken with executives at both companies. ''Microsoft has been trying to avoid going completely hostile, but now it is going to get completely hostile.'"

More substantive details in the story, again from unnamed sources: Microsoft has readied a slate of Yahoo director candidates and could submit it as soon as next week. It is considering changing its bid to all cash. The value of the current bid, which is half stock and half cash, changes with Microsoft's stock price, and is down from $44.6 billion when it was announced to $41.5 billion, as of Wednesday's closing price.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Microsoft , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Wireless & telecom , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 28, 2008 9:34 AM

Morning radar: China plans Olympics Web site; Crispin wins Vista account; Google Sites

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

China Central Television is planning an interactive Web site for the Beijing Olympics in partnership with MySpace China and Tudou.com, an online video site, The Wall Street Journal reports. It will be viewable only in China, so it won't compete directly with Microsoft's own site, which it's producing in partnership with NBC Universal.

That site, www.nbcolympics.com, was announced during Bill Gates keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. It's expected to offer some 2,200 hours of live event coverage from the games with up to 30 streams of full-screen content to choose from. It will be based on Microsoft's new Silverlight technology, which competes with Adobe's Flash -- the widely used online multimedia player that powers YouTube and other popular Internet video destinations.

Advertising agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky has won the Windows account at Microsoft. The company is reportedly preparing a $300 million campaign, according to sources cited in this Advertising Age story. The campaign would seek to promote the operating system with consumers later this year, probably to coincide with the release of Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista. Given the beating Vista has taken in the "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" campaign for Apple, it will be interesting to watch how aggressive Microsoft and Crispin are willing to be in this next wave of promotions for Vista.

Google Sites, a retooled JotSpot, is getting headlines today as a competitor to Microsoft SharePoint. Microsoft will be making noise about SharePoint next week when it hosts a conference here in Seattle devoted to the software for collaboration among work groups. Bill Gates is scheduled to give a keynote on Monday morning. I wonder how much execs will entertain comparisons of their technology with what Google has on offer.

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February 15, 2008 5:12 PM

Ex-Microsoft worker charged with fraud pleaded guilty, sentencing in April

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Carolyn M. Gudmundson, who in December was charged with defrauding Microsoft through a complicated set of transactions orchestrated to channel payment for Microsoft and Expedia Internet domain names to herself, pleaded guilty to one of 18 charges last month and will be sentenced in April.

At the time the charges were brought, her attorney said she intended to plead not guilty.

Gudmundson struck a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office that resulted in dismissal of the rest of the charges for wire and mail fraud. Her attorney, C. James Frush, said the agreement also stipulates that the amount of money she's charged with having stolen be described as less than $1 million. Before, it was described by the U.S. Attorney's Office as "over $1 million."

The agreement was approved by a judge in mid-January. I just found out about it today when a reader asked for an update on the status of the case and I checked the docket. Her original plea of not guilty would have put her in front of a jury starting earlier this week.

"She accepted responsibility for what happened and is prepared to pay whatever price the court requires," Frush said this afternoon.

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January 16, 2008 1:04 PM

Microsoft reading rodeo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Here are some interesting stories with links to Microsoft and technology that I'm reading today:

Tech Crunch reports that three German investors, the Sawmer brothers, are buying in to Facebook. The Wall Street Journal followed up with an estimated size of their stake -- between $10 million and $15 million -- at the $15 billion valuation imputed by Microsoft's investment in the social networking site in October.

Whenever we report on comments from Bill Gates and other technology leaders about the shortage of engineering talent in the U.S. and the need to raise the number of visas for high-tech workers, I know a deluge of email from readers will follow. The majority of the feedback comes from people who say there is no actual shortage and that the tech companies are inventing one to try to depress wages for engineers or give themselves cover to move jobs off shore. The emails tend to be long, angry and full of links to various articles and reports supporting their point of view.

Here's one to add to the list: Business Week published a story by Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Harvard Law School and executive in residence at Duke University. Wadhwa's research shows "that there is no general shortage of engineers in the U.S." Instead, age is at issue -- and more to the point, a failure by some older engineers to keep their skills current as tech marches on. Echoing comments I've heard from readers in this region, Wadhwa writes, "Tech companies prefer to hire young engineers. Engineering has become an 'up or out' profession---you either move up the ladder or you face unemployment. In other words, even though globalization has compounded the difficulties for aging engineers, it's not the culprit."

The Times Online reports on a Microsoft patent application for "a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees' performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure." Break out the Big Brother bromides. (sorry) Here's the patent application.

For anyone who toured Google's new Fremont engineering office yesterday and is maybe weighing whether to toss her or his hat in the ring, check out this in-depth look at the company by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker. Not a lot new, but a very intimate look at how the search giant operates at the highest levels.

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January 14, 2008 10:58 AM

2007 patent leaders

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

U.S. patent database producer IFI Patent Intelligence today released a ranking of the top patent recipients in 2007. Microsoft ranked sixth, with 1,637 patents received last year, up 12 percent from 2006. Microsoft was one of a handful of companies -- the minority of the top 25 -- to increase the number it received.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued 157,284 "utility patents" last year, down 9.5 percent from 2006, which was a record year.

Here's the top 10 list:

IBM, 3,148


Samsung, 2,725

Canon, 1,987

Panasonic, 1,941

Intel, 1,865

Microsoft, 1,637

Toshiba, 1,549

Sony, 1,481

Micron Technology, 1,476

Hewlett-Packard, 1,470

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December 26, 2007 11:21 AM

AAPL touches $200; FSJ shutdown drama

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I know a guy who bought Apple stock about 18 months ago, back when it was still trading in the double-digits. Happy Boxing Day to him. Meanwhile, Daniel Lyons is one guy in need of some eggnog therapy this holiday.

Continue reading this post ...


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December 20, 2007 10:10 AM

Tech Tracks update

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

We've been dark for the last 48 hours as our blog got a refresh. Check out some of the new features we've added.

Continue reading this post ...


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December 14, 2007 5:12 PM

Big BizWeek cover story zooms in on Google, UW grad

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

BusinessWeek is focusing again on Google and its cloud computing efforts this week. An interesting read, some of which will be familiar to folks around here. The story kicks off with an anecdote about thinking big at Google -- what if you had 1,000 times more data? -- and a University of Washington grad's efforts to help would-be job applicants do just that.

Google engineer Christophe Bisciglia, a Gig Harbor kid who earned a computer science degree at the UW in 2003 and is featured on BusinessWeek's cover, launched a pilot course at his alma matter in large-scale computing. It started as an educational effort but has turned into much more. From the article:

"Call it Google 101. [CEO Eric] Schmidt liked the plan. Over the following months, Bisciglia's Google 101 would evolve and grow. It would eventually lead to an ambitious partnership with IBM, announced in October, to plug universities around the world into Google-like computing clouds.

"As this concept spreads, it promises to expand Google's footprint in industry far beyond search, media, and advertising, leading the giant into scientific research and perhaps into new businesses. In the process Google could become, in a sense, the world's primary computer.

"'I had originally thought [Bisciglia] was going to work on education, which was fine,' Schmidt says late one recent afternoon at Google headquarters. 'Nine months later, he comes out with this new [cloud] strategy, which was completely unexpected.' The idea, as it developed, was to deliver to students, researchers, and entrepreneurs the immense power of Google-style computing, either via Google's machines or others offering the same service."

The coverage goes on to explore cloud computing at Google as well as competitors Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon. It also includes a nice nod to UW man-about-technology Ed Lazowska (formal title: Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering) who is described in the article as Bisciglia's mentor.

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December 12, 2007 11:12 AM

Nielsen top 10 in 2007 lists: Seattle is 4th among blog readers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Yesterday, the Nielsen Company -- famous for its TV audience measurements -- put out a series of top 10 in 2007 lists. There are close to 30 different lists covering most-watched TV shows, DVDs, movies, etc. View them yourself (13 page PDF.) Here are some that interested me:

Among major markets, Seattle/Tacoma had the fourth highest percentage of "adults who have used the Internet to read or contribute to blogs within the past 30 days." The top market was Austin, Texas, with 15 percent of adults reading/contributing; followed by:


Portland, with 14 percent
San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, 13 percent
Seattle/Tacoma, 13 percent
Honolulu, 12 percent
San Diego, 12 percent
Dallas/Fort Worth, 12 percent
Columbus, Ohio, 11 percent
Nashville, Tenn., 11 percent
Colorado Springs/Pueblo, 11 percent.

The national average was 8 percent.

Among the most-purchased packaged consumer goods, measured by the "percent of homes who purchased each category within past year," fresh bread was the leader (97 percent), followed by refrigerated milk, toilet tissue, fresh eggs, cookies, ready-to-eat cereal, canned soup, chocolate candy, potato chips and batteries (86 percent).

The same list, if measured by sales instead of percentage of homes that purchased the category, is lead by carbonated soft drinks ($17.6 billion) and also includes cigarettes ($7.8 billion) and light beer ($5.1 billion).

With the exception of the bread, milk and eggs, it sounds a lot like the presumed shopping list of the stereotypical American gamer, including the batteries to keep the remote and wireless controllers charged up.

And what games were we playing? This list is based on "the percent of PC gamers playing title in the average minute." Nielsen also reports average minutes played per week, from April to November 2007.

No. 1, by a long shot, "World of Warcraft" with 0.792 percent of PC gamers playing in the average minute and 1,023 minutes played per week (I'm guessing that's per individual.)

Here's the rest of the list:


"The Sims," 0.177 percent, 298 minutes/week
"RuneScape," 0.147 percent, 688 minutes/week
"Halo: Combat Evolved," 0.145 percent, 451 minutes/week
"Halo 2," 0.131 percent, 466 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike," 0.114 percent, 504 minutes/week
"The Sims 2," 0.110 percent, 387 minutes/week
"Madden NFL 07," 0.103 percent, 407 minutes/week
"Grand Theft Auto," 0.084 percent, 399 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike: Source," 0.077 percent, 550 minutes/week.


Nielsen doesn't break out console titles, but it does give a list of the most-played platforms based on usage minutes, "a percent of all measured console minutes." Interesting to note that taken together, all the other consoles on the list (excluding the "other" category, which "consists of any other console systems found in the home") are used about as much as the PlayStation 2.

PlayStation 2, 42.2 percen;
Xbox, 13.9 percent
Xbox 360, 11.8 percent
GameCube, 7.1 percent
Wii, 5.5 percent
PlayStation 3, 2.5 percent
Other, 17.1 percent.

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December 10, 2007 8:01 AM

Back to normal, or at least for me

Posted by Tricia Duryee

SEATTLE -- If you tuned in this weekend, you found that I had hijacked this blog. I took off on Saturday to see the damage that the more than week-old storm did on the Washington coast.

For them, it mostly wasn't the flooding, it was the wind. Residents talked about how it started Sunday, and didn't relent until late Monday. Sustained winds averaged 60 to 80 miles an hour. Gusts went up to 120.

Everyone tried to put into words the noise that kind of wind makes. It was a roar. It was a freight train, gathering speed far off the distance, until it finally reached your house with a flurry.

Most people lost shingles, many roofs were destroyed down to the plywood. In some cases, you could see insulation. On the radio, a contractor was offering to come by for free and drape a tarp over your roof -- many had already done so.

I spoke to a lot of people who were really eager to tell their story. To them, it seemed no one was talking about them on the radio, on the TV or the Internet. During and following a storm that is scary. Most had received electricity by Wednesday or Thursday, but pockets were still out on Saturday, and likely some people are in the dark today.

For me that is now all in the past. I arrived back home in Seattle to a warm shower, a hot meal and all of my possessions. I saw that people have lost a lot, and the rebuilding has only begun.

The Red Cross was just opening up mobile feeding units yesterday in Raymond, Pe Ell and Elma, recognizing that it was going to be a long haul.

Perhaps, as a segue, I can take a minute to tell you how I filed from the road, as a transition for this blog, which is normally focused on technology.

If it were not for technology, the kind of reporting I did this weekend would not have been possible. I choose the blog format so that I could immediately post interviews and observations moments after I had them. I published directly to the Web, no editor made sure I had perfect grammar or punctuation.

The blog format also let me post photos, include maps of where I was, and links to previous stories. That's not possible for me to do using our normal publishing software.

The photos were all taken with my 2 megapixel camera phone. As soon as I shot one that I thought I'd like to use, I emailed it from my phone to myself. Later, when I logged in, I could pull that photo off email, and upload it to the Web.

And, finally, it definitely wouldn't have been possible, without my laptop, a fully powered battery that I conserved to my best abilities, and a cellular PC card. The card allowed me to connect -- at high-speeds -- over cellular lines to the Internet.

Last night, when I was writing my final two posts, I was in Aberdeen, and as luck would have it, I had the option of two Starbucks (one on each side of the street). There, I had a warm place to sit, Wi-Fi and an outlet.

But when a town doesn't have electricity, it doesn't normally have Wi-Fi or cellphone service. That was the case in Tokeland, and coverage was spotty elsewhere, as well. In the those circumstances, I had to wait to post something until I drove to another community.

I thought it was good to hear that the cafe I visited in Ocean Shores, prioritized offering Wi-Fi, using a generator so that people could feel connected.

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December 9, 2007 4:59 PM

They don't call it Washaway Beach for nothing

Posted by Tricia Duryee

NORTH COVE -- In September, reporter Jonathan Martin wrote a story about Washaway Beach, a stretch of coast 12 miles south of Westport that is believed to be the fastest-eroding beach on the Pacific Coast.

In last week's storm, the ocean took at least one more home. Ladonna Hartke, owner of a blue, four-bedroom house with a two-car garage and an amazing view of the water, was the latest victim.

Here is the "before" photo, taken by Times staff photographer Steve Ringman for the September story:

ladonna2.jpg

Here is a picture I took today:

washaway 010.jpg

I found Hartke next to the house, almost standing guard. She had made a makeshift camp, helped by her son and his girlfriend who also live on the property. A blue tarp hung overhead, and a claw-foot bathtub had been placed on its side. A fire burned in the tub where a frozen pizza was warming.

Belongings were strewn everywhere. Living-room furniture was underneath the tarp. A lemon lay on the ground next to a battered head of lettuce.

There was no evidence of where the two-car garage had been; Hartke's red minivan was swept off in the waves and landed down the beach. Several cars and camper vans had been destroyed by falling trees.

To give you a sense of how unusual this portion of the coastline is, let me quote Martin's story that ran three months ago:

"This two miles of shoreline at the northern confluence of the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay, 12 miles south of Westport, is believed to be the fastest-eroding beach on the Pacific Coast. It has lost about 65 feet a year to the sea since the late 1800s. More than 100 homes, including the entire town of North Cove, have already disappeared, many of them in the past 20 years."

On Sunday night, the Hartke family, including her two sons, 18 and 33, and her oldest son's girlfriend, went to sleep as usual. Yes, the winds were howling, and the waves were enormous, but life 30 feet from the ocean is often like that, Hartke said.

Just before sunrise, the household woke up to water at the doorstep. The ground had been eaten away from underneath the house. For two years, the water has been at least eight feet away from the bank, and Monday the family couldn't step out their front door.

They started removing their possessions, storing them in nearby trailers and in neighbors' houses.

"I've lived here for 12 years, and it happened in three hours," Hartke said. "I had faith that it would stay because I wasn't ready to leave."

She had 100 boxes packed from previous storms, and she had started to pack more boxes the day before, but she didn't take the additional step of hauling them away.

She even lost six of her 12 chickens.

For now, she is staying in a motel. Her next move is uncertain.

At times like these, you think the worst.

"I lost a home. Hopefully I'm covered by insurance. If not, I'll probably be on welfare the rest of my life," she said. "My friends told me 'don't worry, you are going to be there for years.' I wanted to believe it, and I did."

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December 9, 2007 4:15 PM

Raymond -- Trees down and businesses flooded

Posted by Tricia Duryee

This morning, I started off in Ocean Shores, and then decided to head south to Raymond, a little town on the Willapa Harbor.

It's a pretty central location at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 105, which heads west to the coast.

On the drive south on 101, the number of trees down is stunning. If you can imagine a forest being somewhat like a spiky haircut, it looked as if someone took a hairbrush and combed over sections of trees along miles of highway. The wind treated the trees, which were one- to two-feet thick, like matchsticks.

And weaving through these matchsticks were power lines, which utility crews were still repairing this afternoon.

Melody Gerber, who I spoke to last night, said she and her husband drove from their home in Tokeland to Raymond after the storm. They counted between 75 and 100 trees that had fallen in the road.

Judy Hinkman, a Raymond resident, said that because the community is made up of many loggers, they were quite self-sufficient. They took to the highway with their chainsaws and started cutting down trees or hacking off limbs so cars could drive underneath.

Raymond, like Centralia and Chehalis, also flooded. The water on the main street rose above people's knees.

One building, in particular, was destroyed by both the wind and rain. On the corner of Duryea and Third streets, the three-story American Legion building that housed at least eight businesses, was ripped open like a can of sardines. The flat roof blew off in the wind.

The corner yarn and weaving shop -- A Willapa Connection -- was one of the worst hit.

washaway 007.jpg

Ruth McCully, who owns the shop with her mother Edna Latta, was still in the midst of dealing with soaked carpets, destroyed inventory and ruined display cases when I arrived around 2 p.m. And, she had been dealing with it for a week.

McCully is tired and the days are starting to blur together, but she recounts as best she can how she had to deal with fallen trees, floods and torrential winds that destroyed her business, and partially flooded her home.

It started Sunday night when the roof blew off of the business. The water started to seep in, soaking one story at a time. It destroyed the second floor, where she stores seasonal items, and additional inventory. Then, it started falling to the first floor, where she had her office and computers and main retail area.

Buckets, rubber bins and garbage cans were placed all over the two stories collecting gallons of rain water.

After bagging up some inventory -- and not truly knowing how bad it was going to get -- the family returned to the house for some rest and food. Hours later, the family came back to find the buckets full. Because they were so large, they were impossible to take outside to empty.

Again, they went home, thinking that her husband would have to work the next day and he needed to get sleep. Still, they did not anticipate the amount of rain and wind to come.

At home, they faced the second disaster. Encircled by large forest giants, trees started to fall down, trapping them in their driveway. Knowing that they had to get to the store, neighbors helped them clear a path with chainsaws. Once cleared, they faced flooding, keeping them from being able to travel the roads.

"We couldn't get to town," McCully said. "All the trees were down, it was a jungle. Six times we tried to get out."

On Monday, some of the neighboring business owners, along with her mom, collected things and salvaged as much as they could. Her mother asked a building owner a block away if they could store the merchandise in an empty storefront. The owner agreed.

"We spent five years building this up, and it was taken away just like that," McCully said.

McCully does have insurance, and since it was not caused by flooding but by the wind, she suspects she'll be covered. An insurance agent has already been by. She now has to itemize everything.

She recalls a week ago Saturday, when the town was having a parade down the main street. She was standing on the porch of her business, and remembers thinking: "My gosh, we have done such a good job. It was so pretty with everything in the window. It was so nice," she said.

And, now she's tallying up her losses, probably $150,000 to $200,000, including the missed sales she won't be getting from the upcoming holidays.

Already there to help is Disaster Solutions Group, a firm out of Texas, that arrived on Thursday. Hired by the building owner, they are there to help dry the building out and get it back up and running.

Scott Hinton, who is with Disaster Solutions Group, drove out from Colorado to help with the clean-up.

He said in a situation like this, they will get rid of everything in the building, pull up the carpet, or anything else that can't be salvaged, use disinfectants, and then run 300 to 400 dryers and dehumidifiers, powered by generators, to get the building dry.

The process will take about 10 days.

Because it wasn't flooded, and was drenched by rainwater, it doesn't have to be gutted.

"This is different since it was clean water," he said.

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December 9, 2007 11:59 AM

Power winds changed the geography in Ocean Shores

Posted by Tricia Duryee

OCEAN SHORES -- At the southern tip of Ocean Shores is Damon Point State Park, a spit that juts into the ocean. As you can see from this Google image, it's narrow and long. And, as it turns out, very susceptible during storms.


View Larger Map

In fact, the locals have already renamed it Damon Island.

In this first picture, you'll see that the road is closed. The waves came crashing over the sand bar, breaking up the asphalt as if it was peanut brittle.

beach 010.jpg

It also did extensive damage to the cement path that ran down the center of the spit. You can hardly tell it was ever there.

beach 004.jpg

And, although the water receded some, it seemed like a temporary situation. While I was there, the waves kicked up, and the water started crossing the entire width of the sand bar and connected. Here's a series of photos of it happening.

Going....

beach 007.jpg

Going....

beach 008.jpg

And, gone...

beach 009.jpg

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December 9, 2007 10:54 AM

Ocean Shores: Much is back to normal

Posted by Tricia Duryee

OCEAN SHORES -- The cute coastal town is largely intact. A lot of restaurants are closed, or only serving partial menus because most had to throw their food out because they lacked refrigeration.

But the lights came on two days ago, so people are starting to get up to full speed.

I talked briefly with Paige Holt, one of the managers at Caffe Amici, which is designed to look like a comfy, stylish Seattle coffeehouse.

The cafe normally serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but was only serving breakfast today.

Holt said they had to throw out at least $3,000 worth of food, probably 15 gallons of milk alone. The cafe was closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday, they felt it was important to get a generator going so they could provide coffee and Internet access to the community.

"So many people were having [coffee] withdrawals," she said.

But Internet access was the most important thing they wanted to provide. On the radio, or the limited TV people were able to get with generators, "no one ever talked about us, and we didn't have power for six days," she said. "We wanted people to come in and be able to hook up their laptops."

The community was pretty disconnected, they weren't able to get out the first day, they started to run out of gas because they gas station didn't open until Wednesday. And cellphones weren't working.

She said the storm has affected tourism. The town is a destination for people she called "storm watchers." They rent hotel rooms, eat at the local restaurants, and when the the rain and wind hits, they run down to the jetty and watch the waves crash. By not having power, she said, the town has been quiet and slow.

"Normally we are pretty busy on the weekends, and on Saturday and Sunday we we have been dead," she said.

This was also the community that treated 17 people who got carbon monoxide poisoning at the IGA grocery store.

Grocery store employees say the business is almost back to normal, except for the frozen and refrigerated sections. They had to throw all the food out.

It's a little eerie to see the shelves empty. Take a look:

IMG00077.jpg

The sign at the IGA now reads: "Our community's compassion shines brightest during adversity. Thank you Ocean Shores."

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December 9, 2007 10:50 AM

So many trees down on power lines

Posted by Tricia Duryee

From Aberdeen, I decided to drive the 20-or-so miles north to Ocean Shores, the tourist beach destination.

On the way, I saw numerous trees down on power lines -- at least a dozen but probably more.

Downtown Ocean Shores got its power back on two days ago, so I'm not sure what these lines are supplying power to, if they are indeed power lines at all.

Here's a picture of what it looks like:

IMG00075.jpg

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December 8, 2007 8:29 PM

Stories from Tokeland, a week without power

Posted by Tricia Duryee

I drove about 40 miles south of Aberdeen to the town of Tokeland, a sleepy community in the winter, but a tourist destination in the summer.


View Larger Map

Since Tokeland sits on a narrow peninsula, it would be an obvious location to get hit hard. Tons of trees have fallen, and in the town just north of Tokeland, two houses reportedly slid down a cliff into the ocean. The more residual effects are that it is still without power after a week, making residents among the 4,000 people in Grays Harbor county that are don't have electricity tonight.

Crews are expected to work through the night, and Tokeland hopes to get power tomorrow.

Ask Melody Gerber what will be the first thing she will do?

Take a shower.

That's right, no one has water either because it must be pumped from wells into the house.

I found Gerber at the Shoalwater Bay Casino, the one bright spot in the town, running solely on generators. The casino has become the community center, one ne of the places you can go for heat, lights and a warm meal. Of course, plenty of gambling, too.

Gerber, who has been living full-time in Tokeland for 13 years, said it was the largest storm she'd ever experienced.

Patches of her roof, down to the plywood, blew off, and her wind meter topped out at 75 miles per hour, although she suspects winds were much stronger. The only thing that saved the community, she suspects, is that there was a low tide. The low tide gave them about another 10 feet to store all the rainwater that was falling.

As a fan of impressive natural wonders, she said: "It was awesome."

The not so cool part, though, is losing power for the next week. And, since Tokeland is at the very south end of Grays Harbor county, it seems they are always the last pocket for crews to get to.

Gerber said without water or electricity, her routine changed.

A generator helps her out by running the fridge, freezer, a light and occasional microwave usage, but that means no TV.

"I'm a reader, but for people who are TV-aholics, they are banging their heads against the wall right now," she said.

And since there's no electricity to run the well pump, there's no running water, meaning no flushing toilets, and taking showers is out of the question.

To partially solve that problem, she can go outside to the well, skim water off the top, and bring it inside to manually flush the toilet. Showers are a more delicate matter, using a wash cloth and cold water to clean off.

In general, she feels like without the luxuries of water and power, you get lazy.

"Water rules your life," she said. You don't notice it until it's gone, but she says you stop washing down the counters and crumbs accumulate. It's the little things.

And, she acknowledges, they are little -- many more people have it worse.

"We all made it," she said.

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December 8, 2007 8:27 PM

Yes, the lights are on in parts of Westport

Posted by Tricia Duryee

One way people are celebrating that they have their lights back on:

IMG00073.jpg

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December 8, 2007 4:38 PM

Lessons haven't been learned since Katrina

Posted by Tricia Duryee

WESTPORT -- The volunteers at the school that I just wrote about impressed several messages on me, one of which is: not a lot has improved since Hurricane Katrina.

They said communication fails so easily and they feel like they've been forgotten.

For instance, at a neighboring senior center, there has been a 35-bed shelter. Only a handful of people showed up the last couple of nights because the radio reported wrongly that it was full.

They also had their two cents that say about FEMA, the federal emergency service that was blamed for a lot of the delays in responding to the victims in New Orleans.

They said that FEMA arrived bringing blankets -- with the caveat that they had to be returned, or else the school would have to pay for them.

That required each person who took a blanket to sign for one. They said that a lot of people, especially those who are undocumented, felt uneasy doing that, so they went home without one.

"We didn't get rescued by FEMA, or the Red Cross, we got rescued by the Boy Scouts," said Ocosta Elementary School Principal Dana Stedman.

However, the crew of volunteers hadn't heard the latest news -- President Bush declared the storm a major disaster in several counties, including Grays County.

Upon hearing the news, the group clapped and breathed a collected sigh of relief.

"The blankets are now freebies," one said.

The designation means they will not have to be returned.

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December 8, 2007 3:57 PM

A shelter and hot meals in Westport

Posted by Tricia Duryee

WESTPORT -- Since the lights were on in Aberdeen, I decided to head south to Westport, where I knew some people were without power.

On the main road in Ocosta, right before getting to Westport, a sign said "hot meals," so I pulled over to take a look.

There was a major operation at the school, supported mostly by school employees, the National Guard and the Boy Scouts.

Inside about 200 people had been gathering for breakfast, lunch and dinner since Thursday. Outside, the National Guard was unloading an entire truck of food delivered by Top Foods, and off to the side there was a bus that served as a central kitchen.

Here's the pretty amazing part about this story -- the bus was brought to the school by Boy Scout Troop 835 of Pacific, led by Jim Brass. It was the one-year-old Boy Scout Troop's first project, and it stores 300 to 400 meals onboard so it can be deployed at a moment's notice.

It arrived Thursday, and when another local troop found out about it on the radio, they were at the school waiting for them.

Together, they have been cooking up stews, chili, scrambled eggs, and serving salads and fresh fruit for the residents of Westport who had been without electricity going on five or more days.

The old school bus looks a little bit more like something that would tour with the Grateful Dead than respond to emergencies, but is a tight-running ship.

boyscoutbusreal.jpg

One of the four Boy Scouts was keeping watch when I boarded. The first area had a sleeping area and a table with a small TV. The next area had a three burner, industrial-looking gas stove, microwave and mini-fridge and a full sized sink. There was also a bathroom. The whole thing was running on a monster-size generator (compliments of Lowe's).

In the far back, there was room for shelves, where food and cooking supplies were stacked in big rubber bins. There was also a full-sized freezer.

In front, there was a staging area where additional supplies could be dropped off. Large items were kept for cooking food, and smaller items were separated so that families could take food home.

The operation will wind down tomorrow. A lot of residents got their electricity back on this morning at 3:30, however, most of their food in their fridges and freezers have gone bad. So volunteers still expect to get a fair number of people.

"It's for anyone who needs it," said Westport Fire Captain Dave Bell. "You have people with really nice cars pulling up, but you also have people arriving on bikes and by transit."

Bell said the area was really hammered. Everyone has been talking about how loud the roar is when there's sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. The metering equipment in Hoquiam broke at 84 mph, but gusts supposedly rose to 120 mph.

The evidence is here. Trees have literally snapped in half, and have been pulled straight out of the ground, falling on their sides to expose their roots.

National Guard Staff Sgt. Joseph Bons of Everett said because the wind knocked down so many lines, there's been a lot of demand for food and water.

If the grocery store has electricity, it's picked over. If it gets re-stocked, it's gone again.

Bons came from Everett, delivering 100 cases of MREs, which have about 12 meals per case, and half of a pallet of water. The water here is deemed potable, except for in Central Park, where there's a boiling advisory.

The donations have also been pouring in from a number of stores, including Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Dominos and Grocery Outlet. While, I was there Top Food delivered a truck of 12 pallets of food, including peanut butter and jelly and bread.

Brass, the Boy Scout troop leader, said that these are the types of things that make people feel like they haven't been forgotten (even if they have been).

They even brought a small TV and VCR to play children's movies and a case of yarn and knitting needles for seniors.

"You want to give them your best so they don't feel forgotten" he said. "This is a poor community that is suffering from an economic downturn in the fishing and logging industries. It means a lot for someone to remember them."

As Brass and his four Boy Scouts prepare to cook their ninth meal, he says: "I think it was a success."

But he's not totally content. They need a bigger water supply on the bus -- it only lasted a day, and probably should have enough food on hand for 1,000 meals.

Even now, I can overhear him telling other volunteers that he just secured milk for additional meals. He said, "We have to get this community up and running."

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December 8, 2007 2:11 PM

The wind howled loudly in Aberdeen

Posted by Tricia Duryee

I just drove Highway 8 West from Interstate 5 to the coast on the southern border of the peninsula. If you are not familiar with the area, the road takes you through tiny towns such as Elma, Montesano, before getting to Aberdeen, which sits on Grays Harbor.

It's a beautiful drive, especially on a cold, clear day.

On the way in, I wondered if there wouldn't be any evidence of a huge wind storm. It doesn't leave muddy tracks like floods do. But amazingly enough, there were signs, and they came in the form of, uh, signs. Every metal freeway post was bent to the side or completely folded down. The ones that seemed particularly susceptible were the larger ones with two posts. Those folded down, as if they were bowing.

The other sign came in the form of utility crews. I saw six of the large, white bucket trucks lined up in a row on Highway 12, diligently working on what looked like major transmission lines.

The lights in downtown Aberdeen are on from what I can tell. A reader board at a gift store said: "Thanks Power Crews; preorder your baskets."

I haven't spent a lot of time in Aberdeen, but I've heard plenty of stories. My mother lived both here and in Westport. My grandfather still visits regularly. As an ex-fisherman captain, he checks on his boat when my uncle returns from Alaska in the summer. And as of three months ago, he comes to visit my grandmother's grave.

So, when my mom heard I was off to Aberdeen, she suggested I talk to her best childhood friend, Elizabeth.

From her stories, the wind was the worst part -- not the rain.

She said it howled so loudly, she didn't hear anything when two large trees blew over in the backyard. Her electricity remains out, but stays warm by a fire, and she says: "Thank god for peanut butter and jelly." She said her lights are supposed to go on today.

Without electricity, there's not much to do. She said she went to the grocery store today, which was absolutely packed. Everyone just wanted to talk to someone.

And everyone is trying to keep up their sense of humor. She said a man was talking about how he had to hurry home before it got dark, when he realized that was a silly statement because it was dark at home.

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December 8, 2007 12:13 PM

The forgotten storm victims

Posted by Tricia Duryee

My day-to-day job at the paper is to cover technology news -- blogging on Tech Tracks is part of my daily routine.

But today is not routine, and this blog will not be about technology.

In fact, I've hijacked Tech Tracks to tell you another story -- one that has been forgotten to be told.

This entire week I drank in most every story written, unable to fathom how much devastation a rain storm can bring. A lot of the attention was centered on the hardest hit area -- Thurston County. The coverage was justified. The closure of I-5, an artery that supports tens of thousands of travelers today, is huge by itself.

But I kept waiting to hear stories about the Washington coast, one of the state's most well-known tourism gems. It was whipped by winds that reached upwards of 100 miles per hour, and as of last night, when I last checked, 16,000 people still didn't have power in communities such as Westport. When I called yesterday looking for a hotel room, none had electricity in Westport. In Aberdeen, they were full of people, likely seeking heat and electricity.

I'm going to call the people there the forgotten storm victims.

So, I'm embarking on a mission to tell you the story that I haven't read yet. I have no idea what I will find, but I want to find out.

Can you imagine not having power for almost a week? When the sun goes down at 5 p.m., the flashlights come out. It's bone cold. And despite not having anything better to do, you can't even watch TV!

If there's stories you know need telling, please post a comment to let me know about it, and I'll do my best.

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December 4, 2007 2:36 PM

'The next wave of the Web will be friendship bracelets'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

"Won't you blog about this song?" Yes, I will. This is one of the funniest videos I've seen in a while.

Ring true to anyone?

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November 29, 2007 10:58 AM

Clearwire and Medio called worldwide tech pioneers

Posted by Tricia Duryee

The World Economic Forum announced today it has named 39 companies as Technology Pioneers of 2008.

Among the 23 based in the U.S. are two local companies: Kirkland-based Clearwire and Seattle-based Medio Systems.

The list was narrowed down from 273 nominees. To be selected, the World Economic Forum said, the company must be "involved in the development of life-changing technology innovation and have the potential for long-term impact on business and society."

Previous winners include Business Objects, Cambridge Silicon Radio, Corel, Encore Software, Google, Mozilla and Napster.

The Forum said Clearwire, founded by Craig McCaw, "clearly has tomorrow in mind." The company is building a high-speed wireless broadband network in the U.S. and in several markets abroad.

As for Medio Systems, run by Brian Lent, the forum said: "Medio Systems is the leading provider of mobile search and advertising solutions that help mobile operators implement the best customer experience and allow advertisers to reach their intended target audiences."

A complete list of winners can be found here.

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November 28, 2007 2:55 PM

Microsofties' Capitol Hill restaurant scores good review

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I'd heard raves about Artemis Cafe & Bar from a few people at Microsoft. The new Capitol Hill restaurant is the effort of Microsofties Oscar Velasco and Boris Gorodnitsky.

In his review today, Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman is pleasantly surprised at the software guys' first effort in the restaurant biz, writing at some length about the "recipe for failure" that is "well-funded food lovers with no restaurant experience who chuck great careers to open their own bistro." That doesn't appear to be the case at this Mediterranean-themed spot.

Our own Karen Gaudette checked in with Artemis and Chef Chris Hunter in September (second item).

I wonder how long before Velasco and Gorodnitsky get on board with the Microsoft PRIME card to drum up more business. Though from Kauffman's description, it sounds like they hardly need it.

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November 2, 2007 2:37 PM

Clinton at Microsoft

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bill Clinton went before a crowd of "several thousand" Microsoft employees in person, and tens of thousands who watched via the company's intranet, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said today in introducing the president to a gaggle of reporters earlier today.

After his remarks to the assembled employees, he took questions and waded into the crowd.

Clinton provided a somewhat unsatisfying response to the biggest question involving his presidency and Microsoft: How does he feel about the outcome of the U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft, initiated during his administration?

"I don't know enough about the outcome to know," Clinton told reporters. "You know, in our administration, we had no contact between the White House and the Justice Department over the enforcement of the law, so, I knew, the first time I heard about the Microsoft case is when I read about it in the paper, literally. I had no knowledge of it.

"And I guess, I'm not dodging, this question. If I knew enough to give you an answer, I would, but, then, since I'm so ignorant about this, there's no point in demonstrating it by giving you an answer that would only show that I don't know what I'm talking about."

Clinton also praised Microsoft for matching employee charitable contributions, which, according to Ballmer reached $72 million this year, up from $63 million last year.

"Companies that can afford to do so should follow this company's lead and match their employees' gifts," Clinton said.

He also thanked Ballmer and Microsoft for the company's support of causes he has championed, including www.ninemillion.org, a United Nations effort to provide an education for 9 million refugee children by 2010.

Echoing themes from his presentation to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Seattle Thursday night, Clinton also highlighted an effort to better measure improvements made to buildings to reduce their carbon footprint.

"The problem is that, believe it or not, even after all these years of dealing with climate change, there is no commonly accepted clear measurement of the impact of specific actions on the problem," he said. "So what Microsoft is doing for us, with Infosys and [the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives], they're developing the baseline so that we can go into every major building and say, 'OK, here's what your carbon footprint is now and then we'll be able to measure every specific thing we do to say how much it's reducing.'"

Clinton devoted most of his comments to answering attacks on Sen. Hillary Clinton during Wednesday night's Democratic Presidential Debate, particularly an implication that President Clinton had attempted to delay releasing archived records from his administration pertaining to his wife.

"It was breathtakingly misleading," Clinton said of questions put to Sen. Clinton by Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" during this week's debate.

Bill Clinton's statements at Microsoft today provoked a response from the Republican National Committee, which alleged, in part, that the Clintons continue to distort the facts and hold back documents.

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October 15, 2007 5:26 PM

More Seattleites fear online ID theft than physical crime

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Computer security and safety advocates are gathering Tuesday to promote Internet safety in Seattle. Didn't you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Be careful out there. The event is at the Seattle Public Library downtown beginning at 10 a.m.

To draw attention to the shindig, which will include Microsoft and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, the National Cyber Security Alliance released a survey of attitudes toward online safety nationally and in select cities, including Seattle. Security software vendor McAfee teamed with the NCSA on the study, so take it with a grain of salt.

Some interesting findings from the Seattle survey, which polled roughly 200 people, ages 18 to 49, online:

-- 22 percent of respondents or someone close to them were victims of an Internet crime or identity theft in the past 12 months.

-- More people (42 percent) are concerned about Internet crime, such as identity theft, than physical crime, such as robbery or stabbing (29 percent).

-- Time spent online in an average day:

3 hours or more 51%
1 hour to up to 2 hours 21%
2 hours to up to 3 hours 17%
30-59 minutes 8%

-- Computers in the home:

1 computer 37%
2 computers 35%
3 computers 15%
4 computers 4%
5 or more computers 8%
I do not have a computer in my home 2%

-- Not surprisingly, most of us think we're either "intermediate" (54 percent) or "advanced" (10 percent) when it comes to knowledge about cybersecurity. About 36 percent described their knowledge as "beginner."

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September 17, 2007 1:46 PM

It's official: Too much Internet use can kill you

Posted by Kristi Heim

A man in China dropped dead after playing online games for three days straight, according to reports from Chinese media today and this story.

The 30-something man from Guangzhou died Saturday after being rushed to the hospital from the Internet cafe, the Beijing News said. Exhaustion was given as the most probable cause.


CANCAN CHU/GETTY IMAGES

Most of the customers at this Internet cafe in China are students.

It's hard to know how much of this is real and how much is state propaganda designed to discourage Web addicts. Chinese authorities have been cracking down on Internet content and Web-surfing activities, including banning new cybercafes and limiting the time users can spend playing games online.

As for this poor guy from Guangzhou ... maybe his avatar can live on in Second Life.

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September 5, 2007 2:13 PM

Tech companies wake up to traffic nightmare

Posted by Kristi Heim

How many people have companies like Microsoft lost over the years because of the commuting nightmare between Seattle and the Eastside? Maybe none, maybe only a few. Considering the worsening traffic situation for people who need to work on one side of the lake every day, but want to dwell on the other, life is definitely not easy.


THOMAS JAMES HURST / SEATTLE TIMES

Arteries clogged daily

Now it sounds like some tech companies are finally getting wiser because our local transportation officials are not.

Today we're seeing a stream of news about Microsoft's possible plans to expand along South Lake Union and F5 Networks building up its waterfront campus and opening a new R&D center in Bellevue. Meanwhile, Google is serving up perks on both sides of the water. The locations all seem aimed at lessening employees' commuting woes.

If more companies would match F5's incentive program, which gives employees up to $300 a month if they bike, walk, bus or carpool to work, the traffic situation just might improve a bit more.

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August 10, 2007 8:25 AM

China, France, Poland top podium in Microsoft Olympics

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With the 2008 Olympics in Beijing now less than a year away, we're getting in the mood for medals. And we can consider Microsoft's Imagine Cup, a global technology and creativity competition among students from around the world, the Olympics of software. So, with the winners of this year's cup announced today, let's do a "medal count" -- admittedly an imprecise measure because of inconsistent factors from country to country such as population and resources -- and see which countries have the top young technology talent.

The Imagine Cup has nine events from Algorithm to Short Film. Microsoft lists the top three finishers in each category. There's also an interactive map of the world showing all finalists by category and country.

Both China and France had four teams finish in the top three, the most of any country, but each had only one first place. China's was in the IT Challenge, which asks competitors to "demonstrate proficiency in the science of networks, databases, and servers, as well as the areas of analysis and decision making in IT environments." The French team took first in Web development. (Taiwan also had a second-place finish.)

Poland had three winning teams, all of which finished first. The country dominated the visual arts, winning the photography and short film categories, as well as the algorithm category -- perhaps the most demanding of the event. It's an individual competition comprised of "brain teasers, coding challenges, and algorithmic puzzles."

Romania and Brazil had two top-three finishers each.

In the high-profile software design category, in which teams of students used Microsoft technologies to design applications to improve education, Thailand took top honors, followed by Korea and Jamaica.

The complete results are available here.

The United States had several finalists, but no top-three finishers. Those so inclined to do so might read this as another piece of evidence that the U.S. is lagging the rest of the world in math and science education.

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August 1, 2007 12:57 PM

After a Microsoft career, love of former rivals declared

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I listened to some excerpts from the Aspen Ideas Festival, which took place early last month, and one quote caught my attention.

Randy Heinrichs introduced himself as a former Microsoft Research employee and the CEO of a new company, 2b3d (more on that in a second). He promptly got something off his chest:

"I am formerly from Microsoft Research, and I've been waiting to say this for a long time after 10 years: I love Apple. I love Sony. I love Linux. I love open source," Heinrichs declared, to big laughs from the crowd of intellectuals at the event.

(You can listen to Heinrichs' brief speech, along with several others that kicked-off the festival on American Public Media's Word for Word, which is where I heard it. Heinrichs' comments begin at 3:39.)

"What I really love is education," Heinrich continued.

He related a story of his son asking permission to play at a friend's house. When granted, the son went to his room, and logged on to World of Warcraft.

That got Heinrichs asking himself what motivates kids to play video games -- particularly the increasingly immersive online multiplayer games -- and, "What motivates us, as adults, to continue to buy them Xbox, Sony PlayStations, Wiis, telephones, all of this digital equipment that is changing these children and building them into a new culture of digital natives, where all of us sitting here, as I look across the sea, are digital immigrants."

Heinrichs' Big Idea is to "build an interactive serious gaming and media grid to support a high-definition learning environment for these kids." His company, 2b3d (to which I could find no link online) is working on doing just that.

"I would like to get these kids to be new citizens of the world by combining our institutions of education with these digital institutions," he said.

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June 12, 2007 11:23 AM

Awards passed out to local companies

Posted by Tricia Duryee

A number of Seattle-area companies were nominated or awarded with an American Business Award last night during a ceremony in New York.

The honor, also called a "Stevie," recognizes the efforts, accomplishments and positive contributions of companies and business people worldwide.

Winners from the area included: Seattle-based CleverSet, Satsop-based SafeHarbor Technology and Leisure Care of Seattle.

Here are the categories and other local companies that were nominated:

Best New Product or Service - Computer Software
MessageGate, Seattle, MessageGate E-mail Governance Suite v.4.2

Best New Product or Service - Telecommunications
Envision Telephony, Seattle, Envision Identity Protection Solution

Best Overall Company - Up to 100 Employees
Another Source, Seattle.
SafeHarbor Technology, Satsop. (A Stevie winner).

Best Overall Company - Up to 2,500 Employees
Mithun, Seattle.
Talisma Corporation, Bellevue.

Most Innovative Company - Up to 100 Employees
CleverSet, Seattle. (A Stevie winner).
Intelius, Bellevue.

Best Sales Organization - All Other Industries
MILA, Mountlake Terrace.

Best Chairman
SafeHarbor Technology, Satsop, Annette Jacobs, chairwoman and CEO.

Best Newspaper Ad or Campaign
Leisure Care, Seattle. The Bellettini branding campaign (A Stevie Winner).

Brand Building/Promotion
Leisure Care, Seattle, Leisure Care Web site.

Training
Microsoft, Redmond, Standards of Business Conduct 2006 Online Training.

More than 2,000 entries from companies of all sizes were submitted for consideration in more than 40 categories. Members of the Awards' board selected Stevie winners from among the finalists.

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June 11, 2007 3:36 PM

No-neck-tie a look for Obama, Ballmer, McNerny

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Wall Street Journal over the weekend took a look at a look in men's fashion being popularized by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama: Suit and no tie.

It's a fashion trend that can be seen in the c-suite of several large companies, including Microsoft and Boeing. The Journal story, which deems the suit-no-tie look difficult to pull off, calls Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's look (no tie with a button-down collar as pictured in one example) "slouchy."

"Choose the wrong collar -- button-down instead of spread -- and the resulting casual effect might say middle management, not corner office," the story posits.

Boeing boss Jim McNerny is pictured tie-less, but with a pocket square, which, according to the story, takes the look "a step up."

For the record, a spokeswoman told the Journal that Ballmer usually wears a tie. I took a quick look at photos in our archives. During his recent visit to Asia, Ballmer was in a tie. At Microsoft's CEO Summit in mid-May, he was tie-less (pictured with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, also tie-less, and Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, who sported an orange tie).



Joe Nicholson/AP Photo


Bezos, Ballmer and Premji.

Ballmer went tie-less again in November when he announced a major open-source deal with Novell.

Ballmer tends to go with a V-neck sweater over a button-down collar, which is a look Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates also favors, and which both men wore at an event celebrating the launch of their biggest product, Windows Vista, in January.


TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP/Getty Images

V-necks for Vista launch.

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June 1, 2007 5:02 PM

Goodbye, Seattle!

Posted by Kim Peterson

It's a beautiful almost-summer day outside, which makes it even harder to leave Seattle. Today is my last day at The Seattle Times. I'm moving to the Bay Area with my husband, who has accepted a job in the video game industry.

Thank you to all the readers who have helped Tech Tracks grow from a wee bloglet into what it is today. I'll miss all your snarky comments and witty observations about Microsoft and the tech industry in general. It's been a lot of fun! Have a wonderful summer.

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May 15, 2007 3:28 PM

Washington high-tech employment

Posted by Tricia Duryee

Unemployment in Washington fell to a record-low 4.4 percent in April, the third straight monthly decline this year, we reported today based on information released by the state Employment Security Department.

The jobless rate, adjusted to account for seasonal variations, declined from March's 4.6 percent.

Some of the noteworthy job categories that added jobs include the construction industry, up 900 positions in April; administrative and support services, which added 1,600; and bars and restaurants, up 500.

But what about high-tech? And, telecommunications employment?

The short answer is: not much has changed.

According to the Employment Security Department, software publishers saw zero change in April, compared with a month ago, maintaining 47,000 jobs. In the last year, the sector has added 3,000 jobs.

For the wired telecom carrier sector, zero jobs were added in April compared with last month -- maintaining 6,700 jobs. Compared with last year, the number of wired telecom jobs dropped by 800.

Employment at wireless carriers saw the most dramatic change. In the month of April, 100 jobs were added for a total of 12,900. In the last year, that category has added 1,100 jobs.

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May 7, 2007 3:57 PM

What kind of techie are you?

Posted by Kim Peterson

According to this quiz from Pew Internet & American Life, I am a technology "omnivore." Only 8 percent of Americans are in this category, and 70 percent of them are male.

Members of this group use their extensive suite of technology tools to do an enormous range of things online, on the go, and with their cellphones. Omnivores are highly engaged with video online and digital content. Between blogging, maintaining their Web pages, remixing digital content, or posting their creations to their websites, they are creative participants in cyberspace.

Pew created this quiz to see where people fit in its new tech-user typology. It's tied to a report the group released Sunday about Americans and technology.

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April 11, 2007 1:10 PM

Tech could learn to talk competition from Ichiro

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Some good lunchtime reading from our Sports department today on this afternoon's match up between the Mariners and Red Socks.

Deep down in this story -- which focuses on the competitive history of Mariners' hit machine Ichiro and the Socks pitching phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will face off today for the first time since they played in the Japanese leagues -- there's a quote on competition. Ichiro is talking about what it will be like to face Dice-K, who has matured since the two last squared off in August 2000.

"I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul," Ichiro says. "I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger."

Wow. Now that's a quote. I would love to hear the all-stars of business and technology talk that way about their competition.

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February 23, 2007 12:41 PM

Hit the slopes and show it off

Posted by Tricia Duryee

When the forecast calls for a lot of white powdery stuff to fall from the skies, it's hard not to get a little bit antsy.

For some time, the Washington ski slopes have provided Web cams to visitors of their Web sites so they can check out the snow conditions. But now the Summit at Snoqualmie has an even more high-tech option.

The Summit is providing a site where riders and skiers can post home videos from the slopes. Some of the videos were obviously posted by the Summit and feature music tracks in the background, but others show look like 30 seconds from a cell phone.

I can see how this could really catch on with people vying to show off the best jumps and tricks. After all, typically the only people to catch it are the few taking the lift overhead.

Check out "Four year old Jarod's first time skiing," and "WHOOHOO," in which a snowboarder lands a sweet jump.

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February 16, 2007 4:31 PM

New engineering center funded by PACCAR

Posted by Kristi Heim

Paccar makes the hulking Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks used to haul goods along the world's highways. But it wants to be known for more than that.

Today the Bellevue company said it's giving $2 million to Gonzaga University to construct a new engineering center. The funds will go towards building the Paccar Center for Applied Science, a 25,000-square-foot facility that will house robotics and artificial vision labs as well as classrooms and offices.

A lot of big ambitions seem to be riding on the gift.

When it opens in fall 2008, university President Robert Spitzer said the new center would "become the technological heart of our campus." Dennis Horn, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, predicted it would lead to "a significant jump in interest in Gonzaga among engineering students from around the country."

Company CEO Mark Pigott said Paccar is recognized as "one of the leading technology companies in the world. Hmm ... not exactly software or brain research, but these days designing a semi is also a high-tech process.

And it looks like Paccar can afford to be generous. Last quarter its profit was up 22 percent to $380 million on sales of $4.23 billion.

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January 30, 2007 1:52 PM

Happy birthday to us

Posted by Mark Watanabe

If you look into the archives of Tech Tracks (see the panel on the right), you'll find that the earliest posting occurred Jan. 30, 2006. It was an item by Kristi Heim on online censorship in China.

That was nearly 1,200 posts ago.

By our count, in the past year, our technology team has written 1,178 posts, nearly 100 a month. In a sheer quantitative sense we've succeeded, I think, in presenting you with more news, information and analysis than we ever have.

As with a lot of what we cover, Tech Tracks is a work in progress. It may not be obvious from a day-to-day perspective, but there's been a lot of experimenting going on here -- in subject matter, in producing online material and in writing styles, especially in what we somewhat pretentiously call "voice."

It's not surprising that what we write about most is Microsoft and wireless technologies, the two pillars of Seattle's tech industry. But another area that commands our attention has been digital technology. Seattle tech is turning into a three-legged stool.

One major reason we started Tech Tracks was to get immediate and ongoing reader feedback to what we do. That has been slower to develop, but of late we've seen more online conversations surrounding items here through the Comment button. Keep it up. We really do want to hear from you and engage with you.

The bottom line is the first year has been illuminating and interesting. And where we head in this next year is, at the outset, as intriguing as things were last Jan. 30. The newspaper industry, as we are reminded everyday, is undergoing transformation. Tech Tracks is one tiny part of that change -- and a part that's forward-looking.

Meanwhile, we look forward to giving you more tech things to read about and think about over the next 1,200 posts. We hope to hear from you.

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January 23, 2007 11:21 AM

Google: No. 1 company to work for

Posted by Tricia Duryee

According to this month's Fortune magazine, employees ranked Google as the best company to work for.

The perks are epic: free shuttles equipped with Wi-Fi to pick up and drop off employees; annual all-expenses paid ski trip; climbing wall; onsite doctors, notaries and washer and dryers; onsite oil changes and car washes; lap pool and free gourmet meals.

The average salaries for both hourly and salary workers were not disclosed, but the cover of the magazine shows how ecstatic the employees are. A dozen or so are all lifting one particularly thrilled woman up in the air.

Here are the Washington state companies that made the list of 100 top companies to work for:

16. Starbucks: Ranked No. 29 last year. The average for a salary worker is $43,598, while hourly employees make an average of $35,797. Part-time employees are eligible for full benefits if they work 240 hours a quarter.

24. Nordstrom: Ranked No. 46 last year. Average for salary workers was $48,500. Hourly workers make $35,200. In 1988, people of color made up 24 percent of staff, and now it's 41 percent. In managerial ranks, 31 percent are people of color, and 72 percent are women.

27. REI: Ranked No. 9 last year. The average for salary workers is $87,519; hourly workers make $22,453. Last year it started offering health insurance to all part-timers.

30. Russell Investment Group: Ranked No. 63 last year. Salaries were not disclosed, but Russell has pumped 15 percent of pay into retirement accounts every year since 1975.

50. Microsoft: Ranked No. 42 last year. Average for salary employees is $118,500. Hourly workers make $52,560. New perks in 2006 included free grocery delivery, dry-cleaning service, valet parking. Annual summer picnic drew 30,000 employees and family members to the Cascades.

64. Perkins Coie: Ranked No. 48 last year. The average for salary workers is $142,027; hourly workers make $58,807. The law firm has anonymous happiness committees that roam through the office spreading cheer, often in the form of gifts left on desks.

Interesting that only one tech company from the state made the list. What perks would you want?

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January 22, 2007 12:56 PM

The Linux Foundation

Posted by Tricia Duryee

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group, two of the leading organizations promoting Linux, said today that they will merge to form The Linux Foundation.

The organization saidthat together they will speed the growth of Linux by providing a comprehensive set of services to compete effectively with closed platforms.

Founding members include Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell and Oracle. Other members include every major company in the Linux industry, including Red Hat, as well as community groups, universities and industry end users.

Jim Zemlin, former executive director of the Free Standards Group, will lead The Linux Foundation.

"Computing is entering a world dominated by two platforms: Linux and Windows. While being managed under one roof has given Windows some consistency, Linux offers freedom of choice, customization and flexibility without forcing customers into vendor lock-in," Zemlin said. "The Linux Foundation helps in the next stage of Linux growth by organizing the diverse companies and constituencies of the Linux ecosystem to promote, protect, and standardize Linux."

The Linux Foundation, which will have offices in Beaverton, Ore. and San Francisco, will continue to sponsor the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Torvalds is a Portland resident, who our columnist, Brier Dudley, describes as a cult figure among computer enthusiasts worldwide.

Brier has written many stories on the rivalry of having Seattle be the hub for Microsoft's Windows and Portland the center for open source.

Here's also a Q&A he did with Torvalds.

Here's The New York Times' take on the deal.

So far, the consensus developing on the subject are that this will allow Linux to act more corporate to compete more effectively against Microsoft.

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December 21, 2006 10:25 AM

Medical condition: "Mouse rage"

Posted by Tricia Duryee

Forget carpal tunnel, the new computer-induced ailment is called "Mouse Rage Syndrome."

I wish I were making this up.

But Information Week is reporting today that Social Issues Research Centre in the United Kingdom identified "Mouse Rage" as a new medical syndrome. Signs include: quickening of the heart, profuse sweating, and furious clicking and bashing of the mouse. In extreme cases, the ailment can be identified by loud screaming at video screens.

According to a study of 2,500 Web users, these symptoms affect all Internet users sooner or later. The study was released Tuesday.

The primary cause of Mouse Rage is "badly designed and hosted Web sites," according to the research center. That includes slow-loading pages, layouts that are difficult to navigate, pesky pop-ups and unnecessary ads, including banners. The most evil, however, is "site unavailability."

"The test results indicate that users want Google-style speed, function, and accuracy from all of the Web sites they visit, and they want it now," according to the SIRC report. "Unfortunately, many Web sites and their servers cannot deliver this."

So, make it your New Year's resolution to design your Web sites better.

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December 15, 2006 10:37 AM

P3-DX robot is not $40k

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Jeanne Dietsch of MobileRobots said several robotics bloggers have been chattering about a line in my robotics story earlier this week that suggested the price of the company's P3-DX is $40,000. Turns out, it's more like $4,000. The executive at Microsoft who told me the price of the robot was apparently wrong. (I placed a call to him today to check that he wasn't referring to something else, but I haven't heard back so far.) Sorry for the confusion.

Update: Both the Microsoft exec, Tandy Trower, and Dietsch said today that $4,000 is the base price for the P3-DX. Microsoft bought four of them outfitted with "advanced laser mapping and autonomous navigation software, laser bumpers, gyros, wireless, etc, etc for $76,000, or $19,000 each," Dietsch said, adding, "We did give them a reduced price, however. We didn't charge them for the Windows OS!"

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December 7, 2006 12:05 PM

Thinking about James Kim

Posted by Kristi Heim

Yesterday it felt like the world was searching for James Kim. The digital world that Kim knew so well pulsed with information, and we wanted to know more, captivated by his plight and the image of his instantly likeable face.

Today we are searching for answers that may never come. When a reporter here saw the first story that his body was found and read the news to our small tech team, the sadness and disappointment struck like a physical blow. More than 2,000 comments followed CNET's announcement Wednesday, and many people who never knew the man were in tears.

Earlier this week, when the search for Kim dragged on, I began to feel angry. Why with all the technology we glorify was there not an easier solution for finding him? Others lamented: if only he had OnStar or GPS.

Now I wonder whether we all put too much faith in technology. Maybe it makes us feel invincible. Sure we can operate a BlackBerry while driving. Sure we can get to our destination in 4.5 hours; it says so in the convenient directions we pulled up in seconds over the Internet. If not, we have a mobile phone, so we can just call.

Kim lived in ultra-wired San Francisco, where he wrote about tech gadgets and was "always connected," as his friends described. What epic struggle must happened out there when he was all alone fighting to find any help for his family?

At the end of the day, we are all just flesh and blood, capable of wrong turns, vulnerable to even small variations in temperature, fortunate for every day we can take a breath. As the virtual world mourns James Kim, that might be something to remember.

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December 4, 2006 3:08 PM

Part of missing family found

Posted by Kim Peterson

Some good news out this afternoon about the family of CNET tech editor James Kim, which had been missing since Nov. 25 after a Thanksgiving visit to Seattle.

Kim's wife and two daughters have been found alive and were airlifted to a local hospital, authorities said in a 3 p.m. press conference. The search continues for Kim, who, according to this story, left the family car on snowshoes two days ago to get help.

Another press conference has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to release more information, and it can be viewed live here.

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December 1, 2006 11:16 AM

CNET editor missing after Seattle trip

Posted by Kim Peterson

James Kim, a senior editor at CNET, is reportedly missing after driving to Seattle with his family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Engadget, Kim and his family were last seen on Saturday somewhere around Portland.

Here's the San Francisco Police Department's missing persons report on the family. I'll update here as the situation develops.

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November 28, 2006 2:12 PM

Tech philanthropy jobs

Posted by Kristi Heim

Could Microsoft and Google eventually compete in the realm of philanthropy? Google.org, the search giant's charitable arm, looks to be beefing up its Mountain View, Ca-based operations and has seven new job openings posted. They show that Google is building teams to address poverty and sustainable development, climate change and energy and global public health. The philanthropic work will make use of Google's own projects, technology, partnerships and other resources.

With initial funding of $90 million, Google.org is dwarfed by the $2.5 billion in charitable contributions by Microsoft in 2005, and by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose assets are expected to grow to about $60 billion with help from Warren Buffett.

But Google.org has a pretty ambitious goal: eclipsing Google itself in its impact on the world.

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November 27, 2006 1:46 PM

Crash at RealNetworks

Posted by Kim Peterson

A driver crashed his car into RealNetworks' front entrance on Elliott Avenue this morning. Luckily, no workers were outside the building when this happened, according to a RealNetworks spokeswoman.

According to our story, the driver went through a green light at the T-intersection and crashed into the building. That's a pretty steep slope leading down to Elliott Avenue. He was pulled from the vehicle, unconscious, and needed CPR from medics. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center.

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November 20, 2006 1:18 PM

Nanotechnology 101

Posted by Kristi Heim

The world is shrinking. This week two free programs on nanotechnology explain how advancements in the science of structures smaller than one billionth of a meter promise revolutionary change in many fields, from drug delivery to electronics. The events take place tonight and Tuesday at the University of Washington, the first school in the nation to offer a PhD. in the field. Both are held in UW's Bagley Hall, Room 154.

Tonight at 6:30, the Northwest Science Writers' Nanotech-O-Rama features talks by Francois Baneyx, director of the UW'S Nanotech center; bioengineering professors Xiaohu Gao and Patrick Stayton, who will talk about applications for cancer diagnosis and treatment; and Valerie Daggett, professor of medicinal chemistry, who will speak about computer simulation methods.

Tuesday afternoon, Intel Senior Fellow Robert Chau, who directs nanotechnology research at the world's largest semiconductor company, will speak from 12:30 to 1:20 on "Extending Moore's Law Using Nanotechnology."

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November 2, 2006 11:49 AM

WSJ smacks down BillMonk and other news

Posted by Kim Peterson

--The Wall Street Journal has some not-so-nice things to say about Seattle's BillMonk in its profile today of blogger Michael Arrington:

Some of the companies Mr. Arrington writes about are tiny and have questionable business models, like BillMonk, a company owned by Code Monks LLC that lets people use its online service to settle small debts between friends -- free of charge. The site may soon impose a small fee for fund transfers, though, and BillMonk co-founder Guarav Oberoi says he's confident the site will be successful. Mr. Arrington concedes he gets pitched about some "heroically dumb stuff," but he says many companies "deserve their moment in the limelight."

-- The Electronics Entertainment Expo has been significantly scaled down for next year to a smaller and more intimate video game trade show. But a second show just announced today promises to revive blustery theatrics of E3 next October. Organizers of the GamePro Expo show are predicting it will draw 30,000 attendees to Los Angeles -- that's about half of E3's attendance.

-- A new phrase, "Web science," enters the techie lexicon today with an announcement from MIT and a U.K. university that they plan to begin researching the field. The research will be led by Tim Berners-Lee, widely credited with creating the Web's basic infrastructure.
Web science will try to study the big picture of the Web, including social networks and the way people behave on the Web.

-- Mobile madness: Google upgrades its Gmail service for wireless phones, and YouTube says it wants to launch a service for mobile devices within a year.

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October 31, 2006 3:25 PM

Students rank companies for diversity

Posted by Kristi Heim

Minority students ranked Google as their ideal employer in a survey this year by Universum. The company polls undergraduate and MBA students every year to find out what they want in a future employer. Turns out that Google placed first overall, followed by Walt Disney, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Microsoft. The results are based on surveys of about 13,000 minority students from 115 schools in the U.S.

Five out of the top 10 companies were tech companies. See the full results here.

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October 30, 2006 4:22 PM

Where did the Craigslist ads go?

Posted by Kim Peterson

Craigslist began charging people to place job ads on its Seattle site on Oct. 22. Job listings now cost $25. Already, there is a marked decrease in the number of ads.

Take the software jobs section, for example.

Friday, Oct. 20: 228 ads
Friday, Oct. 27: 24 ads

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October 20, 2006 2:22 PM

Edelman flogs for Wal-Mart

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Two blogs that purported to be independent supporters of giant retailer Wal-Mart were written by employees of Edelman, the public relations firm that was just awarded a contract to handle the consumer launch of Microsoft's two biggest products.

Blogs posted on Working Families for Wal-Mart, which describes itself as "a group of leaders from a variety of backgrounds and communities all across America," were authored by an Edelman employee. Wal-Mart and WFWM are Edelman clients. A related site, PaidCritics.com, which ferrets out links between Wal-Mart critics and unions or other groups with skin in the game, also consists of blogs written by Edelman employees.

Until recently, the blogs did not carry the names of their authors, thus appearing to be the work of WFWM members rather than paid employees of its PR firm. A banner on the PaidCritics site says, "Had enough of the paid critics smearing Wal-Mart? Join Working Families for Wal-Mart today."

Here's coverage of the admission by Edelman -- the world's largest independent PR firm -- CNNMoney.com and Online Media Daily.

It came after Edelman CEO Richard Edelman acknowledged on Monday that not disclosing the whole story of another Edelman-backed Wal-Mart PR stunt was a mistake. In that case, it was Wal-Marting Across America, an online journal of RVers camped out in the big-box retailer's expansive parking lots.

Richard Edelman updated his blog today with a set of specific steps the company is taking to address the issue. These include: a thorough global audit of its programs; a mandatory class for all employees on ethics in social media; a hotline for employees to review social media programs before they're implemented; ethics materials to be distributed around the company.

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October 17, 2006 1:55 PM

Google Kirkland gets an IM rockstar

Posted by Kim Peterson

From the InsideGoogle blog comes news that Google has stolen Justin Uberti away from AOL. Uberti was the lead developer of AOL Instant Messenger and had been with the company for 10 years. He started work Oct. 9 out of the Kirkland office, which had a big part in developing Google's own IM service.

In his new blog, Uberti said that during Google's orientation he was asked what word he would use to describe Google. He chose the word colorful.

"More than just the choice of palette, everything (and everyone) at Google seems to have a bit of a whimsical bent."

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October 11, 2006 10:38 AM

The death of cursive

Posted by Kim Peterson

Did the computer keyboard kill cursive handwriting? This Washington Post story reports that children are taught keyboarding at an early age and that cursive has fallen out of favor.

When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.
And those college hopefuls are just the first edge of a wave of U.S. students who no longer get much handwriting instruction in the primary grades, frequently 10 minutes a day or less. As a result, more and more students struggle to read and write cursive.

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October 5, 2006 11:54 AM

Google CEO's incredible truth-sniffing machine

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has been on tour in England, meeting with politicians and journalists. On several occasions, he has been talking about the idea of a truth-telling machine.

He forecast that, within five years, "truth predictor" software would "hold politicians to account". Voters would be able to check the probability that apparently factual statements by politicians were actually correct, using programs that automatically compared claims with historic data, he said.
Politicians "don't in general understand the implications" of the Internet, Mr Schmidt argued.

The Financial Times story mentions a remark this summer by deputy prime minister John Prescott: "I think it's called the Internet or something -- blogs is it? -- I don't know, I've only just got used to letters."

Not that some U.S. politicians are any better informed...

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October 4, 2006 11:22 AM

Google's new playground: SearchMash

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google has launched a new site called SearchMash where it can anonymously test out ideas, reports SearchEngineWatch.

Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineWatch notes an uncanny resemblance between SearchMash and Amazon's A9.com service -- both seem like an R&D playground for the companies that own them. The link between the two could be Udi Manber, the former CEO of A9.com who jumped ship for Google in February.

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October 3, 2006 2:58 PM

E-mail not a priority for college students

Posted by Kim Peterson

The Chronicle of Higher Education on a trend that MSN executives have been talking about for a while now: Teens and college students don't use e-mail.

College officials around the country find that a growing number of students are missing important messages about deadlines, class cancellations, and events sent to them by e-mail because, well, the messages are sent to them by e-mail.

Now it's all about instant messaging and text messaging.

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September 25, 2006 10:39 AM

Monday news roundup

Posted by Kim Peterson

Lots of news out in the ether today. Here's a roundup:

Microsoft is combining its global advertising services into a more streamlined offering for advertisers called Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions. The new service will reach across the company's products, including the MSN Network, Xbox Live, Windows Live and the online segments of Microsoft Office.

The Demo emerging technologies conference is going on this week in San Diego, and Seattle-based Cozi is there unveiling a free service called Cozi Central. Users can keep an online calendar and shopping lists and have the ability to send broadcast messages to each other.

Bellevue-based Revenue Science has been chosen by media company Gannett to provide behavioral targeted advertising technology. Revenue Science said that it will help Gannett offer advertisers specific audiences, such as those interested in travel, car shopping and consumer technology.

Seattle-based Farecast has added 20 new cities to its airfare prediction service, bringing the total to 75 cities nationwide.

The Mind Camp thinkfest is having a party before the event on Oct. 5 at the Nectar Lounge in Fremont. Mind Camp is organizing this with Venture All Stars, and is bringing in the managing director of West Coast IPOs from Nasdaq to talk about the stock market and public offerings. Cost is $20 per person and a food donation is required. More info at Venture All Stars' Web site.

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September 21, 2006 5:35 PM

John Moe book party details

Posted by Kim Peterson

John Moe summons our tech reporters over to KUOW's studios pretty regularly to be interviewed for his show, called The Works. Time to return the love with a quick plug for an upcoming party to promote his new book, "Conservatize Me: How I tried to be a righty with the help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith and beef jerky."

Moe promises "an evening of political conversation and fun" on Oct. 4 at Big Picture in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. The cost is $10 a person and more info can be found here.

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September 17, 2006 5:11 PM

Apple's "man behind the curtain"

Posted by Kim Peterson

BusinessWeek takes a look at the design wizard behind Apple's products, even though the wizard himself, Jonathan Ive, won't give an interview for the article.

Of note in the story:

I've's team visited a jelly bean factory to understand how to make a plastic shell look exciting rather than cheap.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs insisted that a shipment of fine Italian marble for the company's first Manhattan retail store be sent first to company headquarters so he could inspect the veining in the stone.

Starting salary for Ive's team is rumored to be $200,000 a year.

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September 14, 2006 11:53 AM

Major Segway recall underway

Posted by Kim Peterson

It sounds like just about all Segway electric scooters are being recalled. At least the ones sold from March 2002 to now. What a major blunder, and one that will have a big impact on the many Segway fans around here.

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August 31, 2006 10:14 AM

Star Trek auction at SciFi Museum

Posted by Kristi Heim

Put on your Vulcan ears and get ready to go where no auction house has gone before.


CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2006
For the Starfleet commander who has (almost) everything.

More than 1,000 props, costumes, models and set pieces from 40 years of Star Trek will be auctioned off by Christie's in October -- at least those that Paul Allen doesn't already own.

A preview of the goods will be held Sept. 8-10 at Allen's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. The three-day celebration includes appearances by Star Trek cast members Nichelle Nichols (Lietenant Uhura), George Takei (Sulu) and Walter Koenig (Chekov) and others.

Other speakers are real science luminaries: Martin Cooper, inventor of the first portable cell phone; Marc Raymond, director of Deep Space 1 at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, and Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute.


CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2006
Want a tribble? No trouble

Some of the top Star Trek items to be auctioned include original models of the Starship Enterprise and costumes worn by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart. Nothing screams intergalactic heat louder than a form-fitting gold polyester top with that trademark arrowhead logo.

Star Trek's official 40th anniversary is Sept. 8. Don't expect Microsoft Research to get a lot of work done that day.


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August 28, 2006 10:38 AM

Monday morning news roundup

Posted by Kim Peterson

Monday morning tidbits:

-- Seattle podcasting service Pluggd said today it has been selected to participate in the next DEMO conference, which runs from Sept. 25 to 27 in San Diego. One or two local companies seem to be regularly invited to exhibit at the emerging technologies conference, which takes place twice a year.

Recent exhibitors include Smilebox, Vizrea and Trimergent.

-- Nintendo said that 2 million people have used its free wireless gaming service, called the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. In a rather bizarre point of comparison, Nintendo says the population of its Wi-Fi service now surpasses the population of 15 different U.S. states, including Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico.

-- Tickets for the next Mind Camp event have gone on sale at the event's Web site. The next Mind Camp is slated for Nov. 11-12 in West Seattle, and early tickets cost $29 through Sept. 15.

Mind Camp bills itself as a "digitally minded, entrepreneur-driven, overnight Seattle confab" and asks what happens when you put 250 of Seattle's brightest minds together for 24 hours. Let's hope everyone showers first.

--The next nPost.com Seattle networking event for entrepreneurs takes place tomorrow at 6 p.m. at The Great Nabob in lower Queen Anne.

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August 21, 2006 11:41 AM

Farecast's wider net

Posted by Kim Peterson

Seattle-based Farecast has opened up its airfare predictor service to routes for the 55 busiest airports in the United States. Previously, the company had limited its service to flights originating from Boston and Seattle.

Farecast's site is not responding right now. When we tried to use the service, this popped up:

"Sorry, it's a bit crowded. Our servers are experiencing a high volume of search activity. Please try your search again in a few moments to view the latest fares for your trip, or search yesterday's fare results while you wait."

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August 17, 2006 11:07 AM

Boeing puts Connexion out of its misery

Posted by Kim Peterson

Boeing is shutting down its in-flight Internet service, Connexion, which is going to cost it $320 million.

After doing a detailed analysis, the company said, it became apparent that "the market for this service had not materialized as expected." (Release here)

At first glance, it would seem like Connexion would be a screaming success. Why wouldn't you want to have e-mail, live television, phone service and Web browsing on a flight? But then the money part comes in. Connexion charged $27 for an entire long-haul flight, or $10 for an hour. That's a lot to ask, especially now that airlines are nickel-and-diming just about everything (and even encouraging their own employees to go dumpster diving to save money).

Some online reaction:

Geek Travel
: "I had tested Connexion on a flight to Detroit. It was useable, but frustratingly slow. Still, the technology is cool, and having Internet on board of airplanes is something I wouldn't want to miss."

The Cranky Flier: "In the long run, you'll never remember this existed as airlines move toward a ground-based system instead. This will probably be easier and cheaper, so Boeing must have realized it wasn't worth keeping Connexion going with no long term future."

Nick Hodge: "I wonder if the recent restrictions on carry on luggage, let alone the complexity of modern travel, has impacted their business plan."

Om Malik: "One of the biggest problems Boeing faced was lack of traction in the key US market, where many routinely travel with laptops and want to stay connected. The service, which received internet signals from Satellites and distributed them via WiFi is also facing competition from other technologies."

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August 16, 2006 10:36 AM

Dell's overheating problems closing in on Sony

Posted by Kim Peterson

The Dell laptop batteries that are the focus of the largest electronics recall in the United States were actually made by Sony and are in other companies' laptops as well. Check out this article.

So while Dell is catching a lot of heat (ha ha) for this problem, Sony could be quickly pulled into this fiasco. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it's looking at batteries made by Sony, which show up in laptops from Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo as well.

Sony is trying to keep the focus on Dell, saying the overheating problem appeared related to the combination of the battery and charger Dell uses. We'll see.

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August 14, 2006 1:23 PM

The coolest local sites, according to Time

Posted by Kim Peterson

The local companies that made it on to Time Magazine's list of the 50 coolest Web sites:

Farecast
Pixsy
Zillow

Tech Tracks must have been #51.

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August 9, 2006 4:40 PM

Found the fake Steve Jobs blog

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

OK. Last post on this.

First, we called-out the fake Steve Jobs blog because we thought it was funny (still do, sort of) and timely given Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference and stock-options snafu. Then it disappeared and we owed readers an explanation and an effort to find out why.

Now it's back, at a new location, and apparently as part of a network of fake tech-personality blogs, including spoofs of Wired editor Chris Anderson and Web 2.0 wonder-boy Kevin Rose.

You can read Fake Steve's explanation for the absence and relocation.

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August 8, 2006 10:38 AM

Still searching for the fake Steve Jobs blog

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Got a response from a Google spokeswoman today on the disappearance of "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs." (It had been hosted on Blogger.com, a Google property.)

"We do not disclose details related to users and/or specific blogs on Blogger," the spokeswoman said in an email. "However, regarding http://secretdiaryofstevejobs.blogspot.com, to the best of our knowledge, we did not receive complaints about this blog nor did we take action on it."

Still no word from Apple. They're probably busy.

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August 7, 2006 11:14 AM

Where's the fake Steve Jobs blog?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Readers of our weekly Download column today who tried to find the blog we ballyhooed might have been disappointed when they plugged in the Web address this morning. It was there when we put the column together on Friday, I promise.

We're as disappointed as you are (probably more so) as we were looking forward for more of the pithy commentary from an anonymous author writing in the voice of Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs. Anonymous had an especially rich week of content ahead of him or her as Apple begins its Worldwide Developer Conference in the midst of a stock-options back-dating maelstrom.

I've asked spokespeople at Google -- which owns blogger.com, the former host of "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Age 51 1/2" -- and at Apple to see if they could offer an explanation for the disappearance. (Maybe it was a legal thing?) We'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if anyone finds the secret diary, let us know.

Update: No word back from Google or Apple. Meanwhile, here's Google's cache of the blog, so at least you can get a glimpse of it.

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August 2, 2006 1:17 PM

On-board with the Blue Angels

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Blue Angels, due to touch down at Boeing Field any minute now ahead of their Seafair performance this weekend, are impressive from the outside. But what must it be like inside one of those Boeing F/A-18 Hornets as it pulls into a high-speed turn?

To get a sense of the extremes these top pilots go through, check out this video. It's from ESPN.com's Page2, via YouTube. Editor Sheldon Spencer went on a ride with the Angels and paid for it with a distorted face and brush with unconsciousness.

We'll watch from the ground, thanks.

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July 27, 2006 10:47 AM

Parents: PCs only good for cheating and "Half-Life 2"

Posted by Kim Peterson

Computers? Bah, who needs 'em?

That might be the thinking of some U.S. adults who have a family member going back to school. According to a survey by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Yahoo!, a third of those adults don't think that computers or technology products are vital tools that students need in school.

More than half of respondents think that students want high-tech gadgets more for social status and cool factor than for educational purposes, and 30 percent think students commonly use technology to cheat on schoolwork or tests.

That doesn't bode well for back-to-school sales. Looks like PC makers have some direct-to-parent marketing to do.

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July 27, 2006 10:47 AM

Parents: PCs only good for cheating and "Half-Life 2"

Posted by Kim Peterson

Computers? Bah, who needs 'em?

That might be the thinking of some U.S. adults who have a family member going back to school. According to a survey by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Yahoo!, a third of those adults don't think that computers or technology products are vital tools that students need in school.

More than half of respondents think that students want high-tech gadgets more for social status and cool factor than for educational purposes, and 30 percent think students commonly use technology to cheat on schoolwork or tests.

That doesn't bode well for back-to-school sales. Looks like PC makers have some direct-to-parent marketing to do.

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July 13, 2006 3:27 PM

Bellevue startup eyes open source

Posted by Kim Peterson

EWeek.com has a story out today about a startup in Bellevue that aims to provide information about open-source projects. The idea is to help people figure out the best open-source software for their needs, the article says.

And get this: The company, called Ohloh, was started by former Microsoft executives.

Ohloh isn't exactly new. The company's Web site said it was founded in 2004 as a way to "provide more visibility into software development." EWeek says its founders are Scott Collison, a former director of platform strategy at Microsoft, and Jason Allen, who previously managed XML Web services at the company.

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July 12, 2006 1:56 PM

Another day, another acquisition

Posted by Kim Peterson

Today marks the third acquisition announcement in Puget Sound in three days. This one takes us to Bothell, where AMS Services, a software maker for the insurance industry, said it has acquired BCF Technology, a North Carolina company providing software and services in the same field.

The two companies had worked together for years before the acquisition, and said in a statement that the deal was "the next logical step." The companies would not release financial terms of the purchase, nor disclose the number of employees at BCF. AMS Services has about 800 employees.

BCF employees will not be relocating to Bothell, and there will be no layoffs as a result of the acquisition, the companies said. The deal closed on July 7.

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June 27, 2006 10:59 AM

The Shephard cometh

Posted by Monica Soto

Details of the closely held Blue Origin flight test program were revealed recently in a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration filing, according to this story.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos founded the privately funded aerospace program in 2000 -- with grand visions of providing space tourism and, over time, enabling an "enduring human presence in space."

The New Shephard, a re-launchable launch vehicle, is being targeted to commence commercial operations in 2010, with projected demand at 52 launches per year.

Bezos' vision has been long in the making. He first laid out plans for the colonization of space during his high school valedictory speech at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

In March 2003, he was riding in helicopter when it crashed on a Southwest Texas mountain range. He and the other two passengers avoided serious injury. (The launch site is located near Van Horn, Texas.)

Now, about the name...

We asked Google to define "Shephard," and the only entry to come up was that of Lucius Shepard (no "h"), an award-winning science ficition writer who hails from Vancouver, Wash.

Coincidence?

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June 27, 2006 10:29 AM

Gates Foundation and accountability

Posted by Kristi Heim

Our story today on the efficiency of the Gates Foundation and its $31 billion infusion from Warren Buffett missed a detail that Alicia Mundy, our Washington D.C. reporter, dug up last year.

The former director of the foundation's global health program, Dr. Richard D. Klausner, was the subject of an investigation by Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The probe looked into possible conflicts of interest and Klausner's role in a National Cancer Institute contract awarded to Harvard University.

At the time the investigation, Klausner was global health director at the Gates Foundation. He resigned three days after the story came out, saying that he was leaving to launch a new venture in Seattle. He and the foundation both said the decision had nothing to do with the investigation.

Klausner's venture, Seattle-based Column Group, is aiming to be one of the largest health-care-focused venture capital funds in the country. The Gates Foundation's new director of global health is Dr. Tadataka (Tachi) Yamada, who joined the foundation this month from GlaxoSmithKline, where he was head of R&D.

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June 20, 2006 1:57 PM

Do the Mac ads make PCs look cool?

Posted by Kim Peterson

Apple's television commercials are mean and don't give Slate's Seth Stevenson any Mac love whatsoever. He writes today that the actor playing the Mac (Justin Long) "is just the sort of unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster we've always imagined when picturing a Mac enthusiast. He's perfect. Too perfect."

John Hodgman, the guy playing the PC, is likeable and funny, said Stevenson, who discloses that he is personally a PC user who has often considered switching to a Mac.

Stevenson gives the campaign a C+ grade:

As usual, Apple hopes to shift the debate away from a battle over specs and value and toward a battle we can all understand: cool kid versus nerd. But these days, aren't nerds like John Hodgman the new cool kids? And isn't smug superiority (no matter how affable and casually dressed) a bit off-putting as a brand strategy?

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June 15, 2006 10:55 AM

Netscape reinvented more often than Madonna

Posted by Kim Peterson

AOL is revamping its Netscape.com site to become an aggregator of news articles and blogs. The site has some striking similarities to the popular Digg.com, a technology-centered collection of reader-submitted news.

At least for now, the top story on the new AOL site is this: "AOL Copies Digg."

Digg.com is reportedly planning to expand its focus beyond technology to more general news in the next few weeks.

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June 15, 2006 10:27 AM

Dell: We screwed up

Posted by Kim Peterson

There's an interesting and candid interview with Dell chief exec Kevin Rollins in the New York Times today.

"We got a little too far ahead on profit, and that allowed competitors to sneak in," he said in an interview at the company's headquarters here, referring to Dell's profit-margin goals. "Our competitors got better, and that allowed them to get strong."

One problem cited in the article was that Dell let its customer service fall way short. Just do a Google search for Dell customer service to figure out what went wrong. Dell is trying to make up for it now, and has reportedly spent more than $100 million in the last few months to answer consumers' questions.

It's an interesting thing to watch, this slow turnaround in companies' approaches to customer service. For a while, it seemed impossible to find a phone number on a company's Web site (you still can't find one on Amazon.com, but it's 1-800-201-7575). A year or so ago I went through seemingly every page on Symantec's Web site without finding a customer support number; at least now they're willing to talk but make you pay the long-distance charges.

Microsoft is now offering telephone support standard with its Windows Live OneCare, which costs $50 a year. Symantec is planning to open up its phone lines also in a rival product, slated to debut this fall.

Is any of this a reaction to Apple Computer? The company has long been considered an industry leader in customer service, and as a Mac user I can verify that it is incredibly pain-free, as long as you're willing to pay the fee for AppleCare support.

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June 5, 2006 6:09 AM

Tech exec jumps into politics

Posted by Kristi Heim


POGO LINUX
Tim Lee, CEO of Pogo Linux

Tech entrepreneur Tim Lee is making his first run for political office, announcing his campaign today for the Republican nomination to the 45th District seat in the state House.

Lee, founder and chief executive of computer server maker Pogo Linux, started the company in 1999 when he was still a student at UC Berkeley and moved the company to Redmond two years later. Now he hopes to win the seat occupied by Democratic incumbent Larry Springer.

Lee, who describes himself as socially moderate and fiscally conservative, said it was Sen. Bill Finkbeiner who first encouraged him to run for office earlier this year. In the business world, his Linux-based servers present competition for Microsoft's Windows platform. In the political world, he would represent Microsofties living on the Eastside and says solving traffic problems would be a high priority.

Good thing Lee's company is profitable -- in the past this race has proven to be expensive, but the job itself only pays about $34,000.

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May 26, 2006 11:21 AM

25 worst tech products of all time

Posted by Kim Peterson

Because it's Friday and Fridays were made for silly lists like this: PCWorld.com names the 25 worst tech products of all time. Puget Sound has some fine contributions to this Hall of Shame, including:

RealNetworks' RealPlayer -- 1999 (Ranked No. 2)

A frustrating inability to play media files -- due in part to constantly changing file formats -- was only part of Real's problem. RealPlayer also had a disturbing way of making itself a little too much at home on your PC--installing itself as the default media player, taking liberties with your Windows Registry, popping up annoying "messages" that were really just advertisements, and so on.

Microsoft Windows Millennium -- 2000 (Ranked No. 4)

Windows Millennium Edition (aka Me, or the Mistake Edition) was Microsoft's follow-up to Windows 98 SE for home users. Shortly after Me appeared in late 2000, users reported problems installing it, getting it to run, getting it to work with other hardware or software, and getting it to stop running.

Microsoft Bob -- 1995 (Ranked No. 7)

No list of the worst of the worst would be complete without Windows' idiot cousin, Bob. Designed as a "social" interface for Windows 3.1, Bob featured a living room filled with clickable objects, and a series of cartoon "helpers" like Chaos the Cat and Scuzz the Rat that walked you through a small suite of applications.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 -- 2001 (Ranked No. 8)

Full of features, easy to use, and a virtual engraved invitation to hackers and other digital delinquents, Internet Explorer 6.x might be the least secure software on the planet.

MusicNet -- 2002 (Tied with Pressplay for No. 9 ranking)
Note: MusicNet is headquartered in New York, but has offices in Seattle.

In 2002, two online services backed by music industry giants proposed giving consumers a legitimate alternative to illegal file sharing. But the services' stunningly brain-dead features showed that the record companies still didn't get it.... MusicNet cost $10 per month for 100 streamed songs and 100 downloads, but each downloaded audio file expired after only 30 days, and every time you renewed the song it counted against your allotment.

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May 24, 2006 1:58 PM

Google Fremont

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google moves its sales office 1.9 miles and the media is there to cover it. I'm guilty as well, with this short story in today's paper. It's still a little surprising to me how much attention this company (and perhaps Apple Computer) gets for moves that, with any other company, the media would nary blink an eye at.

Chalk it up to the Google financial phenomenon, its potential threat to established tech giants like Microsoft, and the company's own policies of keeping facts close to its vest. Google is much more open about the operations at its sales office than at its Kirkland engineering site, which it opened in November of 2004. The Kirkland office, by the way, is up to 150 people now, compared with 10 when it opened.

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May 18, 2006 6:20 PM

Temporarily, blissfully, unwired

Posted by Kristi Heim

Even hard-core Internet addicts have to disconnect sometimes. I recently returned from a trip to Africa, where I lived in a bush camp with no TV, no phone, no electricity and you guessed it ... no Internet.

Before leaving home, I had to slap my hand down when, out of some alien reflex, it tried packing the dreaded little communications device named after fruit. This device has helped me send e-mails and blog posts from far corners of the Earth, like on a train in China.

Not that it would have worked at all in the middle of the Kalahari. But even it if did, somehow the creatures just wouldn't approve. When an elephant saunters past your tent at night, it wants your full attention.

So the big news of the day, the impala got away from the lion, didn't get posted in real time. Oh well. I can live with that. But guess how I'm keeping in touch with my new friends in Botswana? You've got it, e-mail.

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May 18, 2006 4:07 PM

Apple's new NYC store opens Friday

Posted by Kim Peterson

There's an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Apple's strategy in opening its own retail stores across America. (We ran the story in today's business section). The move was certainly met with some skepticism, but now no one can argue with the numbers: revenue from the stores made up 17 percent of Apple's total sales in 2005.

The story credited Apple chief executive Steve Jobs for much of the success, given that Jobs - a notorious micromanager -- was deeply involved in the initiative. Tomorrow, Apple will open a store on New York City's Fifth Avenue. The store will be underground except for its entrance: a three-story high glass cube.

Mr. Jobs, a major stickler for design details, has been intimately involved in helping to turn the stores into hip, visually memorable shopping destinations. Mr. Jobs is one of the named inventors on a patent Apple secured several years ago for the design of a signature glass staircase featured in many Apple stores. A person familiar with the matter says Mr. Jobs himself was involved in the design of the glass cube atop the new Fifth Avenue store.

In a recent interview, Mr. Jobs admitted that at one point he ordered workers to replace the metal bolts holding together the glass panels that make up the cube over the company's Fifth Avenue store. "We spent a lot of time designing the store, and it deserves to be built perfectly," Mr. Jobs said.

Note: The store will be open 24 hours, according to Curbed, which has photos from the press preview today. (It's rather odd that a store opening has its own press preview, isn't it? Chalk it up to Apple's savvy marketing.)

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May 17, 2006 12:38 PM

Codie Awards - the local winners

Posted by Kim Peterson

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) recognized two Puget Sound companies last night in San Francisco at its annual Codie Awards event, which honors "leaders and innovators" across technology. The awards received 1,026 nominations -- the most in the awards' 20-year history.

The list of winners includes Amazon.com in the best Web services solution category. Onvia won two awards for best online directory and business leads service and best online government information service.

Microsoft was not among the winners, but some of its competitors were. The big winner may have been Salesforce.com, which took home three awards including the corporate achievement award.

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May 8, 2006 1:50 PM

Pay-what-you-will model nets entrepreneur award

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Brian Livingston, Seattle-based editor of the Windows Secrets newsletter and author of numerous computer books, won an award for the unusual way he charges subscribers to his twice-monthly e-mails.

Pay what ever you want, Livingston tells subscribers, and 17,000 out of approximately 140,000 have done so. Their contributions range from $5 to $100 apiece.

That model caught the attention of MarketingSherpa, a research firm that named Livingston "Entrepreneur of the Year" at its New York City conference on Internet content subscription sales today.

In a news release announcing the award, Livingston said the contributions from more affluent readers of his newsletter -- described as a survival guide for Windows users -- "subsidize those who may be on unemployment but still need to keep up their Windows skills."

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May 3, 2006 6:16 PM

Google Seattle to open this month

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google is opening a "huge new office" in Seattle at the end of this month, according to a spokeswoman. This will likely be in Fremont, an area that is home to an increasing number of tech companies.

Google has been working out of offices in Kirkland and has been looking for more space to expand. The company likes to snap up University of Washington graduates and employees from a certain software company in Redmond, and a Seattle office would be welcome news to those who aren't completely enthralled with the Eastside.

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May 3, 2006 6:16 PM

Google Seattle to open this month

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google is opening a "huge new office" in Seattle at the end of this month, according to a spokeswoman. This will likely be in Fremont, an area that is home to an increasing number of tech companies.

Google has been working out of offices in Kirkland and has been looking for more space to expand. The company likes to snap up University of Washington graduates and employees from a certain software company in Redmond, and a Seattle office would be welcome news to those who aren't completely enthralled with the Eastside.

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April 20, 2006 2:50 PM

Hello

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A quick introduction: My name is Benjamin Romano and I'm stepping into the large shoes Brier Dudley has left on the Microsoft beat. (Brier will still be contributing his wit and wisdom in a column and a blog on all things technology, with an emphasis on Microsoft.)

I've been covering biotechnology for the business section at The Seattle Times since last fall. Before that, I covered agriculture and business in Central Washington, and fishing and timber issues in Oregon. I've looked closely at several elements of the Pacific Northwest economy and I'm eager to learn and report about one of the region's and world's iconic companies.

Give me a call. I'd be happy to chat about Microsoft and technology in general. (206) 464-2149.

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April 17, 2006 12:58 PM

A few new words for Webster

Posted by Tricia Duryee

A few things to brighten your Monday from DailyCandy.com, a free daily newsletter listing everything that's hip and cool or undiscovered. Frankly, for this list of technology Lexicon, I'd agree with the "undiscovered" part. I mean, come on, does anyone actually say any of these?

Here they are:

A.I.M. v. To actively ignore messages from annoying chat buddies while blaming the server for the lost connection.

bee break n. The act of sneaking off to the bathroom in the middle of dinner to scroll through one's BlackBerry.

block-listed adj. Permanently banned from all modes of virtual communication.

case v. To use the jarring style of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in an e-mail. Also known as virtual shouting. (Dude, quit casing me!)

e-mnesia n. The condition of having sent or received an e-mail and having no recollection of it whatsoever.

IMonogamy n. The practice of chatting into only one window at a time....

overshared server n. A person who consistently hits "Reply All" when he/she should hit "Reply," thus subjecting everyone on the e-mail list to an irrelevant personal note.

textual frustration n. A late-night text exchange that fails to result in old-fashioned lip-locking.


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April 11, 2006 1:54 PM

Mind Camp opens for registration

Posted by Kim Peterson

Seattle Mind Camp is now open for registration. The event runs 25 hours straight from 11 a.m. April 29 to noon April 30 at the new Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle. It costs $25 to attend.

This is the second Mind Camp, an informal event for techies to hang out, have conversations and see what develops. I profiled Mind Camp organizer Andru Edwards in October.

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April 10, 2006 3:04 PM

Cray again facing Nasdaq delisting

Posted by Kristi Heim

Supercomputer maker Cray today said it received a notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market last week finding the company was not in compliance with marketplace rules and now faces potential delisting. The problem stems from Cray's failure to file its 2005 annual report on time.

Why does this sound so familiar? Last May, Cray received a similar notice from Nasdaq for failing to include an auditor's opinion on financial reporting in its 2004 annual report.

Cray said last month it would delay filing of its 2005 annual report pending a review of a $3.3 million non-cash item that could force it to adjust its 2004 financial statements. Cray did not give a timeline for when it expects to file.

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April 4, 2006 1:48 PM

A passion-free day

Posted by Kim Peterson

At Newsthinking.com, news writer Bob Baker is challenging other writers to avoid using the words "passion" and "passionate" on April 10, which he has proclaimed to be National Originality Day. Baker searched several thousand publications to see how often those words came up on March 22, 1996, and March 22, 2006. Turns out there was a 198 percent increase in the usage of "passion" and a 144 percent increase in the usage of "passionate."

Baker guesses the reason why is because "something snapped in our no-holds-barred culture and a word normally associated with sex began percolating into other areas."

Perhaps Baker should search for answers at Microsoft, which seems to favor the word "passion" almost as much as "Windows" and "Office." I did a search on Microsoft.com for "passion" and found 7,685 results. A search for "passionate" returned 3,057 results.

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April 3, 2006 10:15 AM

Simonyi in space?

Posted by Kristi Heim

Former Microsoft software developer and Intentional Software founder Charles Simonyi is set to become the world's fifth space tourist, Reuters reports this morning. The Hungarian-born Simonyi has a preliminary contract with the Russian space agency to visit the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket next spring, according to the report.

The price tag for a one-week vacation in space? A cool $20 million. For only $3 million, the Seattle philanthropist and father of Microsoft Word had an entire floor of a library named after him.

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March 31, 2006 11:42 AM

When bloggers attack

Posted by Kim Peterson

Perhaps Amazon.com should build a boxing ring for its guest author series. Shel Israel and Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble stopped by the company yesterday to present their book, "Naked Conversations," and apparently had a lively discussion with Chief Technical Officer Werner Vogels on the issue of corporate blogging.

Recounting the event in his own blog, Vogels said he asked the authors some very hard questions about why Amazon should institutionalize corporate blogs. The authors "appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly," Vogels wrote.

Israel responded on his blog that Vogels "was behaving like he was locked and loaded for bear hunting" and eventually called for an end to the "mutual acrimony." Scoble commented that he wasn't shell-shocked and Vogels mischaracterized his reaction. Later, Vogels promised to be nicer to the company's next guests.

Now, some have proposed a rematch, and a venture capitalist is offering to fly Vogels and Scoble to a Canadian Web conference for a "smackdown." You could sell tickets for this one.

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March 30, 2006 9:03 PM

Paul Allen rocks -- with a few hundred friends

Posted by Kristi Heim


COURTESY OF GARY NEILL
Paul Allen playing Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks.".

Paul Allen might have a reclusive reputation, but he sure knows how to party. Not only does he play Led Zeppelin's classic "When the Levee Breaks" on stage for 600 of his closest friends, but he gets Elvis Costello, Robbie Robertson and Dan Aykroyd up there to jam with him.

Allen hosted two lavish parties in Motown around the Super Bowl. Besides inviting the rich and famous, he made sure his frat buddies were there, too.

He flew 12 of his former fraternity brothers from Washington State University's Phi Kappa Theta to Detroit last month for Super Bowl weekend.


GARY NEILL
Allen, center, jams on stage with Dan Aykroyd and Elvis Costello, left.

One of the buddies, now an accountant in Reno, couldn't get to Seattle, so he was picked up by Allen's personal jet. He climbed in to find Dan Aykroyd and Axl Rose already on board.

On the Saturday before the game, Allen's guests watched Martha Reeves and the Vandellas perform a private show at Detroit's Roostertail club. After the game on Sunday, Allen hosted a crowd of more than 600 at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, which was sealed off for his entourage.


GARY NEILL
Seahawks rookie star Lofa Tatupu poses with Cameron Neill.

Allen pulled out his Fender Stratocaster to play on stage with Costello, Aykroyd and Robertson. A wobbly Axl Rose came out for one song. The Seahawks and Sea Gals joined the party, along with some other famous guests like Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Gary Neill, a former fraternity brother and instructor at Renton Technical College, took the snapshots you see here. He said the trip was a great surprise.

"I think it's wonderful if he invites me to a bad playoff game," he said. "To get this invitation was unbelievable."


GARY NEILL
Gov. Chris Gregoire dancing the night away with her husband and two daughters.

His billionaire status hasn't kept Allen from staying in close touch with the regular guys for 35 years, Neill said.
For a WSU homecoming event last fall, Allen quietly flew to Pullman, and Neill surprised his former high school classmates by showing up with Allen in a downtown tavern.


GARY NEILL
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck socializes after the game.
"I've snuck him out of his house and headed to Dick's for a hamburger," Neill said. "From my viewpoint, he's no different than when he was 18. He's still the same person with the same sense of humor."

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March 29, 2006 5:38 PM

Steve Jobs, quote machine

Posted by Kim Peterson

Wired is running an amusing piece on Steve Jobs' best quotes ever as Apple Computer marks its 30th anniversary. Here are the ones that might echo through the halls in Redmond:

"If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth -- and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago."
-- Fortune, Feb. 19, 1996

"The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That's over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it's going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade."
-- Wired magazine, February 1996

"It wasn't that Microsoft was so brilliant or clever in copying the Mac, it's that the Mac was a sitting duck for 10 years. That's Apple's problem: Their differentiation evaporated."
-- Apple Confidential 2.0

"My opinion is that the only two computer companies that are software-driven are Apple and NeXT, and I wonder about Apple."
-- Fortune, Aug. 26, 1991

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