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MySpace faces Facebook challenge July 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet, Internet Software.
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Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace is facing intense competition from Bebo and Facebook, according to latest figures on social networking in the UK.

MySpace, which was acquired by Murdoch’s News Corp in July 2005 for $580m, has long been the market leader for young people looking to talk to friends online. And with 6.5 million unique visitors in May, MySpace still remains the most popular social networking site in the UK.

In May, however, MySpace saw its first monthly drop in traffic since June 2006 and only the second drop since November 2005, research firm Nielsen/NetRatings said. Over the last six months, Facebook’s UK audience has grown at 19 times the rate of MySpace’s – 523 per cent compared to just 28 per cent. Bebo has grown by nearly 50 per cent per cent during the same period of time.

Facebook, once largely used by only American colleges, had 3.2 million unique users in May, while Bebo attracted around 4 million visitors. Nielsen’s figures also reveal that Facebook has become more popular in the UK than in the US. Ten per cent of British web users visited Facebook in May, compared to 9 per cent of the US online population.

MySpace is far more dominant in the US than the UK, having four times the visitors of Facebook stateside (56.6 million versus 14.2 million), Nielsen said. Bebo’s success is very much UK-based, according to Nielsen’s research. The site is visited by 12 per cent of online Britons, compared to just 1 per cent of US internet users.

Alex Burmaster of Nielsen/NetRatings said: “MySpace is, by far, still the most popular social network. “However, if last month’s growth rates were to remain consistent, both Bebo and Facebook would catch MySpace in September this year.”

The stats also reveal that MySpace is proving much less entertaining for its users than both Bebo and Facebook. MySpace users spent an average of 96 minutes on the site in May, compared with 152 minutes for Bebo and 143 minutes for Facebook.

“It’s extraordinary to think that Facebook is now a relatively bigger phenomenon in the UK than in the US where it started out life in Harvard back in 2004,” added Burmaster. “Bearing in mind that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned down a $750m buyout offer, supposedly holding out for $2bn, well before it made a significant footprint in the UK, one wonders what price he’d put on it now.”

Globally, MySpace is comfortably the most popular social network site, with an audience of 74.7 million. Facebook is second on 18.2 million users and Bebo is ranked third, with an estimated 5.8 million.

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Apple launches Safari for Windows July 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Apple.
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US computer giant Apple has released a version of its web browser Safari for Windows XP and Vista.

The browser will be competing head to head with Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer (IE) and Mozilla’s Firefox. According to California-based Apple, Safari 3 is currently the fastest browser running on Windows. Apple said it can render web pages up to twice as fast as IE 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2.

Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, made the announcement at a conference of developers for Apple products in San Francisco, California, on Monday afternoon. “We think Windows users are going to be really impressed when they see how fast and intuitive web browsing can be with Safari,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of Windows users already use iTunes, and we look forward to turning them on to Safari’s superior browsing experience too.”

Safari 3 offers an “easy to use” bookmark manager, tabbed browsing and a built-in RSS reader to quickly scan the latest news and information. Other Safari features include SnapBack, one-click access to an initial search query, and resizable text fields.

Microsoft’s IE has a 78 per cent share of the browser market, while Safari holds just a 5 per cent share, according to market research firm IDC.

Safari 3 public beta is available as a free download at www.apple.com/safari

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix > film review July 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies.
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If you’re not a Potter fan, this film may well do little more than irritate

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
Directed by > David Yates
Starring > Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon
US/UK 2007, 138 minutes

‘It’s not you, Harry, it’s me,’ I long to reassure the Boy Who Lived, should our paths ever cross. Not that he cares, one way or the other. 

It’s not just that Hollywood paranoia over piracy now leads to blockbusters being released simultaneously all over the world, so we watch in late July what would once have been delayed till September. It’s also that the latest blockbuster is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, released here on the same day as the latest JK Rowling novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Suddenly the world has gone Potter-potty, and what kind of Muggle would taint King Harry’s reign with a mere Review of the Year? Ignore him at your peril.

The book is setting records, 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours, and that’s just in the US. “This weekend kids and adults alike are sitting on buses, in the park, on airplanes and in restaurants reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” declared Lisa Holton, President of the book’s US publisher, without apparently realising just how chilling that sounds. The film of Phoenix likewise looks set to join the four previous Potters on the list of Biggest Hits of All Time, all four are in the Top 20, though hardcore Potter-philes have been mixed in their comments.

Their main complaint is simple enough > the longest Potter book, a 900-page behemoth, has become the shortest Potter movie. ‘Where’s the Quidditch?’ they ask. Where’s the visit to St. Mungo’s? Why didn’t they show Hermione and Ron being promoted to prefects? That’s just a sampling, though of course all the quibbles boil down to the same thing: ‘Why isn’t, the bit I liked in the book, also in the film?’. The obvious answer, ‘Because then the film would have to be 10 hours long’, is unlikely to mollify the disgruntled Harry-head.

As for me, I have no such quibbles, for a very simple reason > Book-to-film adaptations are a tricky subject anyway, do you measure the film against its source, assuming you’ve read it, or try to experience it as if for the first time? And what happens when the film betrays the book but ends up being superb in its own right, as The Talented Mr. Ripley did some years ago? My default position is that books should generally be ignored when writing reviews, simply because there are so many books out there and so few readers, that a person watching a movie is much more likely to be ignorant of the source novel than to have read it.

Unless, of course, the book is a Harry Potter, make that Harry “8.3 million copies” Potter, in which case the non-Potterite feels like a spouse at a high-school reunion, everyone’s very pleasant, and you have a nice enough time, but you keep forgetting their names, you don’t get any of the in-jokes, and you start wanting to go home just when the party’s at its height. Admittedly Order of the Phoenix doesn’t have a roomful of drunk alumni singing the old school song at its climax, but we get a Dumbledore-Voldemort smackdown, which is close enough.

To be fair, I think this is the most complete Potter so far. Most of the previous installments have been stymied by Harry’s passivity, for a wizardry whiz, he didn’t seem to do very much, but now, with the Dark Lord out of hiding, our hero gets a lot more action, he also, incidentally, gets his first-ever snog, as well as fumbling with his own Dark Side. “I feel so angry all the time!” he exclaims, though he also feels “more alone than ever”, making a bid for the alienated-teen market. The franchise truly comes of age here, even killing off a major character amidst Harry’s nightmares, prophecies and battles with the heinous Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).

She, incidentally, a viperish Ministry of Magic apparatchik, is part of the reason why Harry P. comes into his own, turmoil at Hogwarts forces the boy hero and his mates to form their own “Army”, after Umbridge sinks her claws into their beloved school. Staunton plays the fascist harridan with the same auntie-like sweetness she brought to Vera Drake (2004), now disguising a mean streak a mile wide, and her downfall won most of the audience applause at the packed screening I attended. If Order of the Phoenix were an episode of Friends, they’d probably call it ‘The One With the Bossy Old Cow’, yet in fact Dolores Umbridge has nothing to do with the main plot, the series’ central mythos. And I think that’s the problem.

Is it just me, or is the Harry Potter mythos really dull? I mean come on > parents killed by bad guy, kid groomed to take revenge, cue seven-year wait while he comes of age. I’ve seen kung-fu movies with more sophisticated premises. Voldemort used to be creepy when he was ethereally evil and He Who Cannot Be Named, but now he’s just Ralph Fiennes with a special-effects proboscis. Maybe it is just me, because Daniel Radcliffe is getting all kinds of plaudits now, even being promoted to sex symbol, whereas I find his weedy, inexpressive Harry to be the show’s greatest liability, it’s a pain having to look at his sallow little face, or the thin mouth gasping like a fish to indicate shock or angst.

As for the rest … well, Ron and Hermione are no more than sidekicks now, and the teachers colourful support with a couple of scenes each and no real development, this is where it helps if you’ve read the books. Harry’s schoolmates aren’t much better, though full credit to a 15-year-old Irish sprite named Evanna Lynch who gets some delightfully eccentric moments as Luna Lovegood.

Can you really blame me for treasuring the incidentals over the main plot? What I’ve always liked in Harry Potter is the Victorian charm of boarding-school stories and the cute teen-comedy aspects of Harry’s byplay with Ron and Hermione, which is why I liked Goblet of Fire, seen as a disappointment by most hardcore Harry-heads, the moment we get to the Curse and the Prophecy, and this magic spell versus that magic spell, I usually tune out. That’s why I predict Order of the Phoenix will bedazzle most Potter fans, even while I personally didn’t get much pleasure out of it. The plot’s really taking off now, filling the screen with youthful adventure, and it seems more and more like … well, a kids’ movie.

Harry might be quite sweet, if only he weren’t such a global phenomenon. As it is, such obsessive attention lavished on such a prosaic franchise is a little scary. The theme in Order of the Phoenix is mind-control, which is what Dolores Umbridge does with her Educational Decrees and despotic methods, and also what Voldemort does, when he tries to read Harry’s thoughts. Can it also be what the boy wizard’s handlers practise as they rev up the hype machine, trying to get every semi-literate child and adult in the world reading Harry Potter, on buses, in parks, on airplanes, in restaurants? 8.3 million copies in a single day. I rest my case.

Beer is America’s Beverage of Choice July 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Drinks & Beverages.
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The latest Gallup Poll shows that of the 64 percent of Americans who consume alcohol, beer continues to be their beverage of choice, with 40 percent choosing it over wine and hard liquor. The 2007 consumption poll was reported on Gallup’s Web site.

Having maintained its standing in the past two polls, beer represents the largest segment in the alcohol beverage category in both volume and dollar sales and accounts for 56 percent of all alcohol beverage servings.

The Anheuser-Busch-led industry campaign, “Here’s To Beer”, is now in its second year and continues to elevate the image of beer through consumer, retailer and wholesaler education programs.

“We are very pleased with the reception the ‘Here’s To Beer’ campaign has received from our fellow brewers, as well as from the beer distributor and retailer communities,” said Bob Lachky, executive vice president, Global Industry Development, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “Additionally, we’re encouraged by the consumer data such as today’s Gallup poll and this year’s ACNielsen global trend report that reinforce beer’s supremacy as a driver of food and beverage growth worldwide.”

“Here’s To Beer” continues to offer tools to help consumers develop a deeper appreciation for beer and help retailers grow their beer business. The campaign will soon launch “The Beer Connoisseur” Web site, an online beer university in which adults can enroll to learn about beer’s ingredients, brewing process, styles and the fundamentals of food-pairing.

PepsiCo vs Coca-Cola July 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Drinks & Beverages.
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Kilpatrick Stockton LLP announced that Judge Richard W. Story of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia summarily ruled that the “bag-in-box” technology used by Pepsi-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, Inc. does not infringe a Coca-Cola Co. patent.

Coca-Cola claimed that the bag-in-box container used by Pepsi to distribute and dispense fountain syrup infringed a Coca-Cola patent. This action had been pending for approximately two years and was very hard fought between these two soda fountain giants.

Kilpatrick Stockton moved for summary judgment that the bag-in-box container used by Pepsi did not infringe Coca-Cola’s patent, arguing, among other things, that Judge Story’s interpretation of the Coca-Cola patent in a prior case precluded a finding of infringement in this case. Judge Story agreed, granted the motion and dismissed the case.

Kilpatrick Stockton’s George Murphy led the defense of Pepsi assisted by Kilpatrick Stockton Partners Audra Dial and Corin McCarthy.