Saturday, May 22, 2010

iTunes expands movie service

SAN FRANCISCO - APPLE on Friday expanded its iTunes online film service to France and Ireland.

Films from major studios including Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox are now available for purchase or rental at the iPad, iPhone and iPod maker's Internet shop.

European studios with works in the line-up include Pathe, SND and StudioCanal in France and E1 Entertainment, Lionsgate UK and Optimum Releasing in Ireland, according to Cupertino, California-based Apple.

Films are available at iTunes on the same day they are released in DVD format and can be watched on iPods, iPhones, Macintosh or personal computers, or using Apple TV devices that link to television sets.

Available films touted by Apple include 3-D blockbuster Avatar, animated hit Up, and teen-oriented The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Films rented at iTunes must be watched within 30 days of download. Once someone begins watching a film rented at iTunes they have two days to finish viewing it or 'watch it multiple times,' according to Apple.

Movies in the iTunes library may be rented for 2.99 euros (S$5.41) while rentals of new releases cost 3.99 euros per film. Films can be purchased for 7.99 euros for older titles, 9.99 euros for recent releases and 13.99 euros for new releases. -- AFP

Source : The Straits Times

Sony unveils new 'God Of War' PSP game

Sony Computer Entertainment America has unveiled a second God Of War game for the PSP, which will carry the suffix Ghost Of Sparta.

The new game is being developed by Ready At Dawn and SCEA's Santa Monica studio, who previously worked together on 2008's God Of War: Chains Of Olympus.

Writing on the US PlayStation Blog, SCEA PR Eric Levine said that God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta will be a "prequel of sorts, picking up where God Of War left off".

The story will focus on lead character Kratos's ascent to power as he must confront his nightmares and dark past to "prove his worthiness to the gods".

Over the journey, players will learn about the "origins of lost worlds" and understand more about Kratos's tattoo, scar and family history.

"I can tell you from first-hand experience that we are pushing the limits of what PSP can do with state-of-the-art visual technologies, higher resolution environments, and greater depths of scale," said Levine.

"We're also providing over 25% more gameplay, an improved weapon system, and new magical powers - all enjoyed anytime, anywhere."

God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta will be released on PSP and PSP Go later in the year.


Flash creator wades into Apple debate

The co-creator of Flash media software has said it has a future, despite Apple's attempts to kill it off.

The video and animation software owned by Adobe has been heavily criticised by Apple boss Steve Jobs.

Jonathan Gay told BBC News that Flash "will continue to be the dominant tool" for media on the internet.

He also said he thinks iPhone users will see "support for Flash...sometime in the next few years".

Mr Gay, who is no longer involved with developing the video and animation software, helped to create the FutureSplash software that later became Flash, and describes himself as its "architect".

Apple's iPods and iPhones have proved hugely popular, and few doubt the technologies have helped to promote innovation in smartphones and portable music players.

But Apple founder Steve Jobs's decision to challenge Flash, which is used to help distribute a vast array of media across the internet, has come under close scrutiny.

In a letter posted on the Apple website, he argued that Flash had "one of the worst security records in 2009", "has not performed well on mobile devices", and "is the number one reason that Macs crash".

Yet iPhone users browsing the web find it frustrating that video and other animated content distributed with Flash cannot be viewed.

Instead, they see an empty square where the content would be. This is because there is no so-called "plug-in" for Flash on the iPhone's web browser, Safari.

Earlier this year, Adobe was busy creating software that would have helped iPhone App creators translate Flash website content for use on the iPhone.

But a recent change by Apple to the iPhone and iPad developer's agreement effectively prevented developers from using the technology.

Profitable business

Jonathan Gay said: "Apple is building their tightly controlled application platform to push the mobile internet world to a model like traditional mobile phone and cable TV businesses, where there is a gatekeeper who controls the platform and gets a fee from all the transactions on the platform."

"This would drive a very profitable business for Apple," he said.

"Flash grew from the PC and Web era where players are free, run on lots of devices, and there are no gatekeepers controlling what developers could do with the platform.

"As a consumer, I'd much rather see the PC and web model move to mobile phones than the closed mobile phone world taking over rich applications on the mobile internet," he added.

Mr Gay said that the current dispute has its roots in the early days of the iPhone, when Apple struck an important deal with Google, the parent company of YouTube.

The deal saw YouTube convert all of its content so it was compatible with a specialised iPhone YouTube application.

"[Steve Jobs'] ability to convince YouTube to do this for the original iPhone launch was a key driver for the iPhone's initial success, and now he wants the rest of the web to follow", he said.

Previously, YouTube had used Flash for distributing its own video.

Ironically, Mr Gay said that YouTube's adoption of Flash had been the key to it becoming a widely used standard for video on the web.

"Much larger companies like Microsoft, Apple and Real Networks ... were focused on ... building businesses around their players and content delivery.

"The YouTube guys then used Flash to decisively demonstrate that there was an opportunity for short video integrated well into a web page. Flash video took off from there.

"It is surprising to me that it's taken so long for a big company like Apple to mount a visible challenge to Flash's leadership role for video on the internet," he said.

The future

Much emphasis as an alternative to Flash has been placed by Mr Jobs on the latest web standard, HTML5, which is currently undergoing development.

In an open letter on Apple's website, Jobs said that HTML5 "lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash).

"HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member."

He added that whilst Adobe says that "75% of video on the web is in Flash", what they don't say is that "almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads."

However, Mr Gay said that "HTML5 may be a good solution for building video websites like YouTube but it won't be as rich a media platform as Flash is today.

"H.264 is not an open standard from my perspective."

He explained that the Flash developers wanted to use H.264 when they first added video support to their software, "but the patent licensing fees would have cost around $5m (£3.5m) per year."

He also said that "it would be a waste to orphan the enormous investment that has already been made in Flash content."

He added: "I think that the more open approach of Google with Android will put competitive pressure on Apple to support the full web and we'll see ... support for Flash in Safari on the iPhone sometime in the next few years."

Mr Gay is an iPhone user himself, and thinks "it's a great device", but is ready for a change.

"I would guess that my next phone will be an Android phone because I think the more open Google model will meet my needs and the needs of the carriers providing the phones better."

In response to a request for further comment, Apple directed the BBC to the Steve Jobs letter referred to above, and restated its commitment to HTML5 as an "open web standard".

Source: BBC

'Kingdom Hearts' PSP coming in September

Square Enix has announced that Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep will be released exclusively for the PSP in September.

The new handheld role-playing game will act as a prequel to events in the original Kingdom Hearts, which was released on PS2 in 2002.

Developed in collaboration between Square Enix and Disney, the game will feature new characters and plotlines, along with familiar environments from the worlds of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Alongside boasting "exceptional graphics", Birth By Sleep will also offer three new battle systems and four different multiplayer modes for up to six players.

"Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is a spectacular epic adventure that will bring joy, action and suspense to anyone who embarks on the game's journey," said Square Enix vice president of brands PAL region Larry Sparks.

"Birth By Sleep is one of the most beautiful titles to grace the PSP and we're excited about its forthcoming release across PAL territories."


Death wish pair find love

A broken-hearted fiance planning to throw himself off a bridge found love again - with a girl who was about to jump to her death from the same spot.

Devastated Andriej Ivanov, 26, wanted to end it all when his fiancee died in a car crash the day before their wedding by jumping from the bridge in Ufa, central Russia.

But when he got there he found tragic Maria Petrova, 21, climbing the railings after being thrown out by her parents for falling pregnant.

She was seconds away from plunging more than 100ft into the icy Belaya River when Andriej pulled her back from the brink.

"Something in my heart snapped and I couldn't let her do it no matter how broken my own heart was.

"I shouted, 'Stop' and ran over to her. She fell into my arms sobbing and I began crying too. We held each other and talked, and talked and talked. That night saved my life - and hers," said Andriej.

The couple talked into the night and agreed to help each other mend their broken hearts.

Now they plan to get married after telling their families of their amazing escapes from death.

"He is my knight and my saviour," said Maria.

"All that pain was worthwhile because it led me to my Andriej," she added.


'Too embarrassed to call for help'

A Chinese man ended up stuck in river silt for 11 hours - because he was too embarrassed to call for help.

Xiao Chen, 25, a painter and decorator in Chongqing, got stuck after going for a late night dip in the Changjiang River.

And even though he had his mobile phone with him, he didn't call anyone for help as he was worried about losing face.

"I saw a patch of grass, which was actually duckweed on the surface of the water, stepped onto it and got stuck there," he said.

Chen admitted he didn't call for help as he thought his mistake was really shameful.

A rescue operation was finally launched four hours later after he was spotted by two fishermen, reports the Chongqing Morning Post.

Even then, it took firefighters another seven hours to pull him out - partly because he was too embarrassed to take his trousers off.

"A red plastic bag was in his hand. In the bag were his swimming trunks, and a cell phone," said firefighter Zhou Xin.

"The silt had got into his pants, and stuck to his legs. We suggested he take off his long pants, then we could pull him out easily, but he refused.

"If he was not so interested in saving face, and cooperated with us by removing his pants, he could have been out in one or two hours."


Dad accused of throwing boiling water on son

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – A Panama City man was arrested Saturday night and charged with an aggravated battery charge after allegedly throwing boiling water on his adult son during an argument. Police said the 33-year-old son was sleeping when his 57-year-old father woke him. They began arguing and ended up in the kitchen. At some point, the father threatened to throw a pot of boiling water on the son, and the son told him to "go ahead."

The father picked up the pot and threw the water, hitting the son's back. The son ran to his room and called 911.

Officers said the father appeared intoxicated or under the influence of some type of drug when they responded.

The was taken to nearby hospital, and the father was taken to jail.


Drumming toddler is an online hit

A three-year-old drummer has become an internet sensation after a clip of him playing on YouTube attracted millions of hits.

More than 3.7million people have watched Howard Wong's astonishing performance on the drums, reports Metro.

He first displayed his percussion skills aged just 18 months with an accompaniment to Old MacDonald Had A Farm.

And now, at the age of just three, Howard is already the centrepiece of his father's band, wowing audiences with his skills in a series of rock numbers.

At one show, dressed in a Santa hat, Howard can be seen grinning as he produces a show-stopping finale.

The series of videos capturing Howard's talents are thought to have been filmed in Penang, Malaysia.

One YouTube fan wrote: "I can hardly believe that this child is so good. Every beat perfectly timed. He certainly found his gift early in life."


Waitress fired for griping about tip on Facebook

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A North Carolina waitress is out of a job after griping on her Facebook page about the $5 tip she got from a couple who sat at their table for three hours. The waitress says the customers kept her at work an hour after she was supposed to clock out.

The Charlotte Observer reported Monday that 22-year-old Ashley Johnson felt slighted after waiting on the couple at Brixx Pizza.

So she blasted the couple on Facebook, calling them cheap and mentioning the restaurant by name.

Brixx officials told Johnson a couple of days later that she was being fired because she violated a company policy banning workers from speaking disparagingly about customers and casting the restaurant in a bad light on a social network.

Johnson says she has apologized to Brixx and is looking for a new job.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dog honored for leading troopers to fire

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Buddy the German shepherd was hailed as a hero for guiding Alaska State Troopers through winding back roads to a fire at his owners' workshop.

"Buddy is an untrained dog who for some reason recognized the severity of the situation and acted valiantly in getting help for his family," Col. Audie Holloway, head of the troopers, said Friday at a ceremony for the 5-year-old dog, who stood quietly before an adoring crowd.

Buddy, whose good deed was caught on a patrol car's dashcam video, received a stainless steel dog bowl engraved with words of appreciation from troopers for his "diligence and assistance."

Buddy also received a big rawhide bone, and his human family got a framed letter documenting his efforts.

"He's my hero," owner Ben Heinrichs said, his voice breaking. "If it wasn't for him, we would have lost our house."

The dashcam video shows Buddy meeting the trooper's vehicle, then dashing to their property about 55 miles north of Anchorage on April 4.

Heinrichs said he was working on parts for his truck when a spark hit some gasoline and ignited, lighting his clothes blaze. The 23-year-old man ran outside to stomp out the flames by rolling in the snow, closing the door to keep the blaze from spreading.

Heinrichs then realized Buddy was still inside the burning building and let the dog out. Heinrichs suffered minor burns on his face and second-degree burns on his left hand, which was still heavily bandaged Friday.

Buddy was not injured.

"I just took off running," Heinrichs said. "I said we need to get help, and he just took off."

Buddy ran into the nearby woods and onto Caswell Loop Road, where the dog encountered the trooper, Terrence Shanigan, whose global positioning device had failed while responding to a call about the fire. He was working with dispatchers to find the property in an area with about 75 miles of back roads.

Shanigan was about to make a wrong turn when he saw a shadow up the road. His vehicle lights caught Buddy at an intersection, and the dog eyed the trooper and began running down a side road.

"He wasn't running from me, but was leading me," he said. "I just felt like I was being led ... it's just one of those things that we're thinking on the same page for that brief moment."

The video shows Buddy occasionally looking back at the patrol car as he raced ahead, galloping around three turns before arriving in front of the blaze, which was very close to the Heinrichs' home.

From there, the trooper guided firefighters to the scene.

The workshop was destroyed and a shed was heavily damaged, but only some window trim on the house was scorched.

The Heinrich family said they knew Buddy was smart ever since they got him six weeks after he was born to a canine-officer mother and that he was brave, twice chasing bears away while Ben Heinrichs was fishing.

But saving their home beat them all.

"Downright amazing, I would say," said Tom Heinrichs, Ben's father. "Maybe there was some divine intervention."


Couple stranded by volcano take vows online

LONDON (AFP) – A British-Australian couple's wedding guests watched them take their vows over the Internet on Saturday after the volcanic ash cloud disrupting European flights left them stranded in Dubai.

Sean Murtagh, 24, from west London, and his new wife Natalie, a 30-year-old Australian, were married at a civil wedding in Brisbane three weeks ago.

But they also planned a ceremony for family and friends in Ealing, west London.

Flying back from their home in the Queensland capital for the ceremony however, they found themselves stuck when they changed planes in Dubai on Thursday.

But staff at their airport hotel helped them take their vows over the web.

"They have decorated the lobby of the hotel. They made us a three-tier wedding cake, set up a laptop with Skype and a projector," Sean Murtagh said.

"It's spellbinding the amount they have done for us.

"It's been an incredible day. We were never going to forget it anyway but we certainly won't forget it now."

The groom even borrowed his smart shirt and trousers while the bride wore a dress she had in her luggage.

Caroline Black, who conducted the online ceremony from London, said: "It was just like any other wedding except the bride and groom weren't there."


Lecturer married homeless busker - after nine days

A former university lecturer has told how she flew to LA for an impulse holiday, met a homeless man - and married him nine days later.

Even more incredibly, Joanne St Clair, from Nelson, Lancashire, is still with Daniel Orlick after seven years and expecting their second child.

Joanne, now 37, had a good job, her own home and a car but felt something was missing in her life so decided to take a break.

After two days, she met Daniel in a Venice Beach hostel, where he had formerly worked, and they began arguing - about The Simpsons.

Eventually, he told her that he was living rough and busking because he dreamt of making it as a singer-songwriter and played her some of his songs.

They fell for each other and, after they had known each other for all of five days, Daniel told Joanne: "You know we will get married" and she replied "Yes, I know".

After nine days they married at the LA Courthouse and had matching wedding ring tattoos on their fingers before spending their wedding night at the hostel.

When Joanne told her friends and family back in England that she was married - to a homeless busker - they were taken aback, to say the least.

But now they are living happily together back in the UK with Elijah, four, and their second child is due in November. Joanne is now Daniel's manager and they also run a record label together.

Joanne said: "Given the way we met there's no such phrase as 'can't' in our house.

"That chance meeting changed my life beyond my wildest dreams. People will always tell you to do the sensible thing but letting your heart rule may well be worth a try. I did and look what happened to me."


Woman 'bedridden by massive breasts'

A woman who developed a rare condition which caused her breasts to continually grow has had a successful operation to reduce their size.

Julia Manahuari, a 29-year-old mother-of-four from Loreto, Peru, underwent five hours of surgery at Arzobispo Loayza hospital to remove 16kg of breast tissue which had left her bedridden, Andina reports.

Health minister Oscar Ugarte visited Manahuari at her hospital bed and said: "The patient, who suffered from bilateral gigantomastia, has responded the operation well and is ready to to move."

Manahuari travelled for three days from boat and air from Requena to Lima via Iquitos after media attention over her condition reportedly secured the necessary funding for her operation.


Croatian teenager wakes from coma speaking fluent German

The girl, from the southern town of Knin, had only just started studying German at school and had been reading German books and watching German TV to become better, but was by no means fluent, according to her parents.

Since waking up from her 24 hourcoma however, she has been unable to speak Croatian, but is able to communicate perfectly in German.

Doctors at Split's KB Hospital claim that the case is so unusual, various experts have examined the girl as they try to find out what triggered the change.

Hospital director Dujomir Marasovic said: "You never know when recovering from such a trauma how the brain will react. Obviously we have some theories although at the moment we are limited in what we can say because we have to respect the privacy of the patient."

Psychiatric expert Dr Mijo Milas added: "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation – its just that we haven't found it yet.

"There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that – speculation – so it's better to continue tests until we actually know something."

YouTube 'cat torturer' traced by web detectives

A teenager who posted videos of himself torturing a cat on YouTube has been arrested after being traced by internet “vigilantes”.

The youth was shown throwing the animal against a wall, hitting it in the face and holding it under a running shower in the gruesome clips.

In one film titled PattyCatPattyCat he describes the cat, Dusty, as his “test subject”. Another youth can be heard laughing in the background.

The film was eventually removed by the video-sharing website and the account hosting all the clips shut down, but only after some of the 30,000 people who had been horrified by footage had begun tracking the alleged culprit.

The teenager introduced himself only as Timmy and wore a balaclava to hide his identity, but clued-up web users pieced together information from other social networking websites including Facebook, MySpace and Digg to come up with a name of a likely culprit.

They reportedly matched details in the background of one of the videos to photos of a bedroom posted on one social networking site.

Police in Lawton, Oklahoma, have arrested two youths in relation to the animal abuse after receiving information from members of the public and the animal rights group Peta. Officers are now preparing a case against the teenagers.

“It will be up to the District Attorney whether or not he files charges or not. Our job is to put the investigation together as a case and take it to the DA and that’s what we’ll do,” Sheriff Kenny Stradley told KSWO news.

Dusty is now being looked after by a local vet, and is said to be doing well.


Boy nearly hit by laptop from the sky

ST. CLOUD, Minn., April 20 (UPI) -- The family of a Minnesota 10-year-old said the boy was nearly struck by a laptop computer that fell from a medical helicopter.

Grayson Peterka, 10, and his family said they were at a cookout Saturday in St. Cloud when the computer crashed to the ground in front of the boy with a gunshot-like sound, WCCO-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul, reported Tuesday.

"I heard the helicopter going by. It was pretty low and then they made like a turn. When that happened it fell to the ground," Grayson Peterka said.

Laura Colon, Grayson's aunt, said she investigated the object.

"We came around the side of the garage here and we found a laptop and it was most definitely something that fell. It was busted up pretty good. I looked on the back and I saw Life Link and I said 'No way, that doesn't happen,'" she said.

Life Link officials said the laptop was mistakenly left on the helicopter's skids by a crew when it departed St. Cloud Hospital. The hospital said it is investigating the incident.


Lorry driver builds himself a Lamborghini

A Chinese lorry driver has built himself a Lamborghini supercar in his spare time - for just £2,000.It took Chen Jinmiao, 25, of Binzhou, Hunan province, a year to build the replica sportscar, reports the Red Net.

"I downloaded the drawings from the internet, and then bought materials from the market," he said.

Chen, who has only a basic school education, had always dreamt of owning a Lamborghini but knew he would never be able to afford a real one.It is a fully working car - and even has the famous wing doors - but its top speed is a little over 50mph, compared to a real Lamborghini's 200mph-plus.

Chen said his family and friends tried to discourage him from building the car.

"But they couldn't stop me, as I did it all with my own savings," he explained.

He is now waiting to see whether traffic officials will give him permission to drive the car on the road.

"If they don't, I can have it for my collection at home," he added.


Nursery confiscated tot's sandwich

A boy of two had his cheese sandwich lunch confiscated by a nursery because it broke their healthy eating rules.

Jack Ormisher burst into tears when staff took it away because it didn't contain any lettuce or tomato, reports The Sun.

His mother Dorothy Gallear, 32, has now changed nurseries in Wigan, Lancs, and said: "It's absolutely pathetic."

She claimed he was not allowed to have it for lunch because it was not on a list of menu options such as fruit, veg, pasta or potatoes.

But bizarrely, she was told the sandwich would have been all right if it had contained some lettuce or tomato - as then it would have been classed as only a 'snack'.

Mrs Gallear added: "When I told people at his new nursery what happened over a cheese sandwich some laughed and others were horrified."

She had sent Jack to the Westfield Children's Centre in Pemberton, Greater Manchester, with his own lunch after food provided by the nursery left him with an upset stomach.

Wigan Council confirmed that a cheese sandwich would "not feature" on a list of food children were encouraged to eat under national guidelines.

Nursery manager Aukje Clegg said: "The decision to remove the child from the centre was taken by the parents. A place is still available if they reconsider."


Dog survives being shot in the head with nail gun

MAX the boxer might have a thick skull, but nothing that a nail gun can't penetrate.

Tim Horvat said his dog was shot in the head while he was pumping nails into backyard decking he was building.

Just a couple of planks short of finishing the job, he ordered Max to move away.

As he resumed work with the nail gun, Max lunged at it and a steel nail blasted into his head.

"At first I thought I had missed him because he ran behind me," Mr Horvat said.

"But then I saw the tip just protruding from his head and I started shaking as I realised what had happened."

Mr Horvat and his wife, Rose, took Max to a local vet after which he was transferred to the care of surgeon Simon Kudnig at the Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre.

Dr Kudnig said it was the first time he had seen a dog injured by a nail gun.

"I was amazed he was still conscious and alert and I kept thinking it must not have gone into his brain cavity," he said.

But stunning X-rays showed the reality: Max had missed death by little more than a hair's width.

"I kept thinking it couldn't be, but the X-rays show the nail skimmed the brain and was in the cranial cavity," Dr Kudnig said.

He knew the nail had to come out, but carefully considered the risks of the delicate surgery.

"You can't just grab the nail and pull it out," he said.

"Craniectomies to remove part of the skull are not uncommon to remove brain tumors, but it was a first to remove a nail," he said.

The operation involved removing a piece of Max's skull and then drilling around the embedded nail to loosen and finally pull it free.

Woman tried to use 911 as taxi service

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Police in one Connecticut city have a warning for nightclub patrons: Don't call 911 for a ride home.

New Haven police say that's what 28-year-old Quandria (KWAN'-dree-ah) Bailey did, calling the emergency line six times to request a ride from a nightclub back to her Meriden home.

Bailey was charged with six counts of misuse of the 911 system early Sunday. She was released on a $1,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court May 5.

A telephone number for Bailey could not immediately be located Sunday and it was unclear whether she had an attorney.


Woman bites man after being called fat

LINCOLN, Neb. – Police say a 24-year-old man is missing a chunk of his right ear that was bitten off by a woman who didn't like being called "fat." Police spokeswoman Katie Flood said officers were called to a Lincoln hospital around 3:25 a.m. Wednesday to talk to the injured man.

He told them that he'd been bitten at a party.

Flood said officers later learned that the injured man and two others had been arguing with other people at the birthday party. Flood says the man told 21-year-old Anna Godfrey that she was fat.

Officers said Godfrey then tackled the man and took a bite.

Flood said the ear chunk was not found.

Godfrey was arrested on suspicion of felony assault and remained in custody Wednesday. Case records don't yet list her attorney's name.