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Cybernaut

Google gets regional

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Google, the search engine turned e-mail service provider, is getting more regional with the launch of a new partnership with the Canadian Yellow Pages directory. The new partnership puts more than 2.4 million listings at the fingers of searchers by accessing the Canadian portal at Google Local – http://local.google.ca.

Rather than a single search window, users will be able to refine their searches by using simple What and Where fields. For example, if you type "Dentists" into the What and "Vancouver" into the Where, you’ll end up with 10 full pages of yellow pages listings including, Web sites, phone numbers and addresses. If you click on that listing you’ll also get a map and a complete set of directions to get there.

Whistler’s Telus listings don’t turn up just yet, as the partnership is between Google and the Yellow Pages Group, which publishes Bell Canada directories. If this new venture is successful, it could only be a matter of time.

In other Google news, there’s a rumour going around that Google will also crank things up a notch and release a fully functioning Web browser that would compete with Internet Explorer, AOL Netscape, Apple Safari, Mozilla and all the other browsers on the market.

A9 A-O.K.

Speaking of Internet search engines, the new A9.com search engine introduced a few weeks ago is already turning heads.

A9 is a kind of Frankenstein of search engines, making use of Google, Amazon.com, GuruNet, IMDb, and other repositories of online information to provide an enhanced Web and image search. It also remembers you, providing you with history, bookmarks and the ability to take notes as you go. You can even drag and drop titles to you bookmarks section, allowing you to come back to it later without a lot of backtracking and starting over again.

A9 then uses your history and bookmarks to better refine searches, looking through the sites that were most helpful the last time when you make a new search query.

You can also customize the interface to a degree, increasing the number of search results and playing with the layout to enable you to make more effective use of your browser window.

Another feature is the Site Info tool that gives you information on any Web site you’re about to visit by telling you how popular it is, how fast it is, how it has been reviewed, and more.

You really have to try it yourself. It may not revolutionize your searches the same was as Google, but you’ll want to remember this site.

DSL the broadband of choice

A survey of broadband Internet subscribers around the globe has shown that DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) services are continuing to outgrow their competitors.

According to the DSL Forum, there are now 78 million DSL subscribers around the world, 30 million or 62 per cent more than 12 months ago. Overall broadband subscriptions grew by 55 per cent, with less pronounced growth by cable broadband, fiber-optic broadband and satellite broadband.

Canadian online sales grow, sort of

Canadian spent more than $3 billion online shopping in 2003, which represented a 25 per cent increase over the previous year according to a Statistics Canada report.

However, online shopping remains an extremely small percentage of the $688 billion in total personal spending logged by Canadians last year.

Books, magazines and newspapers were the most common online purchases, music purchases went up 36 per cent, and Internet travel was also up.

The Internet also looks good for Canadian businesses, with customers spending $6.90 on Canadian sites of every $10 spent. That still represents a billion dollars heading to foreign Web sites.

Concerns about hackers may have been holding Canadians back. A survey indicated that more than 75 per cent of respondents were still concerned about the safety of financial transactions over the Internet.

Sony playing nice with MP3

Currently the number one factor frustrating the universal acceptance – and enjoyment – of Web-based digital music is the never-ending battle over formats. Sony stuck with its own proprietary ATRAC format, Microsoft and partners push the WMV format, Apple has AAC, etc., and customers were caught in the middle with a bunch of MP3s that may or may not work with their portable players, CD-burners, and other media because it doesn’t carry digital rights management coding.

The Apple iPod is the only major portable player that allows MP3s currently, but you can’t burn those songs to CDs using iTunes.

Sony came to its senses last week, opening up its new lines of flash memory portable players to the popular MP3 format. The company still stands by its claim that ATRAC is more efficient and offers better sound, but users will no longer have to convert their files to ATRAC to enjoy them.

New Ultrawideband Wireless looking for applications

While more laptop, PDA and cell phone users are discovering the joys of going wireless, some applications are limited because of the sheer amount of information involved. For example, it’s going to be a long time before Apple iPod users can dock with their home computer using wireless technology, necessitating the use of USB and Firewire cables. Ditto with transfers digital cameras, video and still, and the large data transfers that are sometimes necessary between laptops, tablets and other portable devices.

Enter Ultrawideband, a new technology that allows short-range, high speed wireless data transfers that can rival any cable-based information transfer. Long in use by the military, the technology will be coming to consumers thought a former subsidiary of Motorola.

This technology is capable of transferring data wirelessly at 110 MB per second for a range of up to 30 feet at low power, and new versions will be capable of speeds of 220 MB/s.

Not only will that speed improve and simplify data transfers between wireless devices, from MP3 players to laptops, it also opens the door for a wide range of new applications.

Renting a movie? Instead of bringing home a scratched DVD, you’ll be able to bring a keychain hard drive device to a rental store, select the movie you want, and download it in a matter of seconds.

Buying a CD? Same thing.

Right now the major obstacle is the companies, with different ultrawideband manufacturers and electronics companies disagreeing over what technology to make the standard format.