TECHGEEK.com.au – Year in Review 2008

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What can we say about 2008? Well, the economic crisis certainly took its toll on the economy and tech companies – with job cuts from all sectors. What about Barack Obama is the next President of the United States, or the Beijing 2008 Olympics, or the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Did the Cricket impress you? Or was it that hit show from Channel Nine called Underbelly that took your fancy? Or was it that TECHGEEK.com.au celebrated its first year covering news? (I, of course, would say the last option).

Censorship, Plastic Bags, the iPhone and Internal emails all made our top headlines, among the filter, the Microsoft-Yahoo-Google love triangle, rumour mills and mergers. But also was our own gadget lust that was featured here, with new phones, bacon covers and, among other things, crazy Cooking Mama hacking up turkeys.

TECHGEEK.com.au is pleased to present this retrospective of the Year 2008 by scavenging through our archives, which was a slow and painstaking process. Some stories will make you laugh, some will make you cry, some may even make you learn something insightful; but all have one thing in common – all were written by our writers, the lifeline of the site.

Jay Day, Kenny Yeoh and Stewart Wilson all contributed with Terence Huynh to file this retrospective piece.

January

We start off with our retrospective to January with the introduction of the government’s proposed filter, with many IT groups (and us) opposed to it. It even managed to gain wide-spread attention across the world, saying that we have become a follower in China’s footsteps. Hmm, maybe that’s why Rudd learnt Mandarin (remember Election 2007?)

Then came CES and MacWorld, and this time we saw the PSP getting Skype, Panasonic releasing the biggest TV (again) and Bill Gates presenting his very last keynote before retiring and working for the company part-time. And while we all have a bit of gadget lust, it was not good news for one blogger from Gizmodo, after being banned for playing a prank to the booths around CES by turning their TVs off – ouch!

The Journal, before being spun off to its own blog, was still here – and our favourite sci-fi show (after Doctor Who) was Torchwood, where it came back for a second (and more emotional – at the end of it) series on January 16. Piracy still rules all Australian hearts. As well, Sony BMG let go of its DRM stance by allowing people to download songs from Amazon DRM-free!

We learnt that SIM Cards can withstand heat temperatures for up to 450 degrees, and Brazil banned EverQuest and Counter-Strike (poor Jay, if he ever goes to Brazil, which is never). We also heard that the merger between the two only satellite radio broadcasters, XM and Sirius, made some investors uneasy after it was still in ‘regulatory limbo’.

Locally, We reported on how Telstra patches up phone lines with plastic bags, found that Optus and Telstra will no longer have a monopoly on the data traffic flowing to US servers, and that Optus’ parent company SingTel was in talks with Apple to have a region-wide exclusive rights to the iPhone, which then turned out to be a non-exclusive thing after being found that it would break competition regulations.

February

On the first day of the month that has only 29 days (leap year!), Foxtel announced that will launch a HD service, following a similar move made by its counterparts owned by News Corporation (Sky and DirecTV). Also during the month, we saw five cables being cut, affecting many international clients and slowing down traffic across the web.

TPG and Soul decided to merge, while claims of the failure rates of the Xbox 360 were higher than the consumer electronics failure rates. But have no fear, (at that time) new editor Sean Hyatt has some ways to stop having your Xbox 360 fail on you while playing your game. But in Security, Hackers managed to upload a torrent containing the entire content, including login information and databases, to the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website – causing a massive security breach.

We saw EA offering $2 billion for rival Take-Two, quarterlife, a web show, being part of NBC’s shows line-up before moving to Bravo, Microsoft getting a $1.4 billion fine for failing to comply with an EU anti-trust ruling, and Vista finally gets a price cut. We found a video to see if the iPhone could count to 1,000 minutes plus. Can it? You will just have to watch and see. Oh, did we mention that we could get an R rating soon?

But wait, there’s more: Vista breaking programs after installing SP1, BBC shows get sold on iTunes in the UK, and HD DVD – the competitor to Blu-Ray in the HD format war – announced its defeat. R.I.P HD DVD. Meanwhile, HP managed to settle with the people it was spying upon.

But the biggest news has to be Underbelly. While it was on the front pages on national news, tech news was having a field day with it, including us. Remember Underbelly being uploaded an hour after being broadcast, with a higher-quality version appearing soon after; or remember that time when most of the unaired episodes were leaked to the internet. Nine even started to a probe to find out who leaked this high-quality Aussie drama.

But what caught everyone’s surprise wasn’t the increase popularity of the hit gangland drama, but it was the announcement on the 1st of February 2008 (our time) when Microsoft announced that it would propose to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion, or $31 per share, before getting rejected by the board of directors on the reason that the bid price was “too low”.

March

March saw a New Zealand teenager who apparently ran a spybot network got bail, Ziff Davis Media filing for bankruptcy, Hulu becoming open and no longer a private beta, Wikipedia under another scandal from its co-founder, Jimmy Wales, trading edits for donations, Facebook angering the Israeli for listing them as from Palestine, Scientology starting a war to counter attacks and protests from a group called “Anonymous”, and AnyDVD cracks the DRM on the Blu-Ray disks.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s internal e-mails showed their fury with Vista, a Vista update causing havoc, and  XP SP3 being released. Apple, on the other hand, was reported to be opening three stores in Australia (which turned out to be true), and Smarthouse saying that a hacker was putting up plagiarising content on its site, even though Media Watch did a story about them this year.

Western Australia launched a world-first by starting a study on cyber-bulling, with 4,000+ children from Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia participating. Well Done WA! Speaking about the web, an investigation was started by YouTube to find out why one clip (Music is My Hot Hot Sex by the Brazilian band Cansei De Ser Sexy) managed to get 40 million additional views in three weeks.

Finally, Qantas also announced that it would be conducting trials on its on-flight internet system, the MacBook Air was hacked in two minutes because of a vulnerability in Safari, and Guitar Hero gets sued by Gisbon by violating a patent for a “virtual-reality guitar-playing device”.

April

April saw a brand new era in technology – Microsoft has accomplished its mission to make the new OOXML standard as an official ISO standard. However, we also learnt that the only user of the software, Microsoft Office 2007, is not “compatible” with the new changes it made to make it pass the ISO vote. But in other news, a hacker claimed that News Corp. hired him to develop pirating software against rival Dish.

Another historic moment was made by Google, by announcing its first job axing in its new acquisition DoubleClick – axing 300 jobs, or one-quarter of its entire workforce in the US. Also, HP shipped some Proliant Server USBs with malware, the eBay hacker was arrested in Romania, AT&T warning that the internet could reach full capacity by 2010, France cracking down on anorexic-promoting sites, and civil liberty groups got angry over a new bill by the Rudd Government that could see employers snooping on emails sent by their employees.

Anti-CNN groups from China managed to take down several sports sites, including its Sports Illustrated name, and replacing it with a message saying that “Tibet WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE a part of China!”, before every “citizen” of China sued CNN for US$1.4 billion. The UK announced that FreeView will go HD in 2009, Microsoft re-evaluates its bid for Yahoo, Pranksters arrested after a prank saw a house being looted in Oregon, Sony BMG being caught using pirated software, and a hacker group in Germany threatens to publish Angela Merkel’s fingerprints.

In Gaming, GTA IV for the Xbox 360 managed to be leaked (and it weighs 6.32GB) – with a twist. The people who made it online also asks you to go buy the original game. Oh, how sweet – piracy helping those who actually created the game.

Locally, Telstra has said that it will not bow down to the recording industry’s pressure to introduce the three-strikes rule (OMG, they did something good for once?), but Exetel sold out and has approved the three-strikes rule. As well, the Government scraps the OPEL contract, and several tech companies were caught in the web of Opes Prime’s collapse – including iiNet and Destra.

April was also the biggest month in TECHGEEK’s entire history. Not only was it was the one year celebration of when we started the site on the servers of ScoreRight Services, but it was the month when we moved from being a .reawaken.info subdomain to become the new TECHGEEK.com.au website (we have to add the .com.au bit so you don’t get confused with the techgeek.com – which has no relevance to us).

May

May saw nothing but an overload orgy of Apple iPhone news – with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone announcing that they will stock the iPhone in Australia (Vodafone also announced that the deal was worldwide), Singapore Telecommunications announcing that they got the “Asia-Pacific” rights, Telecom Italia announcing that it also has the rights in Italy and TeliaSonera announcing that they secured deals for the Baltic and Nordic countries (like Denmark, Lithuania and Finland).

In Digital Media, Conde Nast announced that they bought Ars Technica and also got back the domains for HotWired and WebMonkey; while CNET Networks announced that CBS Corporation will be buying the company for $1.8 billion and integrating them with CBS Interactive, making CNET join titles like CBS Sportsline, Last.FM and WallStrip.

Remember QTrax? No? Well during the month, they managed to get contracts to get Universal Music’s artists on the service. As well, Microsoft became a main topic this month, with BECTA wanting Office 2007 expelled, announcing that Office 2007 will support ODF in SP2, starting a “cashback” service on Windows Live,  and fighting the European Union – again.

Cuba lifts restrictions on owning a computer, HBO puts shows on iTunes, Myki – that transportation smartcard revolution by the Victorian government – gets delayed, Telstra tries to transmit a hologram and Activision and Vivendi leave the ESA.

However, the big news makers was that Australia would be getting its very first Apple Store in Sydney’s CBD on the corner of George Street, and reports that the PS3 version of GTA IV has a lower quality than the Xbox 360 version. Are they biased? Well…

June

June saw the announcement of an Aerosmith version of Guitar Hero, India and Brazil wants to overturn the decision of making OOXML an ISO standard, we get a release date for IE8 Beta 2, Softbank announcing that they will sell the iPhone in Japan, Adam Internet suffering from serious technical issues, Reddit goes open source, and the founders of Flickr and Del.icio.us leave Yahoo.

ICANN announced that the rules of domain names will change, allowing rich companies to create custom domain suffixes, Firefox 3 accomplishes a world record of having 8 million people download the latest version of the internet browser, BBC gets cinematic for its new HD channel, ISPs speaking out against the filter and saying it could cripple our network, news about Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the Next G network turns Japanese with its new barcode reading feature.

Apple dominated most of the news in June, with rumours swirling about the iPhone – like the pricing or will 3 become the fourth carrier of the phone (which turned out to be false). As well, the biggest news was that Apple has now started to sell television shows from the ABC in America, the ABC in Australia, Channel Nine and Viacom (and more) on the iTunes store.

TechCrunch, one of the most influential blogs, has decided to ban stories by the Associated Press after it sent DMCA takedown notices to several sites, while Hulu gets a huge boost after getting The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in their show lineup. Meanwhile, eBay became a dick by forcing everyone to use PayPal to pay their eBay bids, before that got turned down by the ACCC.

July

You could say July was a very, very, very busy month – but we are a daily technology news blog… Anyway, here’s what happened during July – 80,000 UK AOL subscribers face the boot off the original AOL network, we saw the merger of Sirius and XM, and the CNET and CBS buyout completed and both Optus and Telstra show off their plans for the (sexy) BlackBerry Bold.

Reports of a fourth carrier in Australia for the iPhone continuing (with Virgin Mobile eventually announced to be it), the ABC iView is launched and is a hit, Ryan Block announced that he will step down as Editor-in-Chief of Engadget, and Apple has a meltdown with MobileMe – forcing it to give everyone a free month.

Facebook sues a German clone, Internode announced that it will start supporting the new IPv6 protocol, Optus unveils its new “unlimited” plans, The ex-Samsung boss gets a huge fine for tax evasion but no jail term, Queensland goes dark without telecommunication services, Konami sues Harmonix and Viacom over a patent that Rock Band is alleged to infringe, and Activision Blizzard gets the go-ahead, making a new super-power in the gaming industry.

Fallout 3 is given a Refused Classification by the OFLC, Malware authors declare that World War III has started, Windows 3.11 OEM licensing is to end, Apple faces no charges in a two-year criminal probe over backdating stock options, the Judge declares that your privacy doesn’t matter in the Google/Viacom lawsuit, and Apple has said that we are going to get movies…

The App Store is released, and we get an exclusive look; The Guardian’s parent company buys paidContent for $30 million, Carl Ichan joins the Yahoo board after a proxy fight, a Police director sues to get a blogger’s name, Nintendo declares war on the companies that make it easier for people to get illegal copies of DS games, Windows suffers from another broken patch, and the world sees the iPhone 3G and sees problems with activation. Meanwhile, we geek out over the TARDIS MAME console.

But the biggest news has to be the hacking of the San Francisco’s network, and we reported on that the hacker was being paid still, the Mayor manages to get the password out of the hacker, and that the passwords will be made public because of the prosecutor. And while we are still speaking about security, the government released a report showing that the filters that they tested all have holes, with all not able to block IM and Peer-to-peer networks.

Oh, and we released an updated version of our theme, called “Crystalline Blue”.

August

August, however, can’t be said as a quiet month either as the Olympics were on. And why not celebrate with an Birds Nest MP3 player or some Lenovo Olympic-themed USB drives. August also saw the introduction to many of our new categories, especially for our Mobile section – when we covered the new Skypephone redesign, the Nokia N96, the Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte and the fact that IKEA wants to launch a mobile service.

Developers were sad to see PHP4 getting the end-of-life tag, while The Pirate Bay faced being censored in Italy. We also took a look at a PC made out of a known Danish toy (Lego), AMD’s “world’s fastest graphics card” HD 4870, the PS3 releasing an 160GB version with functions being taken out, the Xbox 360 being sold out in Japan, and Apple faces a probe over its combustible iPod Nanos in Japan.

As well, Apple announced that it has made another free extension to its MobileMe users, IE8 could get a “porn mode” to make itself popular again, Pandora’s founder says that the company is on the verge of collapse if the royalty fees go up, Vista being crammed onto a PS3, a Spanish hacker being jailed over sending out the private emails of his former manager, a kid fakes his abduction to get a Nintendo Wii, and that the US agents can now take your electronics at the border.

Also, while the US complain about being capped (apparently, they never heard about the rest of the world’s situation), Internode announced during the month that it would now offer ADSL2+ to those far away from exchanges and Simon Hackett is no longer the CEO for the company, but remains as its managing director.

iPhone still dominates the month, with Optus having problems with the iPhone’s congestion of its 3G network, with it crediting people because of it. As well, a report showed that it was the slowest network, being beaten by 3, Telstra and Vodafone. For 3, however, it announced that it has partnered with Telstra to offer the Next G network to fill in the gaps in its network.

Toshiba, though axing HD DVD, believes that DVD is the future, while Twitter says that Australian and European users will no longer be able to receive text messages on their phones of the latest tweets. Also, Diebold admitted that the company’s flagship election machines were faulty (and people have been saying it for the past 10 years) and apparently texting is love.

However, it was plagued by the Georgia-Russia crisis over the Georgian province of South Ossetia, with the Georgian government accusing the Russian government in participating in cyber-terrorism against the country. Meanwhile, Australia’s privacy laws are set to get a makeover to be more relevant to the modern technology age.

As well, the App Store managed to gain some attention when Armin Heinrich managed to put up an US$999 (or $1,999.99) application called “I Am Rich”, which showed a background image of a gem to tell your friends that you were rich. Too bad that an idiot bought one and now wants his money back…

Finally, TECHGEEK reached a milestone of having 1,000 posts in its entire archive. That’s a lot…

September

September saw the launch of Google’s Chrome browser, the Apple Store coming to Chadstone, the introduction of a new “BlueTrack” mouse, the potential end-of-the-world scenario at CERN, Microsoft introducing two ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld – before ditching them for the “I’m a PC” campaign, the relationship between porn and you, net radio survives another day, looking at iPhone knockoffs, and the iPhone being unlocked in Hong Kong.

Joost and Hulu compete to see who is the leader in anime, The T-Mobile G1 gets launched,  Adobe releases the much-anticipated update to the Creative Suite line, SanDisk has a new way to listen to music, Vodafone announcing an “unlimited” music plan, Apple recalling the USB power adaptors for the iPhone 3G, Telstra gets a restructure that sees it being split into three, Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account hacked, and porn was found on a phone.

Best Buy bought Napster, which was surprising to say the least; while GigaOM bought TheAppleBlog, the LHC system was hacked, we learnt that your iPhone can be used to spy on you, eBay is bringing back the PayPal only policy to the US, the ABC apologises for the Fallout 3 discussion on Q&A, uTorrent’s Mac version gets leaked, and Exetel updates its plans.

We also unleashed the Super Kid, reviewed Windows Live Messenger 9 Beta and saw Twitter joining the election coverage, while releasing an update to their interface. Oh, and apparently the Olympics aren’t over if you have this phone.

But the main topic was Apple, with us finding out that the iPod was invented by a salesman. However, a special conference happened during September, and we saw the announcement that NBC was back (with HD downloads), the iPod gets a new software update, the iPod touch gets a minor change, but the iPod nano goes back to being thin and has a wide screen.

October

October has to be the only time I remember that we had to be so pro-active in our news coverage, we covered a lot of topics – from job cuts to the new Apple announcements, it was a hectic month, especially once we launched this new design (which I hope I will keep, or alter it a bit). But remember, Barack Obama wasn’t president by that time.

We reported on the job cuts (like I mentioned) on Gawker Media, Yahoo, Revision3, and Optus; heard that New Zealand introducing the “three-strikes” rule, LittleBigPlanet getting an early recall over Qur’an references, finally get a date when we can switch off our analogue television signals, Jeeves becoming a porn star, a women deletes her husband over a messy divorce – in MapleStory, Apple bashing the new Microsoft ads, and the RAZR was still (at the time) the top-selling handset in the US.

We learnt who hacked Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account, Hollywood targets kindergartners to collect royalties, RapidShare forced to remove copyright-infringing content, Skype in China records your messages, a MI6 agent forgot to delete the “top secret” photos on a camera that was then sold on eBay, an iPod touch can survive after being run over by a pickup truck, Sony gets another battery recall – again, and the CSM is ditching daily newspapers for publishing on the web.

Also happening was the identities of two scammers who ran fullreleases.com were made public, RealDVD sues Hollywood and gets a temporary shut down, Nigeria has a different meaning for HIV, 3AW missed a news bulletin for Facebook, Developers and businesses shouted praise that Snow Leopard will have a Cocoa-based Finder and Exchange support, WordPress buys PollDaddy, an iPod knock-off maker sues Apple and the US releases a PSA for digital television featuring a 99-year-old grandmother.

Apparently porn can lead to depression, while Silicon Valley leaders go against Proposition 8 (which banned gay marriage, and that passed). But hey, you can always go to McDonalds to get yourself some free (filtered) internet access. And Turkey blocked Blogger – before allowing access again, and Sprint’s CEO said the G1 phone wasn’t good enough for Sprint.

The economic crisis took up much of the entire coverage of the month, with Samsung forced to drop its bid for SanDisk. But that did not stop us adding to our gadget lust, with news of the BlackBerry Storm, the new Prada phone, the Nintendo DSi, and the new MacBook and MacBook Pros (and one got dissected). We also took a look inside the Firefox 3.1 Beta.

But the biggest topics locally were the filter again, and we learnt it will be split into a two-tiered system; the Terria consortium loses TPG-Soul and TransACT; and the R18+ rating campaign gets started, but the SA Attorney General refuses to give his support. Speaking of banned games, Manhunt 2 gets a release date in the UK.

But the biggest news came over from the Seattle-based company named Microsoft; with us reporting on their support of the new OpenID, news of the beta of Vista SP2, it supporting open-source web applications, it announcing that it will make the next version of Office online as well, and Live Mesh will support Macs and Windows Mobile 6. Am I forgetting one more thing? Well, yes, we also got news and a look at Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista.

November

November saw London introducing new “bomb-proof” bins, Microsoft tries to lure people to the PC… outside a Apple Store, learning that the DSi breaks homebrew flashcards, a Road sign gets the wrong translation because of an email, TiVos in Australia finally get some freaking interactivity, the RAZR may be dead after Motorola axes the RAZR3, Streem admits defeat and shuts down, YouTube goes widescreen, and an Israeli politician borrows Obama’s site design.

An Adelaide man tries to pay a bill with a spider, some teachers get dismissed over some Facebook comments, Rudd gets a Twitter profile, we get some IP spam from Amsterdam, the cute Chumby comes to Australia (thanks Internode!), Google execs. face trial in Italy over YouTube video, Sprint Nextel faces a $1.2 billion lawsuit, the French passes the “three strikes” rule, and EA tells you to try brute force after one of its games failed to print the last digit for the CD key.

Ten says screw you to Sci-Fi fans and pushes ahead with its HD Sports channel – effectively replacing Ten HD, Freeview gets launched, Optus’ subsidiary of the iPhone costs them $44 million, Google ends the Yahoo deal, another bug is found on the iPhone, WPA gets “partially cracked” in 15 minutes, Microhoo is not dead – according to the Times, Google Maps and Street View get a refresh, Apple gives Australians some “Black Friday” deals, and the iPhone 2.2 gets jail broken. Oh, and the RAZR saved someone’s life.

More bad news in the turbulent economy with more job cuts coming from EA, Motorola, Circuit City (and they will shut down stores) and THQ. As well, Gawker Media announces more reorganisation with Valleywag now part of its main Gawker blog, and they are trying to sell off The Consumerist. Good news is that Jerry Yang has decided to step down as CEO, but he will remain as the “Head Yahoo!” and chairman.

But with bad news, comes some weird or gadget-related news to keep us a bit geeky – like more news of Windows 7, Chroming your Firefox browser, a very small Mac Pro Ultra, some bacon for your iPhone, or the PETA game that features Cooking Mama killing turkeys. As well, Three announced a new Facebook and Skype phone called the INQ1; and we review the beta of WordPress 2.7.

In local news, Foxtel has had a great month, after introducing new channels to its current line-up, with the BBC’s Cbeebies and BBC Knowledge, and its own 111 Hits – all launched on different times on the first day of November. Also, apparently, people don’t like Austar anymore because they are not putting these channels in their own line-up.

Telstra, meanwhile, has decided to drop its threat to not bid for the National Broadband Network over the fact that it will not belong to them after building it, and made a last-minute “bid” for it. Well, you can’t really call it a bid when they sent out a 12-page letter proposing to use the money to upgrade the network; and their competitor made a 1,000 report.

And guess what? More Filter News. iiNet has decided to opt-in to the trials, before calling Senator Stephen Conroy as the worst Communications Minister we had since the birth of the Internet. While iiNet decided to go for the trials, it has also said that once a person bypasses it or the filter filters something that it shouldn’t, it would make it public. Jay Day also expressed his thoughts on the new filter, which you can find here.

December

This is the season to be jolly, but most of the news was either bad or sad. With Pownce shutting down its doors, Microsoft announcing that every version of Internet Explorer had a security hole, an Ohio boy kills his mother over Halo 3 and Telstra gets its bid for the NBN rejected, then loses $12 billion in its market value – that’s got to but a bummer on Christmas.

And as well, like the past few months, we had a couple of layoffs from Sony and Gawker Media (again), and Yahoo this month starting axing several jobs after previously announcing them. Also, Motorola had their credit rating downgraded to “below investment grade” as the company suffers because of its mobile devices division.

But there was also good news like Python 3 was released – too bad it isn’t backwards compatible, while EA’s “Spore” became the most pirated game of 2008, even though its protected by DRM and Telstra said no to the ISP filter trials, but Optus said yes, but with conditions like it would affect one small area, and use sites already blacklisted by ACMA. Also, Hasbro drops its lawsuit against Scrabulous.

In the UK, the BBC considers offering its iPlayer technology in order to keep BBC Worldwide away from Channel 4, while the Nintendo DSi gets its first flash cart to play those homebrew games. Also in the news were the end of year search results, with Britney Spears topping Yahoo and Barack Obama taking the crown of the fastest rising result in the US.

In Gadget-related news, we went red with Vista, saw a iPod Shuffle concept that looks like a Nano wristwatch, craved the new Nokia N97 phone and jumped over a portable Xbox 360. We also learnt how to teach your iPhone to swear.

Conclusions

The TECHGEEK.com.au team would like to thank you for reading our content for the last year, and that we hope you enjoy your final day of 2008 and have a happy day on New Years Day, January 1st 2009 – where we hope that everything could get better from last year.