Wednesday, 30 December 2009

CEB offers peak season travel tips to passengers

The Philippines’ leading airline, Cebu Pacific (CEB) gives travel reminders to its passengers for the holiday season.

“Now that we are in the peak of peak of travel seasons, we have a few friendly reminders and travel tips for our guests to ensure a stress-free and truly enjoyable trip on board Cebu Pacific,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

1. Check in for the flight as early as possible. CEB counters will close 45 minutes before the estimated time of departure so please be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight.
2. In case the passenger arrives at Terminal 3 one hour before the flight, immediately inform CEB personnel. It will always be recommended to check in as early as possible to avoid the stress this may cause. Remember, there will be a lot of people traveling and security checks will take longer.
3. Those with no check-in luggage for domestic flights can fall in line at the Express Counter.
4. Be at the boarding gate 30 minutes before the flight’s published time of departure.
5. Guests on international flights will still have to clear immigration, so please make sure to check-in early, even earlier than the suggested 2 hours before the flight’s departure time.

6. Bring in advance the exact amount of the terminal fee in the airport of origin.
7. Refrain from wrapping gifts in metallic foil since this makes the gift appear solid during security screening and can cause delays due to security checks.
8. The final security check will require guests to remove shoes, belts with metal buckles, and coins, among others. So wear shoes that are easy to remove, and, if possible, refrain from wearing belts.

9. Remember that CEB allows only one hand carry bag (maximum weight is 7 kilos) and gives passengers free 15 kilos baggage allowance (except for Clark which gives 30 kilos). Weigh the luggage in advance so there will be no surprises. If the passenger intends to bring more than 15kgs, remember to bring extra pocket money to settle excess baggage fees.
10. Fix loose straps and broken locks to avoid luggage problems.
11. Place identifying markers on the bag to easily differentiate it from everyone else’s.

12. Allot at least two hours between connecting flights so there is more time to get the luggage and check it in again.

CEB flies to 32 domestic and 14 international destinations, using the youngest aircraft fleet in the country.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

8 Things Every Geek Needs to Do Before 2010

Resolutions for the new year is one thing that everyone's trying to resolve towards the year ends.  This tradition must always be true for all "types" of persons and here is a list created by Jolie O'Dell of for the geeks called the "8 Things Every Geek Needs to Do Before 2010".

These tasks comprise a quick to-do list that will leave you feeling competent and prepared for the decade that approaches. Also, you can play the condescension chip and start chiding friends who haven't checked off these items yet.

1. Edit your privacy settings and friendships.

Facebook's maelstrom-causing privacy changes have given quite a few of us a head-scratching good time trying to figure out just how much of our private lives are to be made public. Before the new year begins, take a look at your settings on sites such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LiveJournal and any other places you might be sharing personal content to make sure what you display is consistent with the public image you want to project. As more recruiters and employers hit the web in search of info on individuals, it's becoming ever more important to monitor and control our own identities. If you look back to the origin dates of some of your accounts, you might be surprised at what you thought was appropriate to share online in 2005.

Also, while considering what's private and public, take time to evaluate what a "friend," "contact" or "follower" means to you and what types of information you share with different groups. Find it yourself geek and get ready for 2010.

2. Change your passwords.

Safety first, friends. Social web security threats in 2009 were sweeping and surprised more than a few users with spam DMs, hacked accounts and malware of all kinds. Check out the password management tools recommended by a recently high-profile hacker (scroll to the last few paragraphs); for free or cheap, they'll help you generate strong, random passwords and manage them from your computer.

3. Own your name.

I've conducted many a web search on many a professional geek this year, and I've been disappointed by how few of us have staked a meaningful claim to our online identities. If you haven't already, buy a URL - preferably one that relates to the name you use professionally - and make friends with Google. If you don't show up in the first results when you search for your name, get a crash course in SEO and ask friends to link to you. It's good for your social life and your career if you seize the opportunity to tell the searching world about yourself rather than relegating that responsibility to LinkedIn, Facebook or some weirdo with the same name as you.

4. Prune your feeds.

When going through your RSS feeds, do you find yourself impatiently scrolling more than you're intently skimming? Is your list of unread items becoming unmanagable? The end of the year is a perfect time to get rid of the content you're not reading and group the stuff you are. Take some time this week to organize, delete and add feeds, thereby optimizing your feed-reading experience. Try tools such as NetNewsWire's "dinosaurs" and "least attenion" features that weed out unread or dormant feeds, and consider implementing tools such as Lazyfeed or that can bring relevant results from fresh sources. And make sure the feeds you own are easy for others to find, too.

5. Find a better mobile.

If you don't have a smartphone already, chances are you'll desperately need one next year. And if you already have one, think long and hard about whether you're happy with your service, network and interface.

While you might not be able to run out and buy your dream device before 2010 rolls around, visit a few retailers, read some reviews and have your eye on a good mobile to purchase next year. Mobile tech keeps on booming, and you'll want to ensure a frustration-free year as new apps and OSes roll out.

6. Update copyright notices on your website.

Here's a simple, obvious and necessary reminder. Does your website currently claim a copyright year of 2007? While it doesn't put you on the foul side of the law, it does look a bit silly as we head into a new decade. The Next Web has a good bit of dynamic code for site owners.

7. Revisit your blog.

That poor, neglected old beast might be long overdue for a design facelift, a blogroll refresh or even just a few new posts. While you're at it, why not set automatic reminders to periodically bug you about posting in the new year? On a more mission-critical note, you'll also want to make sure you're using the most updated version of your CMS; not doing so can can lead to problems from broken plugins to getting hacked. And while you're at it, the year's end might also be a good time to consider switching up your CMS service altogether.

8. Back up your data.

Hacks and hardware failures happen. Before 2010, make sure as much of your data as possible is protected. From calendars and contacts to blog posts and work projects, more and more of us are relying on networks of servers and startups to keep us running. So, now might be a good time to download and back up files of LinkedIn contacts and WordPress posts - anything that's valuable to you and portable. Think of it this way: You - or at least parts of you - live in the Internet. If the Internet caught on fire, what would you grab to carry with you out of the blaze?

We hope this list helps you all get a few housekeeping items squared away in time for a great New Year's Eve filled with peace of mind and a smug sense of superiority over your fellow nerds. If you can think of any must-do year-end tasks, please let us know in the comments!

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Metro Manila Film Festival 2009 Awardees

MMFF 2009 Winners

Best Actor
Bong Revilla (Ang Panday)

Best Actress
Sharon Cuneta (Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love)

Best Supporting Actor
Phillip Salvador (Ang Panday)

Best Supporting Actress
Heart Evangelista (Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love)

Best Director
Joel Lamangan (Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love)

Best Cinematography
Lee Meily (I Love You, Goodbye)

Best Film Editor
Manet Dayrit (I Love You, Goodbye)

Best Original Story
Vanessa Valdez, Kriz Gazmen & Karen Ramos (I Love You, Goodbye)

Best Special Effects
Ang Panday

Best Sound Recording
Ang Darling Kong Aswang

Best Production Design
Ang Panday

Best Make-up
Shake, Rattle and Roll XI

Best Original Theme Song
“Ang Panday” (Ang Panday) by Ogie Alcasid

Best Musical Score
Mano Po 6

Best Child Performer
Robert “Buboy” Villar (Ang Panday)

Lifetime Achievement Award

1st Best Picture:
Ang Panday

2nd Best Picture:
I Love You, Goodbye

3rd Best Picture:
Ang Darling Kong Aswang
(The winners for Best Picture are determined based on its artistic merit and box-office performance)

Gatpuno Villegas Cultural Award:
Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love (Regal Films)

(photo source:

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Apple Bought — Perhaps for a Tablet?

Clever online sleuthing over the weekend led to the discovery of, a domain Apple purchased in 2007. Could the company’s rumored tablet device be called the iSlate?

Wired’s friend Arnold Kim of MacRumors sniffed out the domain-name registrant history, which revealed Apple as the owner of as of 2007. The website is currently inactive, but Kim speculates Apple could be reserving the domain for a tablet product, which is rumored for a January 2010 announcement.

The “Whois” record of provides solid evidence that Apple bought the domain in 2007 and subsequently transferred the address to, a registrar that handles domain registrations for several companies, including Apple. The purpose of the move is presumably to help obscure products prior to release.

That said, it’s still inconclusive that iSlate will be the name of an Apple touchscreen tablet. (It is, after all, still inconclusive that an Apple tablet even exists.) It’s possible iSlate is one of many candidates for a product name — Apple could have chosen several others and purchased domains for those, as well.

But the iSlate mystery only gets more interesting. Further investigation by TechCrunch revealed iSlate was registered as a trademark in 2006 by an unknown Delaware-based company called Slate Computing. No such company appears with a quick web search. The theory is Slate Computing is a dummy corporation set up to conceal Apple as the true owner of the trademark. Apple employed a similar trick with the iPhone trademark, originally filed by Ocean Telecom Services, another anonymous Delaware-based company.

Finally, the iSlate trademark application reveals the signatory of Regina Porter, who, according to her LinkedIn profile, is Apple’s senior trademark specialist. It seems safe to conclude that the owner of the iSlate trademark is Apple.

Comes off as awfully protective, doesn’t it? However, it’s difficult to tell whether secretly registering trademarks and domains so far in advance is a standard procedure for Apple when deciding on product names. We’re in the process of contacting lawyers to get their perspective on Apple’s moves. We’ll keep you posted.

Long story short, Apple at least considered iSlate as the name for a product and took measures to stealthily reserve it. Whether Apple delivers an iSlate next month, this is a marvelous example of internet-detective work. (By Brian X. Chen /

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Tyra Banks Announces Plans to End Talk Show

Tyra Banks’s daytime chats with movie stars and presidential candidates will soon be no more, as her self-deprecating jokes about her outsize “fivehead” brow will come to an end and her celebrated fat suit will go back into the closet for good.

In an interview with, the Web site of People magazine, Ms. Banks, right, said she was ending her talk show. “This will be the last season of ‘The Tyra Show,’ ” Ms. Banks told People. “I’ve been loving having fun, coming into your living rooms, bedrooms, hair salons for the past five years.”

After its debut in 2005 “The Tyra Banks Show” quickly built a following on the strength of Ms. Banks’s celebrity as a supermodel and reality TV star, her prolific use of the word fierce and her willingness to take on potentially divisive subjects.

In November of that year she made headlines for a segment in which she donned a fat suit to look as if she weighed 350 pounds to demonstrate how she was treated differently by strangers. The show won Daytime Emmy Awards in the outstanding talk show (informative) category in 2008 and 2009.

The current season of “The Tyra Banks Show,” which is produced by Ms. Banks’s company Bankable Productions and Telepictures and is distributed by Warner Brothers, will finish production in the spring. She said she would then focus on a new film production company, Bankable Studios, and would remain involved with the CW reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” which she created and hosts, as well as the ABC reality series “True Beauty.” (

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Sunday, 27 December 2009

China unveils 'world's fastest train link'

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Saturday unveiled what it billed as the fastest rail link in the world -- a train connecting the modern cities of Guangzhou and Wuhan at an average speed of 350 kilometres (217 miles) an hour.

The super-high-speed train reduces the 1,069 kilometre journey to a three hour ride and cuts the previous journey time by more than seven and a half hours, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Work on the project began in 2005 as part of plans to expand a high-speed network aimed at eventually linking Guangzhou, a business hub in southern China near Hong Kong, with the capital Beijing, Xinhua added.

"The train can go 394.2 kilometres per hour, it's the fastest train in operation in the world," Zhang Shuguang, head of the transport bureau at the railways ministry, told Xinhua.

Test runs for the service began earlier in December and the link officially went into service when the first scheduled train left the eastern metropolis of Wuhan on Saturday.

By comparison, the average for high-speed trains in Japan was 243 kilometres per hour while in France it was 277 kilometres per hour, said Xu Fangliang, general engineer in charge of designing the link, according to Xinhua.

Beijing has an ambitious rail development programme aimed at increasing the national network from the current 86,000 kilometres to 120,000 kilometres, making it the most extensive rail system outside the United States.

China unveiled its first high-speed line at the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 -- a service linking the capital with the port city of Tianjin.

In September, officials said they planned to build 42 high-speed lines by 2012 in a massive system overhaul as part of efforts to spur economic growth amid the global downturn.

The network uses technology developed in co-operation with foreign firms such as Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom.

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Saturday, 26 December 2009

Metro Manila Film Festival 2009 Official Entries

Here is the list of the 8 entries for the 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The movies will be shown in major cinemas and theaters nationwide from December 25 until the first week of January the next year.

MANO PO 6: MY MOTHER (Regal Films)
Starring: Sharon Cuneta
Directed by: Joel Lamangan

NIEVES (Regal Films)
Starring: Marian Rivera
Directed by: Mike Tuviera

Starring: Vic Sotto
Directed by: Tony Y. Reyes

Starring: Ruffa Gutierrez
JUAN (RVQ Productions)
Starring: Dolphy and Willie Revillame
Directed by: Eric Quizon

IKAW NA NGA (Star Cinema)
Starring: Kris Aquino, Kim Chiu, and Eugene Domingo
Directed by: Wenn V. Deramas

ANG PANDAY (GMA Films and Imus Productions)
Starring: Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Iza Calzado, Rhian Ramos, Geoff Eigenmann, and Philip Salvador.
Directed by: Mac Alejandre and Rico Gutierrez

WAPACMAN (Solar Films)
Starring: Manny Pacquiao, Nicole Scherzinger, and Batista
Directed by: Topel Lee

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Friday, 25 December 2009

Nikon's Digital SLR Cameras and Lenses to be used in Space by NASA

Nikon Corporation announced recently that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has placed an order for eleven D3S digital SLR cameras and seven AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lenses to be used for photographic documentation.

The D3S digital SLR cameras and AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lenses ordered by NASA will be carried on the Space Shuttle and used to photograph activities at the International Space Station (ISS) in the future.

No special modifications will be made to these products. They will be the same products available to end-users, confirming the incredible versatility of the D3S. This equipment will be used along with the Nikon D2XS digital SLR cameras, NIKKOR lenses, and Nikon Speedlights already in use at the International Space Station.

Nikon has spent many years contributing to NASA's study of space through the development and manufacture of advanced and extremely durable cameras as well as of NIKKOR lenses that make the most of Nikon’s optical technologies, and of which production has recently reached fifty million units. To date, NASA has captured more than 700,000 images using Nikon equipment carried into space. Space, however, is not the only extreme environment in which Nikon equipment is used. Nikon also provides official observation equipment used in exploring the Antarctic. Nikon equipment contributes to observation and research of these little explored regions with durability, reliability and technical capabilities that stand up to even the most severe environments.

The D3S was released in November 2009 as the latest flagship model for Nikon FX-format digital SLR cameras. This camera is equipped with a new CMOS sensor (36.0 × 23.9 mm) developed by Nikon and supports standard ISO sensitivity settings of 200 to 12800. Sensitivity can also be set as high as Hi 3 (ISO 102400 equivalent) or as low as Lo 1 (ISO 100 equivalent). Image-degrading noise has been minimized to enable shooting at high sensitivities under even extremely dim lighting. In addition, the D3S is equipped with the D-Movie function, enabling HD video capture and includes high-sensitivity movie mode and movie editing functions for trimming start and ending footage or saving selected frames as JPEG stills. Naturally, the camera itself is representative of an all-round flagship model offering basic performance and operation that meet the strict demands (fast, support for high sensitivities, superior image quality) of professional and advanced amateur photographers in a number of fields, including the press, sports and nature photography.

The AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is the world’s first ultra wide-angle, zoom lens to offer a focal length of 14mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The performance of this lens has been extremely well received by the camera industry, and recognized by Europe’s Technical Image Press Association (TIPA), which awarded it The Best Professional Lens in Europe 2008, and the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA), which awarded it European Professional Lens 2008-2009.

Product Specifications courtesy of 

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Thursday, 24 December 2009

'Avatar' Starts at 57 Million in RP Box-Office

James Cameron continues to be king of the world as “Avatar” gushed in a total of P 57.67 million on its first 4-day opening weekend in the Phils. With more than 370,000 admissions to-date, “Avatar” now holds the Biggest Opening Weekend record for a Fox Film that opened in 2009.

The immersive, jaw-dropping story and 3d technology used by James Cameron in “Avatar” pulled in a moviedom’s multitude to experience first-hand what it’s like to enter a whole new dimension of cinema. Cameron’s unprecedented work in “Avatar” brought in an extraordinary experience to moviegoers as reflected in the top 20 theaters that pulled in the following significant figures.

“Avatar’s” top 5 at the box-office are SM Mall of Asia (P 6 million); SM North Edsa (P 3.75 million); Trinoma (P 2.97 million); Greenbelt3 (P 2.41 million) and SM Cebu (P 2.17 million).

Amassing more of the “Avatar” craze are SM Megamall (P 2.11 million); Gloriettta4 (P 2.02 million); Gateway Cineplex (P 1.70 million); Alabang Town Center (P 1.69million); Powerplant (P 1.23 million); Eastwood (P 1.16 million); Theatremall (P 1.09 million); Ayala Cebu (P 1.08 million); Robinson’s Galleria (P 1.07 million); Gaisano Davao (P 1.06 million); Robinson’s Ermita (P 1.04 million); Shang Cineplex (P 942, 123); SM Iloilo (P 853, 494); SM Clark (P 837, 117); SM Baguio (P 764, 698).

Mr. Francis Soliven, General Manager of Warner Bros. (Phils.), distributor of 20th Century Fox films enthuses, “This is an absolutely thrilling result in the Philippines, mirroring the outstanding openings of “Avatar” all over the world. We’re very proud to be given this opportunity to present James Cameron’s “Avatar” to Filipino moviegoers, after his last filmmaking masterpiece, “Titanic.”

“Avatar” is the story of an ex-Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who finds himself thrust into hostilities on a distant planet filled with exotic life forms. As an Avatar, a human consciousness in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people called Na’vi.

WETA Digital, renowned for its work in “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” and “King Kong,” has incorporated new intuitive CGI technologies along with James Cameron that created environments and characters of photorealistic quality that transports the audience into a world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures and characters. The movie also stars Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana.

“Avatar” is still showing in the Philippines in all formats (2D, Digital 3D and IMAX 3D) from 20th Century Fox distributed by Warner Bros. 

Article courtesy of

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Philippine's Fastfood Chain is Wall Street Journal's one of the Best in Asia

The Philippines’ largest fast food chain Jollibee (Jollibee Foods Corporation - JFC), biggest competitor of Mc Donalds and the rising Mang Inasal, is marking Filipino excellence across Asia. Recently it was given a plaque of recognition from The Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA) for being one of the top regional companies in the publication’s Asia 200 survey.

Jollibee President Ernesto Tanmantiong received the award from the Associate Editor Peter Stein of the WSJA held in Beijing, China.

Asia’s most-renowned business publication awarded JFC as The Most Admired Company in the Philippines.
The biggest food business corporation was recognized after its sales increased by 18 percent, maintaining its number one ranking in terms of company reputation and innovation as voted by business executives and readers of The Wall Street Journal Asia.

JFC owes majority of its success to its biggest food chain, Jollibee, which captured the loyalty of Filipinos by providing quality meals at affordable prices.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Sex and the City 2 Official Trailer

Here's the Official Trailer of the most awaited sequel of the hit girl's comedy romance movie of 2008, the Sex and the City 2. The movie will premier this summer and will be officially released on 28 May 2010.


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2010 Golden Globe Awards Nominees for Television

Nominees - Television


Anima Sola and Playtone in association with HBO Entertainment
Showtime Presents, John Goldwyn Productions, The Colleton Company, Clyde Phillips Productions
Universal Media Studios in association with Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z Productions and Bad Hat Harry
Your Face Goes Here Entertainment in association with HBO Entertainment






* 30 ROCK (NBC)
Universal Media Studios in association with Broadway Video and Little Stranger Inc.
Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Universal Media Studios, Deedle Dee Productions, Reveille LLC






Sony Pictures Television
Specialty Films and Locomotive in association with HBO Films
Scott Free and Rainmark Films Production in association with the BBC and HBO Films
Masterpiece/BBC Co-production
Motion Picture Corporation of America and Civil Dawn Pictures in association with HBO Films









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Tuesday, 22 December 2009 Youtube's own URL Shortener

URL shorteners has been a trend today with the influx of the social media dominating the internet world. Both Facebook and Google launched URL shorteners, and respectively.

Now Google subsidiary YouTube has joined the URL shortening bandwagon. It has just announced, the official short link of the world’s largest video site.

The shortener is exclusive to YouTube links. Its primary function is to share YouTube videos and channels with friends, mostly through YouTube’s AutoShare feature, which syndicates your activity on YouTube to Twitter (Twitter), Facebook (Facebook), and elsewhere. and just like, you can manually add the video code to the end of and get the appropriate video., for example, leads to the video I recorded of how the SF Zoo uses Twitter.

This is an expected but smart move on the company’s part. I know that my AutoShared YouTube links have sometimes been long and ugly beasts. This should fix that problem and open AutoShare to even more users.

Some texts written by Ben Parr

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10 Must-Read eBooks for Social Media Lovers by Mashable

eBooks has been the preferred reading material of techie people now a days. When I say techie, I mean the people frequenting the use of internet for whatever purposes they have. You can read them on multiple computers or devices, add annotations, and search for specific words and phrases. Plus, an eBook doesn’t take up tons of room like physical books, which is great for the road warrior.

In the last few years, publishers have finally started to embrace digital publishing and now lots of books on lots of different topics are available for various eBook platforms. If you’re into social media (and who isn’t?) check out these ten can’t-miss eBooks complied by Mashable.

1. Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

Most people are familiar with the sanitized history of Facebook (Facebook): Harvard kid starts a web site in his dorm room, ends up changing the world. Although that’s part of the truth, and is certainly compelling in its own right, Mezrich’s take on Facebook’s founding and its behind-the-scenes legal battles is like something out of Hollywood. In fact, Accidental Billionaires is the basis for the film, The Social Network, which is due to arrive in theaters in October 2010. If you use Facebook and are curious about its history‚ or if you just love a good, gripping soap opera ‚ don’t miss this book!

Format: Kindle, Nook, others

2. The Art of Community by Jono Bacon

Bacon is the Community Manager for Ubuntu (Ubuntu), one of the largest open source software projects on the planet. In this book he talks about the ins and outs of building, cultivating and managing a community from the ground up. This is a must-read for anyone interested in community development. In a truly community-friendly effort, you can download the entire book for free and share and modify it under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial license.

Format: Free PDF, Kindle, Nook, others

Read the rest of the 10 Must-Read eBooks for Social Media Lovers @ Mashable

Avatar Review: James Cameron's World of Wonder

In the last shot of Avatar, someone's closed eyes snap open. That's the climax and the message of James Cameron's first fiction feature since 1997s Titanic: Look around! Embrace the movie - surely the most vivid and persuasive creation of a fantasy world ever seen in the history of moving pictures - as a total sensory, sensuous, sensual experience. The planet Pandora that Cameron and his army of artist-technicians have created - at a budget believed to be in excess of $300 million - is a wonder world of flora and fauna: a rainforest (where it never rains) of gigantic trees and phosphorescent plants, of six-legged flying horses, panther dogs and hammerhead dinosaurs. Living among these creatures is Pandora's humanish tribe, the Na'vi: a lean, 10-ft.-tall, blue-striped people with green eyes, or what mankind might have been if it had evolved in harmony with, not opposition to, the edenic environment that gave rise to its birth.

It's the year 2154, and Pandora, a moon of the Alpha Centauri star, is the reluctant host to an expedition of Americans seeking to mine an incredibly valuable rock called unobtainium - a joke term, coined in the 1950s referring to any kind of material that's unavailable or impractical to use, that Cameron employs to locate his movie among science-fiction adventures of the period. The expedition, headed by sleazy entrepreneur Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), contains scientists, working for Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), and a Blackwater-type security force led by the malevolently macho Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The scientists have hatched "avatars," which look like Na'vi but blend their DNA with that of humans, who will steer them by remote control; "dreamwalkers," they're known as. Grace is entranced by the Na'vi's aristocratic gentility, but to Selfridge and Quaritch they are "blue monkeys", "savages," "an aboriginal horde." Or for want of a better word: Disposable. (See the top 10 movies of 2009.) By RICHARD CORLISS

'Sesame Street' star Alaina Reed-Amini dead at 63

LOS ANGELES – Alaina Reed-Amini, the Broadway star and TV actress best known for her long-running roles on "Sesame Street" and "227," has died. She was 63.

Reed-Amini died Dec. 17 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica after a two-year battle with breast cancer, her publicist Billy Laurence said Monday.

Previously known as Alaina Reed Hall, she remarried in 2008. Her stage credits include "Chicago" and "Hair." She appeared in several movies, including "Cruel Intentions" and "Death Becomes Her," and in guest-starring roles on numerous TV shows such as "ER," "NYPD Blue," "The Drew Carey Show" and "Ally McBeal."

Reed-Amini joined the "Sesame Street" cast in 1976 and played Olivia, a photographer and sister of the character Gordon. She remained on the show until 1988.

She starred on NBC's "227" from 1985 to 1990, playing the landlady and best friend of the show's main character. On the show's final season, Reed-Amini married a character played by her real-life husband, Kevin Peter Hall, who died in 1991.

Born Bernice Reed in Springfield, Ohio, on Nov. 10, 1946, Reed-Amini is survived by her husband, Tamim Amini, and two children from a previous marriage. According to her husband, no funeral or memorial services will be held, but a celebration of her life is being planned for next year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

3D high-def movies coming to your living room on Blu-ray

Hollywood has been so enthralled with the recent renaissance of 3D in the theater that the Blu-ray Disc Association has finalized a specification for delivering full 1080p high definition stereoscopic video on Blu-ray discs. The format relies on an extension to the H.264 encoding standard, and provides for a fallback to 2D output on players that can't decode the separate stereoscopic images. It's been a long time coming, but along with a recent update to the HDMI spec and a coming wave of 3D-capable displays, the technology is now in place to deliver the full 3D experience at home.

The specification, which will be published shortly for device manufacturers and content producers, specifies encoding two separate 1080p frames together using the Multiview Video Coding (MVC) extension to the H.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) codec—one of the codecs already supported for creating Blu-ray discs. This method allows the two separate views, one for each eye, to be compressed together in such a way that common elements from both views are melded together. The result is that a 3D-encoded movie should typically only take up about 50 percent more space on disc compared to a 2D version, and players that aren't 3D-capable will be able to play back a 2D version instead, for backward compatibility.

Additionally, the specification is technology-agnostic when it comes to how to create the 3D effect. It will deliver two 1080p frames to the display, and the display will then use whatever method it can to create a 3D effect—whether it's passive filtered glasses, active filtered switching glasses, anaglyph, etc.

"Throughout this year, movie goers have shown an overwhelming preference for 3D when presented with the option to see a theatrical release in either 3D or 2D," said Victor Matsuda, BDA Global Promotions

Committee chairman, in a statement. "We believe this demand for 3D content will carry over into the home now that we have, in Blu-ray Disc, a medium that can deliver a quality Full HD 3D experience to the living room."

Of course, taking advantage of that full 3D experience will still require an additional investment in compatible displays, Blu-ray players, and other necessary hardware like specialized (and often expensive) glasses. The HDMI 1.4 spec enables transfer of two full 1080p signals from players to displays, and a number of current 120 Hz 2D displays can be used for 3D viewing with special glasses. Also, suppliers like LG and Sony plan to launch 3D-capable displays in the coming months. New 3D-capable Blu-ray players will have to be manufactured, but PS3 owners will be delighted to know that the specification should be compatible with work Sony has already done to enable 3D gaming on its console.

Still, 3D discs will still play just fine on 2D players, which should mitigate a storm of customer indignation which would follow if backwards compatibility had not been addressed. "We think the broad and rapid acceptance Blu-ray Disc already enjoys with consumers will be a factor in accelerating the uptake of 3D in the home," Matsuda said. "In the meantime, existing players and libraries can continue to be fully enjoyed as consumers consider extending into 3D home entertainment."

BPI wins the Southeast Asia’s Best Remittances Provider

The Bank of the Philippine Islands one of the leading universal and commercial bank in the Philippines ends the year strong with exceptional recognition for its remittance services, winning the Best Remittances Provider in Southeast Asia Award for 2009 from the 3rd Alpha Southeast Asia Annual Deal & Solution Awards. The Awards annually recognizes top performances of local and foreign banks in the SEA region.

Prior to this regional recognition, BPInoy Remittance has already received several top awards. Last year, BPI became the first bank to receive the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Hall of Fame Award for winning Top Commercial Bank for Overseas Filipino Remittances for three consecutive years (2005-2007).

The Philippines receives the fourth largest quantity of remittances in the world, next only to China, India, and Mexico. Approximately 90% of all remittances to the country are processed by the banking system, with BPI owning a 27% market share.

BPI has established its presence in regions with high concentration of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The Bank has 10,000-strong extensive global network of BPI remittance center and tie-ups with key banks and institutions in various countries. Overseas Filipinos reap benefits from BPI’s strong alternative channels network. Through BPI 24/7 Banking, clients can utilize the Internet, land line phones, and mobile phones to conduct banking transactions. BPI has also introduced non-bank pick-up points for remittances to enhance accessibility beyond regular banking hours.

Leading Overseas Filipinos to go beyond remittances, the Bank sustained its BPInoy Learning Program, an initiative to educate Overseas Filipinos on matters beyond banking such as investing, growing a business, and handling long-distance family communications. The Bank also organizes morale-boosting activities such as the BPInoy Awards and the Search for Ten Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children.

BPI will receive its Best Remittances Provider Award on January 21, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

photo by: WN / Dominic Canoy

Brittany Murphy dies at 32; young Hollywood reacts

Hollywood expressed its condolences Sunday after the death this morning of actress Brittany Murphy. Public wishes came from the likes of ex-beau and costar Ashton Kutcher, Eliza Dushku, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson (who called her "an incredible ray of Light"), Alyssa Milano, Fred Durst, Soleil Moon Frye and Kim Kardashian, among others.

Her "Clueless" costar Alicia Silverstone told People that although the two hadn't stayed in close touch, "I feel love in my heart for her -- and hope she is at peace. This is truly sad."
Murphy, 32, had just recently talked to "Access Hollywood," touching on her return to work after a three-year break and on spending time with her family, and sharing her New Year's resolution: "I'd love to have a child next year -- but that's kind of a large one."

Though foul play is not suspected, TMZ reports, Brittany's death is being investigated, which means that despite screenwriter husband Simon Monjack's wishes to the contrary, an autopsy will be performed. Toxicology reports won't be back for several weeks.

Her family issued a statement Sunday: "In this time of sadness, the family thanks you for your love and  support. It is their wish that you respect their privacy."
Brittany was, of course, known for her roles in projects such as "Just Married," "8 Mile" "Happy Feet," and "Clueless."  Her longest-running role? For 13 years, she was the voice of Luanne on "King of the Hill."

The Ministry has two top Brittany Murphy moments -- the ones that created that soft spot we have for her in our heart -- though you may have your own from among her best-known roles. Remember, these are from a fan's point of view, not a critic's.

First: Her super-hot chemistry with Eminem in "8 Mile" fairly jumped off the screen (you know the, ahem, interaction we're talking about, and it's not the scene at left, where they're chatting). Yowza. If you saw that, you'll never get Brittany out of your mind.

And second, our favorite (and we're not alone): The party scene from 1995's "Clueless," where as the crushing-on-a-boy Tai she did that little "rolling with the homies" hand-dance and singalong. She was only 18 at the time, and beyond adorable.

We can't find video of it except for one low-quality, non-synched version that someone clearly slammed up today to take advantage of the actress' death, so we're not going to post that. (Others online are jumping to various conclusions about Brittany's cause of death, and we're not going there just yet, either.)

G'head, play that "Clueless" scene in your mind's eye -- we dare you not to smile.
Sad stuff.

-- Christie D'Zurilla /

Photos, from top: Brittany Murphy poses with a penguin at the European premiere of "Happy Feet" on Nov. 26, 2006. Eminem and Brittany in a scene from "8 Mile." Credits, from top: Max Nash / Associated Press; Eli Reed / Universal Studios.

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