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Olympic Mania

Forget about the World Series or Super Bowl frenzy. Billions of people around the world watched and cheered as international athletes with the widest range of abilities converged in Beijing and competed for top sporting accolades at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

The conclusion of the Olympics doesn’t necessarily signal the end of Olympic mania, however. Fans can get a daily dose of “Beijing 2008” in game form on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

According to published reports, Sega has released the official video game of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, complete with an array of virtual events including aquatics, archery, cycling, soccer, judo, triathlon, wrestling, sailing and field hockey.

Though the game is similar to traditional sporting events in that it requires players to exhibit skill and mastery (in this case in maneuvering the controller) to win the gold, Sega has introduced a few digital-only features. For instance, the virtual platform diving event will require the player to properly control two points, representing the diver’s head and feet, so the diver remains in sync.

So go ahead and get your game on.

Mind Games

Anyone with a Facebook account has probably played, been invited to play or at least watched their friends play Scrabulous, the unauthorized online version of the popular board game, Scrabble. Until recently, users simply added the link to their Facebook profiles, and could swap words with online friends anywhere in the world.

However, with nearly half a million daily users all playing for free, the Scrabulous phenomenon wasn’t exactly sitting well with the owners of the rights to the original board game, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. (Hasbro owns the rights in North America, and Mattel owns the rights elsewhere.) They have jointly issued cease-and-desist notices, and Hasbro recently sued the owners of Scrabulous, successfully shutting the game down.

In the meantime, however, video-game maker RealNetworks Inc. has partnered with Mattel to offer an authorized online version outside the U.S. and Canada, and recently gaming company Electronic Arts Inc. partnered with Hasbro to introduce a legitimate online version in North America, as well.

The problem is, the split rights mean the two authorized versions are not compatible, so Facebookers in North America can’t play with their friends abroad.

So much for digital R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Inbox Insanity

Technology was supposed to make life easier, so why does it seem so much harder?
Take e-mail, for example. At the moment, there are 6,962 — no, make that 6,979 — messages in our inbox. And that’s after a recent purge and reorganization into a Byzantine network of folders, subfolders and archived messages.

Inbox maintenance is an everyday chore, and it’s becoming more and more time consuming. But with important information and decisions increasingly coming in e-mail form, being able to quickly locate and pull out that content is critical.

Enter Xobni (“inbox” spelled backward), an Outlook plug-in that claims to allow you to more readily access the information you need. The bot enables you to filter through the junk, nonrelevant e-mail conversations from friends and colleagues, and other virtual detritus that flows into your inbox on a daily basis, to pull out messages and information based on your needs.

Founded in 2006 with the backing of venture capitalists, the San Francisco-based company hopes to “take back” the e-mail inbox for its users. Xobni analyzes your e-mail use and history, alerts you to important messages

and provides communication history, including contact details, past conversations and attachments. Features include e-mail search, inbox navigation tools, the ability to create threaded conversations from your e-mail and quickly extract phone numbers and important contact information.

But perhaps the coolest thing about Xobni is the analytics tool that details how you and your contacts are using e-mail. This interesting feature allows you to identify when the most important messages from people you care about arrive and how long it takes you to respond. Instead of answering and writing e-mails throughout the day, you can identify the best time to communicate and reclaim the rest of your time from e-mail slavery.


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