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iPods & iTunes Everywhere!

The latest iPod Nano has more to offer than looks

By Claudine Beaumont

Living colour: the new-design iPod nano
Apple has plans to make your music listening smarter - and they work

Another week, another Apple press conference. The blogosphere was decidedly under whelmed by Apple's latest product launch, not least because most of the announcements about a new-look iPod nano and refreshed iTunes music store had already been leaked online in the preceding weeks.

None the less, all eyes were on Steve Jobs as he took to the podium in San Francisco, laughing off fears about his health and joking that rumors of his death were "greatly exaggerated".

That Apple will launch a range of new iPods in September is a truth as certain as life and death itself. You have to admire the enthusiasm with which Apple continues to reinvent its old warhorse - the iPod is the number-one best selling music player in 10 European countries, including the UK; some 160 million iPods have been sold worldwide since 2004.

There's no doubt that the new iPod nano, with its thin, elliptical styling, is going to appeal to shoppers this Christmas. Apple has built its famed "accelerometer" technology into the device, which means it can sense when it is being held vertically or horizontally. You can flip the nano one way to view a list of albums, or turn it on its side to scroll through album cover artwork.

The technology is put to fun use with the "Shake to Shuffle" feature, in which a quick jiggle of the nano will enable the user to skip through tracks and pick a random song. Several other MP3 players, such as the Sansa Shake and Sony Walkman mobile phones, have offered this sort of functionality for a while now, but Apple's decision to include it in their new iPods demonstrates its commitment to the product. While sales of iPods continue to grow, the rate of growth has slowed significantly, leading some analysts to ask whether the market for iPods has reached saturation point.

Interestingly, Apple announced that it will no longer be selling the 160GB iPod Classic. Steve Jobs didn't give any reasons for this, but it's perhaps safe to assume that most people's music collections aren't sufficiently big enough to warrant buying a device with so much storage.

Either that, or people have realized that, although the iPod has the potential to put their entire CD library in their pocket, they only ever listen to a few hundred favorite songs.

And that's where the new iTunes software could really come into play. It has a new music-recommendation engine built into it, called Genius, which can scan your music library and then suggest other songs in your collection that match your musical tastes and preferences. And should you feel moved to do so, you can even add to your collection by buying one of a list of suggested songs and albums from the iTunes store.

"With Genius, you can automatically make play lists from songs in your music library that go great together with just one click," said Jobs. "It could help you to rediscover music in your library and make a play list of songs you wouldn't normally put together."

The best thing about Genius is that it's intelligent - that's to say, its accuracy and knowledge of recommended tracks will increase over time, and with repeat use. The more you use it, the more you will get out of it.

The process sounds incredibly similar to the "scrobbling" technology used by to build personal radio stations of favorite artists, and by the Music Genome Project that provides the framework for music-recommendation service Pandora. Genius will scan through your music collection looking at genres, the number of albums and songs you have by a particular artist, as well as the ratings you've given them. It will also look at the characteristics of the song itself, such as beats per minute.

Genius then anonyms that information - don't worry, no one will know you like Shania Twain - and beams it back to the iTunes mothership. From there, it is able to build dynamic play lists of other recommended tracks, based not only on your library, but that of other iTunes users with similar tastes. It's like social-networking meets taste-making.

I've been playing around with the Genius button for a couple of days, and have been generally quite pleased with the results. There are one or two tracks that have left it stumped, but it's also dug up a couple of hidden gems on my cavernous hard drive. I'm afraid I'm one of those iPod owners who has got stuck in the musical rut of listening to the same play list of 600 songs on a never-ending loop. Suddenly, I am rediscovering artists and albums I'd forgotten I'd even loaded on to iTunes. So far, I've managed to resist the temptation to add to my collection with impulse purchases from the music store.

Like it or loathe it, Apple remains the dominant force in the music download space. If it can make our lives just that little bit richer by pointing us in the direction of bands, albums and songs we'd never thought of or heard of before, I'm all for it.

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Thousands pursue wacky world records

(CNN) -- Thousands of people around the globe may find the payoff Thursday for the countless hours they have spent perfecting the most ridiculous of feats.

More than 200,000 people in 18 countries hope to make it into the "Guinness World Records" book with a variety of rather odd achievements on this day.

Students at the University of Bournemouth in the United Kingdom plan to round up more than 100 participants to set a record for the Most People Dressed as Superheroes.

Several Germans will vie to set a record for the Most Juice Extracted from Grapes by Treading.

And in New Zealand, would-be record-holders will chase glory in a race to set the Fastest Time to Peel and Eat -- what else? -- a Kiwi Fruit.

The unusual pursuits unfold worldwide as part of Guinness World Records Day. The editors of "Guinness World Records" -- universally recognized as the foremost authority on record-breaking achievement -- began celebrating the day in 2004, a year after the book sold its 100 millionth copy.

"We are very happy to see that people are still passionate and eager to achieve their goals in the midst of the global market turmoil," Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday said in a prepared statement.

Don't Miss
A really, really long commute
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, shows its studious side Thursday in an effort to enter the record books for Most People Reading Simultaneously. Brazil will try to break the record for World's Largest Bread, and Japan hopes to clock the Fastest Time to Run 100 Meters On All Fours.

Various places in the United States are also getting in on the act.

New York will try for the Most Grains of Rice Eaten with Chopsticks in a Minute and Oak Park, Illinois, will host the Largest Dog Wedding. Sports network ESPN will televise attempts at the Fastest Egg and Spoon Mile and the Most Apples Cut in the Air with a Sword.

Roll your eyes if you must. But keep count of the rotations: You could be a contender next year.



Is It Caylee?

ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- Authorities cordoned off the home of missing toddler Caylee Anthony's grandparents on Thursday, hours after the remains of a small child were found nearby.

The sheriff's office in Orange County, Florida, said it is seeking a warrant to search the home of George and Cindy Anthony.

Sheriff Kevin Beary said the home has been secured "pending more investigation." The house has the "possibility of being more of a crime scene later," he added.

A child's skull was found at about 9:30 a.m. by a utility meter reader who alerted authorities, sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said. Investigators, including those from the Anthony case, rushed to the scene, he added.

CNN affiliate WFTV reported that the meter reader picked up a plastic bag at the site and a skull fell out. The remains have been removed by the medical examiner and will be sent to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia, Sheriff Beary said.

The agency has told its lab analysts that the case is top priority, Beary added. "If they have to work through the weekend, they'll work through the weekend."

"Bottom line, it's real simple, folks," Beary said. "We've recovered this human skull, it appears to be that of a small child, and now the investigation continues. We've got a lot of lab work to do, a lot of DNA work to do, a lot of crime scene work to do. We could be here all night."

Prosecutors have asked police not to disclose many details surrounding the discovery, Beary said.

Caylee Anthony, 3, has been missing since June in a case that has received national attention. Casey Anthony, the child's 22-year-old mother, was charged last month with murder and other offenses. She is being held at the Orange County Jail.

The area where the remains were found had been searched as part of the investigation into Caylee's disappearance, he said. But the precise spot where a county meter reader found them -- "45, 50, 60 feet back" from the street -- was flooded at the time of the search.

No clothes were found with the remains, Beary said.

Asked whether the remains could belong to another child, Beary said, "Not that we know of, but that's always a possibility, and that's why we've got a lot of work to do on this case still."

Earlier, authorities said the Anthony family had been notified of the discovery. The remains were found "in very close proximity" to the Anthony home, Solomons said.

An attorney for Casey Anthony filed legal papers Thursday afternoon seeking a court order to preserve all evidence collected, and to permit the defense to conduct its own forensic testing. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday morning.

In a court hearing earlier Thursday, 9th Circuit Judge Stan Strickland postponed Casey Anthony's trial at the request of defense attorney Jose Baez. The attorney said he had not received all the evidence due him from prosecutors and was not ready to proceed with the January 5 trial.

Baez asked Strickland whether the trial could be delayed until March. The judge scheduled a hearing January 15 to consider a new trial date as well as a possible change of venue.

Casey Anthony remains in protective custody and has no contact with other inmates, corrections officials said.

"She has been seen by a Corrections Health Services psychologist and her status was reviewed," officials said in a statement, adding Anthony was under psychological observation -- which is not the same as suicide watch.

Baez arrived at the jail just before noon Thursday and stayed about an hour and a half, officials said.

Prosecutors said this month that they would not seek the death penalty against Casey Anthony. If convicted of murder, she could be sentenced to life in prison.

Authorities have said Casey Anthony waited about a month before telling her family that Caylee was gone. Cindy Anthony -- Caylee's grandmother and Casey Anthony's mother -- called the Orange County sheriff's office July 15, saying her daughter would not tell her where Caylee was.

When questioned, Casey Anthony gave conflicting statements to police, including some that were later disproved, according to hundreds of documents and investigative reports released in the case.

She claimed that she dropped Caylee off with a baby-sitter, but when police checked out her story, they learned that the address Casey Anthony supplied belonged to an apartment that had been vacant for weeks. The woman Casey Anthony named as her baby-sitter told police she did not know her.

Investigators have said that cadaver dogs picked up the scent of death in Anthony's car, as well as in her parents' backyard. They also said air quality tests conducted by the FBI found evidence consistent with human decomposition and chloroform in the car's trunk. A neighbor told police Anthony had asked to borrow a shovel.

Also, an analysis of Anthony's computer found that she had visited Web sites discussing chloroform and had done Internet searches on missing children, according to information released in the case.

"There isn't a motive, and they haven't found a motive," Cindy Anthony said Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

She added, "They told us they thought it was an accident, and she's scared and tried to cover it up. They don't feel there's a motive."

Cindy Anthony stressed that five searches for the girl's body have "come up with nothing. There's nothing that they have found that, you know, has given them any evidence that Caylee is no longer with us."

The Anthonys said they believe that the girl is still alive and that someone has her, noting several reports of sightings.

Last month, Strickland denied prosecutors' request to impose a gag order in Anthony's case, saying he could not state that continued publicity would pose a threat to her trial or even that a gag order would stem the flood of media attention.

CNN's John Couwels and "Nancy Grace" producer Natisha Lance contributed to this story.

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