Archive for February, 2009

Student’s Kindle coming soon

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By John Biggs

kindle3

Amazon’s Kindle 2. That much we know. However, rumors that they are working on a larger-sized touchscreen makes us think they are now ramping up production of the “student’s Kindle” we talked about last year. This Kindle will have a larger screen and more research-oriented features – Wi-Fi, anyone?

While one line in a boring DigiTimes story does not a confirmation make, it’s a compelling enough reason to run around naked for the rest of the day yelling “The Kindle 3 is coming.” Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Source: crunchgear

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OSLO accord pushes location-sharing between social networks

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

By Mike Butcher

We’ve had OpenId to make the transport of your ID easier between Web sites. We’ve had initiatives on Data Portability to make it easier for you to move your data around between social networks and other apps. But what we haven’t had yet is a way to allow you to share your location between different platforms. That’s something that a new, largely European-inspired, initiative hopes to address. The alliance, called OSLO (Open Sharing of Location-based Objects) includes many of the players in mobile social networking and location-based social software. oslo

Twelve startups, all of whom serve their users with location-based services, have signed an agreement to enable their combined 30 million users to share location information and interact between networks. Currently users are unable to do so as location-based systems operate in a similar fashion to instant messaging systems like AOL and MSN which don’t work with eachother. So for example, you can set your location on Brightkite for instance, but your friends on Rummble wouldn’t see you – but they would if Brightkite joined the initiative.

While Ronan Higgins, CEO, Locle and Andrew Scott, Founder/CEO, Rummble are acting as spokes people, the other companies in the initiative are: www.aka-aki.com, belysio, Buddycloud, Mobiluck, Moximity, Nulaz, Palringo, Rummble, Service2Media, Skout, Tooio and WAYN.

OSLO has been in discussion with Google and Yahoo! about joining the alliance. Google of course recently launched it’s Latitude product, while Yahoo! has been working on FireEagle.

However, Oslo is not a competitor to Google’s Latitude as they’ve spoken to Google, Yahoo! and Vodafone and, according to Higgins, they all want to get on board.

Some of the theoretical benefits to OSLO are:

– Mobile advertisers would benefit from the combined volumes and an ability to better target their campaigns based on location, improving click through rate, ROI and user satisfaction.

– Connecting to people on other networks gives mobile social networking users a more exciting experience.

– Application builders can create better products on top of shared location information.

– Member companies can focus on differentiation and adding value to users rather than bothering with re-building another location system, which is a commodity anyway. The alternative is a fragmentation of technologies.

However, OSLO says, end user privacy and security remains not just a priority “but a pre-requisite”. So OSLO currently mandates that member companies should be able to query the location of users, as long as that user has opted-in to share their location with other OSLO services.

It will be interesting to see how this initiative develops.

Source: techcrunch

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Google adds user generated photos to Street View

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder

google-street-view-ugc

Google Street View lets you see photographs of city streets and their surroundings taken by Google cameras attached to vehicles that have been driving along major city streets in the US and other countries including Japan, Australia, and Spain. And now you can also find photos taken by amateur photographers as well. In this case, that’s a good thing, because the amateur photos are often higher quality and more interesting compositionally. That’s what happens when a human being snaps a photo instead of letting a computer to it.

Google is using geotagged photos contributed through Panoramio. The company also makes some of these photos available in other applications like Google Earth.

If you’re viewing a location in Street View that has user photos available, an icon will pop up in the upper right corner of your screen letting you know that user images are available. When you click, a series of photos that you can scroll through will pop up. Just click the button on the right, which should now be labeled Street View, to go back to the normal view.

Source: downloadsquad

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MicroPlaza Is a Link-Catcher For Twitter (100 Invites)

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Erick Schonfeld

microplaza-logo1It used to be that if a link was worth sharing, people would bookmark it for all to see on del.icio.us. Now, they just Twitter it (with a shortened URL). Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to separate out all the Tweets with links in them, and sort them by time or popularity? That is what MicroPlaza does in a nutshell.

MicroPlaza is still in a very limited private beta, but I have 100 invites for TechCrunch readers. Once you log in, you are presented with a stream of headlines, along with everyone who Twittered the link to that page. You can see a personal timelime made up only of links from people you are following on Twitter, or a public timeline to see what everyone is linking to. Each timeline has its own RSS feed.

The headlines can be sorted chronologically or by popularity. The more people who Twitter about the same link, the more popular it gets. Each time someone Tweets a link, it becomes more popular (although there is a time-decay function so that you only see the most recently popular links and associated headlines.

Since most of the time these links are articles or blog posts, MicroPlaza distills the headlines for you and gives you a sense of what is capturing everyone’s attention on Twitter. Any headline can be bookmarked, and you can group the people you follow into different “tribes,” and then keep track of each tribe. MicroPlaza also lets you look at everyone you are following and see their most recent links.

microplaza-people

stream-microplaza

Source: techcrunch

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Facebook Pages Redesign Coming

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Jason Kincaid

facebooklogo5Facebook launched Facebook Ads in November 2007 to give brands and businesses a way to create a presence on Facebook and interact with users. Starting next week, says a source with knowledge of the new product, those pages will be substantially redesigned.

Today there are countless pages (example) that highlight brands. These pages are free to set up, and the Facebook sales team then encourages those brands to buy Facebook ads that point back to the pages. The brands get users who become fans of the page and maybe leave a wall comment. Facebook gets ad dollars, and users never leave the Facebook site.attpage

Those pages include standard Facebook features like a Wall for user comments, a News Feed showing changes and updates to the page, and places for photos and videos to be uploaded. Many advertisers also spend a great deal of money customize the page with applications and widgets showing off various products as well.

Look for a much more streamlined look to Facebook Pages next week though, with a multitab interface very similar to what Facebook launched to users in 2008. The default view will show the Wall (which may include negative comments unless they are routinely deleted). All the custom apps will be pushed to a second Boxes tab. The Pages will also likely mirror the look of normal user profiles, with an image in the top left corner, etc.

The Facebook sales team is soft selling the concept to advertisers now, some of whom aren’t pleased with the changes, we’ve heard. Many of these advertisers have spent significant money designing the pages, and lots more on top advertising the Pages through Facebook. Now the Pages will be changed. Users may love the changes and interact more with the pages. Or they may not. As usual with changes at Facebook, people (in this case advertisers) will scream bloody murder, and then likely settle down.

The timing on the change doesn’t seem to be a coincidence – MySpace recently announced that they’ll be launching their own business profile product in the near future. As with last year’s stacked announcements on data sorta-portability, both companies want to be first with new products and features.

Source: techcrunch

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JPG Magazine Has Been Acquired, Lives Anew

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Jason Kincaid

jpgmagJPG Magazine, the innovative photography magazine that was composed of user-submitted photographs and shut down last month, has been revived. The magazine’s assets have been acquired by a group of investors who will also continue to employ some of the magazine’s staff, we’ve confirmed with a source with knowledge of the deal.

JPG launched in late 2006 with the novel idea of cutting back on publishing costs by accepting user-submitted photos and relying partially on the community to edit the magazine. But despite reaching near-profitability, the periodical announced that it was shutting down on January 2nd when its parent company 8020 Media ran out of money. Within a few days it became clear that JPG might still have life, as a number of potential buyers including Smugmug entered talks, but until now the future of the magazine was in limbo.

Source: techcrunch

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Ning Launches Rich, Persistent Chat Feature

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Jason Kincaid

ningchat

Tonight Ning will introduce new chat functionality, giving Ning network administrators the oft-requested ability to integrate a rich chat environment similar to the one launched on Facebook last April. Ning’s new chat system is Flash-based, presenting users with a persistent chat bar along the bottom of their screens as they browse through a Ning network. Users have the option of chatting through an interface at the bottom of their screen, or can ‘pop-out’ their chats into their own windows. While the interface will remain consistent across each network, users won’t be able to chat with members outside of the Ning network they’re currently browsing.

Ning originally introduced a more basic chat feature last summer, but that version uses either dedicated chat pages or sidebar iFrames, which means they aren’t always visible as users navigate through a network. But even the basic version has proven to be very successful – Ning’s chat traffic has skyrocketed, as seen in the Compete graph below pitting Ning’s IM domain against Meebo’s homepage. To be fair, the graph probably doesn’t take into account Meebo’s traffic that occurs offsite (Quantcast reports that Meebo’s entire network sees more like 12 million uniques), but it’s clear that Ning Chat is rapidly gaining traction.

Aside from its growth in chat, Ning has also been posting some impressive stats recently, growing to 4.8 million uniques in January (a 368% growth year over year) despite the fact that the site recently banned porn networks, which some believed were responsible for a significant amount of Ning’s traffic.

ningchart

Source: techcrunch

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AIM for iPhone grows up, gets paid version

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: iPhone, Mobile World | Tags: , , , , |

By Jeremy Kessel

While there may still be a lot of confusion surrounding the future of AOL, that didn’t stop the folks in Northern Virginia from recently overhauling their popular AIM instant messaging app for iPhone (and iPod touch).aim2

Available in two tasty flavors, free (”AIM Free”) and paid (”AIM Paid”), AIM 2.0 for iPhone now provides SMS notifications, has location-aware services, and supports multiple accounts (among other updates). It appears as though all of the application updates have been included in both the free and paid versions, with the major (and obvious) difference being the inclusion of ads in the buddy list of the AIM Free app.

So, what’s the big deal here? What do all the changes mean? Well, for one thing, now when you first sign in, the app will ask you if you want to share your current location:

Want to see where your friends are hanging out? You can share your location with your Buddies (or everyone) and see Buddies who are sharing their location.

Users are given three options: 1. No, don’t share location (default); 2. Share only with people on my Buddy list; or 3. Share with everyone. Once you’ve made your selection (let’s say we pick option 2 or 3), a new Group will be added – “Near Me” – showing other contacts within your vicinity. As Ars Technica points out, “there is no control over how large one’s nearby radius is” and thus, it is not exactly clear how near or far any of your contacts may be from your current location. What you can control, is the frequency of your location updates by navigating to: My Info > Preferences > (scroll down) Frequency. Here, you can select between 3 options: 1. On Startup; 2. Every 5 min. (default); or 3. Every 2000 feet.aim2c

Beyond location-awareness, AIM 2.0 also features SMS capabilities. Users now have the option to send an IM to a screen name, or alternatively, can send an SMS to a contact’s phone number (works on both iPhone and iPod touch). The app now includes both a buddy list and a contact list, to take advantage of these new features. Also, you can now stay logged-in for up to 24 hours, even if the AIM app has been closed. This allows you (iPhone users only) to get notifications via SMS when you receive a new IM and offers a work-around until Apple enables real Push notifications.

Other notable new features include the ability to use photos (taken with an iPhone) as buddy icons and the option to configure/switch between multiple screen names at any time. Are these new features enough to take down competing IM apps such as IM+, Fring, Truphone, and others? Only time will tell.

AIM Free (2.0.1) is currently available for download (via iTunes), while the cleverly named (but as yet unpriced) AIM Paid is still pending approval (at the time of this writing).

Source: mobilecrunch

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Digg Is Working On a Toolbar To Go After StumbleUpon, TinyURL, and All The Rest

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , |

By Erick Schonfeld

digg-toolbar

A super-secret Digg toolbar has been spotted in the wild. We tracked down a beta tester who gave us the skinny on its features. The toolbar lets you Digg or Bury the page you are on, and shows how many Diggs it has already received. There are also links to show related pages, as well as more pages from the same source voted highly by the Digg community or marked as up and coming.

Then there is the “Random” button which works like StumbleUpon. It takes you to a randomly-generated page based on your past input and overall Digg voting. By the prominence of this button, it appears that is a feature Digg will be trying to highlight. Users can also share the page via Facebook, Twitter, or email via icons at the top. A drawer slides down to expose additional functionality.

Now, here where it gets interesting. For each page, the toolbar creates a shortened URL similar to TinyURL or bit.ly that starts instead with http://digg.com/. . . followed by a six-character code such as “http://digg.com/d1gVha.” When you share a page via Twitter or Facebook, it is that shortened URL which is used. And in fact, for the beta testers, the toolbar can be wrapped around any page simply by sticking “http://digg.com/” in front of any URL, which then gets converted into a shortened version. This technique works for pages that have never been Dugg as well. I could see this feature eventually showing up as part of a browser add-on so that Digg URL’s could be created with one click.

The toolbar is not an add-on to existing browsers. It is actually creating a large i-frame around the original Webpage and delivering it on the Digg.com domain. Users can click on an X to get rid of the toolbar frame and be taken to the original page, and the original page gets the hit as well. (This is a similar technique to what Ginx does with its Web-sharing Twitter client). But by running all of the recommended pages through its own domain, Digg can run all sorts of analytics on each page such as how many people viewed it, where people clicked to next, and so on.

It is amazing that Twitter has single-handedly created this need for shortened URLs and that a relatively large player like Digg now wants a piece of that market.

dig-toolbar

Source: techcrunch

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Wi-Fi BeBook to launch in March

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Amy-Mae Elliott

wi-fi-book

Dutch company Endless Ideas has revealed it is to launch its next-gen BeBook reader at the CeBIT tech show in early March.

According to Endless Ideas, the new BeBook model will include “wireless connectivity, a new touch screen, and ePub DRM standard will also be implemented within the next few weeks”.

With all other info and images currently under lock and key, we will keep you posted when we hear more.

Source: pocket-lint

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Amazon agrees to cripple Kindle 2

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Gordon Finlayson

In a victory for neo-Luddites the Author’s Guild, Amazon has announced its intention to disable the speech to text function its new Kindle 2 ebook reader. Amazon announced its intention to selectively disable the device following criticism from the Author’s Guild President Roy Blount Jnr. that the Kindle 2 would undermine the billion dollar a year audiobook market.kindle2cripple1

In a statement released to the press, Amazon argued that the text-to-speech feature was legal, but said that it would give authors the right to decide whether or not to disable the feature for their books:

‘Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given… nevertheless, we strongly believe many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat… Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rights holders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title.’

It’s unclear if the Author’s Guild plans to now campaign to receive royalties from all other text-to-speech programs, but its hollow victory is sure to be received poorly by the visually impaired and any other consumers who are forking out around $350 bucks for their new Kindle and want to actually use the legal functionality that it has been designed with.

Hopefully Amazon will flag up which cheapskate publishers have disabled the text to speech functionality of their books very clearly, so that Kindle users can be sure to vote with their wallets and boycott those responsible for this shameful decision.

Source: downloadsquad

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Music recommendation site Mufin releases desktop player

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Music, Tech News | Tags: , |

By Lee Mathews

desktop-player

Back in October of 2008, our own Christina Warren snagged some beta invites for Mufin‘s web-based service for our readers. Now their crew has now released a public beta version of their desktop player for Windows.

Once you install the player and show it the way to your stash of audio files, and it begins the (lengthy) process of examining each track’s “sound fingerprint.” It can take quite a while for Mufin to complete its analysis, so you might want to relax and check out some Time Wasters while it does its thing.

Suggestions can be made either from your own library or from Mufin.com. Now, they might not always right on target, but I’m not going to hold a grudge against a piece of software that can’t find decent, non-Primus matches for a song like “Here Come the Bastards.” Even if Mufin misses the mark now and then, it’s still a great way to familiarize yourself with new artists.

Apart from recommendations, the player can also analyze a file for artist and track information using AuidioID. You can also let it auto-generate playlists based on a single track, and essential functions like ripping, burning, and copying tracks to an MP3 player are also included.

You’ll need to register for an account in order to take full advantage of the player, so head over to Mufin, sign up, and download the player. More details about the desktop player are available at Mufin.com.

Source: downloadsquad

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How would you change Apple’s Rev. B MacBook Air?

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Notebook | Tags: , |

By Darren Murph

macbook_air

Generally speaking, we wouldn’t bother asking you how you’d change the second iteration of something, but Apple’s MacBook Air is a different beast. Given how Apple maintained a lot of those severe limitations the second go round (see: single USB port, non-removable battery, etc.), we’re extra curious to see how you want the next round of MBA to go. Is it finally time for Apple to downsize into the world of netbooks? Or do you just want a more “pro” oriented MacBook Air? Is 13-inches really the ideal display size here? Would it kill the suits in Cupertino to throw an integrated SDHC card reader on the side? Time to take off the gloves and let it rip!

Source: engadget

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MSI readying updated Wind U123 for April release

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Notebook | Tags: , , |

By Donald Melanson

wind_u120

MSI’s Wind U120 has only been available for a little over a month, and already received a minor update of its own, but it looks like the company is already planning on adding a few more digits to the Wind line, with its upgraded Wind U123 apparently on track for a release April. While much will apparently remain unchanged form the U120, the U123 does get a bit of a boost from Intel’s new Atom N280 processor, which has already found its way into ASUS’ Eee PC 1000HA, and from a maximum 2GB of RAM, as opposed to 1GB on the U120. You’ll also be able to get it in your choice of four colors, and with a six or nine cell battery if you choose. What’s more, MSI’s director of US sales reportedly confirmed that the company has both 11.6-inch and 12-inch netbooks “in development,” and that it “can bring that out of the gate,” although he unfortunately didn’t go any farther than that somewhat cryptic statement.”

Source: engadget

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Nokia E55 blushes red for the camera

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Mobile World | Tags: , , |

By Ross Miller

nokia-e55

We doubt you need a translation to figure out what’s going on here, but to summarize: the crew at mobile@mail.ru managed to get what they’re saying is an exclusive hands-on with a red Nokia E55. It’s the same compact QWERTY phone you’ve grown to love vicariously through photos and video, only now with a little rouge.

Source: engadget

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Digg could take on StumbleUpon, TinyURL with new toolbar

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , , |

By Brad Linder

digg-toolbar

It looks like Digg is working on a StumbleUpon-like toolbar that lets users digg, bury, or find related stories while surfing the web. Veronica Belmont first spotted a screenshot of the toolbar on Flickr, and it looks like the folks at TechCrunch managed to track down some additional information about it.

If that info is correct, here’s how it works. Users will see a toolbar the toolbar pop up on their screens. The toolbar shows up in an i-frame, which means it’s not browser specific and you can make it go away at any time just by hitting the X button.

When you visit pages that have already been submitted to Digg, you’ll see the number of votes it has received. Or you can submit the page you’re currently on. You can also bury stories or see related stories.

The toolbar will also create a shortened URL for any page you’re visiting, beginning with digg.com… You can then share this shortened URL via email, Twitter, Facebook, or other services much the same way you would with TinyURL.

The Digg toolbar is not available to the general public at this point. And for all we know, the whole thing could just be a hoax. But it certainly seems like something Digg could and/or should offer in the future.

Source: downloadsquad

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Amazon sorta capitulates, will let publishers decide text-to-speech availability

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , |

By Ross Miller

kindleaiken-6

While affirming its stance on the legality of Kindle 2‘s text-to-speech feature — and in fact stating it’ll actually get more customers interested in buying audiobooks — Amazon‘s announced that it’ll now let the books’ rights holders decide on a title-by-title basis whether or not they’ll let TTS be enabled. No word on when the update’ll be fed to the devices, but we bet somewhere right now, Paul Aiken’s cracking a tiny smile. Full release after the break.

Statement from Amazon.com Regarding Kindle 2’s Experimental Text-to-Speech Feature

SEATTLE, Feb 27, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business.

Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat.

Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rightsholders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title. We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice. With this new level of control, publishers and authors will be able to decide for themselves whether it is in their commercial interests to leave text-to-speech enabled. We believe many will decide that it is.

Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books. We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading.

Source: engadget

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Fugly Friday: RogerART

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Victor Agreda, Jr

rogerartie6

I would be remiss in continuing this series without a stop at RogerART.com — a throwback on the web in so many ways. Run by Earth Citizen Roger Drowne, the site is all text and GIF’s, they way HTML 1.0 intended. Roger’s message is pure, I’ll give him that. He revels in being consistently lumped into the “worst” website category, which I think is terrific. Roger has some painting ability with traditional media, but judging from his digital artwork, it leaves a bit to be desired, I think.

Roger eschews the tradtional top nav for a blast of text and GIF goodness that’ll have you scrolling down in no time — a convenient list of links to his other sites (also replicated at the bottom of the page in case you missed it). If you’re color-blind (as I’m sure Roger would prefer) you won’t be able to read random portions of the page. That’s because random words are randomly colored random web-safe colors.

If you brave a scroll down you’ll find quite the menagerie of crappy animated GIF’s and half-assed Paint artwork. Roger’s text will also have you checking your default settings, but don’t worry: it’s all part of the plan. Some text should be gigantic, and some text should be just overly large. You’ll have a ball playing “is this a link” too, since there’s a lot of blue text. Luckily, all URL’s are using the default HTML spec in a handy blue with underline… you’ll just have to wade through the sea of SMS-like gibberish to find them.

So sure, RogerART is a design abomination — but is it art? Let’s turn to our dictionary.app definition of kitsch:

kitsch |ki ch |
noun

art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way : the lava lamp is an example of sixties kitsch | [as adj. ] kitsch decor.

We have a winner! Here’s hoping Roger continues to refuse professional design help for at least another 10 years.

Source: downloadsquad

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Psion responds to “netbook” challengers, says it does so still sell the NetBook Pro

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Notebook | Tags: , , |

By Donald Melanson

psion-netbookpro

Well, it looks like the dust up between Psion and those using the “netbook” name to describe, um, netbooks, isn’t showing any signs of going away anytime soon, with Psion now responding to Intel and Dell’s latest charges by saying that, contrary to their claims, it does indeed still sell its NetBook Pro. According to jkOnTheRun, while Psion says it “can understand why people might have assumed that sales ceased a while back,” it does in fact still sell the device, with the bulk of its sales being in the “highly specialized supply chain logistics area.” As Psion points out, that continuation of sales is key to its argument to keep the trademark from becoming abandoned, and it says it has “all the invoices to prove multi-million dollar sales in the US in 2006 and sales that continue even to this day,” adding that, “just because we’re not selling tens of thousands through Best Buy doesn’t mean we’re not entitled to our trademark.” That said, we’re still a long ways from folks being forced to pay up or stop using the netbook name, although it’s at least becoming clear that Psion isn’t about to just let this one slide.

Source: engadget

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NTT DoCoMo’s overheating BlackBerry Bold not caused by battery, says RIM

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Mobile World | Tags: , , , |

By Ross Miller

blackberry

While RIM and Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo still don’t know why their BlackBerry Bold is feeling a little toasty around the keyboard, the duo has ruled out a likely culprit, the battery, as its unwelcome heat source. Word on the street is an estimated 30 people have issued complaints about the mobile device heating up while recharging, with around 4,000 units being sold before DoCoMo halted sales. One analyst speculates the issue — which so far has affected only Japan — may be based on region-specific software of other customizations. We’re sure the pair are working around the clock to get to the bottom of this malfunction, but in the meantime, we recommend dusting off the ol’ 8707h to get that retro BlackBerry feel — y’know, just for kicks.

Source: engadget

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Hey Wizard is low-color, magical platformer fun – Time Waster

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Lee Mathews

hey-wizard

Hey Wizard is fun little Flash Time Waster, though getting a decent screencap was a bit tricky. You’ll need both hands to work the controls, which led to several untimely deaths as I tried to snag an action shot.

As you already guessed, you control the short bearded fellow with the wand and pointy hat. Though your tiny mage can’t jump, he gets by just fine. Aim your wand at the ground, hold the left mouse button down to charge it up, and release it to fire. You’ll go rocketing off like a plastic bag in an updraft.

You’ve got other spells at your disposal, too, including a flame attack (which doubles as a way to hover) and the mysterious – but very useful – necrohand. Each spell has a recharge time, so don’t get caught wandering around firing off willy-nilly. Levels are somewhat open-ended, so there’s plenty of adventuring to be done and no shortage of monochromatic baddies to dispatch.

Getting used to the controls and the game’s somewhat screwy physics can take time, but Hey Wizard is still a big slice of Friday fun.

Source: downloadsquad

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Facebook Now Growing By Over 700,000 Users A Day

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: |

By Nick O’Neill

fb-growthFacebook’s growth does not appear to be slowing by any means. Appearing for an interview on the Today show in a bold red tie earlier today, Mark Zuckerberg told Matt Lauer that the site is growing by more than 5 million users a week globally and more than one million a week in the United States. This is unprecedented growth for the social network which now attracts over 10 percent of the global internet population to its site.

While the company has yet to come up with its breakthrough monetization model, it’s clear that its growth trumps all other social networks currently. As Eric Eldon highlights Mark Zuckerberg, “says Facebook is differentiating itself through things like easy photo-sharing (it has more than a billion photos shared per month) and privacy controls so people can make sure those who are most special in their lives can see certain information others can’t.”

While the growth continues to be phenomenal, I recently articulated the risk that Twitter presents to the immensely dominant social network. It’s hard to dismiss the rapid growth that Facebook is experiencing though and part of the core value Facebook presents may be its ability to stay in touch with our closest friends as the Economist highlighted yesterday.

At the beginning of the year, I estimated that Facebook would surpass 300 million users by the end of the year, and with 200 million users right around the corner, 300 million may be underestimated. With the numbers stated by Mark Zuckerberg it’s hard to avoid how dominant of a force Facebook is rapidly becoming. All I can say at this point is: wow.

Source: allfacebook

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Speed read RSS news feeds with Spreed:News

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Lee Mathews

rss-news

Looking to catch up on top news items in a flash? Head over to Spreed:News, and have articles fed to you in easy-to-digest little chunks.

For now, you’re limited to reading the feeds Spreed provides. Fear not, most of your favorites are likely included in the list: BoingBoing, CNet, GigaOm, Slashdot, TUAW, and yes, even Downloadsquad are available. Sign up for an account and select your favorites, find an item, and click the play button. The display speed can be adjusted, and buttons are provided to share news items with friends, post to Facebook, and give a thumbs up or down to the article you’re reading. A link is provided to the oringinal URL as well – handy if a post references an image.

There’s also a mobile version that looks and works great on the iPhone (and likely on Android as well, though I don’t have a handset to test it).

Spreed is an interesting service, and the technology definitely works. The plain black reading window and intelligent text display certainly made it easier for me to focus on and retain information.

Source: downloadsquad

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HP Upline file backup service goes Offline

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder

hp-upline

Less than a year after launching an online backup solution called Upline, HP is discontinuing the service. HP hasn’t given any official reason for killing Upline, but in an email sent to customers, the company says that it stop accepting uploads yesterday and will cease operations altogether on March 31st, meaning if you need to get files from the server, you’d best do it before then.

HP will issue full refunds to paying customers. The subscription-based service had offered unlimited storage for $59 per year. Since Upline didn’t even last a single year, I guess it’s easier for HP to send the money back than to try to pro-rate the refunds.

Source: downloadsquad

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5 ways to enhance your Wikipedia experience

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

By Jay Hathaway

wikipediafeature

Wikipedia is one of the most-visited sites on the Internet, for very good reason. If you’re like me, and Wikipedia is your starting point for research on any topic — and your starting and stopping point for quick facts — then you might be interested in a handful of ways to make your Wikipedia experience faster, more attractive or more integrated. Give Wikipedia a boost with these great apps and add-ons:

1) Save a trip to Wikipedia.com with AQwikWiki or QuickWiki

Sometimes you run across a term on a webpage that you want to check out on Wikipedia, but you’d also like to finish reading the rest of the page. If you install these add-ons for Firefox, you can have both. AQwikWiki lets you highlight a term and right-click to insert the Wikipedia definition into the text in a yellow highlight. QuickWiki uses a customizable key combo plus a click on a word, and pops the definition up in a box. They’re two different methods of doing basically the safe thing, but either way, you don’t even have to bother leaving the page.

2) Access Wikipedia quickly from your iPhone with Wikiamo or Wikipanion

Both of these iPhone apps are designed to browse Wikipedia more efficiently from your iPhone. They each have their own unique feature sets, so you’ll have to decide which one works better for you. This is much is for sure, though: they both make Wikipedia faster to search and easier to read than if you just browsed to it in Safari.

3) Download Wikipedia for offline browsing with Wikitaxi

If you’re a Windows user, you can get WikiTaxi and keep a dump of Wikipedia on your hard drive, or even on a large thumbdrive. Apparently the entirety of the English version only takes up 8 gigs. Even when your Internet connection is down, or your school or work blocks Wikipedia for some reason, you can still have it with you.

4) Find what you’re looking for with Wikiproxy and Smarter Wikipedia

Wikiproxy is a Greasemonkey script that links key terms on the webpages you browse to their corresponding Wikipedia pages. It’s a bit like turning your web experience into one giant Wikipedia page.

Smarter Wikipedia recommends related pages within Wikipedia itself. With this script installed, you get a related pages menu on the Wikipedia sidebar that makes it even easier to kill an afternoon stumbling through fascinating new facts. Definitely essential for serious trivia junkies.

5) Edit Wikipedia more efficiently with WikEd

WikEd is a Greasemonkey script that opens up a full-featured WYSIWYG wiki editor that works on Wikipedia and some other wikis, too. If you can’t remember how to do all those pesky wiki formatting codes when you edit Wikipedia articles, WikEd will help you out a lot. There’s a whole palette of options that you can use by clicking, so you don’t worry about getting the format wrong when you’re making changes to an article.

And don’t forget Simplepedia, a script that gives Wikipedia a stylish, minimalist facelift. It’s been featured on Download Squad before, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again.

Source: downloadsquad

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