Archive for October, 2010

‘Diaspora’ – open source Facebook alternative launches September 15th

Diaspora ‘Diaspora’   open source Facebook alternative launches September 15th

Can Diaspora really take down the likes of Facebook, the social networking site that despite being embroiled in privacy scandals is still the most popular social networking site in the world by far?

Diaspora was originally created by four college students as a summer project and back in May they set out to raise $10,000 to help them complete it.

They reached their initial goal in only a few days and the money just kept rolling in, to the tune of $200,000.

Funnily enough they even had a donation from Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg himself, although we don’t know how much. Zuckerberg said in an interview with Wired, that he thought Diaspora was “a cool idea”. So he’s obviously not feeling threatened then.

Now in a blog post, the Diaspora creators, Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer and Ilva Zhitomirskiy, have announced that they are ready to release Diaspora to the world.

“We have been coding. We have Diaspora working, we like it, and it will be open-sourced on September 15th” they wrote.

So what is different about Diaspora, and realistically, will it have any chance of competing with Facebook given the several hundred million profiles already deeply entrenched on that site?

There are three main points here. The first is that Diaspora will supposedly tackle the security issues surrounding social networking.

“We are spending a good chunk of time concentrating on building clear, contextual sharing. That means an intuitive way for users to decide, and not notice deciding, what content goes to their co-workers and what goes to their drinking buddies” they wrote in their blog.

“We know that’s a hard UI problem and we take it seriously” they said.

The second point is that Diaspora will be open-source “we are going to release our code as free software so everyone can make Diaspora even better” the team wrote in an earlier blog.

The third point is one that may possibly put a lot of folk off and that is you have to download Diaspora to your computer to use it.

Regardless, Diaspora started as a simple project and it took off in a way they could never have imagined it would.

So get your laptops ready for the 15th and we’ll see how well Diaspora really does when it has to stand on its own against the big boys.

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Facebook backs down over privacy concerns

Facebook

The issue of privacy on Facebook hasn’t been out of the headlines for weeks, and now it looks like the popular social networking site is backing down a bit.

They have decided to change the privacy settings yet again to “significantly reduce” the amount of information that will be freely available on the net.

“It’s been a pretty intense few weeks for us, listening to all the feedback coming in from all the changes we’ve made. Our teams internally have been cranking for the last couple of weeks” said Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

After listening to all the feed back, Zuckerberg said on a blog “The number one thing we’ve heard is that there just needs to be a simpler way to control your information.”

Yes, the current Facebook privacy settings are far too complicated with 50 or so settings with 170 or so options but Facebook are now planning a simplified control page with only 15 settings.

“Today we’re starting to roll out some changes that will make all of these controls a lot simpler. We’ve focused on three things: a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications” said Zuckerberg.

Everyone will be able to find your basic details such as name and profile pic but you will no longer be able to view your friends’ list of friends.

Zuckerberg says you have to balance up privacy rights with promoting social networking. I mean he’s right, how can you indulge in social networking, particularly with new people, if you can’t see their information?

“Users use the service because they love sharing information,” said Zuckerberg.

In the blog post, Mr Zuckerberg also reflects on how Facebook has evolved over the years.

“On a personal note, I just turned 26 years old a few days ago. I started Facebook when I was 19 and it’s amazing to look back at how it has evolved. There have been a lot of changes over the years as we’ve continued to innovate, and I appreciate that you have all stuck with us.

“Each time we make a change we try to learn from past lessons, and each time we make new mistakes, too. We are far from perfect, but we always try our hardest to build the best service for you and for the world. So I just want to say thanks.”

Personally I don’t think Facebook will suffer too much over the negative press recently, it’s still the most popular social networking site on the Internet and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.

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Big Changes to Yahoo Search

yahoo 300x210 Big Changes to Yahoo Search

Hot on the heals of Google Instant Search, Yahoo are also rolling out significant changes to their search engine. However, will a revamp of the way Yahoo presents their search results be enough to enhance their slumping revenue, or are they destined to always be following in the footsteps of Google and Bing?

The goal of Yahoo’s new search is to make information more immediate and useful to people, by linking together entertainment and news content. While the exact details of the algorithms involved will remain secret, it seems Yahoo are utilising some kind of new tool that links keywords and results based on their contextual relationship. For example, a search for celebrities is likely to bring up content such as photos and video as well as text.

Yahoo senior VP for search and marketplaces Shashi Seth has said “Our goal is to understand what people care about and to make it fun for them to explore the most personally relevant, interesting, and informative content so that they can get things done faster and stay in the know.”

Other changes will see a slideshow above the standard results showing trending topics, and the incorporation of the “quick apps” feature. Yahoo are changing more than just their search web site however, with iPhone and Android users also getting access to these new search tools built around HTML5 technology. These new tools are available now in many parts of the U.S, with a worldwide release to follow early next year.

These changes to Yahoo search seem to be a serious move by Yahoo to distinguish themselves further from Google and Bing. They are not just about more accurate search results with these tools, but are offering a slightly new format they are hoping may resonate with the market. With Yahoo is a slow but steady decline, the results of these changes will be very important indeed.

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Microsoft Introduce Facebook Search Integration

facebookbing Microsoft Introduce Facebook Search Integration

Microsoft and Facebook are partnering up via Bing, with tighter integration between the social media giant and the second biggest search engine in the world. Up until now, Facebook has existed in a world of its own with regard to third-party search, so this new partnership is likely to bring some big changes to both parties.

A number of new search features are being planned to provide tighter integration between these two online giants. One feature called Liked results will allow Facebook data to come up on relevant Bing searches, a feature designed to make it easier for people to find relevant information and make decisions based on input that they trust. For example, when you ask Bing to find you the best coffee in town, the results can be based around your Facebook network and not just random user data.

One other new feature is called Facebook Profile Search, which will allow users to search for people on Facebook directly via Bing. The names with mutual friends will show up first on the results, much the same as they do on the Facebook website itself. This feature will also allow users to add friends directly from the Bing search page, which will have a huge impact on the way Facebook integrates with the outside world.

While many people seem surprised by this partnership between an established giant and a new – highly successful – tech upstart, it is no surprise at all when you take a look at the books. Microsoft have made a $240 million investment into Facebook, which is a 1.6 percent stake. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg cemented the partnership by appeared on stage yesterday with Microsoft executives, saying “We’re hard-wired so that information about people is the most interesting information we track in the world.”

Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division has also had something to say about the partnership: “Facebook has led a transformation of the Internet already” adding “This new signal will allow us to do a better and more comprehensive job predicting what resources and content are most relevant to you because, in addition to all the other signals we use, other people you trust have found them interesting.”

The new social-media Facebook integration with Bing is scheduled to roll out in the United States over the next few weeks, with the rest of the world sure to follow in the near future.

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Can Google Compete with Microsoft and Facebook in Social Search?

GoogleMe 300x125 Can Google Compete with Microsoft and Facebook in Social Search?

In direct response to the recent partnership announcement by Microsoft and Facebook regarding social search functionality, Google too are making moves to integrate social networking data into their search results.

Only a few days ago, Facebook agreed to open its data feeds and allow Bing to index relevant information through its search page. This is a big step-up in terms of social search functionality, and goes way beyond anything that Google currently has in place.

However, when asked if Google are looking to provide a similar service, CEO Eric Schmidt said “We also have in development other ways in which people can give us that sort of information that can make it even more personal.” Schmidt is no doubt referring to ‘Google Me‘, a project that is being developed especially to socialise search engine results on a number of levels.

Schmidt and Google are well known for their distaste of private arrangements between data providers, which is exactly what this recent deal between Microsoft and Facebook is. Schmidt has said “There is always a concern that large, private collections of the data are not accessible to Web search engines.” While Google would also like access to Facebook’s data, unluckily for them Mark Zuckerberg has no plans to release it to anyone else at the moment.

Without access to Facebook data, it will be interesting to see just what shape ‘Google Me’ takes. Bing has gained some ground against Google in the past year, and this new integration with Facebook will make them the undisputed leader in the new social search arena. Social search functionality is likely to have a big impact on the Internet in the next few years, and Google are looking more and more like they have work to do if they want to stay at the front of the pack.

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The all-in-one MSI Wind Top AE2400 PC

AE2400 5 The all in one MSI Wind Top AE2400 PC

The MSI Wind Top AE2400 is an all-in-one touchscreen PC that is neither a desktop or a mobile computer. Confused? Well, so was I until I decided to take a closer look.

The all-in-one PC seems to be going the way of the Dodo, well that’s what I thought anyway. While most people know the iconic all-in-one iMac design, most other offerings of this type have not been so successful. It’s not that there haven’t been some great computers in this style – from companies like Sony, HP, and ASUS – they just haven’t really caught the attention of the market.

MSI are aiming to change all that however, with the 23.6 inch touchscreen, 2.7GHz Intel Pentium E5400 powered, all-in-one beast. Graphics performance comes courtesy of ATI Radeon Mobility HD 565v, and you also get a large 1TB hard drive and a DVD burner.

For the uninitiated, an all-in-one computer is precisely that, a design that features the hardware in the same casing as the screen, with no tower needed and only a keyboard and mouse as peripherals. However, while the famous iMac design featured a large bulky screen, this new all-in-one MSI looks as much like an overgrown laptop as it does a standard desktop computer.

The biggest draw card with this computer is the touchscreen, which means you can do without the mouse and keyboard entirely and use this computer almost like an upright tablet. There is a two-point multitouch with pinch to zoom and other gestures, but this screen seems designed to be used with a single contact point. Despite this limitation, the screen is responsive and offers a refreshing change to the standard desktop interface.

Performance wise, the MSI Wind Top AE2400 does very well, despite the fact that it uses older technology. While fast enough to be a gaming computer, the high 1920 x 1200 resolution and good speakers make the MSI Wind Top AE2400 ideal for watching movies. The MSI Wind Top AE2400 is on sale now for about $1300.

Specifications

2.7GHz Intel Pentium E5400
ATI Radeon Mobility HD 565v
23.6 inch screen
1920 x 1200 resolution
DVD burner
up to 1TB hard drive
up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM
802.11 b/g/n
Wireless keyboard and mouse

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PC-Koubou release the Lesance BTO GSN801GAW

The Japanese based computer maker PC Koubou have added another laptop to their range, but this time the emphasis is been firmly concentrated on producing a much more powerful and high end laptop, it is called the PC-Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW.

The first thing to notice is the 18.4 inch display with a high definition resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, this huge screen works well with the 2.13 GHz Intel core i7 940 XM quad core processor and the nVidia GeForce GTX 480M graphics card, which is supported by a handy 2 GB of memory.

PC Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW Powerful Notebook PC Koubou release the Lesance BTO GSN801GAW

On the subject of memory the PC-Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW, fails to let the consumer down providing an Intel X25 M SSD with 160 GB, 500 GB hard drive and 8 GB worth of RAM, so there is plenty of memory there to handle the daily tasks of the average computer user right up to the enthusiastic gamer.

Portability is the key for this success of this type of laptop and the current talk is that the PC-Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW has enough battery power to last for up to six hours, so that would be all right but under extreme gaming conditions we do not think the battery has what it takes!

Connectivity is another key factor to the success of the any top of the range laptop and that is something where the PC-Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW excels, with two USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports DVI-I as well as the all important HDMI out for connection to external monitors such as the TV etc.

Finally, there is the essential Blu-ray drive, card reader, Gigabit Ethernet connection, built in webcam, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and the Windows 7 Professional operating system. As for the weight, 5.6 kg would seem a little on the heavy side, but this a larger laptop measuring 439 mm x 299 mm x 44 mm.

So it’s down to the all important price, PC-Koubou Lesance BTO GSN801GAW will be priced at around $5,400, a little on the steep side but this is a top of the range computer.

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Angry Birds for Android Tops 1 Million Downloads in 24 Hours

300px Angry birds screen shot Angry Birds for Android Tops 1 Million Downloads in 24 Hours

After causing a stir all over the world on the Apple iPhone and iPad Touch, the Angry Birds app for Android has topped one million downloads in a single day. While not the first Android app to break the big 1M mark, it is by far the fastest.

Angry Birds is a puzzle video game by Rovio, a developer based in Finland. It was initially released on the Apple iOS platform, where it became very popular very quickly and received a lot of media attention. The first Android version of the game was released last Friday, where it did so well that it crashed the servers on GetJar and had to be released in the Android Market earlier than expected.

This huge success has major significance for the Android platform, as it goes to show that Android can compete in the mobile application arena. While Android has been enjoying an increasing market share of late, analysts have always been unsure of how well third-party apps would go on this platform.

While Android might not be able to boast the huge numbers of mobile apps in the Apple store – 300,000 or more depending on who you ask – this news goes to show that consumers are more than ready to give Android a go if the right content is there.

People love the Angry Birds game, and these figures put some perspective back into the Android vs Apple debate. Consumers – as a whole – are much more interested in content than any vague notions of allegiance. If Android can stock up its app store by appealing to mobile application developers, it seems that the public are more than likely to follow.

Along with the iPhone, the iPad Touch, and now Android, Angry Birds is also available on the Nokia N900, as an exclusive iPad version, and on the Palm Pre phone running Palm web OS.

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Best Eco-Friendly Notebooks of 2010

asus bamboo series laptop 300x232 Best Eco Friendly Notebooks of 2010

As the issues surrounding global warming, habitat destruction, and rising energy costs continue to grow around the world, lots of consumers are considering environmental issues when purchasing tech products. We take a look at some of the companies trying to make a difference, with 3 of the best eco-friendly notebooks available in 2010.

Before we take a look at the individual models, it is necessary to define the characteristics of an eco notebook, and just why you might be interested in buying one. A number of different factors come into play when distinguishing environmental tech products, from issues of energy efficiency through to the use of materials like the battery, hard drive, display, and even the packaging.

In terms of energy usage, smaller screens and less powerful CPUs generally have less of an impact. Small 10 inch netbooks can practically run all day, while large 17 inch monsters may only cope for a couple of hours away from the mains. However, the limited performance and small screens of netbooks are not enough for some people.

Luckily, a few laptop manufacturers have stepped up to the plate, with new energy efficient technology and batteries that can last longer than ever before. In terms of materials, there are also important decisions to make, with some plastics made from recycled materials and other companies making an effort with packaging. Some notebook displays also have mercury in them, which is hazardous when it comes to laptop disposal.

While these three ‘green’ notebooks are all fantastic, they might not be what you are looking for from a mobile computer. While it would be great if we all had access to a dedicated green machine, this is an unlikely scenario in the real world. If you are interested in an eco-friendly laptop, my advice is to make a list of the green features that are most important to you, and check out all the computers that fit the bill while also giving you the performace and features that you require.

ASUS U Series Bamboo Collection – U33JC

asus U1 300x217 Best Eco Friendly Notebooks of 2010

This laptop is a very capable and environmentally friendly notebook, with a style all of its own. The U33Jc is a member of the new ASUS U Series Bamboo Collection, a number of laptops featuring a bamboo/aluminium chassis. ASUS say there is 15% bamboo in the construction of these laptops, which give them both a standout eco-style and the environmental credentials to match.

ASUS are also shipping these notebooks with eco-friendly packaging, made from 100% recycled, natural bamboo pulp and non-woven packing cloth. While this is all very cool, the ASUS Bamboo series are also very capable notebooks even without the ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ that is attached. The U33JC features an Intel Core i3 370M processor, a 13 inch display, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. These specs differ on other members of the U Series family.

Graphics come courtesy of both an Intel HD and a 1GB Nvidea GeForce 310M, with dynamic swapping and manual selection both available. Connectivity is also good, with USB 3.0, a 5 in 1 card reader, and almost everything else you could imagine. One other important eco feature is the Asus Super Hybrid Engine power management software, which can keep this laptop running on battery power for nearly 8 hours in moderate use.

Sony Vaio W Series

sony eco laptop dual 300x217 Best Eco Friendly Notebooks of 2010

This special edition Sony Vaio W eco edition notebook is made almost entirely from recycled materials. For instance, almost 80% of the plastic parts are recycled, including the top and bottom cover and the palm rest which are made from crushed DVDs and CDs. This is not the only environmental credentials that this laptop has going for it however, with a mercury-free 10.1 inch screen and an efficient 8.5 hour battery life.

Sony have made a huge commitment to the environmental cause in the last few years, reducing their CO2 emissions in Europe by 93% and using renewable energy in all of their plants. The W series is their most eco-friendly laptop yet, with an Intel Atom processor, 1366 x 768 resolution, 1GB of RAM, and a 250GB HDD.

Sony have also put a lot of effort into their packaging, with each new computer being delivered in a little black bag that is made entirely from recycled PET bottles. The laptop manual size has also been reduced to save paper, with a full-size i-Manual available as a PDF file. Despite its small size and ‘not particularly powerful’ performance, the Sony W Series is the flagship product of the new Sony eco-friendly attitude.

Apple MacBook

15 macbook pro 300x193 Best Eco Friendly Notebooks of 2010

The Apple MacBook is an energy efficient notebook that uses recycled materials and is free from toxins and excessive packaging. Apple have made a number of environmental considerations during the past few years, and are defineltly the masters of eco-marketing. The MacBook uses an advanced power management system, that uses a combination of hardware and software components.

The Apple MacBook has received the maximum energy rating by the EPA, with ENERGY STAR 5.0 signifying low power consumption. The on-board battery has also been designed to last longer – up to five years or 1000 recharges. Some of the materials used in MacBook construction include high-grade polycarbonate, aluminium, and magnesium, all of which can be recycled and used in other products at the time of disposal.

MacBooks come in a wide range of configurations, from the relatively affordable 13.3 inch design with 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo through to more expensive 15 and 17 inch MacBook Pros with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The MacBook Air is also available, a revolutionary design that only weighs 1.36 kg and still manges to squeeze in NVIDEA graphics and a 13.3 inch display.

In terms of individual laptops, these three definitely stand out in terms of their green appeal. However, all laptops are quite eco-friendly when compared to their energy hogging desktop relatives. If you are concerned with environment issues when doing your notebook shopping, here are a few simple things to keep in consideration.

Firstly, the energy efficiency of each notebook, especially in relation to the display size and the processor power. Secondly, the materials that are in use throughout the chassis, the screen, and the packaging. And thirdly, the overall reputation of the individual company in question.

greenpeace 300x169 Best Eco Friendly Notebooks of 2010

If you are interested in shopping green, Greenpeace have conducted a detailed report into all of the major technology manufacturers. With regard to laptop products, Sony, Apple, Panasonic, and HP are leading the way, followed by Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Fujitsu, and – lastly – Lenovo.

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X-Ray cellphone offers insight into inner workings

X-Ray Cellphone

If you’re the sort to peer into your gadgets to divine how each little component makes up the whole, you’re going to love a new cellphone that’s just launched in Japan: the X-Ray Phone keeps nothing hidden.

The entire casing of the clamshell handset is made from a translucent material, giving the user a unique insight into the components that make the device work – and a choice of three colors means that you won’t be left with a completely plain device.

The clever transparent casing is formed from colored polycarbonate fused with glass fibre, giving it a strength that belies its see-through nature – and should prevent unfortunate cracks from appearing if you’re a trifle incautious with your portable gadgets.

As well as its unique appearance, the device manages quite well as a cellphone, with a main 3-inch TFT display complemented with a somewhat retro 7×102 dot-matrix sub-display on the outer cover of the clamshell-format device.

There’s an 8 megapixel auto-focus camera with flash, a surprisingly high specification in a ‘designer’ cellphone, which is capable of taking 9-shot or 4-shot continuous shooting as well as up to 90 minutes of VGA-quality video. Both video and still modes feature shake elimination to keep the picture clear in low-light conditions.

Hailing, as it does, from Japan, the X-Ray cellphone features modes of use that we can only dream of seeing this side of the pond, including an integrated TV tuner that not only allows users to watch their favourite broadcasts live when they’re out and about but to record them to SD card too, and to transfer content from other home devices to watch on the go.

The compact device, measuring 49mm x 100mm x 15.7mm and weighing just 123g, also doesn’t do too badly in the battery stakes: with a standby time rated at 270 hours and a talk time of 210 minutes, you’ll need to be charging fairly often but it should still last you through an average day.

The specifications might be impressive enough, but it’s the design that will wow – and that comes courtesy of noted Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, who has previously worked with the great designers Shiro Kuramata and Issey Miyake. Not only did Yoshioka design the body of the cellphone, but he also had a hand in the user interface – which gives it a stylish display very few handsets can match.

Sadly, there’s no news about whether the X-Ray Phone will be available anywhere except Japan, but you can drool over additional photographs over on the official page.

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