Planet Voidspace

September 06, 2009

Techcrunch

Is This The Real Answer To Google’s ‘Unexplained Phenomenon’ Puzzle?

Google’s ‘unexplained phenomenon’ is generating lots of buzz this weekend. The company had done nothing but change its logo to a variant where one of the two O’s in its name was seemingly being abducted by an alien spaceship and tweet out a cryptic message that was translated “All Your O are belong to us,” a play on the good old “All your base are belong to us” meme. But it sure got people talking.

The Telegraph thought it had solved the mystery, but Andrew Healey begged to differ and offered multiple alternative answers and why they were all wrong. Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan got a vague statement from Google about the whole ordeal which mentioned an update would be coming in the following weeks.

This statement and the translated version of the Google Korea blog post about it (thanks GoogleUnexplainedPhenomenon.com) led us and many others to believe this is likely the first of a series of hints that Google will be using to provide clues to a puzzle.

And TechCrunch reader x pete offered a really good lead in the comments of our earlier post that could well have solved the mystery early.

Check out the website for the O Campaign, which is a “non-profit campaign forging alliances between the public, academia, corporations, and institutions in effort to efficiently channel resources for high-paced development of cutting-edge research in cancer prevention”. Looks like something Google would be involved with, right?

Now check out who is co-directing this admirable campaign: Thalas’ Joseph James Jung, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philantropist who currently spends his time collaborating with chief executives and boards of selected companies, universities and organizations. The first company that gets mentioned in his bio? You guessed it: Google.

Is this the explanation for the unexplained phenomenon and will Google be symbolically donating one of the letters of its company name to the campaign? Or just another wild stab in the dark?

The truth is out there, and we’re clearly not the only ones looking for it.

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by Robin Wauters at September 06, 2009 11:16 AM

Techcrunch

Microsoft’s ‘Ten Grand’ Competition Ends, Was Actually Pretty Clever

Remember that online competition Microsoft Australia set up where they’d give away $10,000 to someone who found the cash, that was buried somewhere on the Internet? The aim was to promote Internet Explorer 8, and visitors of the campaign website as it was launched initially told users of other browsers to ‘get lost’ in rather rude way, which led to a Mozilla developer setting up a parodying website in response (and MS being forced to change the wording).

Anyway, the treasure hunt apparently ended quietly a while back, when the campaign’s Twitter account announced that on August 18 someone had successfully retrieved both a website address and the password needed to access it. The winner, Gavin Ballard, was announced 11 days ago and I just stumbled across this blog post on i.techreport who revealed that the website was FastSafePrivateBetter.com and the password was ‘Courval’.

When you go to that website and enter the password, you can download a document with all the answers to the clues that were provided by Microsoft in order to find where the $10,000 was ‘buried’. Or you can just download the doc here or view the answers in the embedded file below.

Reading the document, I have to admit the campaign was more elaborate than I’d have thought and actually quite clever. The clues that were transmitted through the campaign’s Twitter account (which currently only has about 3550 followers left) were apparently quite mind-challenging at times and often required the treasure hunter to use Microsoft’s and many other - some even competing - online products to solve the puzzles.

It took Ballard 67 clues and 65 days to get to the correct answer.

And now I’m wishing I had participated in the online treasure hunt too.

Ten Grand

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 06, 2009 10:31 AM

Techcrunch

As Other Real-Time Search Engines Fizzle, OneRiot Gets Some Early Traction

While there have been many real-time search engine launches over the past few months (Scoopler, Topsy, Collecta, CrowdEye), most of them so far have fizzled (see Google Website Trends chart above). After an initial burst of curiosity, interest tends to dive. One exception, however, is OneRiot, which appears to be gaining some early traction in the real-time search race.

This race has just begun, of course, and other real-time search startups are chasing hard. But OneRiot is already serving up results for more than one million search queries a day (see chart below). This would be a rounding error for any major search engine, but at least it is going in the right direction. Its investors think so. They ponied up another $7 million in a new round at the end of last month

OneRiot started to be noticed when it added link search from Twitter last May. But its search volume didn’t really take off until it launched its API, allowing other sites to tap into its real-time search and add it as a feature to their own Web app or site. OneRiot has 40 API partners, including Microsoft (sometimes bundled with IE)., browser add-ons Yoono and Shareaholic, and desktop apps like Nambu and EventBox.

All of these API partnerships add up. In fact, about 80 percent of OneRiot’s searches are coming through its APIs rather than directly on its site. OneRiot is building up market share by offering real-time search to others. (Rival Collecta is preparing to do the same thing by offering its own APIs soon). Search is a volume game, where the more search queries you can process, the better your results become. So OneRiot wants to power as many real-time searches as possible.

To the extent that OneRiot can familiarize people with the concept of real-time search in as many places as possible, that’s a good thing. But ultimately it needs to drive people back to OneRiot.com where it can control the entire experience (and the cash).

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 06, 2009 06:49 AM

September 05, 2009

Techcrunch

WITN?: Brazil nuts, American idiots and whoever else I have to upset around here to keep my job

flag5Glancing at TechCrunch late on Thursday evening, I immediately realised there was trouble afoot.

A few hours earlier, Sarah Lacy had published a post about the difficulties she’d had receiving her visa to Brazil to research her book and report on start-ups for TechCrunch. I’d read the post and sympathized with Sarah’s frustration. The problem, apparently, had been caused by an ‘upgrade’ of Brazilian embassy computer systems and the resulting havoc had affected everyone from journalists to business people to the coach of a national football - sorry, ’soccer’ - team.

As Sarah wrote, it also meant that she would now not be able to meet any of the scores of startups who had hoped to speak to a visiting TechCrunch reporter. If I were one of those startups, I’d be pissed. I’d be pissed at my government for not getting their technology together, and I’d be pissed generally that I’d missed an opportunity to showcase my business on a foreign stage. I might even post a comment saying as much.

Glancing at TechCrunch on Thursday evening, then, I half-expected to see maybe a couple of dozen comments on the post. But no. There were hundreds. Almost 500 in fact, and just about every one of them was attacking Sarah specifically, and American visa policy, generally.

How dare you insult Brazil!” they cried, “You stupid Americans demand that Brazilians have visas to visit your country; why shouldn’t we do the same?” Some of them used words like “reciprocity” and “pay back”. One even called Sarah a ‘gringa’, which was cute and in no way played to a stereotype. Many – who clearly knew all about the months of planning Sarah had done for her trip - angrily suggested that she should have started applying from the visa earlier. A vocal minority was additionally livid that the post was illustrated by a mashup - culled from Google images - of the Brazilian flag and the ‘EPIC FAIL’ meme. Some demanded criminal penalties for the outrage. It was whatever the Portuguese is for a train wreck.

Puzzled, I read the post again. Clearly I’d missed something on my first reading. Obviously Sarah – who, let’s remember, has been TC’s most vocal advocate for relaxing US visa laws for foreign entrepreneurs - had called for Brazil to be bombed back to the stone age, or suggested its womenfolk were unclean. But no, she really had just complained that a computer upgrade had inconvenienced her and thousands of other travelers who already had been approved for visas but who hadn’t been delivered them on the day they were promised.

As a foreigner on these shores, the subject is one close to my heart, which is why I’d read - and sympathised with - the post in the first place. Not long ago, I went through the visa process to relocate to the US from the UK. I had a far smoother experience than many of my European friends who are still flailing around in H1B or O1 hell, but I still had to struggle through a dull process of bureaucracy, money, police checks, paperwork, money, waiting, interviews, money and bullshit. And money.

In fact, the only truly smooth aspect came right at the end, once I’d been approved for the visa and was told my passport would be returned three days later. With that, I booked my flight and, sure enough, at exactly 9am on the third day, a courier arrived on my doorstep clutching my newly visa-d passport. Had there been an unexpected delay after being told I could make travel plans, I’d have been furious: there’s no excuse for missing deadlines when you’ve promised they’ll be met. Reciprocity and forward planning have nothing to do with it; it’s just bureaucratic sloppiness. On that front, the Brazilian embassy had failed. Epically.

And what about this flag business? I mean, seriously. If I understand you correctly, Brazilians, Photoshopping your national symbol with a joke meme is an unforgivable affront to your nationhood, and yet painting it across your girlfriend’s breasts at a soccer game or screen-printing it on a tiny g-string is a wonderful celebration of national identity? Maybe we Brits are just under-sensitive, but frankly you could Photoshop a defaced picture of the queen onto our flag and you wouldn’t hear a peep of complaint. Except perhaps that you stole our idea.

So if it wasn’t the visa issue, or the flag, really the only justification I could find for the Brazilian commenters’ rage was Sarah’s remark that her husband was worried about her traveling to the country due its reputation for violence.

This is of course typical American paranoia of all points foreign. “The natives are savages! We won’t be able to walk the streets in safety!” they whine, in a hideously unfair characterisation of a gentle, welcoming people. No wonder some Brazilians were upset with Sarah, to the point where they posted comments threatening to spit in her face and rape her.

And that’s where I realized that something was terribly awry. Sarah writes a story about bureaucratic ineptitude and broken promises, illustrated by a mildly clichéd Photoshop, and her safety is threatened by a mob of lunatic Brazilians. Arrington disses a few start-ups over the years and a mental German spits in his face at DLD. Erick writes a controversial headline about a multinational music service and the threats get so serious that TechCrunch has to call in the cops to protect its staff.

And that’s just the foreigners. The Americans are just as bad: last week Vivek Wadhwa received hundreds upon hundreds of furiously xenophobic responses to his guest post - many suggesting that the Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Executive in Residence at Duke University was unwelcome on American soil. His crime? Suggesting that it should be easier for skilled foreign workers to get H1B visas. A suggestion, by the way, which was later linked to and supported by Newt Fucking Gingrich.

I don’t get it. Where am I going so wrong?

I was hired by TechCrunch specifically to be the controversial one. Unlike the rest of the writers here, who have actual reporting credentials, my whole shtick is saying inflammatory things and inciting furious debate among morons. To that end, in my very first column I declared war on anonymous commenters, making it absolutely clear how much I hate every last one of them, and even threatening to bludgeon the little basement-dwellers to death with their own Wil Wheaton action figures.

But nothing.

Since then I’ve tried to up my game. I’ve promoted scientifically dubious fad cleanses, I’ve called out lying company spokespeople and threatened to name and shame them, I’ve applauded Google for its anti-trust activities and suggested that Microsoft would commit genocide if it was commercially expedient. I’ve written an entire column attacking Drudge-reading Republican ditto heads who object to Obama’s attempts to control the Internet. Hell, I’ve even admitted to once being a magician.

But still nothing.

How is it possible I’ve attacked Republicans and not received my own death threats? What’s the point in them deliberately misinterpreting the spirit of the Second Amendment if they’re not going to use the handguns strapped to their thighs to intimidate a foreigner? Where are my globules of Teutonic sputum or my sickening threats of violence? What does a man have to do around here to get threatened with rape by a Brazilian?

Frankly, I’m starting to get worried for my job. Every week Arrington gets off on threatening to fire me - but so far I’ve clung on to the gig, mainly because I keep convincing him that I’ll be a source of controversy and excitement. And yet week in, week out I’m getting my ass handed to me by just about everyone else on TechCrunch. And they’re not even trying.

Clearly I have to up my game. Over the coming weeks the gloves are going to have to come off. I’m going to have to go all-out with deliberately provocative headlines and racist ledes in the hope of prompting a mob of moronically illiterate textually-violent misogynist dickweeds to abuse me. Only then will my controversy crown be restored and my survival here assured.

From next week then, you can look forward to column titles like…

“Did the state of Israel just pass data to the RIAA?”

“CBS’s acquisition of Last.fm: smartest American deal with a German since Werner von Braun?”

“US education hasn’t produced a decent one since Oklahoma: so why is it so hard for foreign bombers to get H1B visas?”

“The Fanboys from Brazil: why Latin American Mac users are even more insufferably smug than those in the rest of the world”

“The French are Lazy, Americans are fat, Brits have bad teeth, Palestinians are all terrorists and the Swiss got rich on Nazi gold - and it’s all the fault of AT&T”

“Fuck you, Belgium”

…and probably something about South Africans being boorish and ignorant. They’re always good for a fight.

And then, after I write those, I’m imploring the comment idiots amongst you to do your worst. Once you’ve finished skimming my words, misinterpreting my every premise and forming your knee-jerk, nationalistic response - please, please be sure to hack it out in the comments. Don’t worry about accuracy, grammar or even basic literacy: it’s a numbers game and you freaks are my last hope at keeping this gig.

After all, where will I be without my job as Controversialist in Residence at TechCrunch? Destitute, that’s where. A poor, jobless, bitter loser with a strange accent, forced to beg for money from my neighbors to survive.

Oh, God, I’ll be Welsh.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Paul Carr at September 05, 2009 11:48 PM

Techcrunch

Maps Wars: How Google, Microsoft And Yahoo Deal With Bridge Closure

bay bridge

Residents of San Francisco are a bit put off by the temporary closure of the Bay Bridge this holiday weekend. For the next 2+ days, the short bridge commute between the city and the East bay is closed, forcing people to take 30 mile detours through Marin County to get to Oakland, Berkeley and beyond.

This is a perfect opportunity to test the map products on the major Internet portals. Who noted the temporary closure and helped users figure out the next best route?

The short answer - Google wins. Yahoo a close second, and Microsoft Bing fails in this particular test.

Google Maps notes the closure, telling users “The Bay Bridge is closed from September 4 to September 8. Try dragging your route to a different path.”

Yahoo also seems to know about the closure, but doesn’t mention it to users. Instead, it routes you 35 miles through Marin county and over two other bridges to get to your destination. This is useful, but without pointing out that the Bay Bridge is closed, most people will likely think it’s a glitch and simply try the easier route (and be disappointed).

Microsoft Bing fails this test completely. Oblivious to the current road conditions, it blithely tells users to use the Bay Bridge to zip on over to Oakland.

Thanks to Noah Veltman for the tip, and the stunning image of the Bay Bridge above was taken by Thomas Hawk.

bbg

bby

bbb

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 05, 2009 07:14 PM

The Scobleizer

I don’t feel safe with Wordpress, hackers broke in and took things

A few weeks ago some hackers broke into my blog here (this was before 2.8.4 was released). At first I thought they just left some porn sites in a couple of blog entries. So we upgraded Wordpress (I was on 2.7x back then). Deleted a fake admin account. Deleted the porn sites. And thought we had solved the problem. We didn’t.

They broke back in, but this time they did a lot more damage. They deleted about two months of my blog. Yes, I didn’t have a backup. I should learn to do backups (we’re doing them now). Life has a way of beating you if you don’t have backups.

Anyway, this time they also put some malicious code on my archive pages. Google sent me an email saying they had removed my blog from its index. That got a whole team to look into how they broke in. Now thanks to TechCrunch and Mashable you know there was a vulnerability in Wordpress which let them break in. Even more good details on Lorelle’s blog.

We’ve done some other things now to make it harder for them to break in (for instance, my admin account has been deleted and a new one doesn’t use the name “admin”), but the damage is done and I feel the same way when our childhood home was broken into. I don’t feel safe here, which might explain why I’ve been posting more over on a new Posterous blog I’ve setup.

Hopefully we’ve caught all the damage and hopefully other Wordpress users haven’t had worse damage happen to them. Have you been hit by Wordpress vulnerabilities? If so, what did you do to lock down the system?

Oh, and please upgrade your Wordpress immediately to the latest version. That seems to have fixed the hole that the jerks got in through on my blog. Knock on wood.

So, once this happens, how do you feel safe again?

UPDATE: Matt Mullenweg, who is the guy who runs Automattic, the company that produces Wordpress, wrote that I never had the problem on Wordpress.com (hosted version of Wordpress). That’s true. Interesting conversation going on over there with Matt.

by Robert Scoble at September 05, 2009 05:38 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

PyCon 2010 - Call for Tutorials

The Tutorial Committee for PyCon 2010 in Atlanta is now accepting proposals
for classes. This year will feature 2 days of classes prior to the
"official" conference. These classes are 3-hour long sessions concentrating
on specific Python packages or techniques and are taught by some of the
smartest cookies in the Python Universe. Anything Python may be submitted

by Greg Lindstrom (gslindst...@gmail.com) at September 05, 2009 12:29 PM

Techcrunch

Security Threat: WordPress Under Attack

We’re hearing of numerous reports that older versions of WordPress are exposed to security threats. WordPress is one of the largest blogging engines with over 5,317,360 - and counting - downloads for their latest version, 2.8. Many large blogs, including TechCrunch, rely on WordPress to get the news out and post content online.

Writes Lorelle on her WordPress-centric blog:

There are two clues that your WordPress site has been attacked:

First, there are strange additions to permalinks, such as example.com/category/post-title/%&(%7B$%7Beval(base64_decode($_SERVER%5BHTTP_REFERER%5D))%7D%7D|.+)&%/. The keywords are “eval” and “base64_decode.”

The second clue is that a “back door” was created by a “hidden” Administrator. Check your site users for “Administrator (2)” or a name you do not recognize.

To prevent this attack, if you have not done so already, update your WordPress install immediately to the latest version. Change all your passwords to a strong password (cough), including WordPress blog access for all users, database, FTP, control panels, etc. These are all highly recommended procedures.

Automattic, WordPress’ parent company, hasn’t commented on this issue, but we’ll keep everyone updated. In the meantime, we urge you to update your WordPress blog immediately.

Update: We’ve reached out to Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, and he mentioned the following. Automattic is not the parent company of WordPress. Automattic contributes to WordPress.org like many other companies do. Mullenweg published a blog post mentioning what steps people should take to ensure their WordPress blog is safe.

(Image via Developer Tutorials)

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Daniel Brusilovsky at September 05, 2009 11:01 AM

Techcrunch

Google, Twitter, Aliens, And Internet Memes: The Truth Is Out There.

district-9-trailerWhen Google officially joined Twitter back in February, its first message was sent in code. Earlier tonight, Google reverted to using a coded message on Twitter, with a cryptic tweet stating the following, “1.12.12 25.15.21.18 15 1.18.5 2.5.12.15.14.7 20.15 21.19″.

So what does it mean? It’s fairly straight-forward, actually, assuming you know your Internet memes. The code itself is a simple pattern, A=1, B=2, C=3 and so forth. Plugging it in, this translates to: “All your o are belong to us”.

That is in reference to the meme from the early 2000s, “All your base are belong to us,” a humorous saying that was popularized from a poor translation of a Japanese video game (video below). So where does the “o” come in? Attached to Google’s tweet is a TwitPic of its logo doodle today, which is an alien spaceship beaming up the second “o” in “Google.”

It’s not really clear why that is Google’s logo today; the logo just links to the Google result for “unexplained phenomenon,” which returns results mainly talking about Google’s odd logo today, and general alien conspiracies. Maybe someone at Google is just bored and wanted to play a game, or maybe they just saw District 9. The truth is out there.

screen-shot-2009-09-05-at-23155-am

screen-shot-2009-09-05-at-23049-am

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 05, 2009 09:45 AM

Steve Holden

Simon Brunning

Techcrunch

Facebook Pushes Widgets To Share Your Stream, Photos, And More

For a social site that is into sharing, it sure has taken Facebook a long enough time to embrace widgets. Sure, they launched a Fan Box widget back in July for companies and celebs with a Facebook Page, and a few other widgets before that. But how many peopel actually used them? Now, Facebook has a new widget center that brings them all together.

There are five widgets in all: a profile badge, a photo badge to share your Facebook photos elsewhere on the web, a Stream Box to share your stream, the aforementioned Fan Box, and a related Facebook Page badge. Like other widgets, you can embed these on your blog or elsewhere.

The live stream widget, of course, is my favorite. You can see what it looks like at right. There is an everyone tab and a Friends tab. The Friends tab is hwat I actually see in my stream when I log into Facebook. Now I can embed that stream anywhere and expose my view of my friends’ ramblings to a wider audience. In addition to reading the stream, you can comment and add likes to items from within the widget.

At least that is what it lets you do in the preview. I had trouble embedding the widgets in this post, which is why I resorted to screenshots except for the TechCrunch Page badge below (but that could just be an issue with the way we have WordPress set up on our site):

TechCrunch

Promote Your Page Too

And this is what the TechCrunch Fan Box looks like:

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 05, 2009 02:08 AM

September 04, 2009

Techcrunch

23andMe Founder Linda Avey Leaves To Start Alzheimer’s Research Foundation

Linda Avey, one of the two founders of personal genomics company 23andMe, is leaving the startup to start a new foundation dedicated to studying Alzheimer’s disease. Avey, who has been with the company for over three years, writes that the new foundation will make use of 23andMe’s research platform to “drive the formation of the world’s largest community of individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s, empower them with their genetic information and track their brain health using state-of-the-art tools”.

Avey notes that the foundation will be starting with the connection between Alzheimer’s and ApoE4, which helps in the breakdown of peptide plaques associated with the disease. The decision seems to be driven in part by personal reasons, as Avey’s father-in-law suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Avey sent the following Email to the 23andMe team:

Dear all-

As I trust you all know, 23andMe is very special to me. I also recognize that the company has reached a critical point in its growth where new leadership can take it to the successful heights we all think it can achieve.

I’ve decided that I’d like to focus my efforts on an area that is personally significant and will continue to have a huge impact on our healthcare system–Alzheimer’s disease. Effective today, I’m leaving 23andMe and have begun making plans for the creation of a foundation dedicated to the study of this disorder. The foundation will leverage the research platform we’ve built at 23andMe–the goal is to drive the formation of the world’s largest community of individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s, empower them with their genetic information and track their brain health using state-of-the-art tools. We’ve always planned to include Alzheimer’s in our 23andWe research mission…I’m just approaching it from a new angle.

Some of you might be aware that my father-in-law suffered from Alzheimer’s and passed away last year. For this reason, Randy and I are motivated to do what we can to improve the understanding of what leads to the debilitating symptoms and what might prevent them from starting in the first place. The ApoE4 association is barely understood but gives us a great starting point.

I’ll miss working with you but will be excited to hear about the progress I know you’ll be making!

All the best,
Linda

Anne Wojcicki, who founded the company with Avey and is also noted for being Sergey Brin’s wife, sent out the following letter.

Team:

As Linda has told you, she will be leaving 23andMe to focus her energy on transforming Alzheimer’s research and treatment, leveraging the 23andMe platform. While I am quite sad to see her leave I am excited and hopeful as she takes on this mission. As Linda’s co-founder and partner over the last three years, it has been clear that revolutionizing research has been a primary passion. Our drive to change health care has always had roots in our personal lives and we have tried to structure 23andMe so that any individual or organization could actively participate in research. Linda and I have talked about doing research in Alzheimer’s since the inception of the company and the need for the Alzheimer’s community to have a strong leader. With Linda’s involvement, I believe that the APOE4 community could be the first asymptomatic community to successfully develop preventative treatments. I hope that going forward we’ll both be able to shake up and transform the health care space, making health care and treatments better for all.

Linda’s departure is also a sign of 23andMe’s maturation. When we started the company, the personal genetics industry did not exist; now it is a thriving and competitive landscape. Our company has grown and we continue to be an innovative industry leader. While our success has been exceptional, it is also clear we have a lot of work ahead. We have created a significant and empowering tool, but we must find new and better ways to promote the value of knowing your DNA. In the weeks ahead, we will outline a strategy for the company that we believe will make genetics a routine part of health care and will lead us to making significant research discoveries.

Linda has been instrumental in making 23andMe what it is today and we thank her for her passion and dedication to the company. We have many exciting opportunities before us, and I look forward to working with all of you to make 23andMe a spectacular success.

Anne

Worth pointing out is Wojcicki’s statement that 23andMe needs to find “better ways to promote the value of knowing your DNA”. That may be tricky — while there are some traits that are well understood, this is a field that is still in its infancy and the relationships between our genes and most traits are murky. At some point personal genomics will play a key role in our health care system, but I’m not sure we’re there yet.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 04, 2009 09:42 PM

Techcrunch

Confirmed: Foursquare Gets $1.35 Million To Play With From Union Square And O’Reilly AlphaTech

1As we alluded to two days ago, the location-based social network Foursquare has just raised its first round of funding. PaidContent found out about the seed round through an SEC document, and we’ve confirmed the round with the company.

As expected, Union Square Ventures is one of the investors, but also participating in the round is O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and some angel investors, that co-founder Dennis Crowley was not ready to reveal at this point. The round is in fact $1.35 million.

For weeks, there has been plenty of talk about how Union Square’s Fred Wilson has taken a liking to the New York-based company. But it’s not Wilson who will be joining Foursquare’s board, instead that will be Union Square’s Albert Wenger.

Foursquare has been a hot startup among some tech early adopters, especially in cities like San Francisco and New York. The service is primarily used through its iPhone application right now, but it just launched an Android version, as we first reported two days ago. A BlackBerry app will be available in the coming weeks as well, and a Windows Mobile app could be available as soon as next month. There is also a mobile web interface that users can use.

Recently, Foursquare has started doing some things with its app to show the potential of using location for a business model. The company has started alerting users when there is a deal at a venue nearby. Right now, these deals are centered around “mayors” of places, meaning if a person has checked-in the most times at a location. Some venues are starting to offer deals like free beer to mayors, as it obviously benefits them to get people wantin to come back more to check-in.

Foursquare is an interesting player in the location space in that it’s just as much of a game as anything else. Users compete for mayorships, and try to earn badges and get points for checking in more places. The idea of the “check-in” rather than a constantly updated background location, also differentiates it, and makes some people less uneasy about the location tracking aspect, since you have to explicitly check-in at a location.

Foursquare was started by Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, after Crowley rather famously left Google not exactly pleased with the company after they bought his previous (similar) startup Dodgeball, and decided to do nothing with it. This past January, Google officially deadpooled it. Crowley maintains that he has a good relationship with Google now despite what happened.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 04, 2009 08:58 PM

The Google Blog

Hood to Coast 2009

This past Monday, when my co-workers asked me what I did over the weekend, I casually mentioned that I ran a 197 mile race. Thankfully, Hood to Coast is a relay, so I finished with my legs intact after journeying from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon with 11 other Googlers.

Team Google One was comprised of Googlers from the AdSense, AdWords and engineering groups. We competed against more than 1,000 other teams, including blazing fast running shoe companies and other tech companies.

We kicked off the first leg near the top of Mount Hood at 6:45 pm last Friday, as our first runner barreled down 4,000 feet of elevation. During the relay, each team member ran three legs, varying in distance from three to eight miles. At exchanges, the current runner handed off a snap bracelet baton and cheered on his swiftly departing teammate. When not running, we wolfed down PB&J's, and slept in the vans or in massive congregations of sleeping bags along the road.

We started with the sun setting over dramatic gray-blue mountains and ran through the night as reflective vests became fireflies flickering down country roads. We finished at 2:25 pm Saturday afternoon in 19 hours and 40 minutes on the beach where a funk band was laying down some grooves. The time earned us eighth place overall and second place in the corporate division, according to the still unofficial results (PDF).

In addition to medals, we walked away with sore legs, cross-office friendships and some great stories.

Team Google One pauses for a moment as we prepare to descend Mount Hood

by A Googler (noreply@blogger.com) at September 04, 2009 08:48 PM

Brett Canon

Intersection of built-in modules between CPython, Jython and IronPython

[EDIT: updated for IronPython 2.6b2; made it clearer which VMs are missing what modules that importlib relies upon]

It has been a big goal of mine to make importlib the default implementation of import for CPython. But an even bigger goal has been to make it the default implementation for ALL full featured implementations of Python once they implement Python 3. Not only would it make sure that all VMs have consistent semantics when it came to imports, but to also prevent every VM from having to re-implement import themselves.

But using importlib as import imposes a bootstrapping problem. How do you import, well, import? First off, you need to find the source code, compile it into a code object, and create a module object using that code object. That part is actually easy as you can simply look for the file on sys.path since you know what you are looking for, you can compile the source using the built-in compile() function, and then you finally create a module and initialize it with exec(). This is essentially what importlib does at a rudimentary level.

But import obviously goes beyond the rudimentary. There is bytecode to read and write, packages to deal with, warnings to raise, etc. And all of that requires code from some module in the standard library. But if you are trying to bootstrap in import w/o having a full-featured import, what do you do? You rely on built-in modules is what you do.

By using built-in modules you could have the VM inject any built-in module into the created importlib module and have it begin using it. Because of this I was curious as to what built-in modules CPython 3.1, Jython 2.5, and IronPython 2.6b2 had in common. The results are:
  • _codecs
  • _functools
  • _sre
  • _weakref
  • errno
  • gc
  • imp
  • sys
Not a whole lot. Importlib itself relies upon:
errno
Everyone has this.

io
IronPython's _bytesio probably has what I need (importlib only uses io.FileIO). Jython does not cover yet 2.6 so there is hope.

imp
Everyone has this.

marshal
This is actually optional (or at least I will make sure it is) as VMs do not need to implement pyc support.

posix/nt/os2
IronPython has this. Jython plans to have this in 2.6.

sys
Everyone has this.

warnings
Jython does not have a native implementation, but importlib only needs warnings.warn().

There is a partial overlap, but not a complete overlap. Luckily this is for Python 3 and thus there is hope that some of the things I need can be made common between the VMs in terms of what the built-in modules provide. It's possible that IronPython has everything already and Jython could add only what importlib needs (probably) w/o much issue.

Otherwise I am causing myself more pain than I need to and I should just not worry about the bootstrap and simply import code directly. Copying code from the 'os' module does get a little annoying after a while. =)

by Brett (noreply@blogger.com) at September 04, 2009 08:40 PM

Techcrunch

AT&T Has A Human Working For It. And His Name Is Seth.

screen-shot-2009-09-04-at-13536-pmIt’s pretty easy these days to think of AT&T as a giant corporation of demons sent to Earth to destroy iPhone users’ productivity. But apparently, it is a company just like any other, with humans working for it. How do we know? There is video evidence.

Apple 2.0’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt posted a video of Seth Bloom today, an AT&T rep that is also know as “Seth the blogger guy.” In this video, Bloom explains AT&T’s iPhone MMS service, which was finally announced the other day (set for September 25), as well as some of the issues that plague AT&T’s network due to his smartphone usage (read: iPhone usage).

We’ve actually been working with Bloom for a number of months as AT&T issues have continued to mount. He’s quite helpful in answering the questions that he’s allowed to answer, which we appreciate. The problem Bloom has is that he can only answer questions, he can’t actually solve AT&T’s problems. And while the network is trying, it’s still not where it needs to be in many regards.

But that’s why these videos are good, they humanize AT&T. Rather than having us cite an AT&T spokesperson talking about the issues they’re facing, it’s good to put a face to the problems. Again, this doesn’t solve them, but hearing them explained from AT&T is a smart play. Certainly smarter than saying nothing.

Of course, as Elmer-DeWitt notes, Bloom has actually been doing these videos for a while, but when AT&T starting running into some reason problems over the summer, he went silent. Now he’s back that AT&T has some good news to offer (MMS). If anything, we could use these videos more when AT&T is having issues.

Speaking of those issues, PC World has a rather ridiculous headline today, “Network Woes? Hate the iPhone, Not AT&T.” The main idea is that it’s the iPhone fault for AT&T’s service issues because it’s so popular and is overloading their network. That’s undoubtedly true, but it completely skirts around the fact that we’re all paying a large amount of money for a service that is completely unreliable.

It would be much easier to cut AT&T a break in that regard if they were to say, offer up discounts to paying customers for poor service performance. It’s simply hard to feel bad for a company you’re paying in excess of $100 a month to, for a service they’re failing to provide.

It’s certainly a fair point that the massive success of the iPhone likely would have overloaded any company, including Verizon. But if anything, that speaks to why we need to get rid of the exclusivity agreements.

Watch Bloom below:

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by MG Siegler at September 04, 2009 08:39 PM

Techcrunch

The Hurt Keeps Coming: Dish And EchoStar Ordered To Pay TiVo Another $200 Million

The battle between Dish and TiVo rages on. As reported by Bloomberg, a judge has ruled that Dish and EchoStar must pay TiVo around $200 million for continuing to provide DVR service to its customers after being told to stop because it was violating TiVo’s patents. Dish and EchoStar plan to appeal the ruling.

The new ruling brings Dish and EchoStar’s total payments to TiVo to around $400 million in damages and other fees after a five year legal battle. In this latest round, Dish and EchoStar say they tried to work around TiVo’s patents, but a judge ruled that they had failed to do so. The $200 million figure is based on a $2.25 per month royalty for every Dish DVR user, extending from April 2008, when an appeals court reaffirmed TiVo’s patent, to July 1 2009.

It could have been worse. TiVo was looking for nearly $1 billion — or all of Dish’s DVR profits — as it accused Dish and EchoStar of willingly infringing on its patent. The judge ruled that the infringement had been unwilling (in other words, the companies had tried to work around the patent but failed to do so), hence the smaller penalty.

None of this bodes well for AT&T and Verizon, who are also being sued by Tivo for infringing on its “Time Warping” patent.

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by Jason Kincaid at September 04, 2009 08:18 PM

Techcrunch

HealthHiway Raises $4 Million For Web-Based Hospital Software

Indian software company HealthHiway has raised $4 million in an unattributed round of funding from Greylock Partners. Based in Bangalore, India, HealthHiway provides web-based software to help hospitals, clinics, insurance providers, pharmacies and diagnostic centers collaborate on billing, patient records, x-rays and claims.

Launched in 2007, HealthHiway was started by the Apollo Hospital Group, one of the largest healthcare groups in India, and offers clients a number of software products.
ClinicConnect
organizes patient registration and medical records, ClaimsExchange is an online claims processing system, and ImageConnect captures and processes radio images such as X-rays, CTs and MRIs that can then be shared.

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by Leena Rao at September 04, 2009 08:05 PM

Techcrunch

CrunchBoard: Threadless, SlideShare, and More!

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, check out our CrunchBoard. We’ve added nearly 50 new jobs from leading internet businesses in the last two weeks. Here’s a quick sample:

For job hunters in Europe, check out our Europe CrunchBoard.

Click here to see all the jobs on CrunchBoard.

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by Daniel Brusilovsky at September 04, 2009 07:00 PM

Techcrunch

MG Explains Why ISPs Want To Lower The Definition Of Broadband

What’s the deal with Comcast, Verizon, and other ISPs petitioning the FCC to lower the definition of broadband? It’s all about money—broadband stimulus money—MG Siegler explains on G4’s Attack of the Show.

As the Obama administration looks to expand broadband access to rural and urban areas that are still under-served, the ISPs want to lower what constitutes broadband so that they can get some of the billions of dollars in stimulus money without shelling out as much to actually deliver the broadband access the stimulus package is designed to create.

Those phone and cable companies are tricky. Watch the video above.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 04, 2009 06:57 PM

Techcrunch

New TechCrunch50 Logo, And Our Apologies To Apple

We’re happy to show off our new TechCrunch50 logo this morning. The old logo, which is below, was getting a little stale.

The logo was created by DESIGN about TOWN, who worked with us over the last few weeks on a number of concepts.

The goal of the logo is to convey a sense of community and discussion. Thus, the text chat bubble. Real time feedback from the audience and judges to launching startups is a crucial part of the culture of TechCrunch50.

Our apologies to Apple, who may think they now own the idea of a text bubble. If you want to discuss, you know where to find us. And we promise we were locked into this design before the news about the supposed trademark.

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by Michael Arrington at September 04, 2009 06:37 PM

Techcrunch

Watch Out Baidu, China Clamps Down On Music Piracy

Yesterday, China’s Ministry of Culture (MoC), warned that it would strengthen checks and policing of online music content. The MoC said that search engines, which have been a source of pirated music in China, can only provide search information for tracks from legitimate music companies. This move may pose as a serious problem for China’s most popular search engine Baidu, which has long faced legal issues surrounding its index of pirated music.

According to the report, the MoC is requiring that companies providing online music streams or downloads gain approval as “Internet culture companies,” and only companies that have directly obtained broadcasting or licensing rights can apply for approval. Imported music that is already broadcast online in China but has not been approved must be submitted to the MoC before December 31, 2009.

The impact this will have on Baidu is noted by Pali Research’s analyst Tian Hou, who estimates that as much as 80 percent of Baidu’s traffic is from music search. Hou says that with respect to music search results, most of the links provided are posted by illegitimate music companies. If these links are cut off, says Hou, traffic to Baidu could decrease.

According to comScore, Baidu had 145 million unique visitors in July of 2009 worldwide (with more than 95 percent of those coming from Asia), while its MP3 search engine attracted 47 million uniques, which is only 32 percent but still significant. For July, Baidu was ranking fifth amongst most visited search engines worldwide, behind Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com.

The success of Baidu has been credited to its index of music which is available from its front page, something Google caught onto last year when it entered a joint venture with Top100.cn to offer free and legal music in China. Baidu’s potential troubles could be good news for Google China, which took the beta label off of its music search engine this March and signed major deals to license music from four major music labels (Warner, Universal, EMI and Sony). Google China, however, just lost its top executive, Kaifu Lee.

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by Leena Rao at September 04, 2009 06:14 PM

Neil Gaiman

Back. Not dead. Hurrah.

posted by Neil
I'm back from the Middle of Nowhere. I had a wonderful time with no internet, email or twitter. It was fine and fabulous. I caught up on my sleep. Amanda even persuaded me to go jogging with her in the Scottish rain.

Now in London.

On Sunday, I'll start shooting a short movie (you can learn all about it here). We'll be at Charter Place in Watford High Street (WD17 2BJ for the curious) and will be shooting on Sunday the 6th from around 11 until 6.00pm. There will be human statues, and people are welcome to come by and watch, throw money into bowls and see what the statues do, wave at a silent and statuesque Amanda Palmer and so forth. I'm happy for people to wander past and see what we're doing: I'll be working, so probably won't be stopping to sign books or say hullo, I'm afraid.

And, for the curious, this is what some of the downstairs library, and Hermione the Library Cat looks like. (I wish the upstairs library with all the good reference stuff was in it too.): http://blog.shelfari.com/my_weblog/2009/09/neil.html

by Neil (noreply@blogger.com) at September 04, 2009 05:54 PM

Techcrunch

People Of Walmart, Some Of You Should Look In The Mirror Before You Walk Out The Door

In most cities across America, Walmart has replaced Main Street as the place people go to do their shopping and mingle with each other. But what is it about Walmart that brings out the—how do I say this delicately?—fashion-challenged freaks. I am talking about people who cover themselves in cheetah-print garb or worse, Easter eggs and bunnies. They are a tiny sliver of the people who go Walmart, but they are fascinating in a human train wreck kind of way. You want to avert your eyes, but you can’t stop looking.

A satirical site called People of Walmart now lets you stare to your heart’s content without actually stepping inside a Walmart store. People can submit photos of the strangest people they encounter in Walmart. As the site’s About section explains:

Let’s face it; we all have seen the people who obviously don’t have mirrors and/or family and friends to lock them in a basement, and they all seem to congregate at Walmart.

Below are a few choice pictures from the site. Sometimes the cars are even better (yes, that is a spoiler on that clunker). People of Walmart, don’t ever change. Except for the woman wearing the swastika sweatshirt. She should definitely change.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 04, 2009 05:06 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

[ANN] Athens Python User Group - Meeting September 9, 2009, 19:00.

== Announcing the 1st meeting of the Athens Python User Group ==
If you live near Athens, Greece and are interested in meeting fellow
Python programmers, meet us for a friendly chat at the Eleftheroudakis
Bookstore café, on Wednesday 9 September, 7:00pm.
If you plan to attend, please add a comment here: [link]

by Orestis Markou (ores...@orestis.gr) at September 04, 2009 04:40 PM

The Google Blog

Helping create responsible digital citizens

With more and more kids going online, whether to connect over social networking sites, mingle in chat rooms or play games, it's become increasingly important for families, schools and service providers to work together to ensure that the younger generation understands their responsibilities while they explore the virtual world.

A few weeks ago, Google participated in the 21st Annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas, where over 3,500 members of law enforcement, child advocacy groups, the tech industry and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) convened to share ideas, discuss strategies and explore new technologies designed to combat the many and varied forms of crimes against children. We had the opportunity to describe some of the positive steps Google is taking to educate and safeguard minors who use our products and services, as well as the unique ways we support the individuals on our staff who do child exploitation-related work.

According to a recent NCMEC study in patterns and trends in online child victimization, the past few years have seen a 6% increase in reports of kids providing images and videos of themselves when asked by online acquaintances; sending naked photos of themselves through text messages ("sexting"); and cyber-bullying. This new trend underscores the need to educate our younger users, their families and teachers on ways to create and enjoy safe online experiences.

We're doing our part by working with child safety organizations and law enforcement around the globe to spread positive messages about life online. For example, in mid-September, we're launching a global training program on YouTube to help teens teach other teens about these issues. This is just one step among many that we're taking to help create a generation of responsible digital citizens.

by A Googler (noreply@blogger.com) at September 04, 2009 04:00 PM

Techcrunch

Background Location Finds A Loop(t)hole On The iPhone

picture-8A location-based social network is not going to truly take off on the iPhone until it can run in the background. You know it, I know it, and even Loopt, which makes such an app, knows it. That’s why they’ve done something about it.

Beginning today, Loopt is rolling out a trial for background location on the iPhone. Yes, you read that right.

If you’ve been following the iPhone at all over the past couple of years, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself how this is possible, since the device does not allow third party apps to run in the background. Has Apple changed its mind about background apps? Not yet. Instead, Loopt is partnering with other companies in the mobile industry for what it’s calling “Always-On Location Service.”

Loopt co-founders Sam Altman and Alok Deshpande would not disclose the names of any of these partners, noting that the system set up to make this happen is very “complex” and involves a number of players. But at least one of them has to be AT&T, which is, of course, the network the iPhone runs on. Loopt, which seems to be particularly good at carrier relationships, has cut deals with AT&T in the past.

What this means is that these guys have gotten around the iPhone’s limitation by keeping a pipeline open on AT&T’s side that is constantly sending your location data to Loopt. This doesn’t require any app to be running on your iPhone — not even Loopt — and the location data will be sent even when you’re on a call or surfing the web on your iPhone. Most importantly, because there is no app required to do this, it doesn’t drain your battery life, Altman tells us.

So what does Apple think about all of this? Altman refused to comment on that, but given the cordial relationship Loopt has had with Apple (being featured both at WWDC last year and in an iPhone commercial), it seems likely that the two sides at least talked about this before Loopt pulled the trigger. That said, because no application is actually involved in this process, it looks like Loopt has essentially found a loophole around Apple on this one.

Privacy will undoubtedly be a major concern with such a feature. But Altman notes that you have to go to a website to actually sign up for this, and you can turn it off or on at anytime on that site or via an SMS message. And he believes some of privacy concerns will fade as people get used to such services. “The future of location-based services is always-on,” he says.

looptI agree, this seems like a huge win for Loopt (well, if users are okay with paying for the service, more on that below). I’ll be using it a lot more now because first of all, I don’t actually have to open the app to update — but more importantly, none of my contacts will either. So oddly, I probably will be opening the app itself more now too because of that. And eventually, you could see such background location functionality playing a roll in advertising on the iPhone.

They way this will work is that you will be able to receive alerts (emails or text messages) when people or places of interest are nearby to your current location. Loopt can also now build what it calls a “Life Graph” for you — basically, keep a log of where you’ve been. Again, this will be opt-in.

Altman would not comment on if its competitors like Whrrl or Brightkite could also strike similar deals, but Deshpande confirms that no one else is offering this (at least not yet). And Loopt is getting ready to come out with a version 2.0 of its iPhone app that should take on other competitors like Foursquare.

As it seems clear that AT&T is the key factor in making something like this happen, it’s nice to see them doing something innovative to actually help their iPhone customers get a feature that many of us have long wanted. Assuming it works well, it might even be enough to make us forget the whole months-late MMS thing.

But this good news has a price. $3.99 a month, to be specific, which users can sign up for on this site. Initially, Loopt is going to limit the trial to 5,000 testers.

Disclosure: Loopt offers a TechCrunch branded version of the service here.

[photo: flickr/Rev Dan Catt]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 04, 2009 04:00 PM

A Softer World

Techcrunch

eBay Acquisition Map Shows Where It Got On The Wrong Track

Sometimes all you need is a map to see where a company is going, or where it got on the wrong track. Take a look at the eBay acquisitions above plotted as a subway map created by the folks at MeetTheBoss. Click on it for a larger, clearer map. (They also did the same thing for Amazon acquisitions).

The map is color-coded, with different subway lines representing different categories of acquisitions.  As long as eBay sticks to central lines close to its main business, its acquisitions have done pretty well.  For instance, the yellow line is online auctions (iBazaar, Internet Auction Co., GMarket), orange is retail (Half.com, Shopping.com), and violet is e-commerce (PayPal, Bill Me Later, StubHub).

It’s when eBay has veered off far away from its core business that it’s gotten into trouble.  You can see that here by the darker orange VOIP line (Skype), the red Social line (StumbleUpon), and brown Auction House line (remember Butterfield & Butterfield?).  Even the pink Classifieds line has been a mixed bag.  eBay’s investment in Craigslist certainly didn’t help it much, and it is still struggling to make a splash in the U.S.

Fortunately, eBay’s current management is getting back on the right track by selling Skype and getting rid of distractions such as StumbleUpon.

(Hat tip to reader Ciaran Duffy).

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 04, 2009 02:58 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Two-year-old as finite state machine

Some time ago I joined a family for dinner, and they had a two-year-old. During dinner, the two-year-old accidentally knocked over her glass, and liquid quickly spread across the table. The adults at the table sprang into action, containing the spill on the table, wiping it up, and checking for leakage onto the floor.

After all the excitement died down, the two-year-old looked down, saw the empty glass, and threw her hands up in the air, proudly announcing, "I drank it all!"

by oldnewthing at September 04, 2009 02:00 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Reading the error message carefully can help you see how the computer misinterpreted what you typed

The details have been changed since they aren't important but the lesson is the same.

A customer had the following problem with a command-line tool:

I've created a taglist but I can't seem to get it to work with the track command. When I ask it to track the taglist, it can't find it. But if I ask for all my taglists, there it is.

C:\> show taglists
You have 2 taglists:
 active (8 tags)
 closed (6 tags)

C:\> track active
No such tag "active".

Yes, the track command isn't working, but let's take a closer look at that error message. It says no such tag. Strange, because you are trying to track a taglist, not a tag. Shouldn't the error message be no such taglist?

Aha, the problem is that the track command takes a list of tags on the command line, not a taglist name. The error message is correct: There is no such tag called active. Because active isn't a tag name; it's a taglist name.

C:\> track -taglist active
Taglist "active" is now being tracked.

Today's lesson: Look carefully at what the error message complaining about; it may not be what you expect.

Exercise: Diagnose the following error message, given no information about the program being used beyond what is presented here:

I accidentally made a change (transaction number 12345) to the file XYZ, and I want to back it out. But when I run the backout command, I get an error. Can somebody help me?

C:\> backout 12345
12345 - file not found

by oldnewthing at September 04, 2009 02:00 PM

Techcrunch

The Onion Keeps On Embarrassing Newspapers

The Onion, America’s Finest News Source and easily one of the best destinations for quality satire if we ever visited one, strikes yet again. Not only is it wiping the floor with real journalism on Google News Spotlight - a new section dedicated to in-depth journalism work - but it is also lovingly feeding the dinosaurs satirical stories that wind up getting reported as actual news.

Two Bangladeshi newspapers, The Daily Manab Zamin and New Nation, have been forced to apologize to the public today after having regurgitated a news article taken from The Onion website which claimed the Moon landings were faked.

The fake news article in question said Neil Armstrong had told a news conference he had been “forced to reconsider every single detail of the monumental journey after watching a few persuasive YouTube videos and reading several blog posts” by a conspiracy theorist.

From the BBC:

The Daily Manab Zamin said US astronaut Neil Armstrong had shocked a news conference by saying he now knew it had been an “elaborate hoax”.

Neither they nor the New Nation, which later picked up the story, realised the Onion was not a genuine news site. Both have now apologised to their readers for not checking the story.

“We thought it was true so we printed it without checking,” associate editor Hasanuzzuman Khan told the AFP news agency. “We didn’t know the Onion was not a real news site.”

Solid gold, and this quote from the tabloid newspaper’s associate editor fake news article truly puts the icing on top of the cake:

“I suppose it really was one small step for man, one giant lie for mankind.”

Keep on doing what you’re doing, The Onion. We love you.

(Via @minorissues)

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by Robin Wauters at September 04, 2009 01:14 PM

The Daily WTF

Souvenir Potpourri: The Cookout

Ever since the first Free Sticker Week ended back in February '07, I've been sending out WTF Stickers to anyone that mailed me a SASE or a small souvenir. More recently, I've been sending out the coveted TDWTF Mugs for truly awesome souvenirs. Nothing specific; per the instructions page, "anything will do." Well, here goes anything, yet again! (previous: Meal Ready to Eat).


A little while back, I received one of the most awesome things one can receive via post: a steak dinner. However, in my write-up of the steak dinner I never mentioned how they tasted. Rick Hiester was curious about that, and decided to take action. "I've never had Omaha Steaks before, so in the interest of sending an 'ultra-awesome souvenir' and learning how they taste, here's a second round."


Not pictured: large styrofoam box packed with dry ice

Can do, Rick! Eating food is definitely one of my strong points. However, given the sheer quantity of mailed meat — 6 steaks and 8 burgers — I decided to bring in some help. My first choice was an office cookout, but my coworkers generally try to avoid me, and an after-hours event doesn't fit in with that goal. Instead, I brought in my lawyer (Mr. Van Dress, co-discoverer of The Perch), my insurance agent, and our respective wives.

 

We grilled everything rare/medium-rare, as that's really the only way to eat meat, and chowed down. Overall, it was pretty good: the meat was tender, fresh tasting (i.e. it didn't taste like a frozen steak), and not too fatty.

Can I say that Omaha Steaks are significantly better than the local grocery store? Truthfully, I cannot. While the portions are a little smaller, I'd say they are definitely on par with the higher quality cuts available at the butcher counter. But are Omaha Steaks more awesome? Absolutely! There's just something to be said about receiving steaks by mail.

But in any case, thanks, Rick! The steaks were very much appreciated: we all enjoyed them. I'd love to send you a TDWTF mug, but the folks at Omaha Steaks would not share with me your address, email, or even pass along a message. Should you want to, drop me a line.

 

"Enjoy!" writes Gabriel Goldberg (Falls Church, VA). Enclosed was pond mosquito poison, a lifeware key fob, a few misc things, and best of all, a key fob from the Microsoft Windows 95 World Tour (slogan The Sky's the limit).

 

"I went to a Metastorm User Conference," Doogal Bell (Surrey, UK) wrote, "here is some of the junk I got."

 

"This is an Ale-8-1," writes David Mayo (Winchester, KY), "it's Kentucky's best soft drink. I found it in the trunk of my car. The expiration date is listed as 'JUN1807' which was just two years ago, so I'm sure it's fine. I mailed it to you so that I will not be tempted to drink it this evening, as it is highly caffeinated and I have to work very early tomorrow morning in Winchester, the birthplace of Ale-8-1."

 

"I was in Hanovo for the Magic: The Gathering Graid Prix," writes Adam Cetnerowski (Poland), and got one of the artists to autograph a card to Daily WTF." Thanks Adam, this is so going in my Thrull deck.

 

"This meadal was given to all employess of WM-data's Estonian office," Indrek (Estonia) writes, "it was given to us following the company's takeover by LogicaCMG and subsequent re-renaming to Logica."

 

"Congratulations," writes raQ (Quebec), "you are now a millionaire!"

 

"I found these things around my house," Joe Czepil writes, "just in case you have to re-file your 2007 taxes, I included a brand new copy of Tax Cut 2007."

 

"The reason I'm not going to cash the Google AdWords check is because its processing would cost me $10," writes Arkadijs Sislovs (Riga, Latvia), "I've also enclosed shower.jpg, which shows a China-produced shower cabin that is so advanced that it is controlled by the 'Shower Computer ststem'!"

 

Raymond Lee (England) sent six pence, a 1GB USB Drive (no contents), and a gigantic paperclip.

 

"automobus" (Lincolnwood, IL) sent this Dilbert Posterbook, straight out of 1997.

 

Julan Dax and Jens Schomburg (Siegen) sent a sticker and postcard featuring their University, along with the first German Wikimedia newspaper, and a coupon for jondos. I didn't realize that Wikimedia had transcended into print, or really that the "Wiki" concept even worked in print.

 

Matias Korhonen (Finland) sent some Finnish comics, real estate listings in Finland, a German coaster, a one-day ticket to the Flow Festival in Helsinki, and a used ticket to a Kraftwerk concert. Strangely absent (considering it was from Finland) was Salmiak, the tar-like emetic that tastes about as pleasant as syrup of ipecac.

 

"Enjoy these odds and ends," writes John Yearous (Winona, MN), "there's a bit of everything in here!" And John wasn't kidding. The minature Maglite was one of the cooler things I've seen in a long while, and the Superman Hero Gear solves the Halloween Problem."

 

Joshua M. Armstrong (Milwaukee, WI) not only sent a whole bunch of awesome stuff (including a $2 Bill, 1976 series), but took a picture of it and described all of the contents.

 


Don't forget to snail-mail in your own souvenirs for some TDWTF stickers. Ultra-awesome souvenirs (like, say, steak) could even get you a TDWTF mug.


by Alex Papadimoulis at September 04, 2009 01:00 PM

Techcrunch

Gov 2.0: It’s All About The Platform

Editor’s note: The following guest post is by Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of computer book publisher O’Reilly Media and a conference organizer. O’Reilly coined the term Web 2.0 five years ago. Now he is arguing it is time for Gov 2.0, and has helped organize a summit next week to talk about what that might mean.

Today, many people equate Web 2.0 with social media; three or four years ago, they equated it with AJAX applications and APIs. Many are now starting to think it’s all about cloud computing. In fact, it’s all of these and more. The way I have always defined Web 2.0, it’s been about what it means for the internet, rather than the personal computer, to be the dominant computing platform. What are the rules of business and competitive advantage when the network is the platform?

So too with Government 2.0. A lot of people equate the term with government use of social media, either to solicit public participation or to get out its message in new ways. Some people think it means making government more transparent. Some people think it means adding AJAX to government websites, or replacing those websites with government APIs, or building new cloud platforms for shared government services. And yes, it means all those things.

But as with Web 2.0, the real secret of success in Government 2.0 is thinking about government as a platform. If there’s one thing we learn from the technology industry, it’s that every big winner has been a platform company: someone whose success has enabled others, who’ve built on their work and multiplied its impact. Microsoft put “a PC on every desk and in every home,” the internet connected those PCs, Google enabled a generation of ad-supported startups, Apple turned the phone market upside down by letting developers loose to invent applications no phone company would ever have thought of. In each case, the platform provider raised the bar, and created opportunities for others to exploit.

There are signs that government is starting to adopt this kind of platform thinking.

Behind Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s data.gov site is the idea that government agencies shouldn’t just provide web sites, they should provide web services. These services, in effect, become the government’s SDK (software development kit). The government may build some applications using these APIs, but there’s an opportunity for private citizens and innovative companies to build new, unexpected applications. This is the phenomenon that Jonathan Zittrain refers to as “generativity“, the ability of open-ended platforms to create new possibilities not envisioned by their creators.

And of course, much as happened with the rise of commercial web services, “hackers” have been battering at the gates for some time. Adrian Holovaty’s chicagocrime.org (now part of everyblock.com) was the second-ever Google Maps mashup, back in 2005. It showed the world just how much value could be created by putting government data on a map. Most of the winners of Washington D.C.’s Apps for Democracy contest are direct descendants of chicagocrime. Similarly, Openstreetmap started out using crowdsourcing to create free maps in the UK, where map data is expensive; their move to build better maps for Palestine led to contributions from the UN and European community.

We’re starting to see formal efforts to develop an application ecosystem at the local, state, and federal level, via contests like Apps for Democracy, Apps for America, and other similar programs. Startups like SeeClickFix are pushing for standardized APIs to government services (like Open311). But there’s still a long way to go.

My goal at the Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and Gov 2.0 Summit next week in Washington DC is to encourage more of this kind of platform thinking. We’ve brought in leaders from some of the most important platform providers in the tech world—Vint Cerf, the creator of TCP/IP, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, and Craig Mundie of Microsoft, among others—to talk about what makes tech platforms tick. We’re bringing together people like GSA CIO Casey Coleman and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to talk about what the government can learn from the private sector about building cloud computing infrastructure, and especially how to make interoperable clouds. We’re looking beyond the obvious, as in our on-stage conversation with Google chief economist Hal Varian, talking about the role that measurement and “real time economics” plays in the success of Web 2.0 platforms. We’ll try to apply these insights to some of the big initiatives facing the Federal government, including health care and education. And of course, we’ll be engaging with the architects of the government’s internet strategy, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, White House new media head Macon Phillips, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, as well as leaders from the military and intelligence sector.

In one of my prep calls with Craig Mundie, he pushed forcefully for the idea that killer apps drive platform adoption. It strikes me that the killer app may already be here; we just don’t give the government enough credit for it. I’m talking about the wonderful world of geolocation, with GPS devices in cars providing turn-by-turn directions, phone applications telling you when the next bus is about to arrive, and soon, augmented reality applications telling you what’s nearby. It’s easy to forget that GPS, like the original internet, is a service kickstarted by the government. Here’s the key point: the Air Force originally launched GPS satellites for its own purposes, but in a crucial policy decision, agreed to release a less accurate signal for commercial use. The Air Force moved from providing an application to providing a platform, with the result being a wave of innovation in the private sector.

Location is the key to the relevance of government to its citizenry, as well as to a host of non-governmental services. But there are already disputes about who owns the data. For example, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a takedown order against the StationStops iPhone application. This is exactly the kind of bad policy that we hope to remedy by shedding light on best practices in government platform building.
.
It’s easy to forget just how generative government interventions can be. The internet itself was originally a government-funded project. So was the interstate highway system. Would WalMart exist without that government intervention? Would our cities thrive without transportation, water, power, garbage collection and all the other services we take for granted? Like an operating system providing services for applications, government provides functions that enable private sector activity.

It’s important for the idea of “government as platform” to reach well beyond the world of IT. It was Scott Heiferman, the founder of meetup.com who hammered this point home to me. Meetup is a platform for people to do whatever they want with. A lot of them are using it for citizen engagement: cleaning up parks, beaches, and roads; identifying and fixing local problems.

In some of my recent talks, I’ve used an image originally proposed by Donald Kettl in The Next Government of the United States. Too often, we think of government as a kind of vending machine. We put in our taxes, and get out services: roads, bridges, hospitals, fire brigades, police protection… And when the vending machine doesn’t give us what we want, we protest. Our idea of citizen engagement has somehow been reduced to shaking the vending machine. But what meetup teaches us is that engagement may mean lending our hands, not just our voices.

In this regard, there’s a CNN story from last April that I like to tell: a road into a state park in Kauai was washed out, and the state government said it didn’t have the money to fix it. The park would be closed. Understanding the impact on the local economy, a group of businesses chipped in, organized a group of volunteers, and fixed the road themselves. I called this DIY on a civic scale. Scott Heiferman corrected me: “It’s DIO: Not ‘Do it Yourself’ but ‘Do it Ourselves.’” Imagine if the state government were to reimagine itself not as a vending machine but an organizing engine for civic action. Might DIO help us tackle other problems that bedevil us? Can we imagine a new compact between government and the public, in which government puts in place mechanisms for services that are delivered not by government, but by private citizens? In other words, can government become a platform?

We have an enormous opportunity right now to make a difference. There’s a receptivity to new ideas that we haven’t seen in a generation. Government at all levels has put out the call for help. It’s up to the tech community to respond, with our ideas, with our voices, with our creativity, and with our code.

(Photo credit: Flickr/Center for American Progress)

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by Guest Author at September 04, 2009 12:20 PM

Techcrunch

Big Amazon Will Give You Back Your Copies of 1984, Annotations Won’t Be Sent Into the Chute

1984
Amazon is making good after killing copies of 1984 for the Kindle. As you recall, Amazon had to recall the electronic version of the book for copyright reasons.

Purchasers will receive a copy of the book for the Kindle or $30 in credit for Amazon products or a check. So either you can get one book or cash for two or more books.

Giz has the full text of emails being sent to folks who bought the book:

Hello,

On July 23, 2009, Jeff Bezos, our Founder and CEO, made the following apology to our customers:

“This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO
Amazon.com”

As you were one of the customers impacted by the removal of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” from your Kindle device in July of this year, we would like to offer you the option to have us re-deliver this book to your Kindle along with any annotations you made. You will not be charged for the book. If you do not wish to have us re-deliver the book to your Kindle, you can instead choose to receive an Amazon.com electronic gift certificate or check for $30.

Please email Kindle customer support at kindle-response@amazon.com to indicate your preference. If you prefer to receive a check, please also provide your mailing address.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

The Kindle Team

Well that’s nice! Amazon made two mistakes here - they didn’t pay attention to copyright ownership and they didn’t pay attention to the implications of destroying copies of 1984. If this were My Life in France or a Clive Cussler novel, I doubt it would have created such a buzz. However, the irony and newsworthiness of the destruction essentially made this explode. Amazon will probably send flowers next time they have to delete a book like this - and I know they will - in order to head all the outrage off at the pass.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by John Biggs at September 04, 2009 11:52 AM

Techcrunch

Former MySpace Exec Allen Hurff Working On A Startup Incubator

Allen Hurff, the former SVP of Engineering at MySpace who left the company earlier this Summer, will apparently be launching a startup incubator as his next venture. An anonymous tipster points us to the man’s LinkedIn profile, where his current activity is listed as ‘Facilitator of the WebSquared Era at SoCal Incubator (Name Not Disclosed)’.

So all we know at this point is that the incubator is or will be based in Southern California and that there’s no name for it yet. It might be called WebSquared actually, because as Trendslate correctly points out Hurff also reserved a Twitter account named @websquared. In case you don’t know, ‘Web Squared’ is a name that’s being kicked around as the (in my opinion just as ridiculous) successor to the late ‘Web 2.0′ term.

Hurff spent four years working for MySpace, where he and former SVP Operations Jim Benedetto were largely reponsible for building up the company’s technology team (Benedetto left the company last March). Hurff also played an integral role in MySpace’s adoption of OpenSocial, serving as Chairman of the foundation.

We’re contacting Hurff for more information and will update when we hear back.

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by Robin Wauters at September 04, 2009 11:46 AM

Techcrunch

Google Loses China President Kai-Fu Lee, Has Trouble Translating The Reason

Google announced today that Kai-Fu Lee, president of the search giant’s China operations, has left the company to start a new venture. Lee joined Google four years ago from Microsoft, where he was a corporate vice president, and the Redmond software giant subsequently sued Google over the hire, contending that Lee’s duties at Google would violate the terms of a non-compete agreement he signed as part of his Microsoft employment contract. The three parties later reached a settlement.

Google said Kai-Fu Lee is leaving to work on his own venture, but not content with knowing so little about the man’s plans for the future, I turned to Google’s Translate service to learn more.

The goal: translate Lee’s blog post and tweets in English for more clarity on the matter. The result: hilarity.

Take this tweet for example. This is what Lee is saying, according to Google Translate:

“To continue to talk to my employees interesting: in 2006 in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Kai-Fu hosted exchange, just who is in the Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Tina, or exchange to another table, called a la carte Kai-Fu advisory matters. Kai-Fu Lee to smoked tea duck and after the class Meat recommended that the vegetables you casually Come on, anyway, are not tasty Where could they be to eat, when the drug ate enough.”

Or this one:

“To continue to talk to my employees interesting: in 2006, when the Chinese first came to know that people in Chengdu, after Kai-Fu, and once I asked why not, Kai-Fu in Chengdu has also opened an Office, the Land of Abundance Well, beauty is also good to eat more than the work of engineers passion will be greatly improved. Kai-Fu said that you all play happy, I will not happy again.”

To be fair, Chinese is not an easy language to learn, let alone translate, but you have to admit the Google Translate service’s desperate attempts to extract meaning out of the (now former) Google executive’s words are funny as hell.

The translation of the man’s blog post is better (barely), and reveals that building Google in China hasn’t exactly been a breeze and that Lee now wants to pass on his knowledge and experience to Chinese youth.

Or not.

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by Robin Wauters at September 04, 2009 09:56 AM

Techcrunch

Elephant Attacks Tech Legend Tom Siebel (And Gets Away With It)

Silicon Valley billionaire Tom Siebel, founder of CRM vendor Siebel Systems (sold to Oracle for $5.8 billion back in 2005), was reportedly attacked and injured by an elephant in Tanzania about a month ago.

The incident is vaguely reminiscent of TechCrunch editor Sarah Lacy’s recent baboon attack in Rwanda, although in Siebel’s case the consequences were a bit more severe than a psychological trauma.

The 56-year-old tech mogul told Mercury News in an interview that he and his guide was attacked by a charging elephant in the Serengeti, breaking several ribs, goring him in the left leg and crushing the right.

Fortunately, unlike Larry Ellison a couple of years ago when he set his sight on the man’s company, the elephant soon lost interest in Siebel and simply walked away from the scene.

The billionaire (estimated worth: $US 1.9 billion as of 2008) had to wait three hours before the radioed medical assistance team showed up and gave him treatment, but is now recovering from his injuries in his Woodside home and expects to make a full recovery after reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Siebel told the Mercury News Wednesday that he doesn’t know what became of the elephant that attacked him. He added that authorities in Tanzania searched for it, but as far as he knows it was never found.

Not able to come up with a good joke using the phrasing ‘elephant in the room’, I’m just going to conclude by saying we’re all glad Siebel is ok, and we hope the same is true for the animal.

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by Robin Wauters at September 04, 2009 09:01 AM

Techcrunch

New Gmail Themes Include One That They Won’t Call “Nintendo,” But I Will

high_scoreThe Gmail blog has a post up right now that’s interesting for a few reasons. First, it was posted around midnight of a Friday (this is supposed to be my no-news quiet time, Google). Second, it’s written as a chat exchange between two Google employees. And third, it has a kick-ass new Nintendo-esque theme.

Truth be told, the Nintendo-like theme (called “High Score”, undoubtedly to prevent any trademark lawsuits), makes Gmail nearly impossible to read — at least at night, when the background is all black (below). But it’s awesome having a Mario-esque backdrop and Space Invader-like guys are your buddy chat indicators.

There are three other new themes as well (the first Gmail has launched since themes launched in November). They are: “Orcas Island”, “Turf”, and “Random”. The first two are rather ho-hum compared to High Score. The random one is kind of cool if you like change, which, as I just explained, I do.

This still isn’t quite as good as FriendFeed’s interactive Duck Hunt theme, but it’s close.

screen-shot-2009-09-04-at-14131-am

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by MG Siegler at September 04, 2009 08:59 AM

Techcrunch

Snow Leopard, Marble, And Calamine Lotion

screen-shot-2009-09-04-at-12716-amThere are two types of people in the world: Those that hate change, and those that embrace it. I tend to fall into the latter category. And that’s why OS X Snow Leopard is an odd product for me.

On one hand, I like the idea that Apple has decided to stick with something that is working so well (OS X Leopard), and make it lighter, faster and all-around better. On the other, it’s fairly hard to tell that you’re actually using something that is any different from the previous version. Yes, there are many little, subtle changes all over, but aside from maybe Quicktime X, there is nothing that immediately strikes you as being different. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a little disappointing to me.

New Spots?

OS X Leopard (again, the previous version) has been great, but as I said, I like change. I had been hoping for Apple to present me with something a little different after a couple years of Leopard. Instead, within a day of installing Snow Leopard, I found myself moving my dock from the bottom of my screen to the left-hand side, just to make me feel as if something had changed. This, of course, is something anyone can do in Leopard as well, but I’ve always been a bottom dock kind of guy — now I’m a left dock kind of guy, simply out of the need to make Snow Leopard feel different.

Obviously, Apple has known for a while that Snow Leopard really wouldn’t aesthetically be all that different from Leopard. While all the previous versions of OS X have had different big cat nicknames, 10.6 (Snow Leopard) is just a a different type of 10.5 (Leopard). And it’s been bracing both users and developers for the past year that Snow Leopard would not be a complete overhaul of the system, but rather a refinement of it.

And nothing speaks more to that than the price: $29. Given the amount of time (and presumably, the amount of work) put into it, it would seem that Apple would have every right to charge full price for Snow Leopard — something along the lines of $129. But Apple undoubtedly realized that without any major new consumer-facing functionality or aesthetic changes, it would be foolish to try and charge that much. Plenty of users are noting that Snow Leopard doesn’t feel all that much different, but the rationale behind getting it always seems to come back to: “But it’s only $29.”

Smart move, Apple.

Microsoft

45180188_07feb89bdcMy initial thought was that if Microsoft launched an OS update that looked and felt basically the same as the previous version, users would be up in arms much more than they are with Snow Leopard. But then I remembered that they’ve done this in the past also, it was called Windows 98.

Windows 98 really wasn’t all that different from Windows 95 from an end-user perspective, it was more of a fine-tuning of the system. Snow Leopard would seem to be Apple’s Windows 98. And if that’s the case, Apple would undoubtedly be happy as plenty of users consider Windows 98 to be a high point for Windows (well, Windows 98 SE, anyway).

But even Windows 98 came with a little cheat: Microsoft Plus. While not all versions had it, the add-on (which also was available for Windows 95, but different) added some themes and other front-end changes to Windows 98 to make it look different than the standard Windows 95 look-and-feel users may have been bored with.

Marble

And that’s why it’s surprising that Apple didn’t do something similar. At one point, it would seem that they intended to, by giving all OS X apps a new coat of paint, codenamed “Marble.” Basically, Marble was thought to be a darker version of the Brushed Metal look that OS X currently has. You can see what it may look like in certain Apple-made applications already in OS X, like Quicktime X, and parts of iPhoto and iTunes (the dark scroll bars).

So if Apple has somewhat implemented what seems to be part of it, why not go all Marble in Snow Leopard and give the users something new to look at? I’m not sure. Maybe they thought it was too dark, or maybe they’re saving it for OS X 10.7. But it’s a bit odd that the UI of the operating system is so fragmented. Especially when a unification could have quieted some of the front-end complaints.

Calamine Lotion

don-draper-finalNone of this is to say that Snow Leopard isn’t good. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now (the developer builds and now the final version), and aside from some frustrating bugs with WiFi and MobileMe, I like all of the small changes that Apple made. But again, from a user’s perspective, they’re small changes. We may see some fruits of the under-the-hood labor (64-bit and OpenCL) in the months and years to come, but right now, that’s a hard sell.

Don Draper has a great line in the first season of Mad Men, “The most important idea in advertising is ‘new’. It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion.” Apple created that itch by announcing a new OS, but I’m not sure that Snow Leopard is the calamine lotion that everyone was looking for. And Apple has taken a risk of sorts by releasing it this way. Especially on the verge of a major Windows overhaul with Windows 7 (which is to say, the version of Vista as it should be been made the first time).

As blogger Jason Kottke puts it, “People want to feel, emotionally speaking, that their money is well-spent and impeccable branding, funny commercials, and the sense of belonging to a hip lifestyle that Apple tries to engender in its customers can only go so far.

It’s human nature (or at least consumer nature) to want something to seem new when you buy it; to make it seem like the money was spent on something tangible. You can completely re-do the inner workings of a piece of software, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t look any different, to most consumers, it might as well not be. Snow Leopard looks like Leopard, therefore, to many, it might as well be Leopard.

All that said, it is only $29.

[photos: flickr/kessiye, flickr/thenandagain and AMC]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 04, 2009 08:35 AM

Techcrunch

RubyOnRails XSS Vulnerability Claims Twitter, Basecamp And My Confidence

It was only three days ago that I wrote about the almost hopeless challenge of web security, specifically around new vectors with cross-site scripting attacks. Today came news that an XSS vulnerability had been found in the RubyOnRails development framework - and that applications built on the framework, such as Twitter and Basecamp, were vulnerable to XSS attacks. The vulnerability was discovered by Brian Masterbrook. He probed Twitter with some Unicode characters and found it vulnerable, tried the same thing on Basecamp and found it vulnerable, and then deduced that it must be a problem with RubyOnRails. He has an excellent and detailed write-up on his site about the process he went through. If you are running RubyOnRails anywhere, stop now and read his post as well as the security notice from the Rails developers and get your servers updated (the patch is in the notice, it will be in the release branch 'today or tomorrow').
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Nik Cubrilovic at September 04, 2009 07:01 AM

Steve Holden

Links for 2009-09-03 [del.icio.us]

September 04, 2009 07:00 AM

Techcrunch

Former Digg Architect Gets The Superhero Treatment, Wants To Take You To The Internets

headerJoe Stump is at it again. But this time, with something on the funnier side. Stump’s latest project is called Take Me to the Internets. Take Me to the Internets [iTunes link] is an iPhone application that focuses your laughter into specific categories. Each time you want a new laugh, you just shake your iPhone, and a new joke comes up. Once you find a joke you like, you can easily share funny links with your friends right from your iPhone/iPod Touch on Twitter or Facebook.

There are eight categories of jokes; quotes, comics, sexy time, photos, geeky, jokes, stories and forum posts. Once you find a category that you like, you click to find numerous laughs that are aggregated from sites that people think are funny. If they think a site is funny, all you do is use the bookmarklet, and it gets added to the queue of sites. Sites are then added and moderated by Stump and a few others.

It’s interesting to see how long it took for Stump’s latest iPhone app to get accepted to the App Store, considering his recent problems with Apple. There are numerous alternatives to an application that provides laughs, like iLaugh, iJoke, iLOL, iJoker and others.

Also, if we ever do a company logo contest, I’m sure a flying Joe Stump in a cape would get good reviews.

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by Daniel Brusilovsky at September 04, 2009 06:45 AM

Techcrunch

Stanford “Frankencamera” Project Aims To Create An Open Imaging Platform

The list of established players in the imaging field is a long one. Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Leica, Olympus, Pentax, Kodak... it goes on. For decades they've been fine-tuning their devices, and they continue fight fiercely over every market and price point. Certainly this has produced some excellent devices: DSLRs today offer an unprecedented value for the amateur (or pro) photographer, but I can't shake the feeling that all the big guys are spinning their wheels. After all, there are precious few real innovations in cameras these days — Casio and Fujifilm spring to mind with their innovative use of the sensor, but by and large, even the top-tier devices don't really do anything that different from the ancient one-megapixel point-and-shoots of the late 20th century. Researchers at Stanford want to change that. Although they certainly don't plan on toppling the powers that be (in fact, they're funded by them), they're tired of cameras falling under either the highly-specialized or highly-generalized categories. After all, it's all just data, right? Why not make the camera a versatile platform with a real OS, an open hardware standard, and — hell, why not — an app store?
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Devin Coldewey at September 04, 2009 04:43 AM

XKCD

Techcrunch

Get Ready For The Next Big App: Smule and T-Pain Bring That Auto-Tune Sound To The iPhone

Name any hip hop song played on the radio in the past year or so. Did any of the lyrics sound sort of warbly - as if sung by a robot? Chances are, the answer is "Yes." That's called Auto-Tune. And now there's an app for that. Smule, the masterminds behind the smash-hit apps Ocarina and Leaf Trombone, have teamed up with hip hop artist T-Pain (known for calling on Auto-Tune for just about every word he sings) and the makers of Auto-Tune, Antares, to bring the pitch-tweaking tool to the iPhone as I Am T-Pain. Oh - and it works in real time (and we've got hands-on video.)
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Greg Kumparak at September 04, 2009 03:59 AM

comp.lang.python.announce

REMINDER: PyCon 2010: Call for Proposals

Call for proposals -- PyCon 2010 -- <[link]>
============================== ============================== ===
Due date: October 1st, 2009
Want to showcase your skills as a Python Hacker? Want to have
hundreds of people see your talk on the subject of your choice? Have some
hot button issue you think the community needs to address, or have some

by Aahz (a...@pythoncraft.com) at September 04, 2009 03:39 AM

Techcrunch

Google CEO Eric Schmidt On The Future Of Search: “Connect It Straight To Your Brain”

This is Part 2 of my series of posts summarizing a fascinating recent hour-long one on one interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Early in the interview I asked Schmidt about the future of search. I brought up the “search is 90% done” misunderstanding from last summer. Said Google Vice President Marissa Mayer at the time:

Search is a science that will develop and advance over hundreds of years. Think of it like biology and physics in the 1500s or 1600s: it’s a new science where we make big and exciting breakthroughs all the time. However, it could be a hundred years or more before we have microscopes and an understanding of the proverbial molecules and atoms of search. Just like biology and physics several hundred years ago, the biggest advances are yet to come. That’s what makes the field of Internet search so exciting.

Specifically I asked Schmidt “What are the hard things to be solved in search in the next ten years?”

His lengthy answer meandered around a central theme, that Google needs to move “from words to meaning.” In other words, Google needs to understand queries better, and return results that best match the real meaning of a query. “We have to get from the sort of casual use of asking, querying…to “what did you mean?”"

He then took a detour and shared a (non-serious) approach that cofounder Sergey Brin has talked about internally - direct brain implants:

Now, Sergey argues that the correct thing to do is to just connect it straight to your brain. In other words, you know, wire it into your head. And so we joke about this and said, we have not quite figured out what that problem looks like…But that would solve the problem. In other words, if we just - if you had the thought and we knew what you meant, we could run it and we could run it in parallel.

When I (again, jokingly) asked if Google was working on that product, he answered “Well, I wish we were. But we don’t exactly have all the medical clinics necessary to test brain insertion.”

But he also had a serious point. One big problem with search is a proper understanding of what exactly the user wants. And then how to pair that with exponential growth in datasets:

Okay. So to me, the question is sort of, what’s next, is really basically how far does the artificial intelligence technology go here? How many signals can we get from who you are, where you are, what you’ve been, what you’ve done and so forth to refine that querying? And at the same time, you also have this enormous expansion of data sets. I think what people are missing is that the amount of information on the Internet is growing very, very rapidly…Because it gets more open, people put more data on it and so forth and so on and that’s wonderful. Also, you have all these dynamic databases that are now - they basically publish that at web pages and again index them as well.

The long term goal of Google search, he says, is to give the user one exactly right answer to a query:

So I don’t know how to characterize the next 10 years except to say that we’ll get to the point - the long-term goal is to be able to give you one answer, which is exactly the right answer over time. Okay, you know, the question I’ll ask today, how many Americans have - what percentage of Americans have passports?…The Google’s answer was a site, which was somebody who had attempted to answer that question and had multiple answers. It’s quite interesting actually to read…So you go to a very good definitive site. And what I’d like to do is to get to the point where we could read his site and then summarize what it says, and answer the question…Along with the citation and so forth and so on.

More interesting topics from the interview coming up soon.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 04, 2009 02:44 AM

comp.lang.python.announce

Pydev 1.5.0 (Pydev Extensions open sourced)

Hi All,
Today, Aptana is proud to announce that Pydev and Pydev Extensions
have become a single plugin, with all the available contents open
source (and freely available for anyone) in the 1.5.0 release (it's
the same as 1.4.8 but with all the code open source).
With that, Aptana believes in providing a better service and growth

by Fabio Zadrozny (fa...@aptana.com) at September 04, 2009 02:27 AM

Techcrunch

Creately Releases Its Simple Diagramming And Design Tool To The Masses

Creately, an online diagramming and design application launched by Cinergix and showcased at TechCrunch50’s Demopit in 2008, is unveiling its online tool to the greater public (the startup has been in private beta). Creately lets anyone create create and collaborate on flow charts, wireframes, network diagrams, sitemaps and more within its site.

The key to Creately’s application is that manages to harness the abilities and tools that traditional design and graphics software offer, but packages this functionality in an easy to use application that allows for collaboration between users.

The design features are varied but relatively easy to use and intuitive. For example, Contextual Toolbars appear when you click on any object on the drawing canvas and depending on the object and its size will offer all the commonly used operations within the toolbar. Collaboration is another crucial part to the design process, says co-founder Charanjit Singh, so the startup built in commenting, sharing, publishing, embedding and the ability to publish directly to Twitter. Plus, many of its offerings are free to use.

With this public launch, Creately is also unveiling its pricing model and monetization strategy. Creately will offer a free plan that lets users makes and unlimited amount of public diagrams that can are published on Creately and visible to anyone. Free customers are restricted to a maximum of 5 collaborators and all diagrams will be published with the Creately logo. Diagrams can also be embedded and shared. The paid version will offer an unlimited amount of privately-hosted diagrams that will not have the Creately logo. But it’s unclear how much Creately’s paid version will cost and we’ve contacted the company for further explanation.

Microsoft offers a design program, Visio, that’s has similar functionality to Creately but is more complicated to use and is not web-based.

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at September 04, 2009 01:30 AM

Python Learning Foundation

IronPython

This episode of Python411 is an interview with Sven Passig about his creation of a professional B2B app using IronPython and Silverlight on Mono and the Mac.

September 04, 2009 12:19 AM

September 03, 2009

Techcrunch

First Video Footage Of The New Android Market

Good news for Android developers: Google has just posted a video of the upcoming refresh for its Android Market, the online store that allows users to download new software to their Android phones. And the changes are very promising.

According to the understated Android blog post, developers will be able to include screenshots, promotional icons, and descriptions for their applications. The UI for the store, which we caught a glimpse of in some leaked photos earlier this week, is also much more polished and user friendly. In other words, the store will now more closely resemble the iPhone’s App Store, which is not a bad thing.

Another important change is a bigger emphasis on paid applications, with a ‘Paid’ button prominently appearing at the top of the screen whenever you begin browsing though a category (paid apps are available using the current version of Android Market, but they’re much harder to find). Other additions to the store will include new sub-categories for themes, comics, health, and sports.

The news is timely. Three days ago we wrote about the lackluster sales figures that were coming out of the Android Market, which pale in comparision to those coming from the App Store — top developers for the iPhone are making thousands a day, while a top Android developer isn’t even breaking $100.



Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 03, 2009 11:24 PM

The Google Blog

Google Domestic Trends: tracking economic sectors

Today, we're really pleased to launch Google Domestic Trends on Google Finance.

Google Domestic Trends tracks Google search traffic across specific sectors of the economy. The changes in the search volume of a given sector on google.com may provide useful economic insight. We've created 23 indexes that track the major economic sectors, such as retail, auto and unemployment.

For example, the Google Luxuries Index tracks queries like [jewelry], [rings], [diamond], [ring], [jewelers], [tiffany] and so forth. As you can see from the screenshot below, this index has seasonal spikes in December — however, in the last two years there has been a pronounced decrease as the recession made consumers wary of spending on luxury items.


The Auto-Buyers Index is also interesting, especially the dramatic 40% increase correlated with the launch of the Cash for Clunkers program in the U.S.:


These charts let you easily compare actual stocks and market indexes to Google Trends. And the data for these indexes are available for download — so you can use it with your own models.

Read more about this on the Google Finance Blog, and be sure to check out the Google Research Blog for info on Hal's research on using Google Trends data to predict economic activities.

by A Googler (noreply@blogger.com) at September 03, 2009 10:59 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

Sphinx 0.6.3 released

Hi all,
I'm proud to announce the release of Sphinx 0.6.3, which is a
bugfix-only release in the 0.6 series.
What is it?
===========
Sphinx is a tool that makes it easy to create intelligent and beautiful
documentation for Python projects (or other documents consisting of
multiple reStructuredText source files).

by Georg Brandl (ge...@python.org) at September 03, 2009 10:11 PM

Lambda the Ultimate

Parallel Performance Tuning for Haskell

Parallel Performance Tuning for Haskell. Don Jones Jr., Simon Marlow, and Satnam Singh.

Parallel Haskell programming has entered the mainstream with support now included in GHC for multiple parallel programming models, along with multicore execution support in the runtime. However, tuning programs for parallelism is still something of a black art. Without much in the way of feedback provided by the runtime system, it is a matter of trial and error combined with experience to achieve good parallel speedups. This paper describes an early prototype of a parallel profiling system for multicore programming with GHC. The system comprises three parts: fast event tracing in the runtime, a Haskell library for reading the resulting trace files, and a number of tools built on this library for presenting the information to the programmer. We focus on one tool in particular, a graphical timeline browser called ThreadScope. The paper illustrates the use of ThreadScope through a number of case studies, and describes some useful methodologies for parallelizing Haskell programs.

September 03, 2009 10:03 PM

Techcrunch

Conducting Data-Rich Surveys Just Got Easier With Forms In Google Docs

Last year, Google rolled out forms that link into Google Doc’s spreadsheets, providing elementary database-style form support for its online office suite. Forms basically let you add data to a spreadsheet without having to enter it directly into the spreadsheet itself, or even having to log in because you can add the data through a survey.

Today, Google is upgrading its Forms tool in Google Docs, adding a number of new features. Forms is basically a way to conduct a survey, with responses added automatically to a spreadsheet. Users now have a more compact, grid-like form in which to collect data. They can now quickly gather responses for a group of similar questions by simply labeling a few columns and creating as many rows as they like.

Summary charts also have clearer formatting of statistics and now support right-to-left text input, helping out those users whose written languages go from right-to-left. Developers can also integrate forms with their own applications and pre-populate a form with data.

Since its launch, Google forms has been an easy and accessible way to collect large amounts of data. Of course, the obvious use for forms is for surveys where you are collecting a massive amount of data and then need to make sense of it. You can either embed surveys into a blog post or site or you can share a link to the survey. Any responses are collected in a spreadsheet.

These new features make forms a little bit more user-friendly and attractive. Forms aren’t the most popular Google app out there, but I’m sure to try them out the next time I post a survey on TechCrunch, instead of using SurveyMonkey or another survey application. I actually created a survey (see below) but my one complaint is that it doesn’t show respondents the results, or at least if it does, it is hard to figure out and is not an automatic function.

Loading…

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at September 03, 2009 09:46 PM

Techcrunch

Video: PayPal’s “Priceless”-esque Commercial

Back in July, we were at the event where PayPal announced its new flexible payments API. There, they showed off this pretty neat video of their vision of a PayPal Payments-enabled future. So this video is a few weeks old, but it’s making the rounds on Twitter again today, and it’s pretty cool, so we figured we’d post it.

Basically, this is PayPal’s vision for the future of payments. It reminds quite a bit of Mastercard’s “Priceless” commercials, but with a cool tech angle.

I want to be able to do everything this video is promising. Will that happen by the time the platform opens up on November 3rd? Nope. Will it happen anytime soon? Nope. But hopefully visions like this will inspire people to do cool things.

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 03, 2009 09:45 PM

Techcrunch

CampusBuddy Gets A Facelift And More Social Skills In Time For The New School Year

For millions of students across the country summer is coming to a close, and CampusBuddy, a Facebook application and web portal that focuses on school courses and grades, is looking to capitalize on the Back-To-School rush. Today the site is launching a totally revamped homepage and Facebook application, a new text book search engine, and a number of new social features that it hopes will better connect students with their classmates. CampusBuddy is also adopting a freemium model today, with hopes of converting its rapidly growing base of users into paying customers.

We last covered CampusBuddy last fall, when the site launched to offer reports on grades handed out by professors at hundreds of universities across the country, which students can use to help figure out which classes they want to take. Since then, the site has been making some strong progress: in addition to the grade reports it’s also focusing on helping prospective students connect with colleges as they leave high school, and it’s also focusing more on helping students connect with eachother. It was also chosen as a Facebook Verified App, which CEO Michael Moradian says has been helpful in reaching new students — the company’s Facebook application has jumped from around 30,000 active users during the last school year to over 60,000 active users today.

Back in the old days of Facebook, when the site still revolved around college students, it offered a feature called “Courses” that allowed students to publicly display which courses they were taking. The app could be quite useful, but it was also limited, with plenty of room for improvement. Rather than continue to build out its own app, Facebook dropped its native Courses and left it up to developers to build their own applications.

CampusBuddy is one of the leading apps vying to take over this role, and today’s update may help in that race. The site’s Facebook application will now offer a Wall for every course at every University in its system, essentially giving students a central place to hold their course-specific discussions, which could prove very useful. But in order to participate or even see these conversations students will have had to install the CampusBuddy app, and the app’s 60,000 users is still only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of students on Facebook.

That said, if CampusBuddy can become the de facto college app on the site, its user-base could snowball. Moradian is optimistic about this possibility, and says that CampusBuddy is the most popular application on Facebook to let students search through a database of courses at their school, explaining that while there are some other popular apps that allow users to enter the courses they’re taking, they’re all user submitted which can result in duplicate entries. The CampusBuddy app itself is quite robust, featuring areas for general discussions, schedules, and more — I would have much rather used something like this than the old Facebook Courses app during my school days. Now it just needs a wider student community to embrace it.

Also worth noting: CampusBuddy is now switching to a freemium model. Up until now the startup has offered its database of grades free of charge — now it will begin charging a small fee for users to access the grades and related analysis as part of its ‘Academic Edge’ package. Access costs $4.99 for three months or $8.99 for a year (it grows cheaper if you buy multiple years at a time). Students likely won’t be too pleased with the change, but competitors like MyEdu (formerly PickaProf) have had freemium models for some time now, so this isn’t particularly surprising.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 03, 2009 09:43 PM

Techcrunch

Add Sports Team Schedules, Birthday Reminders, And More To Google Calendars

Want to keep track of Yankees games, Bristol Rugby matches, or the schedule of the Taiwan Beer team (for all of you fans of the Taiwanese Super Basketball League out there)? Now you can subscribe to the schedules of your favorite professional sports teams on Google Calendar. Just click on “Add other calendars” in the left-hand column and browse “interesting calendars.”

Google just added sports calendars for football, baseball, basketball, rugby, hockey and soccer. It also released a few other features today, including the ability to add birthday reminders for your contacts. If you have their birthdays in Gmail contacts or it is in their Google profiles (we all have one of those, right), then it will automatically populate your calendar with their birthdays.

Google Calendar Labs also has two new features. Meetings that are scheduled on a repeated basis can be dimmed in the calendar. Those weekly staff meetings are so much background noise anyway. And now any Google Gadget can be added to your calendar.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 03, 2009 09:11 PM

Techcrunch

Google Domestic Trends: Should You Invest Based On Google Searches?

screen-shot-2009-09-03-at-12847-pmGoogle has launched a new area of Google Finance called “Google Domestic Trends.” Basically, it allows you to look at various sectors of the U.S. economy based on how they are performing in Google’s search index. The idea is that the volume of searches for related queries to a specific segment may “provide unique economic insight,” says Google.

That’s an interesting idea, but does is it actually smart to invest based on one search engine’s data? Google has a few compelling examples for why it could be.

Take a look at the retail sales chart below for the past couple of years. As you can see, the results predicted with the Google Retail Index are clearly closer then the predictions made without it. For a while it looks like the data is only marginally closer, but starting in 2009, it’s clear that the data is much closer to the actual results.

screen-shot-2009-09-03-at-11418-pm

This isn’t the first time Google has wondered if its search index could predict economic activity. Back in April, it wrote about it on its research blog. But it’s interesting now that it clearly feels comfortable enough with the results of the data that it’s featuring it on its Finance site.

The actual data Google provides is rather open-ended. For each of the sectors, you can see the overall volume trends and compare it with the Dow Jones, S&P 500, the Nasdaq, or any ticker symbol, but it’s not as easy to compare it to actual trends like Google does in the graph above. Basically, it is putting the information it has out there, and you have to do your own homework with it.

Google continues to revamp its Finance site to make it more useful compared to its more widely-used competitors. Data is the key for all of this, so it’s probably a good idea to at least put it out there and see if investors are interested in seeing this. Other companies like StockTwits are already proving that there’s an appetite for some less than conventional means of investing.

As Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.

screen-shot-2009-09-03-at-12415-pm

[photo: flickr/artemuestra]

[Thanks Michael for reminding us of the Gekko quote]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 03, 2009 08:27 PM

Techcrunch

The Onion Beats Investigative Journalism On Google News

Sometimes I actually feel sorry for old media. Blogs are taking all the page views and don’t have the massive cost overhead of newspapers and magazines. AOL is gobbling up magazine and other media writers by the hundreds.

And today I see this article talking about Google News Spotlight, which focuses on that supposedly last bastion of old media - investigative journalism. The stuff that’s “too hard” for blogs to do. But in a world where old media can’t keep up with breaking news, presumably longer investigative articles can be their safe place:

The Spotlight section of Google News is updated periodically with news and in-depth pieces of lasting value. These stories, which are automatically selected by our computer algorithms, include investigative journalism, opinion pieces, special-interest articles, and other stories of enduring appeal.

And what’s a good example of a special-interest article with “enduring appeal?” The Onion, a satire website which is currently the top story on Spotlight. This article beats out everything else that old media investigative journalism can muster right now.

It’s just too bad Google News isn’t linking to the Daily Show yet.

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 03, 2009 06:58 PM

Techcrunch

AT&T iPhone 3G and 3G S officially getting MMS on September 25

mms

After months of speculation (and frustration) MMS for the iPhone 3G and 3G S is officially arriving on September 25, AT&T has confirmed. This is a full 3 days after summer officially ends (AT&T’s original deadline was “late summer”) as our own MG pointed out earlier today, but like a lot of things with Apple/AT&T, better late than never.

AT&T posted the following comments on its Facebook page:

An Update on iPhone MMS for our Mobility Customers

We know many of our iPhone customers are eager for an update on our rollout schedule for Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). We’ve been working for the past several months to prepare our systems and network to ensure the best possible experience with MMS when it launches – and that launch date is: September 25 for iPhone 3G and 3GS customers. MMS will be enabled through a software update on that day.

We know that iPhone users will embrace MMS. The unique capabilities and high usage of the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities required us to work on our network MMS architecture to carry the expected record volumes of MMS traffic and ensure an excellent experience from Day One. We appreciate your patience as we work toward that end.

We’re riding the leading edge of smartphone growth that’s resulted in an explosion of traffic over the AT&T network. Wireless use on our network has grown an average of 350 percent year-over-year for the past two years, and is projected to continue at a rapid pace in 2009 and beyond. The volume of smartphone data traffic the AT&T network is handling is unmatched in the wireless industry. We want you to know that we’re working relentlessly to innovate and invest in our network to anticipate this growth in usage and to stay ahead of the anticipated growth in data demand, new devices and applications for years to come.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jeremy Kessel at September 03, 2009 06:55 PM

Techcrunch

Why TechCrunch Is Not Coming to Brazil After All

brazilfailRight about now I should be leaving for the airport. In some 24 hours I’d be landing in Sao Paulo, picked up by my driver for the next two weeks and embarking on a jam-packed agenda, meeting with scores of South American startups and entrepreneurs.

This was to be the latest in my series of travels for my book-in-progress about entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Brazil was the one place that no one in the Valley was pushing me to visit. In fact, it was the one place my husband had asked me not to visit, having heard many reports of kidnapping and violence. But I was resolutely convinced there was a world of exciting companies and stories and had been looking forward to the trip for months. In fact, I’d spent about four months studying Portuguese and planning the trip.

I’m not on getting on that plane today though. Entrepreneurs who’d hoped to be written up on TechCrunch: Blame your government.

American citizens have to have visas to get into Brazil, and my visa was “guaranteed” to get to me by last Friday, the day before my original flight was supposed to leave. That didn’t happen and I was frustrated, but travel in emerging markets is never easy. So I agreed to push the trip back a week and absorb nearly $1,000 in extra costs associated with that, not to mention huge disruption to my schedule. (Bear in mind, this isn’t TechCrunch money. I am self-funding research for this book and have to closely watch every dime.) All I asked was when I would absolutely get the visa by so I wouldn’t have to reschedule things again. I was told yesterday, September 2. Guess what? No visa.

I’m now told that it is definitely getting here Friday. Unfortunately, I have no reason to actually believe that’s true at this point. I can’t push my schedule back any more and comply with existing trips in September, October and November and frankly, having now spent thousands of dollars on a trip that’s not happening, I wasn’t interested in throwing more good money after bad. As a result, my trip to Brazil is canceled. I have paid the fees to switch the plane ticket to one to China in October.

I paid an expediting service hundreds of dollars to ensure I’d be getting this visa, and clearly they’ve been getting an earful from me over the last week. If not for a phone call from the owner this morning finally agreeing to waive the fees I paid them, this post would largely be skewering them. But she assures me no one is getting into Brazil and her week has been even worse than mine. Apparently, the Brazilian government decided to switch to a new computer system for all of its consulate offices and only sent two computers to each office, and not the adequate software to process everything. So everyone has been in a holding pattern. Some consulates aren’t promising any visas before 25 days; others won’t even take an appointment with prospective travelers unless they show documents showing travel in the next 15 days. In fact my visa is the first one the processing firm will get back—that is, if they actually do get it today as promised. They’ve not only been screamed at by me, but loads of business travelers—and even a coach for a national soccer team who can’t get in the country.

It’s particularly ironic given that the Brazilian government has recently hired the PR firm Fleishman Hillard to go around talking up its commitment to IT and entrepreneurship. You want foreign investment and attention, Brazil? Here’s an idea: LET PEOPLE ENTER THE DAMN COUNTRY. You want to show your IT prowess? How about outfitting your consulates with computer systems that work? Or maybe rolling it out slowly so other offices could handle the overflow. Or training people on it first.

The country should be embarrassed, and its businesses should be furious. I’m going to aim to try this whole Brazil thing again in December or January. It’s not the entrepreneurs’ or our readers’ fault this happened, and I still believe there are great stories in Brazil that I want to report. But when you’re harder to get into than China, it doesn’t bode well for foreign investment, Brazil.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Sarah Lacy at September 03, 2009 06:35 PM

Techcrunch

EtherPad Launches A Virtual Document Time Machine

AppJet’s EtherPad, the real-time Google Docs-like wiki tool that was recently upgraded to become more collaborative, has launched an uber-cool tool that definitely worth a look. Called the “Time-Slider,” the feature lets you see the complete history of a document’s evolution.

Here’s how it works. EtherPad keeps track of all your typing in realtime. At any time during the course of typing a document on EtherPad, you can click on the “Time-Slider” button that will play an animation of your document to see how it evolved over time. The tool also features a timeline where you can click into any stage of the document and see the evolution from that point.

You can also create “bookmark” in the document’s timeline to mark certain points during the evolution of document that you’d like to go back to. Time-slider is a really interesting tool, if only for the nifty screencast of your document’s evolution. But seriously, when it comes to collaboration between several people, the time-slider could be useful to see how a particular document took form.

You can also test out EtherPad’s new tool here, when the startup captured Paul Graham writing an essay on startups.

EtherPad was the brainchild of former Googlers (who founded online programming tool and Y Combinator funded AppJet) who wanted a real-time, yet group oriented way to collaborate on notes and documents. Thus, EtherPad was born. EtherPad continues to upgrade its product with compelling features and innovations. The startup recently partnered with video-chat startup TokBox to offer document collaboration.

And earlier this summer, EtherPad got a user interface makeover and added the ability to import and export Word, PDF, Plain Text and HTML documents. Appjet made writing a document in EtherPad more like writing out notes in Word or Google Docs, adding rich text formatting, including bold, underline, italics and strikethrough commands to the wiki. And organization of notes within a document became a little better with the ability to add bullet points. EtherPad’s tools and functionality could just give Google Docs a run for its money.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at September 03, 2009 05:48 PM

Webfaction Blog

Latest news

Here is what's been happening lately:

New software-specific documentation

We've started writing some new documentation about specific software. This new documentation will eventually replace and surpass all of our knowledge base. The two latest guides that we wrote are:


WSGI SSL middleware no longer needed

Our mod_wsgi and django on mod_wsgi apps now come with the following line in their apache configuration:

SetEnvIf X-Forwarded-SSL on HTTPS=1


This means that mod_wsgi will set the right wsgi.url_scheme, removing the need for SSL middlewares such as http://www.djangosnippets.org/snippets/240/

Support for email extensions

Email extensions are now fully supported. This means that you can configure an email such as email@domain.com in the control panel and people can send emails to email+anything@domain.com and it'll work.

September 03, 2009 04:39 PM

Techcrunch

About a Quarter Of Facebook Users Connect Via Mobile Phones

Facebook’s quest to become the social operating system of the Web is driven by how many how many other Websites and apps tap into the social network through Facebook Connect. The mobile Web is a big target for Facebook. Back in March, it made Facebook Connect available to iPhone apps, since those are the most fully featured and popular. Today, it took another step in expanding the reach of Facebook Connect to any mobile phone with a Web browser.

Called Facebook Connect For Mobile Web, it will let any mobile site accept Facebook IDs for sign-on, grab social data from Facebook with permission from the user, publish items into their Facebook stream, and more. (Developers can get more details here).

The mobile Web is already a big deal for Facebook. Across all of its mobile apps (iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, etc), its mobile Website, and SMS, a full 65 million members reach Facebook via mobile devices every month. That comes to 26 percent of the 250 million total active members that Facebook puts out as its official number, or 18 percent of the 370 million monthly worldwide uniques that comScore measures.

Either way it is a significant and fast growing chunk of overall Facebook usage—between a fifth and a quarter. Back in December, only 20 million people were getting to Facebook via mobile devices.

http://developers.facebook.com/connect_iphone.php

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 03, 2009 04:29 PM

Techcrunch

AT&T To Finally Bring MMS Functionality To The iPhone Next Week?

The iPhone 3G S launched a few months ago, but AT&T users haven't been able to take advantage of a few much vaunted (and much needed) features as yet: MMS, Bluetooth file-sharing, and tethering are the Big Three. This, of course, despite the fact that AT&T is the “flagship” carrier! But never mind all that, because today we have some good news in the way of this latest bit of gossip: starting with iPhone OS 3.1, AT&T users will, in fact, be able to use MMS and Bluetooth file-sharing. Welcome to 2006, iPhone owners!
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Nicholas Deleon at September 03, 2009 03:43 PM

Techcrunch

Microsoft Mulls Making Search Results Shareable With “Bing & Ping”

bing-flights

Websites large and small are quickly learning that a sure way to make something go viral is to make it easy to share on Facebook and Twitter. Why should search results be any different? In fact, the ability to share a result via Twitter or social networks is quickly becoming a standard feature of many real-time search engines.

Microsoft’s Bing might soon add its own way to share search results called “Bing and Ping.” The feature is about to enter limited beta testing and will show up under certain result types such as sports scores or flight information. There will be small links at the bottom allowing you to share that result via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Most of the time, searching is a solitary activity. But there are times when you come across something worth sharing, especially if it is presented as more than just a link. Bing tries to compile information for different search categories in their own self-contained boxes. These are certainlyshareable, especially when you are trying to prove a point, win an argument, or just rub your friends’ noses in it when their favorite team loses.

bing-seahawks

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 03, 2009 03:21 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Grown in the middle of some very respectable Seattle suburbs, such as Renton

"The marijuana is grown in the middle of some very respectable Seattle suburbs, such as Renton."

This is a funny sentence if you're a longtime resident of the greater Seattle area, because Renton has historically been a working-class town. (Here's Almost Live's parody of South King County to give you an idea of what Renton is up against.)

The city is working to change its reputation. I wish them luck.

by oldnewthing at September 03, 2009 02:00 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Woe unto PROGMAN.INI

Sad but true: Once you document a file format, it becomes a de facto API.

The Windows 95 team learned this the hard way when they set out to replace Program Manager with Explorer. Not only were the settings in the PROGMAN.INI file documented, so too was the binary file format of *.GRP files. The binary file format was included for diagnostic purposes: If you have a corrupted GRP file, you can use the binary file format documentation to try to recover what you can out of it.

But many people treated this documentation not as a FYI, but as a backdoor API. Instead of using the formal DDE interface for creating program groups and icons, they just directly edited the PROGMAN.INI file and the applicable GRP files to get the icons and groups they wanted.

Oh wait, and then you need to reboot in order for the backdoor API to take effect, because all you did was modify the on-disk files, not the in-memory copy held by PROGMAN.EXE.

Of course, when Windows 95 replaced Program Manager with Explorer, these programs found themselves modifying the data files of a program that no longer was running. Special code had to be added to Explorer to read settings from PROGMAN.INI and even detect that a new GRP file was added and convert it into shortcuts on the Start menu.

I wouldn't be surprised if that code is still lying around, just in case somebody pulls out an old application from 1994 and installs it.

by oldnewthing at September 03, 2009 02:00 PM

Martin Fowler

FeatureBranch

With the rise of Distributed Version Control Systems (DVCS) such as git and Mercurial, I've seen more conversations about strategies for branching and merging and how they fit in with Continuous Integration (CI). There's a bit of confusion here, particularly on the practice of feature branching and how it fits in with CI.

Simple (isolated) Feature Branch

The basic idea of a feature branch is that when you start work on a feature (or story if you prefer that term) you take a branch of the repository to work on that feature. In a DVCS, you'll do this in your personal repository, but the same kind of thing works in a centralized VCS too.

I'm going to illustrate this with a series of diagrams. I have a shared project mainline, colored blue, and two developers, colored purple and green (since the developers names are Reverend Green and Professor Plum).

I'm using labeled colored boxes (eg P1 and P2) to represent local commits on the branch. Arrows between branches represent merges between branches, the boxes are colored orange to make them stand out. In this case there are updates, say a couple of bug-fixes, applied to the mainline (presumably by Mrs Peacock). When these happen our developers merge them into their work. To give this a sense of time, I'll assume we're looking at a few days work here, with each developer committing to their local branch roughly once a day.

In order to ensure things are working properly, they can run builds and tests on their branch. Indeed for this article I'll assume that each commit and merge comes with an automated build and test on the branch it's on.

The advantage of feature branching is that each developer can work on their own feature and be isolated from changes going on elsewhere. They can pull in changes from the mainline at their own pace, ensuring they don't break the flow of their feature. Furthermore it allows the team to choose its features for release. If Reverend Green takes too long, we can release with just Professor Plum's changes. Or we may want to delay Professor Plum's feature, perhaps because we are uncertain that the feature works the way we want to release it. In this case we just tell the professor to not merge his changes into mainline until we are ready for the feature. This is called cherry-picking, the team decides which features to merge in before release.

Attractive though that picture looks, there can be trouble ahead.

Although our developers can develop their features in isolation, at some point their work does have to be integrated. In this case Professor Plum easily updates the mainline with his own changes. There's no merge here because he's already incorporated the mainline changes into his own branch (there will be a build). Things are however not so simple for Reverend Green, he needs to merge all of his changes (G1-6) with all of Professor Plum's (P1-5).

(At this point many users of DVCSs may feel I'm missing something as this is a simple, perhaps simplistic view of feature branching. I'll get to a more involved scheme later.)

I've made this a big merge box as it's a scary merge. It may be just fine, the developers may have been working on completely separate parts of the code base with no interaction, in which case the merge will go smoothly. But they may be working on bits that do interact, in which case here lye dragons.

The dragons can come in many forms, and tooling can help slay some of them. The most of obvious dragon is the complexity of merging the source code and dealing with conflicts as developers edit the same files. Modern DVCSs actually handle this rather well, indeed somewhat magically. Git has quite the reputation for dealing with complicated merges. So much so that the textual issues of merging are much better than they used to be - indeed I'll go so far as to discount textual conflicts for the purposes of this article.

The problem I worry more about is a semantic conflict. A simple example of this is that if Professor Plum changes the name of a method that Reverend Green's code calls. Refactoring tools allow you to rename a method safely, but only on your code base. So if G1-6 contain new code that calls foo, Professor Plum can't tell in his code base as he doesn't have it. You only find out on the big merge.

A function rename is a relatively obvious case of a semantic conflict. In practice they can be much more subtle. Tests are the key to discovering them, but the more code there is to merge the more likely you'll have conflicts and the harder it is to fix them. It's the risk of conflicts, particularly semantic conflicts, that make big merges scary.

This fear of big merges also acts as a deterrent to refactoring. Keeping code clean is constant effort, to do it well it requires everyone to keep an eye out for cruft and fix it wherever they see it. However this kind of refactoring on a feature branch is awkward because it makes the Big Scary Merge worse. The result we see is that teams using feature branches shy away from refactoring which leads to uglier code bases.

Continuous Integration

It's these problems that Continuous Integration was designed to solve. With Continuous Integration my diagram looks like this.

There's a lot more merging going on here, but merging is one of those things that's much easier to do frequently and small rather than rarely and large. As a result if Professor Plum is changing some code that Reverend Green relies on, the Reverend will find it early, such as when he merges in P1-2. At that point he's only got to modify G1-2 to work with the changes, rather than G1-6.

CI is effective at removing the problem of big merges, but it's also a vital communication mechanism. In this scenario the potential conflict will actually appear when Professor Plum merges G1 and realizes that Reverend Green is actively building on Plum's libraries. At this point Professor Plum can go and find Reverend Green and they can discuss how their two features interact. It may be that Professor Plum's feature requires some changes that don't mesh well with Reverend Green's changes. By looking at both their features they can come up with a better design that affects both their work-streams. With the isolated feature branches our developers don't discover this till late, probably too late to do much about it. Communication is one of the key factors in software development and one of CI's most important features is that it facilitates human communication.

It's important to note that, most of the time, feature branching like this is a different approach to CI. One of the principles of CI is that everyone commits to the mainline every day. So unless feature branches only last less than a day, running a feature branch is a different animal to CI. I've heard people say they are doing CI because they are running builds, perhaps using a CI server, on every branch with every commit. That's continuous building, and a Good Thing, but there's no integration, so it's not CI.

Promiscuous Integration

Earlier I said parenthetically that there are other ways of doing feature branching. Say Professor Plum and Reverend Green take tea together early in the cycle. While chatting they discover they are working on features that interact. At this point they may choose to integrate with each other directly, like this.

With this approach they only push to the mainline at the end, as before. But they merge frequently with each other, so this avoids the Big Scary Merge. The point here is that the primary issue with the isolated feature branching scheme is its isolation. When you isolate the feature branches, there is a risk of a nasty conflict growing without you realizing it. Then the isolation is an illusion, and will be shattered painfully sooner or later.

So is this more ad-hoc integration a form of CI or a different animal entirely? I think it is a different animal, again a key point of CI is everyone integrates to the mainline every day. Integrating across feature branches, which I shall call promiscuous integration (PI), doesn't involve or even need a mainline. I think this difference is important.

I see CI as primarily giving birth to a release candidate at each commit. The job of the CI system and deployment process is to disprove the production-readiness of a release candidate. This model relies on the need to have some mainline that represents the current shared, most up to date picture of complete.

--Dave Farley

Promiscuous Integration vs Continuous Integration

So if it's different is PI better than CI, or more realistically under what circumstances is PI better than CI?

With CI, you lose the ability to use the VCS to do cherry picking. Every developer is touching mainline, so all features grow in the mainline. With CI, the mainline must always be healthy, so in theory (and often in practice) you can safely release after any commit. Having a half built feature or a feature you'd rather not release yet won't damage the other functionality of the software, but may require some masking if you don't want it to be visible in the user-interface. This can be as simple as not including a menu item in the UI to trigger the feature.

PI can provide some middle ground here. It allows Reverend Green the choice of when to incorporate Professor Plum's changes. If Professor Plum makes some core API changes in P2, then Reverend Green can import P1-2 but leave the others until Professor Plum's feature is put onto the release.

One worry with all this picking and choosing is that PI makes it really hard to keep track of who has what in their branch. In practice, it seems tooling pretty much solves this problem. DVCSs keep a clear track of changes and their origins and can figure out that when Professor Plum pulls G3 he already has G2 but doesn't have B2. I may have made mistakes drawing the diagram by hand, but tools do keep track of these things well.

On the whole, however, I don't think cherry-picking with the VCS is a good idea.

Feature Branching is a poor man's modular architecture, instead of building systems with the ability to easy swap in and out features at runtime/deploytime they couple themselves to the source control providing this mechanism through manual merging.

--Dan Bodart

I much prefer designing the software in such a way that makes it easy to enable or disable features through configuration changes. My colleague Paul Hammant calls this Branch by Abstraction. This requires you to put some thought into what needs to be modularized and how to control that variation, but we've found the result to be far less messy that relying on the VCS.

The main thing that makes me nervous about PI is the influence on human communication. With CI the mainline acts as a communication point. Even if Professor Plum and Reverend Green never talk, they will discover the nascent conflict - within a day of it forming. With PI they have to notice they are working on interacting code. An up-to-date mainline also makes it easy for someone to be sure they are integrating with everyone, they don't have to poke around to find out who is doing what - so less chance of some changes being hidden until a late integration.

PI arose out of open-source work, and it could be that the less intensive tempo of open-source could be a factor here. In a full time job, you work several hours a day on a project. This makes it easier for features to be worked in priority. With an open source project people often put in a hour here, and the next hour a few days later. A feature may take one developer quite a while to complete while other developers with more time are able to get features into a releasable state earlier. In this situation cherry picking can be more important.

It's important to realize that the tools you use are largely independent of the integration strategy you use. Although many people associate DVCSs with feature branching, they can be used with CI. All you need to do is mark one branch on one repository as the mainline. If everyone pulls and pushes to that every day, then you have a CI mainline. Indeed with a disciplined team, I would usually prefer to use a DVCS on a CI project than a centralized one. With a less disciplined team I would worry that a DVCS would nudge people towards long lived branches, while a centralized VCS and a reluctance to branch nudges them towards frequent mainline commits. Paul Hammant may be right: "I wonder though, if a team should not be adept with trunk-based development before they move to distributed."

September 03, 2009 01:45 PM

Techcrunch

As Twitter Continues To Grow, Popular Users Widen The Gap

Twitter keeps on growing like a weed, and there seems to be no stopping the much-hyped, heavily scrutinized Silicon Valley startup in its quest to turn its popular micro-sharing service into a veritable pulse of the planet. Twitter passed 50 million unique visitors worldwide in July, according to comScore, reaching 51.6 million UVs at the end of the month. But its biggest increase in traffic Twitter saw earlier this year, when unique visitors numbers gradually increased to reach 44.5 million in June, up from 19.1 million in the beginning of March.

Note that this traffic only accounts for members who are content with using the Twitter website, and doesn’t take into account the multitude of users who log on to third-party web services or desktop clients to access their Twitter streams. Either way you look at it, Twitter’s ongoing growth is staggering.

People information search specialist Rapleaf thought it’d be interesting to run some analysis on Twitter follower trends based on data it was monitoring closely for one of its clients, and the study gives us an interesting insight into how Twitter’s huge growth between March and June have affected following patterns of some of its most active users. We already learned most people on Twitter are sheep, but does that change over time?

Rapleaf recently helped one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies identify the most influential and connected Twitter users within their customer list for a word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Part of the analysis that Rapleaf was commissioned to do involved researching how profiles of their client’s customers on Twitter changed between given periods of time, by closely analyzing the users’ following and follower count.

The company ran some numbers on their clients’ top 0.1%, top 1% and top 10% most-followed Twitter users within the company’s customer list and compared how these figures changed in nine weeks, from the beginning of March until mid-June.

Rapleaf will be releasing the numbers later today but was kind enough to give us a sneak peek.

Clearly, the catchphrase ‘the rich get rich and the poor get poorer’ is at least half true when it comes to Twitter users’ following trends. While the service’s growth understandably lifts the follower numbers of the average Twitter user along the way, there’s also an apparent popularity gap that continues to widen.

Based on the sample of 40,000 users that Raplead has analyzed - deemed active members because they have at least five followers, five friends or five updates - it seems that having lots of followers on Twitter means that you’re going to grow more popular more rapidly as the microblogging service continues to boom.

The top 0.1% of observed Twitter users climbed 275% in Twitter followers between March and June, while the top 1% increased only 146% in comparison, and the top 10% gained only 126%. Even when analyzing the median followers, the stats paint a clear picture: the top 0.1%, 1% and 10% of researched Twitter users saw their follower base grow by 78%, 65% and 59% respectively.

Could this be the Twitter Golden Ratio at work?

Looking at the difference between the popularity of the top 0.1%, the top 1%, and the top 10% during the month of June, Rapleaf’s study shows users in the top 0.1% have approximately 5 times as many followers as users in the top 1% and about 40 times as many followers as users in the top 10%. It’s unclear how many of them are spam, of course.

Also noteworthy: a user who barely makes the top 10% needs 11.4 times more followers to break into the top 1%, and nearly 55 times as many followers to enter the top 0.1%.

Wanna see how your popularity on Twitter is evolving? Check out TwitterCounter to get an idea. Not happy with what you’re seeing? Try tweeting more often.

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by Robin Wauters at September 03, 2009 01:44 PM

The Daily WTF

Classic WTF: The Cool Cam

I've been tied up on a "special project" these past couple of evenings, so I thought it'd be fun to share this great classic. And, of course, by "project", I mean Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series and by "special" I mean "on Blu-ray." One of these days, I'll have to learn the discipline of Raymond Chen and have a few things queued up for urgent situations like these.

The Cool Cam was written by Jake Vinson and originally published on August 14th, 2007.


Brand G. got his start in the game industry working at MicroProse, famous for classics such as Civilization, the X-COM series, Masters of Orion, Pirates, and Dark Earth (one of my personal favorites). MicroProse was also known for its military simulation games, such as Gunship, Pacific Air War, M-1 Tank Platoon, and Falcon 4.0. Brand was brought on to work on such a simulation, European Air War.

European Air War was doomed. It was four years in development and not even close to being ready to ship. In Brand's first month at MicroProse, the whole programming team on European Air War quit, sensing that their project was on the verge of cancellation. Not only that, but everyone had grown tired enduring the stress of the weekly "why-shouldn't-we-cancel-this-project" meetings with the executives. In these meetings, they'd have to choose their words carefully when answering the executives' tough questions about the budget as well as major bugs in the system such as...

  • Why are the planes flying backwards sometimes?
    Well, uhh, a little known thing about Nazi technology developed in World War I...
  • Why do the wings come off the plane whenever you fire the guns?
    Uhh, err...
  • Why does the plane bounce up and out of the earth's atmosphere when you crash into the ground?
    Umm, in high-speed collisions like that it's not totally unreasonable that a plane's velocity torque rotary girder viscosity...

These meetings were tough. It almost seemed as though the execs were only keeping the project alive for the sadistic pleasure they took in watching the developers squirm. And among the bugs mentioned above, there were mountains more. For instance, planes couldn't take off or land. At all. Well, you could try to land, but that would cause the bug where the plane would bounce off the ground and into outer space. So to address the issue, all missions started out mid-flight and wouldn't require (or even allow) you to land.

Another fun bug caused the enemy AI to do your work for you. A rogue enemy plane would suddenly reject his mother country and start shooting down his own teammates. That is, until his wings fell off the plane since he was firing his guns. Then he'd kamikaze his plane into the ground, which would launch the plane into outer space that the MicroProse executives probably didn't find nearly as funny as I do.

Brand would stress out about defending the game at the weekly meetings, but that didn't mean that he thought concerns about European Air War's progress were unfounded. Facing a mountain of bugs and a project ready for the chopping block, he was relieved when another developer was added to the team, effectively halving the abuse Brand would have to deal with on a weekly basis. We'll call the new developer "Tim."

Tim knew what he was getting into when he came aboard the project. He knew about the bugs, about the budget, and about the impending cancellation of the whole thing. And with the major issues, you'd figure he'd start with any one of them. Maybe the one with the wings falling off whenever guns were fired. Especially considering the game is called "European Air War." If the wings ("air") and guns ("war") come off the plane, the game title should just be reduced to "European," or perhaps "European Wingless Plane Amidst Nazi Battle Simulator." You could start up a game and watch Nazis shoot eachothers' planes down until yours crashed.

With all of the bugs he could get started on, he decided it was necessary to add a new feature instead. He developed a camera system that would focus on anything "cool" happening near the player. For instance, one plane shakes another with a delicate evasive maneuver. Or it'd mount to a bomb right as a B-17's bay was opening, following its descent onto the earth. Or it'd follow a plane being shot down, ablaze and spiraling toward the ground, engines sputtering.

The "Cool Cam" was cool. But it didn't change the fact that the game was almost completely broken. Brand wanted to confront Tim about bug priority and all of the code he was toiling away to debug, but held his tongue. No one could save the project at this point anyway.

At the next week's meeting with management, the air felt heavy. With each passing week the execs were seeing money hemorrhaged into a dying project that they'd had a full team on for four years. Tim started up the game and played carefully to avoid the obvious bugs. Getting a double whammy of tough questions ("How overbudget is this project?" and "Why shouldn't we cancel this right now?"), Tim made sure his plane was level and flying evenly and let go of the joystick and hit the cool cam button.

Brand sat there silently, watching the monitor. Tim turned toward the execs, about to stumble through an answer they probably wouldn't accept. The room was silent, save for the steady hum of the plane's engines coming out of the computer speakers. Suddenly, the camera zoomed in on an explosion, following a flaming plane barreling toward the earth, then the focus moved slightly to another plane quickly evading the flaming shell. Tim took the controls again when the execs lobbed another tough question about bugs they'd made no progress in fixing. Again, Tim leveled the plane and hit the cool cam button. And again, he didn't have to answer because everyone was fixated on the screen.

Tim's "cool cam" saved European Air War. It went from a money-leaking embarrassment to a top-tier release for MicroProse. The weekly meetings got easier, more developers were brought on, and the team managed to put together one hell of a game. It reviewed well after its 1998 release and is still a popular game for history buffs. And it probably wouldn't have been released if not for a programmer that knew what the project needed most; the cool cam.


by Alex Papadimoulis at September 03, 2009 01:00 PM

Techcrunch

CrowdEye Introduces CrowdRank To Real-Time Search

One of the richest areas of experimentation in search right now is how to rank real-time results. For the most part, that means finding relevance in Twitter and bringing up the most important Tweets for any given keyword (see OneRiot, Collecta,Scoopler). Today, real-time search engine CrowdEye is introducing its own real-time ranking algorithm called CrowdRank. It’s supposed to be like Google’s PageRank, but for the crowd.

Right now,real-time search is Twitter search because that is the richest source of real-time data. And Twitter search is essentially a form of people search. Twitter’s own search engine simply brings back a reverse-chronological list of the most recent Tweets that match the keyword you enter.

CrowdEye does that as well because often in real-time search you just want to see what is happening at this second. But now CrowdEye will let you sort by relevance as well, rearranging results by the most influential people on Twitter. (See screenshots below)

What exactly goes into CrowdRank? CrowdEye founder Ken Moss, who previously was a search guru at Microsoft, won’t reveal all the factors. But the number of followers someone has seems to be the main one. He says:

CrowdEye Rank has many inputs, and the list will be changing over time as we work to refine the algorithm. Obviously it includes things like how many followers you have and whether you are a “verified” twitter account. Less obviously are some factors we use to penalize spammers.

Fortunately, he includes other measures of influence too, like how many times any particular message has been retweeted. Otherwise @aplusk is going to show up at the top of every search.

But now that every person on Twitter has a CrowdRank, when CrowdEye returns results, it shows an actual CrowdRank number between 1 and 100 at the bottom right of each avatar for the top Tweets in results. There is also a directory of the top CrowdRanked Twitter users, but these seem to match up closely to the list of people with the most followers (which again brings us back to to @aplusk problem).

For any given search, CrowdEye returns the top Tweets as well as the top links. Another change today is that if you sign into CrowdEye with your Twitter account, you can follow anybody who comes up in search results or retweet a message without leaving CrowdEye. CrowdEye will also now give you a personalized list of people to follow based partly on who you are already following.

This list is much better. For me it suggested my former Fortune colleague David Kirkpatrick and New York Times reporter Brad Stone (I swear, I thought I was already following you guys—no wait, that’s on Facebook). It also suggests Stocktwits (I’m not really a trader), author Tim Ferris (yes), and MC Hammer (why not?).

And most ambitious of all, CrowdEye will create a personalized homepage showing you links and Tweets tailored for you (see bottom screenshot). It shows you the most Tweeted articles from your favorite pre-selected blogs and news sites or ones which match saved queries. So instead of an empty search box, you are greeted with a bunch of recent content to explore as filtered by both your personal preferences and the collective wisdom (or idiocy) of Twitter.

crowdeye-search-results

crowdeye-top-ranked

crowdeye-home

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 03, 2009 12:54 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

First release of pyfsevents

Hello!
I am proud to announce the first release of pyfsevents, a C extension
providing a Python interface to the FSEvents API.
FSEvents is an Apple framework for Mac OS X >= 10.5 allowing
monitoring of file system events on Mac OS platforms.
* URL:
[link]
* Mercurial repository:

by Nicolas Dumazet (nicd...@gmail.com) at September 03, 2009 12:33 PM

Techcrunch

T-Mobile Has A Pulse: First Pay-As-You-Go Android Smartphone

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by TCAdmin at September 03, 2009 11:29 AM

Techcrunch

T-Mobile Has A Pulse: First Pay-As-You-Go Android Smartphone

T-Mobile UK this morning announced the Pulse, the first pay-as-you-go Android 1.5 smartphone and the third coming from the network operator. Available for £180 starting October exclusively on T-Mobile, it boasts a 3.5" HVGA touchscreen display, the biggest yet on an Android handset, a 3.2-megapixel camera and a TeleNav-powered GPS (more specs below). The new device comes courtesy of Huawei, which had been rumored to be working with T-Mobile since displaying a device at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year. More details about the device: The phone runs on a Qualcomm's MSM7200A chipset and weighs 130g. It features a trackball and a 3.5" HVGA touchscreen display with auto-rotation. The T-Mobile Pulse also features a 3.2 mega pixel, auto-focus camera (no flash) that allows photos to be uploaded straight to the Internet, a 2GB internal memory and a micro SD card slot for storing media. The handset also offers access to corporate e-mail through the Road sync client, and boasts enhanced social networking and community features.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 03, 2009 10:18 AM

Techcrunch

VCs Exit As Music Retailer Buys Half Of 7Digital For $12.6 Million

Laggard UK music retailer HMV is buying a 50 percent stake in the UK-based online music retailer 7Digital for $12.6 Million (£7.7 million). The move looks set to give HMV a ‘great leap forward’ in digital, since 7Digital has been fleet of foot in pushing non-DRM MP3s, open formats, its white label API and signed deals with tech rock stars like Spotify and many major record labels.

The purchase creates a neat exit for 7Digital’s VC backers Balderton Capital and Sutton Place Managers. CEO Ben Drury told me that the VCs got a “positive return on investment” - though terms have not been disclosed. In January last year it took £4.25 million in a round led by Sutton Place Managers that included original investor Balderton Capital. HMV Group will now use the five year-old 7Digital as its sole supplier for “all of its existing digital operations” in the UK and Canada.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Mike Butcher at September 03, 2009 10:15 AM

Jeff Atwood

If It Looks Corporate, Change It

Are you familar with happy talk?

If you're not sure whether something is happy talk, there's one sure-fire test: if you listen very closely while you're reading it, you can actually hear a tiny voice in the back of your head saying "Blah blah blah blah blah...."

A lot of happy talk is the kind of self-congratulatory promotional writing that you find in badly written brochures. Unlike good promotional copy, it conveys no useful information, and focuses on saying how great we are, as opposed to delineating what makes us great.

Happy talk is the kudzu of the internet; the place is lousy with the stuff.

And then there's the visual equivalent of happy talk. Those cloying, meaningless stock photos of happy users doing ... something ... with a computer.

stock-photo-happy-users.jpg

What is going on here? Given the beatific expressions, you'd think they were undergoing some kind of nerd rapture. Maybe they're getting a sneak preview of the singularity, I don't know.

It's unclear to me why companies (and even some individuals) think they need happy talk, stock photos of multicultural computer users, or the occasional headset hottie. Jason Cohen provides an explanation:

Even before I had a single customer, I "knew" it was important to look professional. My website would need to look and feel like a "real company." I need culture-neutral language complimenting culturally-diverse clip-art photos of frighteningly chipper co-workers huddled around a laptop, awash with the thrill and delight of configuring a JDBC connection to SQL Server 2008.

It also means adopting typical "marketing-speak," so my "About Us" page started with:

Smart Bear is the leading provider of enterprise version control data-mining tools. Companies world-wide use Smart Bear's Code Historian software for risk-analysis, root-cause discovery, and software development decision-support.

"Leading provider?" "Data mining?" I'm not even sure what that means. But you have to give me credit for an impressive quantity of hyphens.

That's what you're supposed to do, right? That's what other companies do, so it must be right. Who am I to break with tradition?

I'm not sure where we got our ideas about this stuff, but it is true that some large companies promote a kind of doublespeak "professionalism". Kathy Sierra describes her experiences at Sun:

By the time I got to Sun, using the word "cool" in a customer training document was enough to warrant an entry in your annual performance eval. And not in a good way.

I cannot count the times I heard the word "professionalism" used as justification for why we couldn't do something. But I can count the few times I heard the word "passion" used in a meeting where the goal was to get developers to adopt our newest Java technologies. What changed?

Some argue that by maintaining strict professionalism, we can get the more conservative, professional clients and thus grow the business. Is this true? Do we really need these clients? Isn't it possible that we might even grow more if we became braver?

It's a shame that this misguided sense of professionalism is sometimes used as an excuse to put up weird, Orwellian communication barriers between yourself and the world. At best it is a facade to hide behind; at worst it encourages us to emulate so much of what is wrong with large companies. Allow me to paraphrase the simple advice of Elmore Leonard:

If it looks corporate, change it.

The next time you find yourself using professional text, or professional stock images, consider the value of this "professionalism". Is it legitimately helping you communicate? Or is it getting in the way?

by Jeff Atwood at September 03, 2009 07:59 AM

Simon Brunning

Techcrunch

Tweetvite: An Events Site Dedicated To Planning And Finding Tweetups

A little over a year ago we saw the launch of Anyvite, a Y Combinator funded competitor to Evite that was looking to streamline event planning. Tonight, that startup is launching a spin-off site called Tweetvite — a site dedicated to helping plan and discover Tweetups.

For those that haven’t encountered the term before, a Tweetup is a real-life get together between people who use Twitter. Beyond that, the rules are flexible: Tweetups can be large events or small gatherings, can involve grabbing a few drinks or just socializing for a bit, and can be planned for in advance or spontaneous. Founder Jeff Morin says that while there are plenty of sites that cater to traditional events, like birthday and BBQs, the Tweetup niche is underserved.

Setting up an event with Tweetvite will be familiar to anyone who has used an event site like Anyvite or Evite. To get started, you enter the name of your event, the location, who is hosting it, and other essential information. But the site includes a few attributes that you won’t find anywhere else: it asks you to designate a hashtag for the event, as well as a custom shortened URL. The site also makes it easy to Tweet out your event, or share it with other services like Facebook and MySpace. Another big difference from traditional events sites is the fact that Tweetvite offers a directory of upcoming Tweetups (given the nature in which they’re announced, they’re generally open to the public).

Once you’ve created your event, you can use the site’s control panel to monitor for any tweets containing your hashtag and see how many people have viewed your page and RSVP’d. The site also offers a widget that you can embed on your blog to inform visitors of your upcoming tweetup.



Tweetvite looks great, with a very polished interface and a streamlined event creation process that only takes a minute or two. At this point the biggest question in my mind is how many people actually throw Tweetups — they may be becoming increasingly popular but are nowhere near as common as traditional events are, so it may be tough to build a business around this niche. That said, Twitter is obviously still in its infancy, so the number of Tweetups may grow rapidly over the next few years.


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by Jason Kincaid at September 03, 2009 04:13 AM

Techcrunch

Endless Summer: AT&T Has Three Weeks To Fulfill Its MMS Promise

endless-summerI don’t know about you, but I never really consider September to still be the Summer. But it is, until September 22, anyway. Why that matters is that AT&T promised iPhone users in the U.S. MMS capabilities by “late Summer.” So, technically AT&T, you have three weeks.

I shouldn’t have to remind everyone how utterly ridiculous it is that about three months now after much of the rest of the world got it, the U.S. still has no MMS capabilities for the iPhone. Reasons seem to vary for why exactly it is taking AT&T so long, but my favorite is the one where they have to manually remove MMS opt-out codes from each iPhone contract. Genius planning right there, if that’s true. And still, why exactly does that take three months?

The lawsuits are already starting to come out of the woodwork over the lack of MMS (and tethering) on AT&T. And if AT&T is not able to hit that September 22 date, expect a hell of a lot more. And, of course, more calls for Apple to break up with AT&T. The company bought itself a little bit of time by actually, for once, not having anything to do with a nightmare situation (the Google Voice fiasco). But at the end of the day, AT&T still badly needs to improve its execution.

While the service has been doing some upgrades to its services in particularly bad cities (San Francisco and New York), I think it’s all too easy to forget that we really shouldn’t be lauding them for that — it’s their job to provide us with service, and we’re paying them very well for that. They can complain all they want about being overwhelmed, but we all have contracts that state we pay them and they provide us with service. As I see it, only one side is living up to those contracts: Us.

While Netflix is dishing out unprompted refunds for little hiccups in their service, many of us have probably accumulated days of basically no service with AT&T. How many of those refund emails have you gotten from AT&T? Because I’ve seen none.

Apple is holding an event in one week to show off its new iPods. The event is said to be music-centric, but if we don’t hear a peep from Apple about MMS, I’m going to be pretty worried about the whole “end of Summer” promise. Actually, I’m already worried, it’s freaking September.

Update: And 12 hours later, AT&T responds: MMS will be available September 25. Yes, that’s a few days into Fall, but I hear Fall is the new Summer anyway.

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by MG Siegler at September 03, 2009 04:06 AM

Techcrunch

Perk Up: Facebook Launches Shuttle Service Between SF And Palo Alto

When it comes to the battle for top talent in Silicon Valley, perks can be a powerful weapon. For years, Google owned this space — you couldn’t read a report on the company without a mention of the search giant’s multiple cafeterias or onsite haircuts. But in the last few years Facebook has been piling on the perks, even going as far as poaching Google’s in-house chef. And today Facebook is taking another page from Google’s playbook: shuttles from San Francisco to Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, provided by Bauer’s — the same company used by Google. A number of pleased employees have been tweeting and updating their Facebook statuses with their enthusiastic responses to the announcement.

The news comes only a week after Facebook announced plans to drastically increase the size of its workforce by as much as 50% by the end of the year, during a time when most of Silicon Valley is not hiring and is cutting back on perks. Clearly, the social network is doing everything it can to make the decision to join as easy as possible.

Facebook has spelled out all of its other perks on its homepage, which include a robust benefits package, free food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), free Caltrain passes, and laundry services. The company also used to offer housing vouchers to employees that lived in Palo Alto, but discontinued that program some time ago.

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by Jason Kincaid at September 03, 2009 03:08 AM

Joel on Software

Upcoming startup workshop in San Francisco

I’m organizing a half-day startup workshop in San Francisco. This would be a terrific event to attend if you’ve recently started a software company and feel dazed, confused, or just want to bounce ideas off of someone who’s been there.

We’ll keep it small so everybody gets a chance to be heard. Space is extremely limited.

It’s a bonus supplement to the Business of Software conference, which is Nov. 9-11 in San Francisco.

Although the startup workshop itself is free, you do have to pay for for that conference, which is not free, in fact, it’s kind of expensive (but totally worth every penny!) I know it’s kind of expensive for very early stage startups, but trust me on this, it’s worth it.

Here’s what happens. After the main conference finishes up on Wednesday, we’ll divide up into three groups. Each group will do three 90 minute workshops, moderated by:

  1. Neil Davidson and Simon Galbraith, the founders of Red Gate Software. Red Gate is a software company in Cambridge, England, founded in 1999, which has now grown to about 160 people. It was founded with no VC and little debt. In 2006 it was Cambridge News business of the year and has been in the Sunday Times top 100 places to work for the last three years running. They’ve recently launched Springboard, an amazing startup incubator that provides advice, office space, free lunch, and pocket money, and takes no equity in return.
  2. Joel Spolsky (oh wait that’s me) and Michael Pryor, the founders of Fog Creek Software.
  3. Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot, a software platform for internet marketing. Previously he founded Pyramid Digital Solutions, a bootstrapped company acquired by SunGard. Most of you know him from his blog OnStartups.com or from the terrific talk [video] he gave at last year’s conference.

The format is very open. It’s a chance to chat, bounce ideas around, ask questions, solve specific problems, get feedback, and learn from each other.

After the workshops we’ll regroup with Jason Calacanis, who will do a live broadcast of his podcast This Week in Startups and take your questions live. Jason is on his third startup. The first, Silicon Alley Reporter, was the flagship magazine of New York City’s short-lived dot com boom; after the crash of 2000 it closed down. His second startup was Weblogs Inc, the first really serious commercial blog network, which sold to AOL for an undisclosed sum (let’s call it $25 million, shall we?) After turning netscape.com into a Digg clone, Jason spent some time at a fancy-pants VC firm, Sequoia Capital, where he hatched the idea for his current startup, Mahalo, which they funded. Anyway now he’s got this terrific podcast and he’ll be doing it live and we’ll be his audience, so you’ll have a rare chance to ask Jason questions in person and hear him pontificate.

Here’s how to sign up.

If you haven’t registered for BOS2009 yet, go do that. During the registration process, you’ll see a checkbox that says “I'd like to come to Joel's startup bootcamp”. It’s not a bootcamp, really. You won’t have to do pushups or work very hard. But check that box anyway.

If you already registered for BOS2009, follow this link. Click on “Already Registered.” Log on, and look for the link that says Event Fees. Why does it say that? I don’t know. After you click on that link you’ll be able to check the box that says “I'd like to come to Joel's startup bootcamp”. It’s still not a bootcamp. Really. Bootcamp is where you run around in circles for 20 weeks without getting more than four hours of sleep a night while drill sergeants barely a year older than you foam at the mouth and berate you endlessly like that time Tom Hanks flips out at Bitty Schram in A League of Their Own. “There’s no crying in baseball!” Anyway, NOT THAT AT ALL. This will be more of a friendly conversation with successful software startup founders. Not bootcamp.

Space is extremely limited: there will be three groups of 24 founders each. No more than two attendees per startup, please. See you in San Francisco!

Need to hire a really great programmer? Want a job that doesn't drive you crazy? Visit the Joel on Software Job Board: Great software jobs, great people.

by Joel Spolsky at September 03, 2009 12:54 AM

September 02, 2009

Techcrunch

Digg Starts Nofollow-ing Links That It Doesn’t Trust

screen-shot-2009-09-02-at-44704-pmDigg announced a seemingly small, but rather interesting change on its blog today: It has added a “rel=nofollow” tag to every link on the site that it doesn’t trust. What this means is that all the spammers who submit their stories to Digg, are now basically out of luck.

Sure, all spammer who submit something to Digg hope that it hits the frontpage and brings a rush of traffic. But more important to them are the links associated with Digg. If a story is popular on Digg, it will also likely garner quite a few links back to it. But even if it doesn’t become popular, the link coming from Digg itself gives some weight to the spammy URL in a search engine crawler’s eyes.

Digg using nofollow has been a subject of debate since at least 2007, when the service was exploding with popularity. Around that time, Wikipedia decided to use nofollow for all of its outbound links. But what’s interesting here is that Digg isn’t adding nofollow to all of its links, and instead is only doing it for the untrusted ones.

This work was done in consultation with leading experts from the SEO/SEM and link spam fields, in an effort to lookout for the interests of content providers and the Digg community,” Digg’s John Quinn writes today. This would seem to suggest that company realizes it’s still in the interest of most content providers to get the link juice that comes from Digg. It would also seem to suggest that it doesn’t want firestorm of controversy similar to the one it created with the DiggBar.

This move comes at an interesting time for Digg, as sites like Bit.ly look to be setting up to battle for who has the most interesting link data on the Internet. Twitter itself has been testing out the tracking of links from its site, though it claims to be just doing so for internal product purposes.

How Digg judges which sites they trust, they don’t say. But one would have to assume that these sites are different from the ones that are straight-up blocked from the service for being spammy. Untrusted links in comments, profiles and story pages will also get the nofollow tag as well.

[photo: flickr/brianware3000]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 02, 2009 11:50 PM

Techcrunch

NetBase Thinks You Can Get Rid Of Jews With Alcohol And Salt

This morning I wrote about NetBase Solutions’ healthBase, a semantic search engine that aggregates medical content from millions of authoritative health sites including WebMD, Wikipedia, and PubMed. But is it a semantic engine or an anti-semitic search engine?

Several of our readers tested out the site and found that healthBase’s semantic search engine has some major glitches (see the comments). One of the most unfortunate examples is when you type in a search for “AIDS,” one of the listed causes of the disease is “Jew.” Really.

The ridiculousness continues. When you click on Jew, you can see proper “Treatments” for Jews, “Drugs And Medications” for Jews and “Complications” for Jews. Apparently, “alcohol” and “coarse salt” are treatments to get rid of Jews, as is Dr. Pepper! Who knew? I’ve included the screenshots of the results below if you don’t believe me. Now, I don’t think that healthBase is being intentionally anti-semitic, but for a technology which is supposed to understand the nuances of human language, this is about a big a fail as you can get. It is plainly obvious that its technology needs to be fixed before it is parsed out to other companies and media corporations.

I emailed NetBase to figure out exactly how this could appear and this is the response I received:

This is an unfortunate example of homonymy, i.e. words that have different meanings.
The showcase was not configured to distinguish between the disease “AIDS” and the verb “aids” (as in aiding someone). If you click on the result “Jew” you see a sentence from a Wikipedia page about 7th Century history: “Hispano-Visigothic king Egica accuses the Jews of aiding the Muslims, and sentences all Jews to slavery. ” Although Wikipedia contains a lot of great health information it also contains non-health related information (like this one) that is hard to filter out.

Personally, I think such basic distinctions should have been ironed out before launching the site. This is just the most flagrant example of site giving non-health answers to health-related questions. If you look at the pros of AIDS (yes, it thinks here are pros to having AIDS), it comically lists the “Spanish Civil War.” One of the causes of hemorrhoids is “Bronco” (I don’t even want to know).

HealthBase is touted to be a showcase for NetBase’s semantic technology, which can supposedly understand language. Clearly, it doesn’t understand language well enough. And if the technology is going to be peddled to other companies to be used to power additional search engines, it needs to be improved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s a more detailed response from NetBase:

Yesterday, we launched a microsite - healthbase.netbase.com - intended
to publicly demonstrate a new kind of semantic search technology that
actually reads web content and delivers more relevant answers to
health-related queries. HealthBase is built on our Content Intelligence
Platform that has been deployed successfully in different domains by
Fortune 1000 companies, global publishers, and the federal government
over the last few years for a variety of strategic applications. A
ready-for-primetime consumer search engine it is not.

It is a powerful and automated technology, that when applied to
something as messy as the Web, will produce some amazing results, but
also some strange, funny and irrelevant ones. Our first release of
healthBase yesterday surfaced a few embarrassing and offensive bugs.
These were far in the minority of results but enough to keep us up late
improving the site. We sincerely regret and apologize in particular for
any offense caused.

We’ve learned a lot in the last 24 hours and are fully committed to do
better in providing an effective and accurate demonstration of our
technology. This morning, we are a little tired and humbled, but even
more determined than ever to showcase the power of this new technology.
You will see improvements in the next hours days, and weeks, including
the addition of user feedback mechanisms. We appreciate the feedback and
please keep telling us what you think.

Thanks,

Jens Tellefsen, VP of marketing and product strategy & The Netbase Team

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by Leena Rao at September 02, 2009 11:08 PM

Brett Canon

Less than a month to submit a PyCon 2010 talk

PyCon talk proposals are due October 1, which is less than a month (four weeks) away. I have already submitted a talk on custom importers and using importlib to write your own.

by Brett (noreply@blogger.com) at September 02, 2009 10:36 PM

Techcrunch

Google Voice Alternative Line2 Is Now Live On The App Store

The Apple/Google Voice fiasco just got more interesting. Toktumi, a startup that lets small businesses build office-caliber phone systems with their mobile phones and computers, just had its application Line2 approved by Apple — nearly three months after it was originally submitted. The powerful service allows business employees to assign two phone numbers to their iPhone: one that they can give to family and friends, and another that can be given to business contacts, with features that allow for call filtering and a professional-grade voicemail system. But it’s also notable for its many similarities to Google Voice, an application that Apple has kept out of the App Store for months now.

The story so far: late last July, Apple abruptly pulled all third party Google Voice applications from the App Store, explaining that they somehow were duplicating the iPhone’s native functionality. Later that day, we broke the news that Google’s official Google Voice client had been barred from the App Store, sparking a media storm and a FCC inquiry into Apple’s rationale for the ban.

Line2, an iPhone client that lets you easily tap into the Toktumi service, got caught in the crossfire. From a technical standpoint the application is quite similar to Google Voice: both services allow you to hand out a ‘virtual number’ to contacts. When they call, the service can either relay the call to your ‘real’ number (the AT&T number assigned to your iPhone), or it can send it to voicemail, depending on the way you’ve set up your call filters. You can also use both services to make cheap long distance calls. In fact, the Line2 app was built by developer Sean Kovacs — the same developer who built GV Mobile, one of the handful of third party Google Voice apps that Apple pulled.

But there are some key differences. For one, Toktumi doesn’t include support for SMS at all; Google Voice does. And Toktumi costs $14.95 a month, while Google Voice is free. Toktumi is also marketing its service to a very different audience: while Google Voice is trying to let you use a single phone number for everything, Toktumi wants to give small business employees who lack a dedicated work line the flexibility to use two phone numbers from the same mobile phone, and includes some features that Google Voice doesn’t. Here’s how we previously described it:

Line2 would allow users to use two different numbers with their iPhones — one which they could hand out for business calls, and the other for personal. This setup would allow employees to keep their personal numbers private, and also allows businesses to set up professional features on the business line, with features like an phone directory (”Press 1 for sales…”) and a single support number that calls the mobile phones of multiple employees.

Even with those differences, Toktumi CEO Peter Sisson says that many consumers do actually use the service as an alternative to Google Voice — if you just hand out your Toktumi number to everyone, you can use the service’s filtering options to manage your calls much as you would with Google’s service (he does note that Toktumi’s filtering is less flexible than Google’s, but it should be sufficient for most people).

Soon after the Google Voice story broke, Sisson grew concerned that his application’s similarities might keep it from being accepted to the App Store, so he attempted to reach out to Apple executive Phil Schiller. Schiller got back to him, saying that he would have an answer soon. Then the FCC launched its inquiry, and Apple went silent. Sisson says he’s been pestering Apple over the last month, and it looks like his persistence worked.

It’s great news to hear that Line2 has been accepted, and it may indicate that Apple is coming closer to accepting Google Voice — given Apple’s approval of Vonage this morning, it the App Store may even have some new policies in place regarding this kind of app (though details on the Vonage app are still sparse). Also worth noting: Line2 clearly “replaces” the phone’s Voicemail and keyboard in the same way Apple complained about in its FCC response about Google Voice (this claim has always been laughable). If Apple still won’t approve Google Voice after this, it will be clear, as if it wasn’t already, that it’s not worried about the user experience — it’s worried about Google.

If you’d like to try Toktumi out for yourself, visit Line2.com, and the first 200 US-based users to sign up using the promo code 743623718 will be able to access 3 months of unlimited US/Canada calling and cheap international calls, as well as Toktumi’s other features like a professional-grade voicemail system. You can download the iPhone app here.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 02, 2009 10:22 PM

Techcrunch

Event Ticketing Startup Amiando Shows Impressive Early Growth

Event ticketing and management site amiando is reporting some impressive growth in revenues. In a company update the private German startup is circulating, it is reporting 200 percent annual revenue growth in the second quarter, and 65 percent growth over the first quarter of 2009. The report doesn’t give absolute numbers, but I’ve learned that it is in the range of a few million Euros a year, split evenly between its two main businesses, amiandoTICKETS (ticket sales) and amiandoEVENTS (event registration and management). The company says it is on track to become profitable by early next year.

On the ticketing side, amiando is selling about 30 million Euros worth of tickets a year, of which it gets a cut of 7.5 percent or less. It offers tickets in 15 currencies and has been used for more than 70,000 events since it launched three years ago. About 45 percent of its revenues still come from its home country of Germany, but more than half come from outside. And since it opened up its ticketing API last December, about a dozen social networks now offer amiando as a ticketing app.

Facebook Connect alone accounts for 5 percent of its event traffic and 2 percent of revenues. And Twitter recommendations are growing fast. Although email recommendations drives more referrals than anything else.

While Amiando is coming up the ranks, it still trails Eventbrite in traffic. Other competitors include Eventbee and TicketLeap.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 02, 2009 09:46 PM

Techcrunch

Mint is Worth A Mint: $140 Million Valuation

More information is coming in about that $14 million third round of financing that personal finance service Mint closed last month. That financing, we’ve heard from two sources close to the company, valued Mint at a whopping $140 million post-money valuation.

That’s not bad for a company that launched just two years ago - Mint won the top prize at TechCrunch50 2007.

In a “normal” round of financing a company would dilute by 25-35%, meaning the expected valuation on a $14 million round would be, roughly, $45 million - $60 million. The $140 million valuation shows two things - Mint is on a roll, and they don’t seem to need much capital.

Mint has grown to 1.4 million registered users, tracking $175 billion in transactions and $47 billion in assets. The site also reports that it has identified $300 million in potential savings offers for its users. It primarily makes its money by generating leads for financial institutions, but it’s also sitting on a goldmine of user data that it hasn’t even begun to tap into yet.

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by Michael Arrington at September 02, 2009 09:23 PM

Techcrunch

Producteev Now Lets You Crowdsource Your Tasks On Twitter

There are plenty of Web-based task management tools that let you track the progress of your work projects and collaborate with co-workers. Producteev founder Ilan Abehassera wants to go one better and help you “complete your task” by making it easy to ask your contacts and followers on Twitter for assistance.

Producteev shows you a dashboard of different tasks you’ve set up, each in its own widget box which you can drag around and rearrange. For its commercial launch today, Producteev is introducing some new features. One is the ability to syndicate any task to Twitter or Facebook.

So if you need a Web designer or sales person for a project, for example, you can create a task on Producteev and share that not only with your co-workers, but also publish it on Twitter. A link brings your Twitter followers back to a public page on Producteev for that specific task/message, where they can reply. All outside replies are brought into the Producteev activity stream for everyone in your work group to see. This is good, but it doesn’t go far enough, as you can’t reply via Producteev and have that reply appear on Twitter.

Another new feature makes Producteev like a Friendfeed of productivity apps. It lets you bring in other streams of data from outside Producteev, including Slideshare, Scribd, Zoho, Twitter, and soon Google Docs, Google Reader, and Yammer (yes, it competes with Yammer on the communication stream, but Producteev is more about task management). So you can automatically see when someone on your team adds a new presentation to Slideshare, edits a doc, or shares an article.

There is also now a timeline/calendar view, which comes in handy since every task can be assigned a due date. (The other views are a dashboard grid that is similar to Netvibes or iGoogle, and a straight, chronological activity stream). Workers can now generate reports based on their tasks in progress and completed, which they can show to employers to prove they’ve been working (oDesk anyone?). Soon Producteev will add graphs as well for productivity tracking at a glance.

Other upcoming features on the product roadmap include integration with Meebo Community IM for chat functionality, the ability to export deadlines and reminders to iCal, Google Calendar, and Outllook, an OpenSocial application on Xing, and a JoliCloud app.

Producteev is gradually becoming a fully-featured online productivity and collaboration tool. I would compare it to WizeHive, another great online task management tool with a slightly different set of features. Producteev is seed funded, and recently raised $180,000 in angel money from a group including Fotolia president Oleg Tscheltzoff.

The service is free for up to 3 users, and then starts at $19/ month up to 10 users. The top Gold membership is $99/month for 100 users. Different pricing applies to university students, another target market. We’re giving away 10 Gold subscriptions for one year to whoever adds the best comments below about their greatest productivity challenge or suggestions for new features. Abehassera will pick the best 10 and respond in comments.

timeline

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 02, 2009 07:00 PM

Techcrunch

Yelp Is Growing 80 Percent A Year, While Citysearch Remains Flat

Say what you will about the quality of the reviews on Yelp or the lengths it will go to get verboten features into its iPhone app, it has made the jump from Web 2.0 darling to a mainstream service. Over the past year, Yelp has nearly doubled its U.S. audience, while incumbent CitySearch has remained flat. In July, Yelp had 8.6 million unique U.S. visitors, up 80 percent from a year ago. Citysearch, on the other hand, literally had zero growth, staying at 15.4 million uniques, although it bottomed at 13 million in April and has come back up since then (comScore).

Yelp also has the No. 1 travel app on the iPhone (it is No. 26 overall). Whereas Citysearch’s similar iPhone app is not even in the top 20 travel apps.

Yelp’s pageviews and average time spent per user on the site are also up 150 percent and 22 percent, respectively. In fact, the 3.3 average minutes per visitor on Yelp is above Citysearch’s 2.3 minute average. But comScore shows a steep drop in both pageviews and average time spent starting in May, with a leveling off in July. Citysearch experienced similar drops. (See charts below). It’s hard to say what is causing these drops. It could be that people are not finding what they are looking for, or the opposite, that they are finding what they need faster due to better site design. I suspect it has something to do with the latter. For instance, a much-improved Citysearch redesign went site-wide in March and Yelp is constantly tweaking its site. Update: Kara Nortman, the executive who runs Citysearch, says that the pageview numbers are down slightly, but not as much as comScore suggests. Part of this has to do with Citysearch actually going through the site and “pulling out pages that are not great consumer experiences,” which hurts SEO, but improves the site overall. Citysearch is also trying to reduce the number of searches it takes ti get to what you want, which also causes pageviews to drop.

I asked Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about the pageview situation, and he sent me an internal Google Analytics chart pasted at bottom of this post). “As you can see we’ve continued to grow pageviews smoothly throughout the summer,” he says, “so it looks like the effect Comscore is reporting is spurious.” There is definitely a discrepancy there. Stoppleman also says that worldwide Yelp did 157 million pageviews in August (although he thinks that is becoming a less a meaningful metric as Ajax redesigns reduce the need for page refreshes) and more than 25 million unique visitors. (The comScore numbers cited above are only for the U.S.)

Yelp came out with a major update for its iPhone app in April, right about the time the pageviews started to allegedly decline. But Stoppelman doesn’t think that is it either. There might be some shift over to mobile, but he’s seeing the following trends:

Mobile usage for us is lowest early in the week and climbs throughout, peaking on Saturday. Desktop web usage (especially contributions) tends to be highest on Monday or Tuesday (though Yelp.com reader traffic sometimes peaks on Fridays as people plan their weekend in the office ;).

No matter which way you cut the numbers, though, Yelp is gaining fast on Citysearch. Update “I worry about everyone,” says Citysearch’s Nortman. “I think you’ll start to see some pretty strategic initiatives roll out across the web and mobile. We have this new neighborhood platform in place. We have to fill it up with trusted content.” That is how Citysearch will try to stand apart, by having reviews and other content that is more trustworthy than Yelp’s. Which site do you trust more?

Average Minutes Per Visitor

Total Pageviews

Yelp’s Daily Pageviews (Google Analytics)

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 02, 2009 06:51 PM

Techcrunch

Android Now Plays Foursquare Too

screen-shot-2009-09-02-at-113816-amFoursquare has been all the rage in the early adopter mobile space the past several months. And it has been peeking outside of the early adopter crowd with things such as local bars offering promotions for Foursquare usage. But it has still been held back a bit by the fact that it has only had an iPhone app and a somewhat clunky mobile web interface. And Foursquare understood that, so it called for developers to help build its app for the other mobile platforms. Today, the first of those is ready to go: Foursquare for Android.

Work on the project started back in April and was mainly coded by Joe LaPenna and Chris Brummel in their spare time. It started as a project to first reverse engineer the iPhone API, and then migrate to Android using Foursquare’s beta API, LaPenna tells us. After a few months of work, the duo and Foursquare’s Naveen Selvadurai (who has been managing it from the service’s side) feels its now feature-complete and ready for distribution.

phoneUsers who have played with the iPhone version should feel at home with this app. But it has a few features that the iPhone version doesn’t, such as integrated maps and a one-click check-in process. Other areas like the friends check-in list and the page to display your badges are largely the same as the iPhone version, but the app has the distinctive Android look and feel.

One advantage the Android platform has over the iPhone is that applications can run in the background. But Foursquare for Android chooses not to take advantage of that, and instead opts for speed and better battery life. No “location aware” always-on background services or application bloat to drain your battery over the course of the night,” is how they phrase it. Since Foursquare is all about manually checking-in places, that makes sense.

With the app now complete, the next revisions will focus on performance and UI, LaPenna says. But there are also some new features that both they and Foursquare have planned. “We of course plan on adding features to the app but we’re not sure what order we’re going to tackle them in,” LaPenna says.

Having another mobile application for Foursquare should certainly help with its adoption. And Android is especially key since a lot of geeky early adopters have Android phones. There is also work being done on a BlackBerry app and a Windows Mobile app. The latter I’ve seen in action, as my friend Anand Iyer has been working on it. It has a few great features also not found on the iPhone app including the ability to ping you if three of your friends check-in somewhere that you are not. And placing your friends on an actual map to show where they are (think Latitude).

One really nice thing about the new Android app is that it’s open-source. LaPenna and Brummel have already had plenty of others help in building it. You can find out more about it on the Google Code page for the project. They’ve also written up some documentation for first-time Foursquare Android users.

The Android Foursquare app is available in the Android Market right now for free, or you can grab the app from the Google Code page and install it yourself.

Update: DailyFinance published some other interesting information today in a profile of Foursquare. The most interesting part is that Foursquare is preparing to announce a round of seed funding. We’ve heard that as well from a couple sources. From what we hear, the company is actually looking for less money than some investors are offering.

Look for a low seven figure seed round to be announced in the coming weeks. And one name that is continually thrown around as being involved is Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson. And where he is putting money, you can often find Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet close by as well. Nothing confirmed yet, that’s just what we’re hearing.

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by MG Siegler at September 02, 2009 06:44 PM

Eric Raymond

Let these two asses be set to grind corn!

In The Book of Lies, the diabolically brilliant occultist Alesteir Crowley once wrote:

“Explain this happening!”

“It must have a natural cause!”
“It must have a supernatural cause!”

Let these two asses be set to grind corn!

In the original, there is a sort of grouping bracket connecting the second and third lines lines and pointing at the fourth. Crowley was asserting, in both lucid and poetic terms, that to the understanding mind the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” is meaningless, an argument conducted about language categories with no predictive value.

Alfred Korzybski would have agreed with him. The founder of General Semantics built his powerful discipline on the insight that “The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing defined”. This matters because, too often, we fall into dispute over features of our maps, blithely ignoring the territory underneath.

Ever since reading the Book of Lies, I have considered “Let these two asses be set to grind corn!” to be the most appropriate thing to say when two people or factions have fallen into an argument that is strictly about map rather than territory. It does the job just as well as a more reasoned argument, I find. The imagery makes both sides look absurd, which can be a much more effective way than logic to jolt them out of their fixed categories.

I was reminded of this recently in connection with the longstanding argument between natural-law and consequentialist libertarians. Like the more general and historically much older argument between virtue ethicists and utilitarians, the dispute is interminable because it rests upon a false distinction from which nonsense follows. Utilitarians don’t get that virtue ethics is an evolved tactic to prevent destructive short-termism in one’s utility calculations; virtue ethicists don’t get that without a consequential check on the outcomes of “virtue” it rapidly becomes sterile or perverse.

Similarly, “human rights” is properly understood not as some mystical intrinsic property of humans ordained by God or natural law or whatever, but as the minimum set of premises from which it is possible to construct a society that isn’t consequentially hell on earth. But carving those in stone - using the language of rights and absolutes — is functional, too; it’s a way of protecting them from erosion by short-term expediency. For the best outcome, we must reason like consequentialists but speak and legislate like natural-law thinkers.

The universe doesn’t care about the human distinction between a-priori and consequentialist arguments; that’s all map. The territory is what people do, the actual choices they express in action. Thus…

“Human rights are founded on natural law!”
“Human rights are justified by consequential considerations!”
Let these two asses be set to grind corn!

by esr at September 02, 2009 06:35 PM

Techcrunch

Oh, RSS Is Definitely Dead Now: Feedburner CEO Dick Costolo To Become Twitter COO

Former Google exec and the cofounder/CEO of RSS service Feedburner Dick Costolo is Twitter’s new chief operating officer, we’ve heard from multiple sources. Costolo, who sold Feedburner to Google for $100 million in 2007, left Google in July. We’d heard he was looking to start a new company, but obviously Twitter swooped in and grabbed him.

Steve Gillmor is going to love this, of course, since he proclaimed that RSS was dead and Twitter was the new messaging protocol bus, or something to that effect. “Rest In Peace, RSS,” he wrote, saying “It’s time to get completely off RSS and switch to Twitter…All my RSS feeds are in Google Reader. I don’t go there any more. Since all my feeds are in Google Reader and I don’t go there, I don’t use RSS anymore.”

Santosh Jayaram, Twitter’s existing head of operations (and also from Google), will presumably remain with the company and report to Costolo.

Costolo, who is also an early Twitter investor, is someone who has actual experience building scalable infrastructures, which Twitter sorely needs. The company hasn’t launched any new features in recent memory, and continues to have regular downtime. In fact, Twitter’s inability to build features and keep the service live is a serious competitive disadvantage. Costolo can presumably fix all that.

Twitter is actively hiring more senior people, we’ve heard. In July they hired Alexander Macgillivray, Google’s associate general counsel for Product and IP, as their new General Counsel.

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by Michael Arrington at September 02, 2009 05:56 PM

The Google Blog

Happy 10th birthday, Blogger

Much has changed since Blogger was released in August of 1999. Writing about Blogger's founding in his book Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg describes the effect of Blogger simply: "It cleared the obstacles from the path between brain and Web page." As the phenomenon of blogging has grown and evolved over the past ten years, so too has Blogger, adapting to a world of fast-paced communication and allowing millions to tell their stories. When Google acquired Blogger in February of 2003, about 250,000 people visited Blogger per month. Today, that number is more than 300 million.

In our announcement about the Blogger acquisition, we said (somewhat ironically, not in a blog post — the Official Google Blog was still more than a year away): "Blogs are a global self-publishing phenomenon that connect Internet users with dynamic, diverse points of view while also enabling comment and participation." We're proud that Blogger continues to be a force for free expression worldwide and that it is growing quickly despite its maturity. In the past two years alone, the number of people contributing to a blog has more than doubled, and every second of every day, a new blog is created on Blogger.

To commemorate Blogger's 10th birthday, we've been releasing birthday presents as our way of saying thanks to the millions of users who have made Blogger what it is today. So far, we have released 5 presents and today we're announcing 2 more, courtesy of two Blogger partners:
  • Socialvibe: When Socialvibe approached us about finding a way to empower the Blogger community to help raise funds for charities, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to leverage Blogger's reach to do some good. Starting this week, Blogger users can show their support for charities and raise funds by adding a gadget to their blog. The Socialvibe team has challenged us to raise $50,000 for charity by the end of the year, and we're pretty confident we can beat that.
  • InfoThinker: If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch and a Blogger blog, you're in luck. The team at InfoThinker (makers of the iPhone app BlogPress) was eager to help celebrate Blogger's birthday. Earlier this week they submitted a free version of BlogPress that works only on Blogger to the iPhone App Store. Blogging on the go has never been so easy! Keep an eye out for the app.
Here is the full list of presents. We have more in store over the next couple weeks, and we're just as excited about a number of developments planned for later in the year. With thanks to Blogger founders Meg, Paul and Ev without whom we wouldn't have a 10th birthday to celebrate, and to the millions of people around the world who rely on Blogger to tell their story every day, here's to our next decade.

by A Googler (noreply@blogger.com) at September 02, 2009 05:49 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

Python-URL! - weekly Python news and links (Sep 2)

QOTW: "I like how being very friendly means calling people after a guy who
tried to blow up the English Parliament." - Carl Banks
[link]
unichr/ord cannot handle characters outside the BMP in a narrow build:
[link]

by Gabriel Genellina (python-...@phaseit.net) at September 02, 2009 05:27 PM

Lambda the Ultimate

Relations of Language and Thought: The View from Sign Language and Deaf Children

Relations of Language and Thought: The View from Sign Language and Deaf Children provides an interesting angle on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that we periodically discuss on LtU. A small sample from Google Books is available.

...Hypothesis concerning language and thought...:

  • Language equals thought. Perhaps the simplest view of language and thought is that they are essentially the same thing. This position is most frequently ascribed to American behaviorists, and especially to John Watson, who argued that thought is just subvocal speech.
  • Language and thought are independent. This view, most often attributed to theorists like Noam Chomsky and Jerry Fodor, suggests that the development of language and the development of cognition are distinct, dependending on different underlying processes and experiences.
  • Language determines thought. In the form usually identified with the linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity theories of Sapir and Whorf, this perspective directly entails a correlation between language skill and cognitive skill. One implication of this view is that individuals who have "inferior" (or superlative) language are expected to have "inferior" (or superlative) thought. Implicitly or explicitly, such a perspective has been used as a rationale for an emphasis on spoken language for deaf children by those who have seen sign language as little more than a set of pragmatic gestures.
...The more interesting question... is whether growing up with exposure to a signed language affects cognition in a way different from growing up with a spoken language. Indeed, that is one of the fundamental questions of this volume. While we fully agree... that any strong form of the Sapir-Whorf position appears untenable, it also seems clear that language can affect and guide cognition in a variety of ways. Much of what a child knows about the world, from religion to the habitats of penguins, is acquired through language.

Sign language is an obvious candidate for linguistic study, since the mode is visual as opposed to oral/aural. The summary of one of the authors is telling:

The conclusion that American Sign Language (ASL) is an independent, noncontrived, fully grammatical human language comparable to any spoken language has been supported by over 30 years of research. Recent research has shown that ASL displays principles of organization remarkably like those for spoken languages, at discourse, semantic, syntactic, morphological, and even phonological levels. Furthermore, it is acquired, processed, and even breaks down in ways analogous to those found for spoken languages. The similarities between signed and spoken languages are strong enough to make the differences worth investigating. In the third section of this chapter, I will argue that although there are differences in detail, the similarities are strong enough to conclude that essentially the same language mechanism underlies languages in either modality.

On a programming language level, I can't help but think that sign language offers valuable clues into the nature of visual PLs (though I haven't quite nailed down any specifics). ASL on Wikipedia informs us that signs can be broken down into three categories:

  • Transparent: Non-signers can usually correctly guess the meaning
  • Translucent: Meaning makes sense to non-signers once it is explained
  • Opaque: Meaning cannot be guessed by non-signers
With the majority of signs being opaque. As much as those who design visual languages would like them to be intuitive - falling into the Transparent and Translucent category - I figure you still have to end up using many signs that are only meaningful internally to the language at hand.

On a personal level, I have recently been attempting to delve into ASL. I've almost got the alphabet and numbers down, and have a vocabulary of about 100 additional signs - which probably means that I'm at the proficiency level of somewhere between ankle biter and sesame street. I do find it to be a fascinating language. I noticed when I was looking at the course offerings for college (my son started university this year) that ASL is now offered for foreign language credit (wish it had been offered when I was a student all those years ago).

September 02, 2009 04:04 PM

Techcrunch

idthis Photo With A Little Help From Your Friends

Sometimes you come across something and don’t know exactly what it is. What if you could snap a photo on your iPhone, upload it to a site where people can submit answers and vote on the best ones, and send out a link to everyone you know on Twitter to get them to weigh in? That basically describes idthis, a simple site developed by Billy Chasen, who previously created chartbeat (which I covered here) and firef.ly for betaworks.

With idthis, which is both a Website and an iPhone app (iTunes link), the concept is pretty simple, but I can see it going in different directions. One is a simple utility. You see an old BMW convertible on the street and want to know what year it is. Send a photo to idthis. It could also be a way to play visual games. Take a closeup of an object or make it slightly blurry and see who can guess what it is first. (Obscene photos will be taken down and can be flagged by the community).

The instructions on the site state:

Just snap a photo of something you’d like identified (like a breed of dog, a type of car, that weird gelatinous blob sitting on your plate, or even that celebrity sitting next to you that you can’t remember their name, etc…) and then send it to be identified.

Anyone can submit an answer. Once an answer gets five votes, the picture becomes officially identified (you can change the number of votes required to identify a picture when you submit it). Here’s one I put up. See if you guys can guess what it is.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 02, 2009 03:56 PM

Techcrunch

Vonage Goes Where Google Voice Can’t: the App Store

Talk about strange - while Google Voice can’t get so much as their foot in the App Store’s door, Vonage has just done a pirouette and waltzed right through. According to a recent release from the Jersey-based VOIP giant, their new Vonage mobile application has been approved for inclusion into Apple’s App Store as soon as it comes out of beta. Details at this point are still lacking: we have no idea when it will actually release, nor do we know how much it’ll cost for all you Vonage-faithful out there. The press release doesn’t even go into what kind of services the app will provide, but we can certainly hazard a few guesses.
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by Chris Velazco at September 02, 2009 02:39 PM

Techcrunch

Panorama Capital Pours $4.5 Million Into Online Wine Outlet Vinfolio

Online wine store and community site Vinfolio has raised $4.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Panorama Capital after receiving an undisclosed amount of angel investment earlier. San Francisco-based Vinfolio offers a set of integrated services and resources to basically help wine enthusiasts and collectors buy, sell, manage and enjoy wine.

Vinfolio CEO Stephen J. Bachmann said the investment will mostly be used to accelerate the growth of its Vinfolio Marketplace, an online platform for buying and selling wine that currently boasts over 250,000 wines up for bidding, and the startup’s expansion in Asia.

There’s no shortage of wine-related websites and services out there. From the top of my head: review sites Snooth and Corkd, Vinogusto, good old Wine.com and wine ‘discovery’ service Adegga, although I’m sure there are many more.

Curious to see if Vinfolio will manage to gain mind and market share in this corked crowded space.

Cheers!

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by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 02:24 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Welcome to the 11th annual Mid-Atlantic Road-E-O

The top sanitation truck drivers in the mid-Atlantic area converged on Pen Arygl, Pennsylvania for the regional finals of the SWANA Trash Collectors Road-E-O. And the results have been posted [pdf].

Only A Game's Ron Schachter reports [mp3]. (Despite the wackiness, the competition does highlight skills that all truck drivers need to master in order to complete their rounds.)

And there's plenty of beeping.

by oldnewthing at September 02, 2009 02:00 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

The wheels of government bureaucracy turn slowly: Green cards

When foreign nationals come to work at Microsoft, the legal department gets to work with the paperwork of applying for permanent residency (colloquially known as a green card even though the cards haven't been green for a long time). Obtaining permanent resident status in the United States takes a ridiculous amount of time, and I remember the irony when one of my colleagues finally received his green card... on his last day working at Microsoft.

Still, at least it arrived in time, if only barely. :: Wendy :: received her green card two months after she left the country.

by oldnewthing at September 02, 2009 02:00 PM

Techcrunch

Dimdim Launches Webinar Service, Teams Up With Eventbrite

Dimdim, the open source web conferencing software company backed by $8.4 million in venture capital, today launched Dimdim Webinar, which allows SMBs and individuals to host an unlimited amount of completely web-based webinars with up to 1,000 people using nothing but a web browser.

Dimdim has arranged to provide free Dimdim Webinar accounts to up to 300 TechCrunch readers by signing up right here. The winners will be notified by e-mail.

In addition to its new product, the startup announced a partnership with Eventbrite, a provider of online event management and ticketing services, to enable webinars organizers to make money with web-based meeting and events.

Dimdim Webinar builds on the Dimdim 5.1 platform, which is said to be used by more than three million people and businesses today, and doesn’t require users to install any software whether they want to watch or participate in webinars, presentations, etc. The company is also debuting a customizable widget today that allows for webinar organizers to easier distribute one-click registration forms and links to detailed information web pages.

Dimdim Webinar is accompanied by a couple of helpful resources that guide organizers through the necessary steps to monetize and analyze the performance of their webinars, including an affiliate program that pays up to $150 for each webinar signup, help videos and guides and this dedicated microsite, a free eBook and the ability to schedule and provide tickets to webinars for free or for a fee through its exclusive partnership with Eventbrite.

Pricing for Dimdim Webinar starts at $75 per month, but there’s a free 30-day trial available and if the number of attendees you want to accommodate doesn’t exceed 20 than you can use the limited, free version. Or you could go back to the top of this post and see if you can get that free premium account.

Similar offerings include GoToMeeting and WebEx, which both offer more features at higher prices.

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by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 01:44 PM

The Daily WTF

Bring Your Own Code: Sliding Around

Andy Hertzfeld is a bona fide Software Wizard. I'm not kidding: it was his official job title, codified on his business card. And not just any old business card, but one from Apple Computer. You see, not only was Andy a key player on the Macintosh team, but he also had a knack for doing the impossible. One his feats was described in the September 1995 issue of Byte Magazine.

Besides everything else he did to help get the first Macintosh out the door, Andy Hertzfeld wrote all the first desk accessories. Most of these were written in assembly. However, to show that desk accessories could also be written in higher-level languages, Hertzfeld wrote a demonstration puzzle games desk accessory in Pascal. Like its plastic counterparts, users moved squares around until the numbers 1 to 9 were in order. As time began to get short, the decision was made that the puzzle, at 7KB [7KB = 7168 bytes], was too big (and too game-like) to ship with the first Macintosh. In a single weekend, Hertzfeld rewrote the program to take up only 800 bytes. The puzzle shipped with the Mac.

That's pretty impressive, especially considering that simply telling the story took a little under 800 bytes. Fortunately, Andy did have one thing going for him: sliding puzzles — especially of the 32 variety — are pretty simple. There are nine squares and eight pieces, and a piece can slide into the empty square.

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8  

A solved puzzle will have the pieces arranged in left-right/top-bottom order, with the empty square being in the bottom right, as shown above.

Bring Your Own Code

Your exercise for the day: write a function that solves a 32 sliding puzzle.

  • The input should be a series of nine numbers (string, integer array, etc) that represent the eight pieces and the empty square.
  • The output should be a series of numbers that represent a solved puzzle.
  • The sort logic should follow the sliding puzzle rules and can take one of three forms:
    • Easy - whatever it takes to solve the puzzle, even random moves
    • Medium - an algorithm that makes a reasonable attempt to solve the puzzle
    • Difficult - an algorithm that solves using the most efficient path possible

As far as I'm aware, there are no impossible starting configurations and your function should be able to process any series of nine numbers.


by Alex Papadimoulis at September 02, 2009 01:00 PM

Techcrunch

MindMeister Releases iPhone App For Those Eureka Moments

Mind mapping application builder MeisterLabs, the startup behind brainstorm & planning tool MindMeister, acquired the MindMaker, iPhone app in January and now it’s available in the app store as a full-blown MindMeister app.

MindMeister is an online mind mapping tool that allows you to create, share and collaborate on mind maps. The new re-jiged iPhone app has some key differences. Namely it supports sharing mind maps and also supports MindMeister’s “geistesblitz” or “brainwave” feature which allows you to insert those brilliant eureka ideas that you get when you’re in the bathroom into your default mind map on the mindmeister site. Perfect for the iPhone.

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by TechCrunch Europe at September 02, 2009 11:55 AM

Techcrunch

HealthBase Is The Ultimate Medical Content Search Engine

There are so many information portals on the web for health information, it can be tough to decipher which one is the best resource to answer a medical question. NetBase Solutions has launched healthBase, a powerful semantic search engine that aggregates medical content from millions of authoritative health sites including WebMD, Wikipedia, PubMed, and the Mayo Clinic’s health site.

HealthBase uses NetBase’s proprietary search intelligence technology to read sentences inside documents and linguistically understand the meaning of the content. Thus, healthBase’s search engine can automatically find treatments for any health condition or disease; the pros and cons of any treatment, medication and food, and more.

The search engine’s results are impressive. When you type in a search for the available treatments for diabetes, you are given results that are broken down by 63 drugs and medications used to treat the disease, 70 common treatments for diabetes, and 20 appropriate food and plants for the treatment of diabetes. You can also see the pros and cons of certain treatments. Search results appear disarmingly fast and will take you to the appropriate site where the content and information is hosted.

There’s no doubt that this is a useful site to tap into the vast variety of health information there is on the web, but I find the site to be slightly impersonal. Medical information, which can be daunting and sterile, is sometimes best served with a human touch on the web, especially when it comes to consumer knowledge. Medpedia is a good example of a site that contains a large amount of content that also has a social element.

But healthBase serves a valid purpose as an aggregator of medical content and will surely help those looking for a comprehensive research tool. Parent company NetBase won’t serve advertising on the site but monetizes its technology by powering internal search engines for companies that have large databases of content. Healthbase is a public demonstration of its technology.

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by Leena Rao at September 02, 2009 11:35 AM

Techcrunch

Popjam Suffers While We Share Jokes On Twitter — Not Popjam

Back in February we were excited to see a sort of “Humorous Twitter” appear in the form of Popjam. Ok, so it was more a microblogging-meets-Digg-meets-CollegeHumour, but as we said at the time, getting Twitter integration fast would really help.

Aiming at College Humour and eBaumsworld or Icanhascheezburger with something Twitter-like seemed like a no-brainer. However, although they used the Twitter mechanic of ‘follow’, they didn’t integrate with Twitter at launch and therefore didn’t get on the back of Twitter’s recent massive growth. That looks to have been a costly mistake.

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by Mike Butcher at September 02, 2009 11:09 AM

Techcrunch

Google Broadens Attack On Amazon Kindle, Partners With COOLERBOOKS

Google is clearly moving fast in setting up partnerships with ebook reader manufacturers and store operators to give some weight to its threat to Amazon and the latter’s Kindle product line.

First, the company teamed up with Sony, adding about 1 million public domain books to the technology giant’s eBook Store.

Now Mountain View has sealed a deal with British Interead, bringing the same amount of ebooks to an online store outside the U.S. for the first time (where close to half a million of them are available for free).

Reading-based Interead is the company behind ebook store COOLERBOOKS. The company also manufactures COOL-ER eReaders, small, elegant ebook readers that kinda look like giant iPods and cost $249 in the United States.

COOLERBOOKS.com accommodates 19 document formats, including EPUB and PDF, and MP3 for audio books, giving the ebookstore the broadest range of formats available on the web.

Enough to pose a threat to Amazon, just the beginning, or a venture destined for failure? Time will tell, but it’s always good to have alternative free ebook stores, even if you won’t be finding the bestsellers over there.

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by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 11:05 AM

Techcrunch

Nokia Beta Labs Introduces New Apps: Ovi Lifecasting, Social Messaging

At the Nokia World 2009 event in Stuttgart, Nokia Beta Labs has announced a number of new services ready for testing right now. The most interesting one is Ovi Lifecasting, an application we caught wind of yesterday but is now ready for limited early bird beta-testing.

The beta tool, which requires a Nokia N97 device, taps into Facebook to enable you to share status updates and photos with your Facebook friends and also lets you share your location through Ovi Maps (also in beta). Here’s an introduction video featuring two polished young men using the application to hook up with each other in some city:

Also new is an extension of Nokia Messaging called Social Messaging, which interestingly Nokia calls the groundwork for an impending proprietary multi-community social networking client. The company insists this is an early look, and currently only supports Facebook:

In other news, Nokia Beta Labs is discontinuing Nokia Friend View, which was an experimental research project from Nokia Research Center. We covered the app, which was basically a location-aware microblogging tool when it was introduced in November 2008.

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by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 09:17 AM

Techcrunch

401k Plans Are Hard To Understand. BrightScope Raises $2 Million To Fix That.

San Diego based BrightScope, which launched earlier this year, helps people understand their 401k retirement plans and how to maximize the benefits.

That’s a much needed service: the company says 30% of workers don’t participate at all in their company 401k programs. 22% don’t contribute enough to maximize matching benefits from companies, and 80% of workers have no idea how much they’re paying in 401k administrative and other fees. BrightScope shines a light on all that and helps people take better advantage of these programs.

The company has raised a $2 million second round of financing, led by Steelpoint Capital Partners, to continue to build out the service.

Jim Cacavo from Steelpoint and Tim Tokarsky are joining the company’s board of directors.

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by Michael Arrington at September 02, 2009 08:35 AM

Techcrunch

WTF, Google Sells Company Merchandise Online?

Color me surprised to discover Google operates an online merchandise store aptly named Google Store, courtesy of @newsycombinator. Google-centric blogs like Google Blogoscoped have understandably been aware of this for quite some time, but I had no idea. There’s no mention of it on the Google corporate website (although it’s linked at the bottom here), and even the Wikipedia entry simply redirects to a list of all its products. They’re apparently even running ad units for it on their network (see below).

Apparently, created back in 2006 several years ago, the online store features a big inventory of items featuring Google brands for sale, ranging from adult and kids clothing to accessories like lava lamps, mugs, Yo-Yos and lip balm. There’s even a recently launched section reserved exclusively for YouTube-branded stuff, and I’m definitely tempted to purchase one of those exquisite YouTube Snap Bibs for the next newborn in the family.

Two questions pop into my head: when’s the Bing Store coming (the domain name has already been secured by Microsoft), and how much revenue is Google getting out of this well-hidden Google Store?

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by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 08:31 AM

Techcrunch

MySQL Founders Back Mobile Sorcery For Cross-Platform Development Technology

Many entrepreneurs who muzzle through a successful exit use some of the proceeds to become an angel investor and help other startups get, well, started. And that's not exclusively a Silicon Valley thing. Stockholm, Sweden-based Mobile Sorcery has just raised an early-stage investment round amounting up to 1.5 million Swedish Kronor (approximately €145k or $206k USD), for the most part coming from MySQL founders David Axmark and Michael Widenius. You may remember MySQL was acquired by Sun Microsystems back in January 2008 for approximately $1 billion after raising only $39 million in venture capital. It's safe to say both co-founders walked away with enough cash to use some of it for angel investment in promising companies.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 02, 2009 07:42 AM

Steve Holden

XKCD

Techcrunch

Salesforce Launches Lightweight Contact Manager For Small Businesses

One of the advantages of using a CRM is the ability to easily manage and organize contacts to maximize leads. Salesforce.com and the many other companies that offer CRMs have well-established contact management systems within their products that can be incredibly useful to businesses both big and small. But what if you want a easy-to-use, but comprehensive contact management system without the bells and whistles of a CRM? Salesforce.com now has the answer: a Contact Manager Edition of its CRM that doesn't include all the more complicated features of Salesforce's conventional product. For $9 per user per month, Contact Manager Edition will store and manage all contacts and accounts in the cloud. The product will integrate with any email system, including Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo. The system will track all emails, keeping a record of customer interactions and will run pre-configured and customized reports on contacts and accounts. Of course, this tracking system can be customized to track data that is most important to an user's needs.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at September 02, 2009 03:55 AM

Techcrunch

Why Gmail Failed Today

When Gmail went down today, it caused more than a minor panic. People, like me, who use Gmail as their primary email couldn’t get much work done. There’s nothing like an outage to make you realize how much you rely on something.

So what happened exactly? Isn’t Gmail supposed to have multiple points of failure? Well yes, Gmail has thousands and thousands of overlapping mail servers which can pick up the slack if any one fails because the data is replicated and spread all around. But there are also request servers which do nothing but route the requests for email to whichever server (with the right emails on it) happens to be available.

It tuns out that Google took down some regular email servers for routine maintenance, and because of some recent changes, that overloaded the request servers. Google engineering VP Ben Treynor explains on the Gmail Blog:

At about 12:30 pm Pacific a few of the request routers became overloaded and in effect told the rest of the system “stop sending us traffic, we’re too slow!”. This transferred the load onto the remaining request routers, causing a few more of them to also become overloaded, and within minutes nearly all of the request routers were overloaded. As a result, people couldn’t access Gmail via the web interface because their requests couldn’t be routed to a Gmail server. IMAP/POP access and mail processing continued to work normally because these requests don’t use the same routers.

So much for redundancy.

Gmail, which recently passed AOL to become the third largest Web mail service in the U.S., is obviously having some growing pains. A few hours of downtime is not the end of the world, although it might seem like it at the time. It just better not make this a new habit.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at September 02, 2009 02:59 AM

Techcrunch

Brilliant: Advertisers Pay To Drive Traffic From One Place On Facebook To Another Place On Facebook

So I was reading this Comscore report about the massive number of ads that are being served on social networks. 8.2% of all display ads on the Internet today in the U.S. are being served on Facebook. Wow. MySpace still has a small lead there, with 9.2%. Overall, social networks are serving up 21% of all U.S. display ads, and that’s with Twitter basically still on the sidelines.

Anyhow, as soon as I finish reading the report and some of the associated coverage, I see an email from Facebook in my inbox. It says:

Hi there,

My name is Melissa and I work in advertising at Facebook. Could you forward this along to the appropriate person who does your online media buying?

I am a huge TechCrunch fan, and I think TechCrunch has one of the best Pages on Facebook. It has seen a sizeable amount of organic fan growth, and the Page content does a great job keeping users engaged. Now that we have “Become a Fan” cost-per-click ads, it’s easier than ever to expand your fan base to a much greater size. With over 250MM users, we can target by various parameters to reach the right people that would want to fan the TechCrunch Page. Having 9,000 fans is a great start, but with the potential for 50,000 or even 500,000 fans, you can make your updates that much more effective.

Running through our online tool, you can control your daily budget, ad creatives, and target audience so your ads are as effective as possible. We can also have a dedicated account manager work with you to make sure the ads are being optimized for the best performance. I am more than happy to help with this fan-growth effort and tap into the potential that TechCrunch’s Page has on Facebook. Feel free to reach out to me by phone at 650-xxx-xxxx or via email at xxxxxx@facebook.com, and I can set you up with a business account and some free ad credits to get started. Look forward to hearing from you!

And all I can think is, how did these guys manage to set up a system where people pay to drive traffic from one place on Facebook to another place on Facebook? Even Google hasn’t managed to figure that one out yet. I’ve known they (and MySpace) have done this since launching their ad platforms, but it never really hit home until today how brilliant this all is.

They even have a nice pre-created ad to show me when I visit our fan page on Facebook, and offer to let me pay via cost per impression or cost per click. It’s all so easy. All I have to do is pull out my credit card and push Facebook a little bit closer to that looming IPO.

I love the Internet.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 02, 2009 02:14 AM

Joel on Software

Being Number One

At last year’s Business of Software conference, I gave a talk about designing products that are more than just adequate. How do you make a product that becomes a category-killer, number one, super hit? What is it that gives the Apple iPod 90% market share?

Neil Davidson has the video of my talk online (it’s about 46 minutes).

This year’s conference is going to be great. There are still a few tickets available. It’s November 9th-11th in San Francisco. This is a conference that’s all about terrific speakers: Geoffrey Moore, Don Norman, Paul Graham, Heidi Roizen, Jennifer Aaker, Michael Lopp (“Rands”), Ryan Carson, Paul Kenny, Dharmesh Shah, Kathy Sierra, Mat Clayton, and The Cranky Product Manager are all confirmed speakers. Register now before it’s too late!

Need to hire a really great programmer? Want a job that doesn't drive you crazy? Visit the Joel on Software Job Board: Great software jobs, great people.

by Joel Spolsky at September 02, 2009 02:13 AM

September 01, 2009

Techcrunch

Yahoo Launches Microblogging Platform Yahoo Meme In English

A few weeks ago , we reported that Yahoo quietly launched its microblogging product Yahoo Meme, in Spanish. Yahoo had previously launched a Portuguese language micro-blogging product, Yahoo Meme, that drew similarities to Twitter and Tumblr. And on second glance, it seemed to be a mediocre competitor to Twitter, Tumblr and other micro-sharing services in terms of its offerings and features.

It looks like Yahoo definitely has lofty ambitions for Yahoo Meme, as it has stealthily rolled the micro-blogging service out in Spanish and now in English to appeal to the masses. Here’s how Yahoo Meme works: you create an account and it starts you off with an empty blog that you can fill with text, images, videos, music or a mixture of those things. All you can add to your blog - apart from the content - is a title, a 100-character description and an avatar. You can also create a comment thread underneath the content you post, which was a feature that was missing when we reviewed Yahoo Meme previously.

Like Twitter and Tumblr, you can search other people’s public accounts and follow them, with updates from these users appearing in your stream. You can also ‘Repost’ anyone’s entry, similar to the ‘Reblog’ feature that’s integrated into Tumblr. But the micro-blogging service seems lacking in its features and its potential to surpass its competitors.

Yahoo also recently launched Yahoo Know Your Mojo, a site that claims to tell you what kind of “social mojo” you possess by analyzing your Tweets, but actually appears to do basically nothing. Yahoo hasn’t had the greatest luck with social networks recently, with its Indian social network, SpotM, shutting its doors less than a year after its launch.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at September 01, 2009 10:46 PM

Techcrunch

Brizzly Adds Photo Uploads. 500 Invites For TC Readers.

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-34350-pmBrizzly, the new web-based Twitter client that was first unveiled at our Real-Time Stream CrunchUp in July, has today added a new feature: photo uploads. Users can now upload images to Brizzly’s servers and they will tweet out along with any message you enter. This is a nice addition for Brizzly because one of its key features is the inline display of images.

Alongside the new feature, Brizzly is also announcing a wider roll-out of its beta today. As such, they’re giving us 500 invites to hand out to TechCrunch readers. Simply go to brizzly.com and use the code: ‘multiplylibrary‘ to sign up.

Aside from in-stream images, Brizzly also shows videos right from users’ tweet streams. While co-founder Jason Shellen tells us that they have nothing to announce for video today, it is in the works. Right now, the images will be hosted on the Amazon servers Brizzly users, we’re told.

When they are sent out to other Twitter services, the photos use brizzly.com URLs, and direct users to a special Brizzly photo page. On this page you can see how many time the photo has been viewed, when it was upload, and who uploaded it, pretty standard stuff, but it has a nicer interface than some of the other Twitter photo-sharing services.

There is also a new area in the left-side menu of Brizzly just to view photos that have been uploaded through the service.

We’ve been trying out Brizzly for a few weeks now, it’s a really nice interface to interact with Twitter from. On top of inline images and videos, it also offers a nice way to see and reply to Direct Messages as they come in, and explains to you why certain items on Twitter are trending topics. Most importantly, you can group the people you follow together to cut through a lot of Twitter clutter if you follow a lot of people. There is also support for multiple Twitter accounts.

Brizzly has put together a reviewer’s guide for how to use it here. You can also learn more in the video below (note that the interface has been updated slightly since this video).

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-35335-pm

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 10:45 PM

Techcrunch

Alright, Who Broke The Internet? Dell.com Also Knocked Out. (Updated)

Of course Gmail being down is not good news for Google’s business (directly nor indirectly), but if you’re a giant computer manufacturer directly retailing products online across the globe, I’d wager you’re a bit worse off when your website is completely unavailable.

At least for the past half hour (since 5 PM EST), Dell.com has been suffering from a serious outage. Just for your reference, the company saw sales of $12.76 billion last quarter, and that was down 22% from $16.43 billion a year ago. Rest assured every minute of downtime is costing the computer manufacturer serious money.

Update: site is back up as from 5:40 PM EST

Are the two events related and are we experiencing yet another massive DDoS attack, or is this merely coincidental?

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 09:29 PM

Techcrunch

TheFind Acquires iStorez.com To Help Consumers Find Deals While Shopping

TheFind, a technology-heavy shopping search engine, has acquired the deal-driven shopping site iStorez.com. iStorez aggregates the latest coupons, sales and deals from retailers across a variety of categories. Terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed, but we are hearing it was less than $500,000.

TheFind, which is a search engine geared more towards finding new products than locating a price for a particular item, will use its latest acquisition to attract consumers who are looking for promotions, deals and sales from online retailers. This is probably a wise move given the current economic climate. Everyone is looking for a deal and its helpful to have information about sales and promotions side by side in your shopping portal.

TheFind is hoping to be a one-stop shopping destination for consumers where they can search for a varied list of items from multiple sources. The site currently indexes 350 million products from over 500,000 stores. Last year, TheFind launched an iPhone app that allows users to search for stores in a region that are selling a particular product. The app will also compare prices of products from stores in your location and even calculates the cost to drive from your location to a particular store. In 2007, TheFind acquired Glimpse, a womens’ shopping destination.

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by Leena Rao at September 01, 2009 09:15 PM

Techcrunch

SkyFire Raises $5 Million More For Rich Mobile Browser

SkyFire is getting ready to roll with its rich mobile browser. Last May, the company (finally) released its Symbian program after a long beta trial and announced that a BlackBerry version was in the works.

Earlier this Summer they hired former Travelocity executive Jeffrey Glueck to lead the company into the next phase. Now a regulatory filing reveals the startup has raised a Series C closed off its earlier Series B round of funding with an extra $5 million, reports peHUB.

There were no new investors cited in the filing, so it’s safe to assume this was a follow-up round from SkyFire’s existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Trinity Ventures, who had previously invested $17.8 million in the mobile browser maker. The total amount of funding raised by the company now reaches a healthy $22.8 million.

Skyfire is free and the only mobile browser that currently supports Flash, Silverlight, and a number of other technologies generally reserved for desktop browsers. The software runs on Windows Mobile (smartphones and PPC) and Nokia N and E Series (Symbian S60, 3rd Edition) phones.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 08:26 PM

Techcrunch

Live From fbFund REV’s Demo Day

I’m here at the demo day for fbFund REV, Facebook’s new incubator program that’s jointly put on by Accel Partners and Founders Fund. We’ve embedded a live stream of the event below, and I’ll be updating with notes on each company that presents. Also be sure to check out our post from last night, when we took a look at fbFund’s first session as an incubator (versus just a distributor of cash grants), as well as some of the talks given by fbFund’s mentors.

Thread.com — Thread.com helps users on Facebook meet possible matches for dating using Facebook. Rather than revolving around meeting strangers, the site allows you to browse through singles who are friends with your friends. You can see our full introduction to the site here.

Funji —  A community for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The company is targeting “Generation ME” age 13-21 with a virtual world that allows users to customize their own virtual room and avatars. Users can interact in a forum and check out their friends’ rooms. Everything looks very colorful and playful, which could help it catch on with the youth audience.

Sociable says that retailers are not driving significant sales from social media (e.g. from Facebook and Twitter). The company says brands need to evolve from B2C communication, to word of mouth, C2C conversations. Sociable tries to optimize the retailer’s “viral loop” through a variety of ways, including syndicating events published to Facebook to other Facebook Connect-enabeld sites. The service is currently live on every concert page on LiveNation and plans to expand to other verticals. Projects to break even by the end of the year.

Geckogo brings user generated content from social travel sites and brings them to more traditional travel portals. The service can take content from services like Facebook and Twitter, and then bring them to sites like Travelocity or Expedia in embeddable widgets.

FriendRadio brings an integrated music player to Facebook in a interesting way. Rather than just embed music players into the site, users can use FriendRadio to create a nifty music player that resides tucked at the side of the screen as you browse Facebook. The company is building a browser plugin to bring music to Facebook profile pages as well (you’ll see your friends’ music when you visit their profile).

photosilove is a media sharing app that users use to send bite-sized media to show their friends that they care about each other — things like small images of teddy bears, or a frog holding a sign that says “I care”. The app didn’t originally plan to focus on this kind of friendly sharing, but it’s what their users tended to use it for. At this point the startup hasn’t done much in terms of monetization, but the company points out how many large companies are successfully tapping into this market.

Vittana.org is “Kiva for student loans”. One of two non-profits in this round of fbFund. Loans are 6-24 months in length, $500-1500 in total amounts. Bank teller is currently the top profession. The company says that until the student loan model is proven, other organizations are hesitant to do it. Says that for every $800 loan, the student will earn $20k more in incremental income over their lifetime.

Workstir is “yellow pages, plus your social graph”. It helps connect you with service professionals (say, a painter) and see what your friends, or friends of friends think of them by tapping into your social graph. It uses a similar connection to model to what you’ll see on LinkedIn. To generate revenue, the company will allow service professionals to advertise on their key pages. It will also allow service professionals to join the site and answer questions posted by other users — the more questions the professionals answer, the higher their rank on Workstir.

Backlight — Everything has a backstory, but where can you share that online? The company says that there’s an opportunity for “Inspirational content”. Points out success of brands like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Causes. Says Twitter is great for sharing, identity creation, but they don’t offer a platform for inspiration/meaning. Backlight allows you to upload any piece of media and provide a backstory, including ability to take photos on Facebook and add another layer of meaning to it. Working with Stanford, Cal, Santa Clara University to help showcase student work.

NetworkedBlogs — Connect bloggers with readers who are on social networks. “On average, your blog sucks” — the bottom 98% of blogs have average of 3 page views a day. But when you build a blog, it’s what people find when they Google your name, so you need to make it look like someone is reading it. The service lets you syndicate your blog to Facebook, to embed social widgets into your blog, and more. The service already has 1.5 million installs, 650k monthly actives, and is the largest news community on Facebook. The site aggregates 100,000 blog posts a day. On Facebook, you can see which of your friends are following certain blogs, which of your friends are writing blogs, and so on. The company is profitable, grew revenue by 50% in the last two months. Today the company is announcing a partnership with Webs.com.

Wildfire is a powerful self-service platform that allows companies to create social marketing campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, and their company websites. The company left private beta last month, and is profitable. Clients have included 3M, Facebook, and Pepsi. The platform helps companies who are looking to engage social network users using proven campaign formats (the service offers wizards that companies can use to create their campaigns). Companies can get the campaign started though advertising, and they generally continue to grow through viral channels.

NutshellMail is a service that compiles your social networking activity into a single digest it and sends it to your Email inbox. The service also allows you to interact with Facebook and Twitter through your Email. NutshellMail lets you monitor what people are saying about you on Twitter and see your new friend requests, messages, and birthdays from Facebook, among other things. To respond to one of these messages or tweets, you just reply to the message and Nutshellmail will put an update on your behalf. Most people get 3 digests per day, and it has 60% engagement. 70% of the people who sign up are using it 30 days later. In the future, the company plans to offer social groups so you can specify certain groups of friends and keep track of them using your Email.

GroupCard and Cash.io. GroupCard is the largest platform for collaborative gifts and cards, and is profitable and used in thousands of offices. Today they’re launching Cash.io. The company says it costs money for businesses to send consumers rebates. Cash.io is a platform that lets businesses issue codes that consumers redeem however they want. It uses PayPal, Amazon, and Facebook Payments in the future (maybe). Customers can fulfill rebates on services like Facebook. Businesses will be able to issue payment codes over Twitter.

Gameyola is looking to help monetize and distribute Flash games over social networks. It’s looking to help social distribution on Facebook, and monetization through virtual goods. The company offers a unified payment currency called Gameyola coins. Has 180,000 players, and has started selling virtual goods on its site.

RunMyErrand is a service that lets you outsource everyday tasks that you don’t have time for (shop at target, return Cable box, and more). The company is working with Coldstone creamery in Boston, giving them a way to outsource delivery in Boston. Once you post an errand, a trusted runner network is alerted. Have retirees, stay-at-home-moms, dog walkers, young professionals running these errands to supplement income. So how does RunMyErrand establish trust? They have user ratings, and 100% background checked. Everything is social-graph aware. Trust is obviously going to be hard to establish with users, but if they can get over that hurdle I could see this becoming quite useful. Revenue model is to take cut of reimbursements and fees charged by runners.

samasource is a non-profit service that allows you to outsource microwork tasks like data, testing, transcription and research to poor, but educated, workers abroad — it’s a Kiva for small work tasks. Clients so far include Google, YPO, Benetech, and Dolores Labs. For example, a young man (one of the Lost Boys of Sudan) was denied formal employment in Kenya, but was able to earn money by working for US company Dolores Labs through samasource. There is a screening process to ensure that workers will be able to handle the work you have to offer. Because you’re doing this through Facebook, you can more personally connect with the people you hire..

MyChurch is a service that helps churches build their own social networks, and lets them connect via Facebook. The site has 30,000 churches signed up (out of around 300,000) in the US. If they can map out everyone’s church social network, they become the de facto church social network. Previously monetized through ads, now they’re trying to sell subscriptions to churches with higher quotas, no ads, and new features (custom URL for MyChurch page). Lots of churches are using myChurch page for official website. Close to break even under freemium model. But the site also hopes to make money though online donations to church.

RunThere is a social community for runners and bikers. You can map out your run, look at routes that other users have created, and embed maps of these on your blog. You can also track your route using Google Earth. The site can also help build a blog with meta data about your runs. The site plans to make money by offering a tool for personal trainers. Trainers can use the app to help keep clients motivated, keep track of their progress.

Zimride is a service that helps companies and universities create communities for carpooling. Users log in (you can use Facebook Connect to verify that you belong to a certain company or University), then indicate where they’re loking to go and the date. The service then matches users so that they can share the cost of the drive. The company has a partnership with Zipcar, has $180k in recurring revenue and will be break-even by the end of the quarter. For more, check out our post on the startup here, when it described it as a “carpooling startup that actually makes money”.

Sortuv helps you find things that are “sort of” like something else. Enter a restaurant and the site will present other restaurants that are similar. The company isn’t just about local search — if you like a kind of char, you can search for places with a similar kind of design. The startup has an iPhone app that lets you rate what you like, and it will suggest similar matches. Can analyze your status updates, use the things you talk about (like bands, video games, and movies) to help build your Sortuv profile.

Life360 is looking to become a place for you to manage family safety and security. The company previously won 300k from Google in Android developer challenge and will be launching soon. The site allows you to track family and pets on a map, recover lost items like phones, and help protect your identity. It can help streamline signup for security services in a matter of seconds (services that had previously been standalone). The company integrates multiple third party services into a single control panel.

RentMineOnline is a service that helps property managers handle churn and the associated costs. The company has been profitable for five months. The company works with individual property managers, messaging residents once per quarter with an Email that lets them refer the property they’re currently living at to friends. Traditionally property managers have paid residents for referrals, often posting physical notes on their door handles — now RentMineOnline will be able to step in and streamline the process while taking in some of this money.


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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 01, 2009 08:15 PM

Techcrunch

Talk Of Gmail Being Down Is Trying Like Hell To Bring Down Twitter

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-12028-pm

So, as the entire web seems to be talking about at the moment, Gmail is down. But what’s amazing is the volume of people talking about it. When I first noticed it being down, I did a Twitter search and just minutes later there were over 10,000 new results. A couple minutes later, there were over 20,000.

It took a few minutes for it to show up on Trending Topics, but now it’s there, but it was giving Twitter Search fits. For a while, if you clicked on “Gmail” in Trending Topics, you would have seen “No results for [blank]” returned. If you hit it again, it kept stacking the messages on top of one another (pictured below).

It looks like Twitter has resolved the issue, and made a strong comeback, but the influx of tweets continues to be amazing. This could be a good test for Twitter to see if it can stay up and everyone bitches about one of the most popular web services on the planet being down. And remember, this test comes before that new datacenter is in operation.

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-10616-pm

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 08:12 PM

Techcrunch

Thread.com Raises $1.2 Million For Facebook-Powered Matchmaking Service

If you’ve ever tried an online dating site like Match.com, there’s a good chance that you found your first few interactions with other members to be unnatural — from the awkward initial messages to the fact that you probably don’t have a single friend in common, the whole process can feel a bit forced. Thread.com, a startup formerly known as Frintro that’s launching today out of fbFund REV’s incubator program, is looking to offer the ideal middle ground between these online dating sites and the social connections that helped spark relationships in the days before the web.

In conjunction with today’s launch, Thread.com is also announcing that it has closed a $1.2 million funding round led by some of Silicon Valley’s most well known investors. Included in the round are First Round Capital, Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, fbFund, and a number of independent investors, including Ron Conway, David Sacks, Auren Hoffman, Pedro Miguel Martins, Reid Hoffman, Joe Greenstein, Saran Chari, and Shervin Pishevar.

So how exactly is Thread.com different from these other dating sites? The startup is heavily reliant on Facebook Connect, which is no surprise given the company’s participation in this summer’s round in fbFund. Here’s how it works: you log in to Thread.com using your Facebook credentials, at which point the site asks some basic additional information like your age and location. From there, it asks you what gender(s) you’re interested in searching through for possible matches, and also if you’d like to only see people who are single (home-wreckers can also choose to only browse users who are in relationships).

Thread.com then uses Facebook Connect to look up some basic information about your friends and friends of your friends. It shows each match in a grid, much like what you’d see on most other dating sites. Depending on your connection to each match you’ll be able to see things like their current relationship status, their location, interests, profile photos, and even photo albums (though depending on each user’s privacy settings you may not be able to see all of these).

Once you’ve found a match, it’s up to you how you want to initiate contact. Thread.com makes it easy to simply message a member through Facebook, but CEO Brian Phillips says that the best way to spark a relationship — and this is what makes Thread.com unique — is that you can ask your friends to introduce you. Because everyone you see on Thread.com is connected to you through a friend, you have the option of asking this shared connection to set you up, or to coordinate a party or event where both you and your potential match are invited.

It’s a great idea, and the site’s extremely solid roster of investors seems like a testament that. Also worth noting: Phillips has actually been dating a woman he recently met through Thread.com.

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by Jason Kincaid at September 01, 2009 08:09 PM

Techcrunch

Gmail Now Really Down - Can I Get My Email Back Please (Update: Its Back)

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We wrote this morning about Gmail suffering some turbulence, but it appears now that it has completely crashed and disappeared. Both Apps For Domain and the usual consumer Gmail service are down completely. Google seem to be going backwards on fixing the problem, this morning they sent out an alert saying:

September 1, 2009 8:18:00 AM PDT
Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.

I use Apps For Domain for everything - my contacts, my email, my todo list, my chat, my documents and more recently, my phone. As soon as it went down, I noticed in less than a second. I am now completely stuck, after a few months of being impressed by how I was able to run my entire life on Google.

It is not just the frontend that is down, but also the backend IMAP and POP servers (Update: they are up, but slow). This is a huge fail for Google, considering how admired they are for all the technology they have built internally to scale out their applications.

Update: The Google App Status dashboard says that there is currently a ’service disruption’ with email.

Update: The outage immediately became a trending topic on Twitter, with thousands of tweets from users noticing and complaining about the outage. The outage that we reported this morning was not as widespread, but could point to a potential originating cause.

Update: Still down. I wonder if the paid Apps for Domain users, who have an SLA, are also down?

Update: New status message:

September 1, 2009 12:53:00 PM PDT
We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a majority of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 1:53:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

They will be back in an hour (the engineers must have been out at lunch).

Update: Apparently IMAP/POP are up for some. Setting up IMAP …

Update: New message from the Google Twitter account:

We’re aware that people are having trouble accessing Gmail. We’re working on fixing it. Apologies for the inconvenience

Update: For those of you who use the web interface who want to also grab their email with IMAP or POP, instructions courtesy or Rajeev. Only works if you had IMAP/POP enabled before this downtime.

SMTP: smtp.google.com
(TLS, port 557, enable authentication)

IMAP: imap.gmail.com
(Enable SSL, port 993)

login: user@domain.com

Update: Downloading my mail now with IMAP. Slow, but sorta working.

Update (2:06PM PST): New update message. Still down, and now no ETA on being back up:

September 1, 2009 1:02:00 PM PDT
We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 2:16:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.

Update: Google has posted to their blog:

We know many of you are having trouble accessing Gmail right now — we are too, and we definitely feel your pain. We don’t usually post about minor issues here (the Apps status dashboard and the Gmail Help Center are usually where this kind of information goes). Because this is impacting so many of you, we wanted to let you know we’re currently looking into the issue and hope to have more info to share here shortly. If you have IMAP or POP set up already, you should be able to access your mail that way in the meantime. We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience and will get Gmail back up and running as soon as possible.

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by Nik Cubrilovic at September 01, 2009 07:55 PM

Techcrunch

Developers, Be Warned: Apple Has Apparently Trademarked Those Glossy Chat Bubbles

Last night, we wrote about another developer thoroughly bashing the app store for its inane approval policies. This time it was well known developer Joe Stump, who had an important bug-fix for his company’s game Chess Wars sit in App Store limbo for six weeks. Finally, this morning an Apple representative named Richard called Stump to inform him why Chess Wars was being rejected after the six week wait: the bubbles in its chat rooms are too shiny, and Apple has trademarked that bubbly design. Yes, the App Store has reached a new low.

Upon hearing this, Stump says he specifically asked the Apple representative to confirm that these bubbles were in fact trademarked, to which the representative responded, “Yes”. The representative said Stump needed to make the bubbles “less shiny” and also helpfully suggested that he make the bubbles square, just to be sure.

Of course, there are numerous other apps that have used this glossy chat appearance, including Facebook and Tweetie, a very popular Twitter client. The difference in these is that they include small thumbnails of user photos, which Chess Wars doesn’t have. Stump asked the Apple representative if including small photos in the interface would solve the problem by helping to differentiate it from Apple’s native SMS app, but the Apple representative said that it was the bubbles themselves that are the issue. Which means that Apple is either being remarkably inconsistent in its approval policies (which would be nothing new), or they’re about to launch a crusade to eliminate these glossy bubbles from any application that dares use them.

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by Jason Kincaid at September 01, 2009 07:14 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

ANN: eGenix mxODBC - Python ODBC Database Interface 3.0.3

______________________________ ______________________________ ____________
ANNOUNCING
eGenix.com mxODBC - Python ODBC Database Interface
Version 3.0.3
mxODBC is our commercially supported Python extension providing
ODBC database connectivity to Python applications

by eGenix Team: M.-A. Lemburg (i...@egenix.com) at September 01, 2009 07:10 PM

Techcrunch

Facebook Will Take Another Step Into The Location Game Tomorrow With Nokia

untitled21

There are no shortage of whispers out there right now as to what Facebook’s plans for location are. With rival Twitter having recently announced its geolocation API, the pressure is on the larger network to deliver something. Tomorrow will bring a step in that direction, as Nokia will announce a new service at its Nokia World event that will utilize location within Facebook, we’ve learned.

Now, to be clear, this is not Facebook officially getting into the game itself yet, but it’s big enough that Henri Moissinac, Facebook’s director of mobile, will apparently be using his keynote address at Nokia World to unveil this, we’ve heard.

The app looks to be a direct result of the Nokia purchase of the location-based social network Plazes, in the summer of 2008. As you can see in the screenshot below, an Ovi Map (Nokia’s map property) will reside inside of Facebook and show where you are. It can also update your Facebook status with your location, and a link to it on one of these maps.

untitled1

Other services such as Yahoo’s Fire Eagle and Whrrl have applications to set your location within Facebook, but those are still rather cumbersome to use, and haven’t taken off within Facebook. Presumably, this Nokia announcement would also be tied into its mobile devices, which could get it access to millions of users right off the bat.

It’s also interesting that this Nokia/Facebook concept appears to work around “checking-in” places, which is what services like Foursquare (and Plazes before it), use for location. That’s different from something like Google Latitude or Loopt, which simply track your location.

At some point, Facebook is going to have to get off the bench and throw its considerable weight into the location-based services arena itself. That’s definitely happening, we’ve heard from many sources, but the question is, when? For now, partnerships will have to do.

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by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 06:50 PM

Techcrunch

Hey, eBay Actually Did Ok With Skype

eBay bought Skype in September 2005 for $4.1 billion. Today they sold 65% of it for much less, valuing Skype at $2.75 billion. It seems like a big loss, and guys like Om Malik are saying eBay shareholders should be angry.

I’m not going to argue with the fact that eBay was negligent in buying a company without taking control of its core intellectual property. But when I look at this deal, and how the market has changed in the last four years, it looks to me like eBay made out ok. Or even more than ok.

First of all, eBay never paid the full $4.1 billion for skype. 2/3 of a $1.5 billion earnout wasn’t paid, so the total purchase price was around $3.1 billion. After the write-downs, eBay was carrying Skype on its books at a value below $2 billion dollars.

Skype is projected to make $200 million of so in EBITDA in 2010, so today’s acquisition implies a 14x multiple on that EBITDA (thanks to Mark Mahaney at Citi Investment Research for the quick financial analysis). Mahaney says “From a non-strategic buyer, that would seem to be a high multiple.” Clearly, ebay got more for Skype than they thought they would.

Also, the market (and eBay) hasn’t done too well over the last few years. Half of the original purchase price was paid in eBay stock, which has declined by more than 50% since late 2005.

Finally, Skype has been profitable, and eBay has taken those profits off the table. Skype was likely breakeven in 2006, says Mahaney. But he estimates they generated $44 million in cash flow in 2007, $116 million in 2008 and projected $164 million in 2009. That’s $324 million eBay has taken off the table in aggregate.

The market is way, way down and Skype is a somewhat damaged asset with the IP litigation ongoing. The fact that eBay is getting most of its purchase price back, in cash, is a big win for them. And they still own 35% of the company and can get additional gains in a later IPO or sale. And the best news is that Skype is finally free of the dragging effect of a huge corporate parent. They can now move forward and find their destiny.

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by Michael Arrington at September 01, 2009 06:42 PM

Techcrunch

Exclusive Screenshots Of Twingly Channels: A Personalized, Real-Time Memetracker

Twingly, the Swedish startup that brought us a microblogging search tool, a search engine for blogs, and a global ranking system for blogs, is launching a new product called Twingly Channels. Twingly Channels, which will officially launch in closed beta in October, will allow users to create their own personalized real-time memetracker.

A mix between Digg, Friendfeed and Techmeme, Twingly Channels allows users to create their own personalized memetracker by collecting feeds and search terms covering any topic or event into a channel they share with others. Twingly Channels, which is updated in realtime, has three main sources of content: links posted by users, content from RSS feeds, and real-time search results for terms from blogs and microblogs (i.e. Twitter). The resulting stream is filtered into a Friendfeed-like channel where people can comment on, like, or dislike incoming items.

Channels will be public by default, but to comment or subscribe you will need to sign up. You will also be able to login with your Twitter or Facebook account. One interesting component is a ranking system to filter content. Every item coming into the channel is continuously ranked using links from blogs, Tweets, user comments and likes. The highest ranked items are shown in the Popular view.

The site sounds like it could be incredibly useful for aggregating RSS feeds, tracking specific content on blogs and microblogs and then sharing that content with others, all on one site. The blog/microblog search is powered by Twingly’s search engine which tracks close to 26 million blogs around the world.

Here are a few screenshots to whet your appetite:

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by Leena Rao at September 01, 2009 06:32 PM

Brett Canon

Compiling Python using Clang

[edit: added compilation timings]

Like many people (if Twitter is any indication), I upgraded to Snow Leopard and XCode 3.2 this past weekend. One of the nice things that came with the new Developer Tools is Clang 1.0. I have been anticipating the stable release of this tool ever since I watched a video from the LLVM conference on it over a year ago. With it's much improved warning output compared to gcc and it's faster compilation time I wanted to give it a try on CPython.

First off, though, credit needs to be given to the Unladen Swallow guys, and especially Jeffrey Yasskin, for working out some nasty bugs that used to prevent LLVM from compiling CPython over the past year. Without the fixes I would have just given up on using clang.

With CPython now cleanly compiling with clang, I decided to give it a spin. The environment variables I ended up using specific to clang were:
  • CC = clang
  • CFLAGS = -Qunused-arguments
  • CPPFLAGS = -Qunused-arguments
The "-Qunused-arguments" flag tells clang to not complain if it is given command-line arguments that are redundant or unused. If you don't do this you can end up with a ton of warnings about unneeded CPPFLAGS arguments. And it is used in both CFLAGS and CPPFLAGS as otherwise it isn't picked up when setup.py runs (I don't think setup.py or distutils uses CFLAGS at the moment). But otherwise CPython builds fine!

One other thing you might want to try using when building CPython is "-Wno-unused-value". It turns out that PyObject_INIT() and PyObject_INIT_VAR() never have their returned values used explicitly and this flag turns off those warnings as there are a bunch of them and each one refers to two other code locations.

After I originally posted this I got one comment here and a couple on Twitter about what the benchmarking timings were. I caved in and ran them with ``/configure --prefix=/dev/null --with-pydebug --with-computed-gotos --with-universal-archs="64-bit``. In Clang it took a total of 36 seconds while with gcc 37 seconds. So the speed increase is minimal, but the important thing to remember is that the debugging information that Clang spits out is far and away better than what gcc gives you. So while the performance difference is small, the debugging output are not even close to being equal in terms of readability.

by Brett (noreply@blogger.com) at September 01, 2009 06:00 PM

Techcrunch

Khosla Ventures Raises $1.1 Billion. It’s For More Than Just Clean Tech.

Either Vinod Khosla has the magic or institutional investors are easing back into venture capital, or both. His Khosla Ventures raised $1.1 billion for two new funds, with about $800 million going to Khosla Ventures III and $275 million for a new seed fund.

Taken together, the $1.1 billion is the biggest capital raise for a venture firm in two years, and if you count it as a first-time fund, it is the biggest capital raise in ten years. While these are technically the third and fourth funds managed by the firm, it is the first time Khosla Ventures is taking outside money. (CALPERS, the retirement fund for California state employees, is the biggest new limited partner). Up until now, the capital primarily came from Khosla himself, who is a billionaire, a former star partner at Kleiner Perkins, and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

He founded Khosla Ventures in 2004, and now the firm has eight partners. The firm also confirmed today that former Facebook CFO Gideon Yu is now a partner (you read it here first), as is new hire James Kim from CMEA Capital.

While Khosla is best known for funding clean tech startups these days, that is only about two thirds of his existing portfolio. Khosla Ventures is also an investor in Tapulous, Aliph/Jawbone, iLike, iSkoot, Slide, Rearden Commerce, RingCentral, and and Xobni. The new funds will continue to focus on both clean tech and IT in general.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 01, 2009 05:47 PM

Techcrunch

See Which Conferences Your Friends Are Attending With EventVue’s ‘Discover’ Widget

eventvue_logoEventVue, a company that builds online communities for conferences in order to improve conference networking amongst individuals, has launched a new product called Discover designed to help conference attendees find friends who are attending the same event. The goal of Discover is to work with different companies’ APIs, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Contacts, and Yahoo! Contacts, to help identify matches.

Discover is a simple widget that conference organizers can install on their sites to showcase an event’s speakers, sponsors, and attendees. It’s currently in private beta testing, and only selected conferences are using the widget on their sites, according to a company blog post. It’s interesting to note that LinkedIn’s API is a private API that only a handful of companies get access to, and EventVue was one of the companies given access to the API.

EventVue Co-Founder Josh Fraser says that the product can actually help get more attendees to visit conferences, explaining:

“Over the past 2 years, we’ve heard from conference organizers that their biggest challenge is getting people to register for their conference. These conversations have had increased urgency in the past year as the economy has brought a lot of cuts to conference travel.

We heard this enough times that we finally decided to do something about it. EventVue Discover helps conference organizers market their events and get more butts in seats. We learned from talking with organizers that the most effective way to market an event is to get attendees to encourage their friends to attend. Discover lets attendees see who they know is attending a conference from their social networks and makes it easy to invite their friends.”

EventVue was part of the inaugural batch of startups under the TechStars incubator program, and offers direct integration with some of the largest online ticketing services Eventbrite, RegOnline and Acteva.

picture-140

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by Daniel Brusilovsky at September 01, 2009 04:55 PM

Techcrunch

Twitter: Just Make Sure You Spell Everything Wrong And Swear A Lot

Another winner from The Onion, which tells parents how to keep tabs on their kids via Facebook and Twitter: “Within minutes you can be writing on their wall. I write to my son Jeffrey about 5 or 6 times per day..It’s a great way to remind him to take his psoriasis medication or just to remind him how much I love him.”

There are also useful tips on stalking your children using a fake Twitter account so they don’t know who you are. “You can send them messages all day long and they won’t know who you are. Just make sure you spell everything wrong and swear a lot.”

This isn’t the home run that Google Privacy Opt Out and Macbook Wheel were, but it’s a solid double. I love The Onion.

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by Michael Arrington at September 01, 2009 04:31 PM

Techcrunch

Press Army Helps Enterprises Separate The Signal From The Noise In Social Media

pressarmyAccording to a study market research company eMarketer released yesterday, a whopping 52% of American social network users had become a fan or follower of a company or brand. 46% of users said something positive about a company or brand via social media, while 23% said something negative. About two thirds of marketers used social media in 2009 (up from 20% in 2007), another recent survey says.

But monitoring the sheer amount of activity of potential customers in social media is a big challenge for enterprises. Just a few examples: Nike Shoes has 1.6 million fans on Facebook, Oreo has 2.6 million, Coca Cola even has 3.7 million. Dell’s twitter account is followed by well over one million people, as is Amazon MP3’s. Not to mention the millions of status updates, tweets, videos, pictures and comments people post about a company or brand on a daily basis.

How can companies systematically keep track with what’s being said about them on the web? This is where a social media analytics tool called Press Army comes in. The platform, which has officially launched today, intends to help companies understand the impact they have online. And the early adopters include some big names (Audi, McDonalds, Ikea, Diesel and Dove to name a few).

Press Army trawls sites like Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and the blogosphere, tracking, analyzing and visualizing the buzz a brand, product, event or topic currently has in social media - virtually in real-time. The results can then be viewed on a single page, in email inbox-style (see the screenshot below).

pressarmy-screenshot-searchresults

Reports can be broken down into several categories that contain aggregated data. Press Army army can show you how many times you and your competition were mentioned in social media, in which context, which keywords were used or who the key influencers are. Most of these elements are customizable (it’s even possible to distinguish Twitter influencers from influencers writing blog posts). It also shows many people viewed your social media items in any given time frame (”touches”).

One of Press Army’s key selling point is sentiment analysis: The tool helps to capture the current sentiment towards your company on the web by showing you how many times a certain expression appeared (in connection with your brand name) in online conversations. Certain words can be weighted or filtered out in order to boost relevance.

Press Army, the brainchild of Mike Sheetal (who is CEO of Tokyo-based creative agency UltraSuperNew), is currently available in English and Japanese, with more languages to be added in the near future. Enterprises interested in the (paid) service can sign up starting today.

pressarmy-screenshot-analytics-keywords

pressarmy-screenshot-analytics-overview

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by Serkan Toto at September 01, 2009 04:22 PM

Webfaction Blog

System administrator position available

We have a new position available for a system administrator. Details at http://www.webfaction.com/jobs

September 01, 2009 04:18 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

Jython 2.5.1 Release Candidate 1 is out!

On behalf of the Jython development team, I'm pleased to announce that
Jython 2.5.1rc1 is available for download:
[link].
See the [link] for
installation instructions.

by Frank Wierzbicki (fwierzbi...@gmail.com) at September 01, 2009 03:56 PM

Techcrunch

Jim Breyer’s Midas Touch. Two Acquisitions in 24 Hours (Marvel And BBN)

Investor Jim Breyer of Accel Partners is having a very good day. In the past 24 hours, two companies where he is an investor and board member have been acquired for big bucks: Marvel Entertainment, which was bought yesterday by Disney for $4 billion, and BBN Technologies, which was bought this morning by defense contractor Raytheon for an undisclosed amount.

Breyer invested personally in Marvel, while he represented Accel investment in BBN. He sat on both boards (and also is a board member of Facebook, Dell, Walmart, Etsy, Brightcove, Prosper, and Real Networks). At BBN, Accel co-led a management buyout five years ago with General Catalyst Partners.

BBN is a storied technology R&D powerhouse. Started in 1948 by a group of MIT professors, it invented many of the technologies of the early Internet, including packet switching (1969), the first network email (1971), the first router (1976). It also came up with the @ sign, but much of its work is for the military, which is why Raytheon snapped it up.

Other recent exits for Accel include VMWare’s $420 million acquisition of SpringSource in August and Yahoo buying Xoopit for $20 million in July.

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by Erick Schonfeld at September 01, 2009 03:26 PM

Techcrunch

Coupa Raises $7.5 Million, Helps Companies Spend Smarter

Coupa, a provider of on-demand e-procurement solutions, has secured $7.5 million in Series C funding led by El Dorado Ventures and joined by previous investors BlueRun Ventures and Battery Ventures. With the new capital injection, the total amount raised by the San Mateo, CA startup gets doubled to a healthy $15 million.

Coupa markets a Ruby on Rails-driven software suite that allows companies of any size to maintain better control over costs by keeping tabs on purchases, suppliers, existing contracts etc. and automatically looking for ways to spend budgets in a cost-saving manner. The software is subscription-based and Coupa boasts that implementation and training times are way shorter than would be the case with its competitors.

Aside from making it easier for people in charge to make purchasing decisions, the completely web-based e-procurement program also helps streamline communication between all employees and executives with a stake in the decision. Ultimately, the software is designed to help companies spend smarter and improve their bottom lines without too much hassle.

The company also manages to leverage popular technology in its solution, boasting a one-click integration with Twitter that enables companies to solicit competitive bids from suppliers across the world using the micro-sharing service. Coupa even offers an iPhone app dubbed Mobile Approver that can be used to access the purchasing system at no extra cost for existing subscribers.

ZDNet recently published a favorable, detailed review of the service in case you’d like to learn more about Coupa.

On a sidenote, Coupa has got one of the best corporate websites I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen many. Even the demo videos are more entertaining than the bulk of what I’ve (been forced to) watch over the years. They’re also great at marketing, having recently invited any federal, state and local government agency to use Coupa e-Procurement free of charge for six months in order to help them establish control over inefficient procurement practices.

Definitely one to keep an eye on.

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by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 02:42 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

ANN: PyBindGen 0.12 released

PyBindGen is a Python module that is geared to generating C/C++ code that
binds a C/C++ library for Python. It does so without extensive use of either
C++ templates or C pre-processor macros. It has modular handling of C/C++
types, and can be easily extended with Python plugins. The generated code is

by Gustavo Carneiro (gjcarne...@gmail.com) at September 01, 2009 02:36 PM

comp.lang.python.announce

[ANN] Pida 0.6beta3

Pida is an IDE (integrated development environment).
Pida is different from other IDEs in that it will use the tools you
already have available rather than attempting to reinvent each one. Pida
has unique features like a pluggable editor component supporting Vim,
Emacs and Medit currently.
We are proud to announce the hopefully last beta of Pida 0.6. [1]

by poelzi (poe...@poelzi.org) at September 01, 2009 02:22 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Walt Mosspuppet: The return of the fake blog

Fake Steve Jobs put on the map the wonderful insanity of the fake celebrity blog. (I'm sure there were others before Fake Steve Jobs, but that's the one that made it cool and hip.) Copycats sprung up, from Fake Steve Ballmer to Mock Mark Cuban, but none of them really had the staying power of good old Fake Steve Jobs.

(movie trailer voice) Until now.

Introducing Walt Mosspuppet, a fake video blog starring a puppet version of the technology reporter.

I love this guy.

by oldnewthing at September 01, 2009 02:00 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

One way to make sure nobody sends you feedback

Last year, somebody sent out a message to very large group of people describing a change to, well, what it described isn't important to the story. What's important is that the message ended with the following sentence:

If you have questions, please send them to abcdef.

If you don't see why this was a brilliant move, go back and check what that "abcdef" link really does.

One of my cynical colleagues noted, "Maybe this was intentional. That way, when they get no feedback, they can say, 'See, this was an awesome decision. Nobody complained!'"

by oldnewthing at September 01, 2009 02:00 PM

Techcrunch

Confirmed: eBay Sells Skype In Deal Valuing It At $2.75 Billion

We now have confirmation of the sale of Skype, a story we broke last week and was yesterday proclaimed a done deal by NY Times reporters.

The acquiring party is indeed an investor group led by private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, who likely paid the bulk of the amount Skype was sold for.

Other investors include VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures (a previous investor in Skype), as well as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board.

The new investors will buy approximately 65% of Skype, with eBay continuing to own 35%, in a deal valuing Skype at $2.75 billion US. eBay is expected to receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash upon the completion of the sale and a note from the buyer in the principal amount of $125 million. The transaction, which is not subject to a financing condition, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Worth noting: Andreessen Horowitz partner Marc Andreessen sits on the eBay Board of Directors.

Ebay had reportedly been looking to sell Skype for $2 billion, compared to the $3.1 billion it put on the table to buy out the company and pay out its founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis back in 2005. Since then, eBay has written down nearly a billion dollars of the deal value after realizing the supposed synergies weren’t going to pan out as planned. Skype is said to be making approximately $600 million a year in revenues, so it seems like the investor group acquired the company at a very reasonable price.

Earlier this year, eBay had announced that they would be spinning off the company in an IPO in 2010. As Michael noted when he broke the news about the impending deal that was confirmed today, these announcements are often made to generate acquisition offers from potential suitors. If Skype will ultimately be floated on the stock market in the near future remains to be seen.

Full release is below, and bares no mention about the litigation currently at hand between eBay and its initials founders over key Skype technology.

Full press release:

eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its Skype communications unit in a deal valuing the business at $2.75 billion. The buyer, who will control an approximately 65 percent stake, is an investor group led by Silver Lake and includes Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board. eBay is expected to receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash upon the completion of the sale and a note from the buyer in the principal amount of $125 million. The company will retain an approximately 35 percent equity investment in Skype. The transaction, which is not subject to a financing condition, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“This is a great deal, unlocking both immediate and long-term value for eBay and tremendous potential for Skype,” said eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe. “We’ve acted decisively on a deal that delivers a high valuation, gives us significant cash up-front and lets us retain a meaningful minority stake with talented partners. Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments businesses. As a separate company, we believe that Skype will have the focus required to compete effectively in online voice and video communications and accelerate its growth momentum.”

Commenting on the deal, Egon Durban, managing director at Silver Lake, said: “Skype is an innovative, next-generation company that has changed how people and businesses communicate with each other. This transaction benefits all parties involved and will allow Skype the opportunity to accelerate the growth of its business by harnessing the deep technological and company development expertise that resides within the investor group. Josh Silverman has done a strong job leading the company and we look forward to working with Josh and his team to grow the Skype franchise.”

In April 2009, eBay announced plans to separate Skype from the company, beginning with an IPO in 2010. The decision followed a year-long review of Skype within eBay’s portfolio. As it prepared for an IPO, the company said it would naturally consider bids for Skype that offered an attractive valuation. Donahoe said the deal offered by the investor group achieved that.

“This deal achieves our goal of delivering short- and long-term value to eBay and its stockholders, without the possible delays and market risk of an IPO,” Donahoe said. “Selling Skype now at this great valuation, while retaining an equity stake, makes sense for the company. And it allows us to focus all of our energies on the opportunities in front of PayPal and eBay.”

Acquired by eBay in 2005, Skype has strengthened considerably since early 2008 when Donahoe was named eBay’s CEO and tapped company executive Josh Silverman to lead Skype. Silverman has driven strong momentum while building a new management team and delivering a series of Skype innovations such as software upgrades with dramatically improved video and calling quality, the widely popular Skype iPhone app and mobile partnerships with companies such as Nokia and Hutchison. In 2008, Skype generated revenues of $551 million, a 44 percent increase compared to 2007. Total eBay Inc. revenues for 2008 were $8.5 billion. Registered Skype users reached 405 million by the end of 2008, a 47 percent increase from 2007. Skype is attracting hundreds of thousands of new users each week.

(Image via E24)

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by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 01:57 PM

Techcrunch

Chrome OS: The Code Clues Are Out There

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-50522-amA working Chromium on Snow Leopard and Chrome Desktop Notifications are interesting, but let’s be honest, the real Chrome-related information everyone wants to know about is Chrome OS. And today there is news, as it looks like the OS may have just revealed itself, if only slightly, to the world.

No, we’re not talking about those big icon screenshots, instead, this reveal is buried in code commits.

As you can see in this directory, there are a few mentions of “chromeos.” A few days ago, a “brettw” with a @chromium.org address wrote the following:

Move the compact navigation bar to the chromeos directory.

Generalize the chromeos rules so we don’t have to list every file in the exclusions.

Seeing as Chromium, while open source, is still very much a Google project, an @chromium.org email address would seem to suggest that this is a Google employee. A quick scan of what he’s been working on reveals that it’s all Chrome, all the time. A quick Google Search reveals him to be Brett Wilson, who is a software engineer at Google, and you can see him in action at Google I/O here.

Just prior to that message, Wilson described the “compact navigation bar” in a bit more detail:

Bugfixes and enhancements to the compact nav bar and the status area.

This makes the compact navigation bar off by default at the request of Nicolas.
It can be enabled with –compact-nav on the command line. It also adds
different tab opening options when this feature is enabled. They are accessible
from the app menu in the status area. The buttons now extend to the top of the
screen for easier clicking.

The status area is enabled whether or not the compact navigation bar is. I
fixed the background so it will appear unselected when the window loses focus,
and I fixed the time formatting to make the minutes always 2 digits.

The Chrome button is now hooked up and just opens a tab to a placeholder page.

52214v13-max-250x250There’s some interesting stuff in there. It would seem that Chrome OS may feature some kind of compact navigation bar that has various tab-opening options (including clicking on the “Chrome button”). It would appear that there’s an app menu of some kind in something known as the “status area” which apparently contains the current time.

Now, certainly this stuff could be related to a new version of Chrome being worked on and not Chrome OS. But remember the latest update above (”Move the compact navigation bar to the chromeos directory”) and then take a look at the one that came right before it:

Add a first attempt at a compact location bar and a status bar. The status bar
contains a clock, an application menu, and a non-working battery indicator.
The compact location bar can be toggled by COMPACT_NAV_BAR in browser_window_gtk.cc

So this status bar apparently has a clock, and application menu, and a battery indicator. Certainly, that all reeks of Chrome OS rather than Chrome, the web browser. I’m just speculating here, but it seems reasonable to assume that this status bar may be the name of the main upper dock for Chrome OS.

It’s hard to know for sure, and it’s even harder to try to dig through the Chromium.org directories for more information, given all the code names and nested directories. Here’s a bit more of what I dug up:

This page talks about cookies as they are related to Chrome OS. Of note:

[Chrome OS] Adds support for injecting Corp cookies at startup

To support single-sign-on for Chrome OS, we need a way to inject cookies into Chrome.

Eventually, I want to replace this pipe-reading with an appropriate usage of DBus, but Chrome OS isn’t there yet.

So yes, it would appear that work is well underway on Chrome OS, but it “isn’t there yet.”

Update: As commenter Daniel Gasienica points out, Chris Messina did some digging of his own yesterday and seems to have found an area on Google’s servers where Chrome OS could be getting developed. Right now you get a “403 Forbidden”, meaning something is there.

[thanks Sai]

[photo: Warner Brothers]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 01:50 PM

The Daily WTF

The Odd Job

Photo credit: ramseyarnaoot@flickr Their first correspondence was an unsolicited call from Vilhelm. "I'm calling because I hear you do web work." Gaye B. responded that yes, he did, and began collecting whatever scant details he could about the project, telling Vilhelm he'd need some time to prepare an estimate. Vilhelm casually mentioned "you know, your last name sounds familiar. You wouldn't happen to be the son of Bob and Alice, would you?" He was. "Oh, that's great! Our parents are friends, they met on vacation at the coast last year!"

Beautiful, Gaye thought, he's going to want the "friend discount."

"Anyway," Vilhelm continued, "I'm at 350 Park Place, let's get together on Thursday to discuss this further."

Gaye scribbled the address down and agreed to the meeting. Park Place? he thought, that's the second nicest street in the area! This made him feel better.

The Investment Trapezoid

A few days later, Gaye was feeling cautiously optimistic as he drove his beat-up rustbox past beautiful half-million-dollar homes with the occasional Bentley or Rolls Royce in the driveways. He'd been picking up odd coding jobs here and there to keep the bills paid while he was putting himself through school. And since freelance web projects were sometimes hard to come by, he couldn't imagine a project he'd turn down.

Gaye admired the nice house and well maintained yard while he waited at the doorway. It opened, and he began politely. "Hi, Vilhel-"

"I hope you're not allergic to cats," he interrupted.

"N... no, I'm not." Gaye looked down, and two cats had already begun vying for his attention, rubbing their heads against his shoes. Three other cats stood motionless inside, eyes fixed on him.

Vilhelm and Gaye entered a room that could've been quite nice if not for miscellaneous papers, binders, knicknacks, and cat toys everywhere. Vilhelm shoved some binders off a chair and offered Gaye a seat.

"So for a little bit of background," Vilhelm explained, "I quit my job three years ago to start an internet business. See, using The Investment Trapezoid," he said, rifling through some papers, "where, uh, the base is ambition, then the left side is... um... trend projections... no... ahh..." He was clearly looking for a visual aide that was somewhere in the heaps of stuff in the room.

"Anyway, business is going to be good. You might want to get in this program I'm in, if you're up late watching channel 62, this guy sells the internet business power program on these tapes. I'm up to tape seven, you should pick it up! Anyway, for now, this is what you'll be helping me with."

Gaye took a closer look – all of the binders were for various get-rich-quick programs sold on late night TV. It was all there; real estate, buying/selling from police auctions, classified ads, starting 900 numbers. This made Gaye feel a little worse about the project. Vilhelm could sense Gaye's unease, and explained himself. "I saw something that said you could make $1,000 a month working from home, so I bought it. Then I saw something else that was a similar deal, so I bought that too. I figured, if I do all of these, I can make some serious money." This was supposed to be reassuring.

Vilhelm continued speaking with wide-eyed excitement. "And the best part is, it's already almost done. Have a seat at the computer." Gaye's eyes searched the room; a sea of binders and cats and cat toys, finally looking at Vilhelm for help. "Over there," he said, sighing and pointing.

The Demo

It started dramatically. 100% red text on a 100% blue background swooped across the screen, then twisted until it was inverted, and then the browser was sent to index.php. A repeated straight-out-of-1997 background image made attempting to read the page's text an exercise in futility for the reader. All page links were to index.php with different GET variables. Gaye couldn't, and didn't want to imagine the code that held this all together.

"The guy that built this quit after billing $3,000.00. Something about the minimum he had to make per year to stay on some government program. Anyway, I want you to finish this. What do you say?" Vilhelm smiled and extended a hand.

Since Vilhelm was a family friend, Gaye couldn't run screaming from the house during the presentation; instead he had to improvise. "The web is very broad, and to be successful you have to find your niche. This project is a bit outside my niche, and I'm not too comfortable working with proprietary packages. You should consider specializing." He kept talking as he wrestled his shoes away from the cats that refused to release the shoelaces from their clutches. This would've been fun if he wasn't in such a rush to leave.

Hopping back into his beat up car, Gaye reminded himself that there are exceptions to the "beggars can't be choosers" rule.


by Jake Vinson at September 01, 2009 01:00 PM

Techcrunch

With Its Desktop App, StockTwits Grows Up…And Away From Twitter

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-21912-amStockTwits has been one of the success stories for building on the Twitter platform. The service, which leverages the power of the Twitter community and its real-time aspect to generate investment ideas, has thousands of people each day now using the $ tags it invented to talk stocks over the network. But to get into the big time in this field, co-founder Howard Lindzon knew the service had to go to the next level. And now it is with StockTwits Desktop.

If you’ve used TweetDeck, StockTwits Desktop will be very familiar to you. That’s because Lindzon and fellow co-founder Soren Macbeth created their client with TweetDeck very much in mind, realizing that people would know how to use it (Lindzon is also an investor in TweetDeck). But StockTwits Desktop’s functionality extends far beyond that of TweetDeck, as what it’s really doing is creating an entire investor ecosystem within this app.

Right now, if investors really want to get serious about stock trading professionally, they buy a Bloomberg Terminal. Unfortunately, those run you around $2,000 a month. Thomson Reuters offers a competing system, but that will still cost you almost $1,000 a month. But Lindzon sees an opening because the number one feature on Bloomberg Terminals is chat, he tells us. What if you could open up a free forum to the tens of millions of regular day traders out there? That’s really what StockTwits has always been about.

And this new Adobe Air-based app gives them the terminal from which to do it while intermixing the very casual traders with the more serious folks. Lindzon envisions this as the “Social Bloomberg” or the “Facebook for Finance.” But it has always been kind of hard to get the more hardcore financial folks to take a service seriously when it is tied to Twitter, with its famous un-reliability issues. So StockTwits has built up an entire backend that is wholly separate from the messaging service. Yes, StockTwits is slowly breaking away from the service that inspired its name.

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-23127-am

Using StockTwits Desktop, by default, you don’t send anything to Twitter. Instead, you use the same basic ideas behind Twitter to communicate with a financial community. Of course, you can still send the messages to Twitter (there’s a CC: box that you check to easily do that), but plenty of users who take this really seriously, want to send messages all the time with what they’re trading and maybe don’t want all of those to go out to every person they follow on Twitter.

The features you’d expect from a desktop client are all here. But grouping people together is particular important in StockTwits Desktop because of the different types of traders. There’s a “Tech” group for example, but also a “Natural Gas” group. These groups are populated with users considered to be well versed in those fields, and any other users are free to follow them, which will open up a separate column within the StockTwits Desktop app.

Also built-in to StockTwits Desktop is a web browser. Many AIR apps don’t utilize this functionality, but it’s very useful for getting information quickly, since you don’t have to leave the app. Instead, another tab opens with a full-fledged browser inside.

Speaking of tabs, while you’re probably used to seeing various columns in the TweetDeck application, StockTwits Desktop has tabs on top of columns, to allow you to have a lot of information open at once. This can include Twitter Searches, RSS feeds, and charts (from Chart.ly, which StockTwits purchased back in May) among other things.

techcrunchandtvlarge1

There is also real-time financial news provided in partnership with SkyGrid. You can easily subscribe to news just about a particular company, or get the firehose of financial information coming to you in a column.

StockTwits Desktop is an impressive client anyway you look at it. If you’re not into financial information, it’s feature set is probably overkill, but the grouping experience mixed with the in-app browser is pretty killer. And for the StockTwits junkies, this will be heaven. It’s like a terminal, but free (unless you are a member of one of the StockTwits Network Premium authors, which cost varying amounts, but usually are in the $50 a month, or $400/$500 a year-range).

Those subscription bloggers are already bringing in some revenue for StockTwits, but the real key seems to be diversification. StockTwits is serious about moving away from having Twitter as its backbone, and towards having it be simply be one stream that comes into this app, Macbeth says. The plan is to eventually have things like live video content through StockTwit.tv continually flowing into the app (right now, much of it is archived, but some is live). There are also quite a few other plans in the works in terms of new content to pipe into the app, they note.

Twitter has taken StockTwits places. On August 25, the company got to ring the closing bell on NASDAQ. But to go to the next level, and rope in more serious investors to become a viable business (and potentially much more), it may be time to expand beyond relying solely on Twitter. This desktop client and a new website redesign (which will eventually take on many of the desktop app’s features) suggest that is where StockTwits is heading.

Watch the video below for how to sign up for StockTwits Desktop.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 12:00 PM

Techcrunch

The Mobile Payments Rivalry Heats Up

Mobile payments for micro-transactions on the web are catching wind and there are several players in the space vying for the top spot in the field. Today, Boku, a recently launched mobile payments conglomorate of sorts, is announcing a slew of new customer acquisitions as well as details of its international expansion.

Boku, which acquired competitors Paymo and Mobillcash and raised $13 million in Series A funding back in June, doesn’t require users to have a credit card or bank account to make a micropayment. Users enter their cell phone number on the site, reply to a text message and then all virtual charges are automatically charged to the user’s monthly cell phone bill. As we’ve said in the past, it’s ridiculously easy.

Because of its acquisition of Paymo and Mobillcash, systems that had significant international reach, BOKU gained a strong base of users around the world. Today’s announcement adds availability of the payment service in Finland, Indonesia, Slovenia and Taiwan, bringing the company’s global reach to 56 countries. Boku’s marketing chief Ron Hirson tell us that they are seeing a strong foothold in Southeast Asia and will be expanding to the Phillipines within a few weeks.

Boku has also added a number of online gaming sites, social network applications and the social networks themselves over the past few months, including Playfish, HitGrab and Gambit. Boku says that currently they have over 1000 customers that use its mobile payments platform. So far, Boku has powered 6.5 million online mobile transactions.

But competition is stiff in this field and one competitor in particular, Zong, has also witnessed strong growth over the past few months. Most recently, Zong was chosen to test a pilot program for mobile payments for Facebook’s virtual currency, Credits. While Zong may not have had the organic international base that Boku has (Zong is available in 19 countries), this partnership is sure to help Zong’s global reach thanks to Facebook’s ever growing presence and popularity around the world. Zong also reached a big milestone a few weeks after processing mobile payments for 10 million unique users in 2009.

However, the potential obstacle to Boku, Zong and other mobile payments platforms are the high fees that mobile carriers charge to the payment systems (which are then passed on to the consumer). Boku told us on June that different cell phone carriers charge varying fees that range between 10% to 50% of the purchase price, which is a hefty amount in transaction fees.

But if mobile carriers lower their fees, mobile payments have the potential to be the go-to way to pay for microtransactions. David Marcus, CEO of Zong, says that many U.S. and European carriers that Zong works with are contemplating reducing these fees by building large-scale models to process payments that would in turn lessen the pressure on startups like Zong and Boku as well as the applications and social networks using the systems. Marcus feels confident that if this does happen, the sky is the limit with mobile payments.

Regardless, as shown by growth witnessed by both Boku and Zong, mobile payments are catching on and attracting the attention of some of technology’s giants, like Facebook. And of course the rivalry and ensuing competition between the two companies could continue to spur further innovation and growth. It will certainly be fascinating to see which startup comes out ahead.

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by Leena Rao at September 01, 2009 11:55 AM

Techcrunch

Chrome Is Gaining Desktop Notifications

screen-shot-2009-09-01-at-34826-amThings are really starting to get busy in the world of Chromium. Yesterday, we noted how the latest developer builds of Chrome were now Snow Leopard-ready. Today brings some other interesting news.

It looks like Chrome is about to gain a new built-in feature called Desktop Notifications. An overview document was recently placed in the Design Documents are of the Chromium Developers site. Basically, it sounds like there is an API that will allow a developer to pop up small messages on a user’s desktop area. I imagine this will look something like the FriendFeed notifications, but those are run through Adobe AIR, this would be run entirely in WebKit.

Interestingly, the documentation notes that for Mac OS users, there will be Growl integration with these notifications. It notes: “On Mac OS, desktop notifications in icon/title/text format will be routed to Growl for display if Growl is installed.” On Linux, the notifications would similarly be routed through DBus, apparently.

These notifications are to be turned off by default for now, but can be turned on using a command line switch. It’s hard to know exactly how these will be used from just reading about them in these documents, but this could be a potentially cool new feature sites can use — or pop-up ads 2.0.

[thanks Sai]

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by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 10:55 AM

comp.lang.python.announce

CVE-2009-2701: Releases to fix ZODB ZEO server vulnerability

A vulnerability has been found in the Zope Object Database (ZODB) Zope
Enterprise Objects (ZEO) server implementation that allows any file
readable by the server to be read by clients and any file removable by
the server to be removed.
The vulnerability only applies if
- you are using ZEO to share a database among multiple applications or

by Jim Fulton (j...@zope.com) at September 01, 2009 10:12 AM

Techcrunch

Shares In XING Soar On Buyout Rumors - Is LinkedIn Interested?

Why are shares in XING, the German-born business social network that competes most with LinkedIn in Europe, skyrocketing?

Rumors are reaching me that prominent stakeholders in XING - current and former employees - are taking advantage of this moment to offload significant share stakes, and who can blame them. So why the spike? Well, it appears there is chatter of a buyout deal in the offing. But who would want to buy XING? Well the obvious answer is LinkedIn. Such a deal would consolidate it’s position in Europe, making it basically unassailable in business networks.

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by Mike Butcher at September 01, 2009 09:56 AM

Techcrunch

The British Are Waning — Cloud Apps Up, Microsoft Down

Remember all that Web 2.0 hype back in the day? Remember how some predicted an end to the monopoly of Microsoft in those basic applications like Word, Excel and others as these functions moved to the Cloud? Well it looks like that trend is well on its way now and especially in the UK.

According to a survey by Accredited Supplier, a B2B services marketplace, Microsoft is losing their grip on the UK small business market under increasing pressure from cloud computing and open source software.

In their poll of 1,400 Microsoft customers, all small businesses in the UK, they found that 13% of them intend to switch to Google Apps within 12 months while 22% are “undecided”. And 62% would “prefer” or “strongly prefer” to have their business applications work through a browser. In addition, an impressive 32% now use Firefox as their default browser within their business.

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by Mike Butcher at September 01, 2009 09:12 AM

Techcrunch

Opera 10 Released: Its Turbo Is Fully Functional

Since the release candidate for Opera 10 was announced last week, I’ve been testing the browser to see if it could live up to my standards (which, since I basically live and work on the Web, are pretty high) and if I’d be tempted to switch to it completely.

As I mentioned in my earlier article, Opera hasn’t exactly made any dents in the desktop browser dominion of Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox in its thirteen years of existence, but as I’ve noticed Opera fans will even attack you for simply stating that fact. Well now that Opera 10 has been let loose and I’ve had the chance to put it to the test for a week, at least I can understand why it has fans in the first place.

First of all, Opera 10 feels fast. Super-fast, even, close to the speed sensation I had when I started trying out Google Chrome for the first time. It could be nothing more than a feeling of course - we’re looking into ways to do a massive browser speed test - but Opera did say this version would be about 40% faster than its predecessor Opera 9.6, specifically on resource-intensive pages. If you care about speed, check it out, because it’s zooming alright.

The Opera desktop browser has also been given a new lick of paint, but I’ve never really tried previous versions for a long period of time so I can’t tell if the difference is that big. But I have to say the interface that was designed for Opera 10 looks nice and feels quite intuitive. A sweet touch: resizable tabs that show you a thumbnail of what you have opened up in your browser window. Like its innovative ’speed dial’ element, introduced back in 2007, expect it to get copied in other browsers in the near future.

Opera 10 incorporates the new Turbo feature, which helps speed up browsing sessions when surfing the Web on slower connections (3G, sluggish WiFi networks, etc.). The new release also comes with a number of bug fixes, usability and web standard improvements, automatic updates, integrated spell checker and a better in-client Opera Mail. Not in this release yet: Opera Unite and the new Carakan JavaScript engine that promises to process JavaScript about 2.5 times as fast as earlier Opera versions.

There’s not much else to add about the new browser other than it works as advertised, and who knows, maybe it will get a bigger piece of the pie with this release. I, for one, am not sure yet if I’ll be switching completely in the long run but I’m seriously impressed by how good - and fast - the Opera desktop browser really is.

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by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 08:57 AM

Techcrunch

Gmail Hitting Some Turbulence

I tried to log on to Gmail this morning and this is all I’ve been getting for the last hour or so. Anyone else seeing this?

Judging from the response on Twitter and a general search, it appears there are indeed some problems with Gmail throwing server errors (503 and 500) left and right, but it doesn’t seem to be as widespread as the February outage was (yet). But at least I’m not the only one noticing and the Google Apps Status dashboard also acknowledges the Google Mail service has been spotty for a while now.

Either way, if you rely on Gmail for work as much as I do, this is very annoying. I realize it’s a free service and all, but it’s troubling nonetheless. Gmail is one service that’s growing quickly but it’s very un-Google to run into scalability issues so I suspect it’s something else.

Hopefully they’ll acknowledge the problem on the support pages soon - which isn’t the case yet - and the undoubtedly ’small subset of users’ gets access again soon enough.

Update: it’s up for me after about two hours of downtime, but several users are still complaining about being blocked out.

Update 2: and it’s down again, both on desktop and from the iPhone.

Update 3: after nearly 8 hours of downtime for my account, Google acknowledges the problems.

“Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.”

So the ‘near future’ time frame is a guess and it might actually become the distant future?

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at September 01, 2009 08:28 AM

Techcrunch

What Happened To Adobe Air Today? No One Seems To Know.

We were plagued all day today at the TechCrunch offices with a faulty Yammer Air app. Updates weren’t working or were seriously delayed, and most of us just moved over to the web version to get reliable service. We rely heavily on Yammer to communicate asynchronously across our very distributed team (three continents). I didn’t realize how heavily until today when the service wasn’t working properly.

I assumed the problem was Yammer, and emailed for support, but they threw their hands up. We narrowed down the problem - it was affecting only those of us on Macs with the Leopard operating system (not the brand new Snow Leopard, which would make more sense). Other people were discovering the same thing and Tweeting about it.

Adobe was responding promptly to inbound messages to their Twitter account, but didn’t seem to know what the problem was, either. And, oddly, Robin Wauters, who’s on a Vista machine, complained of issues as well.

We’ve heard scattered reports of Tweetdeck and other Air Apps having issues today as well. Anyone else out there notice any problems today? Adobe says they didn’t push any updates to Air today, and nothing changed on our machines. It’s a mystery.

In the meantime, we all downloaded Gabble, a native OSX Yammer client, and everything is smooth sailing again.

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by Michael Arrington at September 01, 2009 07:22 AM

Techcrunch

Skype Sale To Investor Group Led By Andreessen Horowitz Confirmed

The NY Times is now confirming our report last week the sale of Skype to an investor group led by Andreessen Horowitz is imminent. The deal will be announced Tuesday, says Brad Stone and Claire Cain Miller, citing unnamed sources (perhaps people that…read our post last week).

As we reported, Index Ventures is also participating in the acquisition. And the unnamed private equity firm is apparently Silver Lake Partners, who is likely supplying the bulk of the capital needed to pay the $2 billion price tag.

eBay announced earlier this year that they would be spinning off the company in an initial public offering in 2010. These announcements are often made to generate acquisition offers from potential suitors.

The Andreeseen Horowitz fund can make single commitments of up to $50 million.

It isn’t clear if current Skype CEO Josh Silverman would continue to lead the company after any acquisition. Sources we’ve spoken with have said he is generally well thought of both within Skype/eBay as well as the possible investors.

More from our post last week:

Skype, under Silverman, grew revenue to $551 million last year, and eBay has said it expects the company to top $1 billion in revenue in 2011.

Presumably, the investor group, if successful in acquiring Skype, would run it privately and eventually prepare it for an initial public offering.

Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, were also reportedly in talks with several private equity firms earlier this year to make a bid for the company.

Recent news that Skype is now in litigation with a company controlled by those founders over key Skype technology only complicates the picture further.

eBay acquired Skype in 2005 for $4.1 billion, although about $1 billion of that, an earnout, was never paid.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 01, 2009 06:17 AM

Techcrunch

Netflix Had Me At “We’re Sorry”

jerrymaguire_2I do my fair share of complaining about poor service. And if you follow me on Twitter, you might say that I do more than my fair share. Here’s my issue: It’s not so much that your service sucks, it’s that you refuse to be held accountable for it sucking, and rarely, if ever, do anything about it. I’m looking at you, Comcast and AT&T. That’s why it’s so perplexingly wonderful when a company does the right thing, like Netflix.

Tonight, Netflix emailed a large number of its subscribers to apologize for a Xbox Live streaming outage that occurred yesterday. They’re offering to refund 2% of users’ monthly bills back to them, if they simply click on the link that was emailed. It’s not a lot of money, but what’s remarkable is that Netflix did this for most of us completely unprompted.

Now, I’m sure someone somewhere complained, but rather than either arguing with that person or just quietly giving them some sort of discount, it looks like Netflix just emailed everyone that could have possibly seen this hiccup in service, and offered a refund — including users who didn’t suffer through it at all.

Refunding 2% of a monthly bill to all of these users will probably add up to a decent sized chunk of change (assuming a large portion of users click on the link), but the positive reaction they’re getting for the move on places like Twitter (and yes, this blog), has got to be worth more than whatever they’re paying. In a time of poor tech customer care, Netflix is the sterling example of how do it the right way.

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-91508-pmLast month, we covered a Netflix internal presentation on how the company is run. It is simply an awesome guide that not nearly enough companies are anywhere close to following. It’s baffling how Netflix could be doing things so right, while there are so many companies out there doing things so wrong. It’d be one thing if Netflix wasn’t successful, but it’s extremely successful.

I’ve had basically no service from AT&T for large portions of my day in various parts of San Francisco for two months now. Do you think I’ll ever see a dime back from them? And before I just recently quit Comcast, my service would go out almost everyday without fail. Did I get an email apology and a refund? Nope. Maybe if I bitched loud enough for long enough, I could get something back from those two companies, but the point is that maybe I shouldn’t have to.

Netflix emails me from time to time to see about my movie streaming quality, and also to see if movies I’ve rented through the mail appear on time. If they don’t or the quality of my movies is poor, they apologize. That’s all I want. The refund is just icing on the cake. Too many other companies not only give you no icing, and no cake, but they steal your cake, punch you in the face, and then blame you for the whole ordeal.

But when it comes time to renew my plans with those companies, guess which one I’m going to stick with? Netflix. Companies often seem curious how other companies get “fanboys” — this is how.

[photo: TriStar Pictures]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 04:29 AM

Techcrunch

BeamME Pro Update Hits the App Store

beammeBeamME Pro, an iPhone application that makes it easy to exchange socially-networked information and build real-time intelligence on every new contact you make, has released a major update on the App Store. BeamMe Pro uses some of Apple’s new API’s to make contact sharing easier on the iPhone. BeamMe Pro, which doesn’t require user registration other then the download on the App Store, seamlessly formats your contact information.

Some of the key features in this release of beamMe Pro include contact mapping that enables you to track where you met people by viewing them on a map, a complete history of people you sent your contact info too, and a default Address Book integration. This feature is key because beamMe Pro will syncs seamlessly with your computer and other apps like Salesforce or Highrise without adding new software or complex processes.

The new version also includes Twitter integration that lets you gain followers automatically as you meet new people while keeping your contact information secure. And you can send your contact info to anyone on any device, whether or not they have beamMe Pro or even a smartphone. Additionally, there is a “Fun Zone” on the app where you can keep track of your networking stats, compare yourself against other professionals and complete challenges to help you raise your score and level within beamMe Pro.

What makes beamMe Pro so attractive compared to other contact sharing applications is that beamME Pro doesn’t have any ads, and has priority support for paying users.

BeamMe Pro is available for $1.99 in the App Store today.

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by Daniel Brusilovsky at September 01, 2009 04:10 AM

Techcrunch

Another Popular Developer Lays The Smack Down On Apple’s App Store

3709438002_021cb145181Another day, another story of Apple’s ridiculous App Store approval policies gone awry. Joe Stump, the former lead architect for Digg who is well known in the developer community, has posted an entirely NSFW rant to his blog that condemns Apple for preventing a key update to his application from going live for over six weeks. Stump’s language is quite colorful so I’m not going to quote it extensively, but be sure to read his full blog post.

In the post, Stump outlines a problem that he had with Chess Wars, the Facebook Connect-enabled chess game that came out in July. After catching a show-stopping bug soon after the initial release, his company Blunder Move promptly issued an update. Soon thereafter they noticed another bug, which they quickly released a fix for. Unfortunately, this second update has sat in App Store purgatory for many weeks now, and Apple has gone silent on when it will be approved.

Stump also describes his efforts to get his friends inside Apple to help his cause, going on to say that they’ve been able to do basically nothing other than tell him to contact Apple’s unhelpful team of app reviewers. Even once the update is approved, the app will have to endure the 1-star reviews it has received without any way to reverse them. Here’s how Stump closes out the blog post:

To our users affected by this, I’m truly sorry. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about your horrible user experience and, as a developer who loves his users, nothing pains me more.

To Apple, please kindly extend the world class customer service I’m so accustomed to as an Apple fanboy to your developers.

Update: Stump tells us that an Apple representative called him this morning (no doubt prompted by his blog post) to say that Chess Wars features a chat interface that looks too much like the native iPhone SMS client. This, of course, is totally ridiculous, as a number of other apps feature chat interfaces that look nearly identical (below I’ve embedded screenshots of Chess Wars and Facebook’s app, which was approved last week).



Other notable developers to have criticized the App Store’s policies include Panic co-founder Steven Frank, and Joe Hewitt, who is charged with building the enormously popular Facebook iPhone app.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 01, 2009 03:37 AM

Techcrunch

The Almost Hopeless Challenge Of Web Security

Today we are trusting the web with our most personal and important data, from private photos and social graphs to finances and key work documents. Our hesitation to share such information has dropped over the years as our trust in our favorite services grows. Yet all the while, the web is actually growing less secure, as sites are left open to new attacks that can spread easily and leave users totally unaware when they've been compromised. Looking back on the history of the web, classic security protection involved patching servers to assure latest versions were running, monitoring advisories from vendors, and maintaining some level of filtering and firewall to keep basic attacks out. Simple moves on the part of an admin or developer could protect sites from 99% of automated scripts. But a few years ago, a new security can-of-worms was opened, as new exploits that took advantage of simple oversights within web applications were being used to steal large amounts of user data.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Nik Cubrilovic at September 01, 2009 02:53 AM

Techcrunch

TechCrunch50 Partners Step Up with $1 million In Advertising For Launching Startups

In July we said we would be giving away substantial amounts of advertising to promote the new startups and products launching at TechCrunch50 on September 14-15.

Today I’m pleased to announce that four of our key partners will be giving an aggregate of $1 million in advertising to TechCrunch50 companies. Facebook, Google (Youtube), Microsoft (Bing) and MySpace are all participating with substantial donations. We expect more partners to join shortly.

One of the cooler additional ideas was proposed by the Bing team. They’ll make tshirts that say “Bing Loves [company/logo]” and Bing staff will wear these tshirts, each one promoting a different TechCrunch50 startup, to various events and conferences they’ll attend throughout the year. They promise that the team will be familiar with the startup/product they’re promoting on their tshirts and be ready to talk about it when people ask. Crazy idea right? I love it.

YouTube is offering in-video advertising, and MySpace and Facebook will give substantial advertising credits on their ad platforms. So there are lots of ways TechCrunch50 companies will get exposure even after the event is over.

Also, sponsor Perkins Coie (which is also our law firm) will be giving away free legal services to one of the winners.

Thanks to MySpace, Bing, YouTube and Facebook for helping these young startups get just a little more much-needed exposure.

Mad Men Image: New York Times

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at September 01, 2009 02:44 AM

Techcrunch

A Look At fbFund’s First Summer As An Incubator Program

Over the last twelve weeks, 24 startups have been working out of Facebook’s old headquarters in downtown Palo Alto as part of fbFund REV, Facebook’s startup incubator program that’s jointly run with Accel Partners and Founders Fund. During that time the startups have receieved mentorship from some of Silicon Valley’s elite, as well as help from Facebook engineers. Tomorrow, they’ll be presenting at the program’s Demo Day (we’ll have full coverage beginning tomorrow afternoon). In light of the close of this session, we’ve compiled a number of the mentor presentations given thoughout the summer, and sat down with fbFund team member Dave McClure, who outlined what made the program unique.

McClure says that REV is a “social incubator” — an idea that is helped by the fact that all of the startups enrolled somehow take advantage of Facebook, the world’s largest social network. But McClure also says that the structure of the incubator, from the way classes are held to the actual layout of the building, is designed to ensure that the startups involved maintain interaction with each other. Startups have been working in wide, open rooms with white boards and no cubicles, and the program invited mentors to speak to all of the startups around three times per week. The fact that the startups get office hours and help from Facebook employees can also help give them a leg up on the competition.

Of course, fbFund has been around for some time now — it was announced back in September 2007, and has since seen a number of graduating classes. But past winners in fbFund were given no-strings-attached cash grants, while the new model, obviously inspired by incubators like Y Combinator invites the finalists to participate in a mentorship program while fbFund takes a small stake in the startups.

Here’s a list of talks that were given over the summer, as well as embedded videos of a few of the sessions.

Financing
Marketing
Product Management
Legal Issues
Early Stage Hiring (HR)
Why Startups Fail (Strategy)
Gaming
Monetization






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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at September 01, 2009 02:11 AM

Techcrunch

Builds Of Chrome Get Updated To Show Off Their Snow Leopard Spots

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-50658-pmAs most Mac users have undoubtedly read over the past few days, there are some pieces of software that are a bit buggy with the latest version of OS X, Snow Leopard, which was released on Friday. Applications that have been having issues include the developer builds of Chrome and Chromium for OS X. While these versions are obviously still not complete yet, there are more and more people using them as they had been becoming increasingly stable and usable under OS X Leopard. And today, Google rolled out a bunch of bug fixed to keep it purring along in Snow Leopard as well.

Specifically, version 4.0.203.4 of the Dev channel build of Chrome fixes a host of problems, ranging from text being garbled to favicons no longer working. Find the full list of changes here.

I’ve been playing around with the latest Chromium builds all day, and have yet to notice a crash. Flash is still working just fine, but unfortunately the bookmark manager (including the bookmark importer), which was available in builds earlier this month, is still temporarily disabled.

You can grab the latest builds of Chromium here, as well as the Dev channel build of Chrome for Mac here. You can also find out information about our Chromium auto-updater here, though we have yet to test it in Snow Leopard yet, hopefully we’ll do that soon and will update you on it.

Update: At some point recently, Chromium gained a nice new “About” screen (below):

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-54920-pm

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at September 01, 2009 12:29 AM

August 31, 2009

comp.lang.python.announce

[ANN] Pida 0.6beta3

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1
We are proud to announce the hopfully last beta of Pida 0.6. [1]
It was a long time since beta2 and a lot of changes happened since then:
== Core Highlights ==
• multiprocessing language plugins
Language plugins can now use a multiprocessing infrastructure which

by poelzi (poe...@poelzi.org) at August 31, 2009 11:59 PM

Techcrunch

Wow. Just, Wow. Bing’s AJAX Search API In Action.

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-30625-pm

Over the weekend, we wrote about Google’s slow transition to AJAX search results. It’s currently testing the feature on its “Caffeine” results pages, and some users are starting to see it live on regular Google. The rationale behind such a shift is obvious: If Google can show results faster, people have more time to do more searches. But we’re talking factions of a second in terms of speed increases; to most users it won’t be noticeable. If you want something noticeable. You have to check out this page.

Called “The Real Live Search,” Long Zheng, the blogger from istartedsomething, has created an amazing search experience using Bing’s AJAX search APIs. While it’s not clear how scalable the functionality is, the results are something that really need to be seen to be believed. What the screen recording I took below to see it in action, in case the traffic we sent slows it down. At full speed, I can’t state enough how amazing it is.

If Bing (or anyone else for that matter) wants to make seriously inroads against Google search dominance, this is the way. It’s relevant results, including rich media full populated in a timeframe noticably faster than anything Google offers. The fact that this is built on top of Bing’s AJAX API is very promising, but again, it’s hard to know just how scalable this speed would be.

The results definitely slow down the more words you add to a query, damping the effect. But as a demo, using one or two words, this is pretty killer. Watch the video below.

[thanks Andrew]

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 10:48 PM

Techcrunch

Top Developer Reveals Android Market’s Meager Sales

It’s no secret that Apple’s App Store has been leaps and bounds more succesful than Android’s comparable Market, but it isn’t often we get concrete data that shows just how poorly Android’s store is faring in comparison. Today Android developer Larva Labs has posted some of the sales figures for its top applications, and the results are not impressive: Larva has two apps in Android’s top paid apps list called Battle For Mars and RetroDefense, ranking #5 and #12 respectively, and between them the company has raked in an average of $62.39 per day over the last month. Ouch.

Larva’s Matt Hall attributes this poor performance in part to Android’s shoddy App purchase flow. Unlike the iPhone’s integrated App Store, Android Market doesn’t have screenshots of apps, forces you into the browser at times, makes you use Google Checkout, has some unintuitive navigation issues, and a handful of other problems. These issues are widely known — you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the purchase process is as smooth as it is on the iPhone — but they’ve been around for quite a while.


Hall also points out the poor sales of the smash-hit iPhone game Trism, which pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars on the App Store. On Android, it has seen fewer than 500 downloads. Granted, there’s no guarantee that lighting will strike twice when there are many other games available for both markets, but that isn’t exactly an encouraging statistic.

Hall also writes that the rumored Android market size of $5 million a month (which still pales in comparison to the App Store’s) is likely an overestimate. He concludes that if Larva is considered an average developer, then half the other developers on the platform would have to be seeing similar sales figures to reach that figure, which isn’t likely.

This news comes at a time when many developers would be happy to leave Apple’s troubled App Store, with its ridiculous approval policies and poor treatment of developers, in favor of greener pastures. With a slew of new devices coming out this year and policies that are much friendlier to developers, Android has the opportunity to give these apps a new home — now it needs to build out a marketplace that gives the App Store a run for its money. Google has said improvements will be coming soon, likely with support for PayPal, credit cards, and carrier billing; let’s just hope these come sooner rather than later.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Jason Kincaid at August 31, 2009 10:34 PM

Techcrunch

Yazzem Launches Version 2; Improves Latest Activity Among Users

47021v5-max-250x250Yazzem, the simple topic creator for Twitter or FriendFeed, has launched version 2 of their online service. Yazzem allows you to start topics about anything you want, basically creating a new way to interact with both Twitter and FriendFeed. Once the topics have been created, anyone can join your topic to connect and discuss about it in 140 characters or less. Yazzem launched in June 2008, and has picked up quite a user base for a very specific core audience.

Launching in version 2 of Yazzem is a redesign of the Yazzem site, themes that users can choose from for their page, and latest activity streams for all your friends. Also launching with this version is subscribers, which is similar to Twitter followers or FriendFeed subscribers. Another key feature that is launching is user stats, so now users will be able to see information like number of subscribers and activities a particular user has deciding whether or not to subscribe to them.

Yazzem also launched a new mobile version of Yazzem which is basically just a redesign of the old mobile version that fits much better for iPhone and iPod Touch users when browsing on the go.

It’s unclear how Yazzem will make money, but for such a young company, Yazzem does show some promising features and a future. Yazzem was started by Zachary Collins and Dustin Snider, who are both 14 years of age.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Daniel Brusilovsky at August 31, 2009 10:24 PM

Techcrunch

Stir Successfully iPhone-izes FriendFeed

Are you addicted to FriendFeed? Can't get enough of Robert Scoble's incessant posts? Want to keep up with them even when you're on the go? Are you praying to the heavens that Facebook doesn't screw up FriendFeed post-acquisition? Then Stir (iTunes link) might just be for you. Created by StructLab Stir is an iPhone app that allows you to get your fill of FriendFeed anytime, anywhere. You can use it in the bathroom at work (guilty), while watching a lame chick flick with your girlfriend (guilty) or if you're on the couch and don't want to walk the 10 feet to your desk (umm, yes, guilty). Of course, it is hardly the first FriendFeed app for the iPhone, but it's the first one I've looked at and it's pretty damn good. Mind you, I only started using FriendFeed last week. Twitter is still my micro-blogging platform of choice, but I quickly noticed that FriendFeed has some obvious benefits. And Stir takes advantage of all of them.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Devin Coldewey at August 31, 2009 10:20 PM

Techcrunch

Call.com Rings Up $1.1 Million

We just wrote about the dominance of number of .com domains and we’ve also reported that .com domain registrations were starting to turn around again after a poor 2008. Today, another .com domain passed the million dollar mark, with Call.com selling for $1.1 million via domain brokerage Sedo to an undisclosed buyer.

The domain was sold by Live Current Media , which had sold, then reacquired the domain over the past years. Live Current apparently sold the domain as part of a package of domains including Makeup.com, Automobile.com, and Exercise.com. Part of the deal was that Live Current would get royalties from any revenue earned from the domains. The company ended up buying back Call.com in 2006, and nullified the royalty stipulation. According to Domain Name Wire, the value of the royalty stream was $250,000 in future revenue, which makes the $1.1 million sale a good bet. Live Current also recently sold Cricket.com for a cool $1.75 million. Last year, Live Current experienced some financial difficulties and was looking to raise cash to survive by liquidating its domain names.

Other large domain purchases this year include the sale of Candy.com for $3 million, ToysRUs’ acquisition of Toys.com for $5.1 million, the sale of Fly.com to Travelzoo for $1.8 million, and the sale of Ad.com for $1.4 million.

Image via Flickr/greggoconnell.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at August 31, 2009 10:20 PM

Techcrunch

Google To Affix A “Slow” Scarlett Letter To Some iGoogle Gadgets

scarltraOn its iGoogle Developer Blog today Google issued a warning to developers: Optimize your gadgets for speed, or we’re labeling them as “slow” in the directory.

Starting in late September, Google says that any widget that doesn’t meet a speed requirement, will get a nice “slow” badge attached to its directory listing. The only detail it gives about the requirement is that it will get the badge if it’s “slow enough to cause speed-related user dissatisfaction.

That sounds pretty arbitrary, and that it could lead to a lot of developers complaining that their apps aren’t really slow, but are labeled as such. But we all know how much Google loves speed, so this move isn’t all that surprising.

To make sure your gadget doesn’t get the Scarlett Letter, check out these optimization tips from Google.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 10:00 PM

Techcrunch

NTT America’s New Data Center Aims To Harpoon Twitter’s Fail Whale

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-23252-pmNTT America announced today that it has leased a new 15,000 square foot data center in Santa Clara, CA. Big deal, you might think, a network provider expands its capacity. Except this network provider has a very high-profile client: Twitter.

Though Twitter is never actually mentioned in NTT’s press release, the blog Data Center Knowledge put two and two together, recalling a quote in June from NTT America COO Kazuhiro Gomi: “traffic generated by Twitter is getting so big, it’s basically eating up a lot of our data center network resources, especially the segment where Twitter is hosted. Other customers are riding on the same segment.

NTT America’s name came up quite a bit recently during the DDoS attacks that crippled Twitter. As Twitter’s network partner, NTT put in place many of the safeguards that slowed the attack enough so that Twitter could get the service back up. You may recall that Twitter also worked closely with NTT to reschedule a planned maintenance in June to make sure that the Iranian protest messages could continue to flow over the service.

Eventually, if Twitter continues its rapid growth, you’d think they would want their own data centers, like Google and Facebook have. But the leasing of this large new data center would seem to indicate that Twitter will be onboard with them for the foreseeable future. Twitter has been with NTT America since early 2008, following widespread reliability issues.

The idea of Twitter going down in the event of a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area is occasionally brought up when the question of Twitter as a reliable form of communication is raised. NTT America says this new data center “meets seismic zone four specifications.” NTT also notes that the data center, “is equipped with redundant power feeds, and carrier-class uninterruptable and back-up power. Optimal systems performance is maintained by fully redundant water cooling systems coupled with advanced humidity and temperature controls. Continuous monitoring ensures that all systems are fully operational.

Could this really mean the end of the Fail Whale?

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 09:34 PM

Programming Language News

Parrot 1.5.0 Released

Parrot 1.5.0 has been released. Parrot is a virtual machine designed to efficiently execute dynamic languages.

This release includes: the removal of several deprecated functions and features, debugger improvements, the addition of an experimental fixed-size structure allocator and lazy arena allocation to the GC, optimizations, documentation updates, and other changes.



From: Parrot 1.5.0 Released

August 31, 2009 09:31 PM

Programming Language News

SBCL 1.0.31 Released

Steel Bank Common Lisp 1.0.31 has been released. SBCL is a portable, open source ANSI Common Lisp implementation.

This release includes: stack allocation enhancements, improved Unicode support, optimizations, various improvements, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: SBCL 1.0.31 Released

August 31, 2009 09:29 PM

Programming Language News

GNU Guile 1.9.2 Released

GNU Guile 1.9.2 has been released. Guile is a Scheme interpreter available as a library, designed for embedding within other applications.

This release includes: VM speed and robustness improvements, compiler optimizations, more compiler warnings, preliminary Unicode support, the removal of the scm_charnames and scm_charnums global variables, the removal of EBCDIC support, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: GNU Guile 1.9.2 Released

August 31, 2009 09:26 PM

Programming Language News

SWI-Prolog 5.7.14 Released

SWI-Prolog 5.7.14 has been released. SWI-Prolog is a portable, open source Prolog implementation.

This release includes: changes to clp(fd), changes to the HTTP infrastructure, and other changes.



From: SWI-Prolog 5.7.14 Released

August 31, 2009 09:24 PM

Programming Language News

ooRexx 4.0.0 Released

ooRexx 4.0.0 has been released. ooRexx is a portable, open-source REXX implementation based on IBM Object REXX.

This release includes: a complete rewrite of the interpreter, new object-oriented APIs, 64-bit compatibility, bug fixes, and other enhancements.



From: ooRexx 4.0.0 Released

August 31, 2009 09:22 PM

Programming Language News

Jul. 14 to Aug. 25 Caml Weekly News Available

The July 14 to August 25, 2009 edition of the Caml Weekly News is now available. It summarises recent developments and discussion within the OCaml community.



From: Jul. 14 to Aug. 25 Caml Weekly News Available

August 31, 2009 09:19 PM

Programming Language News

SWI-Prolog 5.7.13 Released

SWI-Prolog 5.7.13 has been released. SWI-Prolog is a portable, open source Prolog implementation.

This release includes changes to avoid global operators breaking library code and the development system.



From: SWI-Prolog 5.7.13 Released

August 31, 2009 09:17 PM

Programming Language News

Aug. 8, Aug. 29 Haskell Weekly News Available

The August 8, 2009 and August 26, 2009 editions of the Haskell Weekly News are now available. They summarise recent developments and discussion within the Haskell community.



From: Aug. 8, Aug. 29 Haskell Weekly News Available

August 31, 2009 09:15 PM

Programming Language News

GCC 4.3.4 Released

The GNU Compiler Collection 4.3.4 has been released. GCC is a portable compiler system including front-ends for C, C++, Java, Objective-C, Objective-C++, Fortran and Ada, and supporting a variety of target platforms.

This release includes bug fixes.



From: GCC 4.3.4 Released

August 31, 2009 09:12 PM

Programming Language News

Gambit-C v4.5.1 Released

Gambit-C v4.5.1 has been released. Gambit-C includes a Scheme interpreter, and a Scheme compiler that emits portable C code.



From: Gambit-C v4.5.1 Released

August 31, 2009 09:10 PM

Fuzzyman: The Techie Blog

IronPython Tools and IDEs

A frequent question on the IronPython mailing list is "what IDE should I use with IronPython?". For many .NET developers the question is phrased slightly differently, "how do I use IronPython in Visual Studio?". ... [191 words]

August 31, 2009 09:09 PM

Programming Language News

Gambit-C v4.5.0 Released

Gambit-C v4.5.0 has been released. Gambit-C includes a Scheme interpreter, and a Scheme compiler that emits portable C code.



From: Gambit-C v4.5.0 Released

August 31, 2009 09:08 PM

Programming Language News

Neko 1.8.1 Released

Neko 1.8.1 has been released. Neko is a high-level, dynamically typed intermediate language designed to offer a common runtime for different languages.

This release includes: mod_tora improvements, optimizations, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: Neko 1.8.1 Released

August 31, 2009 09:06 PM

Programming Language News

haXe 2.04 Released

haXe 2.04 has been released. haXe is a high-level, object-oriented language for developing Web sites and Web applications.

This release includes: the new "using" keyword, C++ platform support, the addition of "never" property access support, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: haXe 2.04 Released

August 31, 2009 09:04 PM

Programming Language News

PLT Scheme v4.2.1 Released

PLT Scheme v4.2.1 has been released. PLT Scheme is a family of Scheme implementations, including DrScheme and MzScheme.

This release includes: the final included release of ProfessorJ, Typed Scheme 2.0 type system enhancements, faster installation of Planet packages, library improvements, and other changes.



From: PLT Scheme v4.2.1 Released

August 31, 2009 09:02 PM

Techcrunch

Domain Desperation And Six Minute Abs: .Biz To Sell One Character Domains

“That’s right. That’s - that’s good. That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?” - Ted (Ben Stiller), There’s Something About Mary

The more top level domains that are approved by ICANN, the less each of them is worth. People continue to flock to .com: 82 million of the 111 million non-country specific domains registered are .com. Everyone else splits what’s left, with .net and .org taking the bulk of the leftovers.

That means if you’re running the, say, .biz or .info domain registry businesses, with 5 million and 2 million domains registered, respectively, it’s time to come up with some marketing genius.

.Biz is first to market with, yes, one character domain names. These domains, previously reserved, will be auctioned off on September 23 at 12 noon EST via Sedo. A total of 36 domains will be sold (26 letters and 0-9). If you want to be the proud owner of 1.biz or whatever, the details are here.

“These domains are rare and potentially very valuable” says Neustar, which runs the .biz registry. Presumably whatever you pay in the auction is a one-time fee, and normal registrar rates of a few dollars a year will apply after that.

If you’re thinking of buying these to do a quick flip, think again. We hear .com will release one character domains within the year, too.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Michael Arrington at August 31, 2009 09:02 PM

Programming Language News

GNU CLISP 2.48 Released

GNU CLISP 2.48 has been released. It is a portable, open-source ANSI Common Lisp implementation.

This release includes: experimental support for multiple threads of execution, module updates, new functions, bug fixes, improved ANSI compliance, and other changes.



From: GNU CLISP 2.48 Released

August 31, 2009 08:58 PM

Programming Language News

Jul. 28, Aug. 6, Aug. 23 Python-URL! Available

The July 28, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 23, 2009 editions of Python-URL! are now available. They summarise recent developments within the Python community.



From: Jul. 28, Aug. 6, Aug. 23 Python-URL! Available

August 31, 2009 08:56 PM

Programming Language News

SBCL 1.0.30 Released

SBCL 1.0.30 has been released. SBCL is a portable, open source ANSI Common Lisp implementation.

This release includes: the deprecation of SB-THREAD:JOIN-THREAD-ERROR-THREAD and SB-THREAD:INTERRUPT-THREAD-ERROR-THREAD in favour of SB-THREAD:THREAD-ERROR-THREAD, the new SB-QUEUE contrib module, SB-THREAD:SYMBOL-VALUE-IN-THREAD for providing access to symbol values in other threads, SB-INTROSPECT:ALLOCATION-INFORMATION for obtaining information about object allocation, numerous optimizations, more stable complex float division, a reworking of DESCRIBE output, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: SBCL 1.0.30 Released

August 31, 2009 08:53 PM

Programming Language News

SWI-Prolog 5.7.12 Released

SWI-Prolog 5.7.12 has been released. SWI-Prolog is a portable, open source Prolog implementation.

This release includes: the addition of Library(portray_text), ISO-compliant initialization/1, library(record) enhancements, the addition of bitwise XOR as ><, the addition of alarm_at/4, build changes, bug fixes, and other changes.



From: SWI-Prolog 5.7.12 Released

August 31, 2009 08:51 PM

Fuzzyman: The Techie Blog

Resolver One 1.6: Free Resolver Player and Resolverlib

Resolver One 1.6 is out! I say this every time but it's a great release with some important new features. ... [316 words]

August 31, 2009 08:15 PM

Fuzzyman: The Techie Blog

Pythonista Kiva lending team

Kiva is an amazing organisation. They support individuals in developing countries by making loans for them to develop their own businesses. ... [176 words]

August 31, 2009 07:30 PM

Techcrunch

Google CEO Eric Schmidt Interview: His Thoughts On Search, Books, News, Mobile, Competition And More

A week ago I had a chance to sit down for a hour-long one on one interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. There were no rules, and the whole interview was on the record. Part of the interview was on video as well.

There’s so much material that we’ve broken the interview notes up into a few different subject areas. We’ll post separately with his thoughts on the future of search, books, news, mobile and more. Schmidt also spoke candidly about the Microsoft/Yahoo search alliance, Twitter (he mentioned them before I did!) and Facebook.

What Is Google?

I started the interview with a simple question: What is Google?

Most people think of Google as a search engine, a place to start and end the day. People also think of it as an advertising company. But Google is obviously more than that.

Google says its mission “is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But that’s too much of a 50,000 foot view of the company - and it’s so vague it’s not very useful.

Schmidt describes Google:

I think of Google as a set of overlapping things. It’s a consumer platform, consumer phenomenon of which search is its fundamental activity, but there are many other things you can do than search…I think of Google as an advertising company who services the broader advertising industry in the ways that you know. And the first and the second are inter-related. The third is I think of us as a network of partners and infrastructure. I don’t know how many billions of dollars we hand to everybody. But by the time you look at the publishers, the use of AdSense and so forth, it’s literally billions of dollars going through Google and to other people which we hope fund additional software, additional web applications, additional content and so forth and we care a lot about that.

He also says Google has a certain way of doing things internally, a theme comes up repeatedly later in the interview. It involves the small cultural things, like free soft drinks, snacks and lava lamps. But he also says Google has always focused on solving big problems:

And then I also think of Google as a cultural phenomenon in and of itself, you know, the lava lamps and the way in which Google is run and so forth. That’s how I like to think about it. With respect to product buckets, we’ve always taken the position of we want to do things that matter to a large number of people at scale. So, we don’t define ourselves as search only or ads only or what have you. We sort of wait until something comes along which could actually affect, in a positive way, a lot of people. We don’t want to work on problems that only affect a small number of people.

Five years ago (about the time Google went public), Schmidt says, he sat down with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to talk about Google’s strategy:

And so, we had a - Larry and Sergey and I had a strategy meeting five years ago…I said, OK, well, let’s write down our strategy. We never really had a strategy. And so Sergey basically got up and said, our job is to do things that matter to the world at scale and it should just boom, boom, boom like that. And that became our strategy. And then Larry and I wrote down in detail some of the ideas that happened from that. But it’s not just a search company or not just an advertising company. It doesn’t even have to be just an Internet company, although obviously, the Internet is key.

More interesting conversation from the interview coming up in additional posts today and tomorrow. We’ll also update this post with links to those, too.

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by Michael Arrington at August 31, 2009 07:29 PM

Techcrunch

On the Eve Of Its First Birthday, Yahoo Quietly Shuts Down Indian Social Network SpotM

Yahoo India has decided to shut down SpotM, the social network it launched less than a year ago in India. According to the site, SpotM. which never exited private beta, will be shut down on Sep. 1. Yahoo launched SpotM as a social network for the 16-24 age bracket in an attempt to capture the growing market in India.

It appeared that SpotM had potential to take off due the popularity of social networks in India and the addition of a few differentiating features. Yahoo said that SpotM would allow users to make friends with other users and if they wanted, to make those friends private so other users wouldn’t know about the relationship. SMS integration with anonymous chat would let users correspond via SMS without revealing their phone number.

But it appears that SpotM couldn’t compete with other social networks that are dominating in India. Google’s Orkut is the leader in the space, with 16 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore stats. Facebook, which is growing incredibly fast in India, reached a high of 7.5 million unique visits in India, according to July’s comScore numbers. In May, Facebook launched availability for several Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. Perhaps Yahoo is planning to focus its social networking efforts in other parts of the world with the recently launched Yahoo Meme.

Thanks to Ashish Sinha for the tip.

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by Leena Rao at August 31, 2009 07:15 PM

Techcrunch

Facebook Improves Its Share Functionality; Still Not As Good As FriendFeed’s

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-114911-am

Of the 7 bookmarklets I have installed on my web browser, the Facebook Share one is the one I use the least. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of sharing stuff on Facebook, but the Share functionality is too slow and too clunky. Today, Facebook is trying to improve it — but it’s still won’t be as good as the functionality of the company it just bought, FriendFeed.

From what it has written on its Facebook Developers site today, it sounds like most of the Share changes will be happening functionality for buttons partners can install on their sites. If you have a Share button installed, for example, users should see a dialog box that pops up to post an item to their profile. The dialog box is said to be “more consistent with other forms of sharing on Facebook.

The problem is that it’s still nowhere near as simple as it should be. For example, while it’s nice that it auto-pulls a thumbnail image, FriendFeed’s method of allowing you to click on any image on a page you are sharing is a much better way. Facebook’s thumbnail selector often pulls the wrong image and you’re stuck shuffling through random images on the page to find the one you want — as you can see in the preview image Facebook captured below, there are 17 possible images you can use.

fb_share1

Another nice feature of FriendFeed’s sharer is that it displays as an overlay on the web page you are on, rather than popping open a new small window (as Facebook’s does). FriendFeed’s functionality also makes it easy to send as a message to other users all from within the same screen, rather than having to click over to a separate window to send what you are sharing as a message to a user.

Facebook’s “What’s on your mind” comment area is also confusing. That would seem to imply that you should state what is on your mind (a status update) rather than comment on the item you are sharing. FriendFeed’s comment area simply has a comment icon and the note “Add a comment” — a subtle difference, but still nicer.

Finally, FriendFeed’s sharer gives you the ability to use it as a send-to-Twitter bookmarklet as well. Basically, if you select the “Cc: Twitter” box, it will send the item to both FriendFeed and Twitter (and it can link directly to the source rather than back to FriendFeed if you have that option set). Facebook, obviously, offers no such option.

The point is that if Facebook really wants to improve its Share functionality on sites outside of Facebook, it needs to make the process faster and cleaner. In other words, it needs to use its new acquired FriendFeed guys and get them to replicate their FriendFeed button. Facebook Connect is a very powerful pipeline from the web to Facebook, but that doesn’t matter if some of the pipes to and from it are clogged.

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by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 07:02 PM

Techcrunch

Google Translate Gets More Worldly, Adds Nine Languages

While Google Translate is certainly not perfect in many of its translations, the site is undoubtedly an incredibly useful tool when trying to interpret a word, phrase or entire site in a different language. Today, Google has added nine more languages to Google Translate: Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh and Yiddish, bringing the number of languages that are supported up to 51.

Google says that with the latest addition, the site now supports all 23 of the official EU languages. And following the events in Iran during the elections, Google added Persian (Farsi) to Google Translate. Google warns users that quality of the translation for the new languages is still basic and may have some glitches.

Google has been integrating Google Translate into many of its other applications, most recently adding support for translation in Google Docs. You can also translate emails within Gmail, webpages using Google Toolbar, and RSS feeds in Google Reader. In June, Google launched the Google Translator Kit, which is a translation editor that lets translators make human edits within machine translations.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Leena Rao at August 31, 2009 06:15 PM

Techcrunch

More Alleged Screenshots Of Google Chrome OS. My, What Big Icons You Have.

We’ve just received a pair of screenshots that may be of Google’s upcoming Chrome OS operating system. Google announced the entirely browser-based OS in July, and since then a number of alleged screenshots have popped up that have ranged from laughably bad to somewhat plausible. Because we haven’t seen any confirmed screenshots from Google, anyone with a copy of Photoshop can throw together some Google icons and claim to have the goods, so take these with a grain of salt.

The screenshots below depict Google’s Chrome browser, with a dock of unnecessarily large app icons lining the right side of the screen (including what appears to be a Google media player app). Thing is, Google Earth, which is included in the dock, primarily uses a downloadable client, as does Picasa. This doesn’t really mesh well with the fact that Chrome OS is a browser OS. On the other hand, Google does offer a browser plug-in for Google Earth, and you can use a web version of Picasa to browse albums, so they’re still within the realm of possibility.


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by Jason Kincaid at August 31, 2009 05:25 PM

Techcrunch

Report: Netbooks Now A Fifth Of All Portable Computer Shipments

Maybe it’s because they are cheap. Maybe it’s because they are small. Or maybe it’s just because people don’t need computers for much more than Net access these days. But the popularity of netbook computers keeps growing.

In the second quarter, netbooks accounted for 22.5 of all portable computer shipments worldwide, according to market forecaster DisplaySearch (which is part of the NPD Group). That is up from 5.6 percent a year ago, and 17.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

At this growth rate, netbooks will soon rival larger notebooks. Netbooks, or mini-notes as DisplaySearch calls them, outgrew larger notebook PCs by nearly 2 to 1. It grew 40 percent quarter over quarter, compared to 22 percent for larger notebooks. Of course, since netbooks are so much cheaper, the growth in revenues is not proportional.

Netbooks are taking the most share in Europe, where they had 32.9 percent share in the second quarter, followed by North America (26.6 percent), and China (18.8 percent). In North America, shipments are getting a boost because broadband providers are adding them as incentives for people who sign up for two-year plans. For instance, I’m getting a free HP netbook for signing up for Verizon FIOS. That’s going to be the kitchen/couch PC.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Erick Schonfeld at August 31, 2009 05:19 PM

Techcrunch

Tesla Snags YouTube Exec To Run Communications

Tesla Motors has hired Ricardo Reyes away from Google as the company’s first Vice President of Communications. Reyes is currently the head of global communications and public affairs at YouTube. Reyes will officially join Tesla on September 14.

Tesla has been on a roll recently. They announced profitability, secured $465 million in government loans to build their next car plant and raised another $50 million in equity from Daimler that valued the company at $550 million.

The press release is here.

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by Michael Arrington at August 31, 2009 05:12 PM

Jon Udell

jonudell


My guest for this week’s Innovators show, Ian Forrester, heads up the BBC’s Backstage project. Launched in 2005, Backstage lives at a cultural crossroads where legacy systems and methods intersect with their next-generation counterparts. The tagline for the feeds and APIs provided under the Backstage umbrella is “use our stuff to build your stuff.”

Admittedly that sounded a lot more exciting prior to 2006, when the BBC ended its trial of the Creative Archive service that was expected to “open the floodgates” to a “treasure trove” of cultural riches. Ian Forrester says those expectations were ratcheted back for two reasons. First, much of that treasure trove remains undigitized. Second, rights clearance proved to be an intractable problem.

So the “our stuff” that’s available to build “your stuff” turns out to be mostly metadata: news headlines, program titles and schedules. What’s more, that metadata comes from a plethora of BBC content management systems. What can you make out of these ingredients?

Here’s an evocative example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/species/African_Bush_Elephant. The BBC’s Tom Scott explains:

Over the last few months we’ve been plundering the NHU’s [Natural History Unit's] archive to find the best bits — segmenting the TV programmes, tagging them (with DBpedia terms) and then aggregating them around URIs for the key concepts within the natural history domain; so that you can discover those programme segments via both the originating programme and via concepts within the natural history domain — species, habitats, adaptations and the like.

This is just the sort of remixing that Backstage ought to enable anyone, inside or outside the BBC, to achieve. Since I’m a US resident, and don’t pay the UK’s television license fee, I can’t watch the videos on that page. There’s nothing that the Backstage team can do about that. But they can take a radically open and inclusive approach to the management of the metadata that supports this remixing, and that’s just what they’re doing.

In our conversation, Ian Forrester describes how the taxonomy that governs the Backstage feeds and APIs is shared with that of Wikipedia and its structured derivative, DBpedia. Tom Scott elaborates:

You might have noticed that the slugs for our URIs (the last bit of the URL) are the same as those used by Wikipedia and DBpedia that’s because I believe in the simple joy of webscale identifiers, you will also see that much like the BBC’s music site we are transcluding the introductory text from Wikipedia to provide background information for most things. This also means that we are creating and editing Wikipedia articles where they need improving (of course you are also more than welcome to improve upon the articles).

As someone who both practices and preaches collaborative curation, I’m delighted to see the BBC taking this approach. And I love the phrase webscale identifier. Here’s how Michael Smethurst defines it, in the post pointed to by Tom Scott:

I agree with the four Linked Data rules but I’d like to try to add a fifth: if possible don’t reinvent other people’s web identifiers. By web identifiers I mean those fragments of URLs that uniquely identify a resource within a domain. So in the case of the MusicBrainz entry for The Fall (http://musicbrainz.org/artist/d5da1841-9bc8-4813-9f89-11098090148e.html) that’ll be d5da1841-9bc8-4813-9f89-11098090148e.

The last time we updated the /music site we made this mistake (kind of unavoidable at the time). Even though we linked our data to MusicBrainz we minted new identifiers for artists. So The Fall became http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artist/jb9x/ where jb9x was the identifier. But jb9x doesn’t exist anywhere outside of /music. We’ll (hopefully) never make that mistake again.

Beautifully said. Enormous synergies have gone unrealized because web publishers have chosen to mint new namespaces rather than add value to existing ones.

What I realized when talking with Ian, though, is that there is one namespace for which the BBC is the appropriate mint, namely its own. Here, for example, are some of the family of URLs for a radio drama called The Archers:

homepage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr/

upcoming shows: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr/episodes/upcoming.xml

In this example b006qpgr is, at least potentially, a webscale identifier. It’s a unique tag for the show that, if used on blogs, on Twitter, and elsewhere, would make it easy to assemble all kinds of online activity related to the show. But in fact only web developers using Backstage feeds and APIs will ever discover, or use, b006qpgr. In colloquial discourse people use The Archers.

If the BBC wants people to collaborate with its namespace in the same way that it collaborates with Wikipedia’s, this would be more inviting:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/The_Archers/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/The_Archers/episodes/upcoming.xml

It should go without saying, but right after the first rule for linked data, “Use URIs as names for things,” I would add “Where possible, choose names that make sense to people.”

by Jon Udell at August 31, 2009 04:55 PM

Techcrunch

Who Dominates Online News In Italy? Not Google News.

Last week, the Italian government began an investigation into Google and Google News about allegations of anti-competitive behavior. (For more details, read Google’s initial response or Danny Sullivan’s take). Italian newspaper publishers claim that Google News is stealing readers from them who skim the headlines on Google News and never bother to click through. It is a familiar refrain, to which the obvious response is: If newspapers want readers to click on their headlines, maybe they should write better headlines.

But implicit in these arguments, and an investigation into how Google News is somehow stifling competition in the Italian news industry is that Google News dominates the news in Italy, at least online. That is not the case. According to comScore, the Italian audience of Google News is smaller than at least two of the largest Italian newspaper sites, La Republicca and Corriere Della Sera. In July, Google News had 2.4 million Italian readers versus 3.8 million for both of those Italian newspaper sites. (These numbers reflect only visitors from Italy).

While Google News is a decent size in Italy, it by no means dominates the news category. Not to mention that some portion of those 2.4 million visitors are presumably clicking through to news sites when a headline interests them. That could be an Italian news site, or an Italian-language site from a different country, or even a news site or a blog half way around the world. If anything, Google News promotes competition among news outlets.

It creates hyper-competition, which is really why newspapers (everywhere) are up in arms against Google. They don’t like the Web, but they can’t sue the Web. So they are going after Google instead.

The Italian publishers also allege that if they opt out of Google News, they won’t show up in regular search results, something which Google says is untrue. It doesn’t really make much sense. Presumably, a news article is a high-quality result. The more of those that Google can show in regular search results, the better those overall results and the more related ads it can run alongside them. That is how Google makes money, not from news. But if Google is indeed punishing Italian publishers who choose not to be in Google News results with less visibliity on Google’s main search page, they should be able to prove it with a few simple search examples.

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by Erick Schonfeld at August 31, 2009 04:12 PM

Techcrunch

Breaking: Apple “Rock and Roll” Event Happening On September 9

So it looks like the rumors of an Apple event on September 9 are true. This event, themed after a Rolling Stones song seems to involve some classic tunes. It also a music-focused event so that means new iPods. But what else can we expect?
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by John Biggs at August 31, 2009 04:06 PM

The Google Blog

Google Translate now speaks 51 languages

We spend a lot of time thinking about how information travels around the globe. After all, there are Googlers living and working in dozens of countries — and we're pretty sure our products are used in many more. So we're familiar with the need to translate information across borders, and we've been working hard to build the technology to enable you to do just that. Today, we're excited to announce that we've added nine new languages to Google Translate: Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh and Yiddish. That means that Google Translate now supports 51 languages and 2550 language pairs — including all 23 official EU languages.

The translation quality of these newest languages is still a little rough, but it will improve over time — and we're continuously working to improve quality for all languages supported by Google Translate. We're also working to integrate Google Translate into some of our other products; you can already translate emails within Gmail, webpages using Google Toolbar, RSS feeds in Google Reader and most recently, documents within Google Docs. For more information about Google Translate and these latest additions, check out our post on the Research Blog.

by A Googler (noreply@blogger.com) at August 31, 2009 04:01 PM

Techcrunch

Button: An iPhone Game That Just May Make You Better At Your Job

lost_2030_2Fans of the television show Lost will remember that a big part of season 2 revolved around the pushing of a button. Every 108 minutes you had to enter numbers and push the button or the world might end, was the line of thought. Of course, as time went on, people started to wonder if it wasn’t just some psychological experiment. A new iPhone game that involves pushing a button, is a psychological exercise, of sorts.

Called Button, the game is about as simple as they come. There is a big button on the screen, and when it lights up, you push it. So why would anyone want to play that game? No, the world isn’t going to end if you don’t, but you will potentially miss out on some free prizes. And pushing the button may just help you get through some mundane tasks throughout your day as well.

Button was created by Blank Software, which is a side project of MobileCrunch editor Greg Kumparak. He thinks of it as a passive game, that you pick up and play at various points throughout the day. But he notes that while they were testing it out, they began to notice feedback from testers mentioning that playing the game helped them with their normally mundane tasks at their jobs. The thought is that the effort required to open up and play Button on the iPhone was just enough brain stimulation to keep people engaged in whatever boring tasks they may be doing. Also, knowing a reward was possibly coming for pushing the button made it interesting to users.

blue-button-lots-of-btu1So what kind of rewards are we talking about? At first, there will be things like $20 gift cards, but eventually they may include larger prizes, we’re told. And there will be plenty of things to unlock in the game; new button skins, for example. Another unlockable feature will allow you to tie your Twitter account to the button. And if you tweet out when you level up (which won’t be every time you push the button), you’ll get more points.

There will also be a leaderboard for the users with the most points, and people will be able to team up to form groups to combine their points.

Blank Software will choose random times to light the button up, and it will light up for every user around the world. And occasionally, they will randomly select one of the Button players and replace their regular button with a prize button. If they see and hit it, they’ll get the prize. If they miss it, or aren’t playing at that time, the prize will be sent back to the system to be sent out again randomly at a later time.

Button is a free app, and it will always remain free, Kumparak tells us. The plan for now is to run ads alongside the button, but he notes that if they idea takes off, they have other monetization plans as well.

Button is available in the App Store immediately.

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by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 04:00 PM

IronPython URLs

Developing cross-platform applications with IronPython: GtkBuilder and Glade on IronPython

IronPython is a great cross-platform development language, running on the Microsoft .NET framework for Windows and on Mono just about everywhere.

Even for CPython developers IronPython has a few features that make it of interest. These include:
  • Under IronPython there is no Global Interpreter Lock (GIL) meaning that multi-threaded pure-Python applications can scale across multiple CPUs with no extra work from the developer
  • .NET AppDomains allow you to create Python engines and restrict their security privileges, including controlling network and filesystem access and which assemblies the Python code can use
  • Easily create Python applications with multiple isolated Python engines in the same process
  • Easy to compile applications to binary and make binary only applications
  • Through the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) you get interoperability with languages like C# / F# / IronRuby and IronScheme
  • Extending IronPython with C#, for performance, is worlds easier than extending Python with C
For desktop application development a big question is what GUI framework to use if you want your application to run cross platform. Mono has a very complete implementation of Windows Forms, which is the standard .NET user interface on Windows. For Windows applications Windows Forms is good looking and easy to use, but by default on Linux and the Mac it isn't very attractive. It is useful for porting Windows applications but wouldn't be your first choice for a native Linux or Mac OS X application.

It definitely is possible to create good looking cross-platform applications with the Mono version of Windows Forms. Have a look at these screenshots of the Plastic SCM for an example. I haven't learned the requisite magic tricks to do this though.

There are at least two other alternatives: Qt (Qyoto) and Gtk (Gtk#).

Unfortunately there aren't yet good tutorials for developing with these user interface toolkits and IronPython, but these two blog entries will get you started with Glade and the GtkBuilder.

Someone asked me if I could add the missing parts of GtkBuilder in Gtk#Beans so he could use it with IronPython on mono.

Hey, it looks there's no missing parts ! It all works fine since day one. Here's the the trick...
Thanks to Stephane for his answer to my query about using GtkBuilder in IronPython. It turns out his Gtk#Beans package provides the magic sauce that is currently missing from the current stable release.

For completeness, here’s the code I sent him that accomplishes the same thing using the older Glade.XML object for those that are interested. It answers a long standing mailing list question about using Glade.XML.Autoconnect in IronPython...


by Michael Foord (noreply@blogger.com) at August 31, 2009 03:57 PM

IronPython URLs

Jonathan Hartley and Brett Cannon Review IronPython in Action

It's good to have friends in high places, and two of them have reviewed IronPython in Action. Both Jonathan Hartley and Brett Cannon are experienced Python developers.

Jonathan Hartley is a colleague of mine at Resolver Systems where we have been working full time with IronPython for the last few years. I finally managed to blackmail him into actually reading IronPython in Action. Despite this he seemed to genuinely enjoy it and has posted a glowing review. The first paragraphs of the review have some interesting things to say about the place of IronPython in the Python world, which is the section I've quoted below:
Having spent some years working with .NET, and with a series of intriguing personal experiments in Python under my belt, I originally approached IronPython some years ago with a modicum of of trepidation. I feared that the weld between the two would be intrusively visible, forming distracting differences from regular Python. I feared for the execution environment, the data types, and perhaps even the syntax itself.

Experience with IronPython showed these worries were needless. I have found IronPython to be a remarkably pleasant marriage – the same elegant language we know and love, given first-class status in the .NET runtime. Gifted with seamless interoperability with other .NET languages, the dowry from such an alliance turns out to be all the .NET libraries in the world, including the substantial and highly capable .NET standard libraries themselves.

IronPython is, to some extent, a niche implementation of a niche language. However, its position seems to potentially be one of importance and strength. Not only does it allow Python programmers to use .NET libraries – and does so admirably, but it also allows the existing legions of .NET programmers to be introduced to the joys of Python. They will fall in love with it, and will be able to introduce it into their workplaces in a way that is politically acceptable. After all, it is now simply another .NET language. Since .NET is orders of magnitude more popular than Python, this could yet turn out to be the most important source of future Python adoption.
Brett Cannon is one of the core Python developers, and despite not developing on Windows he has a keen interest in alternative implementations of Python and has reviewed IronPython in Action:
To the point: if you need to program for Windows and you want to use Python, you should get IronPython in Action. The book does a good job of walking you through examples covering all the major APIs and tools a Windows programmer will end up using for whatever project they are working on.

I actually read this book while I ate breakfast most mornings. Now that's nothing special, but considering I actually continued to read/skim this book even though I have not actively used a Windows box since 2001 should tell you something. This book is clearly written, and does a good job to point out gotchas you might run into through example. But it also does a good job of not overloading you with extraneous info that you could get from other reference sources (every computer book should have something like Appendix C that is nothing more than a list of URLs for reference material). And as an added perk the authors try to be humorous when possible and are even willing to poke fun at Windows.


by Michael Foord (noreply@blogger.com) at August 31, 2009 03:27 PM

Techcrunch

Analyst Believes iPhone Will Become Non-AT&T Exclusive In A Year

11529_large
Oh, Gene Munster. You keep popping up like the loose Cheerios my nine-month-old daughter drops at breakfast. What are you up to this time, you little scamp?

Munster of Piper Jaffray “predicts” that AT&T will lose its iPhone exclusivity by the end of 2010, thereby rendering the company impotent and insolvent. Some contenders for the iPhone throne include Verizon. This ignores the fact that AT&T is fighting like a champ to keep the iPhone until 2011 but it seems the popular perception of AT&T as a pile of fail may put a damper on Apple’s wish to stay put.

Is Munster right? Well there has been a little discussion of a non-GSM iPhone on the Internets. Look at the logistics: Sprint isn’t going to take the phone - they’re wrapped up in Palm right now - and T-Mobile is busy with Android. That leaves behemoth Verizon. Quoth Munster:

“We believe Apple is unhappy with the current status of video on the iTunes Store and is working to change it,” Munster said. “These changes, however, will take time, in the form of lengthy negotiations, in order to bring the rights for TV and movies up to speed in a digital world.”

I think a CDMA iPhone is in the cards, certainly, and I suspect they’ll try something like Blackberry and add a SIM card slot for international roaming. iPhone users are a nomadic lot and I can only imagine the outrage when a bunch of study abroad students turn on their Verizon iPhones and find they don’t work in Florence. As for the CDMA model coming “within the year?” Eh. Don’t hold your breath. The iPhone is selling pretty briskly right now and ramping up production of a CDMA model would be difficult at best.

Take all this with a grain of salt, though. Analysts are notoriously, well, wrong. Rob at BBG said it best when commenting on the AppleTVTV:

Their clients gamble that analysts know more. And sometimes, they do. As often as not, however, analyst clients end up paying someone with few real contacts to tell them the same thing that bloggers with few real contacts have already told the whole world, for the lulz.

Yes, friends, we work for the lulz.

Image from this funny dude

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by John Biggs at August 31, 2009 03:07 PM

Techcrunch

Informal TC/CG Meet-up In Israel on September 8 - UPDATE

Hey, all: I, John Biggs, will be in Israel from the Sept 5 through the 10th. I'd love to meet up with some great start-ups in the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv area. I'm most interested in the great gadgets coming out of there but I'm happy to sit down with local folks to talk web services. If you'd like to sponsor an hour of drinks, please let me know. Either way, RSVP to john@crunchgear.com with the subject line "RSVP ISRAEL" or visit the Event Page at Facebook. UPDATE - We're teaming up with the Tel Aviv Beer Tweet-up on the same night at the Dancing Camel Club from 8pm to 11:30pm. We'll see you there!
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by John Biggs at August 31, 2009 02:28 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

And they don't take American Express

A conversation between two friends of mine.

Friend 1: Here's the fifteen dollars I owe you. Oh wait, I only have a twenty. Do you have a five?

Friend 2: I don't carry cash. Everybody takes credit cards.

Friend 1: I don't take credit cards.

In my imagination, Friend 1 would have responded to "Everybody takes credit cards" with "Well, in that case, here ya go. Put it on my credit card."

(The title is a tag line from a Visa credit card advertising campaign from years past.)

by oldnewthing at August 31, 2009 02:00 PM

Raymond Chen: The Old New Thing

Why do new controls tend to use COM instead of window messages?

Commenter David wonders why new controls tend to use COM instead of window messages. "It seems that there must have been a decision to only develop COM controls after the invention of COM."

There have been plenty of Win32 controls invented after the invention of COM. In fact, the entire common controls library was developed after the invention of COM. All your old friends like the list view, tree view, and property sheets are good old Win32 controls. But it's true that the newer stuff tends to use COM. Why is that?

I am not aware of any grand pronouncement on this subject. Each team makes a decision that they feel is best for their customers. But if you think about it, it's not an unreasonable choice: Suppose you were writing a new C++ object. Would you prefer to use this:

class Thing {
public:
  enum MESSAGENUMBER {
  MESSAGE_INSERTITEM,
  MESSAGE_DELETEITEM,
  MESSAGE_DELETEALLITEMS,
  MESSAGE_SETLABELTEXT,
  MESSAGE_GETNEXTITEM,
  MESSAGE_ADDBITMAP,
  ...
  };
  LRESULT Message(MESSAGENUMBER m, WPARAM wParam, lPARAM lParam);
private:
  ...
};

or would you rather use this:

class Thing {
public:
  BOOL InsertItem(Item *item, Item *itemParent, Item *itemInsertAfter);
  BOOL DeleteItem(Item *item);
  BOOL DeleteAllItems();
  BOOL SetLabelText(Item *item, PCWSTR pszText);
  Item *GetNextItem(Item *item);
  BOOL AddBitmap(HINSTANCE hinst, PCWSTR pszResource, COLORREF crTransparent);
  ...
private:
  ...
};

It's just less of a hassle using separate member functions, where you don't have to try to pack all your parameters into two parameters (cryptically named WPARAM and LPARAM) on the sending side, and then unpack the parameters on the window procedure side.

The overhead of sending a message can add up for high-traffic messages. A C++ method call is pretty direct: You set up the parameters and call the method. Whereas when you send a window message, it bounces around inside the window manager until it magically pops out the other side.

Again, these are my personal remarks and are not the official position of Microsoft on anything. But if you were writing a control, which would you prefer to have to implement? And if you were using a control, which interface would you rather use?

(That said, I can't think of many common controls that are COM-based. All the ones I know about still use boring window messages.)

by oldnewthing at August 31, 2009 02:00 PM

Techcrunch

Disney To Acquire Marvel Entertainment For $4 Billion

The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced this morning. Under the terms of the agreement and based on last week’s closing price of Disney, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own.

Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the total transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

Under the deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its portfolio of over 5,000 Marvel characters. That portfolio includes many familiar names like Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor.

Says Disney CEO Robert A. Iger in a statement: “We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation.”

Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s CEO, added: “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses. This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.

Marvel stock is surging following the news, up 10+ points at the time of writing (+27%), while Disney’s is down a little (-0,5%).

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by Robin Wauters at August 31, 2009 01:34 PM

Techcrunch

FlyScreen Makes The Lock Screen Of Your Android Phone Useful (1,000 Invites)

Israeli startup Cellogic, makers of the fine FlyScreen software, have spent the last 8 months or so developing a custom version for the Android platform to complement their currently Symbian-exclusive version. Today, the company is debuting the private alpha version of the Android-compatible program, and we have 1,000 invites to offer for those carrying around HTC phones running Android 1.5 (it works on the Samsung Galaxy too but is less optimized for that particular device). So what's FlyScreen? Essentially, a collection of expandable widgets that comprise syndicated content (such as TechCrunch) and small apps that hook into Twitter, Facebook etc. You can use it to fetch the RSS feed of your favorite blogs, and thus be able to quickly access previews of published content, tag articles for later reading or share posts on Twitter and/or Facebook in just one click.
TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by Robin Wauters at August 31, 2009 01:26 PM

The Daily WTF

CodeSOD: Late Payment Math

"For three years, I've made my car payments on time and in full," Clark S. writes, "and the one time I'm a few days late — whooo boy — do they let me know. Phone calls at home, phone calls at work, letters, emails, you name it. As if that isn't bad enough, then there's the Late Payment Math."

 

Clark continues, "Naturally, the Total Payment amount is read-only and calculated by their system. Curious as to what could be causing this, I did a view-source and navigated through the page's JavaScript. I traced the problem to the following 'clever' JavaScript functions."

// Javascript doesn't handle decimal numbers very well. So as a 
// workaraound, we convert the floating points to real numbers, perform 
// the operation and then convert it again back to floating points
function fnCalculateTotalPayment() {
   var inputs = null;
   var oForm = window.document.SchedulePaymentConfirmationFormBean;
            
   if(document.getElementById('applyPaymentAsFollows') != undefined) {      
      oForm.totalPayment.value = '';
      
      inputs = document.getElementById('applyPaymentAsFollows')
                 .getElementsByTagName("input");
      
      if(!validateApplyPaymentAsFollows(inputs)) {
         return false;
      }
      
      var total = 0;
      var charges = 0;
      for(var j=0; j<inputs.length; j++) {
         if(inputs[j].name != 'totalPayment' && inputs[j].value.trim() != '') {
            charges = formatCharges(inputs[j].value);
            total += parseInt(charges, 10);
         }
      }
      
      if(total == 0) {
         alert("Please Enter Amount");
         return false;
      }
      
      total = total / 100;
      
      if(parseFloat(total) >= 100000) {
         alert("Please enter a dollar value less than $100,000.00.");
         return false;
      }
      
      var zeroDecimal = new RegExp(/^\d{0,9}$/);
      //Try out
      var singleDecimal = new RegExp(/^\d{0,9}\.\d{1}$/);
      
      if(zeroDecimal.test(total)) {
         total += ".00";         
      } else if(singleDecimal.test(total)) {
         total += "0";         
      }
               
      oForm.totalPayment.value = total;
   }
   return true;
}

function formatCharges(charges) {
   var singleDecimal = new RegExp(/^\d{0,9}\.\d{2}$/);
   if(singleDecimal.test(charges)) {
      charges = charges + "0";   
   }
   
   var split = charges.split(".");
   charges = split[0] + split[1];
   
   return charges;
}

"While I admire that they knew enough to use the second argument for parseInt()," Clark adds, "I cannot help but be disgusted by the part where they apparently missed that, in JavaScript, some any number += '0' is basically number * 10."

"I did end up calling customer service, but they had a fairly difficult time understanding that I wanted to help them fix a blatantly obvious error on their website. Not that it mattered: they couldn't refund the late fee, anyway."


by Alex Papadimoulis at August 31, 2009 01:00 PM

On Startups

7 Things Your Startup SHOULD Copy From 37signals


body { border-style: none; background: Window; color: WindowText; } #ljcutbegin { width: 100%; height: 1px; border: 1px dashed black; } #ljcutend { width: 100%; height: 1px; border: 1px dashed gray; } blockquote { border-left: 3px solid silver; padding-left: 10px; margin-left: 10px; } .bjspell { border-bottom: 1px dotted red; } }

A little while ago, we had a great guest post here by Jason Cohen titled “Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Copy 37Signals or Fog Creek”.  In it, Jason makes some great arguments on why you shouldn’t copy successful startups like 37signals.  I (mostly) agree with Cohen.  Blind copying just doesn’t work for reasons Jason Fried (CEO of 37signals) outlines in a follow-up article.  OnStartups Copy Stamp

Here’s what Fried had to say:

“Here’s the problem with copying: Copying skips understanding. Understanding is how you grow. You have to understand why something works or why something is how it is. When you copy it, you miss that. You just repurpose the last layer instead of understanding all the layers underneath.”

I (mostly) agree with Jason Fried too.  When you copy, you do miss a lot of what made what you are copying successful.  But, although copying specific things is ill-advised, drawing inspiration from and copying certain practices can often work quite well. 

Here are the things I think you should copy from 37signals:

1.  Share your expertise.  Whatever it is you are passionate about or an expert in — share your information.  Contribute to the community.  Help others learn.  Blog, podcast, speak — whatever works for you.  Jason and the 37signals team are phenomenally good at this.  They blog, they speak, they wrote a fantastically practical book.

2.  Be your own customer.  Try (if you can) to eat your own cooking.  A product works out much better when you use it yourself.  Solve your own problems.  Fix the things that annoy you the most.  Beyond just 37signals, there are lots of examples where people built software that succeeded in part because they use it themselves.  GMail comes to mind. 

3.  Minimize unused inventory.  Don’t write a bunch of code that not a lot of people are going to care about and you don’t need today.  We have a tendency to “design for the future” and add features or architectural elements with the expectation that they’ll be useful someday.  Wait for that day.  You might “overpay” if/when you do get around to needing it (because it’s more expensive to add things later), but on average, you’ll be better off not writing that code that you don’t need just yet.  This is not an excuse for poorly designed software — it’s an argument for being selective as to where you design in future expansion. 

4.  Take a stand.  Have an opinion and take a stand.  37signals does a great job with their “less is more” stance.  They have a passionate position and are willing to defend and debate it.  You don’t have to take extreme positions on everything, but there should be something you feel passionately about that you don’t just pick a happy, non-controversial middle-ground.  Ideally, it’s this particular idea that your startup is centered around.

5.  Charge early, charge often.  There is no shame in putting a price on your product.  Doesn’t matter how early it is. Just give customers an easy way out.  Let them decide whether your product is worth paying for.  If not, keep cranking.  Too many startups feel like they need to have the “perfect” product before they can begin charging for it.  That’s almost always a mistake.  Charge early.  Once you start charging money, all sorts of good things start to happen (for example, customer feedback starts to happen, because you actually have customers).  Then, try to charge as often as possible.  Instead of “big chunks” of money changing hands, try to move to smaller, recurring chunks.  Many SaaS businesses function this way (with some sort of subscription or “pay by the drink” model).  It works.

6.  Contribute Some Bits Back:  As you know,  David Heinemeier Hansson, a partner at 37signals is responsible for the phenomenally successful Ruby on Rails.  This benefits them more than the “positive karmic loop” thing.  By contributing to the open source community, they’re able to leverage the power of that community and make the platform they use for their own stuff much better.  But, please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting you should go out and try to build some platform/framework.  In fact, please don’t try and go do that (99.9% of us should not be obsessing over building platforms/frameworks — particularly folks like you and me).  Just find ways to contribute back — even if they’re small ways.  It’ll help in at least two ways:  You’ll develop better stuff and you’ll attract better people.

7. Build A Community:  Software companies these days are about more than just the product — they’re about the people around the product.  This includes both those that built the product’s users.  Invest the time and energy to foster a vibrant community that connects the people that care about you, the company and the products.  Allow customers to engage with each other.  This is useful not just from a “more value in the software” perspective — but it also helps with respect to competition.  If a big, 900–pound competitor comes after you some day, it might be easy for them to build some of your product features, but it will be much harder for them to steal your community.   

Are you a 37signals fan?  Did you read “Getting Real”?  If so, what other practices or philosophies do you think they use that most other startups should emulate? 


Looking for other startup fanatics?  Request access to the OnStartups LinkedIn Group.  85,000+ members and growing daily.

Oh, and by the way, you should follow me on twitter here.


by Dharmesh Shah at August 31, 2009 11:33 AM

comp.lang.python.announce

IMDbPY 4.2

MDbPY 4.2 is available (tgz, rpm, exe) from:
[link]
IMDbPY is a Python package useful to retrieve and manage the data of
the IMDb movie database about movies, people, characters and companies.
With this release, a lot of bugs were fixed, and some minor new features
introduced.

by Davide Alberani (albera...@libero.it) at August 31, 2009 11:15 AM

comp.lang.python.announce

[ANN] PyYAML-3.09: YAML parser and emitter for Python

========================
Announcing PyYAML-3.09
========================
A new bug fix release of PyYAML is now available:
[link]
Note that PyYAML supports both Python 2 and Python 3. For
compatibility notes, please see
[link]

by Kirill Simonov (x...@gamma.dn.ua) at August 31, 2009 10:14 AM

Techcrunch

Fox Livens Up Re-runs With Twitter Commentaries

screen-shot-2009-08-31-at-30139-amEveryone hates re-runs. They’re episodes you’ve likely already seen, being run out of order because there is no new content to run. But Fox may have just figured out a way to make them more interesting: Twitter.

The television network will be airing old episodes for two of its shows, Fringe and Glee, with Twitter commentary along the bottom of the screen. But no, sadly, not just anyone can tweet anything and have it be on national television, these will be moderated streams. And most of the it will be taken up by the tweets of the two shows’ casts and producers, apparently.

During the episodes, the cast members and producers will be watching and tweeting live. Fans be able to see their tweets on the bottom portion of their television screens or can follow along on Twitter itself by checking out the FRINGEonFOX and GLEEonFOX Twitter accounts. Select tweets from fans following along will be put on air.

Of course, CNN and some of the other television news networks have been using Twitter commentary for months now, and often put tweets on air. But doing the same on one of the major TV networks during prime time is another level of mainstream adoption for Twitter. It’s an extension of what we wrote about back in May, Twitter expanding beyond a simple web service.

So many Twitter users are already using the service to talk about their favorite television shows — as I’m writing this, three of the top ten trending topics are: Mad Men, Entourage, and True Blood — so integrating the two would seem to make sense. Now, if this were during a shows first run, the tweets might be distracting, but during a re-run, they add value.

It’s not clear if there is any financial deal in place for this, but this is clearly not the Twitter television show that got all the buzz a few months back. Money or no money, this is a great deal for Twitter.

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

by MG Siegler at August 31, 2009 10:10 AM

Techcrunch

Adobe Buys Business Catalyst / GoodBarry

We suspect Business Catalyst, the company behind e-commerce software suite GoodBarry, went a little early with the news on its own website, but that’s a boon for tech business reporters awake at this time of day. Turns out Adobe Systems has agreed to acquire the part American, part Australian company for an undisclosed amount.

Details are scarce since there’s no press release or official word from Adobe yet, but Business Catalyst has published a couple of Q&A on its website that shed a minimal amount of light on the agreement. From what we can gather at this point despite the vague wording used for the announcement, there won’t be too many changes at Business Catalyst as the products, partner agreements, team, pricing, etc. should remain largely unchanged. GoodBarry, on the other hand, being merely a Business Catalyst brand set up for their retail operations, will be gradually phased out and morphed into the Business Catalyst offering:

Most importantly, we’ll be refocusing our marketing and sales efforts on the web professional market (via businesscatalyst.com), as opposed to web-savvy DIYers such as you. In other words, this means that eventually we will cease “retail” operations and focus on our wholesale operations, and we will only be selling subscriptions to our software via our partner and reseller network.

As a result, the GoodBarry brand as such will cease to exist as of the 1st of October 2009, although the company says changes for customer will be mostly cosmetical (the billing and branding will be all Business Catalyst as of the aforementioned date).

The most important question however is why Adobe bought Business Catalyst in the first place and what its intentions are with the company in the near future. We’ve contacted the company for more clarity on that but in the meantime here’s what we know.

Business Catalyst / GoodBarry provides tools that help web designers set up online businesses for their clients with minimal cost and effort and no programming skills required, combining website content management, e-commerce features, e-mail marketing, business analytics and basic CRM tools into one system.

Adobe evidently offers a wide range of tools for web professionals, but in the near future does not plan to integrate Business Catalyst’s products into its own offering, although they are clearly looking to hosted services to deliver websites and online businesses more and more. There will be an initial transit period, but with regards to what will happen after that both companies remain mum and mention only that they are currently in ‘planning stages’ and will provide more information in the following weeks.

We’ll update if and when we hear more.

On a sidenote, this isn’t the first time Business Catalyst CEO and Founder Bardia Housman sold a company. In 1997, he co-founded Start (start.com.au), Australia’s first free e-mail service provider, which in two years became the largest trafficked website in Australia as measured by Hitwise. In December 1999, Looksmart was acquired Start.

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by Robin Wauters at August 31, 2009 09:59 AM

Techcrunch

Platogo To Open Its Private Beta, And We Have Invites

Platogo Logo
Platogo, an Austrian startup which we recently covered as being a Mini Seedcamp finalist, opens up in private beta tomorrow. Platogo, (as in Play Together Online) aims to be the one-stop-shop for simple online multiplayer gaming. You’ve heard of MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, but Platogo focuses on simple, easy-to-learn, online flash games with nifty graphics which are easy to play, thus tapping into the far larger market of casual gamers. We have 50 exclusive Beta Invites for Techcrunch Europe Readers. The first 50 commenters on this post will get an invite code. And we’ll see if we can strong-arm the startup into handing out more. [Update: We got them to add 150 more].

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by TechCrunch Europe at August 31, 2009 09:57 AM

Techcrunch

Netvibes Re-sells Tech To Germany’s T-Online In Its Race To Make A Buck

Recently NetVibes, the startup that lets you create a widget-filled customizable homepage, rolled out a free feature allowing users to create widget-based web pages, dubbed Theme Publishing. Ostensibly aimed at users, it also has one eye on potentially charging brands and agencies to create customised home pages.

In other words, Netvibes is trying to monetize itself as fast as possible. To that end it’s also now re-selling its architecture to portals and ISPs. Germany’s largest portal and ISP, T-Online, has thus now launched launched Meine Seite, a user-personalized, widget-based version of their site powered by Netvibes.

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by Mike Butcher at August 31, 2009 09:37 AM

Techcrunch

SevenSnap Is Bringing Controversial “Entertainment Shopping” To An iPhone Near You

Over the last few months we’ve seen the rise of a new and highly controversial kind of website that focuses on “Entertainment Shopping” — online stores that offer customers goods with very steep discounts, but with some risk involved in the shopping process. Some have likened these to gambling or scams, while others consider them auctions. In any case, it’s only becoming more popular, and now there’s a startup called SevenSnap that’s bringing Entertainment Shopping to the iPhone.

The app isn’t out on the App Store yet, but the company recently released a video (embedded below) that shows it off. Here’s how it works: every 60 minutes, SevenSnap puts a new item up for grabs (the example in the video is a Macbook Pro). If you want to have a shot at purchasing the item, you need to purchase “time credits”, which run a dollar per minute. Once you’ve done that, you can jump into the sale room, where you’ll get to watch as the item’s price drops every second (depending on how many people are in the room, it can drop by as much as $100 per minute). At this point it’s a game of chicken — the longer you wait the lower the price goes, but if someone pulls the trigger and purchases it then the price jumps up to its starting amount for everyone else. Remember, you’re paying a dollar per minute in the room, so whenever it resets you lose out on a few bucks.


SevenSnap Sneak-Preview (EN) from Tobias Hieb on Vimeo.

SevenSnap could be fun if you have cash to burn, but it’s not hard to see why people have issues with this kind of shopping site — If SevenSnap were to arbitrarily reset the prices of its items without actually selling them, it could effectively collect money for nothing. The startup may well turn out to be perfectly honest, but until the company has built up a reputation or there is some regulation involved, caveat emptor.

Other startups in this space have met with similar concerns regarding fraud, and are taking steps to make the process more consumer friendly. One of these is iBidCondo, which uses a somewhat similar model to auction off housing. We looked at the site July, when I (and a number of readers) pointed out some potential problems. In light of these concerns the site postponed an upcoming auction so that it can revamp its system to introduce more transparency.

The biggest name in this space is Swoopo, which uses the ‘falling prices’ model but has a much greater variety of products that are on sale simultaneously. The site recently introduced a new feature that negates some of the risk involved — even if you lose out on an auction, you can apply the money you’ve used to bid on it towards purchasing the product at its normal retail price. If you were only going to buy the product because of its incredibly low advertised price then you’re out of luck, but it’s definitely better than the old system where you would always walk away empty handed when you lost an auction.

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by Jason Kincaid at August 31, 2009 04:11 AM

XKCD

August 30, 2009

Techcrunch

A Look Behind The Curtain At Facebook’s Optimization Efforts

Facebook is big. Really big. So it comes as little surprise that every tweak made to the site (like the subtle change to the header a few days ago) can have a pretty substantial impact on the way people use the social network. Earlier this week Facebook’s Engineering team posted a note written by intern Zizhuang Yang, who has spent the summer researching how changes in things like load time can affect users. Yang writes about three main experiments he conducted over the last few months, including one involving overall site speed and two in the way pages load, and the results are quite interesting.

The first experiment examined how Facebook users would respond to a general slowdown. Yang found that regardless of site speed, users spend around the same amount of time on Facebook. That might sound like good news (at least they don’t get frustrated and leave immediately), but it means that if the site is running slowly users are going to be seeing fewer pages in the same amount of time, which Facebook obviously doesn’t want. So — no surprise here — Facebook is striving to make the site as fast as possible.

The second experiment involved the order in which items on the page should load. Yang writes that Facebook has been internally debating whether the page should display everything as quickly as possible, even before some necessary scripts to actually interact with the site have loaded, or to show a white page until everything is good to go and then render it all at once. Yang writes, “In all groups of users, keeping the page blank resulted in lower usage statistics. Thus the debate was resolved.” So if you’re ever on Facebook and you find that a certain button isn’t working for the first second or two after a page loads, this would explain it.

The third experiment involved loading stories in the News Feed. Regular Facebook users have likely noticed that the site will automatically fetch more News Feed stories as you scroll down the page. This feels like a nifty new feature, but it was actually designed by Facebook to cut back on load times — News Feed used to show 30 stories at once; now it loads 15 at first and only shows the next 15 if you scroll down the page. What Yang found, however, is that when people do scroll beyond the initial 15 stories they’re shown, they’re happy to wait the extra second or two for 30 new stories to load, which results in a signifiant boost in engagement. This makes perfect sense — if I’m actively reading through the News Feed (as opposed to just seeing it because it’s Facebook’s home page) it’s because I’m killing time or trying to catch up on my friends’ past posts. The more stories shown during this ‘catch-up’ time, the better.

Also interesting to note is that Facebook seems keen to put its internship program in the public eye — just last week the site’s blog included a post from an intern who build the Facebook Pages to Twitter syndicator, and now we’re seeing the fruit’s of another intern’s summer experiments. This may well be part of the company’s plan to attract new talent during its recent hiring spree.

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by Jason Kincaid at August 30, 2009 10:21 PM

IronPython URLs

Using IronPython to Configure Castle Windsor

Castle Windsor is a popular .NET Inversion of Control container, but it can be complex to configure. A blogger, who's name I can't discover (put your name on your blogs guys!), has written two articles on using IronPython to configure Castle Windsor.
Castle Windsor is a very popular IoC container in the .Net world. Like almost all other containers it can be configured using either a fluent interface or an xml-based configuration file.

The fluent interface has the advantage of being strongly typed, what spares you a lot of errors caused by typos. On the other hand, it is hard coded and can’t be changed easily without recompiling (Actually you could use an IoC container to load your IoC container configuration dynamically but it give a rise to the question: “How do you configure the container to load its own configuration?” )

The other option is to use an xml file. Despite being the most used solution in almost all containers it is really a very ugly solution. The configuration file can get very big and very complicated.

As I am reading IronPython in Action from Manning Publications, I thought I could configure Windsor using Python and a very tiny DSL. IronPython is an interpreted language for .Net framework. It combines the elegance of Python with the strength of .Net. Since it being interpreted it is a suitable solution for configuration.
In the last article I introduced a small Castle Windsor configuration tool using IronPython. This tool enabled us to add service implementation in an easer to read way. On the other hand advanced usages like optional and constructer parameters were not possible.

In this article I will continue developing Pysor (As I called it!) to accept parameters. Before introducing the new functionality I will show what are parameters and when and how would you want to use them. For the sake of demonstration I will borrow the demo application from the very good article series from Simone Busoli about Castle Windsor. If you didn’t read it then go read it all and come back.


by Michael Foord (noreply@blogger.com) at August 30, 2009 09:35 PM

Giles Thomas

Fix for pygame/PyOpenGL/NeHe tutorial windows not disappearing when run from IDLE

It’s a long weekend here in the UK and I thought I’d spend some time working through Paul Furber’s Python translations of the well-known NeHe OpenGL tutorial, which use the pygame and PyOpenGL libraries. (This is all with Python 2.6 on Windows XP.)

I noticed that when I ran the sample files from IDLE, the windows did not close — it didn’t matter whether I used the close box or hit escape; the program would seem to exit, but IDLE was in a messy state, and the OpenGL window would sit there not repainting.

Googling didn’t turn up anything that sounded relevant, but this archived mailing list message mentioned a pygame.quit() function that sounded relevant. I tried putting this at the end of each of the samples, and it seems to fix the problem.

[UPDATE: Of course, this fix is even better if put into a finally block, because then you’re covered when you introduce errors into the OpenGL code. Example below fixed appropriately.]

An example:

def main():

    video_flags = OPENGL|DOUBLEBUF

    pygame.init()
    try:
        pygame.display.set_mode((640,480), video_flags)

        resize((640,480))
        init()

        frames = 0
        ticks = pygame.time.get_ticks()
        while 1:
            event = pygame.event.poll()
            if event.type == QUIT or (event.type == KEYDOWN and event.key == K_ESCAPE):
                break

            draw()
            pygame.display.flip()
            frames = frames+1

        print “fps:  %d” % ((frames*1000)/(pygame.time.get_ticks()-ticks))
    finally:
        pygame.quit()

Caveat: I’m a complete n00b with all of the technologies involved (except, debatably, Python), so this may be completely the wrong solution. But it works well enough for me to keep going with the tutorials for now.

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by giles at August 30, 2009 08:44 PM

IronPython URLs

Releasing IronPython

Dave Fugate, IronPython tester and the man in charge of releases, gives us an intriguing look into what is involved in releasing a new version of IronPython. Releasing software is always a pain, for any company or project, but even more so for Microsoft.
While it's still fresh on my mind, I'll share a bit of interesting info about IronPython releases. What will blow most peoples' minds is that on average it takes us about five full working days to produce and signoff on a release for CodePlex. For example, we started the release process for IronPython 2.6 Beta 2 on Friday morning and released it today. "Dave, when all you have to do is build the 'release' configuration of the sources already on CodePlex how can it possibly take this long?" you ask. Three words: testing and Microsoft bureaucracy…err I mean "Microsoft processes".
Dave Fugate is also wondering what you want him to blog about...
While I've been waiting for a huge build to finish unzipping on a shiny new Windows 7 test machine, I've been looking over my own and other IronPython team members' blogs. I've come to the conclusion that there are far more comments for posts not dealing with Python, and in many cases the IronPython posts aren't getting any comments at all. The missing interaction isn't necessarily limited to technical posts either from what I've seen.

Is this because we're doing a great job at covering IronPython topic xyz or because xyz just isn't that interesting? If it's the latter, what would you like to see more of and less of?


by Michael Foord (noreply@blogger.com) at August 30, 2009 06:09 PM

Techcrunch

TechCrunch Japan’s Tokyo Camp: 12 Startups Demo Their Wares

techcrunch_japan_event_tokyo_campFollowing last week’s startup contest WISH 2009, Japan just got another event that gave twelve selected tech companies the chance to demo their web services, apps and tools (almost all of which are thankfully available in English). This Friday, around 130 guests attended Tokyo Camp [JP], a demo event organized by TechCrunch Japan.

The occasion: The blog, which is one of Japan’s biggest and mainly translates articles from TechCrunch into Japanese, is under new management (by DESIGN IT!, LLC., a Sociomedia (Japan’s anwer to Adaptive Path) group company).

Here are my thumbnail sketches of all of the twelve demos I saw at Tokyo Camp.

ivread_logo1I’vRead by Akky Akimoto
Officially launched at Tokyo Camp, I’vRead keeps a record of all books you’ve read via your Twitter account and lets you find users with a similar taste in books. All you need to do is to type the title of the book (or its ISBN or Amazon URL), add “@ivread” to the tweet and (as an option) write what you thought of it. Each of these tweets will then be automatically added to your personal user page on the I’vRead site (you don’t need to register at the site itself, being a Twitter user is enough). Look here for an example.

dango_logodango
dango wants to empower online game creators worldwide to focus more on the development of content and less on the things they have to deal with after a game is finished, especially the distribution problem. The company of the same name offers a comprehensive, integrated framework called “dango-PLAY”. The system delivers online games to a number of social networks (i.e. Facebook or Japan’s Mixi) and dango’s homepage itself, using a single program and source code (dango is open source [JP]).

dango-Play aims at creating an integrated ecosystem for online games by matching users, linking to other games based on the framework, providing SMS services, managing user ID data, freeing developers from tracking user behavior etc. etc.

dango_service

One of the first games that’s been released based on the dango system is Facebook app “meromero park”, an ultra-cute mix between a social network, a virtual world and a pet-rearing game (the web version has already gained massive popularity in Japan and Taiwan). The Facebook app is available in English and French.

Jin-Magic TCP Traffic Optimization Technology by Akira Jinzaki
A veteran network technology guru and a Chief Technologist in Residence at Breakthrough Partners, Akira Jinzaki has single-handedly programmed what appears to be a powerful TCP traffic controller with the potential to change the way Internet traffic is currently being managed (99% of the Internet traffic is TCP-based). Jinzaki says his Jin-Magic software manages TCP traffic in a cost-effective way that is transparent to the network to get the most out of the exiting plumbing.

The software can sit anywhere in the network between the two end-points. WiMAX was used for the demo. Reception in the demo room was 2 to 4 bars out of 6 and TCP transfer rates were at best 1Mbps (with standard set-up). Turn on the Jin-magic on the server side configured to maximize TCP flow, the rates climbed up in the 4Mbps to 7Mbps range. The technology allows providers to maximize service for their investments. It may enable mobile data providers to serve 2 to 3 times more customers with uninterrupted video bandwidth with the existing infrastructure. Jin-Magic can be ported to smartphones, too.

pekay_little_author_logoPeKay’s Little Author
PeKay’s Little Author is a Facebook application that lets users create a graphic story using original characters on-screen and print it out in the form of a picture storybook. Alternatively, the virtual storybook (example) can be shared with others online or turned into a web greeting card.

PeKay’s Little Author is the brainchild of a well-known Japanese artist. The video below shows how the app works: