SciTechBlog
May 10, 2010

Playboy to launch 'safe for work' site

Posted: 01:08 PM ET

You just read it for the articles, huh? Well, now's your chance to prove it.

Playboy has announced plans to roll out a work-friendly website, targeting office workers who browse the internet from their desks but don't want to get caught reading the iconic men's magazine.

"Playboy’s TheSmokingJacket.com is the safe-for-work website that brings you everything you love about men's entertainment and the internet, minus the stuff that'll get you into hot water at the office," Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey said in a written statement.

The site is up but not active and will be launched "in the coming months," Hennessey said.

The announcement comes as Playboy seeks to reposition itself in an adult-entertainment landscape drastically altered by the internet. In short, if you're looking for pictures of naked women, there are plenty of other sites to find that (and more) for free.

Playboy Enterprises reported a net loss of $1 million in the first quarter of this year - actually better than what was predicted. The company reported a loss of $13.7 million during the same quarter last year.

"We believe that 2010 will be a transitional year and that the true benefits of our strategy will be more fully evident next year," Playboy CEO Scott Flanders said in a statement last month.

Presumably, The Smoking Jacket - a nod to founder Hugh Hefner's preferred brand of leisure wear - would be part of that transition.

After its monthly photo spreads of playmates, Playboy magazine is also known for celebrity interviews, short fiction by big-name authors, rankings of the nation's top party schools and other content.

But as tech blog Switched notes, "... if The Smoking Jacket will not feature buxom beauties au naturel, what exactly will drive traffic to the site?"

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Filed under: Internet • online news • pop culture


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April 19, 2010

Next-generation iPhone found in a bar, blog says

Posted: 03:11 PM ET

It looks like Apple employees should be keeping their top-secret, next-generation iPhones out of bars.

In a post simply titled "This is Apple's next iPhone," tech blog Gizmodo on Monday showed video of a phone they say is almost certainly a version of the smartphone due to be released this summer.

The phone was found in a bar in Redwood City, California, about 20 miles from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, according to the post by Gizmodo's Jason Chen with reporting help from several other staffers.

"We're as skeptical - if not more - than all of you. We get false tips all the time," the post read. "But after playing with it for about a week - the overall quality feels exactly like a finished final Apple phone - and disassembling this unit, there is so much evidence stacked in its favor, that there's very little possibility that it's a fake."

According to the post, the phone had been camouflaged to look like a currently available iPhone.

The Gizmodo post says the phone they found has the following features:

_ flash for its camera
_ a front-facing camera for video chatting
_ higher-resolution display
_ a metallic band wrapping around the outside, with metallic volume buttons
_ a flat back, with a glass-like clear panel and thinner body than the current iPhone
_ a bigger battery

Gizmodo obviously wasn't offering too many details about how they got their hands on the phone.

But in the post, Chen wrote that the person who found it was able to run Apple's new iPhone 4.0 operating system before that system was officially announced last week.

Apple remotely killed the phone's operating system before Gizmodo got their hands on it, he wrote.

The find was being widely considered the real deal in the tech world.

"At this point we’re pretty much certain it is this summer’s new model," wrote Wired magazine. "Somebody at Apple is in big trouble."

Tech blog Engadget posted photos Saturday from a tipster showing a phone similar to the one Gizmodo displayed.

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Filed under: iPhone • smartphones


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April 14, 2010

Twitter claims 105 million registered users

Posted: 01:25 PM ET

Twitter has more than 105 million registered users, co-founder Biz Stone said Wednesday.

The announcement, at the micro-blogging site's Chirp conference for developers, marked the first time Twitter has announced it number of accounts. The tally - 105,779,710, to be exact - is significantly more than outside analysts had estimated.

The company also says it's adding 300,000 accounts per day, with much of its growth coming outside the United States.

The number, of course, doesn't address how many of those accounts are active. It comes after months of outside speculation that the number of monthly visitor to Twitter's main page had peaked - after astronomical growth in early 2009.

Web analytics company Compete estimates that Twitter's number of unique monthly visitors has stayed roughly the same since June 2009.

But on Wednesday, Stone said most of Twitter's daily traffic comes from third-party applications, which often don't require a stop by the site's main page (which nevertheless got a makeover last week).

As Mashable's Adam Ostrow notes in a blog post from the conference, the number still pales in comparison to social-networking giant Facebook's more than 400 million registered accounts.

But it's closer than most observers would have guessed, which bodes well for Twitter a day after it rolled out an advertising plan that it hopes will turn the much-talked-about site into an actual moneymaker.

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Filed under: Internet • Twitter


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Apple delays iPad's international release

Posted: 11:01 AM ET

Apple fans in Japan, the United Kingdom and seven other countries will have to wait longer to get their hands on iPads.

Apple is postponing the international release of its new iPad because of stronger-than-expected demand for the device in the United States, the company said Wednesday.

A statement posted on Apple’s Web site said Apple has delivered more than 500,000 iPads since they went on sale in the United States on April 3 and the company expects demand to stay high.

“Faced with this surprisingly strong U.S. demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May,” the post said.

The slate computer was originally scheduled to go on sale April 24 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Apple now will begin taking international pre-orders on May 10.

“We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason - the iPad is a runaway success in the U.S. thus far,” Apple's post read.

The iPad is a touch-screen, wireless computer that occupies the digital turf somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone. The model available now in the U.S. connects to the Internet over a Wi-Fi connection. Later this month Apple will start selling an iPad version that connects to the Web via 3G wireless service from AT&T.

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Filed under: consumer tech • iPad


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April 13, 2010

Opera browser approved for iPhone

Posted: 12:47 PM ET
Lost's Jorge Garcia
Lost's Jorge Garcia

Surprise, surprise - an app from Web browser company Opera that promises faster surfing in the iPhone and iPod Touch was approved for the Apple store Tuesday, the Norwegian company said.

The free app, which Opera says will cruise the Web up to six times faster than Apple's Safari browser, is expected to be available later today or Wednesday.

The announcement comes after speculation over whether Apple would sign off on the app. The company has taken a hard line on denying outside applications that compete with Apple-created software already on the iPhone.

Opera, which had challenged Apple by launching a months-long publicity blitz before even submitting the app, maintains its browser has strengths different enough from Safari to justify its addition to the Apple Store.

"We are delighted to offer iPhone and iPod Touch users a great browsing experience with the Opera Mini app," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. “This app is another step toward Opera's goal of bringing the Web to more people in more places."

Opera says its browser moves faster by compressing roughly 90 percent of data on a Web page before rendering it. While that doesn't work well for complicated online functions, it makes simply reading Web pages quicker, Opera says.

In the smartphone market, Opera was already available on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm and Android platforms.

Opera Mini also runs on the Symbian platform and is huge on mobile devices, which accounts for many of its more than 50 million monthly users worldwide, according to the company.

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Filed under: iPhone • mobile phones • Web browsers


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April 9, 2010

Twitter rolls out official BlackBerry app

Posted: 04:35 PM ET

Twitter rolled out its official app for the BlackBerry on Friday, adding a specialized version of the micro-blogging site to the most popular smartphone platform.

According to Twitter's official blog and the BlackBerry Web site, the Twitter app features include:

_ Real-time "push" notifications for direct messages on Twitter
_ Camera and photo integration
_ Notifications when you're Twitter user name is mentioned
_ Integration that links to Twitter when you get a text message or e-mail that includes someone's user name

"Working closely with [BlackBerry maker] RIM to deliver the official Twitter app has been a great experience and we are looking forward to bringing more and more Twitter innovation to BlackBerry," Twitter's blog post said.

The free Twitter app was made available Friday on BlackBerry's Web site.

Apple's iPhone and Google's Android phones seem to get all the buzz, but BlackBerry is still hands down the leader in the smartphone field. But do people think of them more as work tools than social-networking devices?

Will you be tweeting on your BlackBerry?

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Filed under: smartphones • Twitter


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April 8, 2010

Geek Out!: M.C. Frontalot talks nerdcore hip-hop, geekery

Posted: 02:33 PM ET

M.C. Frontalot, the founder of “nerdcore” hip-hop, has gathered a respectable online following injecting video games, Internet culture and all things geeky into a genre too often reserved for chest-thumping swagger.

On his new album, “Zero Day,” released this week, Frontalot – nee Damian Hess – name-drops Dungeons & Dragons, humor-laced multi-user game Kingdom of Loathing and friend/geek icon Wil Wheaton – with guest appearances from “I’m a PC” guy John Hodgman and former Soul Coughing front man Mike Doughty.

Geek Out! caught up with him during his current tour supporting the album.

Q: On “Zero Day,” it seems like as you go through, almost every song celebrates something genre-specific – whether it’s the Kingdom of Loathing song or the Dungeons & Dragons song or the memes like “First World Problem.” Did you set out to do that intentionally?

A: These things just all kind of shake out the way that they’re going to. I wish that I had the time and the control at my disposal to sit down and make an album that winds the themes together in a purposeful way. When I’m writing, it’s really just everything that’s on my mind or pulling at me. That’s the shape the album takes; it ends up being pretty organic.

Q: So, there’s probably no concept album or rock opera coming in the near future?

A: Well, two things I do want to do are a concept album and a children’s album. Maybe I’ll combine the two of those and do ‘The Epic Tale of Mr. Wiggly Piggly’ or something. But, one of these days I will get it together to approach writing a batch of songs as one album’s worth of material instead of a ton of 3 to 5-minutes of moments in musical time.

Q: Is there anything in particular you’re geeking out over right now – a game or book or music or anything along those lines?

A: I haven’t had a lot of time to read or absorb media lately because we’ve been working so hard on the record and we’ve been running all over and doing shows from the minute I got it in the can. Now, we’re launching this tour for a couple of months … . I’ve been geeking out over ideas of what nerd superstars I could more involve and collaborate with instead of just asking them to show up for a couple of seconds on my album … something we could really flesh out together and have both of us equally involved.

That led me to think the other night while I was at Jonathan Coulton’s concert at PAX that maybe I would hit him up to do a split EP with me where we would do some kind of a project … like I would come up with all the ideas for the songs he would write and he would come up with all the ideas for the songs I would write for it. Give each other homework – call it “The Homework EP” or something like that.

Q: You’re just off of [gaming convention] PAX and right before that was South by Southwest. What were those experiences like? Certainly you would think those are crowds that would lean toward nerdcore.

A: Both of them were great … . There are two parts of South-By – there’s interactive week and music week. It’s a massive shift that happens where you see all the nerds walking around with their faces in their iPhones or whatever give way to all these sauntering hipsters who wear sunglasses inside. It’s my people during Interactive and that’s when we did most of my music. Music week, I’m just running around anonymously, trying to absorb some bands.

Then I go to PAX [Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention], which is the extreme version of what interactive week would be like. It’s an absolute fantasy zone for me where fans know who I am and I can’t even walk around the convention center without having to stop and take pictures with people every couple of seconds. It’s as if I was in a much more famous band.

I would get recognized on the street … which is just not something that happens to me in day-to-day life very often. These kinds of environments where that happens … I don’t know whether they’re salve for the soul or just inflation for my head. Maybe a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Q: Do you think that nerdcore says something about the universal appeal of hip-hop – that you have people rapping for whom it would be ridiculous to try to pretend to be a bad-ass from the streets?

A: There is that attitude that seems to have become eventually mandatory in hip-hop that you have to insist and stake everything on your claim that you are the valid representation of what hip-hop is supposed to be like. But a lot of my favorite rappers have found a way to abandon that notion without having to call themselves a geek or without having to be uncool.

Mos Def doesn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to convince people that he’s not fronting. MF Doom, Busdriver, Kool Keith – there are lots of folks I love who aren’t like that. And there’s always been a side of hip-hop that isn’t like that.

I don’t want to position myself like I’ve found this flaw in hip-hop and I’ve satirized it. That’s definitely not my angle. But I was trying to invert something – like, “Here’s this M.C. who fronts a lot. He has to kind of trick you into thinking that you’re looking at a rapper.”

Q: “Nerd” and “geek” – for you, what’s the difference between those two terms?

A: My idea of it is that “nerd” is more broadly anyone who’s natural abilities to fit in socially are very much compromised and, thus, any nerd is pretty easy to identify when you interact with him or her … .

A geek, on the other hand, is someone who has a lot of specific knowledge on any topic … I think you can have a geek who’s not really a nerd in any way. Even people like greasers who work in garages and know everything there is to know about the internal combustion engine – that’s a form of geekery.

There are a lot of ways to geek out over almost any topic without really engaging in what I think of as nerdery. They might think they’re even cooler because they’re [for example] a music geek, but when they start talking about their topic of geekish interest, the regular folks’ eyes glaze over. That’s how you can tell.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Music • pop culture


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Report: British boy racks up $1,400 tab on Farmville

Posted: 10:48 AM ET

Fake crops on Farmville - the "free" social game that's become a huge hit on Facebook - cost a British mother some real cash after her 12-year-old son racked up $1,400 in charges on the game.

The Guardian reports that the pre-teen needed only about two weeks to empty his own savings account then start using his mom's credit card.

"When I asked him why he did it he said that they had brought out 'good stuff that I wanted,' " the mother, who asked not to be named, told the newspaper.

Farmville, which last month reported having more than 75 million monthly players, is free to play. But players can spend money on extras, like virtual crops, tools and barns.

Zynga, the company behind Farmville, Mafia Wars and other popular social games, says the games are designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of players, not just the typical young, male video game crowd.

The mother said the son's bills came to 905 British pounds - the equivalent of $1,373.

The British mother, whose hometown was not listed in the story, said she doesn't blame Zynga, Facebook or her credit card company, although she tried to get the money back.

But she said she wished there was extra security to prevent such spending.

"I do think they need to shoulder some responsibility in this business and put systems in place to stop this happening again," she told The Guardian. "The fact that he was using a card in a different name should bring up some sort of security and the online secure payment filter seems to be bypassed for Facebook payments."

She said her son was unable to make mobile phone payments - because his older brother had lost credit buying a ringtone a couple of years earlier.

"We sound terribly technologically unaware don't we?" she said.

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Filed under: Facebook • Gaming • video games


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April 6, 2010

Whole Foods 'giveaway' on Facebook is a scam

Posted: 10:04 AM ET

Whole Foods Market and Facebook are warning users that a fan page claiming to offer $500 in free groceries at the health food chain is a scam.

Austin, Texas-based Whole foods said on its official Facebook page that the scam first cropped up on Thursday, and is an effort to steal people’s personal data.

The page offers fans a sign-up sheet for the supposed giveaway, which both installs malware on the user’s computer and fishes for credit and other financial information.

“Dear Fans, Please be wary of Facebook Pages offering you $500 Whole Foods Gift Cards. We only run giveaways and promotions on this Facebook Page and our stores' Pages,” read the post, dated April 2. “We have reported these to Facebook, and you can report these fraudulent Pages by clicking the "Report Page" link on the bottom of the left column on the left column of the Wall view.”

A page that was used in the Whole Foods scam appeared to be gone Tuesday morning. A search for “Whole Foods” and “$500” only revealed a small group warning people about the scam.

But Whole Foods said the pages were first noticed on Thursday and that new ones have been popping up as soon as old pages were taken down.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the social-networking site takes such scams seriously.

“Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and scams is a top priority for us,” the spokesperson said Tuesday in a written statement. “Groups and Pages that attempt to trick people into taking a certain action or spamming their friends with invites violate our policies, and we have a large team of professional investigators who quickly remove these when we detect them or they're reported to us by our users.

By becoming a fan of Facebook’s security page, which has nearly 1.7 million fans, users can get updates on the threats that inevitably will pop up from time to time on a site with more than 400 million users.

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Filed under: Facebook • Hoaxes • Security • virus


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April 5, 2010

Tiger's Masters return to be in 3-D

Posted: 12:04 PM ET

This week's Masters golf tournament will draw lots of casual golf fans because Tiger Woods is returning after months of news about his tawdry off-the-fairway activities.

But there's one more reason they might tune in - the tourney will be offered in 3-D.

Comcast and the Augusta National Golf Club are joining to show the revered tournament in next-generation 3-D - at least for people who have TVs or computers rigged to see it.

The dedicated channel will show about two hours of live programming a day, according to a Comcast blog post.

"Our engineers in Comcast Labs have been testing transmission of footage from Augusta National over the past few weeks and I can tell you that it's nothing short of spectacular," Derek Harrar, a Comcast vice president, said in the post. Sony and IBM will be working with Comcast to make the broadcast possible.

The broadcast is part of a trend of sporting events embracing the growing 3-D boom.

ESPN has announced that they'll broadcast the 2011 BCS National Champship game, World Cup soccer and other events in 3-D. The network's first 3-D sports event will be the World Cup match between Mexico and South Africa on June 11.

Companies like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic have begun producing 3-D television. While the technology is still emerging, the companies are hoping that programming like the Masters will help drive sales of the TVs.

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Filed under: HDTV • pop culture • technology


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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