SciTechBlog
April 30, 2010

WSJ: Google TV to be announced in May

Posted: 10:41 AM ET

Google is trying to bring the Web to your living room.

The search engine giant plans next month to unveil a new software package to help developers better display the internet on TV sets, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quotes unnamed sources familiar with the announcement.

Google TV, an android-based software platform, has drawn interest from TV makers, the Journal says.

Google is expected to break the news at the Google's I/O conference, which will be held May 19 and 20 in San Francisco, California, the newspaper reports.

At the conference, Sony also will announce a TV that runs an Intel chip and Google's software, Bloomberg reports.

In an e-mail to CNN, a Google spokesman declined to comment, saying, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

This comes as the idea of "connected TV," or television sets that let people browse the Web for video, news stories, video conferencing and to stream music, continues to get a push from electronics and internet companies.

A number of companies are developing apps, or software programs, that format the Web for optimal viewing on TV sets. Some are creating hardware to help with the transition, too.

[via Mashable]

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Filed under: Google • television


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April 29, 2010

Steve Jobs: Why Apple snubs Flash

Posted: 11:50 AM ET

Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Thursday said 200,000 applications are available in his company's mobile app store - and they all benefit because they're not built in Flash.

In a post on Apple's website, Jobs listed reasons none of those apps support Flash, a format that supports video, animation, games and other content and is made by tech competitor Adobe.

Some tech bloggers have criticized Apple for not supporting Flash on its mobile devices, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod. But Jobs said Adobe Flash is a format for the past.

Performance, not business strategy, guides Apple's decision not to use the format, he said.

"Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice," he wrote in the post. "Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short."

Adobe has complained its business "could be harmed" by Apple's decision not to use the format.

Jobs listed several specific reasons Apple doesn't use Flash. Some of the more interesting ones:

_ "iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video," he wrote.

_Apple products run more reliably without Flash: "Flash is the number one reason Macs crash."

_Flash isn't made for touch-screen devices: "... Many Flash websites rely on 'rollovers,' which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot." Apple's touch screens don't use rollovers.

_And, most important, Jobs said, is that Flash slows down app development: " We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers."

What do you think? Is Jobs right, or should Apple support Flash on its devices?

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Filed under: Apple • iPad • iPhone • iPod


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50,000 websites 'like' the new Facebook button

Posted: 09:39 AM ET

A week after Facebook announced that it's "Like" button would start percolating around the Internet, the powerful social network says 50,000 websites have adopted the change.

"Already, just one week since launch, more than 50,000 sites across the Web have implemented the new plugins," Sandra Liu Huang writes today on Facebook's blog for application developers.

"We are thrilled by the strong adoption so far as developers realize how easy social plugins are to use and how powerful they are in engaging users in a frictionless experience without requiring them to share any personal information."

People use the "Like" button to recommend websites, news stories, blog posts and music to friends.

Facebook announced the change at its f8 conference on April 21. At the time, only 75 sites had signed up to use the feature, which is Facebook's way of making the entire web a more social experience.

In a keynote address at f8, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there would be 1 billion "Like" buttons scattered all over the web within 24 hours of his announcement.

Thursday's blog post makes no mention of whether that target was met.

Tech blogs largely have reacted favorably to Facebook's effort to spread itself all over the web. Some have expressed concerns about privacy and the fact that Facebook may want to be a singular, dominant force on the Internet, putting it in competition with search engine giant Google.

On the blog Mashable, which is a CNN partner, Ben Parr writes that the fact that 50,000 websites have adopted Facebook's "Like" plugin is a good sign for the social network, which already has 400 million members.

"Social plugins are just the first step in Facebook’s ambitious plan to become the central nexus of the web," he writes. "With this kind of adoption success, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Facebook doesn’t take over the web."

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Filed under: Facebook


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April 27, 2010

Report: Hugo Chavez is joining Twitter

Posted: 10:04 AM ET

Of course celebrities like singer Britney Spears are on Twitter.

And it even seems expected at this point that Barack Obama, arguably the techiest president in U.S. history, would have a presence on the micro-blogging service.

But Hugo Chavez?

According to Bloomberg, the Venezuelan president - one of the most controversial world leaders– is planning to join Twitter.

Not only that. He wants to dominate it.

“Comandante Chavez is going to open his Twitter account soon to wage the battle online,” Diosdado Cabello, head of the country’s telecommunications regulator, said on state television, according to the news organization.

“I’m sure he’ll break records for numbers of followers.”

Chavez said in March that he plans to use the web to interact with critics, according to Sky News.

"I'm going to have my online trench from the palace to wage the battle. I'll provide information and even respond to my enemies," Chavez said, according to that news site.

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Filed under: Twitter


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April 26, 2010

Can Blippy rebound after spilling credit card numbers?

Posted: 07:14 PM ET

Blippy wants to get your trust back - but is it too late?

After an incident last week in which at least five Blippy users' credit card numbers were made public "due to a technical oversight," the website's CEO said Monday that he is enacting security measures to keep that from happening again.

Blippy CEO Ashvin Kumar writes in a blog post that he expressed "sincere remorse" to eight of the site's users whose sensitive information may have been compromised.

He plans to keep that from happening again; he says Blippy will:

1. Hire a chief security officer and associated staff that will focus solely on issues relating to information security.
2. Have regular 3rd-party infrastructure & application security audits.
3. Continue to invest in systems to aggressively filter out sensitive information.
4. Control caching of information in search engines.
5. Create a security and privacy center that contains information about what we are doing to protect you.

Kumar's post asks users with security concerns to e-mail suggestions to hello@blippy.com. "We will personally respond to each and every recommendation," he writes.

Blippy is a Twitter-like service that lets people post online about what they're buying. Users can hook up certain credit cards to Blippy.com, and each time they make a purchase, the site will inform the person's followers about what they bought and how much it the person paid for it.

For a half-day in February, the site posted raw data about these purchases, which, in some instances, contained sensitive information like credit card numbers or airline confirmation numbers, the blog post says.

When Blippy noticed the error, it tried to remove the sensitive raw data, but some of it remained in Google's search results until it was discovered Friday by the tech site VentureBeat, the blog says.

Kumar writes that some Blippy users have been deleting credit card information and entire accounts from the site in the wake of the security incident. He did not say how many people have left the site but apologized for the fact that some of the removal requests were not acted on because of the frenzy surrounding the security incident.

He apologized to people who use the site.

"They trusted us with their information, and we are truly disappointed to have let them down," he writes. "While these users reflect a tiny sliver of our user base, any number greater than zero is deeply unacceptable to us. We’ve built Blippy — and will continue to build Blippy — on the foundation of our community and the trust they place in us to create a safe, secure, and fun experience to share purchases."

Since Blippy relies on users handing over financial information to the site, trust is a key component of Blippy's business.

So the real question is this: In light of the security mishap and this response, would you trust Blippy with your credit card info?

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Filed under: Blippy • Security


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Police seize computers from Gizmodo editor

Posted: 05:34 PM ET

The Gizmodo-iPhone saga continues.

Gizmodo, the technology blog that recently published details about Apple's next-generation iPhone after paying $5,000 to get its hands on the device, posted documents today showing that police raided one of its editor's homes.

A search warrant posted by Gizmodo says police on Friday seized computers, cameras, hard drives, business cards and computer servers from the home of Jason Chen, the site's editor who last week published details about Apple's unreleased smartphone.

The warrant, issued by a judge in California's San Mateo County, says police were able to raid Chen's home because they had reason to believe his computers were used to commit a felony. The warrant makes specific reference to the unreleased iPhone 4 and gives police the authority to look for e-mails and other documentation related to the gadget.

Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, published a statement saying the raid was unlawful because of journalistic protections. Chen works from home, so his house should be protected as newsrooms are, the statement says.

In an account posted on Gizmodo, Chen says he returned home from dinner to find police searching his house.

Chen, who apparently has not been arrested or charged with a crime, says his door was kicked down as part of the search.

For background, you can find Gizmodo's account of how the blog acquired the unreleased iPhone here.

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Filed under: Apple • iPhone


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Researcher analyzes dreams through Twitter

Posted: 12:41 PM ET

A researcher in the UK is trying to analyze the world's dreams through Twitter.

Starting today, Twitter users can send synopses of their dreams (in 140 characters or less, of course) to the Twitter handle @dreamshrink. Researcher Jennifer Parker, with the University of West England in Bristol, will choose 10 of the most interesting dreams and will parse out their meaning through the micro-blogging service by the end of this week.

The dream analysis will be posted on Friday.

The project is intended to help Parker expand her research on dreams worldwide, according to the BBC. The dream posts are also tied to the release of James Cameron's "Avatar" for purchase on the Internet in the UK. Cameron is said to have thought up the idea for that blockbuster movie in a dream in the 1990s.

The British video site blinkbox.com is behind the promotion.

The film is also available elsewhere for download, according to CNET:

Vudu and Sony's PlayStation Network are the only major streaming/download services to carry the HD version at launch (sorry, Amazon VOD and QRIOCITY), so if you want to watch "Avatar" in HD at home, you'll have to buy one of those two futuristic files or risk being branded a Luddite to actually get the physical Blu-ray.

Parker told the website bristol247.com that dream analysis on Twitter is a "ground breaking opportunity."

“I am already planning to use data as the basis for a future book that will analyze the efficacy of Twitter as a means for data collection and hopefully present this information in a peer reviewed journal," she told the site. "This type of media is going to be essential in moving dream research forwards using state of the art technologies.”

Can you fit a dream in 140 characters? Do you feel comfortable writing about your subconscious in public on the Internet? Let us know in the comments section below.

[via Mashable]

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Filed under: Twitter


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April 22, 2010

The mobile phone that breathes

Posted: 12:16 PM ET

Researchers at Intel Labs in Berkeley, California, have designed a prototype mobile phone that slurps up air and spits out pollution measurements.

The researchers eventually hope to make everyone who carries a phone into a mobile air quality monitor, to supplement the 4,000 stationary monitors used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state partners.

It's the idea of "citizen science" taken to a new extreme.

The pollution readings would be useful for several reasons, said Allison Woodruff, a research scientist at Intel.

First, they would give regulators a sense of air quality trouble spots that might be missed by government monitors, which tend to have significant distances between them that millions of walking monitors could fill.

The moving air sensors also would enable a new level of social science, she said. If you wanted to learn more about asthma, for instance, you could look at the air quality experienced by asthma sufferers and see if that had any impact.

Currently, such evaluations aren't really possible, she said.

The measurements would be tied to a person's GPS location to create a real-time map of air quality readings. That info could be available to everyone on an app or a website, the researchers said.

The prototype air-quality phone developed by Woodruff and Alan Mainwaring is a bit clunky for now. It has big holes in its case, to let air in.  The sensors that pick up carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxide aren't small enough to let the phone fit in most pockets. That might be just as well, since the researchers aren't sure what would happen to the pollution measurements if a phone went inside a purse or pocket.

Woodruff said it might be equipped with light sensors that would tell it to stop taking and uploading measurements if it was inside a pocket.

But, they said, air quality sensors are getting better and smaller. They are confident the kinks will get worked out, and that this idea will make the air healthier. They hope their pollution-tracking phone will become reality in a matter of years.

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Filed under: environment • mobile phones


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Will Facebook dominate the future web?

Posted: 09:29 AM ET

It's hard to make sense of Facebook's announcement from Wednesday's f8 conference without an analogy.

Here's one of my favorites:

"I think it's going to become the plumbing of the web," Alain Chuard, co-founder of Wildfire, a promotions app and website that piggybacks on Facebook's infrastructure, told me at the conference.

Others skip the infrastructure references and go straight to tech war:

"Facebook today launched its latest missile in the war against Google for the trophy of world wide web domination," wrote Jennifer Leggio at the blog ZDNet.

I wrote that Facebook is trying to turn the web into a big cocktail party.

Pick your metaphor. But the meaning is basically the same: As Facebook stretches its tentacles into websites other than its own, adding social and friend-making functionality along the way, the company is positioning itself not just as a website but as an essential piece of the Internet itself. It's infrastructure. It's piping. In this vision, it's the social lubricant that makes the Internet chatter.

That puts the site in obvious competition with Google and others who are trying to organize the Internet and make it more socially engaging.

Some say a Facebook-led social web will make online browsing more convenient.

As the entire internet becomes more tied with a person's social network, you'll get more recommendations that can help you find web pages you'll enjoy. Plus, Facebook is making it ever-easier to share with friends. All you have to do now is click a button that says "like."

Others say the Facebook model gives one company too much power.

"They're holding all of our data. We have to trust them not to sell it to the world," said Ricky S., an app developer who works with Facebook and didn't want his full name used because he wasn't authorized to speak for his company.

And what does Facebook say about it's ambitions?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his goal is to make the web a better place. If his site happens to make more money by selling ads on Facebook.com, then so-be it.

In closing his keynote address at f8, he used a metaphor of his own, comparing the future web, as led by Facebook's social infrastructure, to heaven.

"There's an old saying that says that when you go to heaven, all of your friends are there and everything is just the way you want it to be," he said.

"So, together let's make a world that's that good."

What do you think? Is Facebook on the way to becoming the web's plumbing? Can it compete with Google? Should any private company have so much power?

Let us know with comments on this post.

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Filed under: Facebook


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Dear Facebook: What about 'dislike' and 'go away?'

Posted: 08:28 AM ET

Is my writing that bad?

When I wrote about the fact that Facebook is scattering "like" buttons all over the Internet, several of you commented that you wish there was a "dislike" button.

Zing!

But I don't take it personally. In fact, that's a really good point.

Maybe Facebook is being too sunny in thinking the only information a person would want to share with friends is the fact that he or she "likes" something.

In a speech in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the "like" button is simple and convenient. That's one reason he's making a push to get it all over the Internet, not just on Facebook.com.

But to like or not to like? Maybe it's reductive not to give users that choice, as some of you pointed out.

Here's a look at some of my favorite "don't like" (and otherwise negative) comments on the story about Facebook's quest to sprinkle the web with cheer:

**FB has to come w/ something new, things are getting old out there. How about an " annoying" "Go away" " leave me alone" "not interested" "dislike" "no thanks" buttons. That would help... So all over the web will have this annoying feature.

**All of a sudden the drive to add a "dislike" button has become much more important.

**I just dropped facebook this morning. this is the definition of 'TMI'

**Only a 10-year-old or a complete fool would ever use Facebook again.

**The internet default will be social? And what if I don't want to socialize?

Others have had similar thoughts. If you use the web browser Firefox, you can  download a plug-in that gives you access to a "dislike" button.

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Filed under: Facebook • social-networking sites


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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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