Friday, 27 May 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook Gets Roasted By Google, Twitter & Foursquare [VIDEO]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook Gets Roasted By Google, Twitter & Foursquare [VIDEO]”

Facebook Gets Roasted By Google, Twitter & Foursquare [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 May 2011 02:22 AM PDT

What do Twitter, Foursquare and Google have to say about Facebook? College Humor decided to enlist Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette and Lisa Lampanelli to find out.

In this College Humor video, Facebook is the target of Twitter (played by Gilbert Gottfried), Google (played by Penn Jillette) and Foursquare’s (played by Lisa Lampanelli) endless barrage of jokes. Of course Friendster, Reddit, Pandora and the rest of the social media universe join in on the fun. As for MySpace… well let’s just say its jokes fall as flat as its traffic numbers.

Check out the video and let us know what you think in the comments.

via AllFacebook

More About: college humor, facebook, foursquare, Google, video

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PayPal Sues Google & Former Execs Over Google Wallet

Posted: 27 May 2011 02:13 AM PDT

Well, that didn’t take long: shortly after Google’s announcement of its new mobile payment service, Google Wallet, PayPal sued the company as well as two of its former executives over trade secrets.

According to PayPal’s lawsuit, which can be read in full here, former PayPal executive (now working at Google) Osama Bedier stole PayPal’s trade secrets and shared it with Google and other companies. Another present Googler and former PayPal exec, Stephanie Tilenius, violated her contract when she recruited Bedier, PayPal said.

“We treat PayPal's "secrets" seriously, and take it personally when someone else doesn't. So we made a decision today. We filed a lawsuit against Google and two former colleagues who now work there, Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius,” says PayPal’s Amanda Pires in an official blog post.

Why has PayPal decided to sue Google less than a day after the announcement of Google Wallet? GigaOm’s sources claim that PayPal is working on a similar system, due to be announced in the following days. Bedier has extensive knowledge of PayPal’s work in the mobile payments space – knowledge he took with him when he went to Google – and PayPal suspects some of it was instrumental for the creation of Google Wallet. It’s easy to see why PayPal is reaching for lawyers, but we’ll have to hear Google’s side of the story before reaching for conclusions.

A Google spokesman said in an e-mail to Bloomberg that the company hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit, and will not comment on it until it has reviewed it.

[via PayPal, Bloomberg]

More About: google wallet, online payments, payment service, payments, paypal

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Facebook Wants to Become the Web’s Central Hub for Music & Video [REPORT]

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:57 PM PDT

Facebook is partnering with online music and video companies for the launch of a new feature that will integrate outside media into profile pages, according to a new report.

The new feature will take the shape of a widget or tab on the user’s profile page, according to The New York Times. It will display the songs a user listens to the most and provide a method for friends to listen to and share those songs. Facebook will do the same thing for video and television content.

The social network has reportedly been talking to various media companies about integrating their content to Facebook’s new feature, including Spotify. Earlier this week, rumors about a potential Spotify and Facebook partnership made the rounds. The rumors made it seem like Facebook had chosen Spotify to power a Facebook music service. NYT reports however that Facebook doesn’t want to tie itself to just one music service, but instead wants multiple partners for its media platform.

Imagine if you could see what your friends were watching on Netflix or listening to on Pandora from their Facebook pages. Now imagine if you could also see their recommendations and access their content with a single click. It could turn Facebook into the web’s central hub for multimedia content. Media content and recommendations could give Facebook a new engagement layer that would compel its users to stay on the site for longer.

Facebook wants to become the operating system of the web. That much was clear when it acquired web operating system Parakey in 2007. In order to be the web’s central dashboard though, it needs to have access to the music, movies, TV shows and books of its users. This new feature seems designed to do exactly that. We’ll let you know if we hear more about this Facebook feature.

More About: facebook, spotify

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Can Crowdsourcing Make Any Dream Come True?

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:22 PM PDT

team image

When’s the last time you got something just because you asked for it? That’s the premise behind Wish Upon a Hero, an online platform that allows anyone to post — or grant — a wish.

It’s an interesting experiment in crowdsourced social good. After registering, anybody can post a wish for anything, whether it’s for a positive goal like sending a terminally ill child to camp or simply asking for help with rent. It is then up to the community at large to decide if and who it should help.

So far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Since Wish Upon a Hero launched in 2007, more than 77,000 wishes have been granted. These include paying for a leukemia patient’s “dream wedding,” an appliance retailer that donated a refrigerator to a single mom with a newborn, a man who bought uniforms for a local little league team, a group of eighth graders that helped a fellow student whose home was lost in a fire, and a plastic surgeon who helped an uninsured breast cancer survivor.

wish image

While many of the wishes have a financial element, even more are about connecting people with unique skills. For example, a wish to throw a ball in Yankee stadium could be fulfilled with buckets of cash, or by a kind stadium groundskeeper.

Anyone can search through a list of wishes by category such as “need” versus “want,” “disabilities,” “cause supported” and more. Wish granters can choose to help anonymously or to be recognized on the website.

What do you make of the platform? And how much can we trust the crowd to make the best decision? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, bibendum84

More About: charity, crowdsourced, platform, social good, social media, wish

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Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer Conundrum

Posted: 26 May 2011 09:08 PM PDT

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Editor-at-Large Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer must feel like a worn-out punching bag after the week he’s experienced.

Ballmer’s bad week started when David Einhorn, the founder of the Greenlight Capital hedge fund, called for new leadership at Microsoft. Einhorn’s hedge fund owns approximately 9 million shares of Microsoft, around 0.11 percent of the company.

“Ballmer is stick in the past and is, at best, a caretaker at Microsoft,” Einhorn told the audience at the Ira Sohn Conference.

It didn’t take long for the media to pile the blame on Microsoft’s beleaguered CEO. This is certainly not the first time that people have called for Steve Ballmer’s head, but the chorus of critics has certainly gotten louder.

Are the critics right? Should Ballmer get the boot? Does Microsoft need a fresh, new face (or a familiar one) to guide it into a post-PC world?

Let’s crunch the numbers.

Grading Ballmer’s Performance

Steve Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft is a tale of two conflicting graphs. Which one is more important depends on whether you care more about the bottom line or the company’s stock price.

The first graph depicts Microsoft’s revenue from 2000, when Ballmer took over as CEO, to 2010:

A business lives and dies by its cash flow and revenue, and by that metric, Ballmer has done a good job guiding Microsoft towards steady growth. In 2000, Microsoft earned $23 billion in revenue and $9.4 billion in net income. In 2004, Microsoft garnered $36.8 billion in revenue and $8.2 billion in net income.

In 2010, those numbers jumped to $62.48 billion in revenue and $18.7 billion in net income. Revenue nearly tripled and income nearly double in a ten year period, not a small feat for a company as large as Microsoft. If Ballmer’s primary objective was to make sure that Microsoft continued to make money, then he succeeded.

Revenue and profits aren’t the only things the CEO of a major public company has to consider, though. He or she is also responsible for improving shareholder value by increasing the company’s stock price and market capitalization. In that respect, Ballmer has failed. This graph depicts Microsoft’s stock price from 1986 to 2010:

At its peak in 2001, Microsoft was worth approximately $400 billion. On May 26, 2011, Microsoft’s market cap was just $208 billion, just over half of that value. While Ballmer should be given some leeway due to the dot-com bubble and the brutal antitrust investigation of the late 1990s, the truth is that Ballmer has failed to increase shareholder value in the ten years he has been at the helm.

Microsoft’s stock performance is even more abysmal if you compare it to Google or Apple, though. Apple was worth just $7.64 billion in 2001, but it is now worth more than $300 billion. Google wasn’t even a public company when Ballmer took over as CEO, but the search giant now has a market cap of $167 billion and growing.

The problem for Microsoft is that investors believe that Microsoft’s long-term future is bleak. While its revenue may be growing now, investors believe that PCs are the past and that tablets and touchscreens are the future. As PC sales dwindle, so may Windows sales, and that will be the moment Microsoft starts to panic.

Microsoft’s Conundrum

At this point, Microsoft has four options:

  • 1. Stick with Steve Ballmer.
  • 2. Fire Steve Ballmer and promote an insider.
  • 3. Fire Steve Ballmer and bring in an outsider.
  • 4. Pray Bill Gates wants to come back.

Microsoft has stuck with the first option for the last ten years, so let’s analyze the other options. If Microsoft’s board decides to promote an insider, say Microsoft Office President Kurt DelBene, he or she will still have the same problem that plagued Ballmer: a lack of an outside perspective. It’s not clear that the radical change needed to make the company competitive in search, mobile or tablets could come from an insider.

Bringing an outsider to a company as massive as Microsoft presents its own set of problems, though. Learning the company’s bureaucracy (and then blowing it up) would take a significant amount of time, and by then Microsoft could slip so far behind its competition that it doesn’t matter who is at the helm. And any new CEO would have to deal with being in the shadow of Bill Gates. Gates could easily swoop in if he doesn’t like the direction an outsider CEO is taking the company.

Some people have even called for Bill Gates to return to Microsoft, but Gates seems to love his role as the world’s most prolific philanthropist. Could he really put his heart and soul into a Microsoft turnaround? If he can’t commit 100% of his energy towards Microsoft, his return won’t help the company’s stock price.

Ballmer Isn’t Going Anywhere

Let’s be clear: media pundits and outsiders will not be deciding the fate of Steve Ballmer. Nobody tells Bill Gates who should or should not lead the company he created more than a quarter of a century ago. Ballmer has been ones of Gates’ most trusted lieutenants, and unless Ballmer pulls a Mark Hurd, he’s going to be the CEO in 2012 and beyond.

Since Microsoft’s Board of Director has decided to stick with Ballmer, the question they must ask is this: how can Microsoft convince investors that its future isn’t a bleak road filled with potholes?

Ballmer and Microsoft’s board have not had a good answer to that question in the last ten years. They had better hope they find one before another decade passes them by.

More About: apple, bill gates, Column, microsoft, Steve Ballmer, steve jobs, The Social Analyst

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Organize An Offline Class With Skillshare

Posted: 26 May 2011 08:34 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Skillshare

Quick Pitch: Skillshare turns cities into classrooms and all of their residents into potential teachers.

Genius Idea: Creating an open, online marketplace for offline classes.

Skillshare co-founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn is very good at poker. So good, in fact, that he felt comfortable entering the World Series of Poker last year and that all of his friends wanted to know his poker secrets when he returned.

When he agreed to host a poker class for them, the idea for Skillshare clikcked. Karnjanaprakorn and his co-founder Malcolm Ong had been looking for a way to “Bring On The Learning Revolution!” after seeing a TED talk of that title by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. Almost everyone knows how to do at least one thing that others want to learn, like how to play poker. Why not make cities classrooms and their inhabitants teachers?

Skillshare, which launched in April, is a marketplace for offline classes. Anyone can sell tickets for a class. Karnjanaprakorn’s poker class was one of the first to go up on the site, but since then more than 100 people have hosted classes on everything from “Crocheted Wire Jewelry Made Easy” to “How to Invest Your First $10,000“.

“We thought people would want to take fun and quirky classes, but in reality they wanted to take skill-based classes where they would walk out learning something tangible, whether it was making jewelery or programming, making your first app, walking out with a legal document that you need to start a company … those are the classes that are selling out like crazy,” Karnjanaprakorn says.

Typically tickets for classes on the platform cost less than $50, of which Skillshare takes a 15% cut. They’re hosted in personal spaces like apartments as well as public spaces like art studios or parks. Karnjanaprakorn says that some businesses have also recently started hosting classes, many of them as a marketing opportunity that helps fill downtime but doesn’t discount their services.

Less than two months after launch, the site’s teachers are mostly in New York and only a handful of businesses have signed on. But we think that they’re on to something important.

Other sites like Learnable and Udemy allow anyone to become a teacher online, but Skillshare seems to have hit on the recipe that makes companies like, Eventbrite and Airbnb tick: online organization for offline interactions.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, education, skillshare

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Slice Creates a Home For Everything You Buy In Your Inbox

Posted: 26 May 2011 07:44 PM PDT

The inbox in its current form is a terrible place to manage your online shopping history, says Scott Brady, the CEO and co-founder of Slice, a new startup looking to change how consumers organize and access their purchase data.

Slice, now available to webmail users via the “All My Purchases” application inside the new Yahoo Mail, aims to helps users organize everything they buy online from right inside their inboxes.

The problem is an all too familiar one for frequent online shoppers: Online purchases are followed up with email order confirmations and shipping information messages that can easily be lost in the inbox. Those receipts pack meaningful data and Slice seeks to put that information at users’ fingertips.

Because it’s embedded within the new Yahoo Mail experience, the All My Purchases application helps users extract the commerce data housed inside of their inboxes. The app highlights open orders and shipments, as well as last received purchases under the “Home” tab. The user can dive into the “Track Shipments” tab to check out his purchases in transit or browse within the “Purchase History” tab to view and filter all of his previous online orders.

The startup extracts important data pieces such as item order numbers, customer service phone numbers and retailer return policies — via extraction algorithms that took more than a year to build — and presents the information in an easy-to-find fashion.

And Slice isn’t only interested in online purchases. The startup is tracking the rise of electronic receipts issued by brick-and-mortar stores and will work to extract purchase data from these receipts as well. As more of these retailers adopt ereceipts, Slice will grow in utility, offering users a single place to reference all of their past purchases.

The startup is currently focused on supporting its Yahoo Mail application and the thousands of new users that are just now being introduced to the product through Yahoo. It also makes a Gmail purchase extraction tool, however, currently in limited release.

Eventually Slice will support all web-based email clients in the same way. We’ll likely see the startup introduce mobile applications to make the user’s purchase history more universally accessible.

Slice also announced that it raised $9.4 million in a Series A round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and DCM. The capital has been used to acquire top talent in the semantic search space, Brady says. He believes the startup now has an infrastructure in place that can later be applied to email offers and coupons.

More About: All My Purchases, inbox, online purchases, purchase data, Slice, Yahoo Mail

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How Social Media & Game Theory Can Motivate Students

Posted: 26 May 2011 06:53 PM PDT

education image

Patrick Supanc is the President of College and Career Readiness at Pearson, where he focuses on new market development, digital innovation and product strategy. He has been a teacher in Indonesia, an education policy adviser at the World Bank and UN, and led K-12 market development at Blackboard.

Social media and online games have the potential to convey 21st century skills that aren't necessarily part of school curricula — things like time management, leadership, teamwork and creative problem solving that will prepare teens for success in college and beyond. Making the transition between a highly structured environment in high school to a self-driven, unstructured environment in college can prove a huge challenge for many kids.

Educators spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix this problem. The solution doesn't lie solely with games, but a lot of the psychology that motivates teens to play games holds potential. We need to figure out how to tap in.

The Status Update and Checkins

If teens feel empowered to broadcast a goal via a status update to a group of their peers, it becomes more real. Other people see it, comment on it, and offer positive reinforcement. That same strategy could be used for academic goals like performing well on tests. Closed networks can help students reach for educational goals and ask for help. These kinds of networks can be a great way for kids to know they’re not alone, and shouldn’t be ashamed to seek assistance.

In a similar way, checkins don't necessarily have to be location-based. People check in because they're driven toward some kind of status or reward. Teachers, parents, and students can start using checkins to monitor time management skills, show the progress of a student over time, and drive toward very specific goals (or rewards). Think of a network where a teen could check in to a certain class or subject. Updates like "Christina just checked into quadratic equations" could show her peers what she's working on, encourage participation, and allow others working on a similar subject matter to pitch in.


As anyone who grew up in the video game generation would know, leaderboards are an incredibly strong motivator. They're surprisingly underused in education, considering their simplicity and that they’re completely powered by participants' desires to do better.

Many students are motivated by friendly competition. They are also driven by the need to compare themselves to others. Leaderboards can foster this in a healthy way and encourage people to try harder with little incentive other than positive recognition. Why not set up a school-wide, inter-school or even nationwide leaderboard, similar to what Nike+ did to make an otherwise potentially mundane activity (running) fun?

Leveling Up

Game mechanics can be built into daunting coursework to help students understand complex problems. Anything that naturally has a step-by-step, logical process (like math, for example) can be easily converted to a game that uses levels to convey a sense of achievement along the way. This is called a “progression dynamic.”

Games are great for delivering relevant feedback in the form of a mission, level, quest or objective. The best games are just hard enough to keep users interested but offer enough frequent and positive feedback to make sure participants are having fun.

Social media and games have an incredible power to keep us engaged and connected. We're probably a bit far from a future where kids say, "I can't stop learning," rather than "Five more minutes on my Xbox 360." But understanding the psychology of games and applying it to the way kids learn can help us break down persistent challenges. And, we might just have some fun along the way.

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Image courtesy of Flickr, smemon87

More About: education, gamification, gaming, Kids, parenting, social media, teachers, video games

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Amazon Launches Competitor to Apple’s Mac App Store

Posted: 26 May 2011 05:57 PM PDT

Amazon has unveiled the Mac Downloads Store, a direct competitor to Apple’s Mac App Store.

The new Mac Downloads Store is essentially a marketplace for buying and downloading Mac applications. Amazon has sold software downloads for years, but now it those software downloads have been organized into a one-stop shop.

The biggest difference between the two stores is that Amazon’s store isn’t available as a desktop application. That means you can’t receive easy updates from the Mac Download Store, and because it’s not always present on the desktop, users might forget about visiting Amazon’s store on a regular basis. Amazon’s store also has a much smaller selection of titles — around 250 or so. Approximately 50 of those titles are games, which are actually part of a subsection of the Mac Download Store.

Amazon’s store includes a few titles not on Apple’s roster, the most prominent one being Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2011, which retails for $202.96 for the business version and $115 for the home and student version. Microsoft is currently “looking at” the possibility of Office on the Mac App Store, though we doubt Microsoft is willing to pay Apple 30% of its Office for Mac revenue.

The Mac Download Store is Amazon’s third application store after the Kindle App Store and the Amazon Appstore for Android. The latter has given Amazon some legal headaches; Apple has sued Amazon over its use of the term “Appstore,” claiming that it infringes upon its “App Store” trademark.

More About: amazon, apple, mac, mac app store, Mac Download Store, macintosh

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Instagram Update Shows Its 4.25 Million Users the Love

Posted: 26 May 2011 05:06 PM PDT

Instagram, the seven-month-old mobile photo-sharing app for iPhone, surpassed more than 4.25 million users this week. A new version of the application now shows its fast-growing user base the love, literally.

Instagram has slightly reworked comments and “likes” in version 1.8, which was released on Thursday. Now users can double tap photos to “like” them, and should they do so, a white heart icon will briefly appear over the photo in question.

The application now includes an interactive comment screen that co-founder Kevin Systrom believes will make in-app comments on photos more akin to the iPhone’s native SMS experience. The enhanced comment screen also lets users swipe left or right to delete comments on their photos.

“[The interactive comment screen] makes it easier to see the whole conversation at once,” Systrom says. “You can more easily reply to specific people and remove comments you’ve made or comments on your pictures.”

As Systrom indicates, user replies have been improved in the release. Now, when a user wishes to reply to another user in the comments, he or she can type the “@” symbol and the first few letters of the username, and the application will autocomplete the name.

While Thursday’s app updates are relatively minor, they are characteristically Instagram in nature — simple and elegant — and it’s the startup’s attention to detail that has helped it continue to attract new users.

Image courtesy of Instagram, Ryan Kuder

More About: instagram, iphone app, mobile photo sharing, photo sharing, startup

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Chinese Prisoners Forced to Farm Gold in Online Games

Posted: 26 May 2011 04:10 PM PDT

Prisoners at a labor camp in northeast China were forced by guards to play online games in a moneymaking scheme, says one former prisoner.

The scheme, a practice referred to among gamers as “gold farming,” required some 300 prisoners at the Jixi labor camp to gather currency (usually by repeating monotonous tasks) in multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft, which the guards then hawked online for cash.

Many recreational gamers willingly exchange real currencies for virtual ones to obtain extra advantages in the game — a special piece of equipment, for example, or to pay other players for in-game services.

Liu Dali, who was imprisoned at the camp between 2004 and 2007 for “illegally petitioning” federal authorities about corruption in his local government, said he was forced to play the game at night after full days of trying physical toil, which included digging trenches and carving chopsticks and toothpicks with raw hands. He was held accountable for keeping up on both forms of labor.

“If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things,” he said.

Liu believes the scheme was more profitable than the physical labor they performed during the day — and also more painful in some respects.

“Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” the former prisoner, Liu Diu told The Guardian. “I heard them say they could earn 5,000 to 6,000rmb (U.S. $770 to $925) a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.”

$2 billion of virtual currency was traded in China in 2008, according to figures obtained by the New York Times from China’s Internet Network Information Center. The government has issued regulations to restrict the trading and use of virtual money, which is already difficult to regulate at its current size. There are some 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country, says The Guardian.

Image courtesy of Flickr, juanpol

More About: china, gaming, trending, virtual currency, world of warcraft

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Logitech Alert Security System Watches Over Your Castle, Day or Night

Posted: 26 May 2011 04:06 PM PDT

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging … now that's positivenergy™.

Product: Logitech Alert Security System

Price: Outdoor master system 750e with night vision: $350, additional outdoor night vision camera: $280, additional indoor camera 750i: $230 (these are all retail prices — you can find them for less)

What It’s Good For: Relatively easy to set up, these cameras can keep an eye on your property, recording everything that moves.

Who It’s Good For: Those who want to enhance home security will be first in line, but gadgeteers and wildlife enthusiasts who want to capture video of wild animals in the middle of the night will also love this system.

Limitations: The Alert system’s new iPad/iPhone app is rudimentary, and the motion detection is tricky to set up. The indoor cameras don’t have night vision, limiting their usefulness. Unfortunately, the Commander software for the system is Windows-only.

Bottom Line: This refined system keeps watch over your stuff in HD quality, giving you clear video of anyone who wants to trespass on your property, day or night. You can install the system yourself, but to fully cover an average-sized house will cost you in excess of $1,000.

A Close-Up Look At the Logitech Alert Security System

Security cameras used to be so expensive and complicated, only banks and malls could afford them. But now Logitech offers the Alert Security System, consisting of high-quality cameras that record and send their video signals to a computer via ordinary electrical outlets. Then you can access that video from your home computer network, or from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

The cameras are available in two configurations, and we tested both: The 750e is an outdoor video camera with night vision, hardened against the elements and made to be mounted outside. The 750i is an indoor video camera without night vision capability that mounts to a window with a suction cup, to a wall or ceiling with brackets, or can be placed on a table in an included holder. Compared to the outdoor night vision camera, we found the indoor model to be of limited usefulness, but it might be appropriate for daytime use by store owners or nighttime use on constantly lit porches.

Installing the cameras around the house is relatively easy, where you plug a transmitter unit into any electrical outlet, and then run a thin, flat cable to a camera mounted at your desired location. There’s a master transmitter/receiver that plugs into the electrical system near your network’s router, and that’s also connected to your network via an included Ethernet cable.

Once you have your cameras mounted and connected, you install the free Alert Commander software on your PC. After a few minutes, each of the cameras is recognized, and then you can watch all the cameras’ live video at once in an on-screen arrangement of either four or six cameras. Double-click on one of the images, and it goes full-screen, letting you watch an individual camera alone.

Besides watching live video from the cameras, they all record video on a tiny microSD card inside each camera, making it so you don’t need to have any computers running for all the video to be recorded. As soon as you turn on a computer running the Alert software, the video footage is transferred to that computer. We installed the Alert software on multiple computers, and it’s possible to simultaneously watch the video on at least two PCs at the same time.

For the ultimate security, we tried designating space in a Dropbox folder, sending the Alert system’s video recordings to the cloud in case thieves broke into the house and stole our computers – if that happened, we’d still have the footage of the culprits out there in the cloud. Keep in mind that doing this will require you to upload a lot of video files, perhaps drawing the ire of your Internet service provider.

These Logitech Alert cameras have been around for almost a year now, but the newest part of the system is an iPad and iPhone app that lets you monitor those cameras from anywhere. Surprisingly, this web video viewer is a free service offered by Logitech. The app is rudimentary, only letting you view live video; if you want to watch recorded video and control the system from afar, that’ll cost you $80 per year. However, we did have a “gee-whiz” moment when we were on a recent Wi-Fi-equipped flight, and viewed our Logitech security cameras from 35,000 feet, watching live video as we streaked across the sky. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Each camera has adjustable motion detection, where you can finely tune the threshold where recordings are triggered. In addition, you can specify areas where motion will trip the recording. After a lot of tweaking, we got this to work, but it wasn’t reliable enough to program alerts, where the system notifies you via email or text message every time something moved. Perhaps it would work better if the camera was mounted in an extremely still area, but even when we had the motion detection areas carefully designated, we still got too many false alarms.

The Alert cameras’ resolution is 960×720 pixels, which is HD-quality but with a 4×3 aspect ratio, so when you electronically zoom into a portion of the screen, the quality still remains high. That HD quality can be especially useful when you need to identify a perpetrator’s face if you’ve been burglarized. The night vision of those outdoor cameras, which is in black-and-white (as opposed to its color video during the daytime), works extremely well, with its built-in infrared lighting illuminating objects, people or critters that are up to 30 feet away.

Summing up, the Logitech Alert system is extremely easy to use, captures video with exceptional quality, and with its blinking red and green lights showing that they’re on and recording respectively, can serve as a formidable deterrent for those who might want to trespass on your property.

If that doesn’t slow down those miscreants, you’ll get clear pictures of them as they trespass, sharp enough for you to create a “wanted” poster of their faces. Besides all that, it’s fun to use, will give you a heads up when the FedEx guy arrives, or even lets you spot a bear rummaging around your trash cans.

750i Outdoor Camera

It's small and solidly built. But can it make it through a bitterly cold winter?

Outdoor Camera Mounted

The mounting hardware is solidly built as well.

Bottom of Outdoor Camera

There's a mic to capture audio, too, but you can disable that.

Outdoor Interface

The interface is mounted on a wall, then plugged into an outlet. Here I've taken off its weatherproof door to install the thin electrical wire that goes to the camera.

Indoor Camera 750i

Attach this camera via suction cup or bracket, front or back.

Indoor Camera Mounted

The suction cup held well.

Network Interface

Plug this unit into an AC outlet and connect it to your router, and it bridges the electrical system with your network.

Alert Commander Interface

Here's what the screen looks like with 4 cameras attached.

One Camera Full Frame

Here's a single camera in the viewer. You can also view them in arrangements of 4 or 6, or go full screen without any controls on any of the arrangements.

Motion Detection Zones

Here I've drawn two small zones for motion detection, and I'm in the process of drawing a third across the bottom of the screen. I'm trying to avoid constantly moving trees, but it was hard to avoid false alarms in this situation.

Motion Detection Alert

Configure the system to send you a text or snapshot alert via email or cellphone text. The advanced settings let you adjust the amount of movement that will trigger alerts.

Alert Web Viewer

View live cameras with this, but no recordings.

Night Vision Quad Split

It's in black & white, and sometimes the infrared lighting makes things look weird, but the images are sharp.

Night Vision Single Camera View

The camera's resolution will let us get a good look at those raccoons that like to lick the grill grease late at night.

Series Supported by Energizer®

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging. Energizer® has always been designed with performance and responsibility in mind … now that's positivenergy™.

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4 Legal Considerations for Building a Mobile App

Posted: 26 May 2011 03:23 PM PDT

Alysa Z. Hutnik is a partner in the Advertising Law and Privacy & Information Security practices at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. Her co-author, Christopher M. Loeffler, is an advertising and privacy associate at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. Read more on Kelley Drye's advertising blog Ad Law Access or keep up with the group on Facebook or Twitter.

If creating a mobile app is next on your business agenda, you're not alone. A recent report pegs mobile app revenue from the four major application stores at $2.1 billion in 2010. Revenue is forecast to grow a staggering 77.7% in 2011 to $3.8 billion, and smartphone adoption rates continue to increase.

Whether your app is destined for an Angry Birds-like following or will serve a more niche market, your development checklist should address traditional legal items for a new business venture. Given the broad consumer audience that comes with many mobile apps, it's helpful to keep in mind the types of issues tracked closely by the consumer protection bar, consumer advocates, regulators and private litigants.

Their scrutiny essentially boils down to two core questions:

  • Are there any unexpected (bad) surprises connected with your app from a user experience — namely, does the app clearly convey all potential monetary charges (both initial download and in-app options)?
  • What information from the user and the device will be collected and shared with others, and was that clearly disclosed and consented to before data was collected/shared?

Failure to identify and address these issues can result in complaints and negative media coverage and quickly turn positive app buzz into formal inquiries and lawsuits. The Wall Street Journal‘s ongoing "What They Know" series, among other media exposés, has helped generate some of this unwanted attention for a number of parties in the mobile device, app and marketing sectors, including Apple, Google and Pandora.

While it will take years for regulators and case law to solidify the legal boundaries around any emerging technology, including mobile apps, businesses and marketers who want to avoid predictable legal scrutiny can reduce their risks now by adhering to traditional best practices around advertising and privacy.

Start With This Checklist

Don't Hide the Money Factor. If your app has a charge associated with it — whether as part of the initial purchase or within the app itself (e.g. purchase in-game content, accessories, etc.), disclose that point upfront using plain language in the description. Apply a "dummy" test — would your tech-challenged family member notice and read the disclosure, or is it buried under miles of terms and conditions?

Definitely Don't Hide the Money Factor if Your App is Targeted at Kids. If you expect that parents will be downloading your free app but kids will be playing it, consider whether in-game charges make sense from a business standpoint (weighed against the risks of parents claiming unauthorized charges by their children). If there is a sound business reason for the in-game charge options, make sure you clearly and conspicuously disclose the potential for charges up front in the description.

Assess Your Data Drilling. Unless you're closely watching courts and Congress, you might not have realized that mobile app user data comes with strings attached. You must assess exactly what user data your app is collecting (intentionally and unintentionally) and why it is doing so. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this data collection involve name, contact details or other personally identifiable information on the user or their contacts?
  • Does the app collect device location information and/or a unique identifier per user or device?
  • Is there a necessary business reason for that data collection and access?
  • Do you retain that data for a period of time consistent with the reason for collecting it?
  • Do you share that data with other parties (or allow others to access that data), and can the parties use the data to make a personally identifiable profile of your users?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you should closely review how/if your app’s terms communicate that to the user and whether users understand those terms and provide consent for such use.

Legalese Is Bad. If you plan to take care of everything identified above with a link to a lengthy boilerplate terms and conditions and privacy policy, think again. A legalese boilerplate won't insulate your business. The overriding question is whether you clearly communicated important terms — like charges and personal data practices — to the consumer in a way the consumer understood and accepted. That means ensuring that your app walks the user through these key terms in a just-in-time, user-friendly way.

More About: apps, business, law, legal, Mobile 2.0, mobile apps, mobile development

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Jimmy Fallon (Playing Neil Young) Sings “Party in the U.S.A.” With Crosby & Nash

Posted: 26 May 2011 03:01 PM PDT

Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

Jimmy Fallon truly shines when he dons the cowboy hat and straps on the harmonica that transform him into Neil Young. However, Fallon/Young was lacking something until recently — Graham Nash and David Crosby, to be exact.

As a trio, the three absolutely crushed a parody of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. It was almost as hilarious as Cyrus’s parody… er… cover of Nirvana.

More About: David Crosby, Graham Nash, miley cyrus, neil young, party-in-the-USA, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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Facebook Takes Legal Aim at Man Who Claims 50% of Zuckerberg’s Shares

Posted: 26 May 2011 02:40 PM PDT

Facebook has finally filed a formal legal response to Paul Ceglia, the convicted felon and woodchip salesman who claims Mark Zuckerberg promised him a stake in Facebook in return for a $1,000 investment during the site’s early days.

Ceglia’s lawsuit was filed last year and refiled in April, bolstered by emails allegedly confirming his story, although no one has been able to confirm the authenticity of those emails. It claims Ceglia gave Zuckerberg $1,000 to fund "the face book."

Supposedly Ceglia was to receive 50% of the site in return, in addition to 1% of the company each day the project was delayed past a given deadline. By the end of their dealings, Ceglia says, Zuckerberg owed him 84% of the company, and the two settled for 50% of Zuckerberg’s stake — though he waited until the company was worth billions to take the claim to court.

"This is a fraudulent lawsuit brought by a convicted felon, and we look forward to defending it in court,” a Facebook spokesman told Mashable in April. “From the outset, we've said that this scam artist's claims are ridiculous, and this newest complaint is no better."

On Thursday, the company filed its official legal response in United States District Court in Buffalo, New York. Evidently, Zuckerberg’s lawyers have spent the past month upping the ante on their language. "This lawsuit is a brazen and outrageous fraud on the court," says the company filing. "Plaintiff is an inveterate scam artist whose misconduct extends across decades and borders. His latest and most far-reaching fraud is the amended complaint filed in this action, which is based upon a doctored contract and fabricated evidence.

“Plaintiff alleges that he recently 'discovered' a purported contract that now supposedly entitles him to ownership of 50 percent of Zuckerberg's interest in Facebook. The purported contract was signed in 2003, yet plaintiff waited until 2010 to file this action — a seven-year delay during which plaintiff remained utterly silent while Facebook grew into one of the world's best-known companies. Plaintiff has now come out of the woodwork seeking billions in damages."

Note the subtle dig at Ceglia’s current occupation, selling woodchip pellets for fuel? That’s why these guys get paid the big money. It’s also a sign that Facebook has learned its lesson from the long-running Winklevoss legal drama: Don’t give your opponents an inch, or they’ll take you for $65 million — and keep hammering away at you in the courts.

More About: facebook, lawsuit, mark zuckerberg, paul-ceglia

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Muppets Movie Teaser Parodies The Hangover: Part II [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 May 2011 02:06 PM PDT

The other week, we caught the first glimpse of the new The Muppets movie in the form of a trailer parodying the traditional rom-com. Now, we’ve got a teaser that riffs off of The Hangover: Part II.

The Muppets film, slated for release around Thanksgiving, features Jason Segel (who also wrote the screenplay), Amy Adams and a slew of guest stars. This teaser features Danny Trejo and Wanda Sykes. Segel and Adams play a couple who help the Muppets put together a show to save their old production studio from destruction.

We’re really enjoying how the folks at Disney are cutting together footage from the film to create a variety of genres. The faux flick, titled The Fuzzy Pack, even has its own Facebook Page. Here’s hoping for a Bollywood-themed preview in the coming weeks.

More About: Film, MARKETING, muppets, the-fuzzy-pack, video

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HOW TO: Talk to Children About Online Safety

Posted: 26 May 2011 01:50 PM PDT

Child Computer Image

The Internet didn’t arrive for most of today’s parents until after they had passed adolescence. Online behavior was something they were able to approach with the disposition of an adult (even if some chose not to).

Their children, however, were born into a very different situation. It’s not uncommon to see an iPad next to the crib, and 7.5 million children younger than 13 have Facebook profiles.

If parents don’t teach online safety, their children might not recognize imprudent online actions or realize their consequences.

“Younger kids certainly don't know that what they post is out there for everyone,” explains Jeff Godlis, the director of communications for Internet literacy education publisher i-Safe. “As you get older, the kids keep pushing the barriers… Parents need to be parents, and they have to be involved.”

1. Understand Internet Safety Before You Explain It

Many adults aren’t savvy Internet users themselves. A 2010 study, for instance, found that only 51% of participants recognized that ad companies frequently determine what ads to show based on the history of prior websites that they visited.

“Kids are learning about all of the facets of social media online. It's happening much earlier,” explains Hilary DeCesare, the CEO of tween social network Everloop. “It's parents that aren't keeping up…The real dilemma is, how do you teach kids about something that you're uncomfortable with?”

For instance, DeCesare says, many parents list their first and last names on social networking sites, and may not realize that their children shouldn’t do the same.

Fortunately, it’s easy to brush up on Internet safety guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission are just a few organizations that provide robust resources.

2. Teach, Don’t Rule

“We have always been on the education side,” Godlis says. “Teach someone and they'll learn it and they'll understand it. They are empowered to do the right thing.”

The right message, DeCesare says, is “I care.” Not, “if you do X, I’ll ban the Internet.” When it comes to keeping your children safe on the web, the goal is to ingrain positive behaviors rather than just enforcing strict rules. Threatening children with revoked Internet privileges might even create a dangerous environment.

“Kids aren't comfortable telling adults [about problems they encounter online like cyberbullying] because they think they're going to get in trouble, or worse, they're worried that they will pull their privileges of being able to use the Internet,” she says.

3. Consider Age-Appropriate Social Networks

Legally speaking, children younger than 13 shouldn’t be on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prevents websites from collecting information from children without their parents’ permission. Many children bypass this law, even on sites that enforce it, by simply adjusting their birthday. But DeCesare says that parents should still be wary of social sites designed for adults.

“Facebook was never intended for kids younger than 13,” she says. “Kids click on things. Which can be a problem, not just with friending people, but also the malware they pick up online.”

In a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 75% of 7th through 12th graders surveyed said they had a profile on a social media site. Parents would have a hard time barring social media sites entirely, but they can easily introduce age-appropriate social networks to their children instead of the grown up standards.

Most of these networks restrict content and provide a parental oversight component, either by alerting parents when something seems fishy or asking them to approve certain actions, like new friends.

4. Monitor With Care

No matter your price range or parenting philosophy, there’s an appropriate software option for monitoring your children’s online safety.

But Godlis cautions parents against the notion that using such a service alone is sufficient.

“I think that filters and monitors give parents a false sense of security — as long as the filters are on, I don't have to worry,” he says. “They certainly can over-rely on it. Kids are pretty smart and they get around everything. They know how to use proxy servers and they know how to do things that parents don't.”

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Images courtesy of Flickr, Scott & Elaine van der Chijs, heycoach, Gregtreble

More About: Children, education, online safety, parenting

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Twitter Lets You See Other Users’ Timelines

Posted: 26 May 2011 01:25 PM PDT

Twitter is launching a feature Thursday that lets users see the microblogging site through the eyes of the people whom they follow.

“We’re rolling out a new option for the ‘following’ page: view Tweets from the accounts a user follows, as well as a list of those accounts,” reads a tweet from Twitter that announced the new option.

This feature is already live for some users and looks to be a useful tool for discovering accounts worth following. Although it was previously possible to view the accounts another user followed, it was hard to determine the quality of their tweets without visiting their individual pages.

The new option is the latest announcement in what has been a big week for Twitter. It confirmed its acquisition of Tweetdeck Wednesday and revealed updated email notification options Tuesday.

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New Gmail Widget Tells You All About the People You’re Emailing

Posted: 26 May 2011 01:09 PM PDT

Google has introduced the people widget, a new Gmail feature that adds contextual information about those with whom you exchange email.

During the next two weeks, Google will roll out the new feature. It will appear on the right side of the Gmail interface and shows a picture of the person whose email you’re reading, a short paragraph summarizing the last email you received from that person, subjects from emails from the past month, an abbreviated calendar showing availability, and documents that person has recently created.

If you’re engaged in a group email conversation or a Google chat, all those participating will be listed along the right side, and above them will be icons leading you to a variety of ways to communicate with them, including chat, email, calendar events and phone calls.

This feature hasn’t arrived on our Gmail interface yet, but we’re eager to try it. It looks like a quick and efficient way to get your bearings when you receive an email.

More About: contextual information, gmail, Google, new feature, people widget

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10 Fascinating Facebook Facts – And What They Say About Us

Posted: 26 May 2011 01:07 PM PDT

A study released this week revealed that 47% of Facebook users have swear words on their pages. A survey last week, meanwhile, showed that undergraduate men who talk about alcohol on Facebook tend to have more friends.

Whether it’s our level of tolerance for swear words or the link between alcohol and social acceptance, these Facebook studies provide intriguing insights into our online behaviors.

And yet I’d argue that Facebook surveys have a more fundamental role. With more than 600 million people actively using Facebook, these studies in fact provide a deeper understanding of our evolving cultural norms: Our values, our morals, and our changing relationships between one another.

Don’t believe me? Check out my CNN column for these fascinating Facebook facts about our 21st century values.

More About: facebook, friendship, social media, social networking

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Look What a GarageBand Virtuoso Can Do With an iPad [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 May 2011 12:38 PM PDT

Watch what guitarist George Lambro can do with an iPad running a $5 copy of GarageBand. Of course, he’s already an accomplished musician, so this is just another instrument for him.

Here’s further proof that it’s not the instrument, but the musician who makes the magic. Watch closely, and you’ll see hints of his superb musicianship throughout. It’s beautiful.

More About: GarageBand, iPad 2, musicianship, shredding

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9 Ways To Increase Your Productivity While Working From Home

Posted: 26 May 2011 12:01 PM PDT

Nellie Akalp is CEO of, her second incorporation filing service based on her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and protecting their business. She has formed more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S. To learn more about Nellie and see how she can help your business get off the ground quickly and affordably, please visit here.

Whether telecommuting or freelancing, more and more professionals are trading in the cubicle for the home office. We hear all about the perks of the work from home lifestyle — no long commutes, more time with family, conference calls in pajamas, etc. But what about the challenges? It's not always easy to stay productive in the face of countless distractions.

If you're working from home, chances are you're a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner. This means your ability to get paid is directly tied to how productive you are. As a freelancer, wasting time equals wasting money.

Here are some tips on how to stay focused as you move through the workday, while still enjoying all the unique benefits of working at home.

1. Respect Your Own Time

When you work at an office, family and friends seem to naturally respect your schedule. But when you're working from home, you'll inevitably get calls at 11:00 a.m. or be expected to handle the daily errands. I'm not saying you shouldn't wait for the cable appointment or chat on the phone, but be mindful of how easy it is to have time ripped from your workday.

It's important to set boundaries, if needed. People will respect your schedule, only if you respect it first.

2. Impose Time Limits on Specific Tasks

It's easy to become distracted, particularly when dealing with a task that's challenging or a bit dull. If you find yourself losing focus, tell yourself to dedicate just 15 more minutes to the task on hand. Knowing there's an end in sight might inject new energy into the project. And if not, move on to something else and return to it when you're in a better mindset.

3. Set Strict Deadlines

Ever wonder why you're ultra productive when facing a tight deadline, while a simple task can take hours to complete? You might chalk this up to working well under pressure, but it could also be Parkinsons Law, which basically states that a task will expand to fill the time you can give it. Combat this phenomenon by imposing your own deadlines for specific tasks. These can be as complicated as finishing a proposal or as simple as responding to a client email.

4. Log Off for “Power Productivity” Hours

Digital distractions aren't just limited to Facebook and YouTube. For most, the daily barrage of emails and IMs from friends and colleagues ends up being the day's biggest time sink. If you're stuck in your inbox, dedicate chunks of the day when you unplug from your phone and email to get work done. You can log back on afterward and power through the necessary responses.

5. Delineate Your Workspace

Ideally you can have an area dedicated as your office (and preferably with a door so you can shut out unwanted distractions). Creating boundaries not only helps you be more productive "at work," but also helps you decompress during your personal time.

6. Slowing Down? Change Your Environment

If you find yourself stuck (and you've already tried the “just 15 more minutes” tactic), change your environment. Go work at the café for an hour, or brainstorm at the park. A change in scenery can spark new ideas and give you newfound focus.

7. Conduct a Time Audit

Ever finish up the day and wonder where your time went? If you're self-employed, it's important to understand exactly how you're using your time. Every so often, conduct a detailed audit of your day and keep track of what you did and how long it took. These audits can reveal great insights into your daily workflow and can help you make adjustments where needed — whether it's getting help for your bookkeeping, dropping an overly demanding client, or condensing multiple trips to the grocery store.

8. Create Task Lists

I tend to have multiple lists running at any given time. One list keeps track of longer term goals (for example, the projects I need to complete by the end of the week or month). Then each morning I also create a focused outline for the day's tasks. Try to keep your daily list as realistic and uncluttered as possible. Nothing can sap your motivation like staring at an overly ambitious list full of items you can't possibly complete.

9. Make Your Breaks Count

Whether you're working at home or in the office, it's not possible to stay focused for hours on end. Breaks are an integral part of the workday, but make sure your free time counts. Have you ever denied yourself a trip to the gym or lunch with a friend “because you're too busy?”

Chances are that on that very same day, you spent well over an hour browsing eBay, watching TV, looking at Facebook, checking your online bank account, or organizing your medicine cabinet. Busy work doesn’t accomplish anything and won't recharge your batteries. So take your dog for a hike, take an actual lunch, or do whatever you enjoy. You'll not only end up being happier, but more productive as well.

What are some of the ways that you cut out distractions and stay productive while working from home? Share your best practices in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, rocketlass

More About: business, List, Lists, remote worker, social media, startup, working from home

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New Bing Ads Highlight the Power of Facebook Friends [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 May 2011 11:38 AM PDT

Microsoft plays up a key selling point over GoogleFacebook integration — in a new round of TV spots for its Bing search engine.

The ads, the first for Bing from Crispin Porter + Bogusky (which has handled other Microsoft work, like Windows 7), illustrates Bing’s Facebook recommendations by showing Facebook pages coming to life. “I taught you how to kiss like a French person,” one woman offers, sticking out her tongue. “On several occasions, I’ve stopped you from mentioning your action figure collection,” says another. The point, as underscored by a voiceover, is that you trust your friends because they’ve helped you out in the past, so why not use their judgment for searches, too?

Microsoft and Facebook joined forces last October to provide a social media layer to Bing searches. In February, “Likes” from Facebook friends began appearing on Bing. In response, Google introduced its +1 initiative in March, which will show recommendations of Google contacts from Gmail and other sources.

What do you think of these Bing ads? Will they convince you to try the search engine? Let us know in the comments.

More About: 1, advertising, bing, crispin porter + Bogusky, facebook, gmail, Google, microsoft

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Amazon Reveals Most Well-Read Cities in the U.S.

Posted: 26 May 2011 11:13 AM PDT


Stereotypes about which areas of the United States are “more literate” than others are common, but actual data on the matter was hard to find until Amazon volunteered its records on Thursday.

The company tallied all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since January 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.

It found that academic hub Cambridge, Massachusetts, topped the list of cities that purchased the most reading material, as well as the most nonfiction books. Boulder, Colorado, purchased the most material in the Cooking, Food & Wine category. And Florida had the most cities in the general top 20.

Here is the full list of the most well-read cities in the U.S., according to Amazon sales data. Adjust stereotypes accordingly.

More About: amazon, books, Kindle, trending

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Google Overtakes Yahoo in Display Advertising [STATS]

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:56 AM PDT

Google, which long ago passed Yahoo in search advertising, now has overtaken the company in display ads as well, according to IDC.

Google claimed the number-one spot in U.S. display advertising in the first quarter, with 14.7% of the market ($396 million), up from 13.3% in Q4 2010. Yahoo’s hold on the market declined from 13.6% to 12.3%, or $330 million, in that same period.

Facebook, meanwhile, had 8.8% of the display market, or $238 million. Karsten Weide, IDC vice president and the author of the report, says he expects Facebook‘s share to overtake Yahoo’s in the third or fourth quarter.

Weide says the latest numbers reflect Google’s strength rather than Yahoo’s weakness. “They have a huge search network,” Weide says, “And anything you offer based on that is likely to work well.”

Google got into the display ad arena in earnest in September 2009, after its acquisition of DoubleClick. Since then, the business has grown rapidly and is now estimated to be worth $2.5 billion a year, including YouTube.

Other findings of the IDC report:

  • Global online ad spending grew 14.3% to $18.2 billion in the first quarter.
  • U.S. spending was up 14.2% to $8.1 billion.
  • For the ninth quarter in a row, display is growing faster than search advertising. Display’s share is now at 33.3% vs. 29% two years ago.
  • Google’s share of search advertising rose to 59.6% (vs. 59.1% in Q4 2010). Microsoft’s share was 7.9%. Yahoo’s was 7%.

Just like the IAB’s first-quarter online advertising estimates, released on Thursday, IDC’s reports shows quarterly ad revenues at a new record.

Image courtesy of Flickr, brionv

More About: advertising, facebook, Google, idc, microsoft, Yahoo

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The Atlantic Launches Twitter-Based Book Club

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:44 AM PDT

The Atlantic has announced the first selection for 1book140, an online reading and discussion club that will span the publication’s presences on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, as well its website.

Readers, in conjunction with The Atlantic‘s editorial staff and Jeff Howe — a professor of journalism at Northeastern University and the author of Crowdsourcing:Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business — have selected Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin from a pool of 300 user-submitted nominations.

More than 1,400 votes were cast in the final, three-day voting period, Bob Cohn, editorial director of Atlantic Digital said in an interview with Mashable.

1book140 is an expansion of a project Howe began a year ago at Wired, where he previously served as a contributing editor, called One Book, One Twitter. “What if everyone on Twitter read the same book at the same time and we formed one massive, international book club?” he asked, echoing a similar call made by Seattle-based librarian Nancy Pearl in 1998, which launched a series of city-wide reading clubs across the U.S.

One Book, One Twitter exceeded Howe’s expectations, bringing together some 12,000 people to read and discuss Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods last year, primarily on Twitter. “The only problem? It disappeared, like barbecues and seersucker suits, when summer came to a close,” he noted.

Now The Atlantic has given him the “perfect chance” to continue his mission in the form of an online monthly reading and discussion club. The discussion bit, which kicks off June 1, will take place primarily on Twitter (hashtag #1book140) and in the comments sections of, with cross-promotion from the publication’s Facebook and Tumblr pages.

Howe will be authoring a series of blog posts to help bridge and contextualize the discussions taking place on each of those platforms, as well as bringing in authors and third-party experts to enhance those conversations, Cohn says.

Nominations for next month’s book will begin in mid-June. We’re looking forward to taking part.

More About: book club, facebook, social media, the atlantic, twitter

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Boost Your Laptop’s Audio With Altec Lansing’s USB Orbit Stereo Speakers

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging … now that's positivenergy™.

Product: Altec Lansing Orbit USB Stereo wireless speaker

Price: $49.99 (£39.99 / €49.99)

What It’s Good For: Portability, clarity and stereo sound for laptop users.

Who It's Good For: Anyone who wants a decent laptop speaker solution for their travels and doesn’t have a huge budget.

Limitations: It’s not the loudest speaker you’ll ever hear, but for its size, it packs a punch that will easily fill a small space, such as an office or hotel room.

Bottom Line: A great budget option for laptop owners on the go who value audio clarity over volume.

A Look at the Altec Lansing Orbit USB Stereo Speakers

Portable laptop speakers are ten a penny, so you need to stand out to make an impression in an overcrowded market. Altec Lansing has focused on sound quality, portability and ease of use with its new Orbit USB Stereo offering, in an attempt to appeal to laptop owners on the go.

As far as portability goes, the speakers aren’t tiny — they measure around 5-inches long — but they are lightweight and lock into each other so they can be placed in the included travel bag for easy storage on the go. Altec Lansing claims a tough design that can handle knocks. We didn’t abuse the speakers to test this claim, but they certainly seem robust.

USB-powered, they don’t need batteries, charging or to be plugged in to the wall. To set them up, just plug one of the speakers into a USB port and then connect the two speakers with a headphone jack. The built-in legs flip out to support the speakers in use and boast rubberized pads for stability.

We were impressed with the sound quality of the USB Orbit Stereo. Positioned on either side of a 15-inch laptop, there was a real sweet spot of clarity which revealed detail in music played, particularly at the middle to higher end. Bass was lacking slightly, but as an improvement on a laptop’s built-in speakers, the average user will be satisfied with the volume increase these can pump out.

Flip-Out Legs

The speakers are supported by flip-out stands which fold flat for storage and transportation.

Rear View

The wires wind up inside the end of the speakers so they can lock together for portability.

Side View

The speakers boast an industrial look and a robust build.

The Travel Sleeve

The USB Orbit Stereo speakers come complete with a fabric travel case.

Series Supported by Energizer®

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging. Energizer® has always been designed with performance and responsibility in mind … now that's positivenergy™.

More Gadget Reviews from Mashable:

- iRig Mic Brings Big Sound to iPhone and iPad
- Logitech C910 Webcam Delivers HD Video to Mac and PC Users
- With Latest Firmware, Boxee Box Is Finally Ready for Prime Time
- WiebeTech RTX220-QR: A Hard Drive Enclosure for Video & Photo Pros
- Polaroid 300 Brings Back the Fun of Instant Film

More About: accessories, Altec-Lansing, Gadget of the Day Series, laptop accessories, laptop speakers, portable speakers, reviews, speakers

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Will the iPad 3 Have a Futuristic OLED Screen?

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:18 AM PDT

Apple watchers at the Asia News Network say Apple’s acting CEO Tim Cook took a trip to Samsung headquarters last week to look into using Samsung’s advanced OLED displays for the iPad 3.

According to, the reports indicate the iPad 3 will launch toward the end of this year, and earlier rumors point to Apple buying out all of Samsung’s manufacturing capacity of the screens for the entire year of 2011.

Samsung’s OLED capacity only totals about 48,000 “substrates” per month at the company’s new Gen-5.5 plant, says ET News. (All these OLED screens we’re talking about are active-matrix screens, or AMOLEDs.) It’s unclear how many iPad screens could be created with one substrate, which is a larger assembly that can be divided into multiple OLED screens. But the company’s $2.2 billion plant will ramp up to speed by the first half of next year and is said to be able to crank out 100,000 substrates per month by then.

Even that volume of output might not be enough for Apple’s popular tablet, which DigiTimes reports is shipping at a blistering rate of 2.4 million to 2.6 million iPads per month.

Samsung denies any such discussions took place with Apple. Samsung’s reluctance to use OLED screens on its own tablets this year, according to Slashgear, casts further doubt on the story.

Why should we care about OLED iPads, anyway? An iPad OLED touchscreen would be noticeably better than a conventional LED display. An OLED iPad could be thinner and lighter, with blacker blacks, more vivid colors, faster response time and wider viewing angles.

If Samsung can overcome the disadvantages of OLEDs, such as higher power consumption with light-colored images (such as web pages) and somewhat limited lifespan (although that’s been drastically improved recently), an OLED-packing iPad could be on the way sooner than anyone thought.

Samsung’s proven it can build the magnificent new screens for smaller smartphones, but the big question is, at what price? OLEDs are expensive. But in the long term — because the displays can be literally printed — as soon as economies of scale kick in, the screens could be considerably less expensive to produce than today’s displays.

Enter Apple, with its voracious demand for millions of screens, and that alone might be enough to bring the price down to a range where Apple can maintain its hefty profit margins. We’re thinking if an OLED-packing iPad 3 is not in the offing, an OLED iPad 4 probably is. The question is not if this is going to happen, but when.

More About: apple, ipad, ipad 3, OLED, rumor, samsung

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YouTube Pushes Further Into 3D Video

Posted: 26 May 2011 09:21 AM PDT

Lacking some 3D in your online life? You’re in luck, as Mozilla Firefox, YouTube and Nvidia have teamed up to bring HTML5-based stereoscopic 3D video to owners of Nvidia’s 3D Vision-enabled hardware.

Although 3D videos aren’t new to YouTube, the service will now transcode these videos into the open WebM format, meaning that Firefox 4 users with Nvidia’s 3D Vision hardware and glasses will be able to watch them in 3D.

For the new format to work, you need to select HTML5 Stereo View in YouTube’s 3D section. You’ll also need Nvidia’s 3D Vision kit, which includes active shutter glasses and a receiver. The kit costs $149.

The new feature obviously won’t benefit users of non-Nvidia hardware and browsers other than Firefox. But as the company continues to try and expand the reach of its 3D Vision technology, having YouTube support it is quite a big win for Nvidia.

Check out an example of a 3D Vision-enabled video below, and see other 3D videos and photos at

More About: 3D, 3D video, Firefox, HTML5, NVIDIA, youtube

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Google Reveals Mobile Payment System: Google Wallet

Posted: 26 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT

At Google’s media event Thursday in New York City, the company unveiled Google Wallet, its mobile payment system, as well as more details about Google Offers. Mashable was at the event for the announcements. Here is a recap of what happened.

Announcements Recap: Google Wallet & Offers

11:52 a.m. The event is about to get started. Press and partners are here and we’re all anticipating Google’s not so-secret NFC and contactless payment plans.

12:00 p.m. Google will be announcing Google Wallet and Google Offers, built on an open platform that is built to combine payments and offers at the point of sale. “Your phone will be your wallet.”

12:02 p.m. Consumer opinion on ecommerce is evolving, with 70% of users now comfortable with using the Internet to share and manage their financial information.

12:05 p.m. MasterCard is on stage discussing the evolution of NFC and mobile payments and how the smartphone revolution has helped push the idea into a reality, “transforming the shopping experience.”

12:07 p.m. Google is partnering with Citi, MasterCard, FirstData and Sprint to bring better and more evolved payments to the public. Google stresses this is the first step and that this vision will “take a while to come to fruition.”

12:11 p.m. Google Wallet is up first. Google Wallet will go into a field test today and will launch this summer. It uses NFC and is working with Citi and MasterCard and First Data. It turns your phone into a wallet.

12:12 p.m. The first iteration will serve payments, offers and gift cards with a single tap.

12:14 p.m. Google Offers, which will also launch this summer, will debut in San Francisco, Portland and New York. It’s more than a deal-of-the-day system, working as a place to house offers, loyalty rewards and Google Places merchant deals all in one place.

12:15 p.m. Osama Bedier, VP of Payments at Google (and formerly of PayPal) is on stage to demonstrate the Google Wallet and Google Offers product. Google Wallet requires users to associate Google Wallet with a Google account. After agreeing to terms and conditions and entering a PIN, users can then start the process of provisioning their cards to their account.

12:23 p.m. Google is now talking about the security behind mobile payment and provisioning process. Google is combining NFC with what they are calling PN65, a secure element chip paired with NFC.

12:25 p.m. Google has posted more information about Google Wallet on the Official Google Blog.

12:26 p.m. Bedier is showcasing how users can use the Google Wallet interface on the smartphone to search for offers and coupons at American Eagle, Subway and other merchants.

12:28 p.m. American Eagle is on stage with an actual point-of-sale system to showcase how the Google Wallet system works and how it can pass across credit cards, coupons and a loyalty card all in one pass. Very cool! This is called “Single Tap.”

12:30 p.m. Another founder of the Google Wallet project is on stage discussing how the “Single Tap” system works. This technology is something Google wants to continue to invest in and this fall it will be adding the ability to pass receipts back to the wallet and create dynamic cards, like loyalty program cards.

12:40 p.m. Citi is on stage discussing why they are excited about Google Wallet. Citi is “committed to leveraging this state of the art technology.” “Google Wallet represents true innovation.”

12:45 p.m. MasterCard is back on stage discussing their partnership. MasterCard sees itself “as the heart of commerce.” As an aside — I have spoken with MasterCard representatives about mobile payments and the company is fully committed to investing and innovating in the mobile payment space. This is part of what is a much larger vision for the company as a whole.

12:48 p.m. First Data is on stage. North American President Ed Labry says, “It wasn’t a question of if, but when” in regards to today’s announcement. Labry is taking us through the evolution of electronic payments — from the first credit card in the 1950s, to the inability to pay for groceries with a credit card in 1989, to the lack of credit card support at fast food restaurants in 1999. He makes good points about how quickly and naturally this space has evolved.

First Data processes $40 billion in payments a year, even though, as Labry says, “You’ve never heard of us unless you’re in the industry.” They process 50% of transactions in the U.S. Wow.

“We house 700 million cards and card numbers on pieces of plastic.” In the future, that piece of plastic will be stored on a phone. Fascinating.

12:54 p.m. Sprint is now on stage, discussing their role as a founding “carrier partner” with Google Wallet. Sprint wants to work with its OEM partners to help bridge the technology to support Google Wallet to the network.

The Nexus S 4G will support Google Wallet from day one.

12:56 p.m. Google is back on stage showing a retail partner video.

1:01 p.m. Again, Google will start field-testing today and plan on launching this summer. Google is now taking questions.

First question: For Offers, Google will be the merchant of record and that’s how they will make money on Google Offers.

“What happens if you lose your phone?” — If you lose your phone, cards can be deprovisioned over the air.

“How open is open? Can I use this on my Windows Phone 7 or iPhone? How many NFC payment locations are out there?” — Google is coy on the NFC numbers and says that “we will work with all platforms and partners, especially if they build NFC into their hardware.” The answer strikes us as hedging and non-specific, but this does seem to be more of a Google play, not necessarily an Android play.

“Why do you still need a signature?” — Partly a merchant decision, even though Google thinks the security in its implementation for payments is much higher. Seems more piece of mind than anything else.

“Google’s revenue opportunity?” — Again, Google makes money on Offers and is not charging on the payments side. That has huge implications.

Google also pointed out that the Google Offers app will be available for download, even for non-NFC Android phones. Users can also add an NFC sticker to their phone to add capability. NFC will be added to future Android devices.

CNBC is asking about data ownership and privacy issues. Google says that the data is owned by the various merchant partners and payment companies and the consumer itself.

1:19 p.m. That’s a wrap folks!

More About: Google, Google Offers, google wallet, mobile payments, nfc

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