Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Kobo’s New App Lets You See Who’s Reading With You”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Kobo’s New App Lets You See Who’s Reading With You”

Kobo’s New App Lets You See Who’s Reading With You

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Kobo is continuing its bet on social books with a new feature that shows who is reading at the same time as you and a Facebook integration that makes sharing your reading activity automatic, using Facebook’s new Open Graph.

The Borders-backed company became the first of the major ebook players to add a social layer to reading when it released a product called Reading Life in December 2010. That product tracks reading activity in a dashboard and rewards users with badges when they meet new characters or approach milestones in their reading. They can choose to share all of these items to Facebook as they go.

Now that sharing — and more — can happen automatically if the reader chooses. Kobo announced that it would become one of the first book platforms to use Facebook’s new Open Graph at f8 last week. This means the app doesn’t need to ask for permission every time it posts to a user’s wall and can send updates to the news ticker.

If two friends are reading the same book, for instance, that might show up on their mutual friends’ news ticker. Reading habits can be a box in Facebook Timelines, and, in some cases, Kobo will post interesting tidbits about a reader’s activity on his or her wall.

Kobo has also brought social interactions to the page level with a new feature called Kobo Pulse. While Reading Life’s social features were largely contained within a separate dashboard of the Kobo app, Kobo Pulse inserts them right into books’ pages. It will initially launch on the iPhone and iPad.

On each page of a book, there’s a button (“a pulse”) that glows when there is a lot of social activity on the page. Tapping it pulls up a bar that shows how many of Kobo’s 5 million users are reading and discussing the book, how many have liked it, and how many comments the page has. Dragging it upward pulls up a dashboard that keeps track of the conversation happening throughout the book, displays reader reviews and recommends new books.

Critics of ebooks often cite the escape that a static paper book provides — and they started making that argument long before Kobo added discussions and sharing to every page. Kobo’s social book concept is fun. It’s instantly gratifying to see how other people have reacted to specific passages as you’re reading them. But will it ruin reading?

“I think that even people who feel that books are, as you describe, a quiet moment would still agree that when they’re done reading a chapter, when they’ve paused in a book, they do talk about it with others,” says Kobo CFO Dan Liebu. “They talk about it with others who have read the book, they talk about it with their friends. And we’ve given them the means to do that.”

The unconvinced, he says, can always turn the feature off.

More About: ereader, kobo

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Geocities Archive Data Turned Into a Stunning Digital City [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 05:56 AM PDT

Once upon a time, before Facebook and Twitter, there was a web service called Geocities.

Long a synonym for ugly websites with obnoxious ads, the web hosting service was shut down (except in Japan, where it’s still active) in 2009. But its closure did bring a tear to the eye of many Internet veterans who remember that Geocities did host some very interesting sites.

Enter Archive Team, a collective bent on saving our digital heritage. It made a backup of Geocities just before it shut down. Now, information designer Richard Vijgen turned the 650 GB data file into an amazing visualization called The Deleted City, in which the users of Geocities are displayed as tenants in an enormous virtual city.

Unfortunately, you cannot interact with the resulting visualization, but you can see it in action in the video below.

More About: geocities, Video, visualization

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Amazon’s Competition: The 10 Most Influential Tablets on the Market

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 04:42 AM PDT

We expect Amazon to reveal its Android tablet on Wednesday. Whether or not it is an iPad killer, the new tablet — supposedly dubbed the Kindle Fire — is sure to cause a stir. But is Amazon entering an already saturated market? Take a look at the top 10 tablets that have captured our attention most recently. Which is your favorite so far? Let us know in the comments below.

1. iPad 2

Manufacturer: Apple, Inc.

OS / Version: iOS 4

Screen Size: 9.7 inches

Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768

Processor Type / Speed: Apple A5 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB

2. Blackberry Playbook

Manufacturer: RIM

OS / Version: BlackBerry Tablet OS

Screen Size: 7 inches

Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600

Processor Type / Speed: TI OMAP 4430 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Manufacturer: Samsung

OS / Version: Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 10.1

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB

4. HP Touchpad

Manufacturer: HP

OS / Version: webOS 3.0

Screen Size: 9.7 inches

Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768

Processor Type / Speed: Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 / 1.2 GHz

Storage: 16, 32 GB

5. Motorola Xoom

Manufacturer: Motorola

OS / Version: Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 10.1 inches

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 32 GB

6. Toshiba Thrive

Manufacturer: Toshiba

OS / Version: Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 10.1 inches

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 8, 16, 32 GB

7. Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet

Manufacturer: Lenovo

OS / Version: Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 10.1 inches

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32 GB

8. Sony Tablet S

Manufacturer: Sony

OS / Version: Android 3.1 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 9.4 inches

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32 GB

9. HTC Flyer

Manufacturer: HTC

OS / Version: Android 2.3 Gingerbread

Screen Size: 7 inches

Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600

Processor Type / Speed: Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 / 1.5 GHz

Storage: 32 GB

10. Asus Transformer Eee Pad Transformer

Manufacturer: Asus

OS / Version: Android 3.2 Honeycomb

Screen Size: 10.1 inches

Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800

Processor Type / Speed: Nvidia Tegra 250 / 1.0 GHz

Storage: 16, 32GB

SEE ALSO: Amazon's Tablet: The iPad's Biggest Threat

Image courtesy of Flickr, Wooly Matt

More About: blackberry, features, ipad, samsung galaxy, Tablet

Happy Birthday Google: Celebrate With All the Anniversary Doodles [PICS]

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 02:13 AM PDT

This month marks Google’s 13th anniversary. The exact date Google celebrates this occasion has changed over the years, according to the company, “depending on when people feel like having cake.”

However, in recent years Sept. 27 is the day the celebratory Google Doodle appears; since 2002 Google has put up a different doodle each year. To celebrate, we’ve taken a look back at every birthday doodle posted — starting with today’s.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animated Google Doodles | Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years | 10 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Google

Take a look through the image gallery below. Shout out your felicitations to Google in the comments below.


Google's gone old school this year with a retro-styled birthday party snapshot.


Last year Google borrowed a Wayne Thiebaud cake to mark its 12th year in business.


Google kept things simple in 2009; it replaced the "L" of the logo with the number 11.


For Google's 10th anniversary the logo reverted to the original design from 1998. Apparently the server rack symbolizes what Google had hoped to receive as a birthday present.


Google's second "G" was replaced with a colorful piñata in 2007, appropriately shaped like a number nine to mark that special day.


A cute cupcake greeted Google users on Sept. 27, 2006.


Seven scrumptious-looking slices of cake decorated the logo to occasion Google's seventh year in business.


In 2004 Google selected Sept. 7 to celebrate its six-year milestone.


The company also chose Sept. 7, 2003 as the date to cut the cake for Google's fifth birthday.


Finally, the very first doodle celebrating Google's birthday appeared on September 27, 2002. It marked the search engine's 4th anniversary.

More About: features, gallery, Google, google doodles, Lists

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Apple Denied Trademark for Multi-Touch by Patent Office

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 01:16 AM PDT


Here’s a term Apple will have no dominion over: “multi-touch”.

Apple originally applied for the trademark on Jan. 9, 2007, (the day when iPhone was announced), but the United States Patent and Trademark Office decided that the term was too broad.

After Apple’s appeal, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board upheld the original decision. From the decision:

“The examining attorney maintains that "multi-touch" is"highly descriptive" and identifies a type of touchscreen interface which "allows a user to manipulate and control the functions of an electronic device by using more than one finger simultaneously. … Again, simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness.”

This comes as no surprise as the term multi-touch was used in the pre-iPhone era. For example, 9to5Mac points to a paper by Jeff Han that uses the term in 2005.

[via MacRumors]

More About: apple, iphone, multi-touch, trademark

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Should Spotify Users Be Required to Have Facebook Accounts? [POLL]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:32 PM PDT

Spotify has come under a lot of fire for a recent decision to force users to use Facebook to sign up for its streaming music service. The change, made not long after Facebook’s f8 developer conference on Thursday, removes the option of signing up with an email address and a password. Instead, users have to use Facebook Connect.

Here’s how Spotify explained the decision in a statement:

“To us, this is all about creating an amazing new world of music discovery. As most of our users are already social and have already connected to Facebook, it seemed logical to integrate Spotify and Facebook logins. We already use Facebook as part of our backend to power our social features and by adopting Facebook's login, we've created a simple and seamless social experience."

Spotify goes on to explain that it believes the change makes it easier on the user, since they don’t have to remember yet another username and password.

SEE ALSO: Spotify Comes to Facebook [PICS]

There are a lot of people that are unhappy with the decision. The company’s GetSatisfaction account is filled with angry and confused responses:

“I just don’t get it. Before you had access to every user of the web, and now you are restricting membership to people who like and trust Facebook. If you want to make more money, improve your service, add better features and provide a better product. It’s the only way to win the freemium battle, not ridiculous moves like this.”

Spotify is trying to leverage the reach and power of the world’s largest social network to grow its user base and distinguish itself from the competition, but has it gone too far? We’re curious about what you think, so vote in the poll we’ve included below, and let us know what you think of Spotify’s decision in the comments.

BONUS: Spotify on Facebook

Spotify Hearts Facebook

Spotified Facebook Profile

Spotify in the News Feed

Shiny Happy People Laughin

Spotify Dashboard

Spotify in a Real Feed

Spotify in a Band's Fan Page

More About: Facebook, poll, spotify

Sports Illustrated Puts Football Rivals on the iPhone and iPad

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:16 PM PDT

Sports Illustrated continues its push into digital arenas that extend beyond the print publication. The company’s latest iOS app, Sports Illustrated Football Rivals for iPhone [iTunes link] and iPad [iTunes link] successfully merges the robust sports history of the SI brand with modern tech.

The free app contains a deep look at what SI editors have deemed the ten biggest rivalries in football, including both college and professional teams. From Ohio State versus Michigan to the Cowboys versus the Redskins, the app was designed for football fans.

The app is almost Flipboard-esque in its construction — and we mean that in the best way possible. Selecting a rivalry takes users to a navigable timeline with historic call-outs for important dates and games. Each highlight is accompanied by text, audio and video clips. Emmy-winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) narrates the app’s video and photo montages.

The result is a hybrid between one of ESPN Classic’s rivalry episodes and a digital newspaper. Even for a non-football fan like myself, it makes for a compelling app experience.

It’s clear that Sports Illustrated put a lot of time into creating the app and building out its content. It’s a great way to remind users of the SI brand legacy and a great tie-in for football season. We hope that Time Inc. considers expanding this franchise to other sports like the NBA, NHL or even sports like boxing or tennis.

Essentially this app is the modern approach at seasonal inserts or stand-alone special issues. The fact that the app is free is great, but SI could charge for this content probably still get a lot of buyers.

Check out the gallery to see the app in action and give Sports Illustrated Football Rivals a download. Even for non-football fans, the app’s design is worth checking out.

What is your favorite football rivalry? Let us know in the comments.

Loading Screen

Rivalry Selection

SI has put together what it deems the biggest rivalries in football. The top ten rivalries are presented.

Rivalry Selection

Welcome Screen


The rivalries timelines is displayed on the screen. Users can scroll through and progress through the years. Tapping on a call-out pulls up more information about a specific elements of the rivalry.

History Pages

History Pages

By the Numbers

Each rivalry also has its own infographic-style stats page.


Fans can take a quiz to see how much they know about their favorite rivalry.

Timeline View

Timeline View

Timeline View

Timeline View

2011 Game Info

You can get info about the 2011 game between two rivals and take a pre-game poll.

Poll Results

Post Game Information

After the game takes place, this section will have additional information and updates.

More About: football, ipad apps, sports, Sports illustrated

Water Balloon + Face + Slow-Motion Camera = Art [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:27 PM PDT

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

Summer may be over, but it’s always the season for water balloon fights. Especially when those water balloons don’t pop — and are captured in super slow-motion.

The crew at Smarter Every Day made this video over the weekend at an art festival in Alabama. Using a Vision Research Phantom camera, they managed to slow down the point of impact enough to calculate the frequency at which the target’s nose was vibrating.

And as an added bonus, what’s cooler than a water balloon to the face in slow-motion? Answer: Two water balloons to the face in slow-motion. They don’t pop, either.

[via The Daily What]

More About: viral-video-of-the-day, water balloons

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4 Key Considerations for Scaling Your Database

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:05 PM PDT

Razi Sharir is the CEO of Xeround – The Cloud Database Company – that provides an elastic database-as-a-service for MySQL applications.

Scalability is one of the biggest buzzwords around the cloud ecosystem. Scalability of the database tier, in particular, takes center stage these days.

The cloud promises scalability in that virtualized resources — from a tiny application up to huge traffic volumes — can be easily added or removed to accommodate any use case or demand. While scalability of the application tier is pretty much a no-brainer (and many solutions address that), the scalability of the sensitive database tier still remains the Achilles' heel for many applications running in the cloud.

When evaluating a database solution, it's important to make sure your database scales in a way that is optimal for the needs of your application. Below are four key things to consider when choosing a suitable scaling solution for your database.

1. Traffic

Database scalability should accommodate your application's traffic at any given time. And as we know, the demand for your application varies considerably throughout the hours of the day, the months of the year and the application's life span. Some apps are peak-driven, while others may start small and then explode (e.g. Twitter). Not all traffic is predictable, so when demand goes through the roof, you want to be able to sustain it rather than risk losing business.

Besides the occasional peaks in demand, automatic scaling assures your database will always run optimally in the cloud. You'll want to save on costs by having the resources allocated for your database closely linked to the actual demand. That way, when your application is experiencing a more moderate load, you won't preserve the underutilized resources or continue to pay for them. As your database scales out when the application demands it, it shrinks back down when it is underutilized. This is true elasticity. You only pay for what you use, with no need for any of the extensive management or configuration overhead on your part, allowing you to focus on what’s most important: your applications.

2. Downtime

Hand-in-hand with automatic scaling, I recommend that scaling is transparent to the application, so you do not need to change your code or your configuration every time you need to scale.

Ideally, scaling should be done "online," meaning scaling should occur without service interruption or downtime. Overall service should be maintained. Otherwise, the application might suffer some performance degradation during the scaling time. Since your database records could change during the scale event, any solution that offers online scalability needs to be able to ensure data consistency between the pre-scaling and post-scaling database.

3. Peformance

Think of how you would need to scale and which common database operations will require scaling. There are two types of scaling: scaling up and down and scaling out and in. The first is the most common and simplest way to scale: If your database needs more size or better performance, simply buy a bigger, faster, meaner machine. However, scaling up has limits. Capacity cannot extend past a single machine’s size, and large machines are often too expensive or not available with many public clouds.

Unlike scaling up, scaling out means adding nodes: front end nodes will give you more throughput, and will "share" the load of the application, while backend nodes will give you more size. Scaling across multiple nodes (although more complex to achieve) has the advantage of being able to scale beyond the limits of a single machine's size or CPU.

4. Investment

Last but not least, ask yourself how much work, maintenance and technical expertise are you willing to invest in ensuring scalability for your database. For some developers, the DIY approach may be most suitable. Others may prefer focusing on the app rather than on the IT, instead opting for a database-as-a-service solution that takes care of scalability for them.

As developers gradually migrate more of their applications to the cloud, it's becoming abundantly clear that databases in a cloud environment are inherently different than traditional installs. Given that, at the end of the day, the availability and potential growth of the application are only as good as the scalability of the database behind it. The key is to always make sure your solution can accommodate future growth and use cases of your application.

Image courtesy of Flickr, KEXINO

More About: database, features

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Now You Can Share Your Google+ Circles With Others

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:35 PM PDT

Google has rolled out a new feature for Google+ that lets users share the circles they’ve curated with their friends.

“Starting today, you can actually share your favorite circles with others,” Google+ engineer Owen Prater said on Google+. “So if you've got a great Photographers or Celebrities circle, for instance, then you can share a copy with your friends.”

A new “Share” link now appears when you hover over a circle on the Google+ Circles page. Clicking the link will let you add a comment and share that circle with your friends on Google+. The search giant is careful to point out that this only shares the members of the circle you’re sharing and not what you’ve named the circle. That will always remain private.

The young social network is on the rise ever since it opened itself up to the public. A recent report claims that Google+ now has 43 million users, an increase of 30% since dropping the invite barrier. Another report pegs Google+ as the eight largest social network in the world, just behind MySpace and LinkedIn.

More About: Google

Facebook Forms A Social Network PAC

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 05:45 PM PDT

Facebook filed paperwork Monday to form a political action committee, FB PAC, which will advocate for social networks to U.S. politicians.

The PAC, supported by company contributions, plans to back candidates in future elections. “FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” a spokesperson told The Hill.

Facebook’s lobbying aspirations became clear following reports that the social network had purchased domain names such as “FBPAC.org” and “FBPAC.us.”

According to The Hill‘s report, Facebook has already spent $550,000 on lobbying in the 2011 fiscal year, a number which has been increasing annually.

With other tech giants like Google facing antitrust cases before Congress, it makes sense that the world’s largest social network of 800 million users would want to focus their Washington influence. But we’ll be very interested to see exactly which candidates they back — and why.

What do you think of the growing role of social media in politics? Do they belong together? Let us know in the comments.

See Also: Double Rainbow Guy Is Running For President on Facebook; You Can Too

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, VisualField

More About: Facebook, Politics

Is the Era of Music Video Games Really Over?

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 05:08 PM PDT

Scott Steinberg is the author of the new book Music Games Rock (100% free to download online). He is a noted technology expert, the CEO of high-tech consulting firm TechSavvy Global, and a frequent keynote speaker and media analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN. A celebrated author and entrepreneur, he also hosts video series Gear Up and Game Theory.

The universe gave us rock 'n roll. Then it snatched it back in 2009, when the music video game industry collapsed from a record $1.7 billion the year prior.

The market suffered a nearly 50% sales collapse across the board in 2009. It didn't help that MTV sold Rock Band maker Harmonix, and Activision decided to temporarily bench the once-proud Guitar Hero series. Some have even gone on to predict these kinds of setbacks could mean curtains for the genre. Just one problem for critics: Such prognoses are complete and utter bull.

Long before the Fab Four ever flirted with blockbuster band simulations, or Dance Central allowed us to get awkwardly footloose, each enjoyed a healthy romance with gaming fans – not to mention success across other eras, concepts and formats.

For instance, mobile and online-enabled games like Tap Tap Revenge 4 and Slayer: Pinball Rocks continue to tear up the charts, and prove a more cost-effective alternative to $120 instrument bundles. Fans are also enthusiastic over karaoke and dancing games — like Just Dance 3 and Dance Central 2 — given the multiplatinum-selling success of Michael Jackson: The Experience. But, in all fairness, given the recent topsy-turvy performance of the rhythm gaming genre, one can't exactly blame industry naysayers.

It's a troubling sign that even games paired with headlining bands struggle to go multiplatinum. Furthermore, some of the most ambitious and fulfilling digital diversions fail to even tweak the dial on most fans' radars. However, dig a bit deeper into the reasons behind the recent financial troubles. You'll find primary relegation to mobile and social games such as Tap Tap Glee and Say What?!, as well as general-purpose apps such as Songify and Cambox.

Today's economic headaches are causing cash-strapped gaming enthusiasts to budget more than ever. Publishers have also been slow to realize when it's time to give up the ghost. Much as virtual spin-offs sell as the interactive equivalent of collector's boxed sets — from DJ Hero to Green Day: Rock Band — too many have flooded shelves in too short a period of time. Worse, most not only play to an increasingly limited audience, but also require the use of pricey plastic instruments. That's a hard pill to swallow, especially because one is able to download value-priced content (e.g. new songs and track packs) that keep older games feeling fresh.

Nowadays, shoppers are smarter about how they spend their money. They're less willing to buy pricey accessories only compatible with a small range of titles. Even more, the price of the average music and rhythm game more than doubled that of the average video game in recent years. Pair that with the rise of free-to-play alternatives for web browsers, smartphones and PCs, new on-demand digital download platforms, and a growing, but still relatively nascent audience averse to overspending on polystyrene turntables. Pullback is inevitable.

However, just as detractors once tried to write off rock 'n roll, or dub it a tool of the devil, one shouldn't be so quick to abandon music gaming quite yet. It's easy to see that music not only impacts every human being on the planet, but it also serves as a common unifier across age, gender, class and religion. Capable of bringing people of all ages together around shared social experiences, music games are an ideal way to bridge the gap between disparate backgrounds and generations — hence the reason they've dubbed karaoke this generation's happy hour activity of choice.

From a retail standpoint, new games that play to niche audiences, like Child of Eden and Rocksmith, may continue to face an uphill battle. However, each new day brings heightened acceptance and growth for the field, especially after an acclaimed musician endorses a game. Consider titles like Rock Band, which one might have expected to flounder without former parent company MTV's guidance. Still going strong, it offers 2700+ songs by over 900 artists, with a million players continuing to login each month to download new tracks. It has now digitally distributed over 100 million tracks.

Already, we've watched games like Madden NFL provide an additional outlet for bands. Using this type of platform, bands have a better chance at mainstream success than individual radio station promotion. The world's largest record labels are starting to feel threatened by the rise of music games, which offer audiophiles an interactive way to enjoy tracks. We've just begun to witness the rise of groundbreaking virtual distribution services such as Rock Band Network, which allows independent and unsigned bands the chance to be discovered by millions, without the need for a label's input. Finally, the greatest acts of yesteryear have begun embracing music games as a way to bridge the gap between generations.

All things considered, critics shouldn't be so hasty to dismiss music video games. These games' SoundScan numbers may be irrelevant. Instead we should be pioneering new ways to experience and enjoy some of history's greatest recordings, not to mention blow open the doors for tomorrow's headlining acts. Today's market is not an indicator that it's time to take a final bow. The music game industry's current growing pains may rather be a sign that the party's just getting started. Get your devil horns ready…

Images courtesy of Flickr, snailsareslimy, - reuben -

More About: Business, features, Gaming, Music, rock band

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Amazon’s Tablet: The iPad’s Biggest Threat

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 03:55 PM PDT

Amazon Tablet

Amazon's tablet, reportedly named the Kindle Fire, could be the first Android device to effectively challenge Apple's iPad. Or it could end up as just another over-hyped, under-performing tablet steamrolled by the Apple juggernaut.

With less than 36 hours until Amazon officially unveils its device, it's hard to say which way things will go. But I do know what factors will make a difference.

Ultimately, it's a question of how much Amazon has in common with Apple. If they have enough of the same DNA, that fact may separate the color Kindle apart from every other Android tablet on the market — and give Cupertino a run for its money.

Apple’s Ecosystem

When Apple launched its powerhouse iPad tablet (almost two years ago), there was no questioning the excellent industrial design; it instantly put every potential tablet manufacturer on notice. Still, good looks alone don't account for the iPad's now dominant market position. Apple had actually spent years building and priming its tablet market long before delivering the iPad.

Like the iPhone and iPod before it, the iPad plugged into a powerful Apple ecosystem. This is a digital world that began a decade ago with the introduction of iTunes (Apple called it "Jukebox Software" in 2001).

Ten months later, Apple launched the perfect iTunes companion: the iPod. Obviously, the marriage was planned. It was a perfect union that single-handedly revived the moribund MP3-player market. Not since the days of Wintel (the collaboration between Microsoft Windows and Intel-based PCs) that began almost 20 years ago had hardware and software been designed in such a complementary manner.

With the arrival of the AppStore for the iPod and iPhone in 2008, Apple’s ecosystem was complete. The wildly popular application destination became the template for all future hosted application services, though none have been quite as successful as the original. By the time the iPad arrived in 2010, the AppStore was filled with hundreds of thousands of iPhone apps. More importantly, some developers, despite giving Apple a 30% cut, were getting rich.

Today, there are almost half a million iPhone and iPod apps. In the space of less than two years, there are almost 100,000 iPad apps. I don't know exactly how many Android tablet apps there are, but I do know that any time I've used an Android tablet, I have a heck of a time finding decent Android tablet apps (there are thousands of excellent Android phone apps). Tablet developers are clearly building their iPad versions first and, given the 25 millions iPads already sold, likely achieving their greatest success on the iOS platform.

Amazon Kindle’s Difference

On the one hand, Amazon's supposedly stylish 7-inch Android tablet (if you go by TechCrunch's hands-on with a prototype), enters a crowded field of similar Android tablets. But Amazon, like Apple, has spent years building a foundation for its own hardware/software ecosystem. Take, for example, the Kindle’s free and completely integrated 3G technology, Whispernet. This pioneering network technology allows you to buy and consume books wherever you are.

Amazon has one big advantage over virtually every other Android Tablet manufacturer: it understand user interfaces. No other competitor, aside from Apple, runs such an active and varied website for consumers. The Seattle-based retailer has been perfecting Amazon.com's interface for 16 years. When Amazon was just books, it was pretty straightforward — but as the company added other product categories, it struggled to find an rational interface metaphor. Even so, Amazon was the acknowledged leader in the space. When it introduced tabs, all other online retail sites tried them as well.

Today, Amazon.com is a rich and usable retail site, one that often serves as the check-out counter for brick and mortar outlets. When Amazon launched its own hardware, it did not try to recreate the website in a six-inch interface (a trick it may have learned from Apple). It focused on how to make finding, reading and organizing books as easy as possible on the limited e-ink interface.

This kind of restraint would bode well for a 7-inch, back-lit, color Kindle Fire. Most Android Tablets, even the ones running Google’s tablet-ready Honeycomb interface, are too ready to show you their geeky underbellies. Apple's iPad aptly shields users from that kind of experience, and I believe Amazon will do the same. The interface should be purpose-driven — clear and clean, with access to your library of Kindle books, movies to rent and stream, DRM-free music and a relatively short list of Android Tablet apps.

Retail Advantage

Amazon also understands the retail space better than some of the manufacturers who delivered under-performing, over-priced Android tablets. The supposed entry level price for the Kindle Fire is $250, which will turn a lot of heads. Amazon could be selling these tablets at something very near a loss. When iSupply tore down the similar 7-inch Galaxy tab, they found $205 worth of materials — which does not count in the cost of labor.

But I doubt Amazon cares if it takes a small loss on the tablets. They'll be putting a fully functional, Internet and media-ready portal to all of its products in the hands of millions of existing customers. (How many people do you know who do not have an Amazon account?)

Even Apple’s iTunes store can't offer the product variety Amazon customers will find on the Kindle Fire. Amazon sweetens the deal with its Amazon Prime service, a unique $79-per-year offering that bundles streaming content with free shipping on all Amazon purchases That's something no other tablet competitor can match at the moment.

The Kindle Fire could also help all Android tablets solve their biggest problem: a dearth of tablet-specific apps. If developers see millions of new Android customers arriving through Amazon's App Store (yes, it has one), they may actually consider developing for the Android platform first. It's a long shot, I know, and there are countless other factors at work in the battle for table dominance. Yet the Kindle Fire is the probably best matched contender we'll see this year. I expect it to come out swinging.

What do you think? Does the Amazon Kindle Tablet stand a chance? Let us know in the comments.

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

More About: amazon, amazon tablet, ipad, Opinion

6 Indie Games We Can’t Wait to Play

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 03:30 PM PDT

As we approach fall and the holiday season, game companies will release many attractive big-name titles. But while you’re deciding between the latest incarnations of Gears of War, Modern Warfare and Madden, don’t forget that the best surprises sometimes come from independent game companies. Check out six independent developer games that we hope to get our thumbs on as soon as possible.

Word Fighter

As a writer, I genuinely enjoy words and English lit, which is why Word Fighter caught my attention immediately. This game pits famous literary names in single combat -- not with punches, but with the power of prose. To attack, you create words in the grid below your character and then shoot them at your enemy.

Word Figher looks great for anyone who was a fan of Bookworm Adventures or Puzzle Fighter, and will be available on both iOS and Android. The company behind it, Feel Every Yummy, was recently named part of the PAX 10, a group of the 10 best upcoming indie games at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Watch a video of the trailer here.

Image courtesy Feel Every Yummy.

Retro City Rampage

Retro City Rampage takes the best aspects of Grand Theft Auto, and smashes them into an eight-bit world sprinkled with plenty of hilarious '80s references. The graphics are bright, beautiful and nostalgic; the soundtrack previews sound amazing; and the game just begs for you to go on a rampage.

Vblank Entertainment Inc. has been teasing fans with screenshots, videos and merchandise for some time now, and hopefully those wanting to play it on XBLA won't have to wait too much longer. The game will be released for WiiWare shortly after its Xbox release.

View the gameplay trailer here. Image courtesy Vblank Entertainment Inc.

Jurassic Park

While it's true Telltale Games is starting to become an institution, they're just "indie" enough for this roundup, which is perfect because who doesn't want to talk about Jurassic Park? After Telltale's re-imagining of the Back to the Future universe, we only expect great things for dinosaurs. The setting is right after the end of the 1993 original movie, so you can ignore the less-than-stellar sequels and enjoy a fun alternate history on the original island.

All Telltale titles are point-and-click adventures, so I'm expecting the same thing from Jurassic Park. I will be eagerly awaiting Nov. 10, when the game comes out for Xbox, PC, Mac and PlayStation. Here's a gameplay video from Telltale's site.

Image courtesy Telltale Games.


After watching gameplay trailers for Fez, another PAX 10 winner from this year, I've determined it's the video game equivalent of tending your bonsai tree. The platformer is set in a beautiful 3D world of islands floating in space. The player controls a cute, blob-headed sprite named Gomez. It features shifts in perspective similar to those seen in Super Paper Mario on Wii. Polytron, a Canadian two-person studio, hasn't set a formal released date for Fez -- they say it's the "longest developed game ever" -- but it will be an XBLA title.

Watch a gameplay video.

Air Mech

For anyone who was a fan of Fat Princess, you'll be happy to learn that Carbon Games announced its newest title at PAX this year: a real-time strategy game called AirMech. You're part mech, part plane, taking over bases and commanding ground vehicles. While the game is only in closed alpha, it already looks like a fun, multiplayer RTS. (Hint: visiting Carbon's website allows you to sign up for a chance to be in the alpha/beta testing.)

Check out this gameplay video from PAX.

Battleblock Theater

Castle Crashers ruled my life for a good month, so anything by The Behemoth is going to draw some interest. Battleblock Theater is a cooperative platformer in which you play a user-created character trapped on a island and forced to battle! The art, like Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid, looks quirky and unique, and the game already has promise of replay value, not to mention mini-games that will keep you busy for hours.

The downside is that there hasn't been a hard release date, and this game has been teasing fans since 2009, when footage was shown at San Diego Comic Con. When it does come out, it should be available on XBLA.

The trailer itself is amazing, and worth a watch.

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Facebook to Launch iPad App at Apple’s iPhone 5 Event [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 02:31 PM PDT

Facebook will launch its long-awaited iPad app at Apple’s iPhone 5 launch event on Oct. 4, Mashable has learned. In addition to the iPad app, Facebook is also expected to release a revamped version of its iPhone app and may unveil an HTML5-based mobile app marketplace.

The Facebook iPad app, which leaked earlier this year, has been in limbo at Facebook for the past few months. That much was made clear in a blog post Monday by former Facebook engineer Jeff Verkoeyen. In that post, he revealed that he left the company (for Google) partially because Facebook has been sitting on the completed app since May.

The problem, according to two sources familiar with the situation, has been a combination of timing and a strained relationship with Apple. It’s no secret that the two companies have been at odds over various issues during the past two years. For example, the social network pulled the plug on Facebook Connect in Ping because Apple didn’t give Facebook any warning about the feature, which would have eaten a great deal of bandwidth on Facebook’s side.

We’ve also heard rumors that Facebook was supposed to be integrated into iOS. This was meant to happen years ago, but disagreements on both sides eventually led to Apple integrating Twitter into iOS 5.

The relationship between the two technology giants is warming up, however, thanks to the shared goal of beating Google — and the simple fact that Facebook and Apple may need each other. The former doesn’t have a mobile platform while Apple doesn’t have a social platform. The culmination of this renewed friendship: the launch of Facebook for iPad at Apple’s iPhone 5 media event.

At this event, our sources also expect Facebook to unveil a new version of Facebook for the iPhone, with design and speed improvements that mimic the iPad app.

Facebook has also been working on a project to bring the Facebook Platform to mobile devices. The project, labeled “Project Spartan” by some (a name not used internally at Facebook, according to one of our sources), is designed to be a platform where developers can bring their Facebook apps to mobile devices via an HTML5 platform.

What we’re hearing is that Apple is actually working with Facebook on perfecting the HTML5 platform. This could also launch at Apple’s upcoming iPhone event, though our sources wouldn’t commit to a specific launch date for the platform. Facebook decided not to launch it at f8, as it didn’t want to water down the announcement of the new Facebook Open Graph and Timeline.

When we said last week that Facebook would be profoundly changed, we weren’t just referring to the new Facebook Open Graph and the “frictionless sharing” touted by Mark Zuckerberg. We were also talking about its secretive effort to become a mobile platform for the social web. And thanks to Apple, it looks like that effort is about to come to fruition.

We’ve reached out to Apple and Facebook for comment.

Mashable’s Jennifer Van Grove contributed to this report.

Facebook for iPad: Leaked Screenshots

Here are the leaked screenshots of the Facebook for iPad app, from earlier this year:

App Icon

The Facebook icon looks the same. Note the Cydia and iFile icons. Right now, in order to access Facebook for iPad, you need to be running a jailbroken iPad 1 or iPad 2.

Loading Screen

Facebook Login

News Feed

The default screen is the Facebook News Feed.

News Feed Options

You can select various filters for the app, just like in Facebook on the desktop.

Side Panel

Sliding the main window to the right reveals an enhanced Facebook sidebar. This interaction, which is similar to Twitter for iPad, provides access to Groups, Events, Places and Messages.

Side Panel

In landscape mode, the panel appears alongside the elongated news feed if swiped to the right.

Status Update

Sharing a status update works as expected. Tapping on the lock icon shows you visibility options.

Visibility Options


Photo albums are displayed in a grid-like manner, using the same styling Apple uses in its Photos app.

Add Photos

You can create a new album or add photos from your device to an existing album.


Notifications are accessible throughout the app.

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat works on the iPad. Users can communicate iChat style through the panel on the right.

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat works quite well, but note the lack of hyperlink support.

Like or Comment

A modal window gives an option to "Like" or comment on a post or status update.

Places Check In

Who says the iPad isn't mobile! Facebook Places is supported in the app.

Places Map view

Places Friends View

Facebook Groups

Groups can be accessed from the side panel.

User Wall

User Info

User Wall Interactions

In landscape mode, comments and likes on a status update or wall post appear in the right hand panel.

Viewing Comments on a Photo

Replying to Comments

Logging Out

To log out, tap the arrow underneath your name in the left side panel.

Account Screen

Facebook for iPad supports multiple accounts, which is great for users who share an iPad with other family members.

Remove an Account

To remove an account, tap and hold the profile photo and then tap on the "X."

Remove Account Options

When an account is removed, all the information about it is wiped off of the device as well.

More About: apple, Facebook, facebook for ipad, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPhone 5

Android Outnumbered iPhone 2 to 1 in Summer Sales [STUDY]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 01:56 PM PDT

The delay in Apple’s usual summer iPhone rollout has been good for Android: Google’s mobile OS has outsold Apple’s iOS two to one in the last three months, finds Nielsen. Fifty-six percent of smartphones sold since June have been Android.

That figure suggests Android’s increasing market share. Among Nielsen’s sample of 25,000 mobile phone owners, 43% have Android devices. Meanwhile, 28% of people who bought a smartphone in the last three months purchased an iPhone, which is consistent with the overall market share of iPhones. Eighteen percent of respondents have a BlackBerry, although only 9% bought one in the last three months.

For Apple, the stagnation likely reflects pent-up demand for the iPhone 5, which is likely to be announced Oct. 4. This will be late for Apple since every iPhone update since 2007 has come during the summer. For BlackBerry, the numbers signal a decline in influence that has been indicated in many other surveys. Similarly, Android has flirted with 50% in other estimates.

Fortunately for all three companies, Nielsen found smartphone penetration is rising. Although 43% of respondents have a smartphone, 58% bought one rather than a feature phone over the past three months.

What do you think? Is this a blip for Android or are there factors beyond Apple’s late-to-market iPhone release at play? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Google Veteran Asks Obama to Raise His Taxes

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 01:44 PM PDT

Doug Edwards’ greatest claim to fame is that he was Google employee number 59, and the author of a memoir called I’m Feeling Lucky. He retired from the Silicon Valley search giant in 2005, shortly after its IPO, with a significant amount of stock. He is now, as he puts it, “unemployed by choice.”

As of Monday, however, Edwards has a new title: the guy who asked President Barack Obama in a public forum to raise taxes on millionaires like himself. “My question is would you please raise my taxes?” Edwards said at Monday’s LinkedIn Town Hall. "I would like very much for our country to continue to invest in things like Pell grants, infrastructure, job training–programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am. It kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of tax cuts that have been benefiting so much of us for so long."

Edwards would not name the company where he made his money, saying only that he had joined a startup nearby. But when pressed by Obama, admitted it was “a search engine.”

The former journalist, who worked as Google’s brand manager from 1999 to 2005, is not normally so coy. He runs a blog of recollections from former Googlers called Xooglers. His memoir spills the beans on various disagreements with Google luminaries such as Marissa Meyer and founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. As the head of branding at a startup that tended to eschew all forms of marketing, relying instead on the quality of the search product, Edwards had his work cut out for him.

Whether Congress will allow Obama to raise taxes on the richest Americans — or at least sunset the Bush tax cuts — is still uncertain. But billionaire investor Warren Buffett, writing in a New York Times opinion piece, asked for the president to do just that, leading to the so-called “Buffett Rule” in Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act. Edwards is unlikely to get any legislation named after him, but he just added his voice to the chorus — and promptly became the most visible wealthy figure in Silicon Valley to call for a bigger tax bill.

More About: Google, linkedin, obama, taxes

President Obama Talks Jobs at LinkedIn Town Hall [PICS]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 01:16 PM PDT

President Obama talked about his plan to restart economic growth, cut the deficit and get Americans back to work at a LinkedIn town hall Monday.

Obama spoke and answered questions at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. During the hour-long town hall, Obama focused on promoting the American Jobs Act, a bill he introduced earlier this month at a joint session of Congress. He repeatedly emphasized that a combination of economic growth and retraining workers for the 21st century would be essential to lowering the country’s 9.1% employment rate.

“The problem is not you,” Obama told a member of the audience who had recently lost his job. “The problem is the economy as a whole.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who moderated the discussion, stressed similar points, noting there are 3.2 million jobs currently available in the U.S. The problem, he said, was that there weren’t enough people with the skills and the training needed to fill these jobs.

“What we need now is the web,” he said in his opening remarks.

Take a look at the LinkedIn town hall via the image gallery below. Let us know what you think Obama needs to do to get Americans back to work in the comments.

LinkedIn Town Hall

The town hall took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Obama and Weiner's Chairs

The audience awaits the arrival of President Obama and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.


A shot of the audience at the LinkedIn town hall.


A shot of the press at the LinkedIn town hall.

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman (center, with glasses), the founder of LinkedIn, was in attendance.

LinkedIn Town Hall

A wider shot of the town hall.

Secret Service Briefing

The U.S. Secret Service give a rare security briefing to the audience.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

LinkedIn's CEO gave some opening remarks.

Jeff Weiner

Obama and Weiner

President Obama takes the stage

Sitting With the President

A shot of President Obama and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.

Answering Questions

Obama answers an audience members' question.

Obama and Weiner

The American Jobs Act

Obama focused on the positive aspects of the American Jobs Act during the town hall.

Answering a Question

Obama answers an audience member's question about what needs to be done to get more Americans back to work.

Audience Member Asks a Question

An audience member asks about the health of Social Security.

"Raise My Taxes!"

Former Google employee Doug Edwards asks Obama to raise his taxes during the town hall. He was employee #59.

Obama Addressing Edwards

The Audience at the LinkedIn Town Hall

The President Shakes Hands

President Obama shakes the hands of audience members after the town hall.

More About: barack obama, Jeff Weiner, linkedin, obama, president obama, Town Hall

Twacked: When Twitter Accounts Go Bad [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 01:15 PM PDT

Twitter‘s biggest users are no strangers to hackers. Whether due to malicious email attachments or weak passwords, everyone from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama to Ellen DeGeneres has been a target.

Having your account hacked is invariably embarrassing, but the stakes are far higher when malicious messages are sent from a high-profile user like Justin Bieber, who has some 12+ million followers.

The worst hack on record was a Jan. 5, 2009 takeover of some 33 tweeters’ accounts. In efforts to reduce the phenomenon, Twitter has banned more than 400 passwords deemed too “obvious.”

Among Twitter’s top 11 users, Taylor Swift and Shakira are the only two to never experience a hack.

This Vercode infographic explores some of the biggest hacks.

Twitter Infographic

Infographic by Veracode Application Security

More About: hacks, infographic, Twitter, twitter hacks

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Google+ Has 43 Million Users, Up 30% Since Opening Publicly [REPORT]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 12:51 PM PDT

Facebook may have grabbed most of the headlines last week — but at the same time, behind the scenes, young and scrappy rival social network Google+ was grabbing a record number of new users.

According to a post by Paul Allen, Ancestry.com co-founder and unofficial Google+ statistician, Google+ is up to an estimated 43.4 million users — and roughly a third of them have been added in the few days since Google+ opened itself to the public.

This isn’t Allen’s first foray into Google+ numbers. His system for counting users first gained credibility in early July, when he estimated the service had 10 million users — and Google CEO Larry Page said the same thing in a call with investors two days later. He has since pegged Google+ user numbers at 18 million, then 28.7 million in early September. But the site has not seen this kind of growth since its beta launch.

“The growth rate has skyrocketed to rates we only saw during the first week of its field test,” writes Allen. “Back when it had a small number of users to begin with.”

Indeed, Allen took his snapshot of the service last Thursday — so those 30% extra users arrived in the two days since the service officially opened its doors. We await with bated breath updated figures for the first week of Google+’s public existence, not to mention any official word on numbers (especially since Allen admits he had to guess at some of the numbers). We’re guessing Facebook is going to be watching closely too.

[via CNET]

More About: Facebook, Google

Artists’ Digital Masks Move With Your Face [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 12:41 PM PDT

Maybe you haven’t always wanted to substitute your face for that of Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton, but you might soon be able to — at least digitally.

Artists Kyle McDonald and Arturo Castro have created a face-substitution program that makes it look like your face has morphed into someone else’s. Far from just pasting a static mask onto your image, the program preserves your facial and bodily movements. It looks uncanny, if not entirely real.

“It basically shows you the feed from your webcam, except it pastes a picture on top of your face in realtime, and does some smart blending to make it look more natural,” McDonald says.

Castro first came up with the idea by putting two concepts from open source code library Openframeworks together. The first was work by Kevin Atkinson that substituted one face for another on a static image. The second was a program that McDonald wrote (with the help of an open code library) to track a face’s detailed movement in real time.

When McDonald saw the first iteration of the resulting mask program, he responded with a version blending the lines between a fake and real face so they almost disappear.

Face substitution has been experimented with before, but it’s never been this creepily convincing. Right now, there’s no way for the public to use Mcdonald and Castro’s version, but eventually they hope to make it accessible through some form of exhibit.

“We’re curious to see what kind of mayhem and media skepticism results from having this technique available to everyone,” McDonald says.

More About: art, Dev & Design, Video

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FarmVille Addicts Can Help Feed Hungry Children

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 12:18 PM PDT

farmville items image

Zynga is partnering with Pizza Hut to help fight world hunger. Players on popular Zynga games, including FarmVille, CityVille, Empires & Allies and The Pioneer Trail can purchase exclusive in-game items for $5. All proceeds from these specific purchases will go to the World Food Programme.

The pieces are both cutesy (see above) and educational. For example, the FarmVille item is the blue horse-drawn cart full of vegetables stamped with the World Food Programme initials. It’s a smart move by Pizza Hut and Zynga to not only have the items be helpful in-game but also support a worthy cause off-line. It’s the first time Zynga has partnered with a brand in this way.

Pizza Hut launched the partnership with Zynga as part of the annual World Hunger Relief campaign, which launches September 26. Pizza Hut has developed an entire website, called “Share a Slice of Hope,” to benefit the 2011 World Hunger Relief, including news updates, donation channels and links to similar campaigns.

Can micro-transactions turn into micro-donations? Sound off in the comments.

hunger image

More About: social gaming, Social Good

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4.7 Million LinkedIn Users Are Employed by Small Businesses [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 11:30 AM PDT

There are more paths to a good job than the usual four years of college and an internship at a big firm. As the infographic below shows, a fair number of people on LinkedIn are veterans of the military services or graduates of community colleges.

For the former, operations and information technology have been the most fertile fields, while community college grads tend to wind up in business or computer science.

The data also show opportunities outside of big business: Some 4.7 million LinkedIn members — out of roughly 100 million in total — are employed by small businesses. It’s unclear how many of those are new to their positions, but many LinkedIn members have moved around of late. According to the company, there have been 7.4 million job changes since 2009.

What do you think? Are four-year degrees overrated? Let us know in the comments.

More About: infographics, jobs, linkedin, Small Business

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Google & The Israel Museum Put Dead Sea Scrolls Online

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 11:12 AM PDT

Yesterday, if you wanted to get a glimpse of the oldest known biblical manuscripts, your best bet was to travel to Jerusalem. Today, you can search Google.

Specialists began photographing the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls in 2008 with the intention of making them accessible online. More than three years later, The Israel Museum finally posted digital versions of five scrolls on its website Monday.

The scrolls — which include copies of all but one of the books in the Hebrew Bible — are among the most important significant religious and historical documents in existence. Although large fragments of the scrolls are displayed in The Israel Museum, Israel Antiquities Authority is the collection’s official custodian.

“The project began as a conservation necessity,” the head of the organization’s conservation department told The New York Times at the start of the effort.

"We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That's when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now."

Google helped create the digital versions, and they can be searched both on the site and from search engines. Users can click on the Hebrew verses and get its English translation.

The search giant describes the partnership as “part of our larger effort to bring important cultural and historical collections online.”

In January, Google helped Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based center for remembering Holocaust victims and survivors, put its collection of photographs and documents on the web. It has also partnered with Spain’s Prado museum exhibits online.

More About: Dead Sea Scrolls, Google

WATCH: President Obama’s LinkedIn Town Hall About Jobs [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 10:39 AM PDT

U.S. President Barack Obama has teamed up with LinkedIn for a town hall about creating jobs and growing the economy.

The LinkedIn Town Hall is part of the president’s effort to promote the American Jobs Act, a bill he introduced earlier this month at a joint session of Congress.

The event will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. It is expected to last an hour and will feature Obama answering questions from a small audience about the American Jobs Act, reducing the deficit, creating permanent jobs and other economic issues. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner will moderate the discussion.

We’re here live to cover the event, and you can watch the live stream above.

What do you want the audience to ask the president? Let us know in the comments.

More About: barack obama, linkedin, live video, obama, president obama

Facebook Updates Timeline to Avoid Outing Unfrienders

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:56 AM PDT

Facebook users noticed an odd feature of the new Timeline profiles last week that allowed them to see who had unfriended them throughout the years. That “bug” has now been fixed.

Last week, the list of friends a user made during a given year included friends who had subsequently been unfriended. They were identifiable to the user by a box saying “Add Friend.”

It looked like this:

Now, the people who are no longer friends have simply been removed from that list.

So you can go ahead and unfriend that acquaintance from high school (or was it middle school?) without the fear of being called out later.

The New Facebook Profile: Timeline

Timeline is a radical departure from previous versions of the Facebook user profile. The most prominent feature is the addition of a cover photo at the top of the page. Users can change this to whatever they'd like it to be.


In 1987, my sister was born. Facebook knows these life events and includes them in your timeline.

Being Born

You can even add a picture and context to your birth, which starts the Timeline.

Timeline Interface

The Timeline is a two-column interface with top photos, status updates, friends and more.


Facebook has added a feature that lets you see where you have visited. This is powered by Facebook Places.

Photos in the Timeline

Here's how photos are displayed in the Timeline.

Friends in the New Timeline

Here's what the Friends page looks like.

Changing Settings

Some of the new Timeline's customization features.


More of the new Timeline

Getting Married

You can add life events, such as getting married, to your profile through the Publisher Bar. You can also announce that you broke a bone, got a new job, etc.

More F8 Coverage:

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, unfriend

Local Newspapers Hold Ground Against the Internet [STUDY]

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:44 AM PDT

Local newspapers might seem like the deteriorating historical landmarks in the local media landscape, but new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates they are still a key source for local information — even as more people turn to the Internet for the same types of information.

While 69% of the 2,251 adults who participated in the study say the death of their local newspaper would either have no effect or only a minor effect on their ability to get local information, newspapers (both print and online) are still the top source for 11 of 16 specific information categories including crime, taxes, local government activities, school, local politics and local jobs.

Television, not newspapers, was the most popular source of local news. TV tops the list because its key coverage areas — weather and breaking news — are also the most popular to follow. Newspapers draw a smaller audience across more diverse coverage areas.

This raises questions about what would happen if (or as some people might phrase it, “when”) local newspapers shut down their presses.

“…will television begin to cover taxes and zoning and education if the local newspaper no longer exists?,” the Pew researchers wonder. “Would new digital sources emerge to cover the hole if a local newspaper cut back its coverage or vanished altogether? And would the approach of these new sources be fully journalistic in nature?”

AOL hopes the answer to these questions is Patch, a network of more than 800 local news sites it has set up in neighborhoods across the country. The sites cover topics like local politics and community events — the types of content for which a local paper has traditionally been a top source. They have not, however, shown any signs of profitability, and their page views remain low.

Despite popular belief, social networks have not gained much steam as an alternative to local news either. In the topics for which they ranked highest, restaurants and community events, just 2% of respondents named social networks a top source.

Young people are, however, turning to online sources (not including websites of newspapers or television stations) for information about many topics newspapers traditionally have provided in one comprehensive publication. While the Internet was the top source for just five of 16 information categories among all adults, it was the top source for 12 of these categories among adults under age 40.

The Internet is replacing newspapers for local news for the 79% of Americans online, which includes young people. Among online Americans, the Internet was the first or second most important source for news about all but one information category. As that young group gets older and more people connect, reliance on the Internet for local information will likely emerge as the leader in most categories newspapers currently dominate.

Right now, however, local newspapers are still the most important source of local news in the majority of local topics — and their disappearance would leave a hole that might never be filled again in the same way.

“The strength of newspapers comes from aggregating an audience by offering a wide range of information, even if each subject or story has limited audience,” the researchers write. “That model may be vital from a civic standpoint, but it is traditionally expensive and it is not clear what the incentive is to replicate it if newspapers were to disappear. ”

Image courtesy of Flickr, Zoetnet

More About: local news, newspapers, Pew

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Amazon and Fox Ink Streaming Video Deal

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:24 AM PDT

Amazon Prime members will soon have access to a selection of Fox’s movies and TV shows as part of Amazon’s Prime instant video service.

Later this fall, Amazon Prime members will be able to stream TV shows like The Wonder Years, Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 24 for free. Amazon will also be adding film titles like Mrs. Doubtfire, Office Space, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Since launching Prime Instant Video in February, Amazon says it has doubled its content library, now offering members access to over 11,000 movies and TV shows. Amazon Prime membership is $79 a year and includes free two-day shipping with no minimums, in addition to access to the Instant Video library.

Amazon has signed licensing deals with CBS, NBC, Sony, Warner Bros. and others. The additional Fox titles bring the Amazon Prime to closer parity with the catalog offerings from competitors Hulu Plus and Netflix. Netflix and Hulu continue to sign partnerships — with Netflix recently inking a deal with DreamWorks Animation.

Amazon is expected to announce its long-rumored tablet Wednesday in New York City. A key differentiator between the Amazon tablet and competitors like the iPad could be support for Amazon’s library of audio and video content. Although users can access Prime Instant Video from a Mac, PC, Roku, TiVo and assorted TV and Blu-ray players, the service is not accessible via the iPad or other Android tablets.

Right now, Amazon’s offering is one of the best values in the space. For less than $7 a month, users get access to thousands of movies and TV shows AND free shipping on all their Amazon.com purchases. For users interested in catalog content, it’s a great value.

Let us know what you think about the new content offerings in the comments.

More About: amazon instant video, amazon prime, Fox, netflix, subscription streaming

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Zynga’s Most Popular Game, CityVille, Comes to Google+

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:08 AM PDT

Zynga is bringing its most popular game, CityVille, to Google’s Google+.

The two companies have been partners from the beginning of Google+ Games. Google is an investor in Zynga, and when the gaming platform launched in August, one of its first 16 game titles was Zynga Poker.

CityVille has drawn a lot more traffic to Facebook than Zynga’s poker game. The former has more than 70 million unique players every month, while the latter has about 30 million, according to AppData.

Zynga is hoping for a similar effect on Google+. Why? Because right now Zynga is largely dependent on Facebook.

Facebook takes 30% of Zynga’s massive revenues, the same percentage that Apple charges for inclusion in the App Store. According to reports, Google+ is offering better terms for developers. Diversification would help the company grow faster and make its revenues less vulnerable to the whims of one platform.

“It's no secret we're big fans of Google+ here at Zynga,” reads a blog post announcing the addition of CityVille to the Google+ repertoire.

The latest estimates suggest that Google+ has around 50 million users. Facebook has 800 million. Clearly Google’s network has a long way to go before it’s comparable to Facebook. But letting its users build virtual cities could help build Google+’s user base.

More About: cityville, Google, Google Plus Games, trending, Zynga

5 Smart Apps for Currency Conversion

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:39 AM PDT

currency image

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

There are a lot of times and a lot of reasons why you might be stuck trying to spitball an exchange rate. Perhaps your small business is expanding into a new international market (congrats!), you’re on a business vacation in a new country (very fancy!), you’re receiving supplies overseas, or any other reason.

Currency exchange is a necessity of international business, and it’s important to stay in the know when you’re on the go. Here are five web and mobile apps to help you get your exchange on and even a bonus app to get you through some tight spots.

Read on and let us know in the comments your top tips or favorite tools.

1. XE Currency

XE is one of the obvious choices for currency conversion. The finance company has managed to package their website's suite of tools into a cute little mobile package. The app is available on iOS devices, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 for free. The simple interface lets users convert through all major currencies or pull from more than 30,000 currency charts for historic rates. The app keeps track of world currencies and precious metals and even works offline by storing the most recent exchange rates.

2. Currency

For someone looking for an equally powerful but more streamlined app experience, Currency is a good bet. The app can calculate more than 100 world currencies and works in 17 different languages. Currency is available on iOS, Android and webOS for free and is great if you need to figure out a rate in a pinch.

3. Currency Banknotes

More of the artsy type? Try Currency Banknotes for iOS which, for $0.99, will calculate more than 150 currencies as well as give you visual representations of that cash. While this might seem like a frivolous addition, knowing what money is supposed to look like can help you from getting ripped off. It's also a nice feature for people who wonder what $5 looks like in Taiwan. Currency Banknotes also has pictures of rare and hard-to-find banknotes if you're curious while on the go.

4. Oanda

Oanda, much like XE, is a full-fledged finance company perfect for high-powered users. The app, available for free on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Playbook and on the web, will convert more than 180 currencies and four metals. The app also displays buy and sell rates for currencies, and even lets you use an Interbank rate or choose percentage add-on to figure out how much your bank or credit card company is actually charging you.

Lest that sound like too much, the app also stores your previous searches so you can quickly access frequently-used currencies. You can also search through obsolete currencies for when you're curious or stuck during a pub quiz.

5. Google

Yes, Google can still be your simplest option. Simply searching for "currency converter" will land you on Google's in-house tool. It's not the prettiest or most fully functional app on this list, but it gets the job done when you need some info fast and can't find your phone.

Bonus: Tipping Tips

Figuring out the exchange rate is only half the battle. You also have to figure out how much to tip the people around you. This is especially important when you are traveling on business and don't want to look silly in front of potential clients or partners. How much do you tip a concierge in the UK? The cleaning staff in the Caribbean? A waitress in Japan? Just ask Tipping Tips, available for $0.99 for iOS devices. The app works in six different languages and provides detailed, searchable tips for 108 regions across the globe. The built-in calculator lets you divide bills into separate parts or even determine tips based on a star rating system of how good you thought your service was.

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