Monday, 14 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 17 News Updates - including “Facebook App Lets You Discover “First Times” With Friends”

Mashable: Latest 17 News Updates - including “Facebook App Lets You Discover “First Times” With Friends”

Facebook App Lets You Discover “First Times” With Friends

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PST

The Virgin Group has launched a Facebook application that lets you discover your “first times” with friends on Facebook. You can see the first time you and a friend were tagged in the same photo, for instance, as well as the first time you checked in to an event together.

The app takes advantage of new functionality offered by Facebook’s Timeline API to illustrate your “firsts.” After submitting the name of your friend, a pop art-style graphic is created that you can post to your Facebook photo album. Your friend will automatically be tagged in the photo. You can then create additional graphics with your other friends, recount your first experience with Virgin, or use the app to explore the company’s own timeline.

The app is part of a 26-hour “social marathon” Virgin founder and Chairman Sir Richard Branson is hosting to celebrate the company’s history on Wednesday. Virgin’s social media teams across its various divisions — from Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Wines — will be stationed at Facebook offices in Sydney, London and Los Angeles, giving hourly prizes to Facebook fans, including movie tickets and vacation packages. The marathon will culminate with a benefit concert for the Eve Branson Foundation and Virgin Unite in Los Angeles Wednesday night.

The app is perfectly engineered to spread widely and rapidly among Facebook’s population, helping users connect with their friends in new ways and bringing in existing users through Facebook’s most popular feature, the photo tag. It was built by London-based agency Gamaroff Digital on behalf of Virgin.

More About: Facebook, Facebook app, facebook timelines, Marketing, Virgin

Mashable Weekend Recap: 30 Stories You May Have Missed

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 04:40 AM PST

The weekend stayed busy here at Mashable, where we found tons of news and views for you to read — but if you missed it, the Weekend Recap is here to help.

We published helpful hints, shopping tips, well-supported opinions about social media and even a way to dig up an extremely old iPod and make it new again.

Best of all, you don’t have to miss a thing, because we’ve gathered it all together in a very special place for you, right here. Pick your favorite stories of the bunch, and then don’t forget to make it a good week.

News & Opinion Essentials

Myxer Launches Free Social Radio App [VIDEO and PICS]

Kindle Touch 3G: Hands-on Review

Amazon Kindle Fire, iPad's First True Competitor [REVIEW]

Diaspora Co-Founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy Dies at 22 [REPORT]

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

Confirmed: Apple to Replace Defective 1st-Generation iPod Nanos With 1st-Generation Units

Some iPod Nano Owners Could Be In for a Pleasant Surprise [UPDATED]

How One Company Saved Thousands of Dogs Using Social Media

Mobile Recruiting Is on the Rise [STUDY]

Top 6 Mashable Comments This Week

Siri, Read My Mind: Did Hackers Just Build a Brain-Powered iPhone?

Adobe Admits: Apple Won, Flash For Mobile is Done, HTML5 is the Future

Google Leaves Trail of Clues to Mystery Musical Event

Helpful Resources

10 Classy Covers for Your iPad [PICS]

10 Social Ways to Find and Send Gifts Online

10 Cozy Headphones for Cold Weather [PICS]

SMO vs. Engagement: Why They're Different and How You Can Rock Both

3 Free Apps For Getting Things Done

4 Strategies for Working With Designers Without Killing Each Other

62 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

4 Chat Services for Contacting International Clients

Create Your Own Online Clothing Boutique, Earn 10% of Sales

5 Steps for a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign

Weekend Leisure

YouTube Cover Song Face-Off: David Guetta's and Usher's "Without You"

"Skyward Sword" Launches The Legend of Zelda to Astounding New Heights [HANDS-ON]

Hands On: Motorola Droid Razr Is Super-Thin, But Not Quite Super [PICS]

10 Explosive iPhone Fireworks Photos [PICS]

10 Geeky Accessories Celebrating the Iconic Hand Cursor [PICS]

Smartphone Etiquette for the Classic Dinner Date [Infographic]

Notorious B.I.G: The Ultimate Baby Pacifier [VIDEO]

More About: Weekend recap

Netflix Signs Deal With Lionsgate UK

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 01:22 AM PST

Ahead of its launch in the UK and Ireland Netflix has signed a multi-year licensing agreement with Lionsgate UK, the company has announced.

Netflix users in the UK and Ireland, where the streaming movie service will launch in “early 2012,” will be able to watch Lionsgate UK titles instantly on their TV sets, tablets, game consoles and smartphones, for a “low” monthly fee.

Available titles will include older movies such as Reservoir Dogs, Good Night and Good Luck and Blair Witch Project, as well as new hits such as the Expendables 2 and The Hunger Games.

Netflix’s European expansion has been rumored for many months, and the company finally officially announced it will first be coming to UK and Ireland back in October. There, it will compete with movie rental service Lovefilm, acquired by Amazon in January 2011.

With the move to UK and Ireland, Netflix hopes to look past its recent problems. After it separated its DVD service in the U.S. under the name Qwikster, Netflix experienced a huge backlash from users, which forced it to abandon the plan entirely and apologize to users. Its financial report for Q3 2011 was bleak: a loss of 805,000 subscribers resulted in a sharp stock price drop.

More About: ireland, Lionsgate UK, movie streaming, Movies, netflix, uk

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Myxer Launches Free Social Radio App [VIDEO]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 10:03 PM PST

Myxer has entered the crowded Internet radio market with Myxer Social Radio, an app aimed at providing a music-listening experience where you’re never alone.

The app offers several interactive components (see gallery below), including the “Song Stories” feature in which you can record 15- to 20-second videos of yourself telling stories about specific songs, or watch other users’ Song Stories. Those videos will appear on each song’s info page.

“Users want to be connected and be social with whatever they do,” says Myxer CEO Myk Willis, who envisions his app competing alongside heavyweight services Pandora, iHeartRadio and as far as listening hours.

Once you sign up with your Facebook account, Myxer Social Radio also lets you listen and chat with friends in real time, create and enter public listening rooms ad see what they’re playing. Akin to, people in Myxer rooms can thumbs-up or thumbs-down songs being played. If a song gets too many negative responses, Myxer skips the track and puts on another. Your friends’ responses will influence the app’s recommendation algorithm, which in turn will learn what type of songs or artists to play.

iOs, Android and Web App

Myxer Social Radio lets you listen and chat with friends in real time, create and enter public listening rooms, see what they're playing, and create "Song Stories."

Click here to view this gallery.

Myxer Social Radio has 12 million songs from the four main record labels as well as large indie labels. Played songs and user activity will be pushed to Facebook, just like Spotify, MOG, Rdio and slew of other music-streaming services that are taking advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Users Shared Their Songs 1.5 Billion Times in 6 Weeks [STATS]

The desktop browser version is available now. The iOS app comes out Nov. 14, and the Android app comes out later this week.

Myxer hopes to leverage its existing 14 million unique users to build buzz for the app. Although the app just launched, Willis says his team is already working on improvements. For example, they want to allow users to tag Song Stories into categories. The “Authoritative” category would feature videos from artists.

Although the app is free and “always will be,” it will be profitable for Myxer from day one, says Willis, because of a three-month sponsorship from Geico. Not only does Willis want the service to appeal to users, he is striving to attract advertisers by giving them special ways to advertise. Geico, for example, used the Song Stories feature to make video advertisements, some of which will star Geico’s famous animated gecko. Advertisers will also be allowed to create listening rooms in addition to 7- to 15-second banner ads. These moves will help ensure the app remains free.

More About: android, apps, internet radio, iOS, mobile apps, Music, music apps, music-subscription-service, myxer, Open Graph

Kindle Touch 3G: Hands-on Review

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 09:13 PM PST

Amazon unveiled a lineup of four ereaders at a press event in New York City in September: a $199, 7-inch, full-color tablet called the Kindle Fire; a 6-inch E Ink touchscreen ereader called the Kindle Touch ($149 with 3G, $99 without); and a 6-inch E Ink ereader with a physical navigation system, called simply the Kindle, for $79.

(The prices for the three E Ink readers are for versions that display screensaver ads. Ad-free E Ink Kindles cost an additional $30.)

I spent some time with the Kindle Touch 3G this week. As a frequent consumer of ebooks on both the iPad 2 and Kindle 3, I was interested to see how the reading experience offered by the Kindle Touch 3G would compare.

The ereader sports the same 6-inch E Ink Perl screen and crisp, high-contrast display found on the Kindle 3. The device itself is slightly shorter: 6.8″ x 4.7″ x 0.4″ compared to 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.34″, now that there’s no physical keyboard. At 7.8 ounces, it’s also nearly a full ounce lighter than the Kindle 3, although with Amazon-branded cases on both it was difficult to tell the difference.

Like the Kindle 3, the Kindle Touch 3G has four gigabytes of storage — room for about 3,000 books — and a reported battery life of two months if the device’s wireless connection is turned off. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers, an on/off button and a port for a USB 2.0 cable. The device takes about four hours to charge fully when connected to a computer. A power adapter is sold separately for $9.99

Since I was using the 3G version, I was able to shop for and download books when I didn’t have access to my home’s or office’s Wi-Fi connection — a feature I find convenient, but not entirely necessary, as I do most of my ebook shopping on my iPhone while perusing bookstores, or on my Kindle while connected to a Wi-Fi network at home. The 3G connection is useful, however, when traveling abroad. Amazon guarantees that 3G access will work internationally at no additional cost.

The touchscreen took some getting used to. I only needed to hold the device in one hand instead of two. Instead of swiping, I needed only to tap the left or right sides of the screen to change pages. Tapping the top of the screen brings up the main navigation, including search and the Kindle’s new “X-ray” feature, which highlights some of the key terms on the page. (Users can still highlight individual words to bring up the dictionary definition, but now they’ll need to navigate over to the X-ray to access Wikipedia, which I find less convenient.) The keyboard only appears when necessary, and is well-spaced and easy to use.

Although the touchscreen functioned well enough — i.e., at about the same speed as the physical keybs on the Kindle 3 — I can’t say that it necessarily improved the Kindle experience. I’ve come to like the physical keys on my Kindle, and compared to the iPhone and iPad, the Kindle Touch 3G’s touchscreen felt slow and clunky. The one feature that was substantially better was the highlighter: it didn’t require any methodic navigation with a physical keyboard, and was much more accurate to the touch than the Kindle apps on my iPhone and iPad.

If you’re debating whether to buy the device, here’s what I’d recommend:

If you already own a Kindle 2 or 3: There’s no good reason to abandon your current device unless you simply can’t stand a physical keyboard. If you’re desperate for a smaller size, then I’d recommend you go with the $79 Kindle, which is even smaller (6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″) and lighter (5.98 ounces), unless 3G is a requirement.

If you’re a first-time Kindle buyer: Unless you want a 3G connection, again I would recommend the $79 version for the reasons cited above. The touchscreen does not, I find, substantially improve the Kindle experience.

These are of course my opinions and won’t apply to everyone. But I hope it helps some of you navigate through what is bound to be a difficult decision with so many different ereading devices to choose from this holiday season.

The $79 Kindle.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: amazon, Kindle, kindle touch, kindle touch 3g

Amazon Kindle Fire, iPad’s First True Competitor [REVIEW]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 09:01 PM PST

Amazon Kindle Fire Home Screen

The $199 Amazon Kindle Fire is a worthy device. It's not an iPad slayer, but it could be the first tablet to ably stand atop Mount Tabulous (or at least on a rock ledge just a few dozen feet lower) with Apple's industry-dominating slab computer.

This is a product I wanted to love. The Kindle Fire's unveiling was so impressive. Jeff Bezos hitting all the right notes in true Jobsian fashion, telling the tale of a product vision so clear it made my eyes tear up. Instead, now I'm discovering it’s a somewhat flawed gadget — a product that literally does not always know which way is up.

First the good stuff. The Amazon Kindle Fire is a tablet that simply works. From the moment you turn it on to the first time you download music from your own personal cloud to the minute you start watching a movie on the device and then continue watching on your HDTV — without connecting the device to the TV — you're hooked. This is a smart tablet with a fully thought-out ecosystem. It is — and I don't think Amazon would disagree with this — very Apple-like in its insistence in keeping you within the Amazon playground.

Having an Amazon account or, better yet, an Amazon Prime account ($79 per year for free 2-day shipping, one free book rental per month and free streaming flicks), opens a world of content possibilities on the 7-inch-screen device. Amazon, like Apple (and like Barnes and Noble with its upcoming Nook Tablet) has your credit card on file. It's tied to your Amazon user name and account. For me, it's also tied to my original Kindle 2. When I first started using the Kindle Fire, it was already tied to my account, but signing in with your Amazon account is also simple. This Fire calls itself "Lance's 3rd Kindle" (that's because I was also looking at the Kindle Touch). Each device syncs whatever content it can. In the case of the multimedia-friendly Fire, that's books, magazines, music, apps and more.

Amazon Kindle Fire: Main Bookshelf Interface

Click here to view this gallery.

The device itself is, in some ways, unremarkable. Its finish is a stark black color and it has exactly one button. It weighs 14.6 ounces (solid-feeling, but not uncomfortable to hold), is less than a half-inch thick and has a pleasantly rubberized back that keeps the Fire from slipping out of your hands. The speakers, which can blast out near-room-filling-sound, are on the narrow side of the device, opposite the side where the device's sole button and audio jack are located. There's no camera, no microphone (the Nook Tablet has one, as does the 9.7-inch iPad 2), no screws and no discernible way of opening the device. The Kindle Fire's screen has 1024 x 600 pixels (like the Nook Tablet. The iPad 2 is 1024 x 768) and things look superb on it. Inside it's running a dual-core 1GHz CPU (similar to the Nook Tablet and the Apple A5 chip in the iPad). It has 512MB of RAM (like the iPad, but half of what's in the Nook Tablet) and 8MB of on-board storage (the Nook Tablet, by contrast, has double that and a micro SD card slot). Like the iPad, the Kindle Fire does not blemish its clean lines with a memory card slot. Amazon's focusing primarily on extending storage space via the cloud, which has a prominent position on the Fire Interface.

The Main Interface

The Kindle Fire is an Android 2.3 device, but the interface is all Amazon. It is, naturally, dominated by a virtual bookshelf. This is not a new screen metaphor. I first encountered it on the iPad's iBook bookshelf. To be honest, it's a cute concept on the Fire, but with a somewhat clumsy execution. Whatever you looked at recently — books, a movie, apps, web pages, etc. — all sits on the top shelf. As a result, it's a hodgepodge of icons. Some are movie boxes or posters, which look good. Book covers look great as well; giant icons for email, Facebook, Angry Birds, the Wired Magazine app — look ridiculous. The shelves use a carousel to let you swipe through your content. This is effective once you get used to the Fire's tendency to let the moving icons run away with themselves — I constantly missed the item I wanted to access.

As a device not much larger than my original Kindle (though almost 5 ounces heavier), reading on the device is a joy. The pages look great, and accessing any of Kindle reader's smarter features such as highlighting and definitions is easy. While I love my Kindle ereader, it's definitely much easier to simply touch what I want to access — I do not miss the physical joystick from my e-ink reader. I'm what you might call a Kindle serial reader: I often go from my Kindle ereader, to my phone, to my iPad, and now to the Fire with the same book. As long as I allow these devices to sync, wherever I leave off on one device is where I pick up on another. Of course, this will only work on the Kindle Fire as long as you have access to a Wi-Fi connection—there is no 3G (same for the Nook Tablet).

Whenever I wanted to get back to the home screen I simply tapped the screen once to access the home button in the lower left corner. The Kindle Fire's one physical button is only used to put the device to sleep, turn it off completely and turn it on. Its placement is a bit odd: The button sits on one narrow side, and more than once I accidentally rested the device on a table or my lap and it went to sleep. Because there's an accelerometer in the Fire, I can turn the device completely over so the button is on the top, but then the speakers rest on my lap. In general, the button sticks out too much and is too easy to depress.

Content and Controls

Before using the Kindle Fire, I uploaded a bunch of my music (the non-DRM variety) to the Amazon Cloud. As a result, it was all available to me on the Fire. I also bought an album or two directly through the Fire. The music store is clean and easy to use. I especially enjoyed playing music on the device while I read a book.

As noted earlier, watching movies is also easy and entertaining on the Fire. With my Amazon Prime account, I can stream any one of hundreds of movies direct to the device. No first-run films, but a few decent ones like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Iron Giant (As with Netflix streaming, there are also a lot of duds). When I wanted to see a new movie, I simply rented it on the device ($2.99 for the SD version of The Green Lantern) and started watching. Best part? I was able to pause on the Fire, turn on my Blu-ray player, access my Amazon account and simply pick up where I left off in the movie. Worst part? The Kindle Fire only had access to the SD version of the film, so I had to pay again to watch the HD version on my HDTV.

Put simply, the Kindle Fire is an excellent and easy-to-use content consumption device. It's also a decent — though not perfect — web browser. The tab-based Silk browser was, on occasion, as fast as promised. Some pages zip in, but other times Silk would stall out and refuse to load a page. Silk is not like other Android tablet web browsers. Amazon built this one and it uses Amazon's own servers to pre-fetch pages it thinks you'll view next to help websites load fast. Amazon tells me the experience will get faster as Amazon's servers cache more page info. Email is another story. First of all, Amazon hid the email under Apps, so I had to find it to set it up. I don't understand why it isn't on the main interface from the start. It sits on a shelf once you've set it up. I do not like the default email screen — it's black with white text and too hard to read. Email messages show up as black text on white screens. The switch is inexplicable and annoying.

There is a bigger problem with the Kindle and I saw it in everything from email to menus and setup. This interface is not always optimized for 1024×600 resolution on a 7-inch screen. While the bookshelf and items on it are large, some of the controls are tiny. The main menu, which includes Newsstand, Books, Music, Videos, Docs, Apps and Web, is fine, but the setting icon is smaller than the tip of my pinky — it does bring up a list of items that are somewhat larger and I do like that the settings are simple and obvious: lock the screen orientation, volume, brightness, Wi-Fi control, sync and a more button. Digging into many of these controls I was confronted over and over again with shockingly small text — often white on black or gray on a deeper gray. Virtually all of the email app (controls, subject lines and the contents of messages) is small and hard to read. Even the "Buy" buttons are tiny — you'd think Amazon would at least want to make those much larger.

Many things look wonderful on the Kindle Fire, but only if the partners design for the screen. I bought a bunch of magazines through Newsstand (often I had to download apps first then subscribe or buy individual issues — still an easy process). GQ and The New Yorker looked great. Esquire's PDF pages, though, look bad and some are unreadable if you zoom in.

Web pages look good in portrait mode, but there isn't enough screen real estate to see much of the page. Portrait mode makes the pages tiny — you can pinch and zoom, but then you're only seeing part of the page. This is a place where I definitely prefer my iPad's larger 9.7-inch screen.

Quirks and Conclusions

The device has its share of quirks (not sure if I'd call them bugs). Sometimes the accelerometer gets stuck and the page you're looking at remains upside down. This happened to me repeatedly. Wi-Fi was easy to set-up, but was often slow to return after sleep. The device also does its own minicrashes. It does not shut down, but simply drops you out of what you were doing — reading a book or magazine, or looking at the home screen. The latter sometimes blanked out and reappeared.. These are all likely 1.0 issues that are easily solved with a software update. To be fair, my iPad 1 crashes a fair amount — though the crashes are all related to third-party apps, and not the native Apple iOS.

Speaking of software, I'm convinced that some of the font size and interface oddities I've noticed are a result of the Android 2.3 operating system running underneath. Amazon has done all it could to hide and re-skin it, however it does no always feel like every bit of Fire's interface was designed for a 7-inch device, or to be more precise, this device. When you use an Apple iPad, iPod or iPhone, it's clear that every bit of it was built with the hardware in mind. As most people have heard, Amazon reportedly took a shortcut and used the Research in Motion PlayBook's reference design. The Kindle Fire looks almost exactly like it except for the lack of cameras and, obviously, the operating system.

Most of these gripes are minor, and to fully appreciate the Amazon Kindle Fire, you have to step back and look at all you're getting for $199 (the base 16GB iPad is $499, the Nook Tablet $249). This is a highly polished device and collection of services. It bakes in books, music, movies, apps/games, magazines, multi-tasking, universal search, easy access to anything you have in Amazon's cloud, and a sense that this device and Amazon know you. It is the closest tablet I've seen yet to an Apple iPad: a consistent, well-thought out marriage of hardware and services that offer an almost frictionless environment for app purchase and content consumption. This is why the iPad has been so successful and why I think the Kindle Fire, despite its imperfections, is a winner, too.

More About: amazon, kindle fire, Tablet, trending

Diaspora Co-Founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy Dies at 22 [REPORT]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 06:32 PM PST

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the co-founder of the open-source Facebook alternative Diaspora, has died at the age of 22. The cause of death is not yet publicly known.

Zhitomirskiy, along with Dan Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg and Raphael Sofaer, created the open-source software as part of a project while they were students at New York University. Diaspora was created as a response to Facebook’s controversial privacy changes in 2010. The team was able to raise $200,000 on Kickstarter to launch the project.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Zhitomirskiy’s family and friends.

via TechCrunch

Image courtesy of Leora Israel

More About: diaspora, Facebook, Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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YouTube Cover Song Face-Off: David Guetta’s and Usher’s “Without You”

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 05:25 PM PST

Each week, Mashable picks a popular song, finds 10 covers of it and asks you to vote for your favorite.

The music video for “Without You” featuring French DJ David Guetta and Usher has racked up more than 27 million views on YouTube since its Oct. 14 release.

The video shows fans partying in several different countries. Other fans across the globe, who couldn’t be in the video, took a less rowdy approach and recorded covers of the song. Below, you’ll find 10 versions, including a cappella, acoustic and electronic renditions. Vote for your favorite in the poll.

Frankie Presley

Click here to view this gallery.

To listen to more covers used in past YouTube Cover Song Face-Offs, click here.

**The winner of this poll will be selected Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. ET.

Oct. 30 Face-Off Winners: Jonathan Michael Comis and Tinashe

Two covers in the “We Found Love” Cover Song Face-Off battled it out up until the voting deadline, so we decided to feature both in this week’s write-up.

Jonathan Michael Comis and Tinashe secured more than 12,000 of the 15,000 votes. Comis covered the song because he related to it. “I look at this world as a hopeless place for love,” said Comis, who was inspired by Tyler Ward to start putting music on YouTube. “Today, most relationships don’t make it to marriage, and if they do half of them end in divorce. I was lucky enough to find love in a hopeless place.”

Tinashe thought Rihanna’s song was beautiful and had a simple message. “I wanted to make a version that was a bit more haunting,” said Tinashe, who wants to one day duet with Beyonce.

Here’s a collection of original songs and covers from Comis and Tinashe.

"We Found Love" by Jonathan Michael Comis

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Entertainment, Music, music videos, viral videos, YouTube, YouTube Cover Song Face-Off

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“Skyward Sword” Launches The Legend of Zelda to Astounding New Heights [HANDS-ON]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 04:20 PM PST

Twenty-five years ago, a little golden cartridge changed video games. The Nintendo Entertainment System, at first the bastion of platformers and racers that echoed their arcade forerunners, suddenly became a gateway to sprawling adventure. The Legend of Zelda was cryptic, hard as hell, and hooked players for months at a stretch.

It occurred to me that the original NES cartridge and the latest installment — The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for Wii — may be the first and last pieces of physical gaming media I’ll ever own. They’re bookends with 25 years of adventure between them.

As we march toward the ubiquity of cloud-delivery platforms (Steam, WiiWare, XBLA, etc.), it was nice to take the latest golden disc for a spin and embark on what some have touted the greatest Zelda adventure yet.

First Impressions

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The surface world is inhabited by both gruesome and adorable creatures.

Click here to view this gallery.

Skyward Sword respects the formula of its predecessors. A quaint pastoral village (this time, set on floating islands high above the clouds) is beset by a mysterious evil, and Link must don the green garb of his ancestors and fulfill a hero’s destiny.

The motif of parallel worlds (a Zelda mainstay since the Super Nintendo days) is strong. In Skyward, Link moves fluidly between his floating hometown of Skyloft and the dangerous surface world. Things you do in one world affect the other. Once you start start connecting the dots, the enormous scope of this game will hit you like a ton of golden, triangular bricks.

The art style can best be described as a cross between two previous Zelda games: The Wind Waker, which featured the beautiful cell shaded graphics of an animated movie, and Twilight Princess, which strove for darker, more intricate details. The mix in Skyward feels like a watercolor painting. From afar, landscapes are brush-stroked in vivid color.

Regrettably, this style does call attention to the Wii’s limitations. Edges can be jagged, and close-up cinematics already feel dated as we set our sites on next generation consoles and the latest PC offerings. By comparison, The Wind Waker’s cell shaded art style holds up exceedingly well, eight years and two consoles later. It’s a shame too, since we’ve already seen some tech-savvy folks emulate Skyward Sword on PC at full 1080p, smoothing out the rough edges imposed by the console.

That’s not to say that Skyward isn’t a gorgeous game. Take a step or two back from your big screen and absorb those vistas in all their painterly glory. And once you get a sword in hand, you’ll be too busy holding up your jaw and wiping your sweaty palms to notice those jaggies.

Finally, One-to-One Sword Combat

Since those days of NES animated sprites, we’ve only imagined Link’s sword to be a fierce and powerful blade of reckoning. Zelda’s leap to 3D consoles got us closer to the melee, but we were still just mashing buttons. Even the Wii version of Twilight Princess, the first Zelda game to use motion controls, could be played with your feet up.

Simply put, combat is immensely satisfying.

Well, it’s time to get off the couch. Skyward takes full advantage of the Wii Motion Plus, and puts a dynamic range of fluid, one-to-one combat techniques at your disposal. Slice your foes at eight different angles, thrust toward a vulnerable spot, or spin furiously in four directions (not to mention those epic finishing moves). Success requires you to read your opponent’s stance, lunge quickly at exposed weaknesses and react to monsters who anticipate the direction of your blows. Jiggling your Wii Remote in the face of a cleaver-wielding skeleton will only get you killed.

But you won’t grasp the full scope of combat on your first brush with baddies. Each foe has a different defense mechanism that requires new swordplay to exploit. “Ah-ha!” moments abound as you hack, spin, dash and block your way from fray to fray. Simply put, combat is immensely satisfying. Skyward Sword wins on this alone — except there’s so much more in this game.

Fresh Gameplay Mechanics

The Zelda franchise endures because it masterfully builds new mechanics on top of beloved gameplay from previous titles. While the last few games added new flavors of travel, equipment and combat, Skyward Sword has taken some of the greatest gameplay leaps of the modern series, and they pay dividends in fun.

Wii Motion Everywhere

While the sword and shield combat is outstanding, it’s not the only instance where you’ll be flailing about. The motion controls are rooted firmly in most of Link’s actions. Wiggle the nunchuk to roll, leap sideways while climbing by flicking the remote, build momentum on a swinging vine, balance carefully on a tightrope, throw or roll objects with a twitch — the list goes on as you acquire equipment and special items. Oh, also, you can fly on the back of a giant bird.

Upgrading and Collecting

Traditionally, the only way to get better stuff in the Zelda universe was persevere on the quest line. It’s been a very linear equipment narrative (acquire bombs, gain access to the bow and arrow, etc.).

But there’s much more to it in Skyward Sword. A complex equipment upgrade system allows you to improve your gear with resources from your travels — with the help of the local smith and for a nominal fee, of course. From a more durable shield (yes, it will break), to a bigger item pouch, to a snappier slingshot, to a stronger potion, nearly every item you acquire can be improved on your own terms. It’s the kind of feature that will pique the interest of hardcore RPG fans, and it makes collecting materials a vital and constant side quest.

The Stamina Meter

Does it ever bother you that video game heroes can run for miles and trounce a giant beast without breaking a sweat? Me too.

That’s why one of my favorite new features in Skyward is the stamina meter — a little green ticker that will deplete as Link runs, lifts heavy objects, climbs walls or executes complex attacks. If the meter drops to zero, he’ll need to stop and catch his breath, leaving him slow and vulnerable.

It’s just one more factor to consider as you size up a group of enemies or tackle a time-sensitive quest.

Not Your Average Traveling Companion

It’s dangerous to go alone. Link traditionally has a companion in modern Zelda games, and Skyward follows suit, but with a twist: The spirit of Link’s sword is the one guiding him on this adventure.

Her name is Fi, and she is curiously analytical — almost android-like in her voice and ability to provide Link with data about his quest. Target a monster and call for Fi, and she will give you the creature’s name, a breakdown of its known weaknesses, your total kills, and your combat effectiveness against that species.

Let’s see an iPhone app do that.

The World

This is not your grandfather’s Hyrule. Skyward Sword has familiar locations and motifs, but expands out in ways that will delight you.

It’s Big

I’ve only scratched the surface of this game, but as new areas of the map unfold, I’ve begun to realize just how enormous the world is. The interplay between the sky and the surface, combined with the sheer number of collectible and upgradeable items leads me to assume that there will be plenty of tangents to explore. I’m only one dungeon in, and I’ve already flown off to check out some of the more remote areas.

It’s Tough

Speaking of dungeons, they are challenging. I was stuck on a door puzzle for quite some time, even in the first temple (though, to be fair, I’m somewhat dense). Enemies quickly scale from bats and slimes to giant spiders and three-headed hydras, so pack some potions early on if you want to survive. And if you like exploring every nook and cranny, there are plenty here.

It’s Funny

Zelda titles have accrued stronger story lines over the years, and the characters of Skyward have really come into their own. While there isn’t full voice acting, the expressive grunts and laughter of inhabitants are quirky, charming, and avoid the repetition that plagued previous games. Pair that with some great character animation (particularly in the faces), and the dialog really comes to life.

It’s Visceral

All of these wonderful motion controls wouldn’t quite feel at home without the right environment. The developers have taken pains to make Skyward’s world extremely visceral, and it responds to the player in kind.

Slice a tree at an angle and the stalks fall sideways to the ground. Strike a giant mushroom and your blade recoils, leaving a diagonal slice on the head. Those butterflies in the woods aren’t just decals — I accidentally smashed one as I was cutting away some underbrush (sorry, PETA). These are details that could have easily been glossed over, and thankfully weren’t.

The world feels alive in ways that preceding Zeldas only aspired to.

The Verdict

Despite some visual frailties, Skyward Sword is a tremendous leap forward in the series. One-to-one sword combat is the masterful centerpiece of a game that delivers on everything the Wii promised but rarely delivered in the last five years.

Zelda veterans will be comfortable but delighted, and sandbox RPGers may finally take a shine to the series, courtesy of a fairly deep equipment customization scheme.

Nintendo fans, this is the game you’ve been waiting for. Dust off the ol’ Wii, push the coffee table out of the way, and get ready to save some serious princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be released in North America on Nov. 20 and in the EU on Nov. 18.

Images courtesy of Nintendo.

More About: features, Gaming, Legend of Zelda, review, video games, Wii

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10 Classy Covers for Your iPad [PICS]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 03:08 PM PST

1. iPad ColorCoat

Give your iPad a bold splash of color with the "ColorCoat" matte cover.

Cost: $21

Click here to view this gallery.

We know you love your iPad, therefore, treat it to some sleek accessories.

In the past we brought you some cool cases and desirable decals. This time around we’ve selected 10 covers that protect the back of your iPad, whether you prefer metal, wood, leather, carbon fiber or even denim.

Take a look through the gallery. Let us know in the comments about any other cool covers you’ve seen.

More About: apple, features, gallery, ipad, ipad accessories

10 Social Ways to Find and Send Gifts Online

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 02:14 PM PST

If you spend half as much time gift shopping as you spend on Facebook, my guess is your holiday shopping would already be finished. So, why not combine the process?

Many of the apps below produce personalized gift suggestions for your Facebook friends. Others match those friends to products on specific sites, such as Etsy and Amazon. Some of these apps crowdsource cash or creative contributions for truly special (and convenient) gifts.

The gallery below features 10 online social tools for discovering and sending gifts this holiday season. Please share more in the comments section below.

1. Etsy

Connect your Facebook account and search for Etsy gift recommendations by friend. The results are based mainly on Likes and interests, not necessarily on your friends' status updates, so privacy doesn't seem to be an issue.

Also filter by price preference to tailor gifts to your budget.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Xelcise

More About: Facebook, features, Gifts, Holidays, Social Media, web apps

10 Cozy Headphones for Cold Weather [PICS]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 01:31 PM PST

1. You Ear-Muff Hear This in Pulse

With faux fur on the inside and a stripy wool knit on the outside, these will keep your ears toasty.

Cost: $42.99

Click here to view this gallery.

There’s a definite nip in the air as we head into November. To help keep you cozy on your commute, we’ve found 10 pairs of headphones perfect to tote as the weather turns colder.

Whether you want woolly coverings, furry earmuffs or a more urban design, we think there’s an option here to suit your ears.

SEE ALSO: 6 Great Gloves for Touchscreen Gadget Lovers

Take a look through our gallery of winter warmers. Let us know in the comments which you’d consider wearing this winter.

More About: fashion, features, Gadgets, gallery, Headphones, Tech

How One Company Saved Thousands of Dogs Using Social Media

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 12:31 PM PST

Frank Barry, professional services manager at Blackbaud and blogger at NetWits ThinkTank, helps non-profits use the Internet for digital communication, social media and fundraising so they can focus on making an impact and achieving their missions. Find Frank on Twitter @franswaa.

Social media is all the rage, but does it actually help create real change in the world? The folks at Best Friends Animal Society would answer with a resounding yes!

Best Friends has introduced the Invisible Dog Campaign, a nod to the invisible dog leash from the '70s and '80s. “Invisible dogs” refer to the forgotten pets found in city shelters that face tremendous odds to get adopted. "[We're] turning that into a real message about adopting dogs unseen in the nation’s shelters,” explains Claudia Perrone, marketing manager for Best Friends.

Best Friends provides a valuable example of social media mobilizing people to take action in the real world.

1. Beginner: Hashtags

Use them — constantly. Twitter hashtags are an extremely effective (and free) way to consolidate topics and information that relate to your campaign. The Invisible Dog campaign uses #InvisibleDog in every tweet, every mention, every IRL adoption event and on the home page of its microsite to spread the word and let people track the whole conversation around the campaign.

2. Intermediate: Drive Action

The Invisible Dogs campaign asks people to take action by pledging online. Without pushing people to make an immediate commitment to adopt a shelter dog, the campaign urges people to pledge any action (adoption, dog walking, etc.) that helps invisible dogs. So far 1,758 people have made the pledge.

3. Advanced: User-Generated Content and Events

Letting people run with your message or events is scary, but it can be worth the effort. Best Friends hosts a DogWall where people share adoption photos, videos, text stories, tweets and Facebook messages. People can text photos to the wall instead of logging in to upload.

Best Friends is also using's Everywhere capability to let people create their own events all over the country. People sign in with their Facebook accounts to join or to create a local Invisible Dog walk or “pup crawl."

What’s Next?

Most interesting, Best Friends gathers user-generated content to identify dogs that need help. It's also planning to work with FourSquare on National Shelter Check-In Day this Nov. 12.

The content, conversation and online social-sharing activity generated by this digital movement will help Best Friends save thousands of dogs by 2012.

More About: contributor, features, hashtags, Social Good, Social Media, user generated

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10 Explosive iPhone Fireworks Photos [PICS]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 11:41 AM PST

1. The Devil Inside by Jamie Pachomski

This amazing capture shows the glowing red heart of the firework.

Click here to view this gallery.

If you think the iPhone isn’t the best camera for photographing fireworks, then think again. While it may not be the best to capture the realism of a live fireworks display, it can offer up quite stunning results.

We have found 10 explosive images of fireworks, captured by the iPhone, that offer a different — often quirky — perspective on the popular pyrotechnics.

SEE ALSO: Fall Foliage: 10 Fantastic iPhone Photos That Celebrate the Season

Take a look through the photo gallery. Let us know in the comments which images spark with you.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Poppy Thomas-Hill

More About: apple, features, gallery, iphone, iphotography, photography, Photos

Mobile Recruiting Is on the Rise [STUDY]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 11:05 AM PST

Mobile Recruiting

Over the past few years, social media recruiting has garnered a lot of discussion in the HR world — mobile recruiting, on the other hand, is a topic that has yet to make it into the mainstream conversation.

Employers lack knowledge of how job seekers are using mobile devices and how their businesses could take advantage of the mobile web to find top talent. As a result, only a limited number of employers have implemented mobile recruiting strategies via apps and mobile websites, according to a study by online recruiting research lab Potentialpark.

For the study, Potentialpark surveyed more than 30,000 job seekers worldwide and analyzed the mobile career presence of more than 350 top employers in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Since the data has not yet been published online, Mashable spoke with Potentialpark about its findings.

The study found that a healthy 19% of job seekers use their mobile devices for career-related purposes (and more than 50% of could imagine doing so), yet only 7% of employers have a mobile version of their career website and only 3% have a mobile job app.

One out of five job seekers may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s no number to scoff at. Since smartphone adoption rates are ever-increasing, this number will likely increase as more mobile users get the power of the Internet into their palms.

So, what exactly are job seekers looking to achieve on their mobile devices? Potential recruits want to use their mobile phones to look for jobs and receive job alerts — but they have many other activities in mind, as illustrated in the graph below.

While employers aren’t quite up on their mobile game this year, Potentialpark believes more companies will get into the mobile recruiting game in the coming year. In a separate Potentialpark survey of 150 employers, 75% of respondents stated they were planning to have either a job app or mobile career website by September 2012.

Mobile recruiting is still in its infancy, and we’re interested in your opinions about the space. Are you a job seeker constantly conducting your job search on the go? Or has your business implemented a mobile career website or app? If so, share your mobile recruitment stories in the comments below.

Social Media Job Listings

Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Neustockimages

More About: features, job search series, mashable, Mobile, Recruiting

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Confirmed: Apple to Replace Defective 1st-Generation iPod Nanos With 1st-Generation Units

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 09:52 AM PST

Apple told Mashable it will be replacing recalled first-generation iPod Nanos with first-generation Nanos, not the new ones many had hoped would be sent.

Mashable talked with an Apple spokesperson on the phone, who confirmed the company will be sending first-generation iPod Nanos to those whose serial numbers match the units with defective batteries.

SEE MORE: Apple Recalls First-Generation iPod Nanos

When we asked Apple how many of those first-generation iPod Nanos were available for the recall, the company was not willing to reveal that information.

We wanted to know why Apple wasn’t more specific about which iPod Nanos would be used as replacements in its original announcement, but the company wouldn’t answer that question, either.

Do you think Apple was deliberately being vague about which Nanos would be sent as replacements?

More About: apple, ipod nano, recall

SMO vs. Engagement: Why They’re Different and How You Can Rock Both

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 09:01 AM PST

Many brands and organizations developing digital strategies have moved beyond asking whether Twitter and Facebook presences are necessary. (Yes, they are.)

Now the question is: We’re on the social web, so how do we make the most of it?

There are two key methods for supercharging your social strategy: social media optimization (SMO) and engagement. Although they’re equally important for getting more people to your website via social networks, far different rules apply for each. SMO implies a scientific approach — updates are crafted with the intention of being seen, and ultimately clicked on, by your audience. Engagement, on the other hand, is about connecting with fans and followers. The idea is to build a community of vested members who will respond to and share your social updates because the content resonates strongly.

Here’s an in-depth look at each approach, and how you can combine both tactics to drive the distribution of your content.

Social Media Optimization

SMO can be valuable for getting more visits to your site. The key is understanding the audience of each social network, as well as when and how they interact with it. This will help you to learn what type of content works best there, and how you can frame that content to be more clickable.

In general, a certain audience exists on each social networks. For example, LinkedIn tends to bring in professionals of all ages who are interested in job searching and networking, while Tumblr is popular among young people and the design and fashion communities. However, I advise verifying your account’s demographics statistics either on the network’s analytics program or with a social media management tool that has analytics capabilities. This will give you a sense of the types of users that populate the audience of a particular social site, and whether your community matches that demographic.

Timing is also important for SMO. Just as websites have traffic highs and lows, so do social networks. But beware: Your site’s peak times may not match those of your social networks. For example, some people are restricted from logging into Facebook from work or school; therefore, you may notice that your posts on nights and weekends perform better. You should also consider how the EdgeRank algorithm affects when your page’s updates are appearing in your fans’ News Feeds.

Another SMO necessity is understanding how people are using the platform. For example, 40% of Twitter users would rather listen than write their own tweets, which means you might not get a ton of response to your question tweets. On Tumblr, the majority of the site’s pageviews come from the user dashboard. If you want it to catch a reader’s eye, it’s wise to format your post properly so that it reads well on dashboard view — not just on the front page.

These steps may improve your click-through rate, but remember they’re just one piece of the web publishing puzzle.


While SMO can help bring people to your site, engagement brings the right kind of people to your site. It builds a vested userbase that not only wants to click on your content, but also wants to be involved with it. These readers are valuable because they’re more likely to view more pages, spend more time on your site and contribute to your community by posting thoughtful comments and sharing content to their networks.

So what exactly is engagement? It could mean sparking discussion among your followers and responding to their comments, or it could mean recognizing their contributions on your site and incorporating their ideas into your product. In short, it’s not something an intern can accomplish during 9-5 hours.

At the most basic level, engagement is about personalizing your organization and giving it a voice that resonates with your community. Keep in mind that the social web is a two-way dialogue. It’s vital to respond to questions and comments from your followers. More often than not, people just want to know you’re listening. Sometimes a simple “thanks for your comment” goes a long way.

For more advanced communities, engagement is getting to know your most vested followers on a deeper level. That could mean featuring them in posts by letting their ideas drive your content. A good example of this is Instagram; the company invited a top user to create photo filters for its latest app version.

There’s no scientific formula for engagement. Every audience is different and, ultimately, you’ll need to communicate in a way that best suits your community. Devise a way to foster their passion for your organization and its mission by connecting with and empowering your audience.


SMO and engagement are separate concepts, yet both are important for getting the most out of your social media presences. Though the terms aren’t synonymous, the strategies should be used simultaneously. By optimizing posts for your various social audiences and by building a community of vested followers, you’ll create an unstoppable social media presence that will not only drive traffic to your site, but will also reinforce your fans’ brand enthusiasm.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Kaptain Kobold, chrisjfry, Marc Wathieu

More About: community, engagement, features, SMO, Social Media

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10 Geeky Accessories Celebrating the Iconic Hand Cursor [PICS]

Posted: 13 Nov 2011 07:12 AM PST

1. Pixelated Hands Sticky Note Pads

What better way to get someone's attention than these sticky notes?

Cost: $4.99

Click here to view this gallery.

The ubiquitous hand-shaped pointer has been a part of the consumer computing experience since the early days, and is familiar to both PC and Mac users.

It’s this familiarity that has crossed it over into real life, with a variety of hand-shaped accessories — both pixelated and not — created in a homage to the iconic design.

SEE ALSO: A Brief History of the Emoticon

Take a look through our image gallery celebrating the hand-shaped pointer. Let us know in the comments which items you’d like to have at your fingertips.

More About: accessories, apple, features, Gadgets, gallery, microsoft, retro, Tech

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