Old News of Days Gone By
Nothing ages faster than technology. If you’re feeling melancholic, here’s what we thought was newsworthy back in…
Google Launches Website With Feature Set For Google TV
Google TV has been generating a lot of buzz on the Internet for a while now. Up until now, however, Google hasn’t released much information about their upcoming product, aside from a few small announcements and screenshot releases.
That all changed a few days ago, when Google launched a mini-site detailing the much anticipated Google TV platform. Included with a quick tour, this website reveals a bunch of juicy details about what we can expect to be included with the platform.
Here are the key points illustrated in the tour:
- Search across every channel, every app, and the entire web, simultaneously.
- Ability to browse the whole web, not just some of it.
- Comes with several of your favorite apps, and next year developers can create their own.
- Use your phone as a remote, including voice search.
- Customizable home screen with favorite channels, apps and websites.
- Seamless switching between TV and web, or watch both at the same time.
- DVR access right from the search bar.
- Easy to install and works with your current setup.
Loads Of Apps
On the Features page of the site, Google includes a link to a YouTube video in which they demo the wide variety of apps that will be available on the platform. Check it out:
Needless to say, you are going to be able to do a lot with your TV using Google’s platform. You can view more examples of how the service will look on the website’s Spotlight page. The page states that there will be more examples in the near future.
Will you be getting a Google TV enabled television or box? What are your thoughts on the future of television?
Facebook Announces More Control Over Your Profile & Friend Groups
Today at an announcement at Facebook HQ broadcasted live, Mark Zuckerberg & team announced three pretty big updates to Facebook. These updates includes new Facebook Groups, Download Your Information, and the Apps That You Use Dashboard.
Read on to find out more.
Download Your Information
This function allows you to export all of your data from Facebook in a zip file. This includes profile information, friends list, comments, photos, videos and more.
Security is built into the application to ensure your data remains safe.
Once it is downloaded, your profile is available in what looks like is a plain HTML/CSS format, which should make this information available to import into other social networks.
This feature is perhaps a direct response to Facebook’s critics concerned about the platform being ‘closed’ with your data being locked with no way to export or back it up.
Apps That You Use Dashboard
This new feature allows you to have a finer-tuned access to how an external application will access your data. The granular controls give you the ability to enable and disable specific features like the ability to post to your wall, while allowing full access to other functions.
A second part of this feature is an ‘audit log’ to see what exactly an App is doing with your data.
This feature helps to mitigate the problem with having disparate groups of “friends”. It will aim to map real-world groups that share information to an area on Facebook which has similar features.
Facebook has discovered that “people don’t want to make lists” quoting that only 5% of Facebook users made at least 1 list. But they also discovered that doing it algorithmically isn’t a great solution either, because who you interact with doesn’t necessarily indicate who you think should be in a certain group of friends.
The new Groups aim to solve this by simplifying how you add friends to groups. Facebook hopes that making it as simple as tagging a photo will help to increase the adoption of creating separate lists of users. Groups is not replacing Lists (or old Groups), but is meant to augment small group communication. Think of it more like Google Wave functionality.
Group features will include:
- Group Chat
- Group Messages
- Wiki-like document editing
The features will be rolled out over the next few days. If you don’t see it now, be patient, it should be there soon.
Let us know what you think of these features and whether they are good or bad.
Turn Your Captcha Into A Video With NuCaptcha
One of the most annoying steps when signing up for a new service or website has to be filling out the captcha to prove you’re not a spambot. Sometimes the images are so garbled, it’s impossible to figure out what letters you’re expected to enter.
The Canadian based company, NuCaptcha aims to do something about that. Instead of cryptic images, they’ve taken captcha security to a new level, by using videos.
This opens up a whole slew of possibilities on how the captcha can be used – one of which is a new advertising resource for websites to bring in revenue, and for advertisers to get their message out. After all, it seems like one of the easiest ways to find a captive audience.
With the Basic Package, users have no control over the exact video that will be played. That said Basic features include a choice of themes, such as environment, sports or abstract themes, and up to 25,000 NuCaptchas per month.
Upgrading to the paid Engage Package will give users complete control over the ads, Captcha copy and formats. According to NuCaptcha, where most services make you choose between security and revenue – they give you both. No mention is made on the site, however, of how much you have to pay to get in on the service.
So how does it work? NuCaptcha is a video stream, and not a flash program. As they point out on their website, it would not be secure to create a Captcha in Flash. With HTML5 and mobile support, the system works on mobile phones, on the four browsers, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer, and on tablets.
With NuCaptcha’s video based security system, the Captchas are easier to decipher, and more secure – so in the end – everyone wins. What do you think?
Now You Can Drag & Drop Images Into Google Docs
People love Google Docs because of its simplicity. It allows you to create documents or spreadsheets in the cloud and it is very easy to collaborate with others. Add in the fact that it’s free and everyone can use it for document creation and sharing.
With Google Docs, there never seems to be a shortage of new features either. In the past we’ve written about new real-time collaboration features, the ability to upload and share files , and even how to sync your Google Docs to multiple machines .
Today, however, I’d like to talk about Google’s latest feature to their Google Docs suite: the ability to drag and drop images. In this article, I’ll explain how it works and show you what it looks like.
Will This Work For Me?
The short answer to this question is “probably”. If you are using the latest versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari, you can begin using this feature right away. If you are using a different browser – like IE – don’t worry, because Google says they plan to support other browsers soon.
Anyone who is familiar with MUO knows that we are not shy about adding images in with our articles. People love images, and they can help to supplement your written content, especially if you’re trying to show somebody how to do something.
Google Docs already has three different ways for you to add images to your documents. You can upload them from your hard-drive, via URL, or you can find them using the Google Image Search.
Now, however, you can simply drag the image you want from your desktop onto your Google document. It really is that easy.
What do you think of this new feature? How much time is this going to save you?
Source: Google Docs Blog
Facebook Launches New Profile Pages
Doesn’t it feel like it was just yesterday that Facebook was revamping their look? It seems that the social networking giant waits long enough for people to get comfortable with the new look, before making a few more major changes just for the heck of it.
A few hours before Mark Zuckerberg was scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes, the blogosphere was buzzing with the news of major changes coming to Facebook profile pages, with the news program touting the fact that the first exclusive look would be on their show. We didn’t have to wait long to get a first-hand look, with Facebook officially launching the latest changes before Zuckerberg’s appearance.
The changes, which will effect both profile pages and fan pages, involve a completely new layout, and a much cleaner look. Tabs on your profile have disappeared, replaced instead with a small menu on the left hand-side of the page. New additions on the home page include your tagged photos appearing at the top of your profile, as well as your basic information – relationship status, education, work, date of birth and location.
You can also highlight specific relationships, whether with family, friends or coworkers.
Another interesting addition is seeing how you connect with each of your friends, including pages and people you have in common, photos you’ve been tagged in together, events you’ve both attended, and wall posts and comments on each other’s profiles. Basically any interaction between you and each of your friends is documented on a single page.
If you want to learn more about the changes before going ahead and taking the plunge, check out Facebook’s announcement, or their official video below.
Are you for or against Facebook’s latest look? Let us know in the comments.
Google Unveils The Chrome Web Store
Back in May, Google announced the idea of a Chrome Web Store. The idea behind it was to create an open marketplace for web apps where it would be easier for users to discover apps and for developers to reach a large audience.
Fast forward to today and the Chrome Web Store is open for business. Developers have already started uploading apps, and Google expects the number to grow over time. Let’s take a look.
Chrome Web Store Overview
Essentially, the Chrome Web Store is an online marketplace where you can discover thousands of apps, extensions, and themes for Google Chrome. It is featured prominently in Chrome (no surprise there), helping people discover great apps and developers reach millions of users around the world.
Once you’re in the store, you can find things by using the search box or by browsing through different categories. Every item in the store has its own page, where you can read and contribute reviews and ratings.
Here’s what you can find in the store:
- Web apps – advanced interactive websites. They may provide a wide-ranging set of features or focus on a single task like photo-editing or shopping.
- Extensions – let you add new features to your browser (e.g. an email notifier extension for email alerts).
- Themes – allow you to customize the look and feel of your browser (includes themes from leading artists/designers around the world).
If you use multiple computers, you can synchronize your apps, extensions, and theme across all your computers with browser sync.
What’s A Web App?
To get a feel for what the web app store is for in general, watch this short video by Google:
What do you think of the new Chrome Store? Tim and Justin will shortly be looking at the store in more depth.
Image Credit : Official Google Blog
Send Longer Tweets In TweetDeck With Deck.ly
What’s your favorite Twitter client? We asked you back in November and TweetDeck took over 27% of the vote, losing only to Hootsuite (36%), which surprised me actually. I also personally know a lot of people who use TweetDeck to manage their Twitter account, so it’s safe to say it’s one of the more popular third party Twitter clients out there.
Until a few days ago however, TweetDeck didn’t have the capability of sending tweets longer than 140 characters. But that all changed with the implementation of Deck.ly, which is a service kind of like TwitLonger. Deck.ly allows users to send messages in any length, including embedded images and videos.
What Is Deck.ly?
Deck.ly allows users to send messages of any length, whether it contains an embedded image, video, or just a lot of text. Deck.ly attaches a truncated link to the end of your long tweets that takes you to a special webpage to view the rest of the message. Users who have TweetDeck will be able to read the messages in full directly from the app, while everyone else will have to click through the link to see the rest of your tweet.
TweetDeck’s Desktop, Chrome, and Android apps all support posting Deck.ly updates, as well as those you receive from other TweetDeck users. Deck.ly isn’t available on the iPhone or iPad yet because TweetDeck is starting over by building brand new apps for both platforms.
Check out this short YouTube video to see Deck.ly in action:
It’s also reported that a dedicated Deck.ly homepage is coming soon. It would feature a built-in search option so users can search through the tweets that are stored on TweetDeck’s servers.
What do you think of this new addition to TweetDeck? Will you be using it?
Source: The Next Web
Read “The Daily” For Free Online Without An iPad
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s latest news outlet, an iPad-only “newspaper” called, and now you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about without spending a cent.
The Daily puts all content from the application on the web just in case someone spots something they want to share with their non-iPad mates. This then takes you to a page with the shared news items and a big advert for The Daily, instructing you to get an iPad and subscription for a full edition. The service has purposefully made it difficult to find these shared items, but Andy Balo of Waxy.org has intervened with The Daily: Indexed.
Andy explains: “I love journalism dearly and want to see new models emerge, and charging for content is a great way to align a media organization’s interests with those of its readership. That said, if you do charge for access, you can’t publish free versions to the web and hope that people don’t find them.”
The project provides a completely unofficial table of contents for each edition of The Daily by scouring the web and posting the findings, daily (of course).
As this content is already available online, there is nothing illegal about what Andy’s doing: “I’m also very curious about their reaction. This isn’t illegal or a copyright violation “” all I’m doing is linking to the versions they’re publishing on their site.”
“The ability to link to any webpage without permission is part of what makes the web great, and it should never be discouraged. It’s also worth noting that Google’s slowly indexing all the articles too, and search engines aren’t blocked in their robots.txt file.”
Check out The Daily: Indexed. Have you read The Daily yet? Will you? Is this the saving grace that journalism needs, or a fad that’s on the way out? Let us know in the comments.
Facebook Adds “Send” Button
Social networking giant Facebook isn’t usually associated with sharing privately, but that’s exactly what the new “Send” button is for. In addition to being able to “Like” much of the indexed web, users can now specifically target friends privately (and not for the first time ever, remember email?).
The button is designed to be used alongside the familiar “Like” button on existing websites, giving users the option of sharing publicly by “Liking” the item or bringing it to the attention of a few specific people (or both).
When clicked the new button opens a small window within the page with fields for body text and recipients; much like a Facebook message. Web items can be sent to individuals who are already on Facebook, Groups and non-Facebook users via an email address.
Abe Parvand announced the feature in a post on the Facebook Developers Blog, last week:
“The Send button drives traffic by letting users send a link and a short message to the people that would be most interested. They don’t need to leave the web page they’re on or fill out a long, annoying form. Compared to the alternatives, the Send button has fewer required steps, and it removes the need to look up email addresses by auto-suggesting friends and Groups.”
Webmasters and developers interested in introducing a “Send” button can either use the web form or code in the Facebook development documentation.
Will you “Like” and “Send”? Email for the lazy? A breakthrough in quick sharing? Let us know what you think!
Facebook Quietly Patches A Massive Security Hole, Millions Potentially Affected
Facebook has confirmed claims made by Symantec over millions of leaked “access tokens”. These tokens enable an application to access personal information and make changes to profiles, essentially giving third parties the “spare key” to your profile information, photographs, wall and messages.
It is not confirmed whether these third parties (mostly advertisers) knew about the security hole, though Facebook has since told Symantec that the flaw has been fixed. Access granted via these keys could have even been used to mine users’ personal data, with evidence that the security flaw could date back to 2007 when Facebook applications were launched.
Symantec employee Nishant Doshi said in a blog post:
“We estimate that as of April 2011, close to 100,000 applications were enabling this leakage. We estimate that over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties.”
Not Quite Sony
Access tokens are granted when a user installs an application and grants the service access to his or her profile information. Usually access keys expire over time, though many applications request an offline access key which will not change until a user sets a new password.
Despite Facebook using solid OAUTH2.0 authentication methods, a number of older authentication schemes are still accepted and in turn used by thousands of applications. It is these applications, using outdated security methods which may have inadvertently leaked information to third parties.
“The application uses a client-side redirect for redirecting the user to the familiar application permission dialog box. This indirect leak could happen if the application uses a legacy Facebook API and has the following deprecated parameters, “return_session=1” and “session_version=3″, as part of their redirect code.”
Should these parameters have been used (pictured above), Facebook would return an HTTP request containing access tokens within the URL. As part of the referral scheme, this URL is in turn passed on to third party advertisers, complete with access token (pictured below).
Users who are concerned that their access keys have been well and truly leaked should change their passwords immediately to automatically reset the token.
There was no news of the breach on the official Facebook blog, though revised application authentication methods have since been posted on the developers blog, requiring all sites and applications to switch to OAUTH2.0.
Are you paranoid about Internet security? Have your say on the current state of Facebook and online security in general in the comments!
Image Credit: Symantec
Google Adds “Me On The Web” To The Dashboard
On Wednesday Google added a new feature to its Dashboard line-up for Google Account users. The “Me On The Web” feature pulls information from your Google Profile (if you have one set up), and places it in an easy to find place, just below your account settings. The feature attempts to track mentions of your name and email address across the web and keep you up to date with your web presence.
Users will need a Google Profile in order to make use of the new feature, and once they have done so Google Alerts can be configured to notify you of any incoming mentions. These mentions can simply be your name or email in a news story, a photo that you have been tagged in or a post on a public social network.
In a post on the Google Public Policy Blog, product manager Andreas Tuerk said:
Savvy web users may already have used Google Alerts to set up notifications for mentions of their name or email address in websites and news stories. If you haven’t set up alerts yet, Me on the Web makes it even easier to do so and even automatically suggests some search terms you may want to monitor.
The feature also adds some useful links with information regarding the removal of data that is linked to you. These include common tips like reaching out to the webmaster of a site to ask for the content to be taken down, or publishing additional information on your own to help make less relevant websites appear farther down in search results.
Have you set up your Google Profile and Alerts yet? Will you do so now? Let us know what you think of Me On The Web in the comments below.
BranchOut Business Networking Rivals LinkedIn
The BranchOut application for Facebook is gaining popularity so quickly that it has become an instant rival for LinkedIn. The application has become an instant hit with job seekers and employers alike due to its simplicity and extensive networking capabilities.
Users of BranchOut can sign up through Facebook in an instant, then link their LinkedIn profiles immediately. This gives BranchOut readily accessible work history information within seconds, allowing the users to get headhunted and start looking for jobs straight away.
BranchOut’s social capabilities revolve around making it easy to post job openings via their system. The BranchOut home page asks all users “Is Your Company Hiring?” and making it easy for any user to post basic details of job openings in their workplace. BranchOut even fills out most of the details for you from your Facebook information, meaning you can tell your friends about the position in seconds.
Businesses can also use BranchOut to advertise job openings, by using the BranchOut application on their Facebook page. Jobs will be displayed both on the Facebook page and in the BranchOut system.
Jobs are also incorporated into the system via the Indeed network, ensuring there are many open positions ready to consider.
Viewing a job opening will also display to you friends who have connections with that workplace, making it easy for you to arrange an interview via your social network.
Online Pharmacies Phish For Google Plus Fans With Fake Invites
Have you received a Google Plus invite lately? If so, you may want to make sure it’s legit before you click, as some of the Internet’s least respectable online pharmacies have been using the hype as a way to hook new customers.
The scam works through the typical phishing formula. Those targeted receive an official-looking Google+ invite in their inbox, inviting them join the service. Unlike some fake emails, this particular phony invite is a reasonably accurate reproduction of the real thing; although the recent introduction of Google’s new social networking service makes it unlikely that most recipients have a clue as to what a real invite should look like.
Once clicked, however, the invite instead open an online pharmacy offering a wide variety of drugs that people may be embarrassed to buy or unable to afford, such as Viagra. There haven’t yet been any indication that the site is attempting to steal user information or that the site itself contains any browser exploits . Thankfully, this simple scam is annoying at its worst.
Still, this round of false invites points once again to the vulnerabilities inherent in social networks and tools. It’s easy to imagine that an email such of this could contain a more damaging payload, and it would no doubt be effective at capturing the attention of some users. Google’s decision to turn off invitations due to the incredible demand makes invites a valuable commodity that’s sure to attract curious eyes.
Source: Daily Mail Online
Google To Disable All Private Google Plus Profiles After July 31st
Google has announced that all Google Profiles withholding names or gender are to be disabled at the end of the month. Google Profiles are tied in to Google Plus, designed to help manage an individual’s identity on the web and recently became even easier to manage than ever before.
The company has spelled this out via the Google Plus help topics surrounding public profiles. The entry states:
The purpose of Google Profiles is to enable you to manage your online identity. Today, nearly all Google Profiles are public. We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.
Keep in mind that your full name and gender are the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.
If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011.
This change makes a huge difference from the private profile options seen on Facebook, which allows users to abscond from search results, messages, friend requests and more. Google’s approach only requires the name and gender fields to be public, but forces everyone into the same boat.
If you’d like to change any aspects of your profile you can log into Google Plus and click Edit Profile. You’ll find your name easily editable from any screen, and your gender information under the About tab.
What do you think about Google’s stance? Would you prefer a private profile? Have you switched from Facebook yet? Is it all hot air? Comments ahoy, below.
Facebook Video Calling Scam Rides Official Announcement’s Coattails
The recent introduction of a Facebook video calling partnership with Skype has garnered plenty of attention, but unfortunately, not all of it is good. Scammers looking to generate referral fees through link clicks have introduced a fake Facebook app that can easily trick unsuspecting users.
The app, named Video Calling, spreads itself through infected accounts by spamming the social networking service with links labeled “Enable video calls”. Clicking on the link takes you to the fake Video Calling page, which entices unsuspecting users with a “Get Started” button.
Upon close inspection of the permissions, however, there’s obviously something odd. The bogus app asks for access to your basic information, your wall, your news feed, and data access at any time. Those are some hefty permissions, and they don’t have anything to do with video calls.
Of course, the real service doesn’t install like other Facebook apps but is instead accessed through a particular Facebook page, so those already familiar with the service are unlikely to fall for this façade. Those who have only heard of the feature in passing, however, won’t be as suspicious.
The good news? The payload of this threat isn’t serious. Besides posting referral link spam, there’s little harm done. Still, users should be on alert for threats like this both on Facebook and on Google +, as not every social engineering attack is so mundane.
World’s First Google eBooks Reader To Hit Store Shelves July 17th
Google today announced the iriver Story HD, the first eBook reader to support Google’s eBookstore . The reader, which looks something like a Kindle and is an obvious evolution of iriver’s original Story, will be released at Target (both online and in-store) with a price of $140.
The HD in Story HD comes from the display, which has a resolution of 768×1024. This compares favorably to most other eReaders; both the Kindle and the Nook have a resolution of 800×600. Readers will enjoy crisper text thanks to the higher pixel density.
Besides the display, the hardware in this new device is typical. An ARM processor powers the reader and WiFi support is standard. Traveling with the device should be no problem, as it weighs just 7.3 ounces and packs a battery that can power the device for up to six weeks on a charge.
What you won’t find, however, is a touchscreen. The Story HD instead uses a QWERTY keyboard and physical button interface. The decision not to include a touchscreen could be a deal-breaker for some consumers.
Integration with Google eBooks means it serves as the built-in bookstore for the device, just as Amazon serves the Kindle. Users will also be able to read books directly through WiFi without downloading them to the reader. This does not mean that the company has any intention of restricting access to the store from other devices and software , however. Its eBooks will still be compatible with various smartphones, tablets and most other readers.
Source: Ars Technica
Gmail Now Supports Multiple VoIP, Phone & Video Calls In The US
Last week Google announced improvements to Gmail that will enable users to make multiple calls to computers or phone lines from their inbox. The ability to call from Gmail is currently only available in the US, and now that functionality includes making and receiving multiple calls as well as a new “hold” button for pausing the active conversation.
If a user is in an active call and decides to call someone else, the first conversation is put on hold. By clicking “resume” on either call, the active conversation can be toggled between callers.
The new “hold” feature is available regardless of whether you are conducting multiple calls or not, as software engineer Richard Dunn explained in a post on the official Gmail blog:
Whether you make a second call or not, you can now put any call on hold — useful in case you need to talk to someone in the room or grab something off the stove. Just press the “Hold” button and then “Resume” to start talking again.
This feature works across all call types (voice, video, and phone); the only restriction is that a maximum of two outgoing calls to physical phones can be placed at once.
Do you use Gmail to call people? Will you make use of the new multiple calls feature? How about Google launching this outside of the US? Answers in the comments box, below this post.
Source: The Official Gmail Blog
Hacker Group Anonymous Attacks myBart.org Site
The hacking and civil disobedience group, Anonymous, hacked into the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) website, , and obtained, according to a BART news release, the contact information of 2,400 of its 55,000 members. The company said, that in most cases, “the information consists of names, email addresses, and passwords”.
Anonymous was able to shut down the myBart.org website on Sunday, and as of this writing, the site has been replaced with an “Under Construction” page. Anonymous waged the attack on BART after the company shut down the cell phone services in the area on July 11th, in attempt to impede planned citizen protests which sought to disrupt rush-hour BART transit commutes. This protest, according to ABC7 News, was “in response to the killing of Charles Hill by BART police a week earlier”.
Anonymous compared the cell phone censorship tactic to the protests in Egypt in which cell phone and Internet services were shut down by the Egyptian government. Anonymous issued the following statement, in part, on Sunday:
Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in the censorship what it feels like to be silenced. #OpBART [campaign] is an operation geared toward balance – toward learning. You do not censor people because they wish to speak out against the wrongs the wrongful things occurring around them.
Anonymous is calling for a peaceful protest of BART to be held today, August 15, at 5pm at the San Francisco Civic Center station. It’s also asking its “followers to file a complaint with the FCC and bombard BART with emails and faxes”.
Google+ Now Has An Ignore Feature
Users on Google’s fast-growing social networking service Google+ will now be able to ignore users. From the launch of the service Google offered the means to block users totally. However, the problem with this is that it completely cut them off; they could not see what you were doing, and you could not see anything about them. If you don’t completely hate the person, but just don’t want to see what they post all the time, there is a way to do that now.
Enter the new ignore feature. The new feature allows you to cut off the user from showing up in your stream. It also prevents you from seeing any notifications about what they are doing, and you will not see them in your circles page. However, they will see you in their stream, and they will still be able to interact with your content. Meaning if you share a link, or make a post, they can still comment.
To me, the main use for this would be someone who is a good friend, who you still want to interact with, but they just post so much garbage that you do not want to fill up your feed with. It kind of comes back to our recent article “The Five Most Annoying Things People Do On Twitter “. If people are engaging in similar shenanigans on Google+, simply ignore them and move on with your life.
As of this writing the service is not fully rolled out to all users, so be on the lookout for it soon.
Source: The Next Web
Google+ Explores Profile Verification for All Its Members
In an effort to make Google+ a trustworthy social networking service, Google is exploring a policy of requiring members to use their real identity for their Google+ account. The policy, similar to the real name requirement for Facebook, follows the profile verification program Google started recently to verify celebrities and public figures who are added to lots of circles.
In a recent interview with Andy Carvin, of National Public Radio, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, in part, that “G+ was build [sic] primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they’re going to build future products that leverage that information“. This means verified Google+ users will be able to easily identify themselves to many different online services.
Most users of social networking services understand that anonymous accounts invite spammers, scammers and trolls. But some critics contend that requiring real names could be problematic for ordinary users. For the more Google+ members connect to other services on the Internet via Google+, the more they reveal their identity to other sites, sometimes unknowingly. Also, CNN writer Pete Cashmore added that the verification move “is harmful to political activists, victims of harassment and numerous other groups for whom using a real name online might pose a safety risk“.
The verification policy doesn’t apply to most Google+ users – for now anyway – but Google is making plans to broaden its criteria for which members will need to verify their names. It will likely follow the real name policy of Facebook, one of its major competitors. Google said that before closing questionable accounts, affected members will have the opportunity to respond and clarify their identity.
Google Takes the Axe to 10 Products
It seems that Google has a hand in nearly everything, from feed readers to email to smartphones, but there are limits to the company’s patience with the products under its wing. Now Google has announced that a number of under-performers will be given the axe.
Perhaps the most significant (or at least, the only dying service I’ve used for more than a few days) is Google Desktop , which brought gadgets and search directly to the desktop experience. Though a neat trick at the time of its release in 2004, both Windows and Mac OS X now offer similar functionality, making the product redundant. Support will end on September 14th.
Other notable products that will be buried include Aardvark, a question-and-answer site brought under Google’s wing in early 2010, and Fast Flip, a service that tried to digitally replicate the style of a newspaper. While unique, neither were popular, which is no doubt why they’ll soon be gone. Less important causalities include Google Pack, Google Web Security, Google Notebook, Google Maps API for Flash, Sidewiki, Subscribed Links, and Image Labeler.
It’s doubtful any of these services will be greatly missed (queue hostile comments), but their disappearance points to a larger trend within the company. Google has been trying to streamline its product offerings, and has been switching focus to web apps exclusively. That leaves no room for experiments like Aardvark or locally installed software such as Google Desktop.
Farewell, sweet products. Some of us will miss you. Maybe. Will you miss them?
Source: PC Magazine
Google Brings More Social Sharing To +1 Buttons
Since Google launched its +1 button for websites this past June, it says that more than one million sites use the sharing feature . To extend the use of the button, Google recently launched two more features that enable users to use +1 buttons with their Google+ circles, and the ability for content publishers to customize the +1 content using what Google calls “+Snippets.”
These features are available on +1 buttons posted on subscribing sites, such as MakeUseOf (see the end of this article).
When you see the new “Share on Google +” option on a webpage, you can click it and choose one of your Google+ circles to instantly share that page, similar to how you share webpage links on your Twitter account. You can also add a comment in the sharebox before clicking the sent button.
For web content providers using +1 buttons, Google has has included what is called +Snippets, which is a way for publishers to customize the descriptions and linked image that pop-up in the sharebox. More details on customizing are available on the Google Webmaster blog.
In a related story, Google has said that it is exploring using +1 buttons as part of its search results algorithm for ranking websites. It told Wired magazine that “the purpose of any ranking signal is to improve overall search quality. For +1’s and other social ranking signals, as with any new ranking signal, we will be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality“.
Dropbox’s Mobile Website Gets New Look
Although it’s no longer the talk of the town – er, web – Dropbox is still frequently used by MakeUseOf as a means of sharing files and remains one of the best tools for that task. Using the service on mobile devices has now become a bit more pleasurable, thanks to the updated mobile site.
A number of new features have been introduced including search, a new “file quick action” menu, share, delete, and account settings. All of these have been a part of the service for some time of course, but the mobile site redesign makes them more readily accessible on a smartphone or tablet.
Support for this new version of the mobile site is limited to the iPhone, Android 2.1+, and Windows Phone 7. In other words, most mobile devices should be compatible. Dropbox did not specifically state that Android Honeycomb is compatible, but judging from the design of the mobile site, those with 10-inch tablets would likely find the normal site a better choice.
You may be wondering why you’d use this instead of the app. If you’re using your own device, the app is likely a better choice. If for some reason you are not using your own mobile device, the website will be easier to access, and now offers functionality almost identical to the app.
Source: Dropbox Blog
Google+ Now Available to the Masses
The time has finally arrived for Google+ to be available for everyone. If you have not been able to get a Google+ beta invite from someone, you no longer need to worry. Google is finally ready to truly go head to head with other social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter.
According to Google, they have made exactly 99 improvements to Google+ and the 100th is making Google+ available to everyone. All you have to do is head over to Google.com/+ and click the Sign In button to sign in with your regular Google account and create your Google+ profile. Of course, if you don’t have a Google account you can click the create new account button to make one.
This is great news for everyone who wants to join Google+. Now they won’t feel left out in the dark. For those of us already on Google+, now we can actually have some more people on there, and the place won’t feel like a ghost town as much….hopefully.
Another part of this update to Google+ is video hangouts on mobile devices. Now you can get together with your friends and video chat right from your phone. Sadly, mobile hangouts only work on Android 2.3+ devices, but Google is promising support for iOS devices soon.
Source: Google Blog
Google Launches New & Exciting Dynamic Views For Blogger
Google has launched a brand new look for Blogger – Dynamic Views. These are basically seven new themes that are meant to revolutionize Blogger’s user experience. The new themes are built with AJAX, HTML5 and CSS, and are designed to create a new feel and look for both authors and users.
The new designs should be easy to implement and quick to load. It should take care of annoyances such as clicking the “next post” button at the bottom of the page every two minutes. With Dynamic Views, you get endless scrolling and dynamic loading of graphics as you go. The themes are not very customizable right now (only header image and background colors), but it should become more customizable in the following weeks.
As detailed in Blogger Buzz, these are the seven new themes. You can click on the link to play with each of them:
- Classic (Gmail): A modern twist on a traditional template, with infinite scrolling and images that load as you go
- Flipcard (M loves M) – Your photos are tiled across the page and flip to reveal the post title
- Magazine (Advanced Style) – A clean, elegant editorial style layout
- Mosaic (Crosby’s Kitchen) – A mosaic mix of different sized images and text
- Sidebar (Blogger Buzz Blog) – An email inbox-like view with a reading page for quick scrolling and browsing
- Snapshot (Canelle et Vanille) – An interactive pinboard of your posts
- Timeslide (The Bleary-Eyed Father) – A horizontal view of your posts by time period
Or you can simply watch this demo video to get a taste of Dynamic Views.
Source: Blogger Buzz
Yahoo News Activity Connects With Facebook
If you and your Facebook friends are active readers of Yahoo-posted news, Yahoo has recently developed a way for Facebook members to share links to news articles they read from within the Yahoo News site. Called Yahoo News Activity, the service was launched at the Facebook f8 conference held a few weeks ago in San Francisco.
You can use the News Activity service by logging into your Yahoo account and visiting the Yahoo News page. From there you can log into your Facebook account and click, “Add to Timeline,” and your Facebook friends will appear in a facebar near the top of the Yahoo News page. When you place your mouse cursor over the avatar of your friends, you will be presented with a list of links for recent news articles they have read.
The assumption behind this feature is that your and your friends share similar interests and views, and thus they can be useful sources for helping you find relevant news content to read. According to Techcrunch.com, “Yahoo News says that 80% of its readers are already on Facebook and its news content is among the most shared on Facebook, so the integration makes sense.”
The Yahoo News Activity integration is powered by the data service, Mixer. Yahoo explained that Mixer is a “complex, and finally tuned caching scheme that sits on personalization algorithms, to automatically sort and refine the large data sets that flow across the Yahoo and Facebook platforms.” You of course have control in the built-in privacy settings for how you want to share content.
Source: Search Engine Journal
Have A BlackBerry? Enjoy $100 In Premium Apps – Seriously
RIM was recently was struck by a network outage specific to their devices. Users in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and eventually the Americas had to go without their BlackBerry specific services, such as BlackBerry Messenger. For some users, the service blackout lasted three days. That would be a problem for any company, but it’s particularly bad news for a company that focuses heavily on enterprise users.
Yet the outage might be a boon for those who aren’t so reliant on the company’s unique applications, because RIM has announced an official apology in a language everyone understands – free stuff.
According to an official press release, users will be able to download up to $100 worth of “premium” apps from the BlackBerry app store . This includes everything, from productivity apps to games. Enterprise users will be given an additional bonus in the form of one month of free technical support.
Can free apps make up for a critical network outage that is still unexplained? Probably not. RIM has had more than its share of trouble keeping up with newer touchscreen devices, and sprinkling service problems on top of that just adds to their woes.
The roll-out date for the free apps is today, and they’ll be available for only four weeks, so don’t stand around twiddling your thumbs.
Adobe Launches Carousel, A Photo Sync Solution To Rival Apple’s Photo Stream
Adobe has launched a new photo sync service by the name of Carousel. This service, currently only available for Mac OS X Lion and iOS, is an alternative for Apple’s new Photo Stream and allows photo sync across multiple devices. The service, however, is not entirely free. Mac and iOS apps are free, but the cloud storage itself currently costs $6 per month. You can try a full month for free before you decide to pay.
For this price, you get the ability not only to sync photos across devices, but to edit photos and sync those edits too and to allow others to view and edit photos as well. All edits are saved automatically to the cloud and you can access them from all your devices, along with copies of the originals.
Here’s a short video of the service’s main features:
Apple’s new Photo Stream lets you access your photos across devices, but the storage is limited to 30 days and you can’t select which photos you want to sync, you can only sync all of them. Adobe Carousel is aimed at providing a solution for those who find Photo Stream to be insufficient for their needs.
Versions for Windows and Android are planned for the future, but Adobe is not providing a definite date for those yet. What do you think about Photo Stream? Is it more than enough for photo sync, or do you think Adobe Carousel truly provides something that was missing?
Google Reader Receives Update – Adds Google+ & New Design
It feels like it has been a long time, but Google finally updated their popular RSS reader with a new look and some minor new features. The first and most obvious change is the overall look of the app. The basic functionality behind it all is the same, but I have to say that the new look is a lot nicer, and it feels a lot cleaner than the old one. The left side of the screen, where all the feeds are listed, has the same basic layout as the old version, but they have changed the colors and font size. In the end, these changes are strictly cosmetic. It is the next change that seems to have split the Google Reader community down the middle.
Along with making things look prettier, Google has implemented Google+ into Google Reader. The problem with this is that they took away the old way of sharing, so Google+ is now your only option. I understand this is a Google product, and they want to tie it in with their other Google products, but this change seems to be upsetting a lot of people.
It seems like Google knew they were going to upset some users. On their blog they even said, “We hope you’ll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not.” It seems they knew they were going to make a lot of users angry. I have to actually applaud them for making a tough decision and sticking with it.
Let us know what you think of the new Reader design. Do you approve of the sharing changes or not?
Source: Google Reader Blog
Twitter Launches Twitter Stories
With an estimated 140 million tweets posted per day, Twitter is the largest online forum on the Internet. The real-time information network, based in San Francisco, is used by nearly every country on the planet. When Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, Twitter received 456 tweets per second, and on New Year’s day in Japan, 6,939 tweets were posted per second. With these types of numbers, there are bound to be stories behind the 140 character posts. To capture the stories, Twitter has launched Twitter Stories to highlight the huge impact individual tweets can have.
The Twitter stories posted so far include aabout movie critic Roger Ebert who lost his ability to speak due to complications from cancer surgeries, but now uses Twitter to communicate to over 500,000 of his followers.
, told in video, is about a mother whose bookstore was hit hard by an economic downturn, but was revived by her son who posted tweets asking people to purchase books at the bookstore. He tweeted: “Buy a book at Broadway Books. No wait, buy 3 of em. I’ll buy you a burrito the next time I’m in town.”
You can share your own story of how you or someone else has used Twitter in an interesting way. Stories can be submitted by using @twitterstories or or the hashtag #twitterstories, and including a link to a photo or video that helps illustrate the story. Each month Twitter says it will curate a selection of profiles to share.
Source: Twitter Blog
Adobe Stops Development Of Flash Plugin For Mobile
In a surprising move (or not so surprising), Adobe is discontinuing its development of Flash plugin for mobile browsers. According to Adobe’s official announcement, they will now focus their efforts on HTML5 instead, as it is “now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively“. They will also continue development of mobile apps based on Adobe AIR and of Flash for desktop.
Adobe will continue releasing security updates and bug fixes for the already existing versions, but the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook will be the last official one. Others who have licensed Adobe’s code are permitted to still use it to create their own versions, which will not be supported by Adobe.
What do these changes actually mean for us? Currently, not a lot. Since bug fixes and security updates will still be released, those of us who have Flash on our mobile devices will be able to continue using it as before. The true change will happen when new devices come out without Flash support, but considering the most popular mobile device never supported it, the world will probably not change considerably.
What do you think about this move? Is this merely Adobe giving up, or are they making a wise choice?
Google Wallet Assimilates Google Checkout. Resistance Is Futile!
When Google Wallet was announced , and the interest in wireless payments cooled, there was an obvious question. Where did all of this leave Google Checkout? Now, we know exactly where – in the stomach of Google Wallet, which has now swallowed its sibling service whole. According to information released by Google, the Checkout service will be merged into Wallet, and no longer exist as an independent entity.
Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean that all of the online checkout features have been given the axe. It only means that those features will now be referred to under the Google Wallet name. Going to the old site will re-direct you to the new version but the functionality remains the same.
If you’re a merchant running a site that accepts Google Checkout payments , you don’t have to change anything yet. Google states that it will “ask merchants, organizations and developers who use Google Checkout who sell items or collect donations to change any website text that talks about Google Checkout to Google Wallet” in early 2012. No changes will need to be made to site integration as a result of this switch.
While the main site now redirects to Wallet, the older brand remains on a number of other pages. Google has not indicated exactly when all current pages will convert over to Wallet, but if the company will be asking merchants to change their wording in early 2012, the answer is likely “soon.”
Google Analytics Rolls Out A New Look Packed With New Features
Following their other products, Google is officially rolling out the new Google Analytics, complete with a whole new look and some interesting new features. This change has been happening over the past few weeks, and some of you may have already seen the change beginning to happen in your Analytics. Over the next few weeks, Google will gradually make the new look the default to all users, so if you’re still using the old version, make the most of it because it won’t be around for long.
The most prominent change to Analytics is, of course, the looks. The new look keeps the orange and blue theme, but is much smoother and a lot less cluttered. The menus have become much easier to use, and a convenient “Home” tab has been added.
Among the new features you will find Real-Time Analytics, which lets you view what is happening on your website while it’s happening, new and sophisticated ways to track conversions and their causes, upgraded mobile analytics and the ability to create separate dashboards for different products.
Some features, such as Flow Visualization, which illustrates user navigation, are still rolling out, and you might not see it on your dashboard yet. But don’t worry, it’s all coming. Just switch to the new version if you haven’t done so, and give some of the new features a spin.
After you’ve done so, let us know in the comments what you think of them, and of the update in general.
Source: Google Analytics Blog
Google Launches New Google Bar For All Services – Try It Before Everyone Else
Google is like a mean lean upgrading machine. A day never passes without us hearing about some kind of update from Google. This time it’s the Google bar. The Google bar is that black, think toolbar you can see on top of every Google page you’re on. This includes Google search, Gmail, Google+, Google Reader, etc. This bar keeps changing, bit by bit – sometimes a link is added or removed, sometimes a word turns into an icon – many times we don’t even notice the changes.
But this time, Google decided it’s time for a big change. In the next few days, you will notice that the black bar is gone, and instead of a getting a new bar, all the bar’s components will be integrated into the already existing grey search bar. This includes a Google navigation menu on the left side:
And the usual account settings and notifications links on the right:
The new bar provides a much easier and quicker way to access all of Google’s services. To start, there are many more of them included in the new dropdown menu. It also makes the services much more visible and easy to find. The best part about it is the room it saves. The black toolbar is completely gone, and all it’s components are now sitting in a space that was used up anyway. This also helps all of Google’s services look the same, since the bar never changes when you switch between services.
If you can’t see the bar yet, and you simply cannot wait several days to see what it’s all about, you can use a simple cookie hack to get it. You’d need a cookie editor for your browser, such as Edit This Cookie for Chrome or Cookies Manager+ [No Longer Available] for Firefox. Install the add-on and head over to google.com. Right click anywhere on the page and choose to edit cookies. Fine the “PREF” cookie, delete its current value field and instead, paste in:
Thank you,, for this tip. Let us know what you think of the new Google bar!
Source: Official Google Blog
Finding Flights Becomes Much Easier With Google Flight Search Results On Google.com
Google is getting deeper and deeper into the flight-search business, and is now offering immediate flight search results on Google.com. The service currently supports only US domestic flights, and only selected routes within those, but more routes should be added in time, hopefully worldwide ones as well.
The flight search service is not a new one, it had been introduced back in September, and offers route and price comparisons for many US domestic flights, complete with booking links from the airlines themselves. This is not to be confused with the flight schedule service, which has been around since May, and offers information about non-stop routes around the world in 11 languages.
Until today, when performing a search such as “flights from Chicago to Las Vegas”, you were shown flight schedules in the regular search results, and had the option to choose “Flights” on the left-side toolbar to access the flight search service. It has now becomes even easier. In the next few days, you will notice that when you perform a search for one of the available routes, the results page will already include a table with the available flights, prices, etc.
If you can’t see this yet, don’t worry – Google, as usual, are announcing things as they roll, and you should see the feature in your search results within the next few days. Hopefully, this will be expanded to include worldwide flights soon, which will make it useful for a lot more people.
Source: Inside Search Google Blog
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Math Students Rejoice! Google Adds Instant Graphing Functionality To Search Results [News]
If you’ve ever studied math, be it in high school, college or university, you must have had some dealings with functions. Back when I was in high school, we used to have to manually draw graphs on special graph paper based only on the functions. Boy, do I wish we had Google’s new graphing functionality back then!
So what is this graphing functionality all about? In short, it’s a simple way to plot numerous mathematical functions, right on Google.com’s search results page. Simply head over to Google.com and type in the function of your choice in the search box. Instantly, an interactive graph will pop up, complete with zoom buttons, pan options and the ability to see the x and y values for every single dot on the function’s line.
If you’re interested in seeing how different functions relate to one another, try writing down several of them, separated by commas. The different functions will be presented in different colors, and you can switch between them using the dropdown menu on the right.
Whether you’re a true math lover, a math student, or just curious to see how even mathematical functions can be fun to play with, head over to Google.com and give it a try. And don’t forget to share your thoughts about it in the comments.
Facebook Timeline Now Available To All
Facebook profiles around the world are due for a facelift as the social networking giant rolls out its new Timeline feature to anybody who wants it. The new profiles are set to be the biggest shake-up the service has seen since the Like button was introduced, changing the way users view and interact with profiles.
Timeline has been designed from the ground up to enable Facebook users to tell a story, complete with a cover page, featured stories and events. Once the service has been activated, users have a week-long grace period during which they can get their Timelines into shape, removing unwanted stories and highlighting happier times.
As well as a new way of browsing the site, Timeline also introduces new social applications which can be integrated into profiles. Examples include a Netflix app which lists recently watched movies, RunKeeper which broadcasts GPS work-out information and Spotify for highlighting favourite or last-played tracks.
Facebook Timeline is also accessible via mobile web at m.facebook.com and via the official Facebook for Android app. The service will be coming to iOS soon, but as yet no date has been given.
Have you tried Facebook Timeline? What do you think? Decided against it? Tell us why in the comments, below.
Facebook Opens Registration For The 2012 Hacker Cup
Facebook has opened registration for its second ever Hacker Cup. Facebook’s Hacker Cup is aimed at finding the best hacker in the world, with a first prize of $5,000, not including flight and accommodation at Menlo Park, courtesy of Facebook.
The competition will be held in three online rounds, each shorter than the last, and the top competitors from each round will advance to the next level. An initial qualification round will be held from January 20th to January 23rd, and will include three problems for contestants to solve. Anyone who solves at least one problem correctly will advance to the first round of the competition.
Naturally, the rounds get harder and harder as competitors move up; round one will last 24 hours, while rounds two and three will last only three hours. The top 25 competitors from round three will be invited to Facebook’s campus for the finals. These rounds will be held throughout January and the beginning of February, with the final schedules for March 17th.
On top of the $5,000 for first place, Facebook will award $2,000 for second place, $1,000 for third place, $100 each for places 4-25, and official Hacker Cup t-shirts for the top 100. So if you’re up for it, hurry up and register! Check out the Hacker Cup page for more information about the contest.
Will you be taking part?
Netflix Finally Launches Streaming Service In The UK & Ireland
It took long enough, but Netflix has finally decided to roll out their popular streaming service in the United Kingdom and Ireland. They will be going head to head with popular services such as Amazon-owned Lovefilm, and with the slew of problems Netflix has had recently, getting a foothold there may not be so easy. However, Netflix needs a new market, and the UK and Ireland is the perfect place.
Netflix will roll out with some popular local favorites such as Top Gear, The Only Way is Essex, The Inbetweeners and Torchwood. They will also bring with them a massive library of movies, TV shows and documentaries. This roll-out could be exactly what Netflix needs to break out of their slump.
Streaming users in the UK will be looking at £5.99 per month. The UK will also feature a Facebook recommendation tie-in that has some users concerned that their viewing habits will be shared.
Users will be able to watch their streaming Netflix content on supported Blu-Ray players, their computers, certain televisions, smartphones and tablets. There will also be support for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii for users in these regions.
If you are in the UK and Ireland, you can sign up for a one month trial of Netflix to decide if it is right for you.
Facebook’s New Service Lets You Listen To Music With Friends
Music is becoming more and more social, right? Well, the folks at Facebook obviously think so. Facebook has just announced a new service which allows users to listen to music with your friends and do so in perfect synchronization. For now, the service only works with Spotify and Rdio [Broken URL Removed], but more services should be added soon.
So how does it work? The new service is integrated with Facebook chat. In the chat sidebar, look for a note icon which indicates that a friend is listening to music. If you want to join in, hover over that person, and click on the “Listen with” button. You should now be able to listen to whatever your friend is listening to, thus having your very own private DJ. This works in larger groups as well, in which one person controls the music and the rest listen.
Since the whole thing is part of Facebook’s chat, you can talk with your friends about what your listening to, “just like when you’re jamming out at a performance or dance club”. While the service seemed at first like a way for Spotify-deprived people (like me) to enjoy some Spotify action, it seems that all parties have to be using the service in question. This means that if I don’t have Spotify installed, I can’t listen in on a friend who’s using Spotify. Too bad, but legally understandable.
The new service should be rolling out to all users within the next few weeks, so don’t panic if you can’t see it yet. It remains to be seen whether users in countries which don’t get to enjoy Spofity and Rdio even get the new service, since it’s going to be quite useless for them anyway.
What do you think of the new service?
Ubisoft DRM Monitors Hardware, Locks After Three Activations
There are few companies easier to bash than Ubisoft when it comes to copy protection . The company has long used an activation scheme on most of its games that ties activation to your computer’s hardware configuration. This means that when you change your hardware, you have to re-activate your Ubisoft games before they’ll run.
Such a process isn’t entirely unheard of in software. Registration keys for Microsoft Windows work in a similar way. But Microsoft’s product registration usually only kicks in after a major system change, such as a motherboard upgrade. Ubisoft’s DRM is apparently a bit more sensitive.
This was discovered by Guru3D when they attempted to use the new game Anno 2070 for graphics benchmarking . Though aware of the game’s DRM, the site figured that swapping out video cards would be OK. They were wrong. Swapping cards required that the software be activated all over again. That would be fine if Ubisoft offered unlimited activations, but they don’t. Many of the company’s titles only come with three activations. If you use them up, you could be out of luck.
Ubisoft’s support does state that further activations can be provided if you use them up, but Guru3D’s initial attempts to obtain them were refused. The site has since been contacted by Bluebyte, the developer of Anno 2070, and activation for the site’s copy has been unlocked. But this action is almost certainly a unique response to Guru3D’s complaint.
If you’re going to buy an Ubisoft game, you’d better be careful about your hardware upgrades.
Google Updates Google+ Name Policy: You Can Now Use Nicknames & Names In Other Languages
Good news for Google+ users who have been forced to abandon their nicknames. Google has announced an update to its pseudonym policy, which will roll out over the next few days. The major change you will notice is the ability to add a nickname or a maiden name, and have it appear alongside your real name (e.g., John “Spider” Smith).
Google’s pseudonym issue, known also as Nymwars, first started when Google+ went live. Numerous people who tried to use nicknames or pseudonyms, had their accounts suspended because they did not meet Google’s name policy. According to Google, this policy was enforced to reduce spam and fake accounts, and following user feedback, they will now be a bit more lenient when enforcing the issue.
So how do you add a nickname to your Google+ account? Go to your profile, and click on “Edit Profile”. Click on your name, and then choose “More options”. You will now see a new Nickname field, which you can fill out and then choose how you want your new name to display. This will also work with names in different scripts. As you can see, there are not many options to choose from, but it’s still somewhat better than having no nickname at all.
Note that when you change your name here, it will affect all the Google products you use, not just Google+. If you want to use only a pseudonym, or something else Google flags as suspicious, you will need to submit the name for review by Google. To help the review along, you can submit:
– References to an established identity offline in print media, news articles, etc.
– Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license
– Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following
You can read more on the Google+ Name Policy page.
Will this make a difference for most users, or is Google+’s name policy still too limiting? Will you try to change your name on Google+ following this new policy?
Source: +Bradley Horowitz
Apples Updates Its iBooks Author License Agreement
Last month after Apple released its latest Mac software, iBooks Author, careful readers of the licensing agreement noticed some legal restrictions for publishing books in the iBooks/e-Pub format. This week, Apple update that agreement.
iBooks Author allows you how to write, design, and publish interactive e-Pub books and post them for free or for sell on Apple’s iBooks Store.
In the latest 1.0.1 update of iBooks Author, Apple states “If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, in such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.”
The above is essentially what Apple required in the original license. In this update, however, it adds in part, “This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in any form is not include files in the .ibooks format.”
Apple further clarifies it policy agreement on its iBooks Author: Publishing and distribution FAQ page. It says in part:
If a fee is charged for the work and it is in the .ibooks format, the work may only be sold through the iBookstore. If the work is in a different format, such as PDF or ePub, this restriction does not apply.
When the work is provided for free, it can be distributed through the iBookstore or by other means, including when the work is in the .ibooks format.
While Apple says it doesn’t own the copyright of your book, it might be a good idea to hire a legal expert if you think your book is going to have significant sell value.
Spotify For iOS Updates, Brings 320kb Streaming To Mobile
If you’ve never listened to extreme-quality music before, now’s your chance! Spotify has recently updated their iOS app, which now provides music streaming in a staggering 320kb. Up till now, and this is still the case for Android, Windows Phone and other mobile users, the highest quality you could find on a Spotify mobile app was 160kb. The desktop app, however, has always streamed in 320kb.
In previous versions, users could choose between two quality options: high and low. Low was 96kb, and high, as mentioned above, was 160kb. In the new version, a new option has been added: Extreme. And extreme it is. If you choose this option, you’ll be able to enjoy the full benefit of music on your iPhone, with 320kb streaming. You can also sync these higher-quality songs.
Another notable change on this update is the new one-tap login with Facebook. If you’ve been logging into the app every time you use it, you can now login with Facebook using one single tap. Nice.
As of now, this update is only for iOS, and users of other platforms will have to wait their turn. Hopefully, everyone will get to enjoy Spotify’s high-quality music on their mobile devices sooner then later. Did you get the chance to try it? What do you think of the quality?
Source: The Next Web
Vimeo Updates iOS App With Full iPad Support & More
Popular video service Vimeo has issued an update for the iOS application that adds full support for iPad, as well some other small improvements. The iPad is a necessary addition to Vimeo’s bag of tricks because it is a device tailor-made for watching media. Vimeo has admitted that 15% of their traffic comes from mobile, so it is impossible for them to ignore the iPad. It opens up a whole new world of mobile users to use their service.
The update also allows users to edit videos right from their iPad. It’s not a super robust video editor, but for a free application that is designed more for streaming video than creating, it is a nice inclusion and one that helps make this a tough application to resist. It allows you to add transition effects, as well as trim the video and add an audio overlay. With the video editor, they incorporated the ability to buy licensed music from the Vimeo Music Store, and add it to your videos easily.
You can also browse while you watch a video. This means you will always know what to watch next, without wasting time between videos trying to find the next thing.
The Vimeo iOS application is available for free from the iTunes app store.
Flickr’s Had A Makeover
Flickr has recently had a makeover to make it easier for users to explore the photos their contacts have added. The changes are the work of Markus Spiering, who has been senior product manager at Flickr for a year now. To see the changes for yourself, visit the new pages showing photos from your contacts and photos from your friends and family. They are full of pictures which interlock neatly without cropping, showcasing one picture per contact. It’s a great way to see what your friends have been uploading and what’s new in their lives.
This is the first change in a series of updates slated for 2012 which are designed to improve user interaction on Flickr. It will hopefully re-invigorate the Flickr community, who were at risk of leaving for cheaper alternatives such as Instagram and Google+, both which have a thriving community.
January also brought about cheaper pricing for Flickr Pro options, now costing US$6.95 for three months and reducing the two-year subscription cost by US$5.
Another change expected to be released any day now is the new uploader. Flickr will soon offer a drag and drop uploading interface, which makes it easier to edit photos while uploading.
What do you think of Flickr’s new pages for photos from your contacts and friends and family? Will you use Flickr more now?
Spotify Gets An Update For DJs – Adds Gapless Playback And Cross-Fade
Spotify is already one of the more popular music platforms, and now they are taking aim at DJs by adding some awesome features that cater to their needs. They have a launched a new version of their desktop software that brings features that may persuade professional DJs to use Spotify as their go-to program.
This new update adds a gapless playback feature, that rolls one song right into the next. Even if you aren’t a DJ, that 2 second gap between songs is annoying, and it is nice to see it go. Gapless playback is enabled by default, so if you prefer the old way, you will have to go into Spotify’s preference screen and turn it off.
The other feature that comes with this update is the ability to cross-fade songs. This is the method used by DJs to mix two songs smoothly, and in most cases, it is a necessary feature for professional DJs. Even for regular users, it is fun to mix music together at a party, so having the cross-fader is a nice addition.
This update also comes with faster artist browsing. They also included some improvements to the social playlist features of the app. Spotify has made it easier for Windows users to drag and drop with the app. The last change is the ability to save the “Now Playing” section for later.
Source: The Next Web
Skype Launches Native Windows Phone App & Wants Your Feedback
Skype has released a beta version of Skype for Windows Phone 7.5, which includes all the regular Skype features we all know from other platforms. The official release is planned for April, and until then, Windows Phone users are free to evaluate the beta version and provide feedback.
As mentioned above, the new Windows Phone Skype includes Skype features such as audio and video calls over Wi-Fi or 3G, Skype chat, calls to landlines through Skype Out and more. The whole thing, however, is packed in a new Metro UI interface, which is designed to fit the general feel of the Windows Phone operating system.
Take a look at the new Skype interface in this video.
This is a big step for Microsoft; after buying the biggest player in the VoIP arena, they have now brought it to their emerging mobile OS, where many users have been eagerly waiting for it. You can download Skype on Windows Phone 7.5 through the Windows Phone marketplace or directly from your Windows Phone device. According to Skype, the new app has been tested to perfection on several devices, such as the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710, the HTC Titan and Radar and Samsung’s Focus S and Focus Flash.
Windows Phone users, we’d love to hear about your experience with the new Skype app. How does it stand against Skype’s other mobile apps?
Source: Skype Blog
Facebook Messenger For Windows 7 Officially Relaunches With Final Version
Facebook Messenger for Windows 7 is officially out. Well, technically, it was already out after it leaked a few months back and forced Facebook to push it to market. At that time, the app had some problems, and some users, including our own Yaara, could not get the application to work at all. That is rectified with this new version, which promises to fix the bugs and issues that users met when the free application first hit the market way back in late December.
Feature wise, the application remains unchanged. You still use it to chat with your friends on Facebook, receive notifications and get a news ticker on your Windows 7 desktop. If you are a real Facebook junkie, this is a must have application. It allows to you keep up to date on the latest happenings without having to open the Facebook web pages. You can increase your productivity without missing a beat if something important happens on Facebook.
If you are not a Windows 7 user, you will have to wait to download the application. Facebook says they are working to make Facebook Messenger available for Mac, Windows XP and Windows Vista soon.
Download the latest version of Facebook Messenger for Windows 7 here, and let us know what you think of it in the comments!
Google Announces Google Play: A New Cloud-Based Service For Google Apps, Music, Movies & Books
Google has unveiled a brand new service by the name of Google Play. Google Play is a combined name for what we’ve so far known as the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore. Under the same roof, Google will now offer apps, music, books and movies, all available in the cloud.
Under the new name, Google Play offers a seamless way to sync media between different devices. Every app, book or song you download on one device will be immediately available on all your other devices. All you have to do is log into your Google account. Users are able to pin content for offline playing, but in general, everything on Google Play is stored and played from the cloud, so there’s no real need to actually sync anything, and the quality is consistent.
While the Google Play brand is now available worldwide, the actual content is not. Music is only available in the US, movies and books are available in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, and in Japan you can also get movies, but not books. Other than these countries, all other countries are getting only apps, so for those users this is effectively a rebranding of the Android Market. The new cloud syncing feature will still be available in these countries, of course.
To celebrate the launch, Google are offering some apps, books, albums and video rentals for special prices. If you hurry up, you might still be able to catch some!
Source: Official Google Blog
The Demise Of Blackberry, Breaking Bad In 8 Minutes, The Crazy Korean Drummer, & Getting Revenge
Welcome to another edition of “Stuff I Found On The Web”. Today we have some great stuff for you that has been floating around the Interwebs, including a quick 8 minute roundup for all you Breaking Bad fanatics out there who haven’t watched the new episode yet, and need a refresher on where it left off last year. Plus we look at the implications of what a downfall of Blackberry could mean, as well as the return of the crazy Korean drummer, and the man who got his revenge in an unusual way after his Amazon package was stolen from his front door.
It wasn’t too long ago that the ultimate status symbol was a Blackberry device. Now it’s an iPhone or an Android phone, and as a result, Blackberry’s fortunes have plummeted faster than a drunk Japanese Kamikaze pilot. The stock is just over $10 a share, and when it gets that bad, it’s time to sound the alarms and consider drastic measures, such as selling.
But what would a sale of the company mean? In the words of the New Yorker :
If BlackBerry sells itself, the buyer’s biggest gains will be a pile of cash, a big portfolio of patents, and some security technology. In other words, one of the companies that pioneered the smartphone market may soon end up selling itself as scrap.
Do you think the company will be sold? If so, what do you think the effect will be in the smart device market? If you are a Blackberry user, what phone would you switch to, when you need a new one? Would it be the iPhone, the factor that started Blackberry’s declines in the first place?
Sunday night saw the return of “Breaking Bad” after a hiatus of over a year, which is ridiculous when you consider that we were halfway through a season. Anyway, a year is a long time for a TV show to be off the air, so a brief refresher on what happened before would be totally invaluable before plunging into the new episode from Sunday night (if you haven’t already watched it). I mean, can you remember someone called Lydia? I didn’t, until I caught up.
The “Fine Brothers” therefore have made that refresher, dressed up in yellow plastic hazmat suits, BB-style. They speak pretty fast though, which gave me a bit of a headache. Then again, maybe it was the pure blue crystal meth that gave me the headache. You never know.
The Crazy Korean Drummer
5 years ago, a crazy Korean drummer went viral on YouTube when he got a bit carried away with his musical talents, and upstaged his colleagues with his wild moves. So wild in fact that after you have watched it, you are busy on Amazon ordering your own drum kit, having been inspired.
Well now he is back! With white hair, he is now doing his own rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way“, and in the process, upstages his colleagues again. The look of pure joy on his face is just wonderful. And wherever he gets his boundless energy and unlimited happiness from, he should bottle it and sell it. He would make a fortune!
He makes his first appearance at 1 minute, 15 seconds. Feel sorry for the drums, the way he bashes them!
Who hasn’t had stuff stolen from them? It happens to most of us at one time or another. When I was in primary school, I had my Spiderman colouring book swiped by some swine of a kid (the contract is still out on their head), and various amounts of money have gone walkies over the years. But when most of us are a victim of theft, we either write it off as a loss, or we report it to the police.
A guy in Arizona was not content with going to the police however, when his Amazon package containing a few K-cups and an ice cube tray, was stolen in broad daylight from his front door. He had a webcam system set up so he got perfect footage of the thief and he then used that to make great “wanted” posters, which he posted around the neighbourhood. He described the thief as “either a woman, or Dog The Bounty Hunter has really let himself go”.
He also gave a killer TV interview :
Over the top, or just perfect? I leave that to you to decide. Personally I think that the thief won’t be so quick to steal anything else anytime soon. I hope she’s enjoying her K-cups and ice cube tray. She’s certainly going through the wringer for it.
That’s all today for “Stuff I Found On The Web“. More next time. Let us know in the comments what you think of today’s links.
Image Credit : Sippanont Samchai
Google News: Color On Google Drive & The Launch Of Google Web Designer
A few things to look forward to on Google. Your files on Google Drive will get a more colorful and cleaner look thanks to a little update. The more interesting announcement is reserved for the public beta launch of a new Google tool – the Google Web Designer.
First things first: launch into Google Drive and you should see a band of color with the product icon on the top-left of your Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Apps Script windows. Each product has a different color. Clicking on the product icon takes you back to the Google Drive files and folders. Google Drive has also been updated with a new compact header designed for quick access as you can see in the screenshot below.
The Google Web Designer Editor
Google Web Designer is a visual tool for easily designing interactive HTML5 sites and ads. The tool has been launched in public beta and is available for free download on Windows and Mac. The designing software is meant for advertisers primarily who want to easily create animated ads for mobiles and desktops. Though most of the features are custom-made for ads, it can also be easily used for making full scale HTML5 webpages. Google Web Designer is an attempt to simplify the design process for cross-platforms and multiple screens.
Things don’t stay too dormant with Google do they? Give us your first impressions about these two changes.
Bing Gets Prettier: Adds Pinterest Boards To Image Search
Bing has beefed up its image search by bringing Pinterest boards to its image search results. Go to Bing Image Search and type in your keyword. You will see the result in the form of Pinterest board collections appear on the right hand side of the regular Bing Image Search results. Clicking on any collection takes you to the next screen that displays all images on the pin board. Click on the image to enlarge and view it in a lightbox. As earlier, you can directly pin any image from Bing Image Search.
Visual search has become richer and search engines – both Google and Bing – have tweaked their algorithms to make it more accurate. Bing says that it recognizes the trend that the most interesting pictures on the web are being collected by people, not computers i.e. curators who are using platforms like Pinterest to collect images aligned with their interests. As Pinterest’s popularity has proved, curated collections are not only creative outlets, but also a searchable mine for ideas. Searching for ideas on hairstyles, fashion, gifts etc. are a perfect match for a visual search and Pinterest is one of the sources anyone can tap. Visit the blog (linked below) for more examples on display.
Bing has made it easier to find these results from its own search page. Of course, there could be a long term strategy involved in Bing looking to leverage the monetization move from Pinterest. But that’s a story for another day. Right now, do tell us if this is a welcome move from Bing and whether it makes the search engine get a few more marks in your books.
Source: Bing Blog
Open The Box: Cloud Company Gives Back To Community With Open Source
Box has made its identity as a cloud company with generous file management features. The company showed another generous side by contributing to the Open Source movement with its own repository.
Box Open Source is a way for the cloud company to give back to the community and even tapping the work of open source developers for its own projects. Presently, the repository hosted on GitHub showcases 20 projects.
Open source projects cover the range of Python and PHP codes, database tools, SDKs for Windows, iOS, Android, and Java, and JQuery plugins. Benjamin VanEvery, Principal Technical Operations Developer said:
We want to offer high-quality code that is configurable, extensible, and well documented. All of our projects are required to have installation instructions, unit testing, documentation, and follow good design principles. Not only this, but looking into the future we want to ensure that our projects are healthy and always improving, to this end we also require each project have a team committed to maintaining it. Over the past half year, we have been piloting and refining a process to assure that all projects we share with the world meet these characteristics.
Box is ramping up and will soon go public. If it has to go grow and hold its own in the already cutthroat enterprise cloud segment, it will need to foster a community of developers. Already, according to Box, more than 35,000 developers are currently building services on top of the Box platform. From here on each step on its growth could also rub off on its open source initiative and vice-versa.
Source: Box Blog via The Next Web
A Shine In The Clouds: The New Google Drive Gets A Redesigned Look
Who doesn’t like change. When it comes to software, most of us do if it’s for the better. Like the New Google Drive. With a generous 15 GB of free space, it is a personal cloud for many. What it needed was a fresh makeover. The “new look” Google Drive brings that.
The new Google Drive is more simplified and importantly – speedier. It is gradually being rolled out for a first glimpse. Give it a try if you see something like the screenshot below.
An Example Of Google’s New Design Philosophy?
Is this an embrace of Google’s ‘Material Design‘ philosophy where they also say — “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”? Difficult to say — there’s no word officially if this adheres to the new principles Google has laid out. But this could be a small first step and the design changes to Drive could be just one of the first to its many services as we head towards the launch of Android L.
Google had announced their intention to tie all their products to the same design language at the recent Google IO conference. The ultimate goal is to have a unified experience across platforms and device sizes.
The New Look – Flatter & More White Space
The noteworthy change — the minimalism of text has been replaced with flat icons.
A unified menu. You will notice that the old Create button (and the upload arrow) has been replaced by a New button that works for creating new documents and also for uploading files and folders from your desktop.
Comfort viewing. The Grid (Thumbnail) view is now the default instead of a list. But you can switch over to the List view if you have just too many documents and like the linear arrangement of a list, while using the quick sorting options. Personally, I find the Grid view an overkill for text documents. The Grid is especially handy for visual content like infographics and photos.
Remember, you can backup albums of photos and videos from smartphones via the Drive mobile app and free up space on your phone.
File organization gets a fillip. You can now CTRL+CLICK to select non-contiguous files and drag ‘ n drop them between folders. With multiple files: right click on the selected files, use the menu above the file area, or simply drag the group to a new location in Drive.
If you select a file and hold the Shift + Z Key, an Add To menu appears which allows you to add the same file to multiple folders if required.
Clicking on individual files and folders opens up an information pane on the right with the file details and any updates on recent activity. There’s a marked improvement in the way you can manage your photos. You can add a description to a file or a photo, and in the case of the latter – prevent others from downloading a shared photo.
Within two clicks you can open any photo in a connected Google Drive app (for e.g. Pixlr Editor) and work on it. Using integrated Google Drive apps opens up a range of productive possibilities.
Better accessibility. Google also said that the new Drive comes with improved keyboard accessibility, support for zooming and high contrast mode, and better compatibility with screen readers.
Access your documents offline. Offline access is already set up on the new Google Drive. You do not need the Chrome app for Google Drive. Do note that offline access only works with Chrome. To turn on offline access using the new Google Drive, click the Settings menu > Offline > check the box next to Sync your work to this computer so that you can edit offline. (Google Drive Support)
Google Drive Mobile Apps Updated
Google Drive apps for iOS and Android have also been similarly updated with the new document UI. There is no top bar and all action buttons are organized for quick accessibility. View the document details by clicking on the tiny “i” icon on the right of each file. A large preview dominates the screen and all actionable options come below it.
View the meta information on the file, sharing data, and a new activity tracker. There’s also a toggle button to keep any file on the app for offline access. One of the more useful features (which we probably don’t use often) is the ability to print via Google Cloud Print or AirPrint.
Do You See The Shiny New Google Drive?
If you still can’t try the new Google Drive, check out the official video below and also read their blog announcement:
The design changes may seem like a strategic design move for now, but Google is also working feverishly under the hood. The recent Google I/O conference also saw the introduction of native editing of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in Google Drive without needing to convert them. In a lot of ways, we all are doing more and more of our everyday tasks in the cloud, so new features for better organization and efficiency in our old tools can only help.
Have you taken the new icon-embellished Google Drive for a spin? What do you think? Do you feel it is faster and easier for you to work now? If you aren’t using Google Drive , why not?
Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.