Saturday, June 23, 2007

Preview CSS in IE 6 and Firefox simultaneously with CSSVista


Windows XP only: Freeware app CSSVista offers side-by-side live previews of CSS (cascading style sheets) code in Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox simultaneously.

CSSVista is a three-paned editor—one window is a CSS editor, one window the IE 6 preview, and the third is the Firefox preview. Although Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 ages ago, boatloads of users are stuck with IE 6. Unfortunately, the rendering engine for IE 6 is an odd bird requiring lots of special attention from developers—especially when it comes to creating cross-browser compatible websites.

CSSVista requires the .NET 2.0 runtime and, despite the name, is a free download for Windows XP only.

CSSVista [Site Vista]


ChipIn Empowers Micropayments On Facebook

chipin.pngChipIn, a free widget based service that enables users to collect money has launched a Facebook application that brings micropayments to Facebook.

ChipIn on Facebook supports existing Facebook events or can be used separately with ChipIn created events. Creation of new “ChipIn’s” is simple, the ChipIn Widget can be customized using photos from a users Facebook account and each ChipIn can also be promoted directly to Facebook friends.

We covered Lending Club, the exclusive Facebook P2P lending service on June 20; ChipIn is at the other end of the spectrum targeting micropayments, yet together they demonstrate the continuing growth of finance on Facebook. There is any number of new Facebook applications being launched daily, and whilst many provide a wow factor and are useful, not that many to date have a real world financial use. It’s not too farfetched to imagine ChipIn being used as a political or charity fundraising tool on Facebook in the near future. chipin1.png


Apple passes Amazon to become the #3 US music retailer

Things must seem pretty rosy in Cupertino -- just a week before the mega-hyped launch of you-know-what, market research group NPD's quarterly survey shows Apple has passed Amazon to become the third biggest music retailer in the US. This isn't the biggest of surprises, since Steve himself predicted that the iTunes Store would overtake Amazon at the Showtime event back in September, but the leap to #3 is a little unexpected, since Apple also outpaced Target last quarter. iTunes is now rocking a 10% market share, just behind Wal-Mart at 16% and Best Buy at 14%, and while we don't expect to see it pass those two giants anytime soon, we'd bet that uptick in DRM-free sales has got the iTMS crew at Apple licking their chops.



Friday, June 22, 2007

Linux-powered VoIP uber-phone does WiFi video conferencing

We're not sayin' we'd put one of these bad boys in our living room or anything, but adorning the board room table with a four-line VoIP phone that sports a built-in 3.5-inch LCD, webcam, and Zach Morris-style handset wouldn't be a half bad use of resources. The SysMaster Tornado M20 uber-phone does a lot more than hold down IP calls, as it also manages to handle video conferencing, IPTV, video- / audio-on-demand, internet radio, voicemail, email / chat / news, and local weather information. This conglomerate even touts a dual-core processor, 32MB of RAM, and 32MB of flash memory, and the integrated Ethernet jack, WiFi, RCA audio outs, and Linux-powered UI are all welcome additions. Of course, we've no idea if you can rig up Tetris on this thing and use the 4, 8, and 6 keys to control your pieces, but it'll only cost you $260 and a tick of your time to find out.




System X: Ross Lovegrove's modular fluorescent lighting

It's been a long time coming, but someone has finally developed a fluorescent lighting array that isn't completely hideous -- just somewhat hideous. Shakespearian actor (see photo) Ross Lovegrove's diabolically named System X (designed for Japanese manufacturer Yamagiwa) allows for all sorts of interesting and "artistic" combinations of the X-shaped bulbs, permitting large, linked arrangements, or simple, singular set ups... or circles. Truly a minor development in the de-uglifying of offices everywhere.



Perry Ellis gives away cheapo USB flash drive

You would think that Perry Ellis, a "respectable" department store clothing maker, could afford something half-way decent to hand out to its customers -- but you would be wrong. Like many designer products, after you get through the ornate packaging and custom plastic box, it's just cheap junk from China. In this case, that cheap junk happens to be a 64MB (that's right, megabyte) USB flash drive. Of course, you'll be thanking Perry when you've got a place to store one big Photoshop file. [Thanks, kristofer]

Read More... Visual Stock Photo Search is a stock photo search portal based on visual search technology. provides natural and intuitive interactive search for stock photography providing buyers with a browsing experience based on both visual content and keywords. The key to the visual search capabilities is the portal’s color and image search engines, powered by CogniSign Intelligent Image Recognition Technology.

In laymen’s terms, offers three types of interrelated search options. Tradition search delivers photos based on tagged keywords and is much the same as others in the stock photography market. Where gets interesting is in color and image search. allows color search matching, for example if a stock photograph was needed that matched a brochure or web site in terms of colors, users are able to refine the photo search to those colors by utilizing a color chart or by inserting the exact hexadecimal color into a box. Image search provides similar photos based on a user uploaded image or via a drag and drop of images found in an initial search. competes with other visual search sites including Riya, Pixsy and PicSearch. Xcavator isn’t necessarily better than any of their competitors, but different. The color and related search capabilities don’t have the same level of user enjoyment as Riya’s search features do, yet’s features feel more practical and are definitely more finely targeted at niche stock photo search. recently signed a deal with iStockphoto that delivers 1.8 Million images from 38,000 contributors into the search database. The site comes out of Beta on July 2. xcavator1.jpg

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.


iChat display sharing removed from Leopard?

The first Leopard iChat demo video from Macworld Expo in January Apple shows a feature called “display sharing:” Narrator: Screen Sharing lets you remotely observe and control your buddy's display from the other room or another time zone. Initiate a screen sharing session and iChat immediately kicks off an audio chat so that you can talk through simultaneous control of a single Mac desktop. Create Web sites together, make travel plans or review that big presentation. iChat with display sharing opens a whole new world of collaboration possibilities. Curiously display sharing is not mentioned in the Leopard demo video (Apple, YouTube) of iChat from WWDC 2007. The new demo mentions "iChat Theater" but not a peep about "iChat display sharing."...


"I have 250,000 users, now what?"

"I have 250,000 users, now what?" — Craig Ulliott is a web developer in Philadelphia, PA, USA. 3 weeks ago, he built the Where I've Been Facebook application, which lets you create a map for your profile page showing visitors where you've traveled. Cool experiment, right?

Source: Inside Facebook Author: Justin Smith Link:…


Thursday, June 21, 2007

killer video search engine (ClipBlast)

I’ve been looking for a great video search engine that includes all the videos that I’ve done. I’ve been to Dabble, Blinkx, YouTube, MeeVee, Truveo, and others. None have all my videos with the latest videos represented. Dabble is pretty close, actually, but Clipblast really blew them all away. Visit Clipblast and search on my last name, or on a topic you know I’ve covered like “Google Reader” to find the videos I’ve done of the Google Reader team. It’s really great.

I just learned about it from Gary Baker, Founder/CEO who is sitting next to me (I put a short video of him up on my Kyte channel, although that was a bit choppy because the Wifi sucks here).

Anyway, here’s the highlights.

1. Their engine has been spidering the video world for 3.5 years. 2. Three million professionally-done video clips with five million additional of user generated clips. 3. The current interface on Clipblast went live in April.

They also crawl engines like YouTube and MySpace and Daily Motion. Blip, Veoh, Brightcove, etc. are all crawled for their latest video.

Stuff they are strong on, according to Gary:

1. News video from local, national, international sources. 2. Video podcasting and video blogging 3. Newspapers that are putting video out, like New York Times and Los Angeles Times. 4. Commercials.

“Our ultimate goal is to get viewers and more views to the video.”

I’ll try it out more, but on a few minutes first look it really is great. What do you think?

Personally this is one I was happy to see before Mike Arrington and the TechCrunch crew. I have a feeling Mike will write about this pretty soon.


Congrats to Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang is taking over as CEO of Yahoo, a move that I think is brilliant. I first met Jerry back in 95 or 96 in Silicon Alley and he was clearly a bright guy. 12 years later, having run Yahoo with multiple management teams, it seems only fitting that he run the show. What this move shows is that--like Facebook, Apple, and Google--the founders are often times the best folks to run the business. Wall Street and investors are too caught up in the "professional CEO" who knows how to "talk to Wall Street" and get deals done. The fact is our business is about one thing: product. That's it. Product wins... nothing else. Google has better product than Yahoo, Yahoo has better product than Microsoft. The peeking order is based on product on the internet because switching costs are zero. Users go to the best product... it is that simple. Really. Example: Google search is clearly the best, Yahoo's is second best. After that you can pick and choose the next three players (MSN, Ask, AOL) since their products are not any better than the first two. Jerry should rebuild the management team to focus on product and forget about hitting numbers for a year or two. The focus has to be on making better products than Google--not an easy task. If you build great product everything else falls into place. Go get 'em Jerry!!!


Green big shots in Cannes

Big Shot in Cannes Cannes. The Côte d'Azur. And it is. Very azure. But, Yahoo! (aka Big Purple) is in Cannes this week to turn it from azur to vert. Right. Because, of course, Yahoo! has embraced a major global re-thinking of all matters ecological (purple is the new green, after all). We created a very intriguing little contest aimed at the advertising community in eight countries, with the grand prize being a trip this week's Cannes Advertising Festival for three winners.

What kind of contest, you might ask? Well, it's called Big Shot in Cannes and you can learn more about it (and see the work) here. Since the advertising industry has been abuzz about user generated content, we thought we'd challenge the best minds in our business to create a great piece of communications, on the ecological/green subject of their choice, and do it like a consumer would. No big budgets, no fancy production teams, no boondoggles in exotic locations, and no high-priced celebrity talent.

We got an amazing 165 entries from 10 countries (right, two more than could legally enter) and, with much difficulty, narrowed this list down to 33. Because we generated more than 100,000 viewings of the submitted videos (thanks to JumpCut for putting this together for us), we used viewer feedback plus our own very idiosyncratic perspective to narrow the list for our final judging.

We then sent the final 33 to our 11 top creative judges and, lo and behold, three winners emerged: one from the US, one from Spain, and one from India. We had strong runners up from Australia, France, and Italy too. Check them all out here. Amazing stuff.

Our finalists, Kristin Cahill (USA), Diego Duprat (Spain), and Pranav Harihar Sharma (India) all arrived in Cannes over the last few days. Given that two of them had long and tiring flights, we got them to their hotel room and let them nap. Then plenty of free time to wander around the Palais des Festivals, meet up with friends in the biz, and get ready for their introduction to polite society on Thursday afternoon at the Advertising Community Together (ACT) Pavilion when they'll receive their very own Yahoo! Big Idea Chair. BTW: ACT has an annual traveling exhibition of "socially responsible" advertising from around the world, and Yahoo! has been a proud sponsor since 2006.

That's all the news from La Croisette for today. Somehow I feel virtuous and ready to hug some trees even though we are consuming energy like there's no tomorrow (somebody turn off that TV!). But it's nice to see all the big shots going green in Cannes.

Jerry Shereshewsky
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Madison Ave.


My time with the Geezeo founders... it's a pretty sweet service

Geezeo Yesterday I had the chance to meet the founders of Geezeo, Peter Glyman and Shawn Ward. Based in Red Sox (Boston) land, their tagline is, "Keep the Geez in your pocket." The first thing I picked up on is how passionate and excited they are about their product. This is such an important piece of the success of an idea. So many of the companies who contact me write a basic overview. You need to get up in my face and tell me what your service is, why it's better than the rest and how you are going to kick ass. The Geez'rs did this.

Along with Wesabe, Geezeo was part of a piece in the Wall Street Journal last week. Geezeo wants to be considered an "Online Quicken Alternative" and the product offers a lot of new and innovative options past what Quicken or Money do.

For example, Shawn noted that a large percentage of Americans still have their money in savings accounts making sub-1% in interest. When you sign on to Geezeo, they will make recommendations on how to improve your savings by moving to accounts offering 4-5x more. This can amount to thousands of extra dollars a year. Also, the system will offer you suggestions on reducing your credit card debt by looking at using lower interest rate credit cards.

Their target is the 18-34 age bracket and they have ambassadors for their product at major university campuses around the U.S. I suggested to them that they might look at offering seminars on dealing with credit and how to effectively use student loans. I know when I got to college I was hit with 100 credit card offers and wound up with a large amount of debt quickly. Their seminars will provide two benefits: helping students and getting more subs for Geezeo.

So what is Geezeo? Basically it's a "smart" way of managing your money. I say smart because the system learns as it goes. You aggregate all of your bank account and credit information into the system, and it will smart-tag it as it goes along. You can also tag your items as well and then the system learns from your tagging to apply to other users in the future. Geezeo will also offer suggestions on other accounts that you might want to use to either make more or spend less. This is how they generate revenue by affiliate subs with the banking providers. Check out here, here and here for a more detailed product overview.

My immediate reaction when they said, "Yea, Allen you just give us all of your logins and we take it from there" is about security. With hundreds of startups out there, what faith should I have that either of the following won't happen: a. they will just wipe my accounts clean since they have access or b. that their security model will allow a hacker in to accomplish a. Check out their security overview page for some geez speak on how they protect your money.

We spent 45 minutes discussing security and I feel more comfortable now. I asked them to put together a video overview of the security they are using but basically its secure. They are using CashEdge which powers most of the online banks for authentication and they don't store any of your login information after you create your account. They also compared it to storing quicken files on your laptop and your laptop is stolen which would be worse than if someone was able to hack into Geezeo.

There are also mobile components to Geezeo. While I am not a mobile banker, by the looks of the Citibank ads all over NYC, there is a growing percentage that are mobile bankers. And the young'ns are using it more than ever. They also provide support via a MeeboMe widget.

I think the Geez'rs are smart by going after the college and university demographic. Students typically suck at managing their money and overspending on a daily basis. By using Geezeo they might be able to do a better job which could result in extra pocket money for the bars and clubs. Best of luck to Geezeo, if you have tried the service, please post your thoughts in the comments.


Picture of Google Phone from LG - Coming this Month

Unlike the previous image, this is no Photoshop version of Google Phone - it's real picture released by LG. The Google phone will be released around the iPhone launch but in Europe, not North America.

Dubbed LG-KU580, this CDMA phone provides one click access to GMail, Google Maps (the LG official says Google Earth?) and Google Web search. The design looks similar to LG "chocolate phone."

Google Phone

This will be released in Europe this week with a price tag of somewhere between $300 and $400. Also included is a a 2-megapixel camera, an MP3 player and Bluetooth.

Google's applications have been embedded into cell phones before but this is the first time its big three features - search, e-mail and mapping - have all been incorporated into one.

Full story at Korea Times [via, via]


Virtual Goods: the next big business model

This guest post is written by Susan Wu, a Principal with Charles River Ventures, where she focuses on digital media, software, and infrastructure. Susan is coproducing the Virtual Goods Summit this Friday at Stanford University - most of the companies mentioned below will be presenting.

img_susan2.jpgPeople spend over $1.5 billion on virtual items every year. Pets, coins, avatars, and bling: these virtual objects are nothing more than a series of digital 1s and 0s stored on a remote database somewhere in the ether. What could possibly possess people to spend real, hard earned cash on 'objects' that have no tangible substance?

The virtual worlds space has received tremendous press attention in the last year, fueled in no small part by Wild West stories of fortune and anarchy in worlds like Second Life and the plight of the Chinese gold farmer in World of Warcraft. But people aren't paying attention to the bigger story. While people preoccupy themselves with mocking the absurdities of some of these virtual worlds, the reality is that there are many businesses out there making meaningful amounts of money in virtual goods:

  • Tencent is one of the largest Internet portals in China with over 250 million active user accounts. They generated $100 million+ in Q1 of 2007 and over 65% of their revenue comes from virtual goods.
  • Habbo Hotel has over 75 million registered avatars in 29 countries and 90% of their $60 million+ yearly revenue comes from virtual goods.
  • Gaia Online does over 50,000 person to person auctions and 1 million message board posts a day- making them the 3rd largest auction site and the 2nd largest message board on the Internet. Their average user consumes 1200 page views a month. They employ 3 people whose sole job it is to open snail mail envelopes full of cash that people send in for virtual goods.
  • There's a commonly held misperception that virtual goods are only for online gamers. Both Dogster and HotorNot are succeeding with a hybrid ad/virtual goods business model. Currently, over 40% of HotorNot's revenue comes from virtual goods.
  • Major mainstream brands are now buying advertising in the form of virtual goods in social networks. Gaians can now purchase and pimp their virtual Scion xBs. Coca Cola and Tencent partnered to allow Tencent's users to trade codes taken from real Coke cans for virtual objects in the Tencent network. Wangyou, a Chinese based social network, has also been extremely aggressive in experimenting with branded virtual goods.



Privacy: Get a free disposable phone number with Numbr


Web site Numbr provides free, anonymous, disposable phone numbers.

Similar to previously mentioned Craigsnumber Numbr is Craigsnumber re-branded with a lot of cool new features. Numbr supports 23 US cities, can forward calls to up to 2 phones, blocks telemarketers, and offers a Do Not Disturb option from 9PM to 8AM. Additionally, the app can also take voicemails and email you your disposable number's call history. If you ever feel wary about handing out your real number for a short term contact (say for Craigslist), Numbr is the perfect place to go.


Enter Zenter, Google Office is now complete

Google has snapped up yet another start-up - Zenter, which is building online presentations. This is yet-another-exit for YCombinator, the madrassa of the Web 2.0 crowd. In Microsoft world those are known as PowerPoints. Google had earlier bought Tonic Systems, a start-up that was working on similar technology but was more focused on backend technology. With this acquisition, Google has completed its online productivity suite - Docs, SpreadSheets, Calendar, Mail and Presentations. Now they are on equal footing with Zoho. (Check out the comparison between various online office suites over on ReadWriteWeb .)

The problem is that unless Google figures out a way to create a seamless integration between these online apps, these will all have limited utility. The other aspect of the Google Apps which the search giant needs to address is usability and interface. A lot of people like their minimalist approach to UI, but not me personally. Similarly, like many GMail users we are still unconvinced about Google's ability to provide an always-on service, and ensure the safety of data


AT&T kicks off Video Share rollout

Though phones that support it have been on the streets for a few weeks now, AT&T is just now getting official with its Video Share service. Though the feature is the first to bring 3G video calling to the US, excitement is a bit tempered by the fact that the service is one-way -- callers must manually switch feed directions to see each other, despite the fact that other UMTS networks across the globe already support two-way services. What's more, we can expect to get nickeled and dimed here: Video Share runs $4.99 a month for 25 minutes of usage, $9.99 for 60 minutes, or 35 cents per minute, regardless of whether the customer is already subscribed to a data plan. AT&T claims its "research" has shown a strong demand for stuff like this, but we think we'll wait for generation two (you know, when we can actually see each other at the same time and it's included with our already-pricey unlimited data). Look for Video Share to be available first in Atlanta, Dallas, and San Antonio, with a full rollout on AT&T's 3G network come late July.


Verizon FIOS plans to add HD VOD

Verizon FIOSFiber to the premises (FTTP), has the potential to deliver the most advanced HD services today, and although it isn't available in most of the country, Verizon (and others) are bleeding money digging up neighborhoods all over the US to install the magical stuff. Just because you have fiber to your home doesn't mean life is perfect though, there are still plenty of things that can get in the way of your viewing pleasure -- like franchise agreements. Verizon recently announced that they were testing HD VOD in their labs and have an internal time line for launching the service -- that they aren't ready to share. But with their competition already offering this service in some areas they can't wait forever.

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Philips intros 20-inch 3D display -- no need for gaudy glasses

from Engadget by Darren Murph
Don't count Philips as the first outfit to dream up a 3D display that allowed you to leave the eyewear at home, but it looks like the technology is coming ever closer to the mainstream -- for better or worse. The firm has reportedly developed a 20-inch LCD "designed to increase brand awareness and attention value of products at point-of-sale locations," and is showing off the (literally) eye-popping effects at this week's InfoComm. Of course, this rendition seems to be aimed at businesses rather than consumer applications, but we'd expect to see more where this came from as the WOWvx-equipped lineup expands. The newest duo consists of a frame-mountable 20-3D2W01 (pictured above) and a more decorated 20-3D2W04 if you're wanting a bezel and stand. As expected, there's no word yet on pricing or availability, but feel free to peep another shot of the third-dimension after the break.

Continue reading Philips intros 20-inch 3D display -- no need for gaudy glasses




Levi's intros shiny new cellphones

Levi's made its cellphone intentions pretty well known late last year, but it's just now following through with them, trotting out its new line of self-branded phones made with more than a little help from ModeLabs. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot in the way of technical details at the moment, but Levi's is more than willing to talk up the phone's various style advantages, including its riveted steel casing and detachable chain. From the looks of it, you'll also be able to get the phone in your choice of five color schemes, including metallic silver, black, brown copper, "shiny silver," and "shiny sand" -- the latter two of which also come with "mirror" screens. More details should be trickling out as we near the phone's September launch date, which appears to be confined to Europe for the time being.

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Apple TV with YouTube: v1.1 update hands-on

As we heard earlier this morning, the Apple TV v1.1 update with YouTube finally went out, so naturally we had to kick the tires. It works exactly as advertised (and shown by Jobs at D), but there are a few things we discovered.
  • The update isn't available through iTunes, as you might expect -- it's either pushed out automatically directly to the ATV (it checks for updates weekly, and prompts if you want to install), or through manual update in the ATV's settings.
  • The update process took about 9 minutes to download and install. Not nearly as bad as a TiVo update, but we still wish it would have been a bit faster.
  • YouTube appears in the main dash, as expected. Users must log in with their YouTube account to rate videos, save to favorites, etc., but users who aren't logged in still get a video history.
  • Using a keyboard on the Apple TV's USB port sure would be nice for logging in, searching videos, etc. -- we tried, it's still disabled.
  • Video quality looks pretty decent, all things considered. YouTube regulars will be more than satiated.
  • It was clear not everything has converted for Apple TV yet -- Engadget's smattering of YouTube videos were nowhere to be found. For shame!
  • Unfortunately, you still can't fast forward further than the buffer has streamed, like you can with Google video.
  • Apple also added an iTunes Store menu in the settings. Apple claims it's to set your country of origin so the top music previews aren't just assumed to be for US users.
  • Other updates: parental controls setting for disabling YouTube, as well as slideshow option for screen saver.
All in all we're pretty stoked. How much of a friggin pain is it to watch YouTube videos with your friends on your TV? (Don't act like you've never tried.) If you're an Apple TV owner you'll no doubt be using this more than you'd probably like to admit.

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NVIDIA launches Tesla: GPUs are the new CPUs

We've seen a couple cautious attempts at leveraging the raw floating-point capabilities of modern high-powered graphics cards, but NVIDIA is taking the gloves off with the launch of Tesla, its new general-purpose computing platform built on the 8-series graphics cards we all know and love. According to NVIDIA, the only way to skirt the inevitable collapse of Moore's Law is to join the GPU and CPU together, so two of the three Tesla configs are in the form of workstation upgrades -- a $1,499 single GPU PCI Express card and a $7,500 dual-GPU "deskside supercomputer" that plugs into a custom PCI controller. The truly crazy can pony up a full $12,000 for NVIDIA's first rack units, the four-GPU Tesla S870, which has a peak performance of 2 Teraflops. We're hearing the card and deskside unit will be available in August and that the servers will start shipping in November or December -- perfect for the Engadget Folding@Home holiday rush.

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JVC designs tiny 4k D-ILA chip

JVC 1.27-inch 4K2K D-ILA chipJVC announced at InfoComm 2007 a 1.27-inch 4K2K D-ILA chip for use in projectors that offer up more than four times high-definition resolution. Intended initially for medical, modeling, and simulation use, the chip can produce a ten-megapixel 4096x2400 pixel image with a 20,000:1 contrast ratio. While DLP-based 4K projectors are currently in use in some digital cinemas, the JVC chip will be used in D-ILA, a variant of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), and has a higher pixel density. Much like professional racing technologies trickle down to the average sedan on the street, the research that goes into 4K projectors can also make their way to HDTVs in the home, bringing smaller, higher-definition sets to a living room near you. We say bring on the quad-split-screen HD!



Lessig switches from copyright to corruption

Cory Doctorow: Last week, at the International Creative Commons Summit in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Lawrence Lessig made a stunning announcement: he is going to retire from copyfighting and take up a new career, fighting for a new issue. He's going to stay involved with Creative Commons as its CEO, but from now on, he's working to fry a bigger fish: the corruption that leads countries to make bad copyright laws and other regulations, even when they know that the laws are bad for their society.

Larry has posted an expanded piece about this to his blog, explaining his decision to move on after ten years. He suggests that the open Internet and a culture of sharing and remix will make it easier to fight the bigger problem of corruption.

Lessig inspired me -- his writing and work changed my life forever, and I'm not the only one. It's amazing to see him moving on to tackle this new issue. I'm looking forward to following where he leads.

From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a "no brainer." As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.

Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea -- both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a "corruption" of the political process. I don't mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean "corruption" in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can't even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

The point of course is not new. Indeed, the fear of factions is as old as the Republic. There are thousands who are doing amazing work to make clear just how corrupt this system has become. There have been scores of solutions proposed. This is not a field lacking in good work, or in people who can do this work well.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gold farming in China makes the NYT

Cory Doctorow: Julian Dibbell, author of the stellar Play Money (a book about making real money in virtual worlds), has a great NYT feature up about the life of Chinese gold farmers (a subject I tackle in my story Anda's Game). This story keeps on getting weirder and more interesting.
At the end of each shift, Li reports the night's haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20. The small commercial space Li and his colleagues work in — two rooms, one for the workers and another for the supervisor — along with a rudimentary workers' dorm, a half-hour's bus ride away, are the entire physical plant of this modest $80,000-a-year business. It is estimated that there are thousands of businesses like it all over China, neither owned nor operated by the game companies from which they make their money. Collectively they employ an estimated 100,000 workers, who produce the bulk of all the goods in what has become a $1.8 billion worldwide trade in virtual items. The polite name for these operations is youxi gongzuoshi, or gaming workshops, but to gamers throughout the world, they are better known as gold farms. While the Internet has produced some strange new job descriptions over the years, it is hard to think of any more surreal than that of the Chinese gold farmer.

See also: Avatars, and the carbon-based meatbags behind them (that's us)


Samsung and Seagate finally match Hitachi with 1TB SATA disks

Months after Hitachi announced their big 3.5-inch, 1TB drive, Samsung and Seagate have finally matched that capacity by sheepishly launching their own 3Gbps SATA disks. Sammy does it all with efficiency boy, by spinning 3x 334GB platters to Hitachi's 5x 200GB platters (10 heads) or Seagate's 4 platters (8 heads) of 250GB each. That little trick should keep the weight, decibels, and power draw of their SpinPoint F1 (pictured) to a minimum. Hitachi's Deskstar 7K1000 still packs that impressive 32MB buffer which Samsung and Seagate can only aspire to with their 16MBs of respective cache. Expect both of the newcomers to be priced around $400. Cheap, but we'll be holding our wad for the inevitable head-to-head (to-head) shootout we're sure somebody is cooking up. Read -- Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 Read -- Samsung SpinPoint F1


Track Every Click with Crazy Egg’s “Confetti”

Crazy Egg LogoOptimizing your website can be tough business since you can’t “see” your customers online. Analytics packages like Google analytics do a good job letting you see how many visitors are coming and going on your site by tracking every page request. However, another breed of analytics focuses on optimizing how they’re using it, by tracking where visitors click. Crazy Egg, one of these optimization services, now has a new feature “Confetti” that lets you easily see where every visitor clicked on your site and what brought them there. We’ve covered their previous overlay and heatmap features here.

Confetti overlays your site, showing each visitor’s click as a colored dot. The colors stand for the categories you sort the clicks by: operating system, browser, window size, time before clicking, and what search term brought them to the page. It even shows you clicks that weren’t on links, so you know if your users are expecting a link where there isn’t one. You can see the results in aggregate as a bar chart or click on individual dots to find out more information about a particular user. For instance, you can use Confetti to see how users from different referrals behave, and settle the debate over exactly how many of those Digg users click on your ads.

crazyconfettismall.pngCrazy Egg has been implemented on over 250,000 sites and is free if you just want to track up to 5,000 clicks on 4 pages at a time each month. But if you upgrade to a paid account, you can track more clicks over more pages with real time data. The limited number of clicks tracked may seem restrictive, but analytics from Crazy Egg are meant to run for a short period of time on a specific url to grab a sample of how your users react to design changes.

There are a couple other optimization services out there: Map Surface, ClickTale, and Click Density. Click Density was one of the first services to show each unique click on your site, but Crazy Egg has added a simpler point-and-click interface for drilling into your data.

Crazy Egg is based in Orange County California and has reportedly been in acquisition talks.


Monday, June 18, 2007

The Long Tail Is Getting Fatter

longtail.pngThree separate news stories involving numbers this week caught my eye. iLike announced it has now has 6 million registered users and is now adding 300,000 new users a day. Apple’s Safari browser for Windows has now had 1 million downloads. Finally SpaceTime, a 3D browser we reviewed June 5 passed the 100,000 download mark.

All three may not seem obviously related, but there is something they all share: large user numbers.

It wasn’t that long ago that 100,000 users was considered huge for a Web 2.0 related business. Today a small startup such as SpaceTime can gain those numbers in two weeks. 6 million users three years ago would have seemed an impossible dream, and yet iLike joins a long and growing list of Web 2.0 sites with 1 million or more users. Web 2.0 offerings are improving their appeal to a broader audience which in turn is driving growth in the overall market: the Long Tail is getter fatter.

Although this fattening of the Web 2.0 marketplace makes it more difficult to stand out from the crowd, the marginal cost and ROI potential has now improved. Consider the SpaceTime browser. Immediately many would question the need for an alternative browser, yet this isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Every single user of SpaceTime presents a ROI for the company due to search deals. An average SpaceTime user might return $5 per month to the company by clicking on Google ads or surfing eBay; $500,000 per month @ 100,000 users. The figure could be lower or higher, but it’s still a return. Safari will be operating on a similar model for Apple. The need to find appeal has actually decreased as a percentage of the overall market. Conversely the bar to creating a sustainable business hasn’t risen in line with the number of potential users, today startups can achieve with a smaller percentage of the overall market.

From a developers or startups view, the fattening long tail should be seen for what it is: a marketplace that has improved opportunities for smart startups. A bigger marketplace makes today and tomorrow an even better time to build a Web 2.0 business than yesterday. A fatter long tail means that as a whole there will be an increasing number of success stories and sustainable startups, a win-win all round.


The Rise Of The Prosumer

Mark this word in your mental diaries: Prosumer.

The word is a combination of producer and consumer that perfectly describe the millions of participants in the Web 2.0 revolution.

It’s not a new word, but it’s a word that will become the norm in the coming years. It’s already being used by companies such as Sony to describe users of video cameras.

Earlier in the week, Read/Write Web featured a video from Davide Casaleggio where Prosumer is featured strongly. Video as below, other highlights include world domination by Google in 2050 and Lawrence Lessig becoming US Secretary of Justice in 2020 and declaring copyright illegal. I’ve not been able to get Prosumer out of my head since watching this video so expect it to be dropped regularly in future posts.


Embedded Joost Will Change The Market

Reports that Joost is now talking to hardware vendors about embedding Joost into set-top boxes and televisions will change the market as we know it.

While Joost is generally now regarded as the leader in the television over internet, the market for watching television on a computer remains limited. Sure it’s nice for a lark or good for an occasional break, but as Microsoft has proven with its attempts to bring a computer into the livingroom with Windows Media Center, computers as a focal point for watching television is not a popular idea. Recent reports even have the Apple TV box going the way of the Apple Lisa, straight into the dustbin of failed convergence history.

Joost on an actual TV set without the need for a computer is a different proposition.

Millions of American’s pay for cable television services that require a set top box. Imagine Joost becoming available for free on these boxes, or better still embedded directly into television sets; Joost is currently discussing this very option. Millions of people world wide will be upgrading to next generation BlueRay and HDDVD players in the coming years, imagine Joost embedded as standard in these players. Network devices that play video and music from a network alongside standard DVD’s from companies such as Netgear and Zensonic are growing in popularity, the move to include Joost in these sorts of devices seems like a natural progression.

Of course there are still issues to be worked out. Viewing quality on Joost isn’t perfect and the need for high speed broadband is a given. Presuming that these will be overcome with time will result in a product that married with a television set will deliver a choice that many will happily embrace, after all free is the ultimate price point in a crowded marketplace. Millions, tens even hundreds of millions of people who aren’t fussed with watching television on their PC’s are suddenly dealt into the Joost world. They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice but with Joost’s founders it could well become three in a row in terms of phenomenal startups. I’m also looking forward to the day I can sit back on my couch and surf Joost, it’s a much more appealing proposition than doing so from my computer.

(in part via El Reg)


Mashup: Get your package to the nearest mailbox on time with Mailbox Map


Mailbox Maps is Google Maps mashup that shows you the closest set of mailboxes and the pickup times at each so that you can be sure to get your package out on time.

All you have to do is enter your address. Mailbox Map quickly shows you the nearest mailboxes, and clicking on the mailbox icon shows you the pickup information. We posted about a similar tool a while back, but my biggest complaint was that it need a better interface. Mailbox Map does exactly that and then throws in the pickup schedules and driving directions to the mailbox.


Moneual intros sub-$1000 301 HTPC

You may be rather used to hearing from Moneual every few months or so, but the engineering department has apparently been on top of things lately. A mere three days after witnessing the firm's colorful lineup of Inovys, the company's 301 HTPC is being offered up as well, and we must say that the simple, sleek styling is quite attractive. Internally, you'll notice a water-cooled AMD 64 Athlon X2 4400 handling the processing duties, 2GB of RAM, 7.1-channel audio, dual FireWire ports, a 250GB hard drive, dual-layer DVD writer, HDMI / VGA outputs, five USB 2.0 connectors, Ethernet, and a wireless keyboard / remote to keep things tidy. Most impressive, however, is the price, as this decently-spec'd media PC will only run you $995 (sans any TV tuning abilities, of course). [Via eHomeUpgrade]



NEC's 20 series LCDs: perfect for digital signage

NEC's latest LCD displays have more business on a video-wall demonstration than in your living room, but who said having a tile matrix of displays in your game lounge was a bad idea? The 20 series commercial LCD lineup consists of a 40-inch MultiSync LCD4020 and 46-inch LCD4620, both of which feature NEC's newfangled CV12 pixel technology. Hailed as the first displays to pack chevron-shaped pixels into a large-format LCD, it also delivers twice the contrast of traditional PVA panels, increases brightness and viewing angles, and minimizes off-angle color shift. Each touts a 1,366 x 768 resolution, 1,200:1 contrast ratio, ten-millisecond response time, and uber-thin bezels that come in "five times thinner" than current competitors. Don't count on these niche LCDs to come cheap, though, as you'll be laying down around $4,400 for the little guy and upwards of $6,300 for the 46-incher.

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Scientists convert glucose into fuel and polyesters

Glucose has been the building block for many zany creations 'round these parts, but using the widely available substance to create "products currently created from petroleum" has some fairly far reaching consequences. Gurus at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have reportedly "converted sugars ubiquitous in nature into a primary building block for fuel and polyesters," dubbed hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). Aside from the obvious benefits of finding yet another renewable energy to tap into, learning to harness this power could give garb and plastic manufacturers new routes to source raw materials. So what do the creators themselves think? "The opportunities are endless" -- we say: prove it.



Oregon Scientific Crystal Weather Station brings some flair to the forecast

Oregon Scientific has been busting out some pretty slick gear lately, and its new BA900 Crystal Weather Station is no exception. The acrylic block features three laser-engraved 3-D icons that light up in color to represent sunshine, precipitation, or cloudy skies, while the radio-controlled atomic clock in the base switches to a temperature readout with just a wave of your hand. We're hearing this thing will ship in December for about $60 -- just in time for that rain icon to be rendered totally inaccurate. [Via Red Ferret]


WildCharger wireless charger poised for pre-order

With MIT's recent breakthrough in wireless electricity, we've been pretty hyped up on cutting the final cord that keeps our gadgets tethered to the wall and one another, so our ears certainly perked up when we learned that WildCharge's WildCharger powerpad is set to go up for pre-order. First revealed late last year, the multi-device induction charging surface is finally poised to begin taking orders come July 7th -- or 07/07/07, if you're into the whole numerology thing. Curiously there's no word yet on how much these things will set you back, but as usual, we're willing to pay through the nose to be the hippest kids on the block.



Hybrid Mini offers 640 hp, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds

07/21/06, 06:08pm, EDT


A British engineering firm has put together a high-performance hybrid version of BMW's Mini Cooper. The PML Mini QED has an output of 640 horsepower, according to PML. It has a top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The car uses a small gasoline engine with four 160 horsepower electric motors on each wheel. The car employs a brake-by-wire system to recoup some lost energy under braking. The motors are able to provide ABS and traction control with guidance of the car's onboard computer. The Mini QED is a plug-in hybrid, meaning it can be charged directly from a power outlet. The car will "not be generally commercially available," according to its creators. However, the company is "interested in discussing possible one-off orders and collaborations."

[PDFs: General Info | Specs]


Check out the Immersive Media street-scanning car

It looks like Immersive Media wanted to remove all doubt about what that street-traversing fleet of theirs really looks like. There's obviously more than one vehicle scanning in streets across the US, but now you know what to look out for -- and you little punks in the audience now realize just how tantalizing a target that little 11 camera orb on the roof really happens to be.


Launch: Edit your videos with the YouTube remixer


YouTube releases a video editing tool which remixes your 'tube clips using a Flash-based in-browser application.

Drag and drop your clips to a timeline (much like iMovie) and add music, effects, graphics, captions and borders. The remixer is throwing a couple of "still working out the kinks" hiccups here and there this morning, but it's still a fun and easy way to splice, slice and dice your clips together.


iPhone vs Nokia N95, BlackBerry, Treo and Samsung BlackJack

Just ten days ahead of the much-hyped iPhone launch, Apple has released a smartphone matrix comparing the physical dimensions, talk time and battery life of some of the most popular smartphones that are available in the market today.

As per the matrix, Apple iPhone is the thinnest smartphone (half the thickness of N95 or Treo 750) with the largest screensize and Wi-Fi capabilities. [pdf]

apple iphone nokia n95 treo blackberry curve

While there's no option to swap the drained battery of an iPhone with a full recharged one, the promised eight hours of talktime and 250 hours of standby time should bring enough cheers to those who are planning to queue up outside the Apple stores at 0600 hours June 29, 2007.

In related news, a new report has suggest that 19 million Americans have strong interest in buying the iPhone, 67% of who are subscribers on other carrier networks.


Gmail Tip: Reformat your Gmail address with dots


You can reformat your existing Gmail address by inserting dots (periods) anywhere within your Gmail username. The Gmail Help pages explain:

Because Gmail doesn't recognize dots as characters within usernames, adding or removing dots from a Gmail address won't change the actual destination address. Messages sent to and are all delivered to your Inbox, and only yours.

We've talked about how you can create unlimited Gmail addresses using the "+" sign before - a technique lots of people use to automatically filter messages. Periods could be used for the same purpose. (Note that Google Apps for Your Domain does NOT ignore dots in addresses.) Thanks, 3xSteve!


Dell selling unlocked high-end Nokia phones online

In a welcome, yet odd, development, Dell has started selling several high-end Nokia phones in an unlocked state via its online store. So far searches reveal that Dell is selling the Nokia N80, E61i, and E61 for around $400, and the N95 for $732. Those prices don't sound too great when compared to in-contract prices, but compared to similar unlocked offerings from high street stores they're pretty damn competitive. Besides, it doesn't look as if Dell is partnering with any mobile operators, and is instead highlighting the unlocked prices. Unlocked cellphone price war, anyone? If Dell's in the game, then you can bet that others will join.

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Good Copy, Bad Copy: superb copyright documentary on the remix wars

I just watched Good Copy, Bad Copy, a stunning Danish documentary on remix culture and copyright, available as a free download. The film skips around the world, showing the changing attitudes toward art and culture in Nigeria, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, and the US, answering statements about incentives and creativity by the MPAA and IFPI by showing us real artists (like Danger Mouse and Girl Talk) making wonderful art that, according to the gangsters in the entertainment industry, no one will make without copyright.

The movie has a very light touch, and a lot of humor. This has been a banner year for copyright documentaries, but this is the best looking of the lot, with superb production values. This is a masterclass on the copyright wars crammed into 58 minutes of video -- a must-see. Link