Where professional journalism goes to die.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

IE 8

While you might not be a fan of Internet Explorer 8, there's no denying it's a better browser than its predecessors. One key upgrade in IE8 is its improved security and safety features - like SmartScreen.

In case you haven't heard about it before, SmartScreen is designed to keep IE users from wandering onto malicious websites. Sites like those which repeatedly turn up in Facebook scams. And it certainly appears as though SmartScreen is helping, based on what Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch posted on the MSDN blog.

According to Dean, SmartScreen blocks more than 2 million malicious URLs every day.

If you have friends or family who swear by IE but still haven't upgraded to version 8, this might be just the thing to change their mind. After all, is there anyone who doesn't want a little added security when they're browsing the web?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Please step away from the Mac with that cigarette

This is sad, Mac aficionados that also enjoy a pack of Marlboros every now and then might want to keep their smoke as far away from their computer as possible for it appears Apple doesn’t take kindly to the habit. Yesterday, Consumerist ran a story about two customers that were denied warranty repairs to their MacBook and iMac by Apple (both had purchased extended AppleCare warranties) simply because the machines were exposed to second-hand smoke. Both appealed to the office of Steve Jobs to no avail. The strangest thing, however, is the explaination that one received from someone at Jobs’ office: the nicotine released from cigarettes is classified as a bio-hazard by the Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and as such, Apple employees are within their rights to refuse to work on a machine that has been in contact with the chemical. The only suggestion Apple offered was to take the computers to be fixed somewhere else on their dime. Obviously these two cases are an anomaly, but the question still remains: should Apple be able to walk away from its obligation as set out in the AppleCare agreement because of a little bit of smoke? Just to be clear, there is nothing in the AppleCare fine print that even comes close to singling out smoking as being prohibited.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chrome OS demo

This was my first chance to see this OS in a moving video and it turns out it might be very useful after all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Editorial: Chrome OS is what I want, but not what I need

By Paul Miller posted Nov 19th 2009 4:20PM

There's obviously something seriously wrong with me, since the idea of a feature-stripped OS that over-relies on a web browser at the expense of more powerful single-purpose apps has delightful shivers running up my spine. In fact, in a fleeting moment of ill-advised adulation, I was considering buying a netbook with solid state storage so that I'd be all prepped to hack this pre-release version of Chrome OSonto it and web-app to my heart's content. The real issue is that at the end of the day I know I'm always (well, for the next few years at least) going to be too reliant on "heavyweight" desktop applications like audio, video and image editors to really cut the cord and stuff my whole life into the cloud. But the chimes of freedom flashing in Chrome OS are too great to ignore, and I think there's plenty going on here that could be very beneficial to a "real" desktop OS.

Built-in Google notifications

Why do mobile phones get all the fun? It seems we've been so focused on getting great, functional push updates into mobile operating systems like Android and webOS that we've forgotten that we spend most of the time on our desktop or laptop computer, thoroughly confused by the amount of communication whizzing past us. I shouldn't have to hack things into my OS as core to my life as an integrated notification tray that pulls in email, IM, calendar and Twitter updates. Luckily, it sounds like this is something Google is looking at bringing to the regular Chrome.

Drag and drop in the browser

Another instance of what appears to be a core Chrome OS competency that I've had to hack into my life -- in this case using the wonderful but fundamentally limited Mailplane. Why should it take an all-new OS to make dragging and dropping files to and from web applications a common occurrence? I also love the concept of plugging a drive or an accessory into my computer and its default action being to present itself to my browser. This does not sound like crazy talk to me.

Persistent panels

I love the pop-up IM window that can be minimized or moved to the sidebar, but sticks with me whatever tab I'm in. No word on these coming to the standard Chrome, but they should -- particularly with all these online music services these days breathing new life into the dreaded pop-up window.

Login-populated, portable user environment

If 90% of what I do is in a browser, why can't I take that environment with me with as a simple login? This is another thing mobile phones are starting to get into, particularly again with Android and webOS, and that I'm glad to see Firefox is bringing in version 4 with Weave.

Free but compatible

The idea of someone making open source software that's targeted at specific hardware and even dictates some of its environment shouldn't feel so refreshing. Android has struck a nice balance between a tightly regulated ecosystem of Google-approved "sure thing" devices and a wild west of non-Google devices powered by the open source elements of the OS. I've always been rebuffed by Linux due to the inconsistent hardware support and knowledge that if the system breaks I won't know how to fix it or get back to my data. The combination of the cloud-reliance and Google's heavyweight status means I could actually see myself buying a Google-branded 3rd party device -- a monetary commitment that I've never felt Ubuntu quite merited, despite its multitude of partnerships. I'd love to see a company like HP (for instance) go beyond mere skinning of Ubuntu and really commit to stepping on Microsoft's toes and investing in an open source desktop operating system to the point that it can offer true competition.

But... I still need my real OS

Google's concept of a Chrome OS device as a second computer is probably my largest point of departure. I think these features are things that should be built into a "real" OS, and I don't want to juggle two different laptops of minimal physical distinction. (A phone + laptop makes sense, I'm not sure a phone + netbook + laptop does.) Sure, the security, stability and boot-time functions of Chrome OS are what set it apart from a traditional desktop OS, but those usually pretty low on my priority list: I haven't gotten a virus in seven years, my computer rarely crashes (Firefox on the other hand...), and I don't have to worry about boot time because my computer is always in sleep mode.

There's also the fact that many web apps have been designed to operate with a local storage of files to draw from (Flickr, YouTube, Gmail, blogging), so I'm not sure I want to juggle the appropriate USB stick everytime I want to be more than a passive consumer of content -- if all my creation takes place in Google silos, I actually start to become a less productive member of the web.

If Chrome OS can breath new life into low-powered hardware and provide a low-cost alternative for someone who just wants to do email and play Dolphin Olympics 2 on their netbook, then that's great, but for me, a self-described power user, I'd benefit more from watching these features land on my Mac and Windows and Ubuntu PCs than from waving goodbye to Photoshop and iMovie in exchange for a Google-built operating system.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Apple's big problem

By Om Malik @ Gigaom.com

appleappsarebigIf you’re a baseball fan like I am, then you know that it in order to win, teams need more than just marquee stars. The role players, pinch hitters and relievers — all have to contribute in order for a team to win. A weak link can blow a game. Same goes for companies — every member of the team has a role to play. Why do I bring this up? Apple’s iTunes App Store and its murky and muddled policies.

Apple’s designers and engineers have done a good job putting together what is an iconic product, the iPhone. Its software gurus have helped foster the app revolution. But it when it come to the App Store approval process, Apple is blowing it.

Let me put it in terms Apple and its management can understand: The foggy and opaque App Store approval process is as big a disaster as Dell’s DJ MP3 Player.

For months now, I have watched the twists and turns of the Apple App Store drama with a degree of bemusement. After all, the rejection (or approval) of quirky and pointless apps aimed at hormone-challenged post-pubescent boys weren’t of concern to me. I couldn’t get upset over Google Voice fiasco, but that was understandable (not acceptable) because it was coming in the way of the carrier voice service. But lately, things have gotten a bit out of control.

The irrational approval process and reasons behind it given by the apparatchiks of Cupertino are driving developers to extreme frustration — especially those who have been Apple loyalists for years. Earlier this week, Joe Hewitt, a well-known programmer and a Facebook employee, threw up his hands in frustration over Apple’s App Store approval process and said he wants to work on a different project. (Check out my video interview with Joe Hewitt.)

No, Facebook isn’t killing its iPhone app — it is a corporation, after all, and will bend over backwards to appease Apple — but Hewitt is someone who’s made many vital contributions toward turning the iPhone into a major platform. He was carrying Apple’s water long before the rest of the 100,000 apps showed up, which is just one of the reasons why he was nominated to GigaOM’s Top 15 Mobile Influencers List earlier this year. When he speaks, I listen — plain and simple. And he expressed his anger in 140 characters.

Today, Rogue Amoeba, a company that is well-known within the Apple community for its audio-focused products, is publicly beating its head against the Great Wall of Cupertino.

Rogue Amoeba wanted to ship a bug fix for their app, Airfoil Speakers, but it took the better part of four months to get it approved. It was an arduous process, one that made the inner workings of the government bureaucracies look like a model of efficiency. The net-net, as described by company CEO Paul Kafasis in a blog post, is this:

First, be aware that Apple is acting as a gatekeeper, and preventing you from getting the software that developers such as ourselves are trying to provide you. We wanted to ship a simple bug fix, and it took almost four months of slow replies, delays, and dithering by Apple. All the while, our buggy, and supposedly infringing version, was still available. There’s no other word for that but “broken.” Right now, however, the platform is a mess. The chorus of disenchanted developers is growing and we’re adding our voices as well. Rogue Amoeba no longer has any plans for additional iPhone applications, and updates to our existing iPhone applications will likely be rare.

Others, such as programmer Jeff LaMarche, disagree with the disenchanted developers and have come to the defense of Apple. But I’m more inclined to side with Kafasis, as this is a problem that flares up more often than California wildfires.

John Gruber, who pens the Daring Fireball blog and is one of the most respected Mac-related writers out there, offers a very balanced view of the situation — and finds Apple at fault. “At a certain point good developers are just going to say, ‘I don’t need this,’” Gruber writes.

Gruber, as we’ve seen in the past, has the ear of the senior management at Apple. So perhaps his fair and balanced assessment is going to help Apple wake up from its stupor.

Apple has a very serious problem on its hands, one that can derail its grand plan. It needs to fix this as quickly as possible. Otherwise the company is going to blow the game in the bottom of the ninth — much like the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

10 more Reasons Blackberrys are more useful than an iPhone

Just wanted to post this video of some very useful things the Blackberry can do that dont get a lot of attention. This is just a few of many

Friday, November 13, 2009

T-Mobile announces Blackberry Bold 9700

Engadget.com Reports, T-Mobile announces November 16 release of Blackberry Bold 9700 for $199.

Anyone looking for the hottest T-Mobile-powered BlackBerry experience that money can buy need only wait a few dozen hours now, because the carrier has just revealed that it'll be launching the latest rendition of the Bold -- the 9700 -- on Monday, November 16 for $200 on contract. Your hard-earned cash reels in T-Mobile's very first 3G BlackBerry underpinned by a 3.2 megapixel camera and 480 x 360 display, beating AT&T's launch by a solid six days. Enjoy, folks.