Archive for June, 2011

Google rivals Facebook with Google+

Posted June 30, 2011 By David Kolle

 After months of speculation, Google has launched a social network to rival Facebook.

Image representing Vic Gundotra as depicted in...

Vic Gundotra

Google today unveiled its Google+ project, a social networking service that looks and functions very much like Facebook. The two Internet giants have been increasingly competitive, and with today’s announcement, Google is taking a giant step directly onto Facebook’s market.

“Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others,” wrote Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, in a blog post. “Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.”

Google’s new service, which now is only available to a small group of users and invitees, is designed to enable people to post status updates, share links and upload photos.

However, what Google hopes will set its social network apart from Facebook and the smaller social networking services is that Google+ is set up to allow users to communicate within separate groups of their online friends. Instead of posting an update that goes out to everyone, Google+ enables users to create “circles” or groups, such as a user’s poker buddies, college friends, work colleagues and family members.

Now a user can communicate separately with each group.

“The “circles” idea makes a lot of sense,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. “It’s smart, and while you can do something similar in Facebook, it’s not Facebook’s main thing. It’s not as easy to do.”

But it remains to be seen whether this feature will be enough to convince Facebook users — many of whom are already tied in with sometimes hundreds of people on Facebook — to use a second social network or even toss aside the über-popular Facebook in favor a brand new service that not many people are using.

Bloggers and pundits have long talked about whether Google would come out with a Facebook killer, but that is one tall order.

The one certainty is that Google is facing an uphill battle in taking on Facebook. While the social network has officially said that it has more than 500 million users, other sources recently have reported that the number now is more than 750 million.

But Google has accepted the challenge.

With Google+, the company is giving users a way to get a rolling scroll of content from across the Internet on any topic of they’re interested in. Really into fashion, gardening or restoring old cars? Google+ will stream a feed of content into your page so you can stay up to date on your favorite topics.

And with a feature called “Hangouts,” Google+ enables users to meet up with their friends online, using multiperson video.

Want to share the photos on your smartphone but don’t want the hassle of uploading them? With the user’s permission, Google+ will take the photos you’ve snapped with your phone and store them in the cloud so you can easily move them onto any of your devices.

“We realize that Google+ is a different kind of project, requiring a different kind of focus — on you,” Gundotra wrote. “That’s why we’re giving you more ways to stay private or go public; more meaningful choices around your friends and your data.”

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MySpace sold to ad network Specific Media for $35mil

Posted June 30, 2011 By David Kolle
Mike Jones

Mike Jones

MySpace Sold for $35 MillionIt has happened, MySpace has been sold to an advertising network called Specific Media for a measly sum of $35 million.

CEO Mike Jones will be leaving the company, and it seems that so will a good portion of the staff.

Says Jones in an email: “In conjunction with the deal, we are conducting a series of restructuring initiatives, including a significant reduction in our workforce. I will assist Specific with the transition over the next two months before departing my role as MySpace CEO.”

News Corp. declared it was ready to sell MySpace in an earnings call in February. The media company was reportedly hoping to get $100 million out of the sale.

In 2005, News Corp. bought the site for $580 million from its original owners, but MySpace’s traffic has plummeted in recent years. All Things Digital reported that News Corp. will still hold a 5% to 10% stake in the company.

Other reports this week indicated that close to 50% of the site’s staff could be cut after the sale, and it’s likely that any further iterations of the service will focus on music.

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Steve Jobs has decided Flash won't be appearing on an iPad near you any time soon.

Now, picture this. You are on the lookout for a good wedding photographer and you have read that local snapper Rocco Ancora has been voted one of the 10 best wedding photographers in the world by American Photo. He sounds like just the bloke for the job. So you  open the iPad Safari browser for to look at his work. Damn.

”This page requires Flash plug-in version 7. Please download.” And you can click on the OK button until you are blue in the face – it’s not going to happen. Steve Jobs has said it will never happen on his iPad.

Almost any online gallery of work by professional, and many amateur, photographers is based on Adobe Flash animation and you can’t see any of them on the iPad.

Adobe Flash is an industry standard, a bit like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. It is the preferred form for embedding animations, including video clips, into HTML. If you are running Firefox or Internet Explorer on a PC or Mac you won’t know or care about Jobs’s hissy fit but if you like to use your iPad to browse to sites that contain embedded Flash, you will get an error message telling you to download the latest version of the application. Except you can’t.

You could always be a non-conformist and buy an Android or WebOS pad, both of which will run Flash, albeit not always smoothly.

Jobs reckons the new protocols of HTML5 are the way to go. It is easy to embed video instructions in HTML5 to play H.264 (preferred Mac video), Flash (the universal standard, except for iThings) or Ogg (preferred by Firefox, which won’t play H.264). The browser – all the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or Opera – simply reads the code until it finds something it can play and then runs it.

So what about animated web photo galleries in HTML5?

We have been trying LRB Exhibition, a HTML5 photo gallery creation plug-in for Lightroom, created by Irish photographer Sean McCormack ( /article/lrb-exhibition). This plug-in adds itself to the drop-down list of Web Gallery types in Lightroom and generates an animated gallery that will play on anything. It costs about $21.

Results are mixed. The slide transitions are smooth in Internet Explorer on a 64-bit PC but rough in Firefox and Chrome. On the iPad the transitions are very slow and jerky. HTML5, as implemented by LRB, is certainly no match for the elaborate animations possible with Flash.

But the slideshow does work on all platforms, including the iThings. And we expect more developers will be creating HTML5 gallery generators in the near future.

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International Space StationA piece of space debris narrowly missed the International Space Station (ISS) in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.

The object was projected to miss the orbiting lab by just 250 metres, NASA said, and the crew moved to shelter 18 minutes before it was expected to pass.

“There was a piece of space debris that came near the station and we didn’t find out about it in time to perform a debris avoidance manoeuvre so we had the crew shelter in place in their Soyuz vehicles,” spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz of the US space agency said.

“The six astronauts climbed into the two Soyuz craft at 7:50 am Eastern time (2150 AEST), and the expected time of closest approach to the object was 8:08,” Schierholz said.

“They spent about half an hour in their Soyuz,” she said. “They are back to their regular day.”

The event was unusual but not unheard of, she added. A similar event on March 12, 2009 forced the crew of the space station to seek temporary shelter when a piece of space debris approached.

“We monitor space debris pretty closely so this is not, sort of, out of the realm of what we know can happen,” Schierholz said.

“But obviously we are concerned about the safety of the crew so that is why we had them take shelter.”

A Russian space official also said by telephone that such incidents had occurred in the past and did not represent an emergency.

“This is not an emergency operation. They have standing instructions to that effect,” the spokeswoman said.

Satoshi Furukawa

Satoshi Furukawa

Space officials said the crew knew what to do if the orbiter could not be manoeuvred out of the way in time.

The ISS is currently manned by three Russians and two Americans as well as a Japanese astronaut.

The commander of the current mission to the ISS, Expedition 28, is Andrey Borisenko. The flight engineers are Alexander Samokutyaev, Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, Ron Garan and Sergei Volkov.

The Soyuz TMA-20 undocked at the orbiting lab on May 23 and the three newest crew members arrived June 9 on the Soyuz TMA-02M. The crew usually stays for six-month stretches aboard the space station.

The ISS was built up from the first module launched by Russia in 1998 and is now orbiting 350 kilometres above Earth.

The US space shuttle program, which is set to end later this year after the July 8 launch of Atlantis on its final mission to the space lab, helped construct the international research laboratory.

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