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Archive for February, 2011

For One Non-Gmail User, Everything’s Just Peachy

February 28th, 2011 02:10 admin View Comments

A month or so ago, I wrote about how Google’s apparent willingness to secretly hand over user data to the feds had made me rethink my obsession with cloud storage. Not – natch – because I have anything in particular to hide from Uncle Sam, but rather because if I’m going to have my data subpoenaed, I’d rather know about it so I can write blog posts and make self-promotional hay about it.

I also have a bit of a thing for physical security: storing my mail in a physical location rather than in the cloud so, even with access to password, no-one can hack into my old correspondence and share it with the world. Mentioning no names: TechCrunch.

Anyway, I followed through on my threat a few weeks ago, switching my mail from the cloud to a more traditional POP provider based outside the US. I store my mail offline in a lightly encrypted folder (as I say – nothing to hide. I’m all about paper and pen for sensitive stuff) and backup regularly to a disk stored somewhere else.

I admit, though, I did miss some of the convenience of the cloud: particularly the peace of mind that comes from knowing I can immediately access all of my old mail from anywhere in the world. And the fact that I’m not at the mercy of a corrupt disk or having to trek and get my backup drive.

Fortunately over the weekend Google made that regret go away. Not only did they manage to temporarily lose over 40,000 users’ mail but, as MG explains, they also admitted that their only backup was stored on a physical tape drive, somewhere in the back of beyond. So as it turns out, my method of mail storage is both more reliable (I haven’t lost any of my mailboxes; Google have lost 40,000) and easier to restore (I could have my mail restored in about an hour, Google’s users are still waiting).

Another score for keeping things old school.

Source: For One Non-Gmail User, Everything’s Just Peachy

For 40,000 Gmail Users, Google Has To Leave The Cloud To Review The Tapes

February 28th, 2011 02:38 admin View Comments

Yesterday, the tips started flowing in. “Google has deleted all my email.” “Check Twitter, massive Gmail failure.” “Gmail just melted down.” Users were freaking out. And that’s understandable. Many were apparently opening up Gmail to find that all of their emails had vanished. Had it happened to me, I would have been on Twitter swearing at the top of my digital lungs and promising to do something crazy — like switch to Hotmail. Of course, the reality of the situation wasn’t quite so dramatic.

While the initial reports had around .29 percent of Gmail users affected by the bug (about 600,000 users), those estimates were quickly revised to .08 percent (about 150,000 users). And today, those numbers were further revised to .02 percent. This means that only around 40,000 of Gmail’s 200 million (or so) users were affected.

Now, 40,000 pissed off people is still 40,000 pissed off people. But there was even better news out of Google today: all of their data is safe and sound. But it isn’t safe and sound in some remote server attached to the cloud. Instead, it’s safe on back-up data tapes somewhere in an undisclosed location.

Yes, despite all the ‘cloud this’ and ‘cloud that’ talk, when it comes down to it, Google still backs up everything on tape.

And thank god they do.

Just imagine if this bug had affected a significant percentage of users? All of those affected plus millions more would have likely never trusted Google with their data again. Worse, it may have slowed the flow of such data to the cloud across the entire industry. That may have made Microsoft smile, but we’d all have been worse off for it.

But again, luckily, that didn’t happen. Still, it’s fairly alarming that all of those insane data redundancy policies that Google has in place fell because of what seems to be a fairly standard “storage software update”.

Google notes that it’s going to take a little bit more time to get all of the data off the tapes and back into the cloud. But at least it will get there, instead of being gone forever.

[photo: flickr/akakumo]

Source: For 40,000 Gmail Users, Google Has To Leave The Cloud To Review The Tapes

First Probe To Orbit Mercury May Help Us Learn How Planets Form

February 28th, 2011 02:25 admin View Comments

Space

An anonymous reader writes “Next month, the first space probe in nearly 40 years will approach the planet Mercury, with an array of instruments that could help answer fundamental questions about how planets form. The mission is called MESSENGER, for Mercury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. On March 17 it will pull into orbit around mercury, after more than six years of maneuvering between the Earth, Venus and Mercury itself.”

Source: First Probe To Orbit Mercury May Help Us Learn How Planets Form

WITN: New York State of the Tech Industry [TCTV]

February 28th, 2011 02:21 admin View Comments

This week, Sarah is in New York doing various book-related things – but WITN is all about life outside the valley so she dialled in via Skype to give us an update in what’s happening on the East coast.

Spoiler alert: NY is still no Silicon Valley, but it’s increasingly proving that it doesn’t have to be. We also discussed whether New York’s status as a multi-industry town is a pro or a con when it comes to technology startups. Video below.

(Next week Paul will be in LA, a trip which he vehemently denies is about finding a new American girlfriend/wife. Instead, he claims he’ll be on the look out for interesting start-ups to rival Machinima and – uh -  MySpace. If you know of a company that fits the bill, let him know.)

Source: WITN: New York State of the Tech Industry [TCTV]

Bump Founder Talks Rapid Growth, Push Notifications

February 28th, 2011 02:17 admin View Comments

The two-year trajectory of Bump Technologies, the designers of the app that makes it easy to swap contact information, music, and other data between mobile devices,is a somewhat interesting case study in the evolution of early-stage app startups.

Speaking from the DEMO Conference today in Palm Springs, Founder Jake Mintz told the audience that Bump started as a “nights and weekends project” among close friends. Co-founders Mintz, David Lieb, and Andy Huibers launched Bump in March of 2009, and a month-and-a-half later, their nights and weekend project had already pulled in 1 million users.

The founders then decided to move their operations to San Francisco, where they began couch hopping in earnest. Mintz said that between May 2009 and February 2010, even though Bump raised nearly $3.5 million in Series A in November 2009 from Sequoia, they slept on couches, devoting all waking hours to their project.

Originally, Mintz said, Bump was conceived as a “replacement for business cards” and had more “serious” contexts in mind, but when they began to see that Bump was being used to share more than just CV data, they began adapting. Contact sharing remains at the core of Bump’s business, but Mintz said that, in the last year, many users have come to Bump as a way to share photos, and maximizing the value of both aspects of their mobile business has been “a delicate balance”.

Somewhat serendipitously, Bump went to Marc Andreesen, Ben Horowitz, and John O’Farrell for advice on how to grow the business, although they were not looking for investment at the time. Mintz said that the partners later came to them saying they would like to invest in spite of Bump’s reluctancy to raise additional funding. So, in January, Andreessen Horrowitz invested a sizable $16.5 million in Bump, with Andreessen joining Bump’s board.

When asked what they wanted to do with so much money, Mintz said that it would be used primarily to hire designers and developers, indicating that, as Andreessen had said to him, there will be multiple social networks in the future — beyond Facebook — and the team wants to build a social technology that “interfaces with the real world.”

It remains to be seen, he said, whether Facebook would eventually become a competitor for Bump, but today they continue to collaborate and make strides in areas that Facebook does not yet control.

Part of this growth, Mintz said, is from recognizing the important element of user experience. Bump remains determined not fall victim to spamming its users with notifications: “We all know apps can also be used as a tool for evil — an app that will send you a push notification every 15 minutes,” he said. “Some apps have used that mechanic and grown very quickly, and you have this really powerful opportunity to be a part of someone’s life — but in the long-term you have to focus on the user experience.”

Early Bump incarnations essentially allowed customers to download and begin using immediately without having to register or specify user settings. And while this approach worked initially and avoided breakage, a few core features went unused, because the app didn’t guide its users through a setup process, Mintz said.

The Bump team is now looking to add a short registration process and tutorial that will offer detailed instructions and walk users through how to optimize the niche features that will be arriving later this year. As to what to expect from Bump’s future additions, Mintz added, “if your vision involves finding the best and easiest ways to use a smartphone in the real world, we know that our users might walk into store and want to interact with a brand, or interact with a product, and we want to ask ‘how do we facilitate our growth around that?’”

Keeping an eye on customer experience has worked so far for Bump, as Mintz said that the application has become the eighth-most downloaded app on the Apple App store, attracting 8 million active monthly users, and 27 million downloads. Not too shabby.

Source: Bump Founder Talks Rapid Growth, Push Notifications

Here’s What UStream’s Big iPhone App Update Will Include

February 28th, 2011 02:19 admin View Comments

Live video viewing and broadcasting service UStream appears set to unveil a dramatic update to its iPhone app, the first update the app has seen in many months. UStream, a deep-pocketed gamble on the future, really needs a better iPhone app. This new version looks a lot better; these changes are long overdue.

The company put up a post on its blog this evening with screenshots and details of the launch, but pulled the post, probably because the app isn’t live yet in the iTunes store. None the less, you can see the screenshots and highlights of the new version below.

ustreamiphoneapp.jpg

For those of you with two phones in your pocket comparing apps across platforms, it appears that most if not all of these updates have been available in the UStream Android app for the past few months. Competition doesn’t sit still, either. Rumors emerged earlier this month that Apple’s MobileMe product might be remade as a Foursquare/UStream mashup of sorts. We’ll see. Given that the company has raised a fair sum of money and that live mobile video is supposed to be all the rage someday, ought UStream not have a little more than this up its sleeve for its first iPhone app update in months? Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

Highlights from the pending UStream release include:

  • Broadcasting and viewing will now finally be possible through the same single app. UStream previously offered live mobile broadcasting through one app (last updated in November) and viewing other peoples’ live shows through another (last updated in July). Now there will be just one app for both. It’s much more attractive than either the broadcaster or the viewer, too.
  • Featured content and sorting by categories. It’s hard to find good content on the UStream app, but the screenshot of featured live and recorded shows appears set to overcome this major hurdle in making the app worth using. In testing the old app just minutes ago, I was able to view live chatter between astronauts climbing around on the outside of the space station – on my phone! I was also able to see a well-endowed woman disrobe in front of a radio microphone while voices from off-camera shouted in Spanish about Wikipedia. Both live broadcasts truly were marvels of the modern age. Featured content will be a big improvement though, presuming there’s enough good things to feature.
  • Users can now log-in with Facebook or Twitter, in addition to their UStream accounts. That’s a very smart change.
  • Broadcasters will now be able to run polls from the app.
  • Subscribers can sign up for push notifications for channels or events of interest being broadcast live.

Can changes like these help UStream move beyond the topless astronaut crowd? Time will tell, but they sure look like big improvements to me. I like the idea of being able to view and broadcast live video from my phone. I’ll test the app and report back on performance once it’s live.

ustreamiphone2.jpg

Source: Here’s What UStream’s Big iPhone App Update Will Include

What Makes @ACarvin Tweet? (TCTV)

February 28th, 2011 02:14 admin View Comments

The recent compounded protests and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa have had the unintended side effect of highlighting information nodes/elites like @Ghonim and @Sultanalqassemi, people who electively become human routers of related information on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

NPR’s Senior Strategist Andy Carvin has been one of the most prominent Western information routers, spending 15-17 hours a day tweeting out news about the region, getting rate limited and subsequently whitelisted by Twitter, and at one point becoming so synonymous with #Egypt that someone anonymously sent him a shirt “I followed @ACarvin before #Egypt did.”

I sat down on Sunday morning to talk to Carvin about why he’s decided to devote his tweet stream to this new form of curation, what his process was for the filtering and repackaging of information, and what digital tools exist or could exist to make it easier for people like Carvin to continue to refine the closest we’ve come to the ideal form of Twitter journalism.

You can watch the entire interview (please get past my  beginning awkwardness) above.

Source: What Makes @ACarvin Tweet? (TCTV)

Report Finds Connected Devices, Not Phones, Leading the Explosion in Mobile Wireless

February 28th, 2011 02:33 admin View Comments

wireless_report150.jpgWireless consultant Chetan Sharma has just released an updated report on U.S. mobile data for the last quarter of 2010, and it points to the growth in the wireless market, in mobile penetration and in data usage. According to Sharma, the U.S. wireless data market grew 5% from the third quarter of 2010 and was up 23% from 2009 For the entire year, revenues were $55 billion, a figure that Sharma predicts will increase to $67 billion by the end of 2011.

As Sharma observes, the mobile market crossed a number of important thresholds in the last quarter of 2010. Mobile subscriptions crossed the 100% penetration mark, for example. And smartphone shipments exceeded PC shipments for the first time.

But it’s important to note that these new mobile subscriptions aren’t all phones. In fact, the shape of the subscription market is changing quite dramatically, with connected devices outpacing the growth of paid and prepaid subscriptions quite dramatically. Connected devices – tablets, e-readers, and so on – are now 7% of subscriptions. That category isn’t simply the fasted growing; Sharma also predicts that this will soon become the most profitable. By the end of this year, connected devices will command double digit market share.

wireless_connected_ss-1.jpg

Sharma contends that multi-device data pricing plans will be an important key for success of this segment, as WiFi isn’t always practical or dependable. He argues that operators who start to bundle devices under a single data plan will likely do well – an observation that coincides with AT&T’s announcement today that it will start selling the Kindle through its stores.

This continued growth in connected devices is clearly important to AT&T, which now has to compete with Verizon for iPhone customers. According to Sharma, connected devices are now 10% of AT&T’s subscription base. AT&T has edged ahead of Verizon in terms of the number of connected devices, but for both providers – for all providers in fact – the key will not simply be wooing subscribers but finding a way to adjust billing to keep pace with U.S. consumers’ ever-increasing mobile data consumption.

Source: Report Finds Connected Devices, Not Phones, Leading the Explosion in Mobile Wireless

Intel Unveils SSDs With 6Gbit/Sec Throughput

February 28th, 2011 02:12 admin View Comments

Data Storage

CWmike writes “Intel announced a new line of solid-state drives (SSDs) on Monday that are based on the serial ATA (SATA) 3.0 specification, which doubles I/O throughput compared to previous generation SSDs. Using the SATA 3.0 specs, Intel’s new 510 Series gets 6Gbit/sec. performance and thus can take full advantage of the company’s transition to higher speed ‘Thunderbolt’ SATA bus interfaces on the recently introduced second generation Intel Core processor platforms. Supporting data transfers of up to 500MB/sec, the Intel SSD 510 doubles the sequential read speeds and more than triples the sequential write speeds of Intel’s SATA 2.0 SSDs. The drives offer sequential write speeds of up to 315MB/sec.”

Source: Intel Unveils SSDs With 6Gbit/Sec Throughput

API of the Week: SlideShare

February 28th, 2011 02:00 admin View Comments

SlideShare logo 150x150 Last week SlideShare announced its new JavaScript API for controlling embedded players. The company also added support for the oEmbed API.

The new JavaScript API gives developers the ability to: “access major functions, navigate across presentations, and control the SlideShare embed player via Javascript.” What can you do with those features? SlideShare suggests that you could use it to automate multiple players to show random slides one at a time or synchronize slides and video. I’m sure you can find more creative uses, though.

oEmbed is an open standard for embedded content. According to the oEmbed website: “The simple API allows a website to display embedded content (such as photos or videos) when a user posts a link to that resource, without having to parse the resource directly.” In other words, when someone adds a link to a SlideShare presentation, for example, it can be embedded automatically – without the need for the user to copy and paste an embed code.

We covered the launch of SlideShare’s new service Zipcast here here recently.

Source: API of the Week: SlideShare