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Archive for May, 2011

Pixel Qi Demos 10″ 1280×800 Pixel Screens

May 31st, 2011 05:41 admin View Comments

Displays

Compared to their dumber e-ink cousins, tablets with LCD screens suffer at least two notable disadvantages: their batteries last hours or days, rather than weeks (or months), and they’re notoriously hard to read in the sunshine. Neither of these problems are likely to be licked soon, but the gap may be shrinking: Mary Lou Jepsen’s OLPC spinoff Pixel Qi has now shown off a 10″, 1280×800 panel. Pixel Qi’s screens are well-known, though not currently widely adopted, for their ability to run in a high-contrast, low-power greyscale mode as well as a still-frugal color mode. Though the company is currently showing prototypes rather than a shipping version of the new high-resolution screens, it’s reason to renew hope for a long-lived color-screen tablet that’s comfortable in the sunlight.

Source: Pixel Qi Demos 10″ 1280×800 Pixel Screens

Amazon’s Android Appstore Gets Another Huge Exclusive: Plants vs Zombies

May 31st, 2011 05:35 admin View Comments


If you were among the first wave of people to buy an iPad last spring, there’s a good chance you spent a lot of time playing one game in particular: Plants vs Zombies. PopCap’s smash hit was one of the first games on the iPad and it did extremely well, and it’s also seen a lot of success on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch form factor. Now, some 16 months after its release, the game still ranks #27 on the App Store’s list of top paid apps. It’s not Angry Birds, but it’s easily one of iOS’s most popular games ever.

And today, finally, Android fans are getting a chance to smack down some cartoonish undead. The application just launched on Amazon’s Android Appstore, and you can download it right here (it’s free today, and will be $2.99 starting tomorrow). Oh, and you won’t find it on the official Android Market for another two weeks. Unfortunately it isn’t currently optimized for tablets, but it should still work fine.

The launch is a big deal for two reasons. First, Android gets another AAA game title, giving users one less reason to look longingly at their iOS counterparts. And it’s also another big marketing push for Amazon’s Appstore, which is a direct rival of Google’s official Android Market.

Amazon’s Appstore launched in March, offering users a slightly different experience from Google’s official Market. Apps on Amazon’s store are all tested to ensure a baseline level of quality, and Amazon also provides recommendations and steep discounts on some apps. These are great features and it’s nice that Google has some competition when it comes to app distribution, but Amazon has its work cut out for it.

The Amazon store takes advantage of the fact that Android is an open OS — through a process called sideloading, you can install any application you want without requiring Google’s approval. To access the Amazon store, users visit amazon.com/appstore from their phones, then download and install the store client from there. Unfortunately the process is a bit cumbersome — you have to dig through your Android settings and tap a checkbox that allows for installation from “Unknown sources”, complete with a warning that you are potentially exposing your phone to more malicious applications. Most users aren’t going to bother with this unless they have an incentive to.

Which is why Amazon is working with developers to offer exclusives like Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds Rio — and they’re also giving away one application free every day. This is a good tactic for building early traction, though in the longer term Amazon will need to work out partnerships so that its Appstore comes pre-installed on devices (it will obviously come pre-installed on whatever Android devices Amazon builds itself). Because no matter how many neat games Amazon offers exclusively, that “Unknown sources” check box is a big hurdle.

This isn’t the first grade-A title that made waves on the iPhone and was later ported to Android: Doodle Jump has been available since March 2010, Angry Birds arrived last fall, and Flight Control came out in April of this year.

Source: Amazon’s Android Appstore Gets Another Huge Exclusive: Plants vs Zombies

Zynga Channels Settlers Of Catan In New Social Combat Game Empires & Allies; Debuts In 12 Languages

May 31st, 2011 05:58 admin View Comments

Social gaming giant Zynga is launching its latest game tomorrow—Empires & Allies, the company’s first strategy combat game. Zynga is going big with this launch, debuting the game on Facebook in 12 languages (CityVille only launched in 5 languages). Zynga says this is the gaming company’s most social title to date.

Empires & Allies, which is the company’s first title to be launched out of Zynga’s Los Angeles studio, is set on a sprawling multi-island game board. The game itself is a cross between FarmVille and CityVille in terms of the layout and overall feel. There are two main parts to the game. First, players aim to build a island-nation by arming themselves against enemy forces and preparing for battle. Second, throughout the game, players build army units, recruit friends, and encounter allies and villains as fight their way across enemy-held territories on the quest to defeat the final villain. It’s sort of like Risk meets CityVille meets Settlers of Catan.

Once you secure you island, you begin to strategically place your housing units, community buildings, military bases, and farms with reinforcements against invading enemies. As you build your empire of Islands, Scarlett, a female personal military advisor will help advise you within the game.

Empires & Allies also introduces 30 other characters that help guide play and reveal plot secrets along the way. “The Raven” is tyrant who wanted his pet mascot to be an eagle. You’ll also fight “Captain Krunsch,” an old school seaman who relishes taking out his enemies with his bare, arthritic hands.

Of course, what makes Zynga’s game social is the ability to play and interact with your Facebook friends within the game. Empire & Allies allows you to build up your troops, recruit your friends and send them out to invade in-game villains.

You can also visit your neighbors’ empires to help them secure more energy, decorations and collectible items, and gain Honor Points along the way. And you can enlist your neighbors help in combat to quickly finish off enemies with special attacks.

For the first time in a Zynga combat game, you can actually fight your friends and choose to invade your neighboring friends’ empires to collect Infamy Points. Friends who are not invading you or a threat will have a red heart next to their icon and friends who are threats will have a gray heart.

While this is one of the few combat games for Zynga (Mafia Wars is also considered a combat game); Empires & Allies is definitely not for the hardcore gamer. As I wrote above, it combines elements of combat and hardcore gaming with more mainstream, casual components. Amer Ajami, executive producer of Empires & Allies at Zynga, says the focus of the game of combining social gaming with elements of combat gaming. He says the game is deinitely not for the hardcore gaming crew, and is designed to appeal to a wide audience.

“We’re focused on bringing our players a new form of entertainmen and a strategy game is definitely a new playground for us. Play is in everyone’s DNA, and this game lets you have fun and get creative by choosing your own destiny, building a nation and eventually, conquering the world, ” says Ajami.

One aspect of the game that Ajami says is worth noting is that it is significantly more social than any of Zynga’s previous games. Many of the social gaming interactions, such as fighting against your friends, are new to Zynga’s games, says Ajami.

Another question I had for Ajami was whether the game would appeal to both women and men. Ajami says that Zynga’s goal with Empires & Allies was to appeal to both genders. In fact, I’m told Empires & Allies is a hit with Zynga’s female employees.

Empires & Allies will be available at in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Turkish, Malay, Traditional Chinese, Korean and Norwegian tomorrow.

Source: Zynga Channels Settlers Of Catan In New Social Combat Game Empires & Allies; Debuts In 12 Languages

Note To Cheaters: Next Time Hire the Brains

May 31st, 2011 05:41 admin View Comments

Canada

An anonymous reader writes “A man and his accomplice are accused of cheating on a Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) by using a wireless pinhole camera and cellphone to send realtime images of the exam questions to a team of people supplying the ‘correct’ answers. One problem: the ‘answer team’ was tricked into the job by being told they were taking a test to qualify them as MCAT tutors. There were several clues the ‘tutor exam’ was bogus, including the poor quality of the images of the questions. Suspicious, the ‘answer team’ discovered the real MCAT test was occurring at the same time. They started feeding wrong answers to the accused cheaters and called campus security. The two accused cheaters now face several charges as a result.”

Source: Note To Cheaters: Next Time Hire the Brains

OCZ Couples SSD, Mechanical Storage On a PCIe Card

May 31st, 2011 05:40 admin View Comments

Data Storage

J. Dzhugashvili writes “We’ve seen some solid-state drives on PCI Express cards before, but OCZ’s RevoDrive Hybrid may very well be the first solution to combine solid-state storage and a mechanical hard drive on a single PCI Express x4 card. Using Dataplex caching software from Nvelo, the RevoDrive Hybrid uses its solid-state component (a RAID 0 array of SandForce-based SSDs) as a cache for an onboard mechanical hard drive. The caching scheme is reportedly so effective that “a 5,400-RPM drive can be used without sacrificing much performance,” according to The Tech Report’s coverage. OCZ hasn’t hashed out all of the details yet, but it expects the RevoDrive Hybrid to start at $350 this July. The base configuration should couple 60GB of solid-state storage with a 500GB mechanical drive.”

Source: OCZ Couples SSD, Mechanical Storage On a PCIe Card

Ask Slashdot: Good Homeschool Curriculum For CS??

May 31st, 2011 05:01 admin View Comments

Education

dingo_kinznerhook writes “I grew up in a homeschooling family, and was homeschooled through high school. ( I went on to get a B.S. and M.S. in computer science; my mom has programming experience and holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and math — she’s pretty qualified to teach.) Mom is still homeschooling my younger brother and sister and is looking for a good computer science curriculum that covers word processing, spreadsheets, databases, intro to programming, intro to operating systems, etc. Does the Slashdot readership know of a high school computer science curriculum suitable for homeschooling that covers these topics?”

Source: Ask Slashdot: Good Homeschool Curriculum For CS??

Ask Slashdot: GoodHomeschool Curriculum For CS??

May 31st, 2011 05:01 admin View Comments

Education

dingo_kinznerhook writes “I grew up in a homeschooling family, and was homeschooled through high school. ( I went on to get a B.S. and M.S. in computer science; my mom has programming experience and holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and math — she’s pretty qualified to teach.) Mom is still homeschooling my younger brother and sister and is looking for a good computer science curriculum that covers word processing, spreadsheets, databases, intro to programming, intro to operating systems, etc. Does the Slashdot readership know of a high school computer science curriculum suitable for homeschooling that covers these topics?”

Source: Ask Slashdot: GoodHomeschool Curriculum For CS??

iOS 5 Feature: Twitter Integration?

May 31st, 2011 05:57 admin View Comments

iOS 5

Apple announced today that Steve Jobs will unveil iOS 5, iCloud and Mac OS X Lion at next week’s WWDC 2011 keynote.

TechCrunch reports that according to multiple sources, iOS 5 could include Twitter integration, which is one of the reasons Twitter is launching its own photo-sharing service this week.

TechCrunch reports:

We’ve heard from multiple sources that Twitter is likely to have a big-time partner for such a service: Apple. Specifically, we’re hearing that Apple’s new iOS 5 will come with an option to share images to Twitter baked into the OS. This would be similar to the way you can currently share videos on YouTube with one click in iOS. Obviously, a user would have to enable this feature by logging in with their Twitter credentials in iOS. There would then be a “Send to Twitter†option for pictures stored on your device.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball who has a good track record when it comes to Apple related news has commented on the TechCrunch article, indicating that the Twitter integration in iOS 5 may go beyond just the photo-sharing service:

So close to the bigger story, but yet so far. Imagine what else the system could provide if your Twitter account was a system-level service.

Any guesses what that might be?

Source: iOS 5 Feature: Twitter Integration?

Watch: The Daily Gets The Lowdown On What It’s Like To Be A Startup At Disrupt NYC

May 31st, 2011 05:41 admin View Comments

There were a lot of stellar startups at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC last week, and unfortunately, there could only be one set of finalists and one winner. Of course, that doesn’t mean that those companies that didn’t make the final heat aren’t worthy of some love.

The Daily followed the entrepreneurs behind three Disrupt NYC battlefield competitors, SpotOn, Spenz, and Madbrook Publishing through their unique experiences at Disrupt. They came by plane, train, and automobile, fought some nerves, endured some ups and downs, but in the end were exposed to a host of eyeballs and launched successfully.

While judges were tough on some of the companies, the entrepreneurs gained some valuable feedback, and will no doubt use that advice to achieve future fame and glory. From butt art on the iPad to location discovery and spending tracking, these three companies proved that you don’t have to take home the Disrupt Cup just to be noticed.

Check out TechCrunch’s coverage of the three startups live from Disrupt NYC below:

How Do You Get Kids To Learn? Have Them Draw Butts On The iPad

Spenz Wants To Help You Track Spending Habits And Stick To A Budget

SpotOn Shows What You Should Do And Who You Should Do It With

Source: Watch: The Daily Gets The Lowdown On What It’s Like To Be A Startup At Disrupt NYC

Path Lands Another Ex-Facebooker To Run Ops

May 31st, 2011 05:22 admin View Comments

It’s something that Dave Morin isn’t too quick to talk about, but it’s impossible to ignore: his new startup, Path, is becoming quite the gathering ground for ex-Facebook employees. Of course, Morin’s reluctance to establish the connection probably has to do with the fact that he used to be the head of Platform there, and still has close ties to the company. But the small startup just hired its fourth ex-Facebooker today. And the latest is a pretty big one, considering he had been at Facebook over four years.

Matthew Welty will be Path’s new Head of Operations, Morin tells us. Welty had been an operations engineer at Facebook for the past four-plus years. For some perspective on how long he had been there, when he joined in April 2007, Facebook had 20 million active users. Today, they’re about to hit 700 million active users.

And when Welty joined Facebook, Morin was just gearing up to launch Platform. Now Morin will be Welty’s boss in this new venture. Welty decided to leave Facebook a few weeks ago, and approached Path about an opportunity.

“Welty is a world class leader in technical operations, we are excited he chose to join Path as his next step. He will be key in ensuring that Path is always available to our quickly growing user base and that our infrastructure continues to scale with quality in mind,” Morin says.

Welty follows Nathan Folkman, who joined Path from Facebook a couple weeks ago. Interestingly enough, Folkman used to be Head of Operations at Foursquare (and is the only employee to leave Foursquare so far).

The team that Google has already offered $100 million+ for is getting stronger.

Source: Path Lands Another Ex-Facebooker To Run Ops

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