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Instagram is now a steal at $750 million

Facebook’s bid to buy the photo sharing site was officially approved yesterday. The deal is worth much less than the initial billion dollar price tag, and that’s because part of Facebook’s payment to Instagram was in the form of close to 23 million shares of stock. When the deal was announced the stock was priced at $31 a share. Yesterday’s close (insert sad trombones) $19.10, which works out to around $439 million. Add that to the $300 million in cash, and well, you get a lot of money, but not quite the billion. The Wall Street Journal reports:


The transaction drew a great deal of scrutiny due to its hefty size and the lack of any revenue at Instagram, which had been launched in late 2010. Instagram now has 16 employees.


As of now, Instagram is still in the business of losing money (and making all your pictures look like they were taken with an out of focus Polaroid from 1982). 


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Aug 30, 2012

A $30,000 TV and other new gadgets

IFA, a massive consumer electronics show, is underway in Berlin. And new whiz-bang tech announcements are rolling in. It’s kind of like if all of your friends had babies at the same time. But instead of babies they gave birth to tech gear. And instead of cute birth announcements, you got spec sheets. A few IFA highlights from CNET:

• Sony releases its first 4K TV, the 84-inch XBR-84X900. No official word on cost or availability, but expect to pay close to $30,000 to own one. Here's an explainer on what a 4K TV is, but no need to worry about new formats just yet. Afterall, what movies do you own in 4K?
• One of the most unique products unveiled is the Samsung Galaxy Camera, an Android-powered camera that has 3G and 4G network connectivity.


There are also a whole bunch of new phones being introduced (see “Out of nowhere Windows phone” below). And, while we’re doing an new-stuff roundup:

Zappos, which is owned by Amazon, has created a new shopping site that gives suggestions on things to buy based on a Pinterest feed. It's called PinPointing. But you have to have an extensive amount of fashion in your Pinterest account for it to do anything interesting. I only pin geeky things, and I must have stumped it since no suggestions were relevant to my pins.


Sounds like trouble for those of us who pin less-geeky things. (And no, I will not be linking to my pinterest account.)

 


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Aug 30, 2012

Obama takes to Reddit

At 3:08 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Barack Obama put this message on Twitter, “Hey, everyone: I'll be taking your questions online today. Ask yours here:http://OFA.BO/gBof44 -bo,” then roughly an hour and a half later, there was the president, on the self-described “front page of the Internet,” answering your questions. Besides being the go-to site for up to the second links and comments about anything and everything, Reddit hosts a series called Ask Me Anything, or AMA, where interesting folks put themselves out there to, well, get asked any question the Internet can offer. Past AMAs have included celebs like Larry King and Woody Harelson to people like a dad who built his own telescope or a former stripper who just graduated from Harvard. The surge of interest in Obama’s AMA almost shut down the site.
Questions about space exploration, family life, and, no surprise, Internet freedom were among the 10 answered in Obama’s half hour visit. The Los Angeles Times writes:

More than 1.8 million readers subscribed to the thread, which also got more than 12,900 comments and questions.
During the session, Obama said his favorite basketball player was Michael Jordan, disclosed that theWhite House beer recipe will be unveiled soon and said "we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid" when asked about the possibility of increasing NASA's budget. A Reddit user quickly replied with a correction for the President.
"an asteroid, Mr. President," the user said.


Obama’s reaction after his AMA: “NOT BAD!”


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Aug 30, 2012

#BelieveinAmerica #GOP2012

If you log on to Twitter today, you’ll notice the trending topic #BelieveinAmerica, with a “Promoted” tag next to it. Promoting what you ask?  The GOP convention (paid for by the Romney campaign). From The Verge:


The Journal confirmed with the Romney campaign's digital director Zac Moffatt, and Twitter confirmed to us that this is the first official political campaign to buy a trending topic, which has been possible since December of 2010. Thursday night, the last night of the RNC, is the night that Mitt Romney is scheduled to officially accept the Republican nomination for President in Tampa, Florida.

Of course controlling the trending tag of the day is very different from controllling how people use it. As of this morning there are a whole lot of non-Romney supporters tweeting with the #believeinAmerica tag.
Also, the second trending topic at this hour is a seemingly un-promoted #GOP2012.
Here’s the WSJ video of Romney’s digital director Zac Moffatt explaining the buy.


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Aug 30, 2012

Time to uninstall Java?

When do hackers sleep? Seriously. Everyday they are hacking into something new, exposing some security flaw, and freaking out computer users and IT managers. According to Slate:


Hackers have found a flaw in Oracle's Java software that allows them to break into users' computers and install nasty malware, security experts report. The attack, first spotted on Sunday by researchers at the security firm FireEye, is what security types call a "zero-day" threat, exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability for which there is currently no fix available.
The loophole appears to affect Java Version 7 (also known as 1.7) on all browsers. So far the attacks have been against PCs, but Mac users are vulnerable as well. Businesses should be especially concerned about targeted attacks, but just about anyone who uses Java on the Internet is at risk, especially since the attack has been added to the Internet's most popular hacking kit, BlackHole.


Sounds serious, but what’s it mean for me and you? Hint: RUN!!


Given the potential seriousness and pervasiveness of the attacks—and Oracle's reputation for being slow on the draw in response to Java vulnerabilities—experts say that everyday Internet users should probably just disable Java entirely. Like, right now.
"Java has been the most exploited program for well over a year now and it simply isn't worth the risk," Chet Wisniewski of the security firm Sophos told me in an email. "I would recommend removing Java entirely, if you can.


The Slate arti ...

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Aug 30, 2012

U.S. sanctions on Iran have embargoed fun from some gamers

Late last week Iranian fans of World of Warcraft were suddenly locked out of the role playing game. Blizzard, the gaming company that makes WoW, says they had to pull access in Iran to comply with U.S. sanctions against the country. Normally, if you or I had purchased a game then had it yanked back from our computers, we’d expect a refund. In this case, however, Blizzard says it can’t offer refunds, again, due to the sanctions. Needless to say, gamers weren’t happy and they took to the company’s message boards. From the BBC:

Although the block on Wow has been imposed by Blizzard, other reportssuggest a wider government ban might have been imposed.
Players of Wow and other games, including Guild Wars, said when they had tried to log in they had been redirected to a page saying the connection had been blocked because the games promoted "superstition and mythology".
Blizzard said it had no information about Iranian government action against online games.


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Aug 29, 2012

Coral reefs get touched by a robot

The coral reefs just off the west coast of Scotland have taken a beating from pollution and overfishing, and now they’re going to get a little robot-style TLC. Currently in training with builders from Heriot-Watt University, Scottland, “coralrobots” will soon be let loose in the Atlantic to tend and repair the reef. The BBC reports:

When they get damaged, scuba divers re-cement broken fragments, helping them re-grow - but it is tricky for divers to reach depths over 200m.
Coralbots, the researchers hope, will be a lot more efficient, able to repair the reefs in days or weeks.


The bots aren’t very smart on their own, but when they work in a swarm, like underwater bees with video cameras and remote-control arms, they can get a lot done. The BBC spoke with some of the researchers:

"Our key idea is that coral reef restoration could be achieved via swarm intelligence, which allows us to exploit co-operative behaviours we see from natural swarms of bees, termites and ants that build complex structures such as hives and nests," said marine biologist Lea-Anne Henry who is lead scientist on the project at Heriot-Watt.
She said the robots would be intelligent enough to navigate and avoid obstacles.
"We are developing new intelligent object recognition routines, exploiting the data from hundreds of coral reef images, to enable each swarm member to recognise coral fragments and distinguish them from other materials and objects in the environment in real-time," she said.


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Aug 29, 2012

Let the music Muve you

When people talk about digital music streaming services, the names Spotify, Rhapsody, and Pandora come up a lot. All three services started out by letting people stream tunes via computer, then they moved onto the smartphone platform. Muve, on the other hand, acts similarly, but it’s only found on phones. Users pay for unlimited streaming music by adding a $10 monthly fee to their phone bills. The service can be found on Cricket Wireless phones and has been quietly adding users from a largely untapped, minority market. Numbers are likely to grow after yesterday’s announcement that Cricket is coming out with a line of Android smartphones, pre-installed with Muve, priced at $50-$70 per month. From the New York Times:

“Cricket’s customer is young, is ethnic, and tends to be middle and lower income,” said Jeff Toig, the senior vice president of Muve Music. “This is not a segment of the market that the major technology companies innovate for.”


And yet, studies have shown that same demographic accesses the Internet more on phones than on computers. Again from the Times:

According to a study in June by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to consider the phone their primary means of going online.

Current bills, with Muve, top out between $55 to $65, and it’s unclear whether the bump up in price for the new phones might prove to be too much.


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Aug 29, 2012

Isis gets ready to go live next month

Isis, the mobile payment system, was almost becoming as mythical as Isis, the Greek godess. Since it was announced over a year ago as a joint venture between wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, plans for an early 2012 had been stalled. The company just announced that test sites in Austin and Salt Lake City will go live next month. Better late than never I guess. Wired reports:

If you happen to live in Salt Lake City or Austin and happen to have an NFC-equipped phone (all 50 or so of you), you can use that phone to pay at stores that have terminals that can read the tiny chips. (Isis said this spring that participating retailers will include Foot Locker, Macy’s, Jamba Juice, and others, as well as Coca-Cola vending machines.)


Got it, I can buy shoes, clothes, and snack drinks in Salt Lake City or Austin. I’m all set. To be fair, the plan offers payments at local retailers like cupcake shops, pizza joints, and the Utah Jazz too.
The announcement comes at an interesting time too, after Square announced a deal with Starbucks a few weeks ago, mega-retailers banned together to launch the MCX payment system, and PayPal entered into a partnership with Discover. I’m hoping to only have to buy one more wallet in my life, because pretty soon it’s going to be all phone all the time everywhere for everything.


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Aug 29, 2012

If your company is known for printers, a good business bet would be to stop selling printers

Lexmark announced yesterday that it’s getting out of the inkjet printer business, and upon hearing the news, investors pushed the company’s stock up by 14 percent. If logic follows, McDonalds will stop selling burgers, Disney will send Mickey to a home for old mice, and Bank of America will no longer accept money.
Truth be told, Lexmark has been at it for a while.Printing is sooo Y2-aughts. From the Wall Street Journal:

Diminishing demand for Lexmark’s traditional printing products prompted the company in 2007 to start exiting its consumer inkjet business in favor of higher-performance printers for businesses and electronic-document management software.


I would have thought home printers were a total win for companies like Lexmark. I mean, you buy one for a hundred bucks or so, spend another $50 in a couple months to replace the ink, then the thing breaks within a year, and you start all over. That sounds pretty close to a money printing machine. I must be missing something. The company noted that it still sees a future in laser printers, because who wouldn’t - you get to print WITH LASERS! If you’re one of those poor, laser-less souls who has a Lexmark inkjet printer, you’d better stock up on ink refills now.


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Aug 29, 2012

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