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New Instagram is, surprise, more Facebooky

It’s no surprise, really. If Facebook bought a dog, the dog would become more Facebooky too. Start encouraging other dogs to share more about themselves, post ads in the poops it leaves in the yard. That kind of thing.

The latest update on the Instagram photo sharing app, famously acquired by Facebook for a billion dollars earlier this year, features a lot more geolocation capabilities, aimed at getting people to share share share.

From GigaOm:

In the new version you can select photos you wish to make public and they get pinned to a location. For instance, if you have ten photos from Helsinki, Finland, they all get clustered together. These clusters are visible as collections on a map. You can see many collections on the map and can tap to zoom in (or out) to get a closer and more contextual view.


GigaOm also proposes that Instagram is positioning itself as an alternative to Twitter for the young people who like the shiny new things. It’s also an alternative to Facebook, even though it’s owned by Facebook:

This scale of growth – hundreds of photos uploaded per second and a total of more than 4 billion photos – the company is starting to look like a rival to Twitter as a place for social conversations. Today, Twitter is much bigger, but Instagram is growing at a rapid clip. Instagram has become popular with youngsters who are bypassing Facebook and Twitter and instead communicating via photos and comments on Instagram.


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Aug 17, 2012

Verizon spectrum deal approved by the DOJ

The Department of Justice has signed off on Verizon’s purchase of huge piles of broadcast spectrum from various cable companies. The deal was opposed by other wireless operators as well as plenty of people kinda spooked by how enormously powerful Verizon is about to become. As expected, there were strings attached, specifically having to do with the joint marketing agreement between Verizon and the cable operators that was part of the agreement.

From TG Daily:

It also places a time limit - December 2016 - on a proposed deal whereby Verizon will resell cable companies’ services to customers in areas where Verizon sells DSL Internet service.  It also places time limits on a proposed technology joint ventured.
"By limiting the scope and duration of the commercial agreements among Verizon and the cable companies while at the same time allowing Verizon and T-Mobile to proceed with their spectrum acquisitions, the department has provided the right remedy for competition and consumers," says Joseph Wayland, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.

Next up is approval of the deal from the FCC, which is expected.

So. Everyone’s happy, right? NOT AL FRANKEN, the senator from Minnesota, who says the restrictions don’t go far enough and that the deal will hurt competition.

"Without meaningful competition for broadband, the cable companies will be able to charge whatever they want—and drive consumers to purchase expensive bundles of services they don’t want or need in order to get Internet service. The Department of Justice has addressed some of the worst parts of this transaction, but I don’t think it has gone far enough," he said.


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Aug 17, 2012

Twitter further restricts API

While Twitter is plenty popular among various Kardashia (that’s the plural of Kardashian), it’s making web developers grumpier and grumpier. The company has probably angered those developers yet more by placing new, tougher restrictions on its application programming interface (API), which is the information that lets people build new products using the guts of Twitter. The Twitter developers blog says the changes, which go into effect next year, will include things like per-hour limits to the API and tighter authentication requirements.

But here’s the part making everyone mad:

If your application already has more than 100,000 individual user tokens, you'll be able to maintain and add new users to your application until you reach 200% of your current user token count (as of today) – as long as you comply with our Rules of the Road. Once you reach 200% of your current user token count, you'll be able to maintain your application to serve your users, but you will not be able to add additional users without our permission.

So if your app gets twice as big as it was to start, you aren’t allowed to grow it any further.

Twitter’s coming to a crossroads here. Its popularity as a platform is extraordinary and that might be at odds with the growth or even interests of the company that is trying to hard control 


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Aug 17, 2012

Tech companies doing better on use of conflict minerals

A new report issued yesterday from the Enough Project says the situation with big tech companies using conflict minerals in Africa is generally improving, although with plenty of room still to go. Those minerals are at the heart of civil strife, especially in the Congo, that has resulted in the millions of people dying as a result of armed conflict or starvation. But again, improving.

Says CNN:

That's thanks in part to the fact that tech companies like Intel, HP, Dell, Microsoft and Apple have made efforts to trace the source of metals used in their devices. An auditing system for smelters, the industrial facilities that process raw metals, also has been put in place. A certification system is in the works that would allow companies to certify some metals from Congo as "conflict free."

Not everyone scored well. Nikon, Sharp, Canon, and HTC scored exceptionally poorly. Worst of all? Nintendo, which the Enough Project says does not seem to have made any effort to avoid these minerals whatsoever. 


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Aug 17, 2012

This is what Americans want to know about Americans

State by state, here's a sweet little map that shows the top auto-complete words when we ask "Why is [state] so..."


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Aug 17, 2012

Windows 8: here come the reviews

And the judgment is.... KINDA MIXED!

The huge new operating system has been fiddled with and the embargo has been lifted. Now, various publications are passing down their verdicts on Microsoft’s latest universe.

CNET:

Microsoft makes an aggressive, forward-thinking and bold statement statement for the future of PCs with Windows 8, and vast security and speed improvements more than justify the $40 upgrade price.


Gizmodo said it was not quite incredible but not bad:

Should You Buy It? Many of you won't have a choice. This is the operating system that will come pre-installed on your PC for the foreseeable future. And that's a good thing! If you're thinking about upgrading, well, that means you actually care about this thing. And if you care about this thing, you should definitely give it a try. Especially for $40 flat and $15 if you bought a PC recently.

Infoworld hates it:

Sometimes engineering achievements are appreciated only by the engineers. From the user's standpoint, Windows 8 is a failure -- an awkward mishmash that pulls the user in two directions at once. Users attracted to the new touch-friendly Metro GUI will dislike the old touch-hostile desktop underneath. By the same token, users who rely on the traditional Windows desktop will dislike having to navigate Metro to find settings and apps they intuitively locate in Windows 7. Microsoft has moved the cheese.

Not everyone is running a big review since this is still technically a preview edition but the consensus is that nothing one would notice will change between now and the 10/25 launch date. Good luck, Brancaccio!


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Aug 16, 2012

OMG! LPRs make us LOL nervously

LPRs you ask? License plate readers, like the ones found on the two sole roads leading in and out of Tiburon, Calif., that can feed police a list of plate scans at up to 60 per second. Police use the scanners to spot stolen cars or people who might be wanted, but privacy advocates are raising concerns about everybody else. Tiburon has been using LPRs since 2009, and now similar readers can be found all over the country.

Ars Technica reports:

In late July 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates sent requests to local police departments and state agencies across 38 states to request information on how LPRs are used.

Law enforcement officials in Tiburon say crime has dropped one-third since the cameras have been up and running. The nation’s capital sports the most densely packed area of LPRs, sporting more than one every square mile. A major privacy concern that keeps popping up is data retention. Again from Ars:

"I want to give law enforcement all the tools to catch the bad guys, but I don't want to yield to [a] Big Brother state," Utah State Senator Todd Weiler, a Republican, told Ars. "There has to be a happy medium, but part of the happy medium is showing how long you need to store the data."

So far, lawsuits challenging LPRs are being upheld.


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Aug 16, 2012

Germans: they love David Hasselhoff and are wary of Facebook

Facebook’s use of facial recognition software has always been a bit off putting for a lot of people since it associates faces with names and can display your name without you saying that’s okay. Facebook says its software is fully compliant with European Union privacy laws but German Data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar isn’t so sure. He says it breaks the rules for Facebook to accumulate a database of images of users’ faces without the users’ consent.

From the BBC:

The database is used to power its Photo Tag Suggest feature - a function which works out who someone in a picture is based on previously gathered photographs of that person.
Users can then choose to tag their friends, who are then notified that a new picture of them had been uploaded.
The feature, like many on Facebook, operates on an opt-out basis, an approach heavily criticised by Mr Caspar who has demanded that the database is destroyed.
He argued that it was gathered without users' consent and therefore illegal.


The German government has now re-opened an investigation of Facebook’s practices. The investigation had been suspended while similar complaints from the Irish government were being investigated.


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Aug 16, 2012

Flash for Android is dead

Adobe’s Flash program is on its way to becoming kind of a computery version of the coelocanth: so sparse in population that while it will exist, many will believe it to have become extinct. As of today, Flash Player is gone from Google’s Play store and Flash’s parent company, Adobe, says it has halted developing it for Android devices. The decision to pull it was Adobe’s and it did so even though it was a well-reviewed bit of software among Google users.

From the BBC:

But Adobe said it was removing the option to install the plug-in because it was likely to exhibit "unpredictable behaviour" when used with the latest version of Android, known as Jelly Bean.
It also suggested that smartphone owners who had upgraded to the latest system should uninstall the Flash Player if it was already on their device.


All signs now point to HTML5 being the standard for animation on web sites, a standard that YouTube is now adopting as well. Apple, famously, has never allowed Flash on its iPhones and iPads saying it was too heavy a product that burdened devices more than it helped them. Adobe says it is confident that Flash still has a big future on PCs. Don’t stop believing, there, Steve Perry.


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Aug 16, 2012

Here’s the iPad Mini, probably

Remember when people were surprised by Apple announcements? Like, the company rolls out... a phone! (spit take) What?! Where did that come from?! Now, we see the train coming a mile away. A number of sites, while still citing anonymous sources, say they are confident that leaked images of the iPad Mini are the real thing and that this is what we will be seeing at the Apple launch event on September 12th.

The link there is from 9 to 5 Mac but there is also much the same information from Apple devotee John Gruber who thinks it will resemble the iPad more than a middle point product between the Pad and the Phone. Gizmodo did its own mockup based on what was being widely speculated.


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Aug 16, 2012

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