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22
Sep

Social Networking Newcomer Diaspora* To Start Inviting Users by the End of October

Diaspora The social networking world is ablaze with changes and shake ups. Over the past few years, we’ve seen some networks expand like wildfire, only to perish into relative obscurity. Does anyone remember Friendster? Myspace as well, once king of the social networking sphere, has taken a back seat to the reigning social giant, Facebook, and new heavy weight contender Google+.

There will soon be yet another new kid on the block, Diaspora*. The Diaspora* team is set to start its user invitations at the end of October. However, Diaspora* is not what the typical social networking user coming from Facebook or MySpace would expect. Diaspora* is not a centralized application service controlled by one entity or company like Facebook or Google+. Instead, Diaspora* is segregated into “pods”. Individual users can host their own pod (for the tech savvy), or join an open pod service, or even start their own pod service and host pods for themselves, their friends and family. These pods will contain all of your content, photos, profile, messages, etc.

The idea behind this distributed content method via “pods”, is that you control your content data and privacy. Diaspora* stated in a recent email to users on their account waiting list, “… our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora*“. This is welcome news to anyone fed up with Facebook’s privacy and content ownership issues or anyone who is paranoid that Google is trying to take over the digital world.

I’m personally excited about Diaspora*, but they have their work cut out for them if they are to compete for the attention of the average social network user, who may not grasp why the complexity and distributed nature of Diaspora* is so cool! The word diaspora means, “A dispersion of a people from their original homeland.” Let’s see if they can hold true to their namesake and disperse the masses away from the social networking giants in favor of a more people centric network, less wrought with corporate dilemmas that weigh your privacy against profit.

21
Sep

Google+ Now Open to Anyone. No Invite Required!

Google PlusLet the social network war begin! Google has just announced that Google+ is being opened up to anyone with a Google account. Previously, only an invite from a friend would get you in the door.

I’m rather excited about the news. My circles on Google+ have been fairly empty so far, and there isn’t much content to interest me at the moment, but as more people sign up, that will change. Google is taking the social networking arena seriously and competing with Facebook head-to-head. What they’ve accomplished in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. Google+ amassed roughly 25 million users in 3 months!

Facebook won’t be dethroned anytime soon, if ever, but Facebook is now scrambling to keep itself relevant. Recent privacy and group control features were rolled out. Although Facebook assures everyone those changes were in the works long before Google+ launched. Also, I haven’t seen them yet, but new layout changes to Facebook are slowly rolling out to some users today. Thankfully they haven’t hit my profile yet. From what I’ve read, the response has been overwhelmingly negative so far, but changes to Facebook are seldom met with positive feedback, so we shall see what effect it has. It might prompt many disgruntled Facebook users to jump ship to Google+ now that it’s easier to get in.

Google+ is also cashing in on the power of celebrity adoption that helped make Twitter so popular. Tonight (9/21) Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas with host a “Hangout on Air”. More celebrity hangouts are planned to follow. I can only imagine the massive sign up numbers that would flock to Google+ if a certain celebrity like ohh… say… Justin Bieber were to host a live hangout ? Google+ tween numbers would skyrocket!

Head on over to http://www.google.com/+ and give Google+ a try!

20
Sep

Netflix Spins Off DVD Branch to Focus on Streaming

Netflix-to-Qwikster Netflix has announced that the company will soon be spinning off it’s DVD division into a completely separate company named “Qwikster”. Ugg, not too thrilled about that name! According to Netflix Co-Founder/CEO, Reed Hastings in an email to customers, they chose the name “… because it refers to quick delivery.” The email also contained an apology of sorts for not handling the new pricing announcements better, as well as an explanation for the split.

The good news is, for those who only cared about the DVD service in the first place, the newly formed Qwikster company will only focus on doing the best job they can for that service. Netflix will continue to provide a streaming service for customers who only want streaming. For customers who want both… well, that’s the bad news. You will have 2 separate web sites to deal with, and 2 separate ques, bills, etc., plus the already implemented price hike.

For those of you who have been asking for games to be added to the DVD service, your calls have been answered! Qwikster will be adding a games option to the DVD service, similar to the Blu-ray add-on option. No word if there will be a games only option, but I doubt it. It will be interesting to see how this option effects Gamefly which is a games only by mail service that also has an advertising relationship with Netflix.

UPDATE 10/13/2011: Well that didn’t last long! See: http://arstechnica.com/media/news/2011/10/netflix-kills-qwikster-after-customers-bash-spinoff-of-dvd-service.ars

2
Sep

You bought the HP Touchpad for $99. Now what?

TouchPad Box If you recently opted to snatch up the HP Touchpad during the $99 firesale, and now you’re feeling some buyers remorse, fear not! That thick little tablet might get a lot more useful in the near future. Since the future of WebOS is uncertain at best, HackNMod announced a bounty to port Android to the device, and the CyanogenMod team quickly answered the call to arms. Don’t get too excited right away though! It’s going to take a lot of work before it’s ready for daily use.

CyanogenMod is actively working on the Android port, and so far early indications are that they have been able to get it to boot, albeit not much farther than that just yet, as the touchscreen driver does not work… yet. The CyanogenMod team says they don’t really care about winning the HackNMod prize money. They just want to get Android working, and they want to “do it right.”

If you missed out on the remaining stock at the firesale price, you might still be in luck. In order to keep promised contract deals with parts vendors, HP has also announced a final production run of the TouchPad, so we’ll see if the next round is priced the same. I doubt they will go as low as $99 again. Since HP lost a lot of money on each unit sold at $99, my best guess is that they will try to recover some costs by selling the next batch at a slight premium over the last batch at around $150, maybe. Although who knows? They’ve been making a lot of weird business decisions lately, so we will just have to wait and see!

29
Aug

Image Taken of Electrons Orbiting in a Pentacene Molecule

pentacene_9This is so cool! I just came across this article on Dvice.com, and I’m not going to completely rehash it here, but basically an electron microscope was used to show the path electrons follow in a pentacene molecule, which closely resembles the diagram used to describe it.

Check out the complete article on: http://dvice.com/archives/2011/08/this-is-an-imag.php

29
Aug

The Real Future of Human Cyborgs

eyeborg - camera in prosthesis This is what really excites me about modern technology, human-technology interfacing… Cyborgs! The new game “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” from developer Square Enix, centers around a not too distant future where cybernetics are no longer just prosthetic, but enhancements that people willingly give up working body parts for, in favor of their cybernetic enhanced alternatives. The reality of cybernetics, however, is not too far behind the game.

The 12 minute excerpt of the documentary “Eyeborg” below is made by filmmaker Rob Spence, who lost his eye in an accident and replaced it with a wireless video camera. Parts of the documentary are actually filmed using his implant. The camera is not wired to his optic nerve, however, but it is only a matter of time before that too becomes possible. Researchers are actively working on systems to send video signals directly to the brain via the optic nerve/retina, and test patients have had some success at regaining minimal sight capabilities.

This field is growing at an exciting rate, and I can only imagine what will be possible in the real 2027, instead of the imagined 2027 when the video game takes place!

26
Aug

Happy 20th Birthday Linux!

Happy 20th Birthday Linux Ok, so I’m a day late. Linux actually turned 20 yesterday, August 25th, and I told myself it was going to be highly covered by other tech sites, and there would be no need to write about it here. Then I started reminiscing about my own 16 years of experience with Linux and decided to jot down some of those memories.

I’ve read a lot of articles about the history of Linux over the years and how it started as a hobby project by Linus Torvalds, yada yada. That’s been covered in depth by lots of wonderful writers, and I won’t rehash it here. If that’s what you’re looking for, ArsTechnica.com has a great article on their site about the last 20 years of Linux.

This article is more for me than anything else, a reminiscent look back at how I arrived in the Linux world. To get to Linux, my journey first took me to the internet in college. I logged onto the full fledged internet for the first time in 1994, earlier if you count Compuserve, but it wasn’t my own account. It belonged to my girlfriend’s dad, and I was only on it for a few minutes, so I don’t really count that. Anyway, I started college that summer quarter at the University of Georgia, 10 days after graduating from high school. All incoming students at that time were given MUSIC accounts (Multi User System for Interactive Computing) which was a text only, menu-driven account that had basic email, gopher, usenet, telnet, irc, etc. (Still docs online here, hah hah, neat!) Oh how I remember it fondly.

I had been online for months, and thought it was just great, but I really had no idea how to use it. I believe it was during the following fall quarter, my friend and I went to a computer lab where he suggested I join a “chat game” called a MUSH (Multi User Shared Hallucination). I could see the acronyms start piling up, so I decided I was going to need a notebook to keep track of all this new internet jargon I was learning! I started writing everything down. I joined the TinyTIM mush under the handle “Gandolf”, not realizing at the time that it was supposed to be spelled “Gandalf”.  Oops! I later changed my handle to Macleod, and I still have an account under that name there to this day (telnet tim.org 5440). Also under the same name, Macleod, I became an active member of GlobalMUSH (telnet mildew.org 4201), which shows my first login as April 6th, 1995, but for some reason I think it was earlier than that. Might have been changed during a database or server change or something. Who knows! Anyway…

Doing all this MUSHing got me interested in programming/scripting, learning how the internet worked, and I wondered just how was I able to chat with people from all over the world? How did it all work exactly? It may sound silly now, but when I originally connected, I thought the MUSH admins were all in the same room at some big internet facility. I didn’t immediately understand that they were just like me, sitting at a computer at home, or in a library, or at a school lab, and they could be across town, or across the world!

I started asking questions about how I could run my own MUSH, and one of my fellow MUSHers said I needed to get a machine with Linux on it to run the MUSH server. Ok, Linux huh? I thought, “Hmm, guess I’m going to need a computer with Linux then!” The next summer I slaved for 2 months at a construction job to make enough money to buy my first computer. $2300+ bought me a Pentium 90mhz, 16 megs of ram, a 1.2 gig HD and a 15″ monitor. No modem, no sound card, no cd-rom, barebones! I had to buy all those parts separately. I installed my first dual boot system with DOS 6.22/Win 3.11 and Linux Universe from a CD I got with a book of the same title. I’m sure I still have it in a box somewhere.

Linux was so much fun, very different from Windows or Mac, rough around the edges, and really allowed me to understand better how the computer really worked. If you started your computing life on an Apple //e at age 8, worked your way up through Commodore 64s, Tandy 1000s, various IBM PC’s at school, and then later learned to word process on Word Perfect for DOS in college, installing and learning Linux wasn’t really all that difficult. I hate to sound like an old fart, but the kids these days really have it easy. You don’t have to learn how the computer works anymore to really use one. They just work… mostly.

After the initial install from the CD in a book, I tried all sorts of other distributions. Slackware was my favorite in the early days, but I have used Red Hat, Gentoo, Debian, Mandrake/Mandriva, Suse (also a favorite), and more recently Ubuntu, Mint, and the list goes on. I’ve watched Linux mature over the past 16 years into a modern operating system with millions of users all over the world. It runs on servers, desktops, cell phones (Android), set top devices (ROKU), my DVR (MythTV), heck even NASA space probes are controlled by systems running Linux!

In a nutshell, that’s how I got into Linux, learning about it in a MUSH chat. Looking back at it now, it’s amazing to think what one person can do… just a guy like Linus Torvalds in a dorm room who wanted to start a “hobby” operating system, along with the collaborative efforts of some strangers across the internet who contributed their efforts to build what we call Linux. I can only wonder what’s next for all of the other little hobby projects out there that we don’t yet know about. The world needs those ideas, the dare to be different ideas that can change the world for the better. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years holds for Linux, and I hope to write another article like this when Linux turns 40!

26
Aug

New “Opa” Programming Language Simplifies Web Application Development

Opa Logo Well, this looks promising! A new programming language for the web is fresh on the scene. It’s called “Opa”. It’s open source and proclaimed to be “the cloud language”. Cool! We like open source :-) On the Opalang.org site, it’s described as “… a concise and elegant language for writing distributed web applications.” As I understand it, you write the Opa code, and when you compile your code, the compiler generates all the server, browser and database code you need for your app, and … BAM! you have a new web application.

I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but in the coming weeks I plan to play around with it and report back on my findings. In the mean time, go check it out on their site and let me know what *you* think!

http://opalang.org

19
Aug

Sony Launces 3D Full 1080p HD Video … Binoculars?

Man, talk about a weird product, but I guess it does makes sense. Binoculars are already dual lens, 3D-ready beasts, so why not throw HD video recording into the mix? Sony has added 2D and 3D video recording into their new DEV-3 and DEV-5 binoculars.

I just wonder how easy these things will be to use. Binoculars have always been somewhat unwieldy for me, difficult to focus and find your subject, and I just can’t see shooting video with them.. ok, maybe a setup shot with a tripod.

Source: http://dpreview.com/news/1108/11081910hdbinoculars.asp

18
Aug

MIT Develops Drug That Could Treat/Cure Almost All Virus Types

Model of a Virus MIT scientists have developed a drug called DRACO (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers) that could soon put an end to most viral threats to human health. The drug targets and kills cells that have been infected with a virus, but leaves uninfected cells unharmed.

In recent tests, the drugs was effective at killing 15 different viruses. Considering how few anti-viral medications we currently have, this is great news! Imagine an end to the common cold, the flu, shingles, herpes, cold sores, and possibly even the dreaded HIV!

More details about MIT’s progress can be found on their web site: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/antiviral-0810.html