Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011


by Avinash Saxena
February 28, 2011

Bonus Oscar® opening montage footage of "Grease"

by Avinash Saxena
February 28, 2011

Bonus Oscar® opening montage footage of “Grease”

by Avinash Saxena
February 28, 2011

A Mixed Night For The Social Network

by Avinash Saxena
It was a great night for The King’s Speech and Inception at the 83rd Academy Awards Sunday — and a somewhat more disappointing outcome for their main rival, David Fincher’s The Social Network.
Fincher’s movie, a fictionalized account of the rise of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, won a total of three Oscars. Writer Aaron Sorkin, also known for West Wing and A Few Good Men, won Best Adapted Screenplay (it was based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”), while Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor won Best Original Score for the movie’s haunting music. It also won an award for Best Film Editing.
But The Social Network had been nominated for a total of eight awards — and had been hotly tipped for Best Picture until The King’s Speech started picking up buzz several months ago. It failed to win for cinematography, Best Actor, Best Director or Best Picture. The King’s Speech won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Colin Firth. Chris Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream Inception also won five, including Best Special Effects for its stunning computer-generated imagery.
For The Social Network‘s fans, it will be especially disappointing that the movie won awards for sound, vision and script — but apparently was not better than the sum of those parts. And in what seemed almost like a snub, Sorkin’s acceptance speech was the only one to be cut short by the Academy’s “play them out” music.
Still, for a movie that’s all about a nerd who fights to be popular but fails to fit in, it seems an appropriate outcome.
February 28, 2011

Swipely Swaps Public Purchase-Sharing for Private Savings

by Avinash Saxena
“We don’t think people want to share their purchases. Period,” says Angus Davis, founder and CEO of Swipely, a purchasing-sharing startup similar to Blippy. That no longer is the case. Effective immediately.
Swipely, having processed tens of millions of transactions under the original model, is course-correcting after raising more than $8 million in funding and exiting private beta just seven months ago.
Swipely will roll out a completely overhauled version of the site on February 28, starting in Rhode Island (the startup is based in Providence), with a remodeled mission to save users money at local businesses. The new Swipely offers users a private experience — in stark contrast to public purchasing-sharing — that now rewards them for swiping their credit cards at local merchants.
Swipely users, should they associate their credit cards with their Swipely accounts, can swipe at participating local merchants to earn cash back rewards, loyalty points and extra incentives for sharing reviews on social networks.

The idea, says Davis, is to free consumers from the necessity of printing coupons or carrying loyalty cards in order to redeem discounts and earn rewards. “Merchants can attract new customers with an incentive, and bring them back with points to build loyalty,” he adds.
Swipely has signed on more than 75 local merchant partners in the Rhode Island area who are willing to pay to participate in this loyalty-meets-customer-acquisition alternative to Groupon, Foursquare or Shopkick.
Renowned Providence restaurant Nick’s on Broadway, for instance, will give Swipely users 25% cash back on their first purchase, a loyalty point for each dollar spent and 10 bonus points should they also share a review.

The new Swipely experience is focused on savings, but users also can use the website to understand their shopping history and check out applicable, deal-related Facebook and Twitter updates from the businesses at which they transact.
Unfortunately, Swipely users in regions outside Rhode Island will continue to experience the now-expired purchase-sharing experience. Davis hopes to introduce national audiences to the new experience within a month.
Swipely’s new local deals approach is not entirely dissimilar from Offermatic’s automatic credit card deals offering. Swipely, however, sticks to local merchants as opposed to big brand names. It’s an approach that needs an aggressive sales team, which may make it difficult for the startup to introduce a fully baked version of the new site and mission to additional markets.
Still, this idea appears more promising than the last — the (once) local merchant-focused Groupon generated$760 million in revenue in 2010. Swipely investors are also confident in the startup’s decision to attack a foreign, albeit large, market opportunity, according to Davis.
Ultimately, this new bet on local merchants is grounded in Swipely’s business-friendly approach, or so it hopes.
February 28, 2011

Google Glitch Disables 150,000 Gmail Accounts

by Avinash Saxena
Google, we have a problem. About 150,000 Gmail account holders woke up to a nightmare this morning, with all their e-mail, attachments and Google Chat logs gone. What happened?
Google explains that “less than 0.08%” of all Gmail users were affected by the bug, which completely reset accounts, even down to the detail offering a welcome message to those users when they first logged on today. They, and especially visitors to the Gmail Help Forum, were not amused.
But there’s good news here. The way Google is explaining it on its Apps Status Dashboard: “Google engineers are working to restore full access. Affected users may be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts.”
In an earlier message, Google wrote, “For those Gmail users reporting missing messages, our engineers are working to restore them as soon as possible.” So maybe this is not so bad after all. As long as Google restores the messages, all we had was a big scare. Will Google restore all the messages? We’ve contacted a Google spokesperson, and will let you know when we hear back.
Meanwhile, I’m going to back up all of my Gmail forthwith. But wait a minute -– how do you back up Gmail? Here:
This is a free application for Mac, PC and Linux called Gmail Backup. I gave it a try and it’s easy to use. After a quick download, you just give it your credentials and it begins downloading all your e-mails, backing them up securely no matter what Google decides to do. After 30 minutes, it had downloaded 2.4% of my e-mails, so this is not going to take forever. It’s probably time well spent.
February 25, 2011

Mac exposure among the world

by Avinash Saxena
Mac OS X Lion was released to registered Mac OS X developers on Thursday — and a member of the developer community has provided Abrition with some screenshots of the upcoming version of Apple’s desktop operating system.
Keep in mind that what you see here is only valid as of February 2011, and could change by the time Mac OS X Lion is released in the summer of 2011.
February 25, 2011

PayPal Lifts Ban on Fundraising Account for WikiLeaks Source Bradley Manning

by Avinash Saxena
PayPal has lifted its ban on the account of Courage to Resist, an organization that has raised a substantial portion of the funds needed for the legal defense of Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old former U.S. army private accused of leaking classified U.S. information to WikiLeaks in 2010.
In a blog post, PayPal declared that the original suspension had nothing to do with the organization’s support of Bradley Manning. Rather, the account had been suspended because it had failed to comply with a stated policy that requires non-profits to link a bank account to their PayPal account.
“Upon review, and as part of our normal business procedures, we have decided to lift the temporary restriction placed on their account because we have sufficient information to meet our statutory ‘Know Your Customer’ obligations. The Courage to Resist PayPal account is now fully operational,” Anuj Nayar, PayPal’s director of communications, wrote.
The explanation was posted in response to a widely circulated blog post on the Bradley Manning Support Network’s website Thursday, which accused the payment service of suspending the account because of its fundraising efforts on Manning’s behalf.
Manning has been held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, since June 2010, and is not expected to face court martial until October 2011. His legal defense is estimated to cost more than $100,000.
February 25, 2011

Swipe, Save And Serve: What’s New in Mac OS X Lion

by Avinash Saxena
Apple released the first developer preview of Mac OS X Lion Thursday, offering a glimpse of what can be expected from the next iteration of its desktop operating system.
Slated for release this summer, Mac OS X Lion is all about fusing the worlds of Mac OS X and iOS together. On its Mac OS X Lion Previewpage, Apple sums it up best: “The power of Mac OS X. The magic of iPad.”
Some of the features in Mac OS X Lion have already found their way into Mac OS X Snow Leopard. When Apple formally announced Mac OS X Lion in October, the company showed off some of the new features that had already arrived in iLife ’11. The company launched the Mac App Store in January, and many of its UI elements (which look unusual in the context of Mac OS X 10.6) are carried over into Mac OS X Lion.


For the last few years, MacBook Pro (and Magic Trackpad) owners have been able to take advantage of multitouch gestures in Mac OS X. In supported applications, swiping fingers a certain way or using the pinch-to-zoom gesture will influence what you see on the screen.

In Mac OS X Lion, gestures and multitouch support consume the whole OS. Swipes can initiate system-wide features — like pulling up the new application dashboard Launchpad — and can also switch between applications, application screens or zoom in on specific content.
Check out this video from Apple’s website that shows off some of the new gestures:
This video doesn’t exist


Launching applications in Mac OS X has always been a bit odd. Yes, users can drag shortcuts of apps to the dock for easy launching — but there isn’t a system-wide menu way to pull up apps (unless one puts a shortcut to the Applications folder in the dock — which is what I do). That changes in Mac OS X Lion.
Using a swipe down gesture brings up a Launchpad that showcases every app on the system, iOS style. Users can scroll through and select apps. Similar gestures and support have appeared in the beta releases of iOS 4.3. Although those gestures aren’t expected to make the final release, it does show that Apple is working to unify how apps are accessed across platforms.


Mission Control is another new Mac OS X Lion feature. Apple demonstrated the features at its big Mac event in October but now we have a better idea of what the feature is and how it works.
In essence, Mission Control is the Expose feature in Mac OS X fused with Spaces. Open windows are grouped together by applications and the users gets a broad overview of every open panel and application, regardless of whether it is running full screen or not.
We’d also like to see something like this implemented in future versions of iOS.


Apple is introducing a system-wide auto-save feature in Mac OS X Lion. That should help prevent situations where a user writes a 2,000 word post in a text editor, forgets to hit save and then loses the entire thing when the text editor decides to crash. Wouldn’t it be nice if the OS itself could help avoid that?

Mac OS X Lion will also create and store versions of documents as they are written. Previous versions can be accessed, Time Machine-style, from a cascading window setup and older versions can be reverted with one click.
Apple is also introducing new technology that will let users pick-up exactly where they left off even after restarting their Mac. That means performing a system update won’t require a user to open every document or URL window after a reboot.
It also means that after you quit an application, you can open it up exactly where you left off.
Mac OS X has long been the gold standard for having a solid standby/resume system for its laptops and desktops. I’ve had laptops in sleep mode for four months that have resumed exactly where they left off (after the battery was re-charged, of course).
Making resume even better should help facilitate that “always on” feeling you get using the iPad.


Rather than sell as a separate version, Mac OS X Lion will come with Lion Server built in. This is a unusual move for Apple. Last year, the company discontinued its Xserve line, focusing instead on the Mac mini Server and Mac Pro Server offerings.

We don’t think the message here is that Mac OS X can’t power a network server — it absolutely can. Instead it might be a recognition that central file servers are less necessary than they used to be. Regular laptops and desktops can be easily configured to run as a server.
In my house, we have five Mac OS X machines running at all times. We have a media server running FreeNAS in a closet. But in reality, we don’t need any server software to communicate or exchange files between Mac machines.
A very cool feature in Lion Server is file sharing for the iPad. When configured to support WebDAV, Lion Server can offer iPad users access to documents in apps like Pages, Keynote and Good Reader. For businesses that embrace the iPad, this is a great move.


It’s very clear that iOS — especially the iPad — is influencing the future direction of Mac OS X.

The success of the iPad, the new MacBook Air and the Android tablets indicates that the portable computing device many of us use in a few years won’t be a laptop, but a tablet. I would expect to see a MacPad — an iPad/MacBook mashup — in the next few years.
With that in mind — and knowing that Apple has some interesting patents on touch-based technology — I wonder if Mac OS X Lion is being launched as a kind of transitory OS.
There are fundamental differences in how touch-based systems like iOS operate compare to traditional input systems like Mac OS X or Windows. Not only are user interface and user experiences different, the way information is accessed is different too.


February 24, 2011

Spotify Closing In On Deal With Largest Record Label?

by Avinash Saxena
Spotify might have just negotiated one of the last obstacles to its arrival in the United States. Now, the popular European music service is just “a few weeks away” from obtaining the U. S. rights to the music owned by the world’s largest music company, Universal Music Group, according to sources who spoke to Reuters.
As soon as that deal is sealed, according to one source who spoke with Reuters, the company might proceed with its United States launch, even though it still hasn’t signed the number three music label, Warner Music Group.
Things are starting to happen quickly for the London-based Spotify. Last week, according to CNET the company signed another one of the major record labels, EMI, and last month, it made a music deal with Sonyfor its U.S. music rights. If it succeeds in adding Universal Music Group to its stable, it will have three of the four major music labels on board for an American launch.
What’s the holdup? The U.S. record companies are reportedly not overly enthusiastic about Spotify’s “freemium” business model, where the company gives away ad-supported music in hopes of signing paying subscribers to its ad-free version. That premium service lets users choose and replay their music.
Beyond that, the record companies are concerned that current digital music sales by outlets such as theiTunes Store might be adversely affected by free music from Spotify. In an interview with StrategyEye, Spotify’s business development head, Faisal Galaria, says the launch delay has to do with the profitable relationship between record companies and Apple:
If you’re the digital team [at a label] and 80% of your revenue was coming from one place, how much are you going to piss them off until someone else can guarantee all that revenue from a new source?”
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