Category Archives: News

Veoh Files Bankruptcy

Veoh was once considered to be in direct competition with YouTube. Veoh founder Dmitry Shapiro has said that the company would be liquidating and filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The company announced back in April that it would lay off 25 staffers, despite the $70 million in capital that the company raised from investors such as Intel, Time Warner, and Goldman Sachs. The company has been plagued by lawsuits during the past few years. Even though they have come out of those victorious, the cost of fighting has amassed to an astronomical amount.

Sadly, the news of closure doesn’t come as a surprise to many people. Traffic has been on a steady decline, dropping from more than 5 million unique visitors in December, 2008 to around 3 million uniques as of December, 2009. The company let go of what was left of their staff on Wednesday. Mister Shapiro stated on his own blog that “Unfortunately, great vision, a passionate team, tens of millions of users, millions in revenues and victory in court were not enough. The distraction of the legal battles, and the challenges of the broader macro-economic climate have led to our Chapter 7 bankruptcy”.

Veoh is just another in a long line of promising startups which has now failed in today’s economy. Even when there are investors on board, a company can still lose everything it has, just in the fight to stay alive. Online content consumers are finicky. We want what we want, and won’t accept something different. I’m not saying this is the case with Veoh. The number of visitors the site boasts is quite large. However, when compared with what YouTube brings in, those millions are apparently a drop in the bucket.

School Bus Wi-Fi Tames Rowdy Students

Students in Vail, Arizona tend to sit on a school bus for a few hours per day. The Vail District, with 18 schools and 10,000 students, is sprawled across 425 square miles of subdivision, mesquite and mountain ridges southeast of Tucson. As bus number 92 rolls down the road, the teenagers aboard tend to get quite restless. They throw things, they climb things and they hit things… or each other.

School administrators are technology leaders. In 2005, it launched Empire High School as a digital school, with the district issuing students laptops instead of textbooks/ There are more than 100 built-in wireless access points offering a powerful Internet signal in every classroom – and even on the football field. It comes as no surprise, then, that the district has now adopted wireless Internet access on select school buses. The administrators were hoping to turn the buses into rolling study halls, so to speak. So far, it seems to be working.

Behavior problems on bus 92 have all but disappeared. During a ride-along, a reported noted teens proofreading homework assignments, emailing them to instructors, and reviewing for tests. One girl was able to email her mother, to remind her of an appointment later in the day. District officials have been delighted to see the amount of homework getting done, morning and evening, as the driver picks up and drops off students along the highway that climbs from Vail through the Santa Rita mountains to Sonoita. The drive takes about 70 minutes each way.

The kids also use the connections to play online games and check their email or social networks. However, the school doesn’t have a problem with that, as long as nothing illegal is being done! The kids are behaving, and they are actually seeing improved homework turn-in rates, along with better grades, among the students on that bus.

The router cost $200, and came with a $60 a month Internet service contract. I’m sure that the bus driver feels it is money very well spent, not to mention the kids, the parents, and the school administrators! Internet buses may soon be hauling children to school in many other districts, particularly those with long bus routes. The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C.

Maybe your school will be next!

How Do You Manage Your Inbox?

One of the longest-running issues we all seem to have is trying to deal with an Inbox that is too full. There have been many pieces of software developed over the years in an attempt to help us manage these monstrosities. However, they’ve all fallen short of the mark. However, there’s a new kid on the block who promises to deliver in ways others never have. The only catch is that only Gmail subscribers can use the service.

Gtriage is a service that scans all your email messages and to determine which ones are the most important to you. It then tags those messages “Important” with bright red labels so they don’t get missed. The way it works is nothing short of ingenious – as long as it does as promised. Their algorithm for measuring the email weights is being called “powerful machine-learning technology” by the company. They even have two cartoon-looking characters representing the two parts: Buckminster and Blockhead. Blockhead learns the universal characteristics that make email important, and Buckminister learns what you find to be important.

According to their website, Gtraige learns about you and gets even better once you’ve been using it awhile. After it’s set up, you just use your Gmail account as you normally would, while Buckminster and Blockhead watch your actions – and customize themselves to your behavior. In theory, the end result is an email filtering program that works without your having to actually DO anything. Will it work? Only time will tell. This isn’t something that can be tested in a matter of days. I will have to reserve judgment until I’ve used it for awhile.

For now, the service is free… if you can get an invite code. The company has set up pricing tiers, and is confident that Gtriage will work so well, you’ll want to pay for the service. While that remains to be seen at this point, it will likely be worth the cost if it delivers as promised.

Is Google Buzz Invading Your Privacy?

According to the BusinessInsider, Google Buzz could be invading your privacy in a big way. As is often the case, privacy issues with Buzz are opt-out, instead of opt-in as they should be. When you first set up the Buzz for yourself, it automatically sets you up with followers and people to follow. Those people are picked based on whom you email and talk to the most on Google. That’s fine, right? However, your list of followers (and those who follow you) are made public by default. That, my friends, is not cool.

Before you change any settings in Google Buzz, someone can check out your profile and see who you email and chat with most. When you first begin to set up your profile, you’ll be prompted to enter your photo and name. In that same tiny box, you’ll see minuscule wording that states that “Your profile includes your name, photo, people you follow, and people who follow you.”. The problem is that they don’t even tell you that the general public can see this information.

We all know that most of us don’t bother reading all of the fine print before saving and continuing to create profiles. We’re in a hurry, right? However, not taking the time to check things out in this way can also cause you a lot of headaches. Do you really want the world to know who you are talking to? Is it their business? Not in my book, it’s not. It is up to ME if I want everyone – and their brother – to know who I talk to the most… and who I follow.

We shouldn’t have to opt out of things such as this. My followers – and yours – should be private by default. It should be our choice whether or not they are displayed. What bothers me the most is that many people don’t realize this is happening, nor will they understand that they can hide their lists with just a few clicks of the mouse.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel strongly that Google made a huge boo-boo in regards to your privacy? Do you feel companies (especially such large ones who should KNOW better) should automatically make these things hidden by default, and allow you the control over your information?

Aardvark Bought by Google

Just a few moments ago, Aardvark co-founder Max Ventilla confirmed that a deal has been signed with Google. While the details haven’t yet been released, I can only think positive things will come of this merger. If you haven’t heard of Aardvark yet – or are not using it – shame on you! I have a feeling that this little service is going to become very huge, very quickly… thanks to the backing Google will bring.

Aardvark is a new tool that lets you tap into the knowledge and experience of friends, and friends of theirs. Simply send the service a question – via the web, IM, email, Twitter or iPhone – and you’ll get a quick response. Your answers will come from people who have the right experience and know-how to help you, and who have friends in common (or similar tastes).

If you need information but don’t know where to start, that’s when you turn to Aardvark. You can ask anything, from general research, to tips and advice, and even get second opinions on products and services you find! You don’t have time to sift through a ton of pages looking for the right thing, nor to spend hours in a conversation with someone. Aardvark cuts all of that unnecessary legwork out for you, usually in under ten minutes!

Check it out for yourself, and let me know your thoughts. Did Google make a smart move in grabbing up this nifty start-up before any competition could?

The Buzz About Google

Google has stepped up their game yet again with today’s introduction of Google Buzz. Buzz is touted as a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting and share updates, photos, videos and more. It’s built into Gmail, so there’s nothing to sign up for, install or configure. Buzz makes use of your current contact list within Gmail, so you already have a built-in set of friends, as well.

You can choose to share publicly with the world or privately to a small group of friends each time you post. Connect other sites you use, such as Picasa, Flickr, Google Reader, and Twitter. This lets your friends keep up with what you’re doing around the web in one tidy little place. Don’t feel you have enough connections in Gmail? Google Buzz will suggest new contacts for you. Buzz will recommend posts from people you’re not directly following, usually from places your current friends are having conversations. If you’re not interested in a particular recommendation, just click the “Not interested” link.

Over on ReadWriteWeb, they are making a case for Google Buzz replacing FriendFeed. The author makes some very valid points, which focus on Google’s already built-in userbase, as well as the fact that they are working hard to integrate mobile applications. The article is compelling, making one wonder if Google Buzz will, indeed, bring about the end of FriendFeed. I still maintain that both services are quite different, offering different things to their users. I don’t see Buzz as replacing or killing FriendFeed. However, I could be wrong. It’s happened once or twice before!

Google Buzz will be rolled out everywhere within the coming days. If you don’t already have it showing up in your Gmail, you will soon. Keep an eye out for a Buzz link under your Inbox. Check it out… try it on for size. Let us know what you think of the newest offering from Google. Is it a bunch of hype? Or… is the buzz about Buzz on target?

Happy Birthday, Facebook

For Facebook’s sixth birthday this past week, they unveiled a new look for the home page. Facebook’s population grew by more than 200 million people in the last year alone, to a total of 400 million users now! If you aren’t one of those people, I think you may have lost your mind. Facebook seems to be where everyone is these days – in addition to Twitter.

Social networking online is starting to become just as important as face-to-face conversations were in the past. We have insulated ourselves from the “real” world and tend to bury our visage in the computer screen for too many hours. We’re busy, yes… but are we really so busy that we can’t take the time to network outside of websites? Anyway, I digress…

As to the Facebook changes, they appear to be minor cosmetic ones that will benefit all of us. You can now more easily access your favorite games and applications, along with those friends who are currently online. The search function for the site is more prominent than it was before. Also, the news feed is now divided into categories for “top news” and “most recent” posts from your friends. This will help clean up the deluge of information we had clustered together before.

It’s also now easier to find friend requests and new messages. Now, when you receive a notification about someone writing on your Wall or tagging you in a photo, you’ll see a red bubble appear in the left-hand corner – near the search bar. When you click on the icon, you’ll see a drop-down menu with your most recent notifications. I don’t know about you, but this part is definitely a change I welcome. It was, at times, a complete cluster-you-know-what in the notifications area. The way they have it streamlined now makes me a much happier camper.

Are you a fan of the changes rolled out this week? Do you feel they help enhance your Facebook experience?

How Do Kids Under the Age of 12 Use the Web?

There’s an interesting survey going on right now, via ReadWriteWeb. They are attempting to gather data on how a child under the age of twelve might use the Web, and how much of it they really understand.

The survey is designed to have parents along for the ride. Children will draw their responses to specific questions, and then the parents will upload them to the survey response center. They are even being cautious with anonymity. There’s no need whatsoever to reveal a child’s identity, nor any identifying information. A parent can make up a first name (or nickname) for their child when beginning the survey.

The survey aims to discover how children use and understand Web technology, the environmental factors that contribute to these understandings, and the extent to which children can think ‘innovatively’ about web technology. The study also intends to deduce real-world applications from the drawings that the kids create.

If you are a parent of a child in this age group, I urge you to consider taking this survey with them. It will not only help gather important research information, it can also help you understand your child’s level of knowledge when it comes to the Internet. Talk with them about what they know, and set specific rules and boundaries for their online time. This will benefit both of you in the end.

Apple iPad Finally Makes Its Debut!

The long-anticipated “tablet” from Apple is now official! I’ve held off on making assumptions and guesses prior to the official announcement today. There was just TOO MUCH HYPE already on the Web – much of it laughable. I had my own ideas, of course, as to what the iPad would include, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t too far off! This slick, gorgeous little device is sure to make a lot of people very, VERY happy. However, there are some drawbacks that I see, as well.

The device has a 9.7 inch display, weighs only 1.5 pounds, and is only half-inch thick! It’s powered by a new chip, a 1GHz A4 (Apple’s very own). You can get one with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB worth of space. It supports Wi-Fi, has an accelerometer, and has a built-in speaker and microphone. The screen is a full multi-touch (capacitive) screen. Battery life is purported to be a whopping 10 hours. In addition to Wi-Fi, it will have a 3G option from AT&T.

Therein lies the first gripe. AT&T? Seriously, Apple? AT&T has had enough problems handling 3G with just the iPhone and iPod Touch. Why do we have to be forced to use them for 3G service yet again? I can guarantee you that a whole lot of people are going to be very unhappy about that part. Heck, I’m already reading things from some people, claiming they won’t even bother with the iPad, simply due to this. A vocal minority, I’d assume.

Another huge gripe is the fact that the iPad does not come with an SD card slot, nor a USB port. However, you can of course purchase a separate adapter for SD media reading (their Camera Connection Kit). People want, need, and EXPECT their portable devices these days to have those two very basic features out-of-the-box. They don’t want to have to shell out even more money for adapters to make things happen.

The biggest omission is… a camera. Why they didn’t put one on the iPad is a little beyond me. Price and service are what largely separate the iPhone from the iPod Touch – but this is nowhere near a notebook replacement without a camera. A Kindle replacement, yes – an iPhone replacement, no. It’s an iPhone with a bigger screen.

On the upside, the price tag is far better than many expected it would be. The WiFi-only version, with 16GB of memory, will cost $499. The 32GB version will be $599, 64GB will be $699, and with 3G from AT&T, it will cost up-to $829. The good news on the 3G front is that you won’t need a contract. You’ll sign up for a monthly plan (cancel anytime). You can choose a measly 250 MB of data transfer for $15.00, or an unlimited plan for $29.99. That pricing – on both fronts – is a whole lot better than what I had figured it would be.

Another great piece of news is that nearly all of the existing iPhone apps will work on the iPad immediately. Apple also released a brand-new SDK today, so that devs can get busy creating new apps specifically for the iPad. The beautiful thing is that from now on, new apps that are created will work on either the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad! I can just imagine the developers in our community salivating over this fact (already pounding away at their keyboards to come up with the next hot application)!

The iPad also comes with a new app called iBooks as well as an iBooks Store! Apple partnered with five publishers to make books available for sale through the iBooks store. The iBooks support the ePub format, and allows readers to casually flip through pictures, video, and other inline graphics.

I admit it – I will be getting an iPad. It’s one thing to read about it and watch all of the coverage. It will be another thing entirely to actually get my hands on one, and test it myself. I’ll reserve final judgment on the product until that time.

What are your thoughts so far on Apple’s newest gadget? Get it or skip it?

New Chrome Boasts Bookmark Sync and More

Google announced today that the new version of Chrome includes two of the browser’s most frequently requested features: extensions and bookmark sync.

Extensions allows you to add new functions to the browser. Some of them give you one-click access to your favorite applications online, such as Digg and eBay. Others are useful little tweaks that help you perform tasks easier, such as browsing pictures and shopping.

Bookmark sync is a great feature for all of you that use more than one computer. Perhaps you have a laptop at work, and a desktop at home. You can enable your bookmark sync to synchronize all of your bookmarks across all of your computers! When you create a bookmark on one of your machines, it will automagically be added on all of your computers! You won’t need to go searching for a link when you get home at night, or to the office in the morning. They’ll already be there waiting for you!

As of today, the new (stable) release is only available on Windows. If you’re a Mac user, keep your eyes open. Google is working on bringing extensions, bookmark sync and more to the beta soon. Also, all of you Linux users should see extensions already enabled in the beta version.

This is great news, in my opinion. I’m definitely looking forward to making use of the bookmark sync feature! Never again will I lose a bookmark or web page when I use a computer other than my Mac pro!

Are you a Chrome user? If you’ve already used either of these new features, what are your thoughts on them so far? How can using any one browser over another enhance your computer experience? I know we all have our favorites, but I’m curious to know which are yours – and why. What makes you love one over another, when many of the features (and the relative speed) are virtually identical?