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News (Web Designing, Web Hosting and related News)

May

Build Your Own Internal App Store with JackBe

If you're looking to house all of your apps in one place, you might want to check out JackBe. On June 30th, the company is releasing a tool that will allow enterprises to build their own application shop.

Introducing JackBe

With a thing for ease and enterprise mashups, JackBe's software solutions - such as Presto - are designed to enable end-users to create, customize and share enterprise mashups. These mashups can be created without an IT department, and leverage data from disparate sources (internal and external) while keeping up on security and governance standards.

The Shop

With countless mashups and applications being developed, it's only natural to need a place to store them. This is where the JackBe application shop comes in. Application stores powered by the company will reportedly enable users to share the AJAX apps they've created with other users in the enterprise. Apps are portable and can run standalone, on dashboards, on mobile devices, in SharePoint, and feed data into Excel.

There't not a lot more information about JackBe's upcoming release, but the rise of app shopping is certainly something to pay attention to. Apple's iPhone app store success seems to have set a whole new software distribution trend in motion, which has since been further highlighted by the Google Marketplace.

"For companies that find themselves owning a platform that can support 3rd party apps, most had better do a close look at their offerings to see if an app store is a good strategic choice for them to create additional economic value and more satisfied customers," said Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet. "I believe a good number of them will find the answer in the affirmative."

JackBe's app store might be a very good starting point if you're looking for a foot in the door. Keep up with them over here for more info on next week's release.

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Iron Speed Version 7.0 Generates SharePoint Applications

Software development tools-maker Iron Speed, Inc. released Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0, the latest version of its popular Web 2.0 application generator. Iron Speed Designer generates rich, interactive database and reporting applications for .NET, Microsoft SharePoint and the Cloud.

In addition to .NET applications, Iron Speed Designer V7.0 generates database-driven SharePoint applications. The ability to quickly create database-driven applications for SharePoint eliminates a lot of work, helping IT departments generate productivity-enhancing applications in just a few hours. Generated applications include integrated SharePoint application security and use SharePoint master pages.

"It's virtually impossible to build database-driven application in SharePoint by hand. Iron Speed Designer V7.0 not only makes this possible, the tool makes it easy." - Razi Mohiuddin, President, Iron Speed, Inc.

Integrated SharePoint application security

Generated applications include integrated SharePoint application security. SharePoint sites and their groups are used to retrieve security roles. Iron Speed Designer validates the user against a Microsoft SharePoint server on your network by retrieving the logged in user's credentials from the SharePoint Context.

"The Iron Speed Designer generated application integrates seamlessly with SharePoint security, removing the hassle of designing, testing and approving your own security layer." -Michael Landi, Solutions Architect, Light Speed Solutions

SharePoint Solution Packages

Iron Speed Designer V7.0 creates SharePoint Solution Packages (WSPs) for easy application deployment. Using the Deployment Wizard, a single application WSP is created and can be deployed to your SharePoint server.

"Iron Speed Designer is the first product on the market that allows easy and painless deployment of database-driven .NET web applications inside the SharePoint environment." -Bryan Patrick, Developer, Pseudo Consulting

SharePoint master pages and themes

In V7.0, generated applications use SharePoint master pages and contain the same content as other SharePoint pages. Generated applications use the current SharePoint color scheme and display standard SharePoint navigation controls on each page.

"Iron Speed Designer preserves the look and feel of the SharePoint environment in deployed database applications without additional hand-coding." -Kirill Dmitriev, Software Developer, Iron Speed, Inc.

Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 System Requirements

Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 runs on Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 and 2008. It generates .NET Web applications for Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Microsoft Access and MySQL. These applications may be deployed on any machine running the .NET Framework. Iron Speed Designer supports Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS3). Find complete information about Iron Speed Designer Version 7.0 at www.ironspeed.com.

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Easy HTML & CSS with Expression Web 4

In his recent series of three articles, Shane Morris has run you through Microsoft Expression Blend. In the next two articles, I'll be taking you on a tour of its sister product, Microsoft Expression Web. Now's a good time to look at each of these products as Expression 4 was just launched on June 7.

First up, it's important to note that while Expression Web is Microsoft's entry into the HTML editor arena, it is by no means tied to Microsoft's server-side products. Whether you're building straight HTML, ASP.NET, or PHP, Expression Web provides support for each of them as first-class citizens, so I encourage you to read on.

These days, it's well accepted that web standards are the way forward for the Web. Building to commonly accepted standards allows us to produce sites that work reliably across a wide range of clients and devices. There are also other benefits, such as faster loading-CSS layouts almost always win over table-based layouts-and better accessibility.

One of the biggest impediments to standards-based development over the years has been a lack of consistent tooling. Even as browser vendors cleaned up their acts, it was still easy for us developers to churn out any old HTML and just hope that it worked.

Expression Web has been evolved from the ground up, with a focus on standards. It offers its own standards-based rendering engine, which is distinct from the Trident engine used in Internet Explorer, as well as features like IntelliSense and built-in compatibility checkers to keep you on track during development. Throughout the remainder of this series, I'll be taking you on a tour of these features as we move through the authoring, styling, testing, publishing, and reporting phases of building an HTML page.

You can follow along by downloading a free trial of Expression Web 4 from Microsoft's site. Once you're done with the article, be sure to test what you've learned in our Article Quiz, sponsored by Microsoft.

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Latest IE9 Preview Aims for Standards Compatibility

Microsoft is shipping Platform Preview 3 (PP3) of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), which company officials say features improved performance in both compatibility test scenarios as well as real world tasks.

The latest platform preview adds support for HTML5 audio, video, and canvas tags along with support for ECMAScript, according to a post on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) IEblog Wednesday afternoon by Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer.

While IE9 hasn't even begun official beta testing yet, Microsoft's central focus on the next version of its browser so far is standards compatibility, which is likely to make life easier for Web site builders and designers when the product is finally released.

"With today's update to the platform preview, we have also updated the IE Testing Center, adding another 118 test cases which we are contributing to the appropriate web standards working groups at the W3C. In addition, we have written 1309 JavaScript test cases and are making those all available to the web development community," Hachamovitch's post said.

That includes scoring 83 out of 100 points on the Acid3 standards compatibility test -- up from 68 in PP2, which shipped in early May. In order to actually pass the set of tests embodied in Acid3, however, IE9 needs to score 100 out of 100, so the browser still has a ways to go.

Microsoft released PP1 in mid-March at the company's MIX10 Conference in Las Vegas. The company released IE8, the current version of IE, in March, 2009.

It hasn't even made it to beta test yet, but IE9 has already come in for its share of controversy.

In late April, Microsoft announced that its HTML5 implementation will only support video playback via the H.264 codec, which raised the hackles of other browser vendors Opera, Firefox, and Google, which have already standardized on the open source Theora codec.

For the record, Apple sided with Microsoft on H.264.

Microsoft has not said when the next platform preview will be released or whether the next stage will be beta test. Its spokespersons have not said when IE9 is scheduled for final release.

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Additional States to Adopt Google Apps in Schools

Following trailblazer Oregon, two more U.S. states are adopting Google Apps in their educational systems statewide.

Colorado and Iowa join Oregon in Google Apps for Education, which offers Gmail, Docs, Sites, Video and Groups to elementary school, junior high and high school students across both states.

Part of the motivation for states adopting Google Apps is financial. In a tight time software licensing fees are no doubt a wonderful thing to leave off. Oregon, Google said, would save $1.5 million in the change-over.

The other motivations include keeping students current and leveraging new technologies for learning. The latter was stressed by Colorado's Governor, Bill Ritter.

"By leveraging the Internet, educators are able to bring new ways of learning to the classroom and connect with students in exciting and challenging ways."

Google is also introducing a "set of training solutions" to leverage Google Apps in an educational environment.

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Why Twitter still has to get its game on--fast

In March, Twitter CEO Evan Williams first unveiled @Anywhere, a new platform aimed at media outlets to knit Twitter more deeply into their own sites. After all, Twitter has become more or less synonymous with real-time, breaking news--so it seems like any publisher would want to work @Anywhere into its code to put the latest, freshest information front and center. Right?

Unfortunately, Twitter has recently indicated that it still can't handle breaking news.

On Wednesday, when the U.S. soccer team defeated Algeria 1-0, advancing the team to the next round of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Twitter's servers were soon completely hosed. Instability has become routine once again at Twitter, after several years of relative reliability that saw much of the service's wildfire growth and nearly eradicated its reputation for frequent outages. In the wake of the 11th-hour goal by Landon Donovan, Twitter was already on high alert: while the game was still going on, a message on Twitter's status blog read that it was experiencing "periodic high rates of error."

To be fair, Twitter's team has been very upfront about the recent difficulties, and said that it would be "a rocky few weeks" as its engineering team worked to upgrade some critical infrastructure. Those "rocky few weeks" just happen to fall during one of the biggest international sports events of the decade.

What the service has to worry about now is whether it's going to look amateurish once again at a time when the San Francisco-based company, once a tiny start-up, is trying to prove its professional credibility. Twitter has 190 million users around the world and has become quite the household name, meaning that it will take something much worse than server instability to put a dent in its influence and user growth. But this isn't good for the company's image as it attempts to build better relationships with publishers and digital-media outlets through its @Anywhere product (as well as, to a lesser extent, potentially advertisers using its "Promoted Tweets" product). No media company is going to want to have a front-page Twitter aggregator where the most recent tweets are an hour old due to Twitter server problems.

Twitter's a product that the media industry respects, and in many cases idolizes, but the recent high-profile infrastructure problems in conjunction with something as newsworthy as the World Cup soccer extravaganza could mean that publishers may stall to integrate @Anywhere into their sites as soon as Twitter wants them to. This, in turn, could spell bad news for Twitter if a different product swoops in and intercepts the real-time news thunder.

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Yahoo Promises Customer Care In More Languages

Yahoo's products and services may soon establish a larger following among non-English speakers. This morning, Yahoo promised to introduce new customer care services in nine different languages, with Arabic being a top focus.

The other eight languages are French, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish, meaning Yahoo's aiming at some pretty large groups of people. It doesn't look like the company plans to just roll out some automated email systems, either, promising "world-class customer care" instead.

In an odd twist, IBM will actually handle the operation, though. And it'll do so out of a call center located in Cairo, Egypt.

Amr Talaat, Country General Manager of IBM Egypt, explained his company's involvement by stating, "The services delivered from this center will help Yahoo!'s Middle East, North African, and European users benefit from the talent pool and customer care solutions deployed here. It will provide them with best-in-class user experience and customer services that are an industry benchmark."

Dr. Hazem Abdelazim, CEO of Egypt's Information Technology Industry Development Agency, then added, "Our global offering not only provides reputed multinational companies with a cost-competitive location, but also a location that operates as a multilingual platform for world-class operations."

This could have a significant effect on Yahoo's popularity. Individuals and businesses should be much less hesitant to use something when they know real help is just an email or a phone call away.

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The dark side of paid search: scams, fraud and trademark abuse

At least, according to a recent study by MarkMonitor which found, based on an analysis of data from various sources including comScore, Marketing Sherpa, Hitwise and others, that one in seven brand-driven paid search clicks go somewhere they ought not to according to trademark law, affiliate agreements or the DMCA.

Things get even worse for luxury brands. CMO Frederick Felman says analysis of web traffic from five fashion brand indicates 47 percent of traffic is intercepted from their e-commerce sites, accounting for some 120 million visits annually. Paid search isn't the only contributing factor in this case; so is cybersquatting and black hat SEO techniques. Felman, together with his colleague communications VP Te Smith, are amassing a rogue's gallery of domains such as guccioutlet.com, louisvuitton4sale.com, gucci-italy.com, and burberryoutletstore.com that infringe on trademark as well as cybersquat, and search ads that lead to sites featuring competitors' merchandise, a violation of search engine T&Cs.

Maybe you wouldn't be suckered in, but the numbers are nonetheless surprising. guccioutlet.com gets over 10,000 visitors per year, while the sham Vuitton site's traffic figures exceed 3 million.

What to do to prevent abuse and protect your brand? It depends, of course, on the type of abuse. Clear agreements with affiliates are, of course, de rigeur. So is contacting the offending advertiser. All the major search engines offer online forms for reporting trademark abuse. Google also has links to report counterfeit goods and copyright infringement/pirated goods.

Knowing the basics of fair use is a critical first step before requesting enforcement. Advertisers can use your trademark if their site resells the goods; is informative on teh trademarked goods or services; or if it promotes component or replaceable parts. But advertisers cannot use a trademark if the site is deceptive, promotes a competitor, or sells or promotes pirated or counterfeit goods.

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Apache Tomcat Update Adds Java Features

Four years after its last major release, the Apache Tomcat project has unveiled Tomcat 7, a significant update that delivers several new Java features.

The Apache Tomcat project takes its time with its release schedule. The last major update came four years ago. But this week, the open source project released Tomcat 7, an upgrade that includes expanded support for Java and new performance and security features.

Specifically, Tomcat 7 capitalizes on new JavaEE 6 specifications, though the development team notes that it's a very early beta release. Developer.com takes a look.

The open source Apache Tomcat Java server is among the most popular ways of deploying Java applications, and significant updates have been few and far between. Now, however, four years after its last major release, the Apache Tomcat project this week introduced Apache Tomcat 7, ushering in a number of enhancements.

The open source Tomcat 7 Java app server leverages some of the new JavaEE 6 specifications formally ratified at the end of 2009. In addition, new performance and security features are also baked into Tomcat 7, and its developers say the server is intended to provide an easy migration path for Java applications that already run on Tomcat 5.5 and 6.x.

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Google buys travel software company ITA

Google's getting into the travel business: it announced plans Thursday to acquire ITA Software, a company that provides travel information to various Web sites, for US$700 million.

The deal had been rumored in recent days but was met with skepticism by some who believed it would prompt a swift inquiry from government regulators leery of Google's control of such information, which is widely used by travel sites and other search engines, such as Microsoft's Bing. Google said it plans to use ITA's software in Web search to help users find flight information.

ITA, based in Cambridge, Mass., is the brainchild of MIT graduates who figured out a way to use algorithms and technology to change the way people booked flights online and searched for cheaper fares. It has relationships with major airlines all over the world, and it also provides services to travel agencies and search engines, as described above.

Jeremy Wertheimer, president, CEO and co-founder of ITA, said his 500-person company basically takes information distributed by airlines regarding flight schedules, prices and seat availability, and publishes that to its partners. Those partners include major travel search sites such as Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, and start-up Rearden Commerce, all of which will face a more difficult competitive position, if this deal goes through: it's not clear whether Google will continue to provide ITA's services to those partners.

Google said it plans to use ITA's technology in its Web search tools and to allow potential passengers to shop for tickets right from Google. Travel search makes up a huge portion of Google searches, but it's a complicated type of search to express in a query box, Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, said on a conference call following the announcement of the deal.

"Google has already come up with new ways to organize hard-to-find information like images, newspaper archives, scholarly papers, books, and geographic data. Once we've completed our acquisition of ITA, we'll work on creating new flight search tools that will make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices, and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket," Mayer said in a blog post accompanying the announcement.

As it did subsequent to acquiring AdMob, Google prepared a Web site highlighting the benefits of the deal for users and downplaying any anticompetitive effects. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he expects "a significant review" from federal regulators, who tend to take a closer look at just about anything Google does these days, and who are unlikely to miss this chance to exert some pressure on Google, following the Federal Trade Commission's decision to let the US$750 million AdMob deal go through.

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YouTube: Why the Flash era isn't over

Google is among the biggest proponents of a collection of Web technologies that reproduce many important features of Adobe Systems' Flash, but it's not yet time for regime change at YouTube.

One of the most important parts of the upcoming HTML5 standard is support for video that can be built directly into Web page without requiring a plug-in such as Flash Player. Other open standards such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for formatting, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), and Web Open Font Format (WOFF) for typography can mimic Flash features, but Flash's ability to deliver streaming video to multiple browsers is one of the main reasons it's got such a strong incumbent advantage.

"While HTML5's video support enables us to bring most of the content and features of YouTube to computers and other devices that don't support Flash Player, it does not yet meet all of our needs," said YouTube programmer John Harding in a blog post Tuesday. "Today, Adobe Flash provides the best platform for YouTube's video distribution requirements, which is why our primary video player is built with it."

Google started showing some YouTube videos with HTML5 in January, but the program is still experimental.

Adobe is working hard to keep Flash relevant despite the threat from Web technologies and Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' disparaging words about Flash. It just began a major push to spread Flash Player to mobile devices, where it's virtually unknown, and Google's Android is the first operating system to be supported.

It's clear there's a tight alliance between Adobe and Google to back Flash, no doubt in part to try to paint Apple's ban of Flash from iPhones to look like a misstep that's bad for users and Web developers.

But it's not all about politics: in YouTube's case, there are real technical reasons for keeping Flash front and center.

What, exactly, is holding HTML5 video back?

At the top of Harding's list is that browser makers haven't settled on a uniform video encoding technology, or codec, for HTML5. Safari, Chrome, and the the IE9 Platform Preview support a codec called H.264, while Mozilla, Opera, and Chrome are getting support for Google's new royalty-free WebM codec. "We need all browsers to support a standard video format," Harding said.

WebM has a chance to become that format.

"We are looking for a royalty-free video format for HTML5. WebM seems a good candidate," said Philippe Le Hegaret, who leads work for Web standards including HTML5, CSS, and SVG for the World Wide Web Consortium, in an interview last week. But asked if it's likely to become that standard, given the backing of Mozilla and Google he said, "If we have agreement from all the parties, yes, but there is more than just Mozilla and Google at the moment."

Playback issues are one problem, but Google has already decided to pay for dual codec support for its own infrastructure. Since 2007, the company stored all videos in the H.264 format, but starting on May 19, when Google announced WebM, the company started storing all high-definition videos with 720p resolution or better with WebM as well. Considering that 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and that the use of high-definition video is growing, that's got to be a big investment.

Video format compatibility is the first on Harding's list, but there are others, too:

  • YouTube needs sophisticated controls that let a browser load not just a video page, but a specific time through a video. Also required are controls over buffering--the video data that's sent in advance to a computer to avoid unpleasant pauses in playback--and features for live video and automated adjustments to video quality. HTML5 video lacks all of these, though Google is supporting work to build them in.
  • Flash has digital rights management that's necessary for showing "secure" video streams, Harding said. Specifically, Google uses Adobe's RTMPE (Real-Time Messaging Protocol, encrypted) protocol for the YouTube video rental program.
  • Embedding YouTube videos on sites besides YouTube isn't possible with HTML5 today while meeting Google's needs to preserve elements such as captions and advertising. In additon, Harding said, "Flash is the only mechanism most Web sites allow for embedded content from other sites."
  • HTML5 doesn't support full-screen video yet. There's work under way, but it can't yet match Flash's ability to show things like playback controls on top.
  • Flash is required for supporting Webcams and microphones for those recording video from their computers. Again, there's Webcam work under way with HTML, but it's not done yet today much less supported in browsers.

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Twitter gets into deal alerts with '@earlybird'

Twitter is getting into the online shopping business--or at least pointing to places where deals can be had.

The company's new service, aptly named @earlybird, is an official Twitter account that the company plans to feed with deals at both online and offline retailers, as well as "sneak peeks and events". Users who follow the account will see these entries just like any other tweet in their stream.

While it might seem to be a minor offering, @earlybird is notable in that Twitter plans to monetize it. The company is partnering with companies to provide the deals, and from the rather nebulous language on the @earlybird explanation page, those companies are either paying Twitter for placement on the account or they're giving Twitter a kickback on any traffic or deal-takers that come their way as a result. Assuming this goes well, the company could spread into other areas, including accounts for books, music, movies, and TV shows.

Besides its deals with partner sites, Twitter is encouraging users to send in companies and events they think the company should work with, though this doesn't mean users should send in deals they've found around the Web.

Twitter says @earlybird will start with big brands that can be found around the world, but that the service could expand to cover smaller, local companies. Presumably these businesses would one day be able to take advantage of Twitter's geo features, so that users could subscribe only to the deals for their area--akin to location-specific deals sites like Groupon, Livingsocial, and Tippr.

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Oracle's Agenda Favors NetBeans and Eclipse

Now that Oracle owns Sun Microsystems the database giant's plans for supporting Java developers are becoming clearer.

Should developers that use NetBeans be concerned that Oracle, which supports the competing Eclipse IDE, now owns Sun Microsystems which led development of NetBeans?

Oracle sees different sets of customers for the two open source developer environments for Java.

As developer.com reports, Oracle recently unveiled a new release of NetBeans that was already in the works before its purchase of Sun. The software's open source heritage will continue under Oracle which said it's committed to working with the broader developer community on future releases.

As Oracle continues to consolidate the assets of Sun Microsystems, questions about which technologies will go and which ones will stay are still being asked. One such technology that could be at risk is the open source NetBeans IDE , which competes against the Eclipse IDE and its ecosystem, which Oracle also supports.

In the middle of June, Oracle released the Netbeans IDE 6.9 update providing new features for the IDE.

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Survey Finds IT Firms Optimistic About the Rest of 2010

Despite whispers of a double dip recession hitting next year, the near-term IT buying outlook looks good, according to a study conducted by the IT industry association CompTIA. Six in ten IT firms surveyed said they expect revenues in the third and fourth quarters to significantly or moderately exceed revenues from the first half of the year.

The CompTIA survey panel expects the Business Confidence Index to increase 5.4 points over the next six months, although the index did slip 1.4 points from May to June of this year.

"IT industry executives remain relatively confident about the tech sector and about their firm's prospects, but concern over the health of the U.S. economy persists," Tim Herbert, vice president of research for CompTIA, said in a statement. "In some ways the results point to a 'two steps forward, one step back' mentality, where positive news and momentum are followed by unexpected bad news and a renewed sense of negativity about economic conditions."

The survey covered 306 IT firms ranging from those under $1 million in revenue to more than $500 million in revenue and focused on three areas: confidence in the overall economy; confidence in the IT industry; and confidence in the their own company. CompTIA found that IT executives were least confident in the overall U.S. economy but had greater optimism for the IT sector and their own firms. Furthermore, their confidence has been growing.

Fear of a stalled recovery fell from 58 percent in December 2009 to 46 percent in June 2010; fear of weak consumer demand fell from 56 percent to 40 percent; and fear about access to credit and capital fell from 41 percent to 26 percent.

Even though buying all but stopped in late 2008 and through much of 2009, CompTIA expects an uptick this year.

"Even though customers stopped buying, VARs stayed in front of their customers through the downturn and know what they need. A year ago, only the most essential things were being purchased. So [the VARs] have a pretty good idea of demand going forward. There is demand pent up in the system," Steven Ostrowski, a spokesman for CompTIA, told InternetNews.com.

One of the more encouraging signs in the report is that intent to increase staffing levels jumped seven points in CompTIA's latest Business Confidence Index survey, which translates to 37 percent of IT firms expecting to increase hiring over the next six months. Unemployment has been high for quite some time and has been the most stubborn of economic problems.

The top positions to fill include programmers, developers, support staff and help desk, sales staff, project managers and network engineers, according to CompTIA.

CompTIA found that 47 percent of firms say they are fully staffed but would like to add new employees in order to expand their business, while the other 53 say they are understaffed by between 5 percent and 20 percent.

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China Renews Google's Web License

Following six-month standoff between Google and Chinese government over online censorship, authorities renew company's operating license.

For the past six months, Google has been embroiled in a standoff with the Chinese government after it threatened to cease blocking online content deemed objectionable by authorities.

In March, Google made good on that threat by redirecting traffic from the mainland to Hong Kong, where it operates outside of the content-filtering requirements. But continuing to do so would have ensured that officials would not renew the company's operating license, Google said. So instead of automatically redirecting traffic from Google.cn, the company now presents Chinese users with a landing page leading them to the Hong Kong site, which seems to have placated government officials, who have granted Google's application for its ICP license. Datamation takes a look.

Google has confirmed that it has secured permission from China to continue operating its search engine, bringing some closure to a six-month showdown over Internet censorship.

Friday morning, the search giant updated its corporate blog to announce that the Chinese government had renewed Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Internet Content Provider license, a necessary condition of doing business on the Web in that country.

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Microsoft Offers an Express Edition of the IIS Web Server

The tools for Microsoft web developers are getting better and better these days, we've seen that with the SharePoint 2010 tools for Visual Studio 2010. But Microsoft is now also coming out with a new web server to support all ASP.NET developers: IIS Express.

If you are an ASP.NET developer, you have two options for testing your sites against a web server prior to IIS Express:

  • IIS Web Server - the one that comes with Windows
  • Visual Studio's built in ASP Development Web Server

There's nothing really wrong with either one, but as a web developer your needs may actually cross the capabilities of the two put together.

As Scott Gu says on his blog introducing the new Express version of IIS, many developers have said: "I wish I could have the ease of use of the ASP.NET Development Server, but still have all the power and features of IIS."

And this is what IIS Express does, combines the best of both web servers into one that is free and works with both Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Web Developer Express 2010.

IIS Express

The ASP Development Server does not support the full capabilities of the IIS Web Server, but getting your IT department to let you install and run the IIS Web Server on your desktop could be an exercise in futility as it could be considered a potential security problem.

Now you can have a web server that is easy to setup and install, won't freak out the IT department and offers a full set of IIS web server functionality. A few other nice features:

  • It doesn't require an Admin account to run and debug applications from Visual Studio
  • It can be installed side-by-side with either the IIS Web Server or the ASP Development Server
  • It works with Windows XP and up

Gu says that IIS Express will be configured to run with Visual Studio 2010 as an alternative web server. So you won't have to configure it to run your websites, just hit F5 and go.

A public beta is expected sometime soon and a patch for both Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Web Developer Express 2010 will come at the end of the year that support IIS Express.

My first thought when I read about this new web server, was that many IT organizations are going to be happy. They can now provide their development teams with strong Web Server capabilities without opening the door to potential security breaches.

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Does Python 2.7's Release Mean the End of the Line for Python 2.x?

The open source Python language is at a crossroads with two major versions available to developers. The end of the road for the Python 2.x branch is now a little closer, with the release of Python 2.7 this week.

Python 2.7 is intended to be the last major Python 2.x release as the open source project aims to help developers migrate to the newer Python 3.x release codebase. Python 3.x first hit general availability in December of 2008. Though the Python 2.x branch is now at the end of the line in terms of new releases, Python 2.x still has a lot of life left in it.

With Python 2.7 developers have backported a number of features from Python 3.1, providing a lifeline for users of both versions of Python.

"The intention was to bind 2.x and 3.x as closely as possible to make porting easy," Benjamin Peterson, the release manager for Python 2.7, told InternetNews.com. "Backporting features also help projects like 3to2, which help people maintain 2.x and 3.x compatible codebases."

In addition to the backported features from Python 3.1, the Python 2.7 release will be supported for a longer period of time than a typical Python release. Normally Python releases are supported by the project with bug and security fixes for up to two years. But Peterson said the current plan for Python 2.7 is to offer support for up to five years.

The Python 2.7 release isn't the first time that the Python project has aimed to provide a bridge between the 2.x and 3.x releases either. The Python 2.6 release, which came out in 2008, was also intended to help smooth the transition from Python 2.x to 3.x.

Though the Python 3.x branch has been out for over 18 months at this point, the migration of Python 2.x users is still an ongoing process.

"Most people are still on 2.x, but are probably eyeing 3.x and considering their eventual porting plans," Peterson said.

As to what the barriers to adoption are for current Python 2.x developers in moving to Python 3.x there are a few factors in play.

"It unfortunately seems to be a chicken and the egg problem," Peterson said. "Many developers are waiting for their dependencies to be ported. There still isn't a WSGI (Web Server Gateway Interface) standard for 3.x yet, which is holding back Web framework developers. Otherwise, I think there's also a lack of motivation to port and maintain where there isn't much demand yet."

While Python 2.7 is the last release of Python 2.x, the Python 3.x series is still in active development. The first beta release of Python 3.2 is set for this October.

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Open Source, Commercial Diverge in SugarCRM 6

Sugar CRM may have open source technology at its core, but with the latest release of its customer-relationship management platform offers two different interfaces for the commercial and community versions.

SugarCRM is out with a major new release of its flagship customer-relationship management offering. Sugar 6 boasts added extensibility features to connect with partners and a new interface that aims to boost productivity.

SugarCRM is an open source project at its core, but the release of Sugar 6 has some key differences between the commercial and community versions. eCRM Guide has the details.

After four months of beta availability and testing, SugarCRM today officially announced the general availability of its Sugar 6 CRM (define) customer relationship management platform. Sugar 6 includes an open source community edition as well as commercially licensed professional and enterprise editions.

With Sugar 6, SugarCRM is expanding its partnership base with enhanced extensibility that enables partner solutions. There is a new user interface that aims to make CRM users more productive with fewer keystrokes. While the Sugar 6 solution has open source technology at its core, users that download the open source community edition will get a different interface than users of the commercial professional and enterprise editions. For SugarCRM, the issue of being an open source company is all about being open to users.

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Opera Mini 5.1 Comes to Android

Opera announced today that Opera Mini 5.1 is now available for Android devices. The company claims this is the most popular browser for mobile phones, and places an emphasis on its speed.

"Opera Mini is a favorite not just on feature phones, but also on smartphones, scoring an impressive 1 million downloads on the iPhone during the first 24 hours of availability," Opera says. "Opera Mini is highly optimized for almost any handset, delivering the best Internet experience on more than 3000 mobile phone models."

"Opera Mini 5.1 for the Android platform is the next step in bringing the world's most popular mobile web browser to all major platforms, offering improved performance and great web experience to almost any handset," says Opera CEO Lars Boilesen. "Opera Mini is used by over 61 million people on more than 3000 handset models and with today's release Opera continues its mission to provide the best web experience on any device and on any platform."

The browser can be set as the default browser on your phone, and the company says on Android phones with bigger screens, it offers improved page layout.

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CouchDB Hits 1.0 with Open Source NoSQL for Windows, Too

With the CouchDB 1.0 release, project developers have improved both stability and performance. The release also marks the stable debut of CouchDB for Windows users, expanding the open source database beyond its Linux roots.

Though CouchDB is just now hitting 1.0, Anderson -- who is also the co-founder of commercial CouchDB vendor Couchio alongside CouchDB founder Damien Katz -- stressed that the open source database has already been in production use for years, with large deployments at the BBC and with Ubuntu Linux as part of its Ubuntu One data-synchronization service. Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu, is a Couchio customer.

For the 1.0 release, project developers focused not on adding new features but rather on improving performance and adding support for additional platforms. The 0.11 release of CouchDB, which made its debut in April, was considered by the project to be feature-complete.

Anderson noted that after the 0.11 release, developers ran CouchDB through a series of benchmarking tests to identify areas of the code that could be optimized. Among the fixes they made is one relating to how the project was configured for the open source Erlang language in which CouchDB is written. Anderson explained that CouchDB developers discovered that the way the project had configured Erlang wasn't making full use of asynchronous threads for I/O. As a result, the 0.11 version was using more CPU resources that it should have been. Anderson noted that in 1.0, that issue has been addressed, thereby providing a performance boost for CouchDB and enabling the database to take advantage of whatever multi-core CPU resources are allocated to it on hardware.

Windows support is also a key part of CouchDB 1.0, which came by way of making patches to Erlang so that it could support Windows system calls.

"Our use case is running at the edge of the network, and Windows is 90 percent of the machines out there, so it was really mission-critical that we run on Windows machines," Anderson said.

Improvements to the stability of the replicator system -- which helps to enable offline application usage -- are also a key part of the 1.0 release. Anderson explained that with CouchDB, developers can write applications that will allow users to run on a local machine or in the cloud, and the replicator function is what keeps data synchronized across local and cloud-based instances.

For current CouchDB users, the process of migration from previous versions of the open source database should be straightforward, according to Anderson, who said that the new version of CouchDB will be able to read data from previous installations.

With the 1.0 release now available, project developers are starting to look ahead to the 1.1 release. Anderson said that a key feature that he hopes will be included in that upcoming version is a new configuration patch for the CouchDB replicator to make it easier for developers to configure offline-to-cloud synchronization.

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Can Mozilla Deliver an Open App Store?

In a talk delivered last Wednesday at the Mozilla Summit in Whistler, Canada, Pascal Finette, director of Mozilla Labs, asked an audience of more than 150 Web developers a hypothetical question: what would an "open" Web app store look like? The answer could play an important role in the future of personal computing.

The success of Apple's app store, as both a consumer phenomenon and a new stream of revenue, has changed the software landscape--but only on mobile devices. Now the race is on to adapt this model by developing an app store for the Web itself. In a Web app store, developers could sell applications that would run on any device with a Web browser, independent of hardware or the operating system.

Google announced plans in May to create the Chrome Web Store, which will integrate directly with its Chrome browser. Microsoft also recently began offering Web app versions of its office software.

Also in May, the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides the Firefox Web browser and other software, revealed its own plans to build a Web app store--one that it promises will be more "open" than anything else. An open strategy-one based on open standards and unrestrictive licensing--has helped the Firefox browser gain market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and the Mozilla Foundation is betting that the same approach will attract users and developers to its Web app store.

Mozilla's vice president, Jay Sullivan, also laid out the principles of an open app store in a blog post last May. The first principle, Sullivan argued, is that an open app store must host only applications based on open standards, including HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. This would preclude apps that use proprietary technologies like Flash and the Unity 3D graphic plug-in. (Although perhaps not everyone agrees with this requirement. Google's announcement of its Chrome Web app store included a demo of the Lego Star Wars game, which includes the Unity plug-in.)

Sullivan also argued that an open Web app store must work equally well across all browsers, should be accessible to all developers, and should not gather user information. Finally, he said, it should have transparent app review guidelines--which would distinguish it from Apple's iPhone and iPad app store.

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Competitors Gain a Little Ground on Google

The latest market share numbers show Bing and Yahoo are nibbling away at Google's still-dominant position.

The competitive search engine market carries considerable importance, because market share translates into ad rates and impacts where advertisers choose to go. So the share held by each of the three big players is watched with a very keen eye by many industry players.

This month was a good one for the competition, as dominant Google shed a small amount of share to rivals Bing and Yahoo. Will it change with a new traffic measuring system?

A leading Web analytics firm reported Thursday that soon-to-be partners Bing and Yahoo each gained a little share of the marker from search leader Google in June.

Search engine mavens at comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) found that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) each inched up 0.6 percentage points in June. Bing, the third-place search engine, now slightly more than 13 months old, was up from 12.1 percent of U.S. searches in May to 12.7 percent in June.

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Zend Scales PHP Server with Cluster Edition

Commercial PHP vendor Zend is aiming to improve the scalability of PHP for large-scale deployments and the cloud with the release this week of Zend Server Cluster Manager, a system for managing multiple PHP servers.

The cluster manager builds on the work that Zend began in April, 2009 with the first release of Zend Server and since expanded. Zend Server is a bundled PHP middleware server that provides both the PHP language as well as an Apache Web server with database connectivity.

"What Zend Server Cluster Manager provides is high-availability, scalability and management of large PHP deployments," Andi Gutmans CEO of Zend told InternetNews.com. "The way it's built is you can start with Zend Server, but as you need to grow and scale you can put cluster manager on top of it."

Zend Server itself is available as both a community version and a commercial version, but the cluster manager is available only in a commercial version.

While Zend Server Cluster Manager is intended to help scale Zend Server, it's not necessarily focused on scaling the database back-end directly.

"We're looking less at the database and we basically assume that the customer will be able to scale their database instance," Gutmans said. "From our standpoint, which is really the Web tier with Linux, Apache and PHP, we want to make sure that when those items are run in a cluster there is high-availability and failover."

Among the high-availability features included with Cluster Manager is session distribution and monitoring to ensure performance. Gutmans stressed that cluster manager does care about the data source. He noted that the cluster manager will look at queries and provide alerts if database performance isn't good, though the product won't take care of actually scaling the database.

The Cluster Manager will also work for both virtual and physical instances of Zend Server. Gutmans noted that Zend actually runs much of its own infrastructure on VMware.

Another area where Zend Cluster Manager may be able to help out large-scale deployments is when users already have a load balancer or Application Delivery Controller (ADC) in their data center. Gutmans commented that most of Zend's customers today already have load balancers in front of their clusters.

"It's really a load balancer in conjunction with Zend Server Cluster Manager that gives the most performance," Gutmans said.

Gutmans noted that Zend doesn't have any specific partnerships with load balancing hardware vendors. That said, he noted that Zend Server Cluster Manager will work with any load balancing solution.

"We make it fool-proof for them," Gutmans said. "So even if the customer doesn't correctly configure their load balancer, the nice thing about Cluster Manager is that it will work."

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YouTube's Growth a Headache for IT Admins?

The popular video-sharing site adds new features to entice users into watching Web videos for longer. But what's the impact on network admins?

As numerous World Cup games have shown in recent weeks, watching Web video in the workplace can be a recipe for disaster.

And with YouTube being one of the Web's most popular destinations for watching video online, the Google-owned site is, not surprisingly, also a potential source of pain for network administrators looking to rein in their employees' runaway bandwidth consumption.

That problem may be poised to get even more acute for enterprise IT, considering that YouTube is looking for ways to increase its viewership to more closely rival TV usage patterns. Datamation has a look at the implications.

SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- Google's YouTube is nowhere near as popular as television, but the popular video sharing site is working hard to change that with a new method for video viewing and discovery.

While YouTube is focused on consumers, there's no question the site is a popular destination for office workers looking for a distraction or simply clicking through a "You've got to see this" e-mail message from a friend with a link to some oddball YouTube video. But if a new YouTube service proves popular, enterprises could see a significant uptick in the time employees spend on the service, potentially impacting productivity.

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Email Still Beats Social Networks for E-Commerce

A new report from Econsultancy suggests that email still beats social networks when it comes to marketing for e-commerce. The report says that over a third (37%) of consumers don't use a social networking site, and that those who have become a "fan" or "friend" of a company or brand online are still in the minority.

The report is based on a survey of over 1,400 U.S. consumers, which the firm calls "nationally representative."

While Facebook may think email is "probably going away," marketers are still having a great deal of success with it. And just as increased mobile adoption continues to fuel social media use, it's not exactly hurting email.

The report suggests that the rise of mobile will continue fuel email's success. It notes that each generation of chipsets moves mobile devices closer to the personal computer. "Advanced behaviors today (accessing the Internet or checking email from a mobile device) will clearly soon be commonplace, at least for people in their working years. Nearly two-thirds of people under 24 have checked email on a mobile device," Econsultancy says.

"Online product research contributes a far larger percentage of total retail than the 8% directly attributed to e-commerce, while the evolving nature of digital interaction and customer service is changing the fundamental relationship between companies and consumers," says Econsultancy's US Research Director, Stefan Tornquist. "The winners will be those who use digital communications most effectively, to influence and enable both online and offline purchases."

"Although a variety of media are competing for consumer attention, email continues to be the desired channel for many types of commercial communication," adds Tornquist. "Social networking and its effect on the nature of brand is the hottest topic in digital marketing, and deservedly so. It's still worthwhile for marketers to remember that social network adoption is far from maturity."

Of couse, it's not really a competition between social media and email. Both should be part of your marketing arsenal, and are effectively used together all the time. For example, another recent study from ExactTarget found that nearly 40% of consumers visit Facebook and Twitter to supplement the news, information or deals they receive via email marketing.

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Websites Running JavaScript at Risk: Report

A new report concludes that the majority of websites are running third-party JavaScript somewhere on their sites, which could be putting them at risk.

JavaScript has proven to be a very useful tool for Web developers. From ad server code to all manner of widgets, JavaScript can be found in many third party applications and services that find there way onto a wide mixture of websites.

But as DevX details, a new report says websites running third party JavaScript may be facing a security risk. The company behind the report also offers some potential solutions to the security problem.

Do you know what's running on your website?

A new report from security firm Dasient concludes that the majority of websites are running third-party JavaScript somewhere on their sites, which could be putting them at risk.

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How To Get Started With Social Bookmarking

You've heard so many good things about social bookmarking, you can probably hardly wait to get started with this great service. It's very easy to get into social bookmarking and will only take up a little bit of your time to set it up.

Signing Up For Your Account

The first thing you do is set up your account and install the button on your toolbar. You have a choice of different bookmarking sites to choose from. Some people start off with just one while others sign up for several different sites to see which one they like best. Now that your account is all set up, you can begin searching the internet for all your favorite websites you've wanted to save and share. Once you get to the website you want to save all you do is click the button.

When you click the button, you either will get a small pop-up window or be taken to their site where they'll ask a question or two regarding the website you're trying to save. The information may already be filled out for you depending on the site. You'll be asked to provide a tag, which is similar to a keyword.

Tags

The tag is how your friends will find your link. You have your choice of using one tag or several tags, which will make finding your links even easier. For instance, if you're on a website about the Minnesota Vikings, you tag may be "football" and "vikings". By using more than one tag, your site can be found in more than one way.

Some social bookmarking sites use a "tag cloud", which is a list of different tags and the most popular ones are in bolder and larger fonts than the not so popular ones. Tag clouds make it easy for you and others to quickly find the most popular bookmarks.

Finding Websites Left by Others

You've just learned how easy it is to set up a social bookmarking account and share your websites with others by using tags. What many don't realize is that social bookmarking is also great for helping you to see what others have that might interest you.

The internet is a huge place with well over 30 billion different web pages. If you had to go through all of them to find what you want, this would probably take much more time than you have! Social bookmarking makes it easy.

Suppose you were interested in reading a good book. You'd ask other people their opinion and rely on their recommendations. This is also what you do with social bookmarking sites.

All you have to do is type in what you're looking for and the most current and popular articles and websites will pop up for you. You searching has been drastically reduced. If you find that a particular user has repeatedly submitted stuff that interests you, you may want to add them as a friend. Making friends is a popular part of social bookmarking sites and is a great way to share your interests with others.

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The Open Source Software That Runs Facebook

The head of Facebook's open source products details how the company delivers social networking to 500 million people.

Facebook connects its 500 million users using an array of open source software to enable social networking as well as data intelligence. Facebook's open source Web serving infrastructure has a lot more than just the traditional LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) stack behind it.

During a keynote session at the OSCON open source conference, David Recordon, the senior open programs manager at Facebook, detailed the infrastructure in use today at Facebook.

At the language level of the stack, Recordan noted that Facebook is using PHP by way of its own HipHop PHP runtime project. Facebook officially announced HipHop earlier this year as a way to speed up PHP operations, improve efficiency and decrease CPU utilization.

At the database tier, Recordan said Facebook primarily stores user data in the MySQL database. He said that Facebook runs thousands of MySQL nodes, though he added that Facebook doesn't care that MySQL is a relational database.

"We generally don't use it (MySQL) for Joins and we aren't running complex queries that are pulling multiple tables together inside of a database," Recordan said.

Recordan said that Facebook has three different layers for data. At the first layer is the database tier, which is the primary data store and where MySQL sits. On top of that, Facebook uses Memcached caching technology, then a Web server on top of that to serve the data.

"We're actually using our Web server to combine the data to do joins and that's where HipHop is so important," Recordan said. "Our Web server code is fairly CPU-intensive because we're doing all these different sorts of things with data."

In addition to MySQL, Facebook leverages a pair of NoSQL-type databases as well including Cassandra and HBase, which is part of the Apache Hadoop project.

"While we store the majority of our user data inside of MySQL, we have about 150 terabytes of data inside of Cassandra, which we use for inbox search on the site and over 36 petabytes of uncompressed data in Hadoop overall."

Recordan said that Facebook's Hadoop cluster has a little over 2,200 servers in it, running a total of 23,000 CPU cores inside of them. He added that by the end of the year, Facebook expects to be storing over 50 petabytes worth of information.

The Hadoop components help to enable Facebook to use the data it has to understand how people are using the site. Recordan said that Facebook uses data analysis for all sorts of product decisions including how Facebook sends e-mails and how it ranks news feeds.

In order to help enable the data analysis, Facebook uses an open source technology called Scribe.

"Scribe takes the data from our Web servers and funnels it into HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) and into our Hadoop warehouses," Recordan said. The problem that we originally ran into was too many Web servers trying to send data to one place, so Scribe breaks it up into a series of funnels for collecting data over time."

Recordan said that Facebook's Hadoop cluster is vital to the business and the system is highly monitored and maintained. Facebook has what it calls a Platinum Hadoop cluster, plus a second cluster called the Silver Hadoop cluster where data from the Platinum cluster is replicated.

Additionally Facebook uses the Apache Hive technology, which provides a SQL interface on top of Hadoop to do data analysis.

"A large part of our infrastructure is open source and we really think that it's important in terms of being able to allow developers that are building with the Facebook platform to scale using the same pieces of infrastructure that we use," Recordan said. "Fundamentally we're all running into the same sets of challenges."

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Microsoft Boasts Top Spot in Cloud Race

At the company's annual meeting with financial analysts, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, boasts that the software giant is "number one" in cloud computing.

It seems no one in the technology industry is talking more loudly these days about cloud computing than Microsoft. And that drumbeat continued at the annual Financial Analysts' Meeting this week, with COO Kevin Turner claiming that Microsoft has pole position in the race to the cloud.

Turner touted several of Microsoft's high-profile customer wins in the cloud, and also took a moment to linger on the record earnings the company reported last week. Datamation takes a look.

Microsoft's annual Financial Analysts Meeting (FAM) got under way Thursday from its Redmond, Wash. campus and there's no question that the theme for the day was cloud computing.

The company's COO, Kevin Turner, started the day off with his declaration that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is now "number one" in cloud computing.

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Yahoo Japan switches to Google search

If there was any doubt that Yahoo Japan is separate from Yahoo in the United States, let this dispel it: Yahoo Japan has signed a deal to use Google's search engine rather than Microsoft's.

The deal, reported Monday by All Things Digital, was confirmed later that day with a Google Japan blog post.

In the post, Daniel Alegre, vice president of Google's Asia Pacific and Japan operations, said Yahoo Japan will use Google search results and Google's technology for supplying the accompanying search ads. With such partnerships, revenue from the search ads is shared between the Web site and the company that supplies the ads, in this case Yahoo Japan and Google, respectively.

The deal is a blow to Microsoft, which has been working for years to match not just the utility of Google's market-leading search service, but also its scale. Yahoo plugged in Microsoft's Bing search engine to supply search results, but evidently Microsoft couldn't convince Yahoo Japan to follow suit in that prime market.

Yahoo is an investor in Yahoo Japan, but it's not the only one--Softbank holds a bigger share--so Yahoo Japan's decisions don't necessarily align with that of Yahoo.

In response to news of the deal, Microsoft cried foul and cited a failed Yahoo-Google tie-up in North America. In a statement, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said:

This agreement is even more anticompetitive than Google's deal with Yahoo in the United States and Canada that the Department of Justice found to be illegal. The 2008 deal would have locked up 90 percent of paid search advertising. This deal gives Google virtually 100 percent of all searches in Japan, both paid and unpaid. It means there will be no search competition in Japan and that Google will end up controlling all personal search information for all Japanese consumers and businesses.

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YouTube bumps video limit to 15 minutes

Long-video makers can rejoice, as YouTube has extended the allotted time of user uploads from 10 to 15 minutes.

According to a Thursday post on YouTube's blog, increasing the limit was the most requested feature by YouTube users, though it had to be put on hold while the company worked on other projects and behind-the-scenes infrastructure. In March, for instance, the company announced that 24 hours of video was uploaded every minute. That's up from around six hours just three years ago. Given the new limit, that's a metric that's likely to keep on growing.

When YouTube first launched in 2005, users could actually upload clips that were longer than 10 minutes, though without limits it was easy to upload full-length, copyrighted content. YouTube responded by creating the limit, as well as adding new account types like "director", "comedian", "musician", and "guru", which would require a few extra steps of registration, but remove the time limit altogether. The rest of the YouTube population simply got around the limits by splitting up shows into 10-minute chunks, which would work until YouTube's content filters flagged it as a violation.

YouTube says users who had previously uploaded content that was too long will have to delete, then re-upload it. The company is also running a promotion called "15 minutes of fame" which will feature 15-minute videos shot by users who use the "yt15minutes" tag.

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Amazon, Apple Face Pressure on eBook Deals

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is calling on Amazon and Apple to explain their pricing strategies for ebooks, eyeing "most-favored-nation" deals with publishers.

Is the ebook business poised to become a two-horse race? Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, an outspoken critic of many practices of the tech industry, is calling on Amazon and Apple to explain their pricing strategies in negotiations with publishers in the emerging ebook sector.

Specifically, Blumenthal is worried that Amazon and Apple are locking up "most-favored-nation" agreements with publishers, effectively setting a price floor by barring new entrants from offering cheaper ebooks. Datamation has the details.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has launched an investigation into the pricing agreements between publishers and the leading makers of ebook reader devices, suggesting that Amazon and Apple could use their market power to freeze prices and crowd out potential competitors.

Blumenthal this week released letters his office sent to the general counsels at Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) requesting a meeting to discuss the companies' pricing strategies.

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Customizing Typography with Google Font Previewer

Want to know how a typeface will look before adding it to your site? Google's new Font Previewer gives you a visual as you tinker with the look and feel of a font, then sits out a block of code for some easy copy and paste action:

Web Fonts haven't always been this easy, of course. Back in May, another attempt from Google came in the form of a Font Directory and the Google Fonts API. Together, these tools aimed to simplify the embedding process, as well as provide a wider range of fonts choose from.

The cross-browser solution wasn't as robust as offerings from competitors, but that it's comprised of open source fonts makes up for it. The Google Font Previewer cuts out even more fat by putting all the tools you need in one location. With the tool you can adjust the font's size, weight; leading, tracking, and even drop shadows if that's the look you're after. You can also click 'Toggle controls' if you'd like to see the sample text by itself:

When you're finished, a dynamically generated code will be provided just under the preview. Copy and paste it into your CSS and voilą! You've got a customized font.

It looks extremely useful, but try it out here and let us know if you run into any bugs.

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Google vs. Facebook: Drawing the battle lines

There's a requisite chaos to the "hacker culture" that has been central to the rise of both Google and Facebook: cobble something together, fueled by Red Bull and pizza, until it works; keep changing it and improving it, lest a competitor jump in and create something better; and if for some reason it doesn't work, just do away with it altogether. From both the inside and the outside, it can look quite messy.

Take, for example, the fact that Google has been known to tweak its search algorithm hundreds of times per year, or that the Facebook home page goes through major facelifts on a regular basis. This week, Google killed an experimental social-collaboration project called Wave that had been heavily hyped at launch; last month, Facebook's "Gift Shop" feature got the ax. That slash-and-burn, change-the-system mentality that a Valley superstar like Google or Facebook projects to the outside world applies internally, too.

Increasingly, these relatively small shifts in product and strategy are spelling out something much bigger: the two companies are, after months of speculation and prediction, really starting to go after each other.

You could put it this way: Facebook dominates the social Web, and Google dominates everything else. Google wants to wrest a bit of control of social media from Facebook; Facebook plans to use the vast network of connections and communication channels it's built to more or less conquer the rest of the world. It's the case of a giant with a glaring Achilles heel versus a smaller, more nimble player with a finely-honed skill that can attack its competitor right where it hurts.

Google, as has been well-documented, has been attempting to get into the social-networking game for years now and keeps flopping: Wave, which was touted at its debut as a potential revolution in communication, was only the latest embarrassment. Google Buzz, which some speculated could render Twitter obsolete, was beset almost immediately by privacy concerns that were easy to fix technically but may have permanently damaged its image. Google Friend Connect and the OpenSocial app platform product came across as second-tier imitations of Facebook's own developer initiatives. They were reactionary, not revolutionary.

The verdict is uncertain for Google's alleged upcoming endeavor in Facebook-poking, called "Google.Me". There's the off-chance that it won't work, and that Google will just keep botching social media, and some pundits speculate the losing streak may continue. In that case, it looks like Google has put together a bit of a backup plan: weaken some of Facebook's ties with the companies that have made it big.

For example, Google has invested as much as US$100 million in Zynga, the biggest company to have risen to success on the Facebook developer platform with its arsenal of wildly popular social games. Zynga is a driver of heavy Facebook traffic and a top buyer of Facebook ad space, but it also has a history of icy rapports with Facebook that culminated in the signing of a five-year armistice, er, "strategic relationship". Additionally, this week Google reportedly outright acquired Slide, an early success on the Facebook Platform that used a ranch's worth of virtual sheep in its SuperPoke application to prove just how strong the connections of the "social graph" really were.

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Why You Need an Ecommerce SEO Company

Most people think that search engine optimization for websites doesn't differ by the type of site.This is not the case.There is a huge difference between regular search engine optimization and e-commerce SEO. If you have an Ecommerce website, you need a SEO company that can help you to see the best results from that site.Here are a few things to look for:

Website Traffic

In Ecommerce SEO you want to make sure that your website is becoming to potential customers to keep them around and also make sure you rate high enough in the search engines for them to find you.After potential customers use a search engine to find a site like yours you want to make sure your site is built attractively enough to keep them around.This is why you need a company with a specialty in e-commerce SEO that knows just what customers want to see and how to get them to your site from the search engine results.

Message Delivery

You want Ecommerce SEO that completely delivers the message of your company.A company that works for you in this endeavor needs to understand both how customers are going to look at your website as well as how to explain your company clearly.There is a fine line between a customer who will stop and look at your website and one that will click out of your website and on to the next result in their search engine. This lineup is often defined by the small details of your website such as font and color.

Increase Stay Times

After conducting an Internet search, most people spend less than 10 seconds on the websites in those searches before deciding which ones they want to stay at.That is not a lot of time to make a great first impression.

Make It Work!

An e-commerce SEO specialist knows how to get the most impact out of your potential customers within that 10-second window.This will also make them want to take action on your site instead of click away.

Making The Sale

It's fantastic to have a lot of website hits but you also want to see money.The difference between a person that just looks through your website to see what you have to offer and one who actually takes a step to buy something is very minute.You want to figure out how to make more of them make a purchase.More often than not it's the little things you don't even realize like where purchase buttons are on the website as well as your overall appearance and style of the site that will convert someone from just a browser into a customer.

Ecommerce SEO is simply the best way to promote your business. Each transaction automatically stores data, which eliminated the need of manual collection. Also, Ecommerce SEO provides your customers valuable information about your business including online dental marketing - you do not need to be everywhere, your e-commerce business is all it takes.

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Is Tumblr the New Twitter?

An article from earlier this week on NYTimes.com talked about the growth of Tumblr - 25,000 new accounts daily and 1.5 billion page views each month - and how it may be adding a new must-do activity for businesses who use social networks to market their products and services.

Tumblr is a blogging platform with a social media focus that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog with a customizable look. Users can follow other users, or choose to make their tumblelog private. Imagine a Twitter, Facebook and blog hybrid.

According to the New York Times, big companies are starting to add Tumblr to their social media repertoire:

Over the last few months, other media outlets have caught wind of Tumblr, which is free to use. The newest recruits include The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, BlackBook Media Corporation, The Paris Review, The Huffington Post, Life magazine and The New York Times.

I even revitalized my own Tumblr account this week for the first time since I registered it. But whether any of us are doing much more than adding in our RSS feeds and setting up standard automation is another story.

Not to say there aren't reasons to get moving on Tumblr, including:

  • Ease of use
  • Call-in audio blog posts
  • Extensive photo options
  • Ability to use Google Analytics on your posts
  • Mobile device compatibility
  • Customizable themes
  • Ability to add community interaction, such as a Q&A section

But in the end, it all comes down to time. Do you have the time to add another social network to your mix?

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New Security Features Planned for Firefox 4

A third beta of Firefox 4 is nearing release that will include significant security improvements as well as new features.

The browser wars are in full swing. Market leader Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is pushing to regain momentum as it readies Internet Explorer 9, while Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) continue to update Chrome and Safari respectively.

Another key player, Mozilla, developer of the popular Firefox browser, isn't sitting still either. As eSecurity Planet reports, Mozilla plans to include new and improved security features in Firefox 4, due out later this year, including a specific defense against clickjacking and improved performance.

Open source browser vendor Mozilla is readying an ambitious new release of its Firefox Web browser. The third beta of Firefox 4, set to debut sometime this month, is expected to include more stability, features and performance improvements over earlier versions.

Among the areas that Mozilla is focusing on with Firefox 4 are a number of new security features that it says will make the browser even more secure than earlier versions.

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Microsoft Announces September Date for IE 9 Beta

Apart from confirmation by Steve Ballmer that Microsoft (news, site) is working on a tablet it hopes will compete with iPad, Thursday's Microsoft annual Financial Analyst Meeting also brought news that the company intends to release the beta of IE 9 in September.

Although there have been leaks and some discussion about IE9 over the past few months, Microsoft has until now avoided giving a date for even the beta release. Even with this announcement they haven't specified when in September.

Internet Explorer Problems?

This was the full extent of the information Microsoft was prepared to give on the release of the final build, which is not expected to see the light of day until sometime next year.

Since the company first gave developers a look at a rough version in March it has updated it twice. The beta, when it is finally released, comes 19 months after the release of IE 8, which has been cited as the reason IE clawed back some of the ground it lost to other browsers.

This was confirmed in July, according to figures released by Net Applications, which showed IE experienced a rise in usage US market share of 60.32% in June up from of 59.75% in May.

In June, the trend reversal became global. Internet Explorer gained 0.57% in June across all operating systems with IE 8.0 gaining 0.86% globally, primarily at the expense of Firefox (-.51%). However, this is still well off its June 2008 figure, when IE had 75% of the market.

Internet Explorer 9 Beta

With the beta release of IE 9, users will be offered a full HTML 5 compatible browser that on Windows will accelerate video, although those that are working off earlier versions will be stuck with a compatible mode in which the advantages of IE 9 will not be visible.

It is not clear yet who this is going to effect as Microsoft has not said whether this will be a full public beta release or whether it will just be restricted to developers.

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Is It Time to Corral Mobile Linux Fragmentation?

Qualcomm executive tells LinuxCon audience that there are too many flavors of mobile Linux.

Open source Linux software has been a great boon to mobile device makers and developers, just look at the growth of Android devices as Exhibit A. But are there too many different mobile implementations of Linux?

Mobile technology provider Qualcomm thinks the answer is yes. At the LinuxCon conference, Qualcomm executive Rob Chandhok said that mobile Linux needs a common base at the low level of the stack so developers won't have to optimize separately for the Android, MeeGo and LiMO mobile Linux platforms.

BOSTON -- Linux is broadly available on mobile devices, but competing implementations could lead to problems down the road for developers and confusion for customers, according to a Qualcomm executive.

"There is some fragmentation and that's a challenge. There is no mobile equivalent of x86," said Rob Chandhok, president of the Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC), a division of chip and mobile phone technology provider Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM).

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IT Earnings Way Up at Job Site Elance

Google App Engine, HTML5, search engine optimization and social media marketing are among the fastest movers on Elance's list of hot job opportunities available online.

While having tech skills doesn't guarantee employment, they've long given job-seekers an edge over many others seeking work. But with the faltering economy and unemployment stubbornly staying close to double-digit rates, just about every sector of the job market has seen dips in hiring.

As an alternative to bringing on full time employees, a growing number of firms hire online contract workers for specific projects. Elance, which bills itself as "the world's leading online talent marketplace," issued its quarterly online employment report this week. DevX reports on what areas of IT-related hiring are hot in the Elance report and also the top cities for earnings.

While the overall U.S. labor market continues to struggle with unemployment close to 10 percent, demand for contract workers online is growing at online job mart Elance.

Online professionals contracting jobs via Elance earned over $23 million in the second quarter of 2010, a figure the company said is a 45-percent increase over the same quarter a year ago. Privately-held Elance said 88,729 new jobs were posted on its network in the second quarter.

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Oracle Lawsuit Claims Google Slurped Its Java

An Oracle lawsuit against Google includes seven claims of patent violation and one claim of copyright infringement, all related to Google's use of Java, which Oracle took control over when it finalized its deal to buy Sun Microsystems early this year. The suit specifically focuses on the use of Java in Android, the Google-backed mobile operating system.

Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) on Thursday filed suit against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) for patent and copyright infringement in the latter's development of the Android operating system.

Google "knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property," according to the suite, which "seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement," Oracle spokesperson Karen Tillman said.

It's not clear whether the lawsuit will force Google to stop development work on Android and Chrome, or whether it will impact the Android Market.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

"We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open source Java community with this baseless lawsuit," Google spokesperson Aaron Zamost told LinuxInsider. "The open source Java community goes beyond any one corporation and works every day to make the Web a better place. We will strongly defend open source standards and will continue to work with the industry to develop the Android platform."

Oracle did not respond to requests for further comment by press time.

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Google buys virtual-currency startup

Google has purchased a virtual-currency software company called Jambool, adding to recent acquisitions to it social-networking stable.

Jambool's founders, Chief Executive Officer Vikas Gupta and Chief Technology Officer Reza Hussein, announced the deal last Friday on the company's Web site. Terms of the deal were not revealed, but earlier reports about a possible deal estimated the deal to be worth US$70 million.

"When the opportunity arose to join forces with Google to execute against this vision, we couldn't pass it up," their statement said. "We are thrilled to bring the Social Gold platform to Google's global users."

Google representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Started in 2006, the start-up manufactures a product called Social Gold, which lets other sites build virtual-currency infrastructures. Google runs its own PayPal-like transaction platform, Google Checkout, and may have been looking for a virtual-currency system to complement it.

The announcement comes a week after Google confirmed that it had acquired Slide, a social-media company founded by PayPal veteran Max Levchin.

The tech giant, in the midst of pumping up its social-media muscle, is rumored to be fine-tuning its social-gaming strategy, one of the biggest runaway successes to emerge on Facebook. Google has invested in social-gaming giant Zynga and may be working on a full-fledged gaming product of its own.

Social-gaming publishers brought in US$490 million in revenue last year and that figure is expected to reach US$835 million in 2010, according to Inside Social Games analyst Justin Smith.

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It's Facebook's billion-dollar year

Ad industry market research firm eMarketer released estimates Thursday that predict ad spending on Facebook will reach nearly US$1.3 billion worldwide in 2010--and is poised to hit over US$1.7 billion in 2011.

"Brand advertisers are making Facebook a core buy," senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in a release. "Ad spending is building quickly and the mass audience is one that marketers cannot ignore any longer."

The bulk of that US$1.28 billion figure--US$835 million--is in the United States, which is home to less than a quarter of Facebook's users. That's expected to grow to slightly over US$1 billion in 2011 (a 112 percent gain from 2009). International ad spending in 2010 is estimated at US$450 million, but is expected to grow to US$700 million (a 325 percent gain since 2009). That would put international ad spending on Facebook in 2011 ahead of all ad spending on Facebook in 2009, which eMarketer pegged at US$665 million.

This is a remarkable shift from the days when analysts and ad industry insiders were skeptical that a social network could ever be a choice destination for advertising; in the early days of the recession two years ago, eMarketer repeatedly cut its ad spending estimates for social networks as media buyers grew more conservative about edgier niches of digital advertising that weren't guaranteed to bring in returns.

The social-media site to first take off in ad spending was the News Corp.-owned MySpace, which featured deeper ties to Madison Avenue thanks to its big-media ownership, as well as splashier, more traditional display ads in contrast to Facebook's smaller, self-serve units. But Facebook has long since surpassed it in ad spending as well as traffic. eMarketer estimates MySpace ad spending for 2010 to be US$347 million, a 14 percent drop from 2009.

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Yahoo starts Bing transition, kills Search Monkey

Starting this week, searchers on Yahoo will start to see a little "Powered by Bing" message at the bottom of the results page, as the two companies start the public phase of their huge search deal completed last year.

Yahoo announced the milestone along with several updates to various search products and features that had been up in the air ever since Yahoo and Microsoft signed their search outsourcing deal just over a year ago. Under that deal, Microsoft is to provide the back-end crawling, listing and ranking technologies that generate search results while Yahoo retains responsibility for presenting those results on search pages.

Webmasters who had worked with Yahoo search products such as BOSS (build your own search service) can breath a sigh of relief, as that product will continue, Yahoo said. However, Yahoo will start charging developers to use the service, which had previously been free.

Also, publishers who had been using Yahoo's Search Monkey galleries and applications for highlighting search results will have to figure out a new strategy, as that product is going away. Yahoo isn't giving up on the notion of semantic search--structured content displayed alongside crawled search results--by any means. But instead of having developers create apps for Yahoo, Web site publishers can just add enhanced listing information using standard formats--Google's approach--and have them displayed in search results.

One potentially confusing aspect of the transition involves the fact that even though results on Yahoo pages will be powered by Microsoft, Webmasters that need to report problems or highlight new sites within Yahoo will need to use Yahoo's Site Explorer for Yahoo pages, and Microsoft's Bing Webmaster Central for Bing pages. That's because the transition is rolling out first in the United States and Canada, and it will be some time before results in other parts of the world are powered by Bing.

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W3C Advances Web Font Standards

Since the advent of the Web, developers have been limited in the fonts they could use for online content. That's now changing thanks to the emerging Web Open File Format (WOFF) standard from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

WOFF will enable Web developers to use a broad set of fonts that will be supported across all major browsers. The WOFF 1.0 standard has not yet been finalized, but according to the W3C, it is nearing completion.

"The W3C WebFonts Working Group does not expect to make any significant groundbreaking changes to the current WOFF 1.0 spec, but the development and review process will likely result in incremental changes and additional clarification made in the spec to improve its content quality," Vladimir Levantovsky, chairman of the W3C WebFonts Working Group and senior technology strategist at Monotype Imaging, told InternetNews.com.

Levantovsky noted that the development of the WOFF Recommendation follows the process that the W3C set up to ensure high technical quality while allowing time for review.

Moving forward, the W3C will be publishing additional materials and tools to help validate WOFF prior to the complete standard becoming official.

"WOFF Validator as well as other tools are being developed by the WebFonts WG, and they will likely be published as a part of WOFF test suite and/or reference implementation," Levantovsky said.

The W3C plans to designate WOFF as a recommended Web standard when implementations pass the test suite.

Work on enabling a Web fonts standard has been ongoing since at least 2008, according to Levantovsky.

"Many different solutions were discussed, and each of them was carefully examined and evaluated from both technical and usability point of view," he said. "WOFF was the result of truly collaborative efforts made by the browser vendors and font foundries -- it exemplifies a technical solution that is easy to implement and use. It offers Web developers access to tens of thousands of commercial and open source fonts, and it received strong support from the font development community."

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Microsoft's LightSwitch Beta Shows Up Early

The software giant releases a beta of the Visual Studio tool for business experts a bit early.

While Visual Studio has established itself as a popular developer environment, Microsoft is taking steps to broaden its appeal further. One example is LightSwitch, a tool for Visual Studio that Microsoft announced earlier this month.

As Code Guru reports, Microsoft is on track, and even a bit ahead of schedule, to make a beta of LightSwitch available. For business customers who aren't necessarily skilled programmers, LightSwitch could be worth checking out because it uses a template-based programming model that lessens the need to call a team of developers in to create new applications.

Microsoft says it's even possible to write a LightSwitch application without writing a single line of code.

A development tool designed to enable business experts -- and not just professional programmers -- to write applications in Microsoft Visual Studio has started beta testing several days early.

Dubbed LightSwitch, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) began shipping the beta of the tool on Wednesday to MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) subscribers, the company said in a blog post.

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Google's Chrome Web Store ready for trial runs

Google's Chrome Web Store is now available for developers to test out, and the company confirmed a few details that leaked out earlier this week.

A report had suggested that the store would be launching in October, and while Google still isn't ready to confirm that specific timing it did publish a few more details Thursday on its Chromium blog about how the store will work. Web application developers will be able to upload their applications to the store and get a sense of how shoppers will see and purchase them before the store goes completely live.

Google did confirm that it is charging just 5 percent of the application price in exchange for hosting the store and processing the payment, but it's also tacking on a 30-cent fee per transaction for each paid app download and developers have to pay a one-time US$5 fee to register as a Chrome developer (unless you've already registered as a Chrome Extensions developer). Developers can offer free, paid, or free trials of their applications, and the minimum price is US$1.99.

Three types of products can be submitted to the Chrome Web Store: applications, themes, and extensions, and developers will be able to charge for any of them. Google will need to get a fair number of developers on board to make the first Chrome OS devices compelling, with rumors that the first tablet running Google's browser-based operating system could arrive in November.

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Ruby 1.9.2 Casts Long Shadow on Related Projects

With the long-awaited release of Ruby 1.9.2, billed as the first "production-ready 1.9 implementation," the Ruby project takes a big step

Christmas Day 2007 was a long time ago. But that's when the first 1.9 development release of Ruby appeared.

Now, nearly three years later, Ruby is out with version 1.9.2, described as the first "production-ready 1.9 implementation." The release comes as the related Rails gears up for its 3.0 release, and the new features will soon find their way into the JRuby project. Code Guru takes a look.

The open source Ruby development language has been rising in popularity in recent years. This week, Ruby developers released version 1.9.2, which may well help to further adoption as Ruby continues to evolve and mature.

The new release, which features performance improvements as well as some fixes and new features, comes at a critical time for the Ruby ecosystem. For one thing, the popular Rails framework for Ruby (Ruby on Rails) is gearing up for its 3.0 release, making Ruby 1.9.2 not just a long-anticipated update, but one that's been closely watched due to its implications for a wide array of related projects.

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Stumbleupon hits iPhone, Android in app form

StumbleUpon users intent on drifting through the Web while out and about now have two new first-party options.

On Thursday, the company introduced applications for both the iPhone and Android that put the site's signature Web stumbling into a pocket-friendly size. On both platforms, the app simply adds a built-in frame bar on top of, or underneath an embedded Web browser.

The bar (which cannot be hidden) contains the usual array of StumbleUpon buttons with a thumbs up and thumbs down and a stumble button that takes users to a completely random page. There's also the requisite toggle to share pages you're on with friends both on StumbleUpon and social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Unlike visiting StumbleUpon.com, users of the app need to be registered members of StumbleUpon before they can use it, though there's a way to sign up if you're not. The one upside to this nuisance is that it carries over all your existing preferences, including favorites and preferred topics of interest, which can be browsed like TV channels from within the app.

One neat feature that's been added to compensate for potentially slow network connections is a "thumbnail mode" that gives you a small preview of the page the app wants to load up, as well as information on how many views it's gotten, and the likes and reviews of other StumbleUpon members. This can be turned on or off, though here Android users have a slight advantage since they can change that setting without leaving the app.iPhone users will have to head to their system settings to make the switch instead; on the plus side, the app features fast app switching, so you can come back to it from any other app and now lose what you were looking at.

Along with the iPhone and Android apps, StumbleUpon has also had a similar, albeit larger-screened offering for iPad users since late June. Going forward the company says it plans to bring native versions of its service to other platforms, along with push notifications and improved friend discovery.

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Twitter: Yes, we're building out a sales team!

Confirming a bunch of disparate blog rumors about individual hires, Twitter confirmed on Tuesday--after previously declining to comment--that it's building out a sales team and has hired a News Corp. veteran to helm it.

Adam Bain, previously serving as the head of News Corp.'s Fox Audience Network (the conglomerate's unit for online advertising operations, technology, and sales; prior to that, Bain had been News Corp. chief technology officer) has joined Twitter with the lofty title of "president of global revenue." The ambiguity of the title reflects the fact that Twitter eventually wants to look beyond traditional advertising (well, as "traditional" as its "promoted tweets" and paid spots in its "trending topics" box really are) for revenue. The company has also launched @earlybird, a daily-deals channel in the vein of the Amazon-owned Woot, and still plans to roll out some kind of business analytics service for paid customers. It also has search deals in place with a handful of big players in the market.

Additionally,Twitter announced that Brent Hill, a former Google sales exec, has also been hired as director of sales for the central U.S. region. Two more sales reps, Amanda Levy and Dan Coughlin, were reported to have joined the company earlier this summer.

"With Adam and Brent joining the team, we now have senior sales executives from a wide spectrum of industry leaders, including Fox, Google, Facebook and Yelp, comprising our leadership team," a statement from Twitter Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo read. "We expect this team to build on our already strong momentum in providing promotions and deals that bring value to both users and an increasing number of brands."

Ad sales hires won't directly be doing anything to keep Twitter's embarrassingly unstable servers afloat, but ideally will be able to ramp up the revenue to fund enhanced development and infrastructure in the face of rapid growth. Plus, Twitter has been fighting the common wisdom in its attempt to prove that it can, in fact, turn a profit; many in the industry thought it would be impossible to make any money off 140-character messages. There's still some convincing to be done.

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Red Hat Talks Cloud App Management Tech

The Linux player says the cloud should be open and apps able to move between the cloud and the enterprise data center. And it thinks it has the technology that can help.

Red Hat is busily expanding its cloud computing offerings en route to what it says is a future where cloud applications are interoperable, portable, and easily managed by enterprise IT. Getting there requires a number of pieces, however -- pieces that Red Hat itself aims to provide.

It's all part of Red Hat's Cloud Foundations strategy, involving Deltacloud, a Red Hat JBoss-based Platform as a Service, JBoss Developer Studio and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. The end result, according to Red Hat, is cloud applications that are easily managed by enterprise IT admins, and which can be moved with ease among clouds and data centers. Datamation takes a look.

With the proprietary enterprise software vendors all scrambling to co-opt cloud computing into a framework of their existing software and services, it should come as no surprise that vendors of open source technology are working hard to do the same.

For Linux giant Red Hat, the future of the cloud is one in which the technology is open and cloud-based applications can move freely between clouds and the enterprise. That's the vision that Red Hat executives laid out today as part of the company's Cloud Foundations strategy -- and the vision they're betting enterprise IT and developers will buy into.

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Google Adds Free Telephone Voice Calls to GMail

Do you have a GMail account (who doesn't?) From today, you may be lucky enough to notice a new "Call Phone" option in your Chat box.

Unlike the existing GMail voice and video chat system, Call Phone allows you to call a standard land-line telephone - the recipient doesn't need to be logged on or even have a PC. What's more, calls to the US and Canada are totally free and international calling rates are very competitive (less than $0.02 per minute for the UK, France, Germany, China and Japan).

The Call Phone system uses the same browser plug-in as voice and video chat and it's available for Windows XP+, Mac OS X 10.4+ and Linux.

Google has announced they'll be rolling out the feature to US-based GMail users during the next few days. International users and those using Google Apps in their school or business won't receive it just yet. However, I'm going to let you into a little secret - I'm in the UK and the feature has appeared in my account. It's possibly because I have "English (US)" set as my default language and, although I'm charged for local UK numbers, calls I make to the US are free! I suspect it's a technical loophole which Google will plug, but I'd be interested to hear if any other non-US residents have received the feature.

Call Phone looks good and, assuming call quality and low costs can be maintained, Skype has reason to be concerned.

Have you tried the Call Phone feature from your GMail account? How was your experience?

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H.264: Free forever for free video streaming

The group that licenses patents for the widely used H.264 video encoding and streaming technology has committed to charge no royalties ever for use by Web sites that use it for freely available video.

In February, the MPEG LA previously had declared free streaming wouldn't require royalty payments through December 31, 2015. On Thursday, it lifted that limit forever, a move could remove some hesitation to use it on Web sites.

The move, although made earlier than the licensing group had to, isn't a major surprise. For one thing, adding a fee to streaming costs could have driven potential users into the arms of free rival video encoding technology, notably WebM from Google.

MPEG LA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about why it made the decision.

In any event, it's likely the video landscape will look different five years from now. It's an active area of research, and by 2015, it's likely there will be new codec alternatives that offer more advanced encoding and decoding abilities. That could mean smaller file sizes, a lower processing burden, or reduced network throughput needs.

MPEG LA continues to charge royalties for use in other areas, including Blu-ray drives and disc reproduction, broadcast television, cameras, and video editing software. H.264 is also known as AVC.

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SlideShare Adopts Subscription SaaS Model

Taking a page from Salesforce.com, SlideShare answers its users' request for a subscription-based premium version of its presentation-sharing service.

Looking to expand its revenue, SlideShare is rolling out a subscription-based version of its popular presentation-sharing service.

SlideShare is offering three tiers of its new subscription service. A "silver" version caters to individual professionals. The "gold" service is designed for small businesses, while the top-tier "platinum" targets the enterprise market. Datamation takes a look.

With over 30 million visitors a month using its PowerPoint, Word document and Adobe PDF sharing service, you might think SlideShare wouldn't mess with what's working. But as the company looks to grow its revenue and make sure its business customers are getting the features they want, a change in strategy made sense; in fact customers were asking for it.

"In forums where we asked for feedback, we heard from a lot of people a very strong message that they'd be happy to pay a subscription fee for advanced features," SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha told InternetNews.com.

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IE9 Screenshot Leaked to the Web

Internet Explorer 9's new interface has been revealed following an article published on a site run by one of Microsoft's Russian subsidiaries. The screenshot was removed almost immediately, but it was too late - the image quickly dispersed throughout the web:

Microsoft has refused to publicly comment about the leak but, if it's a fake, it's very good one.

The screenshot shows a minimalistic user interface reminiscent of those implemented by Chrome, Opera and Firefox 4. However, the style and layout of the back/next buttons, address bar and icons will be recognizable to IE8 fans (I'm sure they must exist somewhere?)

All the controls have moved to a single toolbar. It doesn't leave much room for multiple tabs but it maximizes the web page viewing space. I'm surprised tabs haven't been moved to the empty title bar area - Mozilla recently determined that tabs above the address bar is a more logical layout.

The Russian website also revealed IE9 would offer a unified search/address bar, a simplified set of toolbar icons, and tear-off tabs which can be snapped to a part of the screen. Windows 7 already offers this last option as "Aero Snap" so it may not be a feature implemented directly within the browser.

The IE9 beta will be released on September 15 2010 so we'll soon know whether the leaked screenshot is real or not. The final version is unlikely to appear until 2011 so the interface may undergo radical changes before then.

Of course, it could be a Microsoft publicity stunt to raise awareness of the browser. I somehow doubt that - it's been far more successful than many of their real campaigns! (Did anyone actually attend a Windows 7 party?)

What do you think? Is the screenshot real or fake? Do you like it?

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Microsoft Slaps e-Commerce Site With Piracy Suit

Microsoft hits online software reseller Jigantic.com with a lawsuit alleging the outfit traded in pirated copies of SQL Server 2008 and passing off Software Assurance contracts as legitimate licenses.

Microsoft has put Jigantic.com on notice, suing the online software reseller for allegedly trafficking pirated copies of SQL Server 2008.

Microsoft set up a sting operation to ensnare the company, hiring an investigator in 2008 to purchase software on Jigantic.com to gather evidence about a so-called "bait-and-switch" scheme. Microsoft is accusing the company of passing off pirated copies of its software as legitimate, and then issuing customers a Software Assurance contract rather than the costlier license. IT Channel Planet takes a look.

Microsoft Corp. has sued an online software reseller for fraudulently selling pirated copies of its SQL Server 2008 database without telling customers that they wouldn't get legitimate licenses to use the software.

In a case filed Aug. 27 in the U.S. District Court in the District of Connecticut, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) claims that software e-tailer jigantic.com has been selling customers Software Assurance contracts, which are about half the price of the actual database software, as genuine SQL Server licenses and client access licenses (CALs).

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Getting Started with Memcached Distributed Memory Caching

Wikipedia describes Memcached as a general-purpose distributed memory caching system, but what exactly does the term Memcached mean? Cache is memory used to store the most frequently used resources (e.g. browsers store every website visited during a session in cache), because accessing resources from a cache is faster than accessing them from a disk drive. So Memcached means "memorycached," which simply is caching resources in the memory. These resources can be data retrieved from API calls, database operations or even HTML pages. The data is stored in key/value pairs in the form of large hash tables.

As distributed system is part of the Memcached definition, you can install Memcached on various servers to make a larger caching server. In this way, Memcached helps reduce database loads to a minimum, resulting in faster and more responsive Web applications

How Does Memcached Work?

Here is the step-by-step explanation of how it works when you want to pull certain data from the database:

  • Check whether the desired data exists in the cache. If it is in the cache records, then just retrieve the data and hence there is no need to query the database.
  • If the data that you are looking for is not in the cache, then query the database. Return the required data to the script and store the information in the cache.
  • Keep the cache fresh. Whenever the data is changed (i.e. altered or delete for some reason), update this information into the cache. That way, when the cache is queried for the old data then it should either redirect to the database or give the updated information.

Apparently, Memcached is best implemented for queries that are triggered multiple times in a second and demand huge data as output. Access to Memcached data is faster than the access time to disk drives because the Memcached data is stored in temporary memory.

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Twitter to record all links users click

By the end of the year, Twitter expects to be recording and analyzing every link users click on when using its Web site or any of the thousands of third-party microblogging apps.

An e-mail announcement Wednesday night said "all users" will soon be switched over to Twitter's t.co link-shortening service and, once that happens, "all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps" will use it. In addition, the company said, when anyone clicks "on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click".

Wednesday's news was soon met with a smattering of privacy concerns, with some Twitter users dubbing it a "disgusting data landgrab" and others wondering if there will be an "opt-out policy" for those who prefer not to have their clicks recorded. Another concern: a centralized link-redirector means a centralized point of failure in a service known for being frequently overloaded.

The announcement wasn't entirely unexpected: Twitter said in June, as ZDNet Asia sister site CNET reported at the time, that it would begin using t.co to shorten some links. (Separately, Twitter's e-mail also said that developers now have to use the more secure OAuth framework to access your account.)

Of course, Twitter is not alone--and this point deserves to be stressed--in recording what links visitors click.

Yahoo tracks searches through the rds.yahoo.com hostname. Microsoft's Bing and Facebook appear to use Javascript to record clicks through the "OnMouseDown" function. And Google sometimes, but not always, seems to use redirects to track links clicked on from its home page.

Knowing what links are popular can help a sufficiently sophisticated Web site refine its recommendations, and likely will let Twitter improve its "promoted tweets" program and its resonance algorithm, which uses metrics like number-of-clicks to decide which messages are relevant and useful.

It can also, as Twitter's Sean Garrett pointed out in June, permit better detection and prevention of malicious links.

So beyond the it-feels-a-bit-creepy, what's the real privacy concern? It's this: a security breach at a Twitter data center could reveal who's clicking on what links (although any theoretical breach would probably reveal much more sensitive information too). Police armed with search warrants in criminal investigations may have link-clicking questions they want answered. Divorce attorneys armed with subpoenas won't be far behind. And, in general, users may not expect this data about their behavior to be stored forever.

It's true that plenty of other link-shortening services exist, including tinyurl.com, bit.ly, is.gd, and snipurl.com. But once every Twitter user is switched over to t.co, it becomes a central information repository and a more alluring source of who-clicked-what data.

One obvious way to alleviate any privacy worries would be for Twitter to offer an option to disable logging and to delete any previously stored records. Log anonymization after a certain time wouldn't hurt either.

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Virtualization: Is It Safe?

That was the chief question on the minds of attendees at this year's VMworld. Not surprisingly, VMware and its partners had much to say on the subject.

As one indication of how important virtualization has become to enterprise IT strategies, VMworld has grown into a sprawling tech trade show seemingly in defiance of the economic downturn that's already claimed plenty of similar events.

But even as CIOs seek to learn how they can leverage virtualization to cut down on IT costs, many also remain aware that doing so could open their businesses to new forms of threats.

At least, that's been the perennial worry when it comes to virtualization, software-as-a-service and cloud computing in general. DevX takes a look at the state of security in enterprise virtualization, the potential dangers, and what can be done to mitigate the risk.

Chris Wolf, an analyst at Gartner, said customers need to be more aware. They should know that hardware can affect the performance and security of a virtual machine, and they should ask tough questions of anti-virus vendors, especially if those vendors are redesigning their products to be virtual.

"Ask specific questions -- what can you do on my product?" Wolf said. "Each hypervisor has different capabilities, and the ecosystem (security) vendors can't do everything they say."

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Sony announces cloud-based music service

Sony announced a new service Monday called Music Unlimited that will turn many of its electronics products into online libraries for streaming music.

"It is a cloud-based digital music streaming service that gives music lovers access to millions of tracks stored and synced with your devices," said Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe, at a press event here. The service "will be going live by the end of the year", he said.

Music Unlimited joins the already available video-on-demand service of Sony's Qriocity service, which now sports a two-part tagline: "Music that follows you. Instant blockbuster movies."

Sony announced Music Unlimited at the IFA electronics show here. The timing, though, illustrates just how hard it will be for Sony to fulfill its ambitions: on the same day, Apple refreshed its dominant iPod and iTunes product line that has thwarted Sony's music ambitions for years. This isn't the first time it's tried, either: Sony closed down its Connect music store, after years of effort.

Sony's service is very different from Connect and from Apple's approach, though. With iPods and iTunes, customers buy music online or copy it from CDs and store it on their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and in their iTunes libraries. And of course, it includes video as well.

It's a device-centric approach so far, Apple's LaLa acquisition notwithstanding, and it's proved successful: Through it, 12 billion songs, 450 million TV shows, 100 million movies and 35 million books have been downloaded so far, Apple said Wednesday.

With Sony's Qriocity services, though, the music and video lives in the cloud, a dramatically different model.

With it, the music is sent over the network to a variety of devices: Sony's TVs, Blu-ray players, PS3 game consoles and Windows PCs.

What about portable media players to answer the iPod? "It will increasingly become available on range of portable devices of the future," Nishida said.

Streaming audio over the Net is fine for broadband connections, but portable devices don't always have them, and when they do, data subscription plans can impose limits. However, mobile devices will be able to cache data on their own storage systems, said Chris Thielbar, manager of product planning for Sony's network services.

Some details are unclear still, including pricing and the range of music that'll be available. Sony still is negotiating with labels, Thielbar said.

Nishida promised a "huge libarary of music tracks in the cloud", though. In addition, Qriocity "will become a platform for a wide range of third-party service providers who can make the entertainment experience compelling and entertaining," he said.

In demonstrations of the service at the press event, a remote control could be used to select music, including selecting various genres such as classical and alternative; eras divided by decade; "premium" content; and music delivered by Sony's SenseMe technology to pick music based on a person's mood.

Users will be able to "discover music through channels personalized to their tastes", he added. "There's no need to manage music files. Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity will change the way we all enjoy our music."

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The Technology Behind the OpenStack Cloud Computing Project

Rackspace (a noted high-end hosting provider) and NASA recently announced a joint open source endeavor called OpenStack. The project aims to merge cloud computing technologies from both organizations into one common, open cloud computing platform.

The rationale behind the Rackspace and NASA teams sharing their code on a project is simple. Neither of them is really a software development shop -- they specialize in different areas -- and the current cloud computing software they have was grown in-house either to satisfy internal requirements (NASA) or to offer a solution in a competitive market (Rackspace).

In the case of Rackspace, they would like to see projects move away from proprietary, locked-in computing platforms (such as Amazon S3 or the Google App Engine) toward a common open standard. Hence, as long as your application runs on the OpenStack platform, theoretically you should be able to host it either in-house or with any specialized OpenStack hosting provider. It's a typical case of wanting to make the cloud computing pie bigger and more open. Rackspace is confident its ability to provide high-end hosting will give it an edge in such a larger market.

In NASA's case, they just want to focus on their responsibilities (processing massive amounts of data coming in from space exploration) and avoid having to maintain an in-house, proprietary processing infrastructure.

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Google Faces Heat Over Privacy Tweaks

A move to reduce legalese has one privacy advocacy group up in arms.

The coming of Google's modified privacy policy -- a plan that aims to simplify and consolidate the rules under which its various services operate -- may have been designed to make it easier for users to understand Google policy.

But it's raised the ire of at least one major privacy advocacy group, EPIC, which claims that integrating all of Google's privacy policies makes it harder on users in the long run -- and is calling for an investigation by the FCC to take a hard look at the implications. Datamation has the story.

Google has announced plans to roll out a more streamlined version of its privacy policies next month. The search giant insists the move to simplify its policies is designed to reduce "legalese" and make its policies more accessible to consumers.

"To be clear, we aren't changing any of our privacy practices; we want to make our policies more transparent and understandable," Mike Yang, Google's associate general counsel, said in a blog post Friday.

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Adobe launches trio of Flash Media Servers

Adobe on Thursday will launch Flash Media Server 4, an update that's designed to make it easier to scale Web video production to multiple screens.

Flash Media Server 4, which is being unveiled at the IBC 2010 conference in Amsterdam, will feature peer-assisted networking and technology designed to cut bandwidth usage. In addition, Flash Media Server 4 is designed to put video on any screen from TV to Web to mobile.

Adobe's latest Flash Media Server comes in three flavors: Flash Media Streaming Server 4, Flash Media Interactive Server 4 and Flash Media Enterprise Server 4, for small to mid-sized businesses to large enterprises, respectively. The latter will enable the bandwidth saving technologies.

Typically, these servers are installed at content delivery networks (CDNs) instead of core customers, said Ashley Still, group product manger of Flash media solutions. Still added that Adobe's latest Flash Media servers are designed to address content protection as well as compliance issues.

The Flash Media Streaming Server is $995 with the Media Interactive Server at $4,500. The Media Enterprise Server pricing requires a quote.

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Mozilla: Now is the time for browser-based games

Computer games have played an important role in advancing the state of the art for computing, and now Mozilla hopes to draw upon gaming to advance browser application development.

The Firefox backer launched the new Mozilla Labs Gaming project Tuesday with the goal of encouraging programmers to use a host of new browser and Web technologies.

"Modern Open Web technologies introduced a complete stack of technologies such as Open Video, audio, WebGL, touch events, device orientation, geolocation, and fast JavaScript engines which make it possible to build complex (and not so complex) games on the Web. With these technologies being delivered through modern browsers today, the time is ripe for pushing the platform," said Pascal Finette, the Mozilla Labs "catalyst" whose job is to "make things happen."

As part of the effort, Mozilla also announced the Game_On 2010 browser-game contest that will start in September.

The work dovetails with a broad industry transition: Browsers are growing from a vessel for containing Web pages into a foundation for applications. Even Microsoft, for years a laggard in the browser realm and still a powerhouse with PC applications, has gotten Web app religion with its coming Internet Explorer 9, due to launch next week in beta form.

A lot of casual games on the Web today are built with Adobe Systems' Flash technology, which runs across modern and ancient browsers and across multiple operating systems. Many features coming to browsers--notably SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and Canvas for 2D graphics--reproduce some of what Flash can do. And other technologies, such as WebGL for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics, are headed the same direction as Flash.

Although casual games on PCs are a major market, another powerful new force in the gaming world is the new generation of smartphones and related mobile devices--most notably Apple's iOS-based iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. There, static Web pages are a challenge and Web-based games are even harder. So for now at least, it seems likely that the more impressive browser games will be mostly a desktop phenomenon.

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Is Symantec in Microsoft's Shopping Cart?

If the rumors are true, the security vendor would likely fetch a hefty, multi-billion dollar purchase price.

The market for security software started to heat up last month following Intel's surprising $7.7 billion acquisition of McAfee. But there's always activity on the IT security front, as new security threats emerge and companies scramble to act both reactively and proactively.

In the last few years Microsoft has greatly increased its investment in the security of its products which, because of their widespread use, tend to be a favorite target of malware and other security threats.

But as eSecurity Planet reports, Microsoft may be looking to significantly raise its security profile with the acquisition of Symantec, a leading provider of security software.

Intel's planned acquisition of security vendor McAfee sparked widespread speculation that other security players are also potential acquisition targets. Now, a new report from a leading stock analyst is adding more grist to the rumor mill, causing a small run-up in McAfee competitor Symantec's stock price and a new round of reports that Symantec's most likely suitor is none other than longtime Intel partner Microsoft.

On Wednesday, several investor publications, including Barron's Tech Trader Daily and TheStreet led with the rumor that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) may be courting Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), citing investor boards across the Internet.

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Whoosh! Google Instant Speeds Search Results

Looking to extend its lead as the most popular search engine, Google launches new technology that provides results much quicker and right on the page before the full query has been typed.

Someone at Google played a funny joke back in 2000 with a fake screen at the company's home page that was supposed to show how the search engine could anticipate a user's search request before he or she even typed it.

"It was our April Fools joke," recalled Google executive Marissa Mayer, at the launch event for Google Fast.

But it turns out that joke was somewhat prescient. As Datamation reports, Google Fast, available now in the U.S., aims to up the ante of what user's expect from a search engine in terms of anticipating a query before it's fully typed and providing a ready list of relevant results right on the page.

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence you could easily finish several search queries using Google's new Google Instant service.

Already known for its speedy search results, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) unwrapped new search technology on Wednesday that is designed to greatly simplify the process users go through when making a search query and kicking back speedier, more relevant results.

"We really believe Google Instant is a quantum leap forward in search," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search and user experience.

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Mobile Devs Get Help With License Compliance

OpenLogic's new OLEX App Store edition is designed to help mobile developers stay compliant with open source licensing requirements.

Open source has been a great boon to developers, giving them ready access to the code they need to build new applications and a community that quickly identifies bugs and security issues. One area where open source has thrived is mobile. Google's fast-growing Android platform, for example, is built on open source.

But while readily available, open source has its own set of compliance requirements. Developer.com reports the results of a new analysis of Google Android and Apple App store applications that shows a great many mobile apps use open source components. The article also details a new service from OpenLogic that's designed to help mobile developers identify the open source components so they can more easily spot where compliance requirements come into play.

Open source licenses are being widely used inside of mobile app store applications, according to a new study from software services and support vendor OpenLogic.

OpenLogic analyzed over 450 Apple App Store and Google Android apps and found that 88 percent of Android and 41 percent of Apple iOS apps had an open source component. The data helps underscore OpenLogic's new commercial service called OLEX App Store edition, which is intended to help enable App Store developers and managers to identify and maintain compliance with open source licensing requirements.

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Bing passes Yahoo in intentional search

Although Yahoo still leads Bing in most measures of search market share, Microsoft's search engine has passed up Yahoo, according to one tracking firm.

Nielsen, which says its numbers reflect only queries typed into a search box, has Bing at 13.9 percent, just ahead of Yahoo's 13.1 percent. Google is still the dominant market leader with roughly 65 percent of the market.

In the past year, Yahoo has seen its share slip 2.9 percentage points, while Microsoft's search engine has gained 3.2 percentage points. Google is little changed from a year earlier. And of course, with a search deal going into effect last month, Bing is now powering Yahoo's search results in the United States.

"Nielsen's search data only counts genuine intentional searches that people type into a search box," the company noted in a statement accompanying the August figures. "It does not include non-intended or 'contextual' searches that are automatically generated by search engines based on a person's browsing behavior."

Although Microsoft has passed Yahoo by Nielsen's method, Yahoo still had a significant lead in July, according to the more widely cited Comscore numbers, including a core search measure that excludes some of the slideshows and other non-explicit searches that had been giving some providers--especially Yahoo--a boost.

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Twitter Aims to Expand Content With Redesign

Twitter is rolling out a wholesale redesign of its website, aiming to make the microblogging service easier to use and providing more content tailored to the short-message format.

Over the next few weeks, users will begin to see their Twitter profiles split into two panes as the company phases in the redesign. The traditional Twitter timeline will reside on the left, with a new tabbed menu at the top of the screen where users can check @mentions, retweets, lists and searches.

On the right side, Twitter is placing a details pane that expands to display information and content that traditionally have required users to click away from their profiles to another page on Twitter, or to another website altogether.

"Twitter has always been about getting a lot in a little," Twitter CEO Evan Williams said in a blog post. "The constraint of 140 characters drives conciseness and lets you quickly discover and share what's happening. Yet, we've learned something since starting Twitter -- life doesn't always fit into 140 characters or less."

Taken together, the changes are intended to simplify the ways that users track and engage in conversations on the site, while significantly expanding the content that members can view on Twitter. In that sense, the redesign brings some of the functionality that has given rise to a host of third-party applications onto Twitter.com, a move that could drive user engagement on the site and, in the process, boost revenues from Twitter's early experiments with advertising.

One of the most dramatic changes will see embedded content, such as photos and videos, displayed in the details pane. Twitter has forged partnerships with 16 digital-media providers, including YouTube, Flickr and Ustream, to tailor their content for the details pane, eliminating the need to navigate away to another site.

Similarly, clicking on a tweet in the timeline will bring up information about the author or message in the details pane. The display pane might, for instance, show other tweets by the author or other users on the same topic.

If a tweet is geo-tagged, the display pane might show a map of the user's location, or information about a business or local place of interest.

The company is also rolling out a feature dubbed mini profiles, which display the basic statistics about Twitter users, such as the number of followers and messages sent, without navigating away to their profiles.

Twitter said it will begin transitioning users to the new format this week, beginning with a very small portion of its members. The transition is slated to run over the next few weeks, during which time users will have the ability to switch between the old and new versions of the site as they get acclimated to the changes.

Among the Twitter faithful, the redesign is a source of intense interest, with "#newtwitter" sitting second atop the trending topics list on the site on Wednesday morning.

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IE9 Won't Support Windows XP

The newest version of the Internet Explorer browser from Microsoft won't run on Windows XP, still the company's most widely-used operating system.

Now that Microsoft has released the first public beta of Internet Explorer 9, the browser wars are heating up again. And, as in any war, there are going to be casualties. In this case, Windows XP is taking the hit.

As Datamation reports, Microsoft announced that, for a number of reasons, its latest browser won't run on Windows XP, but will run on the newer Vista and Windows 7. The article details Microsoft's decision and what alternative the software giant suggests for XP users.

If Microsoft's new browser is as popular as the company hopes, it may reverse Internet Explorer's (IE) market share slide -- but it might also help to do something that the software giant has been trying unsuccessfully to accomplish for several years -- kill off Windows XP.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) released the first public beta test version of Internet Explorer 9 Wednesday at a launch event in San Francisco.

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Yahoo demos new look, faster Mail service

Yahoo made some key changes to one of its most important products Friday, rolling out a new look for Yahoo Mail.

Blake Irving, the company's new executive vice president and chief products officer, unveiled the new design at Yahoo's headquarters here during an event optimistically called "Product Runway." Yahoo said that its 281 million Yahoo Mail users will start seeing the new design this fall as it rolls out an opt-in beta version of the service, which is one of the key drivers of traffic to Yahoo's array of news and entertainment Web sites.

"Mail has been re-architected from the ground up," Irving said, saying the changes both under the hood and to the look and feel of Yahoo Mail should result in a much faster experience that works across multiple devices. The company will also integrate instant-messaging and SMS into the main Yahoo Mail in-box, and let Facebook and Twitter users see updates on the landing page for Yahoo Mail.

Yahoo also introduced plans to blend news and entertainment content more prominently within search results, but the event was mostly a strategy-oriented presentation from Irving, who has been at Yahoo for about 100 days.

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Adobe Issues Fix for 'Critical' Flash Flaw

Adobe Systems hastens the release of a fix aimed at addressing a "critical" security vulnerability that hackers have used to exploit the widely used Flash Player software.

Adobe Systems last week warned users of an exploit that hackers had been using to target the company's Flash Player software. In its warning, Adobe promised an update by next week.

But for a flaw that is now deemed critical, Adobe decided to speed up the release, and has now offered a fix for the flaw, which potentially could be exploited to crash or take control over users' systems. eSecurity Planet has the details on Adobe's fix for the Flash Player vulnerability.

Adobe Systems today released a fix for what it described as a "critical" hole that hackers have successfully exploited in its Flash Player software.

In a security advisory, Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) officials said the vulnerability could allow attackers to take control of computers and mobile devices running Flash Player 10.1.82.76 and earlier versions for Windows, Mac, Android, Solaris and Linux.

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Google Docs coming to iPad, Android

Owners of iPads and Android devices looking to be a little more productive may be in luck.

Google plans "in the next few weeks" to offer its Docs productivity suite for Apple's iPad tablet and for devices with Google's Android OS, the company announced at its Google Atmosphere event in Paris yesterday.

Google didn't say which Android-based devices will work with Google Docs. The company did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Google's decision to bring its productivity suite to the iPad could be the most important aspect of its announcement. Currently, Apple sells its iWork suite, which includes Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, to iPad customers for US$10 per application. If Google offers Docs for free, it might make some wonder why they should opt for Apple's alternative.

Google's Web-based Docs suite allows people to create and share items such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms.

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SAP Debuts Cloud App to Measure Carbon Impact

Software giant releases Carbon Impact OnDemand 5.0, SAP's first native cloud application that promises to help businesses track and reduce their energy usage.

Going green is big business these days, but companies looking to measure their energy consumption across the enterprise find that it's not always the easiest thing to measure.

SAP is taking a crack at it, releasing its Carbon Impact OnDemand application, which promises to take the inventory of a company's environment impact across its facilities. SAP bills the app as a benefit to companies both for reducing their energy costs and assisting with their regulatory reporting obligations. Datamation takes a look.

The new enhanced version of SAP Carbon Impact OnDemand 5.0 is SAP's first native cloud application, and is designed to help global companies reduce their energy and carbon footprint across their entire operations and product supply chains.

Unlike SAP's (NYSE: SAP) traditional offerings, Carbon Impact OnDemand 5.0 requires no software installation. The cloud-based service will inventory and benchmark a company's global environmental performance across all of its facilities, according to SAP. Benefits include reduced reporting costs, improved data accuracy and shorter reporting cycles thanks to the system's automatic data collection across a variety of sources, including metering systems, utilities, third-party applications and SAP's own enterprise resource planning (ERP) application.

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Oracle Looks Ahead to Future of Java

At JavaOne event, Oracle executive details the company's plans to enhance graphics, performance and programming capabilities following the Sun acquisition.

So just what does Oracle have in store for Java now that it has digested Sun Microsystems? Speaking at the company's JavaOne event, Oracle's executive vice president of product development discussed the roadmap, outlining new efforts to enhance Java's graphics, performance and programming capabilities.

Oracle also outlined new tools that developers will have at their disposal as Java evolves, including expanded capabilities that will be provided under Project Coin. Developer.com takes a look.

The future of Java under Oracle's leadership is one that includes continued innovation across multiple deployment areas including servers, desktops and mobile devices. That's the message delivered by Thomas Kurian, executive vice president, Oracle Product Development during a JavaOne keynote address detailing the road ahead for Java.

New graphics, performance and enhanced programming capabilities are all on Oracle's roadmap for Java development. Oracle took over the stewardship of Java as part of its acquisition of Sun, which closed earlier this year.

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Facebook denies 'Facebook phone' report

Facebook is denying a report in TechCrunch that the social-networking giant is working in secret on producing its own mobile phone.

In a report accompanied by the headline "Facebook Is Secretly Building A Phone," TechCrunch reported Sunday that the social-networking giant is developing an operating system to be used on hardware created by a third party. The report named two senior Facebook executives with experience developing operating systems--Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos--as working on the project. Papakipos, a former engineering director at Google, left the search giant for Facebook in June after working on the Chrome operating system and Chrome browser.

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington posits that the move is intended to integrate user contact lists and other social-networking functions on a phone.

However, Facebook says Arrington got the story wrong.

"Facebook is not building a phone," Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin told ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET. "Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this."

"The people mentioned in the story are working on these projects," Schopflin said, referencing current projects in the works, such as an HTML5 version of the site. "The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a 'Facebook Phone' because that's such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do."

Mobile social networking has exploded in popularity in the last year. Among the 69.6 million phone users who tapped mobile apps over the three-month period ending in April, 14.5 million of them accessed social networks--a 240 percent jump from the same period in 2009, according to a recent study released by ComScore.

However, if Arrington's report proved accurate, Facebook wouldn't be the first to try to create a phone specifically designed for social networking. In partnership with Verizon, Microsoft in April unveiled a social media-oriented phone called Kin geared toward the mainly for the 15- to 30-year-olds who post frequently to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, Microsoft pulled the plug on sales less than two months later in the face of criticism that it lacked key features and came with monthly fees as high as more capable smartphones, such as the iPhone and Android-based devices.

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Microsoft Expands Ties With LinkedIn

Software giant teams with the leading business-oriented social network to sync contacts from popular Windows Live services like Hotmail and Live Messenger.

Microsoft has made a point recently of highlighting the popularity of its Windows Live services. The company boasted that it had issued 500 million Windows Live IDs as of April, and, just two months earlier, claimed that 300 million users had signed up for its Live Messenger IM service.

Now, Windows Live users will be able to sync with their accounts on LinkedIn, the leading social network for professionals, with a new integration that combines the contact records of the two services. Microsoft's tie-up with LinkedIn for its Windows Live services builds on an earlier partnership between the two companies that connected Microsoft's Outlook client with the social network. Datamation has the details.

Microsoft said that its Windows Live group, which produces free online consumer and small business products, is partnering with the leading business-oriented social network -- LinkedIn.

The ties mean that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Live users will be able to link between LinkedIn and Windows Live services such as Hotmail and Messenger in order to share contacts, activities and updates.

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Google Offers Conversation Opt-Out for Gmail

Search giant gives ground, offering Gmail user the ability to revert to the traditional view that displays a back-and-forth exchange as individual messages.

Google admits that the so-called conversation view may have been Gmail's "most hotly debated feature," but now it's no longer mandatory.

Google acknowledged that email traditionalists had been slow to warm up to the feature, even though it helped reduce clutter in the inbox. Now, Gmail users will have the option to toggle between the threaded conversation and traditional views. Datamation has the story.

Gmail users now have a new option for how they can view emails. Wednesday, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced that Gmail users will have the choice of turning off Gmail's "conversation view," an innovative feature in Gmail that the company admits not everyone embraced.

The threaded, conversation view combines the back and forth of online messaging into a single email message. When a new message in response to the original email exchange arrives, it's combined with the earlier messages as a single email thread or conversation that shows up at the top of the Gmail user's inbox as a new message.

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Design Web Apps for SharePoint, Cloud Without Touching Code

Everyone is looking for a way to build Web 2.0 applications quickly, without having to deal with the details of code. Iron Speed offers such as solution in their Iron Speed Designer that can build apps for SharePoint 2010,

Creating Data Driven Web Apps

The Iron Speed Designer is now available in version 7.1. It allows the non technical person to design and built data driven web applications for .NET or SharePoint 2010 and can be hosted in the cloud.

Looking similar to Microsoft Visual Studio, it differs in that it is not a coding environment, but instead is an application generator. As such it doesn't support the automated creation of business processes, but instead generates the code for retrieving, creating, updating and deleting data from the database. According to Iron Speed, it's the CRUD functionality that typically makes up 80% of an application.

For those who need to add business logic, the generated code can be manipulated. Iron Speed generates a class architecture that you can use to build your own business logic.

Iron Speed v7.1 does provide support for Visual Studio 2010, so you can use the IDE to customize your application further. Visual Studio can also be used for debugging your applications.

Creating Apps for SharePoint

With the help of Iron Speed Designer 7.1 you can build secure database applications for SharePoint 2010. These applications are completely integrated with SharePoint, leveraging its API. SharePoint master pages are also used, so you can't tell what is native to SharePoint and what isn't.

In addition to using SharePoint APIs and master pages, pages generated make use of SharePoint application security.

For those who don't run a SharePoint development environment, you can still use Iron Speed to create SharePoint applications. The designer simulates the SharePoint environment during development by placing the SharePoint DLL in the GAC (Global Assembly Cache). In fact, the company recommends you don't deploy Iron Speed Designer and SharePoint on the same machine.

In addition to SharePoint, Iron Speed Designer also supports a number of third party controls, including Crystal Reports, FCKEditor, Infragistics and Telerik RAD Controls, so you don't need to create everything from scratch.

Iron Speed Designer appears to be a good development application to help you quickly get a data-driven application up and running quickly. If you don't have a lot of business logic to integrate, it's probably a good deal. If you need to get deeper and make a lot of changes, you might want to first see how much code is generated and how hard it looks to modify before you make the decision to buy it.

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Text is More Important than Images on the Web

The Web is primarily a text-driven medium and will remain so despite the rise of video.

"Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page - especially when they are in the upper left, and most often (but not always) when in the upper right," according to Eyetrack III from Poynter Institute. This study of how people consume news websites found that, "Photographs, contrary to what you might expect (and contrary to findings of 1990 Poynter eyetracking research on print newspapers), aren't typically the entry point to a homepage. Text rules on the PC screen - both in order viewed and in overall time spent looking at it."

In traditional print media it has long been established that images are more powerful than text in getting attention. But the opposite is the case on the Web. Text dominates. Consider the Google business model. It makes most of its money from advertising. What sort of advertising? AdWords. Text. Google has never sold a graphical ad on google.com.

That is totally contrary to the traditional print and TV ad industry. There, the more color, the more fantastic the image, the bigger the impact. It's the opposite on the Web.

What is interesting about Eyetrack III is how consistent its results are with various other web behavior studies that have been conducted over the years. It's long been known that the first couple of words are vital if you want to keep people reading.

The study found that:

1. When people look at blurbs (summaries) under headlines on news homepages, they often only look at the left one-third of the blurb. In other words, most people just look at the first couple of words - and only read on if they are engaged by those words.

2. People typically scan down a list of headlines, and often don't view entire headlines. If the first words engage them, they seem likely to read on.

On average, a headline has less than a second of a site visitor's attention. For headlines - especially longer ones - it would appear that the first couple of words need to be real attention-grabbers if you want to capture eyes.

The study found that average blurb length varies from a low of about 10 words to a high of 25, with most sites coming in at around 17. In 2009, Customer Carewords did a study of over 500 news headlines. We found that 87 percent of headlines analyzed were between 5 and 9 words long, with the most popular headline length being 7 words.

Some people think that I hate images and video. Absolutely not. Anyone who has seen my presentations will know that I use hardly any text. It's all visuals and images. Why? Because after doing thousands of presentations I've found that telling a story based on a series of powerful images is very effective. A list of text-based bullet points bores people to death.

The issue is not whether text is inherently better than images. It's about using the right tool for the right medium. On the Web, text dominates. Will there be exceptions? Of course. But they will be exceptions that prove the rule: text dominates.

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Zend Ramping Up PHP in the Cloud

Leading commercial PHP sponsor Zend is getting serious about the cloud, aiming to leverage a new partnership for cloud-based development and testing, along with improvements to the Zend Framework.

Zend has big designs on the cloud. The company, one of the leading commercial vendors backing the open source PHP language, has a multifaceted strategy for building applications for cloud environments.

For starters, Zend has a new partnership with cloud computing provider RightScale for development and testing of PHP applications. The firm is also touting new improvements to the Zend Framework. Developer.com takes a look.

The cloud offers enterprises a new approach to deliver applications and it also presents new challenges for developers aiming to build applications for the cloud. Zend, one of the lead commercial vendors behind the open source PHP language, is now accelerating its cloud development efforts with a number of new initiatives.

Zend has a new partnership with cloud computing vendor RightScale for testing and development of PHP applications. A new Zend Studio IDE and improvements to the Zend Framework for PHP application deployment also are in the works. The new efforts from Zend come as the company aims to grow PHP's share of application development in the cloud.

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Goodbye JPEG, Hello WebP?

Richard Rabatt, Google Product Manager wrote earlier today about a new image file format which the engineers at Google have been working on. WebP aims to lower file sizes and in turn reduce download times while still retaining a certain level of quality.

Images and photos make up about 65% of the bytes transmitted per web page today. They can significantly slow down a user's web experience, especially on bandwidth-constrained networks such as a mobile network. Images on the web consist primarily of lossy formats such as JPEG, and to a lesser extent lossless formats such as PNG and GIF. Our team focused on improving compression of the lossy images, which constitute the larger percentage of images on the web today.

WebP images can't yet be viewed until browsers support the format, but Google are working on a patch for WebKit to provide native support for WebP in a future release of Google Chrome which will include support for alpha channels, or a transparency layer.

Check out some examples from the Google WebP Gallery and see what you think. It may be my weary eyes but the WebP images seem to be a bit softer than the JPEGs. As a photographer I would be pretty fussy about my images not looking sharp. In the side by side comparison JPEG quality seems better, but maybe seeing a WebP in isolation would make it good enough and a reasonable compromise between quality and file size?

WebP is an open-source format. Undoubtedly it will take a long time before something like this would be adopted by the masses but as most people want faster browsing it's an exciting development.

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Google's 'goo.gl' URL shortener open to public

Google's URL shortening service is now open to the world through a new Web site.

In an age of 140-character communication and mobile devices, URL shorteners are a godsend. However, the most popular third-party ones, such as Bit.ly and TinyURL, are run by smaller companies that aren't guaranteed to stick around for the long run: Google's Matt Cutts said today the company needed to develop its own "goo.gl" URL shortener "for its own products where we knew the shortener wouldn't go away".

So last December, Google started making goo.gl URLs available through the Google Toolbar, and it's now making the service available to anyone with a Web browser at goo.gl, Google announced in a blog post. "We don't intend to overload goo.gl with features, but we do want it to be the stablest, most secure, and fastest URL shortener on the Web," Googler's Muthu Muthusrinivasan said in the post.

The other Googly thing about URL shorteners is the data they generate, showing where, when, how often, and from which computers people are clicking on those URLs. Web-based analytics charts will be available to those who shorten URLs through goo.gl, and Google will also be able to track that data to help determine which Web links are popular, authoritative, or unsafe.

Twitter, where shortened URLs are an absolute necessity, also has its own URL shortener using the t.co domain.

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Unethical Marketing: 5 Ways to Cross the Line

One of the most important elements of marketing your business is being able to create effective marketing campaigns that do not cross the line from ethical to unethical. While there are some strategies that straddle that line and are open for debate, there are some that clearly fall on the unethical side of the scale.

Business ethics is a topic that has received a ton of press and attention over the last several years. In today's business environment where government is continually cracking down on those that do not play by their rules, it is in your best interest to play nice. The last thing you want is to become a poster boy for unethical business behavior.

Here are five unethical marketing and business practices that you should stay away from if you want to avoid losing potential clients, angering your audience and hurting your business.

Selling a sub-par product or service.

If you're going to create and sell a product or service that you know is lacking, you better not be marketing as the best thing since sliced bread. Be honest that it is very basic and not for experienced professionals. Or better yet, create something more worthwhile.

Contacting people without their consent.

This one irks me like no other. Just because I email you with a question or collaboration opportunity does not give you permission to add me to your newsletter email list. Make sure you are only contacting those that have opted-in to receive information from you. If you add email addresses to your lists without consent, you are spamming.

Deliberately misrepresenting what a purchaser will get/achieve/become with a product or service.

How many times do you get an email with an outrageous promise that seems too good to be true? And what do you do with those emails? If you're like me, you first unsubscribe from that list, report the email as spam and then delete it.

Refusing to respond to and correct customer complaints.

One of the worst things a business that relies on word of mouth referrals can do is ignore unhappy customers. If you receive a complaint about a service you rendered, you should respond to it promptly and seek a resolution as quickly as possible. It is not only is the "right" thing to do, but you have a chance to turn a negative experience into a positive one and that may lead to a second chance with that customer.

Not having a clear and easy-to-understand privacy policy.

We see Facebook and other large social media sites running into this one quite frequently. While their missteps are probably due to their rapid growth, there are plenty of others who hide information in confusing privacy policies. Things like the right to sell their members' information to third parties or not clearly explaining how the information you share is used.

A related no-no in my mind is also making it a 10-step process to unsubscribe from a list. Or worse, not allowing people to unsubscribe at all.

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Will Microsoft Really Buy Adobe?

A rumored meeting between the heads of Microsoft and Adobe sent the technology and financial press into a frenzy Thursday afternoon, fueling speculation that the larger firm might buy out the smaller one.

Initial reports sprang from the New York Times Bits Blog, which reported that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer recently met with Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) CEO Shantanu Narayen for more than an hour.

According to the Times post, the paper learned of the meeting and some of its content from parties who were "employees and consultants to the companies who were involved in the discussions that took place or familiar with their organization."

On the agenda, those individuals said, was a discussion of how the two companies could partner to counter the competitive threat to both of them from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in the wireless market. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has refused to allow Adobe's Flash technology on its portable devices.

"A possible acquisition of Adobe by Microsoft were among the options," the Times post said.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment regarding the rumors, while an Adobe spokesperson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

If the rumor is to be believed, there would be a certain irony in the alliance because the two companies have been fierce competitors in recent years in several technology and product areas -- primarily Adobe's Flash streaming media technology and Microsoft's Silverlight.

Several analysts had differing takes on what an acquisition of Adobe by Microsoft might accomplish. However, they all said such a deal has a lot going against it.

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W3C: HTML 5 faces interoperability challenges

Amid the growing clamor for HTML 5 among Internet vendors, a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) official has attempted to temper expectations with the revelation that the programming language is currently facing interoperability issues and is not ready for deployment yet.

Philippe Le Hegaret, interaction domain leader for W3C, told tech site Infoworld on Wednesday that it is "a little too early" to deploy HTML 5 now as as the platform is currently "running into interoperability issues".

Responsible for specifications such as HTML and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), Le Hegaret added that W3C will be making changes to its API (application programming interface) and addressing issues that include differences between video on devices.

"The real problem is [whether] we can make [HTML 5] work across browsers and at the moment, that is not the case," he said.

IDC's industry analyst, Al Hilwa, agreed with Le Hegaret's assessment. He told Infoworld that the Web format is at various stages of implementation across the various Web browsers, with most of the "aggressive implementations" found in beta versions.

Hilwa said: "[Microsoft's] Internet Explorer 9, for example, is not expected to go production until close to mid-next year. That is the point when most enterprises will begin to consider adopting this new generation of browsers."

However, a source in the Web standards community had said in June last year that HTML 5 will only be finalized in 2022. While the format is officially announced to be on track to reach the W3C Candidate Recommendation stage by 2012, the insider revealed that the target is off by around a decade.

W3C's Le Hegaret, though, said HTML 5 is headed toward final approval in two to three years. "We basically want to be feature complete by mid-2011," he said. Following this, the W3C will issue a last call for comments, the candidate recommendation stage, and then the final recommendation stage before the format can be officially rolled out, he added.

However, a contentious relationship between W3C and the more informal Web Hypertext Application Working Group (WHATWG) could derail the specification process.

The WHATWG, which was formed by Opera Software, Mozilla Foundation and Apple, had worked on HTML 5 during the period W3C put the project on the backburner. Now that the latter is back in the mix, hostile interactions between both groups have caused some splintering in the specification process.

Apple and Google are currently two of the most vocal proponents of HTML 5 in the industry. Cupertino, in fact, aroused public ire when the company made it compulsory for people interested to find out about Safari 5, which was designed with HTML 5, to view the demo video only on Apple's Web browser.

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NetBiscuits Offers Mobile Website Creation Tool

Create killer mobile sites and apps without the need for programming skills thanks to Netbiscuits' cloud-based, cross-platform development system.

Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Mobile sites and web apps are the current must-have for any and all businesses. Whether for getting your corporate message across, sharing information, working with media or tying into your desktop or other applications, not having a decent mobile presence could well count against your company when it comes to a buyer's decision.

So, Netbiscuits offers Sitebuilder 2.0, a revised, improved and otherwise bolstered suite of tools for creating both websites and applications for today's touchy-feely generation of smartphones. It does this by breaking down sites into columns and being able to dynamically display them on any device.

Apple-Flavor Biscuits

Using "biscuits", or building-blocks, you can create device-specific output and neat content such as image sliders and cover-flow type menus. All of this is built with a drag and drop, web-based service, so non-experts can quickly create their own stylish apps, tie them into a data source and publish.

From practical features like tabs within apps, scrollers to must-have additions like maps and location-based searching, features can be added to your iPhone, iPad or other device to make something that a major corporation might be proud of without the time and money of a major development.

Netbiscuits also provides a range of content optimization tools to optimize markup, CSS, images, audio and video on-the-fly, making your content look its best, based on the features of each mobile device.

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Java Getting a Makeover: Roadmap Revealed

This year's JavaOne conference - the first to be held under Oracle tutelage - had a lot to prove. Nine million Java programmers worldwide wanted to see a firm roadmap for Java, and they were given one at the event.

Three Java Initiatives

Thomas Kurian, executive vice president for software development at Oracle summarized various items from that roadmap during his keynote. Java, he said, is being optimized for new applications models and new hardware configurations. "We are enhancing productivity for Java developers and integrating modularity into Java Virtual Machines (VMs)," said Kurian.

These Java changes are being carried out through three Java initiatives. Projects Coin and Lambda contain a large collection of features to improve developer productivity with more concise code. Project Jigsaw, on the other hand, is aimed at making the Java Platform more modular.

The Product Roadmap

The product roadmap includes two new OpenJDK releases due in 2011 and 12, the creation of the best VMs on the market, as well as the best HTML 5 and native application experience (Kurian believes that HTML 5 is the future of browser development). He laid out some of the elements involved in achieving these goals.

"The programming model is to combine the power of Java with the ease of JavaFX," he said. "Another aim is to eliminate anything that would prevent native interoperability between Java, JavaScript and HTML5."

An improved graphics engine known as Prism is in the works which will eventually lead to a high-performance 2D and 3D engine. For now, the 2D features are being released along with basic 3D capabilities. A fully functional 3D graphics engine will be released in the near future, said Kurian.

JavaFX is being given new APIs to enable smoother UI controls so that developers can easily embed HTML content into Java applications and make them fully interoperable. Further, a standard library of UI controls will be made available in open source.

For those using the Glassfish open source application server platform, Oracle has published a complete list of features to be releases in 2011. The list is published on the Oracle website.

Finally, Kurian addressed mobile applications. The company already dominates the cell phone space and has now set its site on delivering Java and web applications to all consumer devices. That requires the modernization of Java for the mobile world.

"We are committed to making Java the world's best programming language, the world's most popular deployment platform with great graphics and other features embedded in Java," said Kurian.

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Facebook offers one-time passwords

Facebook added several new security features on Tuesday, including the ability for uses in the United States to request a one-time password for use on public computers.

When using a computer on which you don't want to type in your regular password you can now request a one-time password by texting "otp" to 32665 from a mobile phone. You have to have already confirmed that the phone is yours on your Facebook account. The one-time password will expire after 20 minutes, the company said in a blog post.

Facebook is rolling the feature out gradually, and it should be available to everyone in the coming weeks.

People should avoid using their regular passwords or accessing sensitive information on public computers because the machines could be infected with keylogging programs or other data-stealing malware.

The company also announced that it will regularly ask people to update their basic account information such as phone number, extra e-mail address, and security question so that in the event an account can not be accessed there will be updated information that can be used to help prove that the person requesting access is the owner.

Meanwhile, Facebook also completed the rollout of its feature that allows people to see all the active sessions on their account and to log out remotely, if, for instance, they have forgotten to log out on another computer. The company began rolling the feature out last month.

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Microsoft Expiring Office 2010 Beta on Halloween

The software giant is putting trial users on notice that come Halloween, they will have to either upgrade to the pay version of Office 2010 or their license will expire.

No Halloween treat here. Instead, just a good, healthy dose of truth in advertising.

Microsoft is reiterating its advisory to beta testers that their free trial of Office 2010 will expire on Oct. 31, leaving them with the stark choice of switching to a pay version or letting their license lapse. Datamation reports on the Office 2010 beta situation.

Microsoft is going trick-or-treating this Halloween, but there won't be any spooky houses or smashed pumpkins.

Instead, all of those who beta tested Office 2010 before it was released, and who continued using the beta after the commercial release of the application suite last spring, take note.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, if users still running the beta copy who haven't replaced it with a paid version will see their Office 2010 license expire, Microsoft said this week.

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Fog Aims to Advance Ruby in the Cloud

The current state of the cloud does not provide clear interoperability for all types of application development languages or frameworks. But for open source Ruby developers, the Fog project is now offering a path to help navigate through issues of cloud interoperability.

This week, commercial Ruby on Rails platform vendor Engine Yard announced formal support for Fog, providing new stability and resources for the open source effort. With Fog, the goal is to help accelerate cloud development by abstracting away the differences among various cloud technologies.

"It would be great if deploying to different clouds was as simple as swapping endpoints, unfortunately each platform has vastly different interfaces," Fog creator Wesley Beary, an engineer at Engine Yard, told InternetNews.com. "When provisioning resources on different clouds -- Amazon, Rackspace, vCloud, et cetera -- the target and the data sent over the wire needs to be completely changed."

Beary added that as the number of clouds grows, so does the complexity of the multi-cloud deployment problem. With Fog, the idea is that instead of developing only for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), developers can have the same application code access to all other clouds as well.

"Cloud interoperability is a difficult problem," Beary said. "Fog smoothes out the differences between provisioning APIs and provides a consistent higher-level interface."

From a technical implementation perspective, Fog is a Ruby library that can be used by any Ruby project or Ruby on Rails application. Beary noted that some of the API decisions for Fog were made to make it feel familiar with the way that Ruby on Rails applications are written.

"By abstracting away the nitty gritty, Fog provides a wonderful opportunity for developers to provision and configure their own infrastructure," he said.

Engine Yard is now using Fog in its AppCloud service for Ruby on Rails in the cloud, and the company's newfound interest in the project could help speed along its evolution.

"Fog was a hobby project for me for over a year and a half, so it suffered from my availability and variable interest," Beary said. "Some aspects of the project, like documentation or in-depth testing, suffered most as they cannot easily be done in small periods of hobby time."

Now with Engine Yard's support, Beary has a strong focus on making adoption and contribution easier, both by simplifying the code and improving the documentation. He also plans to do some outreach by speaking at conferences and user groups. To date, Beary has written much of Fog's code himself, though he commented that the number of outside contributors has been growing steadily.

"Making it easier for people to contribute and participate is a major goal moving forward, and we already have nearly 30 contributors," Beary said.

With the new development time and focus that Engine Yard affords Beary, he plans on tackling a number of key technical challenges.

"Beyond implementing quality interfaces for all the different clouds, one of the biggest technical challenges has been refining and stabilizing shared interfaces between the different cloud interfaces," he said.

One such shared interface is a new addition in Fog called Server#bootstrap, which provides a method for universal SSH key placement to quicken the process of provisioning and accessing a server on any cloud.

"The other really big challenge is in Fog's mocks, a system that simulates cloud provider behavior," he explained. "This system allows a developer to emulate the cloud in testing without paying for or waiting on real resources."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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Extensions Finally Arrive in Opera 11

Despite success in other browsers, Opera is the only major vendor not to support third-party add-ons. Fans passionately argue that Opera doesn't need extensions because it offers more built-in functionality and configuration options than any of the competitors. Others claim Opera isn't for them because it's missing a essential feature.

The arguments should end with the release of Opera 11 - the first version of the browser to support extensions. Developers will be able to add or extend the browser's functionality using standard HTML5, CSS, JavaScript and the supported APIs. Extensions will be based on the W3C Widget specification which may ultimately become an Open Standard.

Opera's extensions will be similar to those offered by Chrome and Safari. That's sensible - they're easy to create and it should be relatively easy to port existing add-ons. In the first release, developers will be able to run background processes, add buttons, create menus, and manipulate interface controls such as tabs and the browser window. Opera is keeping it simple so they can focus on getting it right, but further API controls will be added as the system evolves.

Add-on installation will be a painless one-click and confirm process or you can drag an extension file into Opera. You probably won't need to restart the browser.

The alpha release of Opera 11 will be available shortly. Extension development tutorials, guides and references will be published at dev.opera.com.

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Open Source MySQL Space Heats Up With SkySQL

Startup that includes many former MySQL executives is looking to provide an open source set of support tools for the database effort, without extending into a rival distribution.

Oracle took control of the MySQL database effort through its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, but it's hardly the only game in town. SkySQL is the latest initiative to offer open source support for MySQL, potentially rivaling Oracle's own tools.

But the leaders of SkySQL, which include many former MySQL executives, insist that they are not setting out to create an entirely new distribution in a fork, but rather are offering a cluster of services and support staked to the MariaDB database. Database Journal takes a look.

The market for MySQL open source database support is getting more competitive thanks to the entry of SkySQL. The new startup is staffed with a number of former MySQL executives in a bid to provide an alternative to software giant Oracle, which now owns and leads the MySQL database project.

SkySQL is providing services and support around MySQL and the derivative MariaDB database led by MySQL founder Monty Widenius. SkySQL will not however be building its own version of MySQL in some sort of forked project. Oracle is currently dealing with a fork to its OpenOffice open source software suite.

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New Version of FirstSpirit Web CMS Connects to MS Office, OpenOffice

MS Office As Authoring Tool Is Still Alive and Kicking

As you're well aware, many content authors and editors still fancy working in Word docs, even if they have a content management system.

Or, just like in the new release of the FirstSpirit Web CMS, they can open and edit MS Office documents in the CMS.

Preview of documents is available via FirstSpirit's JavaClient integrated preview feature.

One of the capabilities of the built-in preview is that content editors can open multiple tabs at a time to preview various MS Office applications' outputs alongside the preview of publishing channels.

The optimized WebClient (browser-based editing interface) has gotten a facelift and some usability improvements.

firstspirit cms r4_javaclientofficeregister.jpg

Other New Features in FirstSpirit 4.2R4

Expanding on previous releases, FirstSpirit 4.2R4 goes after simplifying the great pains content editors go through when editing content in multiple places and in multiple applications, including MS Office (be it Word, Excel, or PowerPoint).

The good news is that OpenOffice support for Writer, Calc and Impress is also part of this release, so you're not stuck under the reign of the Redmond's empire.

The not so good news is that this version is not yet GA and is only available "exclusively for pilot customers in the roll-out phase." If you're an e-Spirit customer and don't want to wait to try out the new features, you may consider getting on that special list of pilot customers.

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Microsoft Begins Yahoo Ad Integration

Two companies enter into what they describe as a crucial phase of their long-term search-advertising partnership, beginning the transition of Yahoo's ad server to Microsoft's platform.

Since winning regulatory approval, Microsoft and Yahoo have been providing search marketers and advertisers with period updates on the progress of the ambitious integration of their search-ad platforms, a transition they say is now entering a crucial phase.

This week, the companies plan to ramp up the transition of Yahoo's ad servers over to Microsoft's platform, telling advertisers that they will be able to manage campaigns on Bing, Yahoo and the companies' partner sites through a consolidated account with Microsoft's adCenter. ECommerce Guide takes a look.

Microsoft and Yahoo's endeavor to replace the latter's search technology with the software giant's Bing is heading into a crucial phase, according to posts on both companies' blogs.

Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) are due Monday to begin the transition between the two firms' search ad serving systems -- in fact, testing has already begun, and will increase in coming days.

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OpenStack Issues First Cloud Release

OpenStack, an open source cloud-computing initiative launched by NASA and Rackspace, has garnered broad commercial support and is now out with its first release.

The OpenStack project has gotten off the ground and up and running at brisk pace. Launched in July as a joint effort of NASA and Rackspace, the open source cloud computing project is now out with its first release of what it bills as "production-quality" code.

Now, OpenStack has the support and contributions from more than 35 IT vendors, and with the new release, it's offering "the first chance for enterprises and service providers to kick the tires on the code and start planning for public and private cloud deployments."

Comprised of a storage and compute technology, OpenStack aims to provide open source cloud-computing technologies geared for broad adoption. Server Watch takes a look.

After only three short months of life, the OpenStack open source cloud computing initiative is out with its first public release of production quality code.

The first OpenStack release is codenamed Austin and includes both storage and cloud compute fabric technologies that can be used by enterprises to deliver cloud services. Originally an effort kick-started by NASA and Rackspace, OpenStack is now benefiting from the support and contributions of more than 35 technology vendors.

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Adobe launches Project Rome publishing tool

Adobe has launched Project Rome, a new all-in-one content creation and publishing application targeted to consumers, small businesses, and educators. Designed as an easy-to-use tool for non-professionals, it provides a way for the general public to create rich multimedia documents without having to purchase or learn complicated desktop publishing, design, Web creation, or multimedia applications.

This product lets users produce printed, electronic, and Web-based documents featuring integrated graphics, photos, text, video, audio, animation, and interactivity. The cross-platform application is available both as an Adobe AIR desktop program and as a browser-based Web service. Project Rome offers output in formats such as PDF, SWF, JPG, PNG, SVG, or FXG or Web files for either an Adobe or third-party-hosted Website.

Users can create projects ranging from printed materials like flyers, business cards, and reports to interactive documents, basic Websites, and animations. Adobe envisions Rome being used in the workplace for presentations, marketing materials, online advertising, and Websites. Individuals and families can use Project Rome for vacation updates, family Websites, party invitations, digital scrapbooks, CD and DVD covers, and other personal projects. Educators can use a special version of Project Rome in classroom settings to help convey complex topics visually.

Project Rome supports cloud-based computing and the ability to share files via Adobe Acrobat.com, Google Apps, or via the Project Rome Template Exchange. Users can also publish links to their creations directly via Facebook, Twitter, and Google buzz. Project Rome does not currently work on mobile phones and devices.

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Vim for PHP Development: How to Get Started

Why bother learning the command sequences of the Vim editor for your PHP development? In a word: speed, as any experienced Vim user will attest. Because Vim is a modal editor, you use meta keys to control its behavior. This may take some practice to get used to, but it's precisely this feature that allows you to write code and navigate the editor's features with incredible speed.

For those PHP developers who haven't tried Vim, Jason Gilmore has written a PHPBuilder article to help you begin using Vim for PHP development. He writes:

When you choose a streamlined IDE [such as Vim], you forfeit the visual bells and whistles usually found in many commercial products but you gain the ability to write, organize and refactor code as quickly as you can type.

After you installed Vim, you can follow along as the article walks you through creating a simple PHP script using Vim.

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Yahoo speeds up Mail, adds more Twitter

Yahoo wants to make its Web e-mail service a place you never want to--or more importantly--have to leave to get your social fix.

The company on Wednesday is releasing an overhauled version of its Yahoo Mail Beta client that it says is twice as fast as the previous version, while managing to tack on new features like an integrated Twitter client, rich media previews, and a more full-featured IM client.

Yahoo says this speed boost should be especially noticeable to users outside the U.S. with latency issues, due mostly to the new version making use of the company's cloud computing technology. This means that if you're on a spotty connection, the app can adjust its behavior to keep pages from timing out, or becoming unresponsive.

Besides the speed and performance increase, which Yahoo says were the top users requests, the company has added a very robust Twitter client, which joins the existing social-sharing tools for Facebook and Yahoo. You can post to just Twitter, or any combination of the other two services, as well as see Twitter status updates in the update stream below. Yahoo has long had a way to slurp in Twitter feeds, but now you can do things like reply and retweet without leaving the page.

If asynchronous updates are not your thing, Yahoo has also tuned its integrated IM service to include some desktop software-like features, including window docking and tabbed conversations. This lets you keep a chat with several people running in one window while you go about with other e-mail tasks.

On top of these changes, Yahoo has added a welcome feature in the form of media previews. Now, when you get a link to a YouTube video, a Flickr or Picasa photoset, you can view that content without leaving the message. Clicking on any of these items, as well as attached photos, will open them up in a simple lightbox viewer.

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3 Lightweight Alternatives to phpMyAdmin

When faced with MySQL administration tasks, many developers rely on phpMyAdmin. As the name implies it's written in PHP, so it can be installed on your web server and accessed from a browser. If you find the interface a little dated, you could consider MonoQL-a slicker, Ajaxified alternative.

For much of the time, developers just want to check some data, alter a few records, or back up the database. The phpMyAdmin and MonoQL zipped distributions range from 2MB to 7MB, and they're overkill for most day-to-day administration. You're using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.

Here are three lightweight MySQL administration alternatives you should consider. They're all PHP-based, open source, and great for quick database tasks.

SQL Buddy

SQL Buddy offers a comprehensive feature set, and supports SQLite as well as MySQL databases. The tool allows you to create, modify, or drop tables, indexes, foreign key relationships, and records. Backups are easy and you can run ad hoc SQL queries.

SQL Buddy has a fast and attractive Ajax-powered interface with multiple languages and themes. The download is only 320kB (1.1MB extracted) and requires no installation-simply copy the files to your server and log in with a database user ID and password.

Overall, SQL Buddy beats phpMyAdmin on many levels. It's more than an alternative; it may even be a better option for you.

Adminer

Adminer is a single 186kB file (or 281kB if you want the multi-lingual version). There's no complex installation-just upload the file and log in. Amazingly, Adminer supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, SQL Server, and Oracle, and runs under PHP4 or PHP5. There's even a WordPress plugin version.

Adminer can modify tables, indexes, foreign keys, views, stored procedures, functions, and triggers. It's easy to browse or update data, and run your own SQL queries. The interface is functional rather than attractive, but it's fast and easy to use.

Adminer's ease of installation makes it ideal for quick-and-dirty database administration. It's become my tool of choice.

PHP Mini Admin

If SQL Buddy and Adminer are too bloated for your needs, perhaps you should consider PHP Mini Admin? The download is 10kB. Yes, 10kB-which extracts to a single 26kB file.

Like Adminer, you upload the file and log in. Understandably, features are more limited, but it's easy to browse tables and examine, export, or import data. It'll do anything if you're happy writing your own SQL commands. PHP Mini Admin is fast and functional, so what more do you need?

Download PHP Mini Admin from phpminiadmin.sourceforge.net.

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Mozilla Addresses Firefox Nobel Security Hole

Popular open source browser wasted no time in issuing a patch for a zero-day vulnerability that was distributing malware around the Web, including the Nobel Peace Prize site.

Mozilla has moved quickly to issue a patch for a zero-day vulnerability that had been observed exploiting certain versions of its popular Firefox browser. Mozilla patched the flaw in the 3.5 and 3.6 versions of Firefox about 48 hours after it had been publicly reported, though it had already been observed in the wild, including an exploit on the Nobel Peace Prize website.

Mozilla said that it appears as though the beta testers using running Firefox 4 will be unaffected by the flaw, but that release won't be generally available until next year. eSecurity Planet takes a look at Mozilla's patch for what's been dubbed the Nobel security flaw.

Barely 48 hours after a zero day flaw in Firefox was publicly reported, Mozilla has issued a patch protecting its users with the new Firefox 3.6.12 and 3.5.15 releases. The new release comes just over a week after Mozilla released Firefox 3.6.11 fixing at least nine security issues.

Mozilla was alerted on October 25th about the zero day flaw in its Firefox 3.6 and 3.5 browsers, which could have enabled drive-by downloads of malware. Security research Morten Krakvik first reported the vulnerability to Mozilla after discovering the issue while performing an investigation of an intrusion attempt.

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Cloud Computing Survey Has an IT Focus

The Appirio-sponsored survey of IT decision-makers, highlights both cloud computing's potential and misconceptions that could be limiting its wider adoption.

As more enterprises investigate the potential and promise of cloud computing, the technology itself and the pros and cons of different vendor's solutions are coming into sharper focus.

Datamation reports on a survey of IT decision-makers at mid- to large-sized companies who have adopted at least one cloud or SaaS application. As the article details, those participating in the survey had some definite views on what's holding back wider adoption of cloud computing solutions and they also shared their own priorities related to their use and adoption of cloud-based solutions.

Cloud computing is -- or should be -- on every IT decision maker's radar, given the potential cost savings and prospects for a more flexible and scalable IT infrastructure.

But moving to the cloud is hardly a slam dunk for many enterprises. First there is the basic issue of the work and resources required to transition to the cloud. Also, security concerns are often cited as the main stumbling block to broader cloud adoption.

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Facebook applies for ad-targeting patent

Earlier this month, Facebook filed for a patent to further hone its ad-targeting technology so that ads can be based on what a user's friends interests may be.

The reason for this, it appears, is so that Facebook can better serve ads toward users who have not filled out their profiles with enough information for traditional ad targeting.

Facebook calls this second-degree targeting "inferential".

"Members of social networks often do not populate their profiles to include all of their interests and other personal information," the patent application explains. "As a result, using personal information in ad targeting is typically not available for all members of the social network. Traditional ad targeting techniques are thus limited because they can reach only a subset of the members in the social network for whom the ads are intended."

Obviously, just because you're friends with someone doesn't mean you share the same interests. But if a sizable percentage of your Facebook friends share the same interests, it's pretty safe to assume that you might, too. The patent application suggests that advertisers may be able to select how heavily they want inferential targeting to be weighted.

"For example, an advertiser may determine that an ad may infer an interest for a member if more than 25 percent of the member's connections satisfy the secondary inferential targeting criteria or if at least 3 connections meet the main targeting criteria, or a combination of both," the patent application explained. "The ad targeting method may also weight the member's connections or otherwise take into account the member's affinity or other measure of closeness to the member's connections. Any combination of the above methods may be implemented in the ad targeting method."

It's a fascinating new twist in targeted advertising--and also, we'd theorize, something that may get lawmakers concerned about the scope of information to which third parties have access (again). Facebook would likely retort that such data is safely anonymized.

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Video: Developing Custom Zend Framework View Helpers

The Zend Framework offers a feature called a view helper, which greatly reduces the amount of logic you'll need to embed within a website's presentational layer. You might use a view helper to automatically convert URLs retrieved from a database into working hyperlinks, or refer to the number of database results returned from a query in singular or plural form (depending on the total number of records).

View helpers encapsulate the logic used to perform these tasks, much as functions do in programming languages, allowing you to repeatedly call them whenever these special formatting tasks are desired. In his Internet.com screencast Creating Custom Zend Framework View Helpers, Jason Gilmore introduces the concept of custom view helpers, showing you how to configure, create, and execute them within a Zend Framework application.

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PayPal Expands Mobile Payment Options

Leading online payments processor takes the wraps off of Mobile Express Checkout at its annual developer conference, along with a host of new partner announcements.

PayPal, the immensely profitable payments arm of eBay, is expanding its options for mobile commerce, announcing at its second annual developers conference a feature called Mobile Express Checkout. PayPal claims that its new offering will provide enhanced security and an easy, two-click process -- two features the firm sees as critical to advancing its position in an estimated $700 million market.

In addition to the new mobile payment offering, PayPal announced a litany of new partnerships with Web companies including Facebook and merchant services-provider Verifone. ECommerce Guide takes a look.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Online payments giant PayPal kicked off its second annual Innovate developer's conference by unveiling new mobile, social media and digital goods payment options along with a slew of partner announcements from both small and big players including Facebook and Verifone.

Mobile Express Checkout, a new secure two-click checkout feature, extends PayPal's mobile payments platform. PayPal said it expects more than $700 million in mobile payments to go through its payment infrastructure by the end of 2010 out of the $1 billion in payments it expects to process from all sources.

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Has HTML5 Killed Silverlight?

According to Microsoft, "Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive applications for many screens across the Web, desktop, and mobile devices." Now at version 4, Silverlight was released in 2007 and is a runtime available as a plug-in so you can run rich animations and video in your browser.

Sound familiar? Yes, it's Microsoft's version of Flash.

Silverlight is good. Videos are often a smaller file size and better quality than their Flash equivalents, SEO is possible, and the runtime is backed by .NET so developers can choose their language and leverage existing skills. Microsoft also provide a range of decent Silverlight tools including Expression and VisualStudio 2010.

Flash beats Silverlight on a number of levels but, most importantly, people are using it. Flash had a 10-year head start, it's available on more platforms, is included within several browser installations, and is part of the Adobe toolset designers know and love. On the web, Silverlight deployments are dwarfed by Flash.

Microsoft's strategy shift

Silverlight's future has been questioned this week following Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference. There were no sessions about the technology and Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Division, was quoted as saying "our strategy has shifted" to HTML5.

Understandably, it's caused chaos in the Silverlight community. Many have taken the comments as Microsoft's intention to abandon the technology.

HTML5 is NOT a Flash/Silverlight killer!

Let's refer to the marketing term "HTML5? which covers every modern browser technology including CSS3, JavaScript APIs and 101 other features. It does offer facilities which would previously have required Flash or Silverlight. HTML5 is therefore quoted as the open-standard successor to the plug-ins.

However, the technologies are not mutually exclusive. If you're successfully using Flash or Silverlight now, why should you adopt HTML5? There have to be strong benefits if you intend to scrap your existing code.

We also need to consider legacy browsers which, ironically, belong to Microsoft. While it's possible to use HTML5 today, IE6, 7 and 8 will never understand the video tag. What technology will you provide as a fallback?

Finally, HTML5 will always be playing catch-up. Microsoft and Adobe can implement new features in Silverlight and Flash on a whim. Browser manufacturers can do the same, but it takes months - if not years - before other vendors follow their lead and the feature becomes a recognized standard.

Is Silverlight dead?

Microsoft handled the (lack of) Silverlight publicity badly. The company did little to reassure existing developers other than saying they should wait 5 months for further announcements at MIX 2011. That left developers in limbo. The uproar prompted blog posts from both Bob Muglia and Steve Ballmer to clarify Microsoft's commitment to Silverlight.

As I see it, the problem arises from Microsoft's obsession with whatever technology is in vogue. Despite it's size, the company switches focus to a new product or concept every few years. It's currently HTML5 and they're aggressively promoting it as a "one mark-up" cross-platform development solution. (Even though IE9 is 6 months away and they're yet to produce solid HTML5-aware development tools).

The company's drive is commendable but it often overshadows their existing products and user communities. It need not have been that way: HTML and Silverlight are not competing technologies (even if that were Microsoft's original intention). There are features you can implement in either, but both have pros and cons.

Silverlight is not dead. It's the development platform for the Windows Phone and it remains a reliable browser plug-in for rich media. It's part of the .NET family and Microsoft are not likely to abandon it any time soon. If you're currently developing Silverlight applications, there's no reason to change. However, following this publicity, I suspect many companies will be reconsidering their options.

Ultimately, remember that IT is one of the fastest-moving sectors. Technologies change, rise and fall and it's impossible to predict the future. Choose the best technology for the task in hand and you can't go far wrong.

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Google's New Module for Apache Increases Web Performance

An open source, Apache HTTP server is a popular Web server that offers a modular architecture to permit extensibility and enhancement according to the needs of the customers. Consequently, Google has released a new module for Apache HTTP server that is tailored to boost the speed of websites hosted on this system.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the search engine giant wrote that the new module for Apache HTTP server, labeled mod pagespeed, performs many speed optimizations automatically to enable web sites to reduce load times by up to 50 percent -- thus, speeding up websites by about 2X and faster. In fact, the module starts with more than 15 on-the-fly optimizations that address various aspects of Web performance, such as optimizing caching, minimizing client-server round trips, and minimizing payload size.

In reality, this module is part of Google's Page Speed initiative, which was launched last year as a tool to give developers and Web masters updates, suggestions and tips on how to increase the speed of the Web pages by updating their Web server configuration, HTML, JavaScript, CSS and images.

For example, three simple optimizations that are a pain to do manually can be implemented automatically with mod_pagespeed. These include:

Making changes to the pages built by the Content Management Systems (CMS) with no need to make changes to the CMS itself.

Recompressing an image when its HTML context changes to serve only the bytes required (typically tedious to optimize manually).

Extending the cache lifetime of the logo and images of your website to a year, while still allowing you to update these at any time.

In the blog post, blogger Richard Rabbat, product manager for Make the Web Faster initiative, stated that the company is working with Go Daddy to get mod_pagespeed running on many of its 8.5 million customer sites. Warren Adelman, president and COO of Go Daddy, commented, "Go Daddy is continually looking for ways to provide our customers the best user experience possible. That's the reason we partnered with Google on the 'Make the Web Faster' initiative. Go Daddy engineers are seeing a dramatic decrease in load times of customers' websites using mod_pagespeed and other technologies provided."

Google is also working with Cotendo to integrate the core engine of mod_pagespeed as part of their Content Delivery Network (CDN) service.

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Google to require two-way data-sharing street

Google is putting its data liberation philosophy to work in a direct slap at Facebook.

Techcrunch noticed last week that Google made a subtle change to a paragraph in the guidelines that govern how external services can let their users import contacts data from Google. Now those services will have to allow their users to export that data in a manner similar to how Google handles data export, which means Facebook will have to change its policy if it wants to allow users to morph Gmail contacts with Facebook friends.

Facebook has long resisted the notion of allowing people to export contacts data, citing privacy concerns, although it does let people export other data like photos. Google, on the other hand, has long considered data lock-in a cardinal sin of technology companies and has launched the Data Liberation Front to promote the concept of easily exported data.

However, as Mathew Ingram notes at GigaOm, now that Facebook has 500 million users the policy change is a bit late to really force Facebook into having to make any meaningful changes. All it means is that Facebook users won't be able to automatically use their Gmail contacts to populate their Facebook friends list, but they'll still be able to use contacts from Yahoo or Microsoft's services, as well as just find contacts by searching on Facebook.

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The Fantastic Four of PHP Debugging Techniques

Debugging a Web application is one of the most tedious and frustrating tasks in PHP development. In recent years, the task has grown only more difficult with the integration of increasingly complex databases, elaborate user authentication and privilege management solutions, and third-party Web services. Yet many PHP developers are still using debugging strategies that haven't been effective for a decade.

In his PHPBuilder article, Four Sane Solutions for PHP Debugging, Jason Gilmore lists four powerful PHP debugging solutions that will have an immediate impact on your productivity. He writes:

"While inserting echo statements into code in order to inspect variable data may serve to provide one with a sense of immediate gratification, the reality is that this approach is highly inefficient."

The four solutions Gilmore presents employ powerful tools such as XDebug, FireBug, FirePHP and PHPUnit, as well as lesser known techniques that will help you overcome less-than-perfect PHP code.

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Drupal Founder's Secrets to Open Source Success

The Drupal content management system (CMS) is one of the most successful open source projects on the Internet today, thanks in no small part to its community.

At the head of the Drupal community is the project's founder, Dries Buytaert, who started the project ten years ago in his dorm room. In 2008, Buytaert helped to found Acquia which is a commercial support vendor for Drupal, which to date has raised over $20 million in startup capital. The road from dorm room to open source rock star has given Buytaert some insight into how to build a successful open source community. Speaking at the Zendcon PHP conference this week, Buytaert detailed six key secrets to open source success.

1) There is no quick rick formula.

Buytaert said that it took five years after he first started the Drupal project until there was the first Drupalcon developer conference in 2005. At that point, 40 people showed up to the event. At DrupalCon 2010, there were over 3,000 attendees.

"It takes time," Buytaert said. "It took us 10 years to get to where we are today."

2) Hurray for growing pains.

According to Buytaert, growing pains are a great thing. As an example, he cited the big Drupal server meltdown of 2005 when the primary webservers for the project literally melted. Buytaert noted that at the time, he was a student with little money, so he simply put up a PayPal button on the Drupal domain with a message about the server being down and he needed to raise $3,000 to buy new hardware.

What happened over the course of the following 24 hour period shocked Buytaert. Individuals contributed more than $10,000 to the project. The Open Source Labs (OSL) called to offer free hosting and the CTO of Sun Microsystems sent Buytaert a new $8,000 server.

"People that build commercial open source companies ask me how I built such a community," Buytaert said. "I often tell them, maybe they should unplug the server for awhile and see what happens."

3) Build an architecture for evolution.

In Drupal's case evolution is enabled by having a modular workflow. Buytaert noted that every patch that people submit is a small adaptation.

Centralizing source code management is also a key part of having a evolution-ready architecture. Choosing the right language is also a critical factor.

"The fact that we use PHP and not Java has been very important to the success of Drupal as well," Buytaert said. "PHP is a very accessible technology and that allows or encourages people to make changes."

4) Provide the right tools.

Tools aren't just about technology assets either but are also about the right processes to collaborate. Buytaert suggests that it's important to replace planning with co-ordination.

"We almost have no planning, but we invest a lot in tools for people to self-organize and to co-ordinate," Buytaert said.

5) Make money but pay with trust

According to Buytaert is it critically important to build a commercial ecosystem around open source projects. In his view, it is the fact that people are making money that gives them and their companies the incentive to contribute back to the project.

Though money is a good thing in open source, it shouldn't be the primary driving factor for a project.

"Money shouldn't make the decisions," Buytaert said. "If you look at Drupal, all of the technical decisions are made based on technical merits and are made by the people that build trust."

"Trust is the currency of open source -- it is the currency of Drupal."

6)Leadership trumps management Buytaert stated that for Drupal, leadership is about finding the higher purpose. With Drupal the higher purpose is about democratizing online publishing and in so doing, enabling millions of people to express themselves online.

"Create an environment where everyone is both a respected leader as well as a dedicated follower," Buytaert said. "We have a lot of leaders in the Drupal community and a lot of people feel really empowered to do what they want to do."

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Microsoft to drop 3D, plug-in need in Bing Maps

Microsoft has taken the covers off a future update to its Bing Maps service that removes the need for its Silverlight browser plug-in to view an alternate mapping layer, and has also announced that it plans to remove its 3D map viewer. The changes will arguably make the service more approachable to the masses, but indicate that the company is going in a different direction with its online tools and technology platforms.

In a post on the Bing community blog, Bing Maps Product Manager Brian Hendricks detailed two big changes to the company's online mapping service.

The first of those is the removal of the 3D maps layer, which lets users see 3D renderings of some buildings, as well as landscape topography. Microsoft first introduced the 3D feature in early 2007, and it's since come to include nearly 70 cities around the world.

To make sure the removal of 3D doesn't litter the Web with a bunch of non-working URLs, the company is changing every map link, map tour, and desktop shortcut to simply direct users to whatever part of the map the 3D version had been pointing to. Buildings that had been 3D models before will also become pushpin locations.

The other change coming to Bing Maps is more subtle and may even go unnoticed by many. Users no longer need to have Silverlight installed to use Bing Maps' bird's-eye view. This is the isometric view that the company has used in addition to top-down photography to give users a better sense of two-dimensional scale. Here's the difference compared to your standard aerial view:

According to Hendricks, this change was due to the company's efforts with Ajax, which, as Hendricks notes, allows people to use the feature "without custom plug-ins for individual features." That also means bird's-eye view will work on mobile devices that may not have been able to run the Silverlight runtime.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Hits the Stage

A decade in the making, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 is now available at long last, offering a litany of new features, including a new kernel and virtualization enhancements.

It's been a long time coming, but Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 is officially available. Released on Wednesday, RHEL 6 offers a host of improvements and new features not found in its predecessors, including virtualization and performance enhancements, as well as a new Linux kernel.

RHEL 6, which was released as a public beta in April, offers a particular focus on features to enable massive scalability, as well as memory improvements. Linux Planet has the story on the latest installment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Some updates take longer than others.

Linux vendor Red Hat (NYSE: RHAT) today officially released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL 6). The new RHEL 6 operating system includes new Linux kernel, scalability, virtualization and performance improvements over its predecessors.

"RHEL 6 is not a point of a new product," Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president of engineering, said during the RHEL 6 launch event. "This is the culmination of 10 years of development, learning and partnering to get to the point now where we feel that RHEL 6 is at the heart of the data center."

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5 Reasons to Use Polls on Your Site

Those who blog for business must engage their audience in order to keep them coming back to their site. To this end, bloggers can include images, video, links, solicit guest posts, and the like. Some viewers, however, simply won't leave behind comments, and guest posts can help you only insofar as adding new content from a fresh perspective. Some viewers are as liable to leave comments there as on your posts-in other words, not at all.

One oft overlooked way of engaging one's audience that's as effective as a comment but easier on the viewer's behalf is the online poll. To comment, a viewer must plan, type, edit, and confirm one's post, whereas a poll participant needs only to click the mouse once to vote. Most people are more than willing to click one button to participate in some social activity that allows them to express themselves (take, for example, the growing Click to Give sites at The Animal Rescue Site, The Breast Cancer Research Site, etc.). A poll, therefore, meets your needs as a blogger and the needs of your audience in their fast-paced, busy lives and short attention spans.

If you're wondering what these needs of yours as a blogger are, think of all you stand to gain from adding a poll to your website.

1. First and foremost, it engages your audience. An engaged audience is a faithful audience that will return, possibly with friends who will join your audience. Thus, more people get to know your brand.

2. From poll results alone, you can produce multiple blog posts to further engage your audience. To this end, be sure to publish a post calling attention to the poll and another post following up the results.

3. You can poll about your business and garner real results from real people and customers. With this intelligence, you can better your business. You can discover if your brand is being targeted to the right people the right way, what things you could improve about your business, what people like about your site and its format, and more. The key here is self-improvement, so pay attention to the poll results. If they aren't what you want them to be, think about what you can do to improve public opinion of your brand rather than snubbing it altogether.

4. You can pitch poll results to media outlets to do some rightful bragging about your brand. Rather than mere speculation and word-of-mouth, a poll provides you with numbers you can use in your business.

5. Regularly adding polls to your blog give your audience feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves. Polls give them something to anticipate-a chance to express themselves as well as to see what others said about the same topic. This means they will not only keep coming back, they will take your site and your brand more seriously. You can only run a business when customers come to rely on you.

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Why You Need to Write a Mission Statement

Today, I urge you to write a mission statement. Actually, I am making an argument that you need both, a mission statement and a vision statement. If you're a small business owner, a freelancer, a part-time moonlighter, have a "regular" job, or even if you're unemployed - okay, EVERYONE - you can benefit from taking some time to craft these two statements. Let me explain.

Traditionally, a mission statement is a tool a business or organization uses as part of the business planning process to outline the purpose of their existence. A vision statement does the same, but the focus is on identifying the values held by the organization that drive actions.

As an individual, you already have goals, a purpose for doing what you do and values that lead you through life, but formalizing these items into tangible black and white statements can accomplish a number of things. Here are just a few of the ways a mission statement and a vision statement can polish your presentation and help you achieve more, personally and professionally.

Synthesize Who You Are

Mission and vision statements include the most important information about you, what you do and the values that guide you in your life and work. Well-crafted statements that outline these details can not only be used as part of your business or career planning, but they can also be the foundation of your elevator pitch, a recurring theme in your marketing activities and a guide for you as you make decisions.

Give You Focus

While mission and vision statements aren't entirely goal-driven, both can be a tool used in your goal planning process. Since these statements take vital information about you and boil it down into just a few sentences, you can return to them over time and reiterate your purpose and refocus on what you set out to accomplish when you get pulled off track. Plus, having clarity on why you are doing what you do can give you a purpose and motivation to keep going.

Ease the Decision-Making Process

In some situations, solid mission and vision statements can zero you in on the right decision for you. It's not always quite that easy, but even with more difficult decisions, your statements can act as a reminder about what's important to you, and at a minimum, direct you to questions you need to ask yourself before making a choice.

Hold You Accountable

Just as your mission and vision statements can help you make decisions that honor your goals and purpose, they can also hold you accountable when you go in the wrong direction. When you look back at your statements and realize you went off-track, you may decide to take some time to figure out what went wrong, or perhaps you will realize it's time to update your statements to reflect a new direction in your life and work.

It's important to remember that both a mission statement and a vision statement are tools that should grow and change as your work, life and goals change. Once you have them written, return to them regularly to measure their accuracy and meaning. If you have a standard process for setting and checking in on your goals, it would make sense to analyze your mission and vision statements at the same time to keep all of your planning and actions connected and in sync.

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Facebook Expected to Roll Out Email Service

Facebook and Google have been butting heads over the last week regarding the privacy and 'openness' of user data, particularly when it comes to importing contacts from Google's Gmail accounts to the social networking behemoth. With today's expected announcement of Facebook offering users an email platform with @facebook.com or @fb.com email addresses, it's perhaps understandable that Google are reluctant to let Facebook import contact details from their services.

Today's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco is expected to announce an update in the Facebook apps area and many industry news outlets are reporting that it will be an email service which has been developed under the name Project Titan. The social media giant already has over 500 million registered users and assuming that the site follows its standard behaviour of 'just doing it', and automatically signing users up, they could become a major player in the email field overnight.

Facebook's email platform is expected to also integrate with Docs.com, Microsoft's cloud-based office suite and looks to be a move which is squarely aimed at taking more of an internet market share from Google and this is probably where Facebook's ultimate game lies. There's obviously no money to be made directly from providing people with a free email service, but it does provide them with more pages that they can visit and increase the time they will spend on that site - that means advertising. More pages and more time means more money that Facebook can make from their advertisers and that bottom line is where the real war between Facebook and Google will be waged.

Google figured out this advertising model many years ago and it made them one of the world's richest companies; they rolled out other services and this gave them more pages and more platforms from which to monetise more web virtual-estate. The difference perhaps, with Facebook's model is that they are trying to get people to spend almost all their web 'social time' on that one site and they might face some stiff competition from the email addresses that users already have.

Ultimately, the way this ongoing revenue war between the two giants will go remains to be seen, as does how many people will be willing to switch to a new email address, but one thing's clear - this is far from over.

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Apple Backs Oracle, Adopts OpenJDK

The drama around Java continues. The battle for Java is becoming more dramatic than a soap opera and many major companies are involved. Oracle and the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) are in a bitter dispute over licensing issues and ASF threatens to veto Java 7 if the licensing issues are not resolved. On the positive end of things however, Apple has announced its support for OpenJDK, thus putting an end to speculations that it might not allow Java on Mac OS X.

Was Apple Going to Abandon Java?

Though it may have looked like Apple was going to abandon Java, not many people took this in earnest. The reason is simple - Java is too popular and Apple can't afford to cut it off from their devices because users will object to it.

If Apple could afford to get rid of Java and replace it with their own software, maybe they would have, but since they can't do this, they need to shop for alternatives. OpenJDK seems to be one viable alternative they have.

OpenJDK or Harmony

The fact that Apple backs Oracle and adopted their OpenJDK wouldn't mean that much, if the other alternative hadn't been ASF's Harmony. Harmony is also an open source Java SE. The choice was probably political -whom to side with: Oracle or ASF? In this case, the backing of OpenJDK by Apple means that they side with Oracle in their dispute with ASF.

Apple has never been a major player in the Java community but Mac OS is one of the major operating systems on the market and because of this it can't be neglected. The "Write once, run everywhere" philosophy of Java, though it never worked out literally, would get very crippled if Java couldn't run on a major operating system.

The problem here is that all these recent developments aren't good for Java. Java might be a very popular programming language but all this turmoil is inflicting damage to it and in the long-term it might harm a lot.

When there is so much uncertainly about which direction Java will take, people are cautious to invest their money in the development of software with an uncertain future. This uncertainly could seriously undermine the popularity of Java.

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Free Internet Marketing Methods That is Blogging

Many teenagers have resorted to blogging as an outlet for their emotions, a little online nook where they can blurt out whatever just bugs them or whatever makes them feel elated.

It's been years since blogging has been practiced. But it's just recently that it has been considered as one of the addicting fads.

What exactly is blogging? Blog is the widely used term that refers to web log. Basically, a blog is an online journal. A blog could be set up to no cost at all, and can be used for just for the fun of it or for business reasons.

Blogging for your Internet business is one surefire way to boost the visibility of your products and services. Here are a few ways to boost your internet advertising with the help of a blog:

1. Make your clients or customers abreast on your website's alterations. Your new products and affiliate websites could also be announced through your blog.

2. Keep track of your business goals and plans through open writing. Your blog content can be easily stored through archives. What could be better than searchable information that could be easily accessed by anyone browsing the web, right?

3. Publishing is a very easy process with blogging.Air your opinions, advice or reviews on specific services or products that are related to your business.

4. Include links that will carry back links and consequently improve your ranking on search engines. This could be better executed through putting well-written articles in your website. Affiliate links could also be included in your blog to earn more extra income.

5. Collect reaction through the capacity of blogs to fetch comments from your blog readers. You can learn and improve your products and services through with the feedback from your readers.

6. Connect easily with other bloggers. When other bloggers notice that you have something good in your blog, they will put you in their favorite lists that will automatically link you to their blogs.

So, how do you set up a blog? Here are some of the options you can make use of to take advantage of this fun way to advertise your Internet business.

Either you load a blogging software or let a blogging hosting service do it for you. Host services such as LiveJournal and Blogger.com are the most popular in this field. Those hosts will provide you with easy information on how to put up your blog.

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Google launches Boutiques.com shopping search

Google is launching a product peppered with plenty of fashion labels--but hardly a Google logo itself.

Enter Boutiques.com, a search site for fashion, accessories, and eventually other kinds of "soft goods" that Google claims can't be assessed by the text descriptions and basic product comparisons that fuel its Product Search engine.

It comes primarily from Google's acquisition of the technology and product team behind Like.com, a visual search engine. Munjal Shah, co-founder and CEO of Like, helped to push Boutiques.com out the door based largely on technology that Like.com was already developing when Google began to view it as a potential acquisition target.

With "soft goods," Shah explained to ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET, discovery is as important as intentional search (if not more so); you'll buy a digital camera based on searches for the best technology and product specs, not to mention the fact that you probably figure you need a digital camera in the first place. You may very well buy a pair of skinny jeans based on how good they look in a tableau or lookbook setting.

Consequently, Boutiques.com lets both ordinary users as well as enlisted celebrities and "tastemakers" assemble "boutiques" of goods for purchase that can then be expanded based on algorithmic assessments of the fashion preferences in question. More basic product searches can be based on color and style, as well as patterns and other more subtle cues that the technology behind Boutiques.com can detect.

There's almost no Google branding whatsoever on the new site, something that the team behind it says may or may not change going forward. But more firmly-branded Google commerce products are getting upgrades, too. Earlier this week, Google unveiled updates to the main Product Search tool that account for physical store inventory.

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Video SEO is Growing in Social Media Acceptance

Video SEO in social media is growing in acceptance and importance to the consumer. Many companies are turning to different forms of social media marketing to promote online brands. Company websites are becoming more than static brochures. They are changing and growing, featuring more interaction with their audiences. Websites now contain a variety of forums like blogs, discussion forums, blog and page comments, and video. Companies are providing more information and they are letting their customers talk back to them.

Video is now becoming the new way to communicate information. Because we live in a wired - or actually a wireless - world, marketers are turning to both the web and mobile marketing, and video, to tell their stories.

Not only is this a good way to share information and promote your brand, video marketing leads to higher search engine rankings, which means more website visitors and increased sales. Video SEO is following closely on the heels of the video revolution.

Some companies are slow to accept video, let alone video SEO, since it is still relatively new. However, online video and video SEO make perfect sense. Americans spend many hours in front of their televisions. Reality TV has taken television into a whole new direction. People want to see actual reality (or what they believe is reality). They want to experience and learn from what is actually happening, not what is acted out. We have become a visual learning society. So it is only natural that people want to "watch TV" on their computers, including finding new information and communicating. This new evolution of media brings new opportunities to marketing and makes video SEO an important tool in the marketing toolbox.

Video SEO will give you a strong edge in marketing strategy. Not only are you reaching people with the videos you produce, but by hosting your videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo, and then embedding them on your blog or website, you are giving your site a video SEO boost.

You can give your video SEO efforts a bigger boost if you tag these videos with your chosen keywords, and include links back to the site where the video can be seen (i.e. your site). You can also share links to the video on your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and post it on your Facebook "Like" page. This will not only expose your video to more people, but will tell search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo that both the video and your website are important.

The more links you get back to your main website, the higher it will appear in the search engine rankings. And because Google owns YouTube, you have the added bonus of your videos being indexed quickly and easily, which can only help your video SEO efforts even more.

Video SEO ends up helping you do a few things at once: promote your products or services, boost your search engine rankings, and help you reach more people by being some of the first in your industry to use these techniques.

The Internet is always changing, which is why you have to stay on top of the technology and tools behind it. Even things like search engine optimization techniques and tactics, including video SEO, are changing all the time - things that were accepted and expected are now not only old news, they can even get you banned from the search engines.

If you find you do not have the time and energy to devote to SEO, then consider an SEO professional. Not only are they well-versed in the latest developments in the search engine world, like video SEO techniques, they know other professionals, like video production companies, that can help you create entertaining and informative videos that keep your visitors' interest once they arrive at your site.

With 20 years in marketing, advertising and 10 years in internet marketing, Rostin Ventures has refined video seo practices for distribution in social media. www.Rostinventures.com offers video seo, social media marketing and online reputation management services that are affordable and drive search engine ranking through Social Media Optimization, Online Reputation Management, Social Marketing and web 2.0 communities and resources.

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3 Plugins to Make the Most of Gmail

Here are three great plugins for Gmail that help to increase your productivity.

1. Enable Priority Inbox

Priority Inbox automatically identifies your important email and separates it so that you can focus on what really matters. Click "Settings" in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail or Google Apps account to enable it, and tweak the settings.

Priority inbox learns over time what matters, and what doesn't. It's a great way to focus on the most important emails, especially after a long vacation away from email.

2. Install the Email Oracle

Track who opens and responds to your emails-and most importantly, receive reminders when a person fails to get back to you on an important request. Email Oracle comes as an extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

3. Install Rapportive

This plugin for Safari, Firefox, and Chrome shows you more information about your contacts by importing their LinkedIn profile, Facebook stream, and recent tweets more directly into Gmail. This is especially useful if you're in sales and want to add that personal touch.

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Windows at 25: What Brings the Next Generation?

A quarter century after its launch, Microsoft's Windows remains the dominant computing platform, but the next couple decades promise radical change.

When Windows made its inauspicious debut two and a half decades ago, few observers realized what they were witnessing. Windows 1.0, unveiled in November of 1985, was in every sense the dawn of a new era in computing.

But that was then, as they say. Now, Microsoft is looking ahead to the next phase of its venerable operating system, which analysts believe will take very different forms in just the next few years, let alone 25.

Datamation looks ahead to what the next generation of Windows may look like, as Microsoft shifts more of its efforts and resources to the cloud and mobile technology.

At its launch, on Nov. 20, 1985, only a handful of tech enthusiasts thought that Microsoft's new Windows 1.0, and CEO and Chairman Bill Gates' vision of a graphical user interface would change the world.

After all, Apple had introduced its breakthrough Macintosh a year earlier. With its "1984" Super Bowl ad, Apple positioned the Mac as the platform for creative minds, while the Microsoft-powered (NASDAQ: MSFT) IBM-compatible PC was seen as designed for geeky bean counters in corporate cubicles.

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The Facebook-Lamebook mess gets uglier

Facebook lately has made controversial legal threats against a number of social-media sites, like Teachbook and Placebook, which it says are unlawfully capitalizing on the popularity of Facebook by using the suffix -book in their names.

But then there's Lamebook, a mischievous parody compendium of funny Facebook content that decided to sue Facebook, citing First Amendment protections, so that Facebook couldn't sue it first. TechCrunch writer Robin Wauters noticed overnight on Monday that Lamebook's Facebook fan page had been blocked, that outbound links to the site were severed, and that "like" buttons to its content were disabled.

That basically means that Lamebook was barred from taking advantage of the Facebook "graph", the communications framework that's made the social network as powerful as it is, and the fact that Facebook can block access to it so easily can be seen as setting a scary precedent. The analogy, one could say, would be Google removing a company's links from its search results if it had legal action against it. (Google does remove things like spam, to be clear.)

"Well, Facebook didn't like us sticking up for ourselves, so they shut down our fan page, are preventing any users from 'liking' us, and won't even let you share URLs with your friends if they point to Lamebook," a notice from Lamebook to its readers explained. "In light of this, be sure to follow us on Twitter so you get updated with the latest and funniest of the lame!"

But Facebook appears to have backtracked a bit in this case after initially confirming to TechCrunch's Wauters that it was barring Lamebook URLs from being linked on Facebook. Blocking the links, one executive said later in an e-mail to Wauters, went too far.

"This was a mistake on our part," Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor wrote in a notice that was posted to TechCrunch. "In the process of dealing with a routine trademark violation issue regarding some links posted to Facebook, we blocked all mentions of the phrase 'lamebook' on Facebook. We are committed to promoting free expression on Facebook. We apologize for our mistake in this case, and we are working to fix the process that led to this happening."

On the broader Lamebook lawsuit, Facebook had previously told ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET: "It's unfortunate that after months of working with Lamebook to amicably resolve what we believe is an improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook's popularity and fame, they have turned to litigation. We are confident in our position and believe we will prevail in court."

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Holiday Ecommerce Season Starts Strong

Latest report from online metrics firm comScore finds that online spending in the first three weeks of November jumped 13 percent over last year, prompting the firm to raise its forecast for the holiday season.

Are we out of the woods yet? Web metrics firm comScore is taking a bullish stance on the ecommerce sector, raising its forecast for the holiday shopping season after a strong start in November. The company believes that online retailers may have put the recession behind them.

Of course, comScore also notes that aggressive promotions have helped stoke business, particularly free shipping, which many consumers are coming to expect. But comScore paints a hopeful picture for the holiday shopping season, which it believes will set a new record for Internet retailers. ECommerce Guide has the story.

Online retailers have gotten off to a strong start to the holiday shopping season, according to Web metrics firm comScore, which reported on Tuesday that sales for the first three weeks of November have surged 13 percent ahead of the same period a year ago.

For the first 21 days of November, online retailers have netted sales of $9.01 billion, a strong performance that comScore attributed to aggressive promotions and surprising consumer confidence.

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India's small towns next frontier for ICT growth

Information and communication technology (ICT) spending in India has returned to growth this year as the country recovers from the global recession, said Gartner in a recent report.

In a statement released Wednesday, Gartner said ICT spending in India is expected to grow 10.3 percent from US$65.23 billion in 2010, to reach US$71.9 billion in 2011. ICT spending has returned to growth in 2010, as companies recover from the global recession that ended in 2009, the research firm said.

The recession has led to companies being cautious in 2009 as they focused on better "utilization of existing resources and driving efficiencies of infrastructure", said Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of research at Gartner, in the statement.

However, ICT spending is headed for growth this year, with Gartner attributing this to the pent-up demand following the budget slowdown; replacement and adding of hardware; as well as the country's massive consumer segment.

Sondergaard added that the consumer market will be driven by the country's large young working population, rapidly rising middle class, and emerging opportunities in the services sector.

Rural areas the next frontier

Apart from the consumer market, India's small towns and cities present growth opportunities for ICT spending, noted Gartner. "Growth within smaller towns and cities will provide the next level of opportunity for IT vendors across categories," added Sondergaard.

Reflecting this trend is the hardware segment, which is expected to be the fastest-growing ICT area throughout 2014, according to the research firm. It added that the segment will be driven by spending in client computing, which in turn is being driven by increasing rural prosperity and growth in the small office and small business segments.

Gartner predicted that spending in the hardware segment will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.4 percent to reach US$16.15 billion in 2014.

Close behind is the IT services segment, which has been forecast to grow at a CAGR of 17.1 percent to achieve US$13.69 billion in spending by the end of the period, said Gartner.

Coming in third is the software segment, which will obtain a CAGR of 13.4 percent to bring in US$3.96 billion in ICT spending, according to the report.

The telecommunications segment will remain the largest ICT spend at US$61.67 billion in 2014, according to Gartner. However, compared with growth in other segments, telecom spending will be the most sluggish at a CAGR of 7.9 percent.

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Google Docs Goes Mobile With Editing Feature

Search giant Google has developed a version of its Docs productivity applications for mobile devices, promising users the ability to edit and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets on the go.

Over the next few days, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) plans to roll out a new document editor optimized for mobile browsers running on its own Android operating system and rival Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS.

"With Google Docs, we're always trying to make you more productive -- and part of that means making it possible for you to get things done from anywhere, at anytime," Google software engineer Andrew Grieve wrote in a blog post.

The move continues the search giant's aggressive efforts to bring its portfolio of products built for the PC to mobile devices, a market that company executives frequently tout as the next major revenue opportunity in tech.

It also extends the company's effort to lure enterprise users away from traditional productivity software, most notably Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office, with its cloud-based versions of word-processing, spreadsheet and other applications.

Separately, Google on Thursday rolled out a dramatic expansion of its Apps portfolio, touting the expanded menu of options and controls as a natural fit for small businesses and enterprises looking to tap into Web-based applications, such as its Picasa photo service, without abandoning needed security controls.

The mobile Docs editing feature is available for Android users with devices running version 2.2 -- what the company calls Froyo -- and users of Apple devices, including the iPad, running iOS 3.0 or later versions.

The service offers two-way collaboration, with edits made on a traditional browser appearing when a user accesses the document with a mobile device and vice versa.

For Android users, the new mobile editing feature offers speech-to-text entry.

Google first announced plans to bring a mobile version of Docs to market in September.

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Firefox 4 beta 8 slated for Dec 7

Firefox 4 Beta 8 is now slated for availability on December 7.

Beta 8 was tentatively scheduled for release Nov 30th but the team continues to fix blockers, nail down security holes and synchronization issues.

The open source browser team plans at least two more beta releases before making available a release candidate. Firefox 4 is not expected to be available until the first quarter of 2011.

"There is a pending change to the way Sync UI works for adding another client which needs to be simultaneously shipped with Fennec 2 beta 3," according to Mozilla meeting notes on Beta 8. "Based on the Fennec Beta 3 schedule, which is targeting Dec 7th as ship, we feel it's best to align beta 8 with that date."

The team reported today that crashes are down considerably.

  • based on the Fennec Beta 3 schedule, which is targeting Dec 7th as ship, we feel it's best to align Beta 8 with that date
  • there is a pending change to the way Sync UI works for adding another client

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rPath Puts Windows in the Cloud

The new rBuilder 5.8 lets enterprises move custom Windows application stacks to the cloud.

Windows and cloud computing. It wasn't too long ago that those two systems were on very divergent paths. But even as it continues to evolve its desktop products, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has embraced cloud services, moving even parts of its Office suite of productivity applications to the cloud.

Now rPath has rolled out a service that gives enterprises more options to move Windows to the cloud. The new rBuilder 5.8 is designed to let enterprise build customized Windows application stacks that can be deployed locally or to the cloud. It's all part of a push by rPath to help IT automate the datacenter. Datamation has the details.

Back in 2006, Raleigh, North Carolina-based rPath helped to pioneer a new market for Linux based software appliances with the rBuilder service. Now rPath is moving beyond its Linux roots into the Windows world.

With rBuilder 5.8, rPath is delivering a service that will enable enterprises to build customized Windows application stacks that can then be deployed to local or cloud instances. Part of the goal in developing a Windows application stack image is to help enable enterprise IT automation. In 2009, rPath began a push toward datacenter automation with tools to enable administrators to map and replicate their IT operations.

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