5 Worst Websites

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 7:33 PM | 3 comments »

What is it that makes a site good or bad? The answers are sure to differ. However, tardy navigation, old design and features, and intrusive ads are sure spoilers for Netizens worldwide on a website.

Time.com has come out with a listing of what it calls 5 Worst Websites. According to it, these are the sites users may want to think twice before logging in to.

Over to 5 Worst Websites.....

1. eHarmony.com

Topping the Time's Worst Websites list is eHarmony.com. The site claims to be the `#1 trusted online dating site for singles'. However, Time.com seems to differ. According to it, after making users answer some 436 compatibility survey questions and taking its premium charges ($21 to $60 a month), the site many a times delivers terrible recommendations -- or worse, even rejects users as unmatchable.

Also, eHarmony.com's advice to users to continue with it for several months to improve their odds of finding a soul mate too looks self-serving, considering that the longer a user stays with the site, the more he pays.

2. Evite.com

Next on list is Evite.com, a popular online invitation and social planning website. Time.com writes that the site is crying for an overhaul. In today's time when UGC (user-generated content) rules the roost, Evite's fill-in-the-blanks approach appears clumsy and dated. The ads on the site too are said to be intrusive, and navigation a drag.

The site has also been rather slow in adopting some of the media-sharing tools that have become almost a standard way of the Web. Incidentally, many of these features are said to be in development.

3. Meez.com

The virtual hangout Meez.com too makes it to the Worst Websites list. It may be a trend to tack poems, photos, icons, logos etc onto e-mail messages, however, the 3D animations and other digital doodads created with the help of Meez and other sites of its ilk - Blingee, Iconator - are just plain annoying, writes Time.

Plus, these also end up clogging the recipient's inbox with unnecessary bits. Though the Meez.com insists that the app is not a spyware or an adware, however, it still slows down one's computer.

4. MySpace.com

This name will surely surprise most Netizens. For, MySpace is not only one of the most popular social networking sites, but also happened to be the no. 1 social networking site till sometime back.

However, lately the MySpace community seems to have become infested with marketers and other opportunists who create false profiles and spam other users, all under the guise of “making friends.”

According to Time.com, though MySpace has always been known to carry loads of profiles of fictional characters, created to help market a movie or promote some brand, the recent `bait-and-switch tactics' have turned the things a bit sad.

5. SecondLife.com

Another hugely popular site on the list is a virtual world Second Life. The site has not only people logging in, but also has companies such as IBM, Cisco and our very own Wipro among its members.

However, according to Time.com, SecondLife.com is notoriously slow to load and difficult to navigate, even with a broadband connection. Users interact in the space through an avatar, but creating and personalizing of this animated representations of oneself is tedious. Most sites offer a learning curve for new users, but there is no such consideration on Second Life.

Also, "there are crazy people around every corner - disruptive types who spread graffiti and get in your way and throw you off your groove," writes Time.

Are you looking for an ex-lover?

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 6:49 AM | 0 comments »

Most people look for their long lost love on the Internet, a new survey has found.

The study found that one out of four people are using social networking sites like Facebook to search a childhood sweetheart.

Search engine Ask Jeeves claims that nine per cent even confessed trying to know details of a one-night stand.

Thirty seven per cent said they wanted to learn about their ex to just "see what they were doing these days," reports the Sun.

However, only four per cent wanted to rekindle the romance.

Twenty per cent apparently ignored an emailed request to break the ice with long-lost former boyfriend or girlfriend.

Surprisingly, four per cent even looked for former flame to just inform them how happy they were without them, while three per cent searched to find out how miserable their ex were.

Apart from searching for previous lovers the poll also suggested that a trend of ''vanity searching,'' which means looking for yourself on the net, has become increasingly popular.

In fact, 59 per cent admitted they had typed in their own name, with the men apparently doing it more than women.

The survey claimed two thirds of men compared to just over half of women did vanity searching.

How to turn your iPod into iPhone

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:08 PM | 0 comments »

I try to keep a stiff upper lip about not having an iPhone. Just couldn't afford it -- not with the $75 a month or so AT&T charges for service on top of the $199 upfront cost for the device.

I could, however, afford the $229 iPod Touch -- and got it as a gift, as it happened. It has most of the same goodies: a Web browser, email, YouTube. And it stores way more music than the iPhone. Plus, the other day I used it to call China.

Yup, a call around the world -- on a device that doesn't have a phone. A handful of applications on Apple Inc's iTunes store will let you do this, as long as you're in a Wi-Fi hot spot.

My iPhone complex hasn't disappeared, but at least now I have a device that looks just like it, has no monthly service fees, and lets me make free or cheap phone calls.

The best part of these applications -- which require the second-generation iPod Touch that came out last year -- is that they are free to download, and calls to other people using the same app won't cost you anything.

Two of the services I've tried, Truphone and Fring, will also let you make free calls to Google Talk users and type instant messages to friends online. Both automatically queue up a list of buddies from different services you might have, including Gmail chat, AIM and MSN Messenger, once you log in.

But it's Truphone's pay feature that puts it ahead of the others. TruPhone charges you to make calls to landlines or regular cell phones, but generally at better rates than most wireless carriers. And it's upfront about what you pay.

Your balance -- which you can add to with a credit card, either on the device or on your computer browser -- pops up with the dial screen. Calls in the US are all 5 cents per minute (2 cents if you sign up to pay a $4 monthly fee).

Rates outside the US vary wildly but you can check in the application before you dial. To call cell phones in China, for instance, is only 5 cents per minute, while France is 25 cents. Antarctica? A whopping $2.25.

You can make regular calls with Fring using a Skype account, but that's another layer to deal with.

The calls on these services sound pretty good, a little tinny but clearer than my regular cell phone connection. IPod Touch users will need Apple's $29 ear buds that have a tiny microphone on the back of the volume control along the cord.

The most serious drawback is the most obvious: While the iPhone uses AT&T's wireless network to provide Internet access anywhere, on the iPod Touch you'll need to stick to Wi-Fi hot spots.

For rural or suburban dwellers who don't encounter lots of free Wi-Fi zones, that may very well mean limiting yourself to your house, or other places where there's a computer with the same Internet phone call capabilities anyway.

That means these apps probably won't replace your cellphone. But they can moderate your iPhone envy.

World's 10 worst passwords

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:07 PM | 0 comments »

'123456' is the most common password used by people on the Internet.

Obscenities, names of fast cars and even ncc1701 -- the ship number for Star Trek's Starship Enterprise, have made it to the list of top 500 worst passwords of all time.

Compiled by Whatsmypass.com, the list features passwords most commonly used by Internet users.

And topping the list of the most common password is 123456, followed by "password" in second place.

Other popular password choices were first names, repeated letters and numbers, pop-culture references.

Even batman, bond007 and cocacola made it to the list, reports the Courier Mail.

The website said that almost one out of nine people use at least one of the passwords mentioned on the list, and one out of every 50 people use one from the top 20.

In fact, a study commissioned by digital communications agency @www found that an average adult had as many as 15 passwords to remember.

But 61 per cent of people used the same passwords for as many different accounts as possible in order to make life easier.

What iPhone 3.0 means to users

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 2:59 PM | 0 comments »

Apple has just previewed its OS 3.0 for the iPhone, featuring 100 new features. With the new release, Apple aims to further strengthen its presence in the smartphone market.

Incidentally, last year too Apple introduced iPhone 2.0 at a March event. This was followed by iPhone 3G launch two months later.

Here's what the new Apple software, iPhone 3.0, exactly offers to the users.

When do I get iPhone 3.0?

The software is available for outside developers interested in building mini-programs for popular iPhones and iPod Touch MP3 players, however, the operating system will not be publically released until mid-year.

The company blamed security and user-interface design complexities for the delay in adding it to iPhone's operating system. Analysts are betting on the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), likely to take place in early June this year, as the platform for the introduction of new iPhone models.

How much will the upgrade cost me?

iPhone users, including those holding first-generation iPhones, will be able to upgrade to 3.0 for free. However, iPod Touch users, first or second generation, will have to shell out $9.95 for the update.

The new operating system runs on the latest version of the iPhone, released last year, as well as the original model.

What's new in iPhone 3.0?

A lot, according to Apple and analysts. "It's a significant update," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. The improvements in iPhone 3.0 address some of the complaints that iPhones lacked functions basic in competitors such as the Blackberry Storm, the Google Android G1, and the as-yet-unreleased Palm Pre.

What's the biggest new feature?

So far the most analysts say the biggest addition is the much longed-for cut-and-paste feature. Says Gartner's Baker, "When it ships, cut, copy and paste as well as multimedia-media messages will resonate most with consumers."

The feature will let users highlight text with a tap, drag it, deselect it by shaking the phone, or to copy and paste it into another application.

Users can copy and paste photos, as well as select multiple photos -- also a first on the iPhone -- to paste into an email message.

What else?

Also, top on most lists is the new Apple app-wide search -- Spotlight -- to match the integrated search within Mac OS X that will let users search through Mail, Calendar, Notes and iPod on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Prsently, the only available search was in Contacts.

iPhone 3.0 also lets accessory makers connect devices, such as radios, to Apple's smartphones.Another big miss in iPhone 2.0, makes its presence with upgrade. Users will now be able to read and compose email and text messages in landscape mode.

MMS will be added, which means that photos, contacts and audio files can be sent with the messages application. 3G iPhones will also have stereo Bluetooth after the software update, which allows for wireless stereo headsets to connect to the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Will iPhone 3.0 allow me to run more than one app at a time?

For those users who, say, want to keep their IM open and still do other stuff, Apple has finally added the much-awaited push notification to the iPhone. The push notification would allow developers to build applications that can provide automatic alerts of items such as sports results or the arrival of an instant message.

The alerts would show up automatically even if the user is in another application. It will also allow developers to offer subscriptions and sell content within their applications that have items for sale within them, such as electronic books or additional levels of a video game. And developers will be able to access the music within users' iPhone libraries, so songs they own can be included in games, for example.

Do first-gen iPhone users get everything in iPhone 3.0?

Sorry, no. According to Apple, the older hardware doesn't support MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and stereo Bluetooth A2DP. There may be some other features too that may not work on the original iPhone, however, so far Apple has only mentioned these two omissions.

What is missing in iPhone 3.0?

Upgrades did not include being able to record video with iPhones or play video made using Adobe's ubiquitous Flash software; an omission deeply irking many iPhone owners.

During a question-and-answer session, Apple executives responded with "No comment" to clamors for video recording and compatibility with Flash.

"They did not address the camera, which is a fairly low quality for a smartphone these days, and they also did not mention video support, which would be nice to see," said Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin.

94% of Facebook users hate new design

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 2:48 PM | 26 comments »

Facebook's redesign is getting an emphatic thumbs down from the notoriously change-wary users of the social network.

Ninety-four per cent of the nearly 800,000 Facebook users who have voted in a poll on the site said they do not like the changes rolled out in the past two weeks.

Only six per cent said they approve the redesign.

Among those writing comments alongside the poll, user Nik McCarthy said the change "Pretty much sucks. Better before."

"I was still figuring it out and it changed," said Melissa Reed, and user Mark Wysocki wrote that the design was too cluttered, with "way too much information."

"Bring back the old style," he urged.

"Hard to navigate," said Chanel Chartrand. "Really don't like it."

Mara Soriano was among the minority who liked the changes. "I think it's fantastic," she wrote.

As TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington wrote, Facebook maybe should have heeded the old saw: "Don't ask a question you don't want the answer to."

Changes to the home page include making the status update question "What's on your mind?" adding real-time Twitter-like chatter and tools that let people organize and filter messages or updates from those listed as "friends."

The fast-growing Facebook boasts more than 175 million members and founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the number will reach 200 million by the end of this year.

Google removes street images

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 2:44 PM | 0 comments »

US software giant Google said Friday it had removed several images from its Street View software, which allows web surfers to view parts of 25 British cities, after users raised privacy concerns.

Street View displays 360-degree ground-level images captured by roaming cars using digital photography equipment.

The cars began taking images last summer, and continue to capture images across the country, allowing the service to expand after its launch here on Thursday.

Just 24 hours after its release in Britain, however, Google said it had removed several pictures, including ones that users found embarrassing, such as one of a man leaving a sex shop in central London's Soho neighbourhood, or another one of a man vomiting outside a pub in the east of the British capital.

A spokeswoman for the American Internet company declined to confirm the precise number of photos that were removed, but said it had been "less than expected."

Individual Internet users who do not want either their image or that of their home to be used in Street View can request it be taken off Google's database by filling out an online form.

Google says it has developed sophisticated software that ensures that individual's faces and vehicle license plates are blurred.

After initially being launched in the United States in May 2007, Street View is now available in Britain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

Sweet tweets: making Twitter sing for you

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 8:24 PM | 5 comments »

Two years after winning the top blog award at an indie festival in the deep south of the United States, micro-blogging site Twitter has grown in size and popularity.

On September 2007, internet tracking company Nielsen Online found Twitter had 533,000 US users.

One year later, it had 2.4 million users. That's a 343 per cent growth, making Twitter the fastest growing social networking site for the US in September 2008.

Famous personalities using Twitter include British comedian Stephen Fry (@stephenfry), pro cyclist Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) and US actress Demi Moore (@mrskutcher).

Here, Twitter's growth has been greater. It had a 520 per cent increase in the same time period, local web tracking company Hitwise reports. Users were spending 30 minutes on the site, 19 minutes more than the average time spent on other sites. Top federal politicians PM Kevin Rudd (@KevinRuddPM) and Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) have adopted the 140-words-a-post platform.

British technology commentator James Harkin wrote that Twitter "more than just a social networking site: Tweeting is changing the way we think." Even Facebook was impressed with Twitter - it started talks to buy it out - but they fell through.

But Twitter, as its name suggests, is like a large aviary of birds - with all the birds bursting into song at the same time. While the bare-bones nature of the site's interface encourages new users, making sense of all the dialogue taking place on it is harder.

So how do you differentiate from one user to another? How do you find people with similar interests? How do you make your tweets sing louder than all others?

A range of Twitter-related websites and apps have sprung up to deal with such questions. They attempt to categorise, spruik and manage users' tweets.

Here's 10 of the many we've found out there:

1. WeFollow

WeFollow is a user-powered Twitter directory that aims to group users according to labels that are determined by the users themselves. Twitter users just need to send @wefollow #yourtag #yourtag #yourtag (replace '#yourtag' w/the tags you'd like to be listed under, example: #blogger - max 3 tags)

2. Monitter

As you can tell from the name of the site, Monitter is a web tool to help people monitor tweets through keywords and locations. It's real time, and so a great way to get on-the-spot reactions.

3. TwitterLocal

It's an app you can download to filter tweets by location.

4. TweetStats

It helps you generate graphs from your tweets to analyse your tweet timeline (tweets per day), tweet density, aggregate daily tweets, aggregate hourly tweets, interfaces used to access twitter and even replies to (@personyouarereplyingto). It also logs the latest trending stats, trend clouds and the top 50 trends of all time.

5. twistori

A random visualisation of what people are tweeting on six themes - love, hate, think, believe, feel and wish.

6. Tweet O'Clock

Trying to get the attention of another Twitter user? This web app allows you to enter a Twitter username to get the time within a week when they are most likely to be online. The only problem for Australian users? It gives the the results in US or UK local times.

7. Twitter Jobcast

Looking for work in the US? Twitter Jobcast simplifies your search of the site for available jobs and for those looking for one. You can narrow down your search by choosing one of 32 US cities.

8. Twitrans

Exactly what it says above. Send your tweets to @twitrans in English, specifying what language you want it translated to, and hey pesto!, it comes back to you translated. Great since there are many users out there who surf the net in another language.

9. Twittown Blog

All the latest news that's fit to print about Twitter.

10. Remember the Milk

Yes, this is about managing your daily tasks such as remembering to buy that carton of Low Fat High Calcium Strong Bones etc etc Milk. Just add @rtm as your friend, sent @rtm a direct message with the task and the time you want to be reminded about it. (It was first set up by a Sydney team in October 2005, long before Twitter went live.)

And ... if you are looking to access Twitter on the go, here's a few mobile apps:

iPhone

Twitterrific, Twinkle, Twittelator, TwitterFon, Twitfire.

Blackberry

TwitterBerry, Tiny Twitter, Twibble, BlackBird.

Windows Mobile smartphones

ceTwit, SQIJ, Twobile.

'Nokia 5800 speakers defective'

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 1:40 PM | 1 comments »

Are you among the proud owners of Nokia's recently launched 5800 XpressMusic, or planning to soon buy the touchscreen phone? Here's an important piece of news for you.

According to a Russian tech website Mobile-Review, nearly all 5800 XpressMusic devices manufactured before February come with defective speakers. The ones that may not be showing problems now are likely to go defective sooner or later.

In an official statement from Nokia, Vitoria Eremena, head of Nokia PR for Eurasia, reportedly told Mobile-Review, "The problematic speakers were replaced with speakers from another supplier, both in production and warehouses. I’d like to emphasise that we have replaced not only the speakers but also their supplier, i.e. at the moment we use speakers from the new supplier at our manufacturing plants, as well as in our service centers. It is very easy to confirm this, because the new speakers are visually different. Service centers started receiving the new speakers during the last decade of January, so all users who replaced the speakers since then shouldn’t face this problem."

The mail which is a translation from Russian says, "If you had to replace your speakers, from the end of January -- everything should be all right; if you bought the phone earlier and you have problems, now they can truly be solved in service centers by replacing the speakers."

However, so far there is no official confirmation on whether the shipments to India too have been affected or not.

Interestingly, the touchscreen phone that is available at almost half the price of its other touchscreen rivals, including Apple iPhone, recently made headlines for a new sales record in India with over 58,000 units sold within three weeks of its launch.

Twitter has spawned a new way to communicate by limiting messages to 140 keystrokes. So here's a way to describe the internet's latest craze within Twitter's space restrictions:

It's a potluck of pithy self-expression simmering with whimsy, narcissism, voyeurism, hucksterism, tedium and sometimes useful information.

One vital ingredient has been missing from the mix so far - revenue. That raises questions about whether the nearly three-year-old service can make the leap from intriguing fad to sustainable business.

Twitter intends to start testing ways to make money this year. And co-founder Evan Williams promises it won't drive away the more than 6 million people who have set up accounts on the unconventional communications network.

"We don't see any reason why this can't be a very large and profitable entity," said Williams, the San Francisco-based company's chief executive. "We have enough traffic on our website that we could put ads on there and maybe we could make enough to pay our bills, but that's not the most interesting thing we can do."

Williams, 36, won't say what he has in mind besides selling ads, but he and the handful of other people who own privately held Twitter seem confident the mystery strategy will pay off - even as a devastating recession destroys much-larger companies.

Just three months ago, Twitter rejected a $US500 million takeover offer from an even bigger phenomenon, Facebook, the owner of the world's largest online hangout.

Although shooing away Facebook was risky, Twitter still isn't under immense pressure to generate revenue. The 29-employee company has already raised $US55 million, including a $US35 million round recently completed with Benchmark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners.

Like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other communal websites that have become internet sensations, Twitter gives people a stage where they can express themselves and connect with kindred spirits.

Twitter's twist is a more succinct approach, which has been likened to the 21st-century version of a telegraph.

Here's how Twitter works: After setting up a free account, people are encouraged to post frequent updates about what they are doing, seeing and feeling. The messages, known as "tweets," must be limited to 140 characters and can be sent from a mobile phone or a computer.

Although the updates are available for anyone to see, Twitter users usually set up their accounts to monitor the tweets of people they know or admire. These "followers" are automatically fed tweets from the people they are shadowing.

With more than 265,000 people tracking his messages, President Barack Obama has the most Twitter followers even though neither he nor his staff have tweeted since he moved into the White House last month.

Many other politicians and celebrities, such as basketball star Shaquille O'Neal (more than 72,000 followers) and former rap music sensation MC Hammer (more than 55,000) regularly share tweets.

Twitter also has become a way to peek at dramas unfolding behind closed doors.

When Yahoo laid off hundreds of workers last year, some of the casualties used Twitter to provide a blow-by-blow account of their final day at the office. Surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit recently gave a rare glimpse inside an operating room by tweeting about the removal of a tumor from a patient's kidney.

Twitter also has proven to be a valuable source for breaking news, sometimes even beating long-established media outlets to the punch.

When US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on the Hudson River last month, a picture of the accident scene was quickly posted on Twitter by Janis Krums, a Sarasota, Fla., entrepreneur who was on one of the ferries that rescued passengers from the water. In November, Twitter provided harrowing, first-person accounts of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 164 people.

But Twitter mostly amplifies the humdrum of ordinary folks with apparently nothing better to do but share their monotony. There's plenty of posts along these lines: "Sitting at Corner Bakery in Frisco, Texas. Lunch was good." Or, "Another boring day at work, ugh." Or even, "I really do enjoy picking my nose." (A widely practiced pastime, based on recent tweets).

Finding out what's happening on Twitter is getting easier through a search engine called Summize that the company snapped up for an undisclosed amount last summer.

Both Williams and another Twitter founder, Biz Stone, suggested the search technology could emerge as their company's crown jewel. Its value lies in its ability to quickly sift through a steady stream of tweets to provide almost instantaneous insights about what's going on around the corner or around the world. Not even Google's internet-leading search engine can match that now.

Stone relates how he used Twitter's search engine to ease his anxiety after he recently heard loud noises around his neighborhood. A quick search on Twitter informed him it was just a local celebration down the road.

The search engine will become even more valuable if people keep flocking to Twitter.

The site attracted 2.7 million U.S. visitors in December, a nearly eight-fold rise from the end of 2007, according to Nielsen Online. But Twitter's traffic increasingly is coming through mobile phones, making its usage more difficult to monitor. Nielsen estimates 666,000 U.S. users accessed Twitter on mobile devices in December.

The service is especially appealing to people between 18 and 34. About one in every five people with Internet access in that age group used Twitter or a similar service to update their status at least once, according to a survey of more than 2,200 adults in November and December by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Meanwhile, usage of Twitter and rivals such as Jaiku, Pownce, FriendFeed and Plurk was seen in just 5 percent of respondents between 45 and 54. Only 2 percent of people older than 65 had tweeted, according to Pew.

This matters for Twitter's financial future because most younger people don't make a lot of money, which could make it more difficult for the company to appeal to advertisers.

Even so, corporate America is paying attention.

Several major companies, including JetBlue Airways, have set up Twitter accounts to monitor what people are saying about their brands. The companies sometimes send out tweets offering to address a complaint.

All that chatter could yield a huge moneymaking opportunity if Twitter chooses to mine the data and sell the insights to marketers, said Marita Scarfi, chief operating officer for Organic, an internet advertising agency. "It could be rich vein for brand analysis," she said.

And though Twitter hasn't sold any ads yet, it is being used as a marketing tool. Computer maker Dell Inc., for instance, is offering exclusive discounts to its more than 18,000 followers on Twitter after holiday promotions broadcast on the service produced more than $US1 million in sales.

Both Williams and Stone hinted the company is exploring ways to charge for expanded commercial access to Twitter, but emphasised that all personal accounts will remain free.

Online retailer Zappos.com is a big fan of Twitter, using it for promotions and customer feedback. But the Las Vegas-based company won't necessarily stay on board if Twitter starts imposing fees on businesses, said CEO Tony Hsieh.

"It would depend on what they're charging for," said Hsieh, who has attracted more than 58,000 followers since opening his Twitter account about a year ago. "We don't see it as a marketing channel, but as a relationship channel."

Comments like that feed the doubts about Twitter's future. Its prospects are clouded even further by the resistance that Facebook and MySpace have faced as they have tried to inject ads into forums where people primarily goof off or fraternize.

"It's the same kind of challenge for these sites," said Peter Daboll, who has studied consumer behavior on the Internet for years, including in his latest job as CEO of Bunchball Inc. "How do they build on their great audiences and keep them engaged, without alienating them with a bunch of crap?"

AP

Fast-growing micro-blogging service Twitter has reportedly raised an additional 35 million US dollars in funding and said Friday that it is ready to "begin building revenue-generating products."

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, in a post on the company blog, said a new round of funding came from venture capitalists International Venture Partners and Benchmark.

Stone said Benchmark's Peter Fenton will join the board of directors of the San Francisco-based service that lets users share what they are doing at any given moment in brief text messages on computers or mobile telephones.

Twitter claims to have more than six million users.

"We weren't actively seeking more funding," Stone said. "Nevertheless, our strong growth attracted interest and we decided to accept a unique opportunity to make Twitter even stronger with a very attractive offer.

"Twitter is growing at a phenomenal rate," he added. "Active users have increased 900 percent in a year."

Stone did not provide a figure for the new funding round but several well-informed technology blogs put the amount at 35 million US dollars.

Twitter, which allows users to pepper one another with messages of 140 characters or less, has grown rapidly in popularity since it was launched in August 2006 but has been unable so far to generate revenue.

Stone said that would change.

"We are now positioned extremely well to support the accelerating growth of our service, further enable the robust ecosystem sprouting up around Twitter, and yes, to begin building revenue-generating products," he said.

Stone said Twitter's current workforce of 29 employees would expand.

"Throughout this year and beyond, our small team will grow much bigger to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead," he said.

"With these new partnerships and this new funding, we are in a position to move more confidently toward our vision for a robust and successful Twitter Inc," he added.

AFP

Computers go missing from nuke lab

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 8:51 PM | 0 comments »

Eighty computers have been lost, stolen or gone "missing" at a major US nuclear weapons lab, the nonprofit watchdog group Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has said.

The group posted online a copy of what they say is an internal letter outlining what appear to be worrisome losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the state of New Mexico.

The letter says that 13 lab computers were lost or stolen during the past year, three of the machines taken from an employee's home in January. Another 67 computers are deemed "missing".

"The magnitude of exposure and risk to the laboratory is at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued," the letter dated February 3 maintains.

The letter, addressed to Department of Energy security officials, contends that "cyber security issues were not engaged in a timely manner" because the computer losses were treated as a "property management issue."

What became of the missing computers and the "security ramifications of each of the 80 systems" was to be detailed in a written report to lab officials by February 6, according to the letter.

AFP telephone calls to the lab on Friday in search of comment were not returned.

Los Alamos was created as a secret facility during World War II and was the site for the Manhattan Project that gave birth to the first nuclear bombs.

It is a major center for research related to national security, outer space, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology, and supercomputing.

AFP

Gmail gets Multiple Inboxes

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:32 PM | 0 comments »

Gmail has got another new feature: Multiple Inboxes. The new feature from Gmail Labs allows users to have more than one inbox in their default Gmail view. That is the new tool lets users see up to four lists of email messages in addition to their inbox, all on one screen.

Labels and filters are two Gmail features that allow users to highlight and handle email based on their own search criteria. While these features help them stay organised, a user needs to switch between views to see what's going under each Label or Filter. Multiple Inboxes aims to clean that up and enable users to see all their different lists at a glance.

In a company blog post, Google software engineer Octavian 'Vivi' said, "I'm seriously into filters and labels. All the email I get related to Flash goes under my 'flash' label, everything about paragliding goes under 'flying', and they all skip my inbox because that's how I like to stay organized. But when new email arrives I have to switch to the 'flash' label first, then click on 'paragliding', etc. I wanted a way to see it all at once."

According to Google, once a user, turns on Multiple Inboxes from the Labs tab under Settings, he can configure what he wants to see, as well as set the number of messages displayed and the positioning of his panels from the Multiple Inboxes section under Settings.

How Google is threatening Yahoo

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 10:03 PM | 0 comments »

Many people have sent an email while angry, exhausted, inebriated or just by mistake that they later regretted. Now, Google has way to help protect you (and others) from such a faux pas.

As part of its quest to attract users to its Gmail service, the Internet search company has introduced dozens of features, including one that, after a certain time, makes a user solve a math problem before sending an email, giving them time to rethink it.

Because Google makes money every time email users click on ads, it is enhancing its email service to increase advertising and take market share away from Yahoo.

Unique visitors to Google's sites increased 32 per cent worldwide to more than 775 million last year, according to comScore, which tracks such data.

Yahoo had a 16 per cent gain to 562.6 million visitors and Microsoft had a 20 per cent increase to about 647 million visitors.

Analysts have attributed part of Google's visitor growth to email features that are being turned out at a dizzying rate by the company's Gmail Labs. This month, Google introduced a feature to automatically download mail so users can read Gmail offline in a Web browser. That matches an existing feature in the client version of Microsoft's Outlook but when Outlook is accessed from the Internet it does not have that feature.

The offline mail feature was announced in a press statement, but most other features to Gmail have been introduced more quietly. Engineers created and posted 34 experimental features in the seven months since Gmail Labs launched in June.

"They're able to improve the products much faster than anyone else," said Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler.

Google said those features are for adventurous Gmail users because the rapid addition of them means they may not work smoothly or that they will last.

Tests, reminders
"Mail Goggles" helps users avoid sending regrettable email or Gchat messages, an instant messaging system, by making them pass a simple math test before sending.

Another feature alerts users who forget to upload promised attachments. And another lets users send free SMS (short message service) messages to friends via Gchat.

The new features can be found in "Labs" on the main Gmail account page in the upper right corner under "Settings".

Google engineer Dave Cohen took half a day to code an experiment that lets users add a photo next to a friend's conversation in a chat window. It was available for users to try out a few weeks later.
Cohen said it used to be "hard to take an idea you had and get it out there." Now, he said, Gmail Labs "has increased our freedom and flexibility, and we can do more at a whim when there's something you really want to add."

Analysts said the quick roll out of experimental features puts pressure on Yahoo, Time Warner and Microsoft. Helping to speed development is a "Send Feedback" link in each experimental feature that allows users to make suggestions directly to the developer on how to improve it.

"We didn't ... have that kind of direct feedback between engineers and users," said Keith Coleman, product manager. "Now, we have engineers looking at the raw feedback that they are getting."

Google Ocean, which will be included in the newest version of Google Earth, will allow users to swim around underwater volcanoes, watch videos about exotic marine life, read about nearby shipwrecks, contribute photos and watch unseen footage of historic ocean expeditions - all from the comfort of their homes.

Footage of polar bears, beluga whales, sea urchins and king penguins from the BBC's award winning series Planet Earth and The Blue Planet will also be available.

The world's oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the planet's surface and contain 80 per cent of all life on Earth, yet humans have only ever explored around 5 per cent of that space.

Google Earth, which combines satellite imagery, maps and information to allow users to explore streets and cities around the world, has been downloaded 500 million times since it was introduced in 2005.

Google Ocean was developed with an advisory council of more than 25 leading ocean advocates and scientists.

Pen Hadow, the artic explorer and director of Catlin Arctic Survey, told the Daily Telegraph: "This is a watershed moment of shared global understanding of our oceans. My passion for the Arctic Ocean is matched only by the urgency of our need to understand how it works within the global Earth system. Ocean in Google Earth will enable a global audience to follow the progress and findings of the Catlin Arctic Survey, an international scientific endeavour resolving the likely meltdown date of the Arctic Ocean's sea ice cover."

Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, said: "I cannot imagine a more effective way to inspire awareness and caring for the blue heart of the planet than the new Ocean in Google Earth.

"For the first time, everyone from curious kids to serious researchers can see the world, the whole world, with new eyes."

In addition to Ocean, Google has also introduced other tools for Google Earth 5.0 users, including Virtual Time travel - where users can revisit the past and observe changes in areas where historical satellite imagery is available. For example, users will be able to see construction of Germany's soccer stadiums in the build up to the 2006 World Cup, witness the desertification of Africa's Lake Chad and track the melting of ice on the Grinnell Glacier in Montana.

Users can visit the planet Mars with a click of a button to see high resolution imagery and 3D terrain and a bit closer to home, users will be able to download GPS Tracking, making it easy to visualise and record running, hiking and biking routes.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google said: "In discussions about climate change, the world's oceans are often overlooked despite being an integral part of the issue. About one-third of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans. Furthermore, biodiversity loss in our oceans in the next 20-30 years will be roughly equivalent to losing an entire Amazon rainforest, but this goes unnoticed because we can't see it. This is why today's launch of Google Earth 5.0 is so important - it gives us an opportunity to change everyone's perspective."

Sir David Attenborough said: "It is surely an extraordinary privilege not only to be able to see the great jungles and deserts of the world in Google Earth, but also now, thanks to the Ocean project to be able to explore the bottom of the sea. ARKive's new marine layer illustrates life in the ocean, using the world's best wildlife films and photographs, and includes some of the rarest and most amazing creatures you will ever see."

Now, access your Gmail offline!

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 8:35 PM | 0 comments »

If you have been banking on Gmail for your communication needs, there have always been times when you have desperately wanted to access your account to dig out that important mail but have found yourself haggling with an unreliable or unavailable connection. Not any more.

If the Google Gears version of Gmail rolls out smooth, you can open your web browser, go to the mailbox, and get to your mail even when you are offline. In a nutshell, your Gmail is going offline.

The logic is simple but it could be a great value ad. If you install the Google Gears plug-in to your browser from the Gmail Lab, Gmail detects when you are offline. The new version caches your e-mail so that you can read it, respond to it, search it, star it, or label it. When you are connected to the Internet again, it sends all the messages that you have prepared while being offline. You can even open attachments.

As Gmail product manager Todd Jackson puts it, "it works exactly the way Gmail already works on mobile phones such as the Android and those that support Gears. The underlying sync engine is exactly the same for Android and offline Gmail."

Here's how it works. Once the feature is turned on, Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you're connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail's servers.

When the connection is lost, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer's hard drive instead of the information sent across the network.

Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. And if you're on an unreliable or slow connection, you can choose to use "flaky connection mode," which is somewhere in between: it uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background.

According to web reports, Google is making offline Gmail available to everyone who uses Gmail in US or UK English over the next couple of days. If you don't see it under the Labs tab yet, it should be there soon.

The only bad news is some features that require an Internet connection, such as spell check, won't work offline. And while you can open attachments, you won't be able to add attachments at launch. But Google promises to make them available soon!

The system is in beta and accessible through Gmail Labs. But it won't be immediately available to everyone - Google is parsing out access as it experiments with the new feature.

If Gmail lives up to the user expectations, then this would be a big step forward in bringing web mail offline given that presently there are options of offline access to your mailbox, but they all come with strings. You can access your Gmail account through a client like Mozilla Thunderbird. But that doesn't give you all the Gmail functionality like labels.

Yahoo Mail has offered offline access since last summer using Zimbra Desktop. But that also involves using a client on your desktop. For offline access to Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft suggests using their Mail client software.

Junking old PC? Be careful

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 12:41 PM | 0 comments »

If you're planning on getting rid of an old computer, make sure you remove the hard drive first and smash it up with a hammer, a British consumer group advised.

Which? Computing magazine said the only way to make sure fraudsters could not steal personal details from an old computer's hard drive was to utterly destroy it, as simply deleting files or wiping the drive was not sufficient.

The magazine said it had bought eight second-hand drives from Internet auction site eBay and recovered 22,000 "deleted" files, including some information that could be confidential.

Criminals, who it said trawled council waste sites and Internet sites like eBay, would be able use specialist software to retrieve the information which could then be used to commit identity theft.

"PCs contain more valuable personal information than ever as people increasingly shop online, use social networking sites and take digital photos," said Sarah Kidner, Editor of Which? Computing. "Even if you delete your files, you'd be surprised how easy it is to recover your personal data. It sounds extreme, but the only way to be 100 per cent safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens."

The global music industry is making progress in clamping down on online piracy by evolving radical new ways of selling tunes, but 95 per cent of downloads remain illegal, a report said.

New business models helped the legal online music sector balloon for a sixth straight year in 2008, growing by 25 per cent to $US3.7 billion dollars in trade value, it said.

But some 40 billion music files were still illicitly shared last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in its annual report on the state of digital music.

"The music sector is still overshadowed by the huge amount of unlicensed music distributed online," it said, citing studies in 16 countries showing that only one in 20 downloads are via legal channels.

Cutting pirates' internet connections is an increasingly-used option for dealing with persistent offenders, rather than threatening people with fines or other criminal sanctions.

But overall, things are looking up online: digital outlets - as opposed to CDs and other traditional forms of music - now account for some 20 per cent of recorded music sales, up from 15 per cent in 2007, said the 30-page report.

Sales of single tracks continues to drive the digital music expansion, and were up 24 per cent in 2008 to 1.4 billion sales, while online album sales also grew by 36 per cent, according to the IFPI's Digital Music Report 2009.

New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" was the biggest-selling digital single worldwide last year, with 9.1 million copies sold - a figure 1.8 million bigger than the best-selling single in 2007.

But new methods of selling are exploding, including a a new generation of music subscription services, social networking sites and new licensing channels, led by services like Nokia Comes With Music and MySpace Music.

Partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also opening up as a new sales route, including TDC in Denmark, Neuf Cegetel in France, Sweden's TeliaSonera and BSkyB in Britain.

"The recorded music industry is reinventing itself and its business models," said IFPI chairman John Kennedy.

"There is a momentous debate going on about the environment on which our business... depends. Governments are beginning to accept that... doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a future for commercial digital content."

The music industry body welcomed the way governments were collaborating with internet providers to curb piracy.

"In 2008 a tipping point was reached, with governments in France and the UK leading the way in looking to ISPs to help bring piracy on their networks under control," it said.

In particular ISPs are cooperating in cutting internet access for offenders.

"The momentum for ISP cooperation extends beyond France and the UK. New Zealand will start requiring ISPs to implement a policy of terminating the accounts of repeat infringers in February," it said.

Authorities in the United States, Italy, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea are also thinking of such a move, according to IFPI.

There is also evidence that the digital expansion is having a negative effect on locally-produced music, reducing the number of home-grown artists, who struggle due to easy availability of music from around the world.

In France, album releases by new artists fell by 16 per cent in the first half of 2008, and home-grown music accounted for 10 per cent of albums, compared to 15 per cent in the first half of 2005.

In Spain, just one new local artist featured in the Top 50 albums from January to November 2008, compared to 10 in 2003.

Overall, though, the IFPI report was positive, saying it "shows an industry that has shifted its approach from one based only on unit sales of music to 'monetising' access to music across a multitude of channels and platforms.

AFP

7 challenges before Apple

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 10:31 PM | 193 comments »

It is always tough to replace a leader. And it’s all the more tough, when the leader is an icon like Steve Jobs: the man who signifies his company for most. Other than, may be Bill Gates, no other CEO commands the following that Jobs has.

Often called the prophet of personal computer revolution, Jobs letter to his employees stating that he would take himself "out of the limelight" for six months after learning in the past week that his still vaguely defined health issues are more complex than I originally thought," has it seems conformed the worst fears of the technology industry. There has being rumours about Jobs’ health, a pancreatic cancer survivor.

With the company's driving force taking a four-month medical break, stormy weather seems to be looming over the company's future. Being the face of company which he co-founded in 1975, Apple may have to reel under tough times to cope up with Jobs absence.

Task seems tough for Tim Cook, who will oversee the company while Jobs takes medical leave. Cook, 48, had also filled in for Jobs before, during his cancer treatment in 2004. Here are some of the critical challenges that Apple will have to deal with without Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs

One of the biggest challenges for Apple as well as the interim CEO is Jobs himself. As, to many people, Apple is Steve Jobs. In the 33 years since he co-founded Apple, Jobs has attracted the fervent devotion of his followers -- the Mac faithful, and more recently, iPod and iPhone fanatics. To them, Steve is a secular messiah; to his detractors, a cult-leader.

Apple's unmatched record of hit products has only been achieved under the famously tyrannical leadership of Jobs, whose obsession with sleek design and the hard to define "cool" factor of his gadgets is unique in the corporate world. Again and again, it is this aesthetic, and Jobs' commercial success exploiting it, that have distinguished Apple products from so many copycat competitors.

Investors

The markets have forever been hyper about Steve Jobs. As some say: Jobs sneezes, and Apple's share prices drop. This time too the markets didn't respond any differently. The company's share price dropped as much as 10 percent on the announcement of his medical leave.

There are also speculations that Apple Inc probably will be sued by investors unhappy with the company's about-face on the health of its visionary chief executive. Analysts and investors complained that Apple was slow to disclose Jobs' true medical status and to form a succession plan after his 2004 cancer treatment because of his crucial role in vetting the company's forward-looking designs.

However, legal experts said that the law is not clear on what duty the company has to disclose personal medical information of its CEO.

Also, in case if Jobs is not back at the helm and he misses Apple's own World Wide Developer Conference, analysts fear that share price will again tumble.

Need a product blockbluster

This year's Macworld had little surprises for Apple lovers. According to an analyst in San Francisco, "There were some innovative products, but no true blockbusters. People were bullish going into it, and now they're kind of taking money off the table."

Also, many analysts believe that Apple has no breakthrough announcement to make after the launch of its iconic device 3G iPhone. In 2008, Apple launched world's lightest and slimmest laptop, Macbook Air, at MacWorld. However, this year's Trade show saw no big unveiling.

Also, Jobs is an elite product developer whose name is on the patents for most of Apple's key products, including most notably its iPhone and iPhone 3G smart phones. Analysts fear that the lack of clarity over who will hold the reins in coming years could affect the company in many ways, including whether it can keep coming out with popular products like the iPod and iPhone.

Recession

The sudden absence of Steve Jobs couldn't have come at a more tough time for Apple. The troubled economy and weak consumer demand are bound to make the task of the interim CEO more difficult. Both economy and consumer spending seem to be going down.

According to figures from analyst firm Gartner, Apple's share of the US computer market fell to 8 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2008 from 9.5% in the third. It seems Apple is losing out to cheaper models thanks to the global recession.

Also, shares have fallen from a May 2008 high of $192.24, on worries about Jobs' health and the impact of the economic recession on demand for Apple's premium products.

Apple watchers are raising questions about what's really behind the swing in sentiment about the nature of Jobs' treatment in such a short period of time. Only last week, Jobs told Apple employees he was undergoing simple treatment, and he will stay on the job. A week later, Jobs disclosed that his treatments are now much more complex than expected, and require he take an extended leave of absence.

No succession plan

The company remaining tight-lipped about a succession plan has only worsened the matter further. Though Apple named chief operating officer Time Cook as Jobs' interim successor, the paucity of details has not been taken too kindly by some Apple watchers.

"Basically, Apple has done everything wrong from a succession standpoint," said Marshall Goldsmith, author of the best-selling books on corporate succession plans.

Apple tried to answer the succession question during the recent Macworld developer conference in San Francisco, but the effort fell flat. The keynote featured a bevy of executives, most notably Senior Vice President Phil Schiller, who took over for Jobs as keynote presenter, making him an instant heir-apparent to some. Meanwhile, more than a dozen engineers and Apple vice presidents also got some stage time in one form or another.

Apple's behavior of late has made analyst wonder whether Apple even has a succession plan to begin. This despite the fact that the company is often praised by equity analysts for its deep bench.

Falling sales

According to a recent report from research firm IDC, Apple has slipped from third place to fourth in US PC market share. The Mac producer is estimated to have shipped about 1.25 million computers to the country, dropping it from its previous position and lowering it from 9.1 per cent market share in the summer to 7.2. The company's sheer unit growth has also cooled from 32 percent year-over-year in summer to 7.5 percent.

However, Apple Inc reported a stronger-than-expected 26 per cent rise in quarterly profit in October 2008, spurred by strong sales of its 3G iPhone.

Apple posted a six-fold increase in iPhone shipments during the September quarter, the first since it released a faster, next-generation model. The company said it sold 6.89 million iPhones during the quarter, outpacing Blackberry-maker Research in Motion Ltd.

Google layoffs above 5,000

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 7:19 PM | 0 comments »

Google Inc has jettisoned over 5,000 temporary workers in a recent austerity drive spurred by the recession. Though the Internet search leader still intends to spend billions of dollars during the next two years on product research, development and acquisitions.

The spending plans were outlined in a regulatory filing that also provided some clues about the magnitude of a recent payroll purge targeting Google's legion of contractors and other workers who aren't considered full-time or part-time employees.

The filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission was submitted on December 15, but it was made on paper, leaving it unavailable through the various Web services that track reports to the agency. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the records this week.

A key section of the filing is being kept confidential because Google maintains it contains trade secrets, but the publicly accessible parts provide some information that hadn't previously been disclosed.

For instance, Google revealed it has 24,400 employees, including 4,300 interns, temporary workers and contractors. That contrasts sharply with the roughly 10,000 contractors that Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company had in October. “It's really high,'' Brin said in an October 16 interview with the San Jose Mercury News.

Google acknowledged in late November that it planned to significantly reduce the number of its contractors and retain all of its full-time employees.

Although the company's revenue is still rising, Google's growth has been decelerating. The recession has caused consumers to shop less frequently on the Internet and advertisers have trimmed their marketing budgets. Those factors have slowed the money flowing to Google because online ads generate virtually all the company's revenue, which is expected to total about $20 billion in 2008.

To help shore up profits, Google's management has curbed some of the generous employee perquisites that have been a company hallmark for the pa
st decade. It has closed some company cafeterias that serve free meals and last month withheld a $1,000 holiday gift that's traditionally distributed to all employees.

Instead, the company handed out free cell phones that run on Google software -- a gift that management valued at about $400.

But Google doesn't plan to scrimp on research and development or acquisitions. In the SEC filing, the company said it expects to devote roughly 18 per cent of its annual expenses to research and development during each of the next two years. That's roughly the same percentage as the past four quarters, when its expenditures in the category totalled $2.7 billion.

Google also said it expects to buy other companies at a pace consistent with the past two years, when $4.2 billion in cash went toward acquisitions. Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of online ad service DoubleClick Inc, completed in March, accounted for most of that amount.

“Given the consolidation occurring in the online advertising industry, it is reasonable to expect that Google may in the future spend considerably more to acquire companies in this sector,” the company wrote in the SEC filing.

Google is under greater pressure to boost its profits coming off a year in which its stock price plunged by about 55 per cent.

In the last four quarters ending September 30, Google said it earned $415 million from its investments, accounting for about 8 per cent of its total profit of $4.7 billion during that period. In calendar 2007, Google earned $452 million from its investments, generating nearly 11 per cent of its income.

Apple may unveil cheaper iPhone

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 4:19 PM | 0 comments »

Apple Inc will probably begin selling a lower-priced version of the iPhone in the first half of 2009, tapping a new chipmaker for a key component, according to Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.

Qualcomm Inc will replace Infineon Technologies AG as the supplier of the baseband processor -- the chip that translates radio signals into voice and data -- in the new model, analyst Craig Berger said in a report. The phone might debut in the second quarter, he said, citing unidentified industry sources.

Apple may be turning to lower-cost products to fuel sales in developing countries as the US economy shrinks. The company is planning a smaller version of its Shuffle music player and a cheaper MacBook laptop, Berger said. None of the devices is likely to be ready to be unveiled at next week’s Macworld conference, where Apple typically makes product announcements.

“Mobile phone sales figures will continue to grow worldwide in 2009 and most of that growth will come from developing countries,” said Hakim Kriout, a portfolio manager at Grigsby & Associates, a New York-based securities trading firm that owns Apple shares.

“Turning the iPhone into a product line by adding another device for the lower end of the market is the next logical phase.”

Jennifer Bowcock, Apple’s spokeswoman for the iPhone, didn’t immediately return a call or email seeking comment. San Diego-based Qualcomm’s Bertha Agia also didn’t immediately return a phone call.

Wal-Mart, Best Buy

Apple currently sells two versions of the iPhone, an 8GB model for $199 and a 16GB device for $299. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retail chain, began offering the product last week, with its starting price at $197. Best Buy Co, the biggest electronics seller in the US, sells the phone for $189.99 and $289.99.

Berger, who contacted parts suppliers, also said that Apple made fewer iPhones in the fourth quarter than originally estimated. That shortfall will be partially offset by greater first-quarter output, he said. About 10 million phones were available for purchase in the fourth quarter, he estimates.

Apple said this month that chief executive officer Steve Jobs won’t appear at the Macworld show, fuelling speculation that the company doesn’t have a significant new product to offer.

Apple will probably use the event to show updated versions of its aluminum-cased iMac desktop computers and a new operating system, Brian Marshall, an analyst at
Broadpoint.AmTech in San Francisco, said.

Homework is fun on an iPod touch

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 4:14 PM | 0 comments »

A PILOT program in which teenagers used iPods for school work has increased attendance and increased enthusiasm for homework.

A class of year 8 students at Shepparton High School in central Victoria are the first in Australia and among the first in the world to use iPod touches in the classroom for a global "mobile learning" project.

The students use the hand-held media players to search the internet, download music, do quizzes, research and submit assignments and collaborate with a school in Singapore.

Preliminary research on the program found students were more willing to come to school, did more homework and used their iPods more than laptops or desktop computers.

Using an online learning program called Studywiz, students and teachers accessed school-wide emails and saved their homework to an "elocker".

Pupils also used the iPods, which were lent by Apple, for science experiments - to see how many decibels they produce - and in history classes.

Louise Duncan, the teacher who set up the project, said the devices were cheaper than laptops and allowed students to tailor information and stay focused in class.

The project had also shown not all teenagers were comfortable in a digital environment. "We assume that 14-year-olds are really technologically savvy, but they're often not," she said.