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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gmail’s Phone Feature: A Logical Addition - PCWorld

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Gmail’s Phone Feature: A Logical Addition - PCWorld
Analysis: Google's habit of introducing non-e-mail features into Gmail works out well, this time.
Saturday, August 28, 2010 06:49 AM PDT
I've been using Gmail's new free voice calling feature over the past couple of days. For a while, I thought that the Google Buzz blowup proved it was a bad idea to introduce non-e-mail features into Gmail, period. Now I now that if it's the right feature done the right way, it can make perfect sense.
Quick notes:
The quality-on the calls I've made so far, at least-is sensational, and seemingly so on both ends. I hear the other party just great, he or she hears me, and there's zero lag time. All using the microphone and speakers built into my MacBook, no headset required. It's like having a speakerphone, except I've never encountered a speakerphone that sounds this good.
Making calls from within Gmail works well; receiving them has its complications. For one thing, you need to make sure that Gmail is open, and that it's in a tab you can get to quickly when your browser starts to ring. For another, if you mute your laptop's speakers and aren't in Gmail when a call comes in, there's no way to tell someone's trying to reach you. (I'd love to see Google release a bit of notification software that would get your attention even when you're in another app.)
It would be nice to see more comprehensive integration of Gmail and Google Voice, or at least parity in terms of phone features. For instance, being able to check voice messages from within Gmail would be a plus. And shouldn't you be able to make PC calls from within Google Voice itself? (It has a calling feature, but it does something different: It rings both you and the person you want to talk to on your standard phones.)
I agree that this is a wonderfully, useful feature. I also agree that it would also be useful if there was a separate notification software which let you know when you receive a call without Gmail having to be open. I actually like Skype's service better. I pay $2.99 per month for unlimited U.S. and Canada calling. I pay $30.00 a year for a Skype in phone number, which is a local number which receives calls on my computer wherever in the world I may be. It was very useful for my family in friends when i was living in South Korea. They could reach me from any phone for free by dialing my local, Skype provided number which rang on my MacBook.
Now my Skype number is my home number. I can receive calls as long as a computer is on in my house. I make all and receive of my daytime phone calls from either my MacBook or the Skype application on my iPod Touch. I make all of my overseas calls using Skype. In the past 24 hours I have spoken to friends in South Korea twice, for free. I spoke over two hours.
Skype averages out to less than $6.00 per month for its unlimited U.S. and Canada service with a local phone number.
On the other hand I give my google voice number out to my college students or as a home number in business situations. I have Google Voice set up to automatically forward calls to my Skype number. So I never have to worry about missing calls and I get around the Google Voice and Gmail phone limitation that requires your browsers Gmail tab to always be open.
All of my text messaging is done through Google Voice either on my MacBook or my iPod touch. As long as there is a wifi connection Skype and Google Voice work together like a charm. I use Skype for my overseas texting. It is only a couple of cents per texts and calls range from $02 cents to land lines and $.05 to overseas mobile phones. The best part is that I have all of these features for under $6.00 per month. I pay Skype under $6.00 and combine its features with the call forwarding features of Google Voice. Did I mention that Google Voice provides a free voice mail which transcribes your messages and sends them to your Gmail account. Of course you can listen to a recording of the original message. On the weekend and after 9PM and on weekends I have my Google Voice number set up to forward my call directly to my cell phone. This way during the week I do not use my cell phone minutes. Five people in my family share 700 minutes without any overages. This system works.
This is a wonderful brave new world. Telephony will never be as it used to be. Those of you who are middle age like me remember when "Ma Bell" charged you $0.10 per message unit (every 3 minutes) for local calls. Thank God those days are long over.
John H. Armwood

Friday, August 27, 2010

A World Without Blockbuster Is a World Filled With Sadness

A World Without Blockbuster Is a World Filled With Sadness
Blockbuster's likely bankruptcy filing will mean lots of their stores will close. That's sad! The loss of Blockbuster stores is a loss for everybody.
Of course, filing for bankruptcy doesn't mean that Blockbuster will close all its stores and go away entirely. It just mean that they're going to consolidate their into more profitable markets, and close down somewhere around 50% or 70% of their lower-performing stores. That sucks.
I pay $20 a month for three in-the-mail rentals, like with Netflix. Unlike Netflix, I'm able to exchange each one of these rentals in-store, immediately, with a physical movie, which satisfies my watch-it-right-now urge I get once in a while. Plus, all of these are Blu-ray.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Google: 1 million Gmail calls during first day | Deep Tech - CNET News

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle: 1 million Gmail calls during first day | Deep Tech - CNET News
Google Wave and Google Buzz may have had troubles attracting usage, but the new ability to place calls from Gmail appears to have caught on quickly.
"Over 1,000,000 calls placed from Gmail in just 24 hours!" Google tweeted Thursday, evidently pleased with the number.
For comparison, there are somewhat more than 300 million people in the United States. If the average person makes 10 calls per day--research in 2008 put the number at 208 calls per month--that means about one out of every 3,000 calls in the U.S. went through the service on its first day.
The service lets Gmail users make free calls to U.S. and Canada and inexpensive calls to phones in other countries. It uses Gmail as an interface and optionally can integrate with Google Voice to receive calls as well.

iWork update enables iBooks self-publishing | Apple - CNET News

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 06:  MacWorld attendee...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeiWork update enables iBooks self-publishing | Apple - CNET News
Apple on Thursday released an update for its iWork suite of productivity applications, adding a new feature that enables authors to add books to its iBookstore application.
While all of the applications in the iWork suite were updated, the most significant change comes in Pages 4.0.4. The word-processing app now includes compatibility with the ePub format, which Apple uses for iBooks.
Apple published a document on its support site giving users tips on creating documents in the ePub format that covers everything from using paragraph styles in your Pages document to providing a downloadable template to use.

Microsoft's Big Bing Theory Targets Google - PCWorld

Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseMicrosoft's Big Bing Theory Targets Google - PCWorld
With Microsoft and Yahoo officially teaming up in the search market this week, it's time to wait and see if this move could eat into Google 's hearty lead over its top opponents.
Microsoft and Yahoo announced Tuesday that Bing is totally fueling Yahoo search results in the U.S. and Canada. The search integration comes more than a year after both companies announced that they were joining forces to better take on Google, the goliath of the search industry.
It will be a while before there are any numbers to show how the pair is fairing against Google , said Hadley Reynolds, an analyst at market research firm IDC. However he said the launch was a positive start.
"It's important for Microsoft and Yahoo that the shift from Yahoo search to Bing for organic results took place smoothly this week -- apparently without any technical breakdowns," Reynolds said. "These transitions are dicey in any software environment, and the fact that Yahoo and Bing pulled off the project successfully should build confidence among search marketers and advertisers."
With the 10-year deal, Yahoo gave up its own longstanding search technology in lieu of using Microsoft's fairly new Bing search engine to power all searches on the various Yahoo sites.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Google makes it official: Phone calls now in Gmail | Relevant Results - CNET News

This is icon for social networking website. Th...Image via WikipediaGoogle makes it official: Phone calls now in Gmail | Relevant Results - CNET News
Gmail isn't just about e-mail anymore: it's also a phone.
Google launched the ability to make voice calls to any traditional phone number from a Gmail account Wednesday, which CNET had reported Tuesday was in testing. It's a blend of Gmail and Google Voice technology that allows users to dial numbers from their computers as well as receive incoming calls through one's Google Voice number.
Gmail users can link their Google Voice accounts with their Gmail accounts to have their in-boxes treated like just another line that will ring when people call their Google Voice numbers, and their Google Voice number will appear on the incoming call screen of those they are calling. A Google Voice account isn't required to use the service, but international calls will be funded through Google Voice accounts.
Calls to phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada will be free, and will cost 2 cents a minute to several other countries such as France and the U.K. The service should be rolling out to Gmail users in the U.S. on Wednesday, with international availability coming at an unspecified later date.

Software Will Be Used to Predict Who Will Commit Crime - BV Black Spin

Software Will Be Used to Predict Who Will Commit Crime - BV Black Spin
It is being reported that law enforcement officials in Washington DC plan to use a new computer program that claims to be able to predict which citizens are most likely to commit crime. The concept conjures up images of the Tom Cruise film, "Minority Report," in which agents were able to predict "pre-crime": Crime that hasn't happened yet, and is set to occur. But far from science fiction, this program is based on reality.
The program was developed by Richard Berk, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania. The first version of the program was used to predict future murders among parolees, but it is being argued that the software can be used for all kinds of crime.

BBC News - Secret US military computers 'cyber attacked' in 2008

BBC News - Secret US military computers 'cyber attacked' in 2008

A 2008 cyber attack launched from an infected flash drive in the Middle East penetrated secret US military computers, a Pentagon official says.
The attack by a foreign spy service was the "most significant breach" ever of US military networks, Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn said.
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine, Mr Lynn described it as a "digital beachhead" to steal military secrets.
He urged the US to speed up its cyber defence system procurement procedure.
Mr Lynn, the number two official in the Pentagon, wrote that the previously undisclosed 2008 attack began when an infected flash drive was inserted into a US military laptop at a base.

Voice Calling Coming to Gmail? - PCWorld

This is icon for social networking website. Th...Image via WikipediaVoice Calling Coming to Gmail? - PCWorld
You may be able to dial phone numbers and carry on voice conversations directly through Gmail Chat as early as Wednesday, when Google has scheduled an announcement.
The new service reportedly has a very Google Voice-like interface that uses similar icons for placed calls, missed calls and voicemail messages. But it's unclear whether the unnamed feature would be integrated with your Google Voice account, because you will not need a Google Voice phone number to use the new service. But just like Google Voice the new service will let you place free phone calls to the U.S. and Canada, according to a report from CNET.
It's unclear when any new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service would launch, but Fortune's Seth Weintraub expects Google's press briefing today to unveil the service then.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

iPhone: Great Device, Lousy Telephone? - PCWorld

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseiPhone: Great Device, Lousy Telephone? - PCWorld
If you have an iPhone, this experience may be familiar: Your phone shows only a bar or two, and either you can't make a call or the call you do make is so scratchy and garbled that the person you're calling can't understand what you're saying. Meanwhile, right next to you, someone on a different AT&T phone connects without a hitch and chats away happily. I decided to informally test whether there's a solid basis for that common gripe. My findings: The two iPhones I tested had lower rates of connecting successfully and had poorer voice quality in AT&T low-signal areas than did two non-Apple AT&T phones that I tested under the same conditions.
I tested four phones on AT&T service in two cities over three days. I drove around San Francisco and Los Angeles comparing the performance of the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS against the performance of the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the Pantech Impact in voice calls placed at roughly the same time from areas where coverage from the AT&T network is less than optimal.
What I found was surprising. Calls on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS failed to connect or dropped in midcall far more often than did calls on the other two phones, and the iPhone calls that connected successfully sounded marginally worse than calls placed with the BlackBerry and Pantech phones.    More...
I have noticed a significant call in drop call quality since my daughter switched from a Blackberry, which broke, to a new iPhone 4
John H. Armwood

Yahoo Moves to Bing in North America - PCWorld

Yahoo Moves to Bing in North America - PCWorld
Bing is now fully fueling Yahoo search results in the U.S. and Canada, Yahoo and Microsoft said on Tuesday.
The announcement marks one of the first major milestones since the two companies signed a 10-year deal for Microsoft to power Yahoo search and for Yahoo to use Microsoft's AdCenter advertising platform. Authorities in the U.S. and Europe approved the deal in February and the companies have said they expect to take about two years to fully implement the agreement.
So far, Bing is only powering results in English in the U.S. and Canada, with other languages to follow "in the weeks and months to come," wrote Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, in a blog post.
Last week, Yahoo said it would begin transitioning to Bing on the back end for search, noting that search results pages would display the line "Powered by Bing" at the bottom for searches using Microsoft's results.
The companies are still working on Yahoo's transition to using AdCenter, Microsoft's self-serve search ad platform. "As we have said all along, our primary goal is to provide advertisers with a quality transition experience in 2010, while being mindful of the holiday season," Nadella wrote.
During its second-quarter earnings call, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said she expects the company to be using AdCenter in October, but she stressed that the company wouldn't be rushed. "It's very important that our advertisers are ready, that AdCenter is ready, and we're not going to pull the trigger until we're sure of it," she said at the time. "We feel good, but because the holiday season is so important to advertisers, we won't launch unless we have a smooth transition."
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is

State of the Art - OpenDNS Simplifies Life for Web Users -

State of the Art - OpenDNS Simplifies Life for Web Users -
I’m about to make your life better. No need to thank me.
But first, a warning: On the way to understanding how your life will get better, you’ll have to read about some technical, fairly arcane topics. Trust me: it’ll be worth it.
In this case, the topic is your Web browsing, and the magic wand is a free service called OpenDNS.
You know how every Web site has an address, like or Turns out that’s just a fakeout. It’s a convenient crutch for you, the human with limited brain capacity.
Behind the scenes, the actual address is a string of numbers (called an I.P. address, for Internet protocol) that looks something like this: (That happens to be Google’s address.)
Nobody can remember those addresses, though they are no longer than a phone number, so the Web’s thoughtful designers came up with a secondary system: plain-English addresses like When you type that into your browser, a computer at your Internet provider performs a quick lookup. “Aha,” it says to itself in its little digital way, “you just typed What you really want, of course, is Please hold; I’ll connect you.”
That, in a nutshell, is how D.N.S. works. (It stands for domain name system, in case that helps.)
Unfortunately, from time to time, your Internet provider’s D.N.S. computer goes down. To you, it seems that the Web itself has gone out, because you can’t pull up any sites at all. In December 2008, for example, 1.2 million Los Angeles citizens thought that the entire Web had gone offline, because of a crashed Time Warner D.N.S. computer.
That story was gleefully provided by OpenDNS, the one-of-a-kind company with a killer idea: to provide a free, alternative D.N.S. service that works better than your Internet provider’s. Faster, more reliably and with more features. You don’t pay anything, sign up for anything or install anything. All you have to do is make one change to your network settings, and you get all of these benefits:
NO D.N.S. CRASHES The company claims that in its five-year history, its D.N.S. computers have had zero downtime. In fact, had you been using OpenDNS in 2008, the Time Warner crash would not have affected you at all. You’d have kept right on surfing while your next-door neighbors were gnashing their teeth and playing board games.
A similar feature called SmartCache lets you pull up individual Web sites even when, because of broken addresses, they are unavailable to everyone else.
FASTER PAGES To speed up the conversion of plain-English addresses to numeric ones, every Internet provider caches, or preloads, the addresses of thousands of the most popular Web sites. This trick can save you microseconds or fractions of seconds with every page you open. When you visit a site that’s not on that “most popular” list, though, you may wait a bit.
But OpenDNS caches the entire Web. Every Web site appears slightly faster. If you don’t actually feel the difference, you can measure it using Google’s free Namebench program. It told me that OpenDNS was performing that looking-up business 14.8 percent faster than what I’d been getting before.
TYPO CORRECTIONS As long as OpenDNS is inserting itself between you and the Web, it can do you some favors. One is correcting typos. If you type “nytimes.cmo” or “wikipedia.og,” for example, OpenDNS quietly and instantly corrects the typo and sends you where you wanted to go. Most of the time, you never even realize your fingers misfired.
Unfortunately, this feature auto-fixes only the suffix (.com, .org, .gov and so on). If you type “” or “,” you’re on your own.
PHISHING PROTECTION Phishing is the Internet scheme where you get a fake e-mail note from your bank about a problem with your account. When you click the link to correct the problem, you get a fake Web site, designed to look just like your bank’s — and by logging in, you unwittingly supply your name and password to the bad guys.
OpenDNS intercepts and blocks your efforts to visit the fake sites. It works like a charm.
SHORTCUTS Web address shortcuts are short, memorable abbreviations for your favorite sites. You can set up “nyt” so that, when you type it into your address bar, you go to a much longer Web address like
Shortcuts are great. There’s limited space on your bookmarks toolbar, and the bookmarks menu is clumsy for people who like to keep their hands on the keyboard. And unlike the similar feature in Firefox, OpenDNS’s shortcuts work in any browser on any computer or phone in the house.
PARENTAL CONTROLS The latest OpenDNS feature is site-blocking. Here again, having an account means that you can create a setting that applies to every computer in the house — and block your choice of 57 categories of Web sites, including Pornography, Nudity, Lingerie, Instant Messaging, File Sharing, Game and Humor. (Honestly. What kind of parent would block humor?)
How can OpenDNS possibly track every Web site on earth and put it into the right 57 categories? It doesn’t. Its fans do. Anyone can submit a site to the master database of categorized sites, whereupon other people vote on its placement. This Wikipedia-style crowdsourcing is ingenious, and, as far as my testing was concerned, bulletproof.
(Teenagers often subscribe to mailing lists that publish the addresses of proxies and anonymizers, special sites that they use to get around traditional Web blockers installed by schools or parents. But I was amused to learn that the engineers at OpenDNS subscribe to those lists, too. They block the proxies as fast as they are created.)
All of this OpenDNS goodness is free, automatic and always improving. Surely there’s a catch. How, for example, does OpenDNS make money?
First, although everything described here is free, the company sells additional services to businesses.
Second, if you type the address of a nonexistent site, OpenDNS throws up the equivalent of Google’s “Did you mean?” screen: a list of sites, provided for (and paid for) by Yahoo, that behave as though you’ve done a search for that term. Presto: more income.
About the only worry anyone seems to have about OpenDNS is about privacy. Already, 20 million people use OpenDNS, according to the company — 1 percent of everyone on the Internet. Even if OpenDNS doesn’t know your name or anything about you, couldn’t it be collecting all kinds of Web traffic data, concocting its evil plans?
Of course, whoever is providing your D.N.S. lookups now (not to mention your bank, phone company and grocery store) could be doing exactly the same thing right now. At a certain point, you have to let go.
The biggest realistic challenge may be setting up OpenDNS in the first place. It involves typing two addresses into the D.N.S. settings page of your computer or router: and That new address directs your computers’ Web requests to OpenDNS’s lookup service.
At, the step-by-step instructions take all of two minutes to complete. But fooling around with these network underpinnings may strike some people as intimidating.
You can, if you like, turn on OpenDNS on each computer and phone in your building individually. But it’s much smarter and quicker to make the change on the router itself, the little box that distributes your Internet connection throughout your home. At, you’ll find illustrated instructions for each router brand.
In any case, OpenDNS is one of the last great freebies of the Web. It manages to pull off the Google trick: offering, at no charge, incredible utility and speed to the masses — while still finding inoffensive ways to make money. Even if you use only one or two of its features, you’ll find that OpenDNS makes your Web life better.
Come to think of it, you can thank me after all.
This DNS service is highly recommended. I have been using the free version for a while on all of my computers and on my iPod Touch. It is wonderful.
John H. Armwood

PayPal/iTunes attacks based on existing bots, phishing? | iPodNN

PayPal/iTunes attacks based on existing bots, phishing? | iPodNN
A recent series of fraudulent iTunes downloads, tied to PayPal accounts, is not based on any new exploit, sources claim. Described as "close to Apple," the sources suggest that iTunes has not been compromised and that Apple isn't aware of any sudden jump in fraud. In reality, people are probably falling prey to variants of bot and phishing attacks that have been around for years, All Thing Digital writes.
PayPal is promising to reimburse any illicit charges. Apple's position has remained consistent. "iTunes is always working to prevent fraud and enhance password security for all of our users," a new statement reads. "But if your credit card or iTunes password is stolen and used on iTunes we recommend that you contact your financial institution and inquire about canceling the card and/or issuing a chargeback for any unauthorized transactions. We also recommend that you change your iTunes account password immediately."

Phishers continue to target iTunes users | Security | Playlist | Macworld

Phishers continue to target iTunes users | Security | Playlist | Macworld
Users of Apple’s iTunes services should keep a close eye on PayPal and credit card statements for fraudulent iTunes charges.
For more than a year now, scammers have been racking up unauthorized charges on iTunes accounts, leaving Apple’s customers to clean up the mess.
Tech Crunch and the San Jose Mercury News report that the scam is ongoing—often draining hundreds of dollars or more from accounts—but consumers have been complaining about the problem since at least early 2009.
The number of people being hit by the fraudsters now seems to be growing, however.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why I’m sticking with the Mac | Mac OS X | MacUser | Macworld

Why I’m sticking with the Mac | Mac OS X | MacUser | Macworld

Why I’m sticking with the Mac
For this Mac developer, the desktop is still central
Posted on Aug 21, 2010 9:00 am by Daniel Jalkut,
Three years ago, I had never even held a touchscreen computer. Today I carry one everywhere I go. Apple changed the mobile phone industry with the launch of the iPhone, and appears to be creating a similar sensation with the iPad. Now it’s doing everything it can to keep that momentum going, showering us with ads on television and elsewhere, singing the praises of their latest handheld, touch-driven devices.
Some interpret the relative silence of Mac marketing as a death knell for the platform. But while the iPad is many great things, it’s no Mac. Apple’s touch platforms excite me as a programmer, and inspire me to think about software in all kinds of new ways. I’m spending a lot of time and energy targeting these new products. But I’m also still committed to the Mac.
If you are a content producer or use your computer using productivity applications you will probably wand an iMAC or a Macbook.  A P.C. is not in the same ballpark.  Macs simply work better.  Even though they are somewhat more expensive you save money in headaches and usability.

John H. Armwood