Find and Get Rid of Old Files with an Advanced Explorer Search [Search Techniques]

It's easy to visualize your hard drive usage by file size to get rid of big files you don't need, but if you want to hunt down the files you haven't used in ages, this quick search query can help.

Whether you've installed Windows Search in XP or you're using the built-in search tools in Vista or Windows 7, Explorer's search capabilities are better than they've ever been. Tech tips weblog AddictiveTips highlights how to use the datemodified search operator in Windows Explorer searches.

You can start building a date modified search with a few simple clicks in Explorer's search box, but if you want to find files older than a specific date, just add a < (less than) sign in front of the date you choose. It's a simple but effective search technique that can help you find files you haven't used for quite some time and that you might be able to get rid of to free up a little space. (Naturally, just because a file hasn't been modified for a while doesn't mean it's no good, so make sure you know what's going on with the files you decide to delete.)

Got a favorite Explorer search trick you like to use? Tell us about it in the comments.




Shazam Encore Debuts for iPhone [jkOnTheRun]

iphonewShazam is an app for the iPhone/ iPod Touch that is so cool it is one of the first things you show off to friends. Its function is simple, the technology behind it definitely not. What Shazam does is identify songs by listening to them. You hear a song on the radio in your car and you want to know what it is so you fire up Shazam on the iPhone. It listens for a few seconds and then tells you the song, the artist, and even offers you a one-click purchase of the song.

Shazam has been one of the best free apps for the iPhone since early in the iPhone product life. That changes with the introduction of Shazam Encore, a pay per view listen version that removes all limits from the free version. Specifically the free version of Shazam now limits you to 5 tags per month, and the Encore version offers unlimited tags. You’ll pay $4.99 at the App Store for that unlimited tagging in Shazam Encore, but you’ll also get these features:

  • Improved speed performance: making it even quicker for users to tag tracks and learn more about their music.
  • Music recommendations: users can discover other music similar to the track that’s been tagged to enhance their music collection and knowledge.
  • Find what’s hot and popular: Shazam music charts generated by millions of other Shazamers can be accessed to help users keep up to date with the new tracks and players in the music scene.
  • Search music: easily find music by artist, album or track from over 8 million songs.
  • Drive and Tag: Shazam automatically enters into car mode when the iPhone is placed in an in-car dock to make it simple to discover what’s playing on the radio even when driving.

Note that existing Shazam owners still have unlimited tags, only new customers of the free version have the limit. The $4.99 fee for Shazam Encore is a one-time fee.

Introducing Ryan Lawler, NewTeeVee’s Newest Staffer [NewTeeVee]

To all readers, commenters, and other esteemed members of the online video ecosystem:

rkl headshotPlease allow me to introduce myself as the newest member of the GigaOM and NewTeeVee team.

For those that don’t know me, I spent the last two years at Contentinople, where I wrote about technology innovation in the digital media realm. When I first started there, I joked in my bio that I covered “all things related to the rapid movement of rich media onto the Web, and the not-so-rapid monetization of it.”

The funny thing is that’s what I’m still writing about nearly two years later.

For the most part, my interest lies in the technology that enables content to move online, and the ways that the market is rapidly changing. That includes the commoditization of the CDN industry, the maturation of video management platforms and monetization tools, and the growing presence of connected consumer electronics devices that bring online video into the living room.

When I first started covering online video, there weren’t very many publications paying much attention to the market, and there were even fewer that covered it particularly well. But NewTeeVee consistently provided great insight into what was happening in online video, and it became one of the few sites that I found myself reading every day.

So when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of that, I couldn’t resist. I’m happy to be joining Liz, Chris, and the rest of the GigaOM team, and hope that I can complement their existing coverage with some of my own. I’m looking forward to working with them and contributing to the site — and of course, interacting with the great community that they’ve built. So feel free to drop me a line, send me hate mail, or tip me off to any wild rumors or speculation that you might hear.

EyeTV on the iPhone: In-Depth [TheAppleBlog]


EyeTViPhone

Recently, Elgato released EyeTV for the iPhone (AppStore Link). At a cost of $4.99, its marketing blurb offers the following functionality:

With the EyeTV app, you can watch, record, and enjoy live and recorded TV on your iPhone or iPod touch. At last, you don‘t have to leave all your great TV shows at home; the EyeTV app puts the power of award-winning EyeTV in the palm of your hand.

The EyeTV app accesses EyeTV running on your Mac at home to deliver these great features to your iPhone:

  • Watch live TV and change channels anywhere (Wi-Fi connection required)
  • Watch your EyeTV recordings
  • Browse the comprehensive Program Guide
  • Start recordings back home on your Mac immediately or schedule them for later
  • View and edit your recording schedules

How Does it Measure Up?

Now that we know the promises, how does the functionality work in practise and does it live up to the hype? To set the picture accurately; my set up is a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini with 2GB of RAM and two Elgato Digital USB Tuner sticks. This is hooked up to an Airport Express, which extends my existing wireless connection from another room. Between myself and my wife, we have an iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 2nd Gen, so I will be testing EyeTV on all three looking for differences.

Setting Up and Preparing

After downloading the EyeTV app from iTunes and installing onto my three iDevices, I had to update EyeTV to version 3.2 on my Mac mini by simply checking for updates. Once updated, switching on iPhone streaming was a simple option in the preferences.

EyeTV3.2.iP1

There is also functionality for using Elgato’s servers to allow connecting to your EyeTV device from outside your wireless network called “My EyeTV.” This works in a similar manner to Apple’s “Back To My Mac” functionality of MobileMe and requires UPnP support between your EyeTV host and your router. Because I have an AirPort Express extended network, UPnP didn’t work — but I was able to manually configure a port forwarding rule in my router on port 2170 to make the service work.

Advanced options allow you to require a passcode to connecting a device and the option to automatically convert recordings into a format suitable for streaming at a later time. While Live TV does not need to be prepared, recorded content does.

EyeTV3.2.IP2

You can however, also prepare recordings manually, on a case-by-case basis.

EyeTV3.2iP3

After starting the iPhone app and entering my “My EyeTV” details, I get the option of connecting via Wi-Fi (on the bottom) and via “My EyeTV” (on top). When connected to my local wireless, the “My EyeTV” connection did not work (of course you wouldn’t want to do this, but the software doesn’t detect this in any way).

0EyeTVIpConnect

Selecting the local Wi-Fi option connects quickly and presents the app’s main menu.

1EyeTViPMainMenu
Watching Live TV

Selecting LiveTV gives a list of channels and what is currently showing.
2EyeTViPLiveTV

Clicking on the green icon on the right displays the upcoming programs on that channel.
3EyeTViPLiveTV

I can then select the current show to get a summary and an option to “Watch Now.”

4EyeTViPLiveTV

This process then takes about 20 seconds of processing and streaming before I get picture and sound, which is smooth and crisp and just as one would expect.

5EyeTVIpLiveTV

Tapping on the screen brings up the controls which allow pausing, rewinding 30 seconds (and jumping back to the live stream), a volume control and resizing between widescreen (just like in the iPod app).

6EyeTVIpLiveTV

Pressing the ‘gear’ icon displayed in the top right of the channel listing presents a bandwidth/quality settings screen to enable you to tweak the size of the stream. This worked well and allows you to find the right setting for your moment. The lowest setting is about equal to the early days of You Tube while the highest setting is flawless.
EyeTViPQuality

Watching Recordings

Pressing the recordings menu gives you a sub menu to narrow down searching for an existing recording.

7EyeTvIpRec

Selecting an option (such as Library) gives a list of individual recordings.
8EyeTVIpRec

While there is no way to search directly for a recording, you can sort the list by a number of means.
EyeTViPSort

Unlike live TV, when watching a recording you get full track scrubbing navigation, not just ‘back 30 seconds.’
9EyeTViPRec

The quality of recordings is not configurable like LiveTV is, it depends on the quality options you selected for ‘preparing recordings’ on your Mac. Cellular quality is very low and like You Tube, but if you’re on wireless (or on a jailbroken phone with 3G Un-Restrictor) you get full quality.
EyeTViP3.2Quality

Schedules

Schedules let you see what upcoming recordings you have scheduled.
EyeTViPSchedules

All you can do here is browse and remove an item from the schedule.

EyeTViPHDontRecord

Guide

The Guide gives you access to the full electronic TV guide available in your Mac’s EyeTV software, this is exactly the same as when browsing the guide for Live TV, except instead of an option to “Watch Now,” the button is “Record,” which will add the show to your recording schedule.

EyeTViPRecord

The Verdict

There is no noticeable speed differences with performance between the iPhone 3G, iPod touch 2nd Gen or the iPhone 3GS. The bottleneck here is available bandwidth and the speed of the host computer. Generally, the functionality works as advertised, however there are some limitations to be aware of, and some version 1.0 bugs that need to be squashed.

  • Live streaming does not work on 3G, requires Wi-Fi — thanks AT&T, for affecting my functionality in Australia. However, on a jailbroken phone, I was able to successfully use 3G Unrestrictor to fool EyeTV into thinking it was on Wi-Fi, thus allowing it to work. This worked at a much higher quality than I expected and was also very smooth. Well worth the $2.99 it costs for 3G Unrestrictor.
  • Streaming only supports one device at a time. Connecting with my iPhone and watching a live TV stream, then connecting with my iPod touch works, but when actually selecting a channel to view on the iPod touch, it drops the stream for the iPhone. This is probably fair enough as one stream is pretty CPU intensive as it is.
  • When both recording a show and streaming live TV, I had two instances of the host application crash, requiring a full EyeTV restart to allow connections again.
  • When testing across the Internet while on my work’s wireless, or on 3G, I found my iPhone’s EyeTV app constantly crashing whenever it tried to connect. This seemed to be an issue with the EyeConnect helper software on my Mac mini, which needed to be restarted by turning EyeTV sharing off and on again in my Mac mini.
  • When stopping a live or recorded stream, the CPU usage on the host computer often stays high for 5-10 minutes. It looks like its continuing to stream data out and didn’t get the ’stop’ message from the iPhone. This does seem to eventually time out and really isn’t a big problem unless the CPU usage causes you a problem.
  • It would be a nice option to be able to ‘prepare’ a recording for the iPhone remotely.

Once Elgato gets a software update out for both ends of the solution (iPhone and OS X) to fix the crash bugs and bring stability to the software, this will be absolutely great. Until then, it’s a bit of hit and miss, it may work fine or it may need someone to be at your computer to restart software before it works, which defeats the purpose. Elgato is working hard on its forums to replicate user’s issues and make this stable, so its a bright future ahead.

Report: Comcast and GE Agree on $30B for NBC [NewTeeVee]

Comcast’s bid to buy NBC Universal from GE has cleared another hurdle — the price point. The two parties have agreed to a $30 billion price tag for the TV and movie company, sources familiar with the matter tell The Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

The deal would give the cable network a 51 percent stake in the newly combined venture. And the deal could include a stipulation that over the following seven years, GE would sell all or part of its remaining stake in the company to Comcast.

One variable to closing this deal is French media company Vivendi, which has a 20 percent stake in NBCU. Vivendi has been talking about selling its stake for a while, but it’s not clear whether the company has agreed to the deal being negotiated between Comcast and GE.

Comcast is expected to contribute between $4 billion and $6 billion to the venture, but the cash payment would depend on how well NBC performs financially. If NBCU’s financials get worse between the signing of the deal and final closing, Comcast could wind up paying less.

The Journal reports that the final details are being worked out, and we could get an announcement by the end of this week. (We’ve heard that one before.) Getting the regulatory approvals is expected to take eight to 12 months.

Shazam, the song-recognition app, launches $4.99 version with more features

shazamShazam, owner of the application that lets you identify a song by holding your phone up to to a radio, has released a paid ($4.99) version of its iPhone app that makes it easier to share music and discover what’s popular among other users.

The move is part of the company’s efforts to make serious dough, now that it has a massive base of 50 million users — but it is also part of the company’s efforts to make its offerings fairer to users across multiple phones. (Shazam and the phone carriers it partnered with used to charge for its service on many phones, but Shazam decided to move to free when it launched on the iPhone. This meant that some users of other phones on the AT&T network were paying $2.99 a month, while iPhone users were getting it for free. Just not fair. Thus the scramble to realign offerings.)

It also is an attempt to expands upon Shazam’s profitable business model. Unlike many music companies, it isn’t losing money, and now that it has taken on serious backers, it wants to make a whole lot more.

Called Shazam Encore, the new Shazam iphone app costs $4.99 in the U.S., and offers the following:

  • improved speed performance: making it even quicker for users to tag tracks and learn more about their music.
  • music recommendations: users can discover other music similar to the track that’s been “tagged,” or recognized, to enhance their music collection and knowledge.
  • find what’s hot and popular: Shazam music charts generated by other users can be accessed to help users keep up to date with latest tastes.
  • search music: easily find music by artist, album or track from over 8 million songs.
  • drive and tag: Shazam automatically enters into car mode when the iPhone is placed in an in-car dock to make it simple to discover what’s playing on the radio even when driving.

The free app, which limits new users to five tags per month (existing users can tag without limits), will remain, but it also gets some more features:

  • the ability to share tags, or recognized songs, onto a Facebook mini-feed.
  • users can send their tags as a tweet to followers.
  • tags now appear on maps inside Shazam, along with the tag history, to remind users where they were when they captured the moment.

The company is seeing tremendous traction, saying it has 10 million users on the iPhone and the rest distributed across other phones such as Blackberries, Nokias and Androids. Notably, the only platform Shazam hasn’t built an application for is the Palm. The Palm users just aren’t there yet, chief executive Andrew Fisher told us.

The existing free version of Shazam seeks to make money off of ads, and things like affiliate fees from sales of iTunes.

I wrote more about the company’s background here.


Happy 5th Birthday, Firefox! [WebWorkerDaily]

firefox_logo_3025Today marks the start of the fifth birthday celebration of my favorite browser, Mozilla Firefox. I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble getting my head around the fact that it’s 5 years old — that makes me feel a little old myself!

In 2004, when Firefox 1.0 was launched, the first browser wars were all but over. Microsoft (msft) had beaten Netscape, Internet Explorer was — by far — the dominant browser, and those of us who actually cared about things like web standards were looking on in despair.

That changed when Firefox came along, showing the world that it was possible to produce a lightweight, fast, extensible and secure standards-compliant standalone browser. In those five years, it has grown from being a scrappy open-source upstart the geeks use to the second-most popular browser in use, taking about a quarter of the market, according to Net Applications (and on more technical sites like this one, Firefox is by far the most popular browser). Firefox’s rapid growth was helped in part by grassroots promotional efforts like the Spread Firefox campaign, but primarily thanks to Microsoft’s glacial rate of development of IE and its glaring security holes. Without the competitive pressure of Firefox, Microsoft might not have seriously developed IE beyond IE 7, and without browser development and innovation, some of the great web apps that we rely on today might not have been possible. Firefox’s own development continues apace, as the second browser wars — between Google and Mozilla this time — really start to heat up. Version 3.6 of the browser, which is currently available in beta (and works very well, I might add), should be released in December.

So, join me in raising a glass (or latte/tea cup) to Mozilla, the Firefox team, and everyone who has contributed to Firefox and its extension ecosystem over the years — it is a great product that many of us are truly thankful for.

Add your Firefox birthday wishes below.

Make Darned Simple Pie Dough with Just Your Hands [Video Demonstration]


To inexexperienced bakers, crafting a flaky pie crust can seem akin to walking into a nuclear reactor and pressing a few buttons. Food blogger Chez Pim demonstrates you only need butter, flour, water, and two hands to pull it off.

No bowls, fancy tools, or KitchenAid mixers are necessary for the flaky pie crust, which comes from Pim's new book, The Foodie Handbook. You will need salted butter, or dilute some salt into the butter, as explained at The Kitchn, and a dough scraper would probably help, unless you've got a long, flat knife that does just as well.

The results have been vouched for by a few corners, and the ingredients are easy enough to stash in your head. Got some fruit in need of a noble purpose? Now you know what to do with it.




Shazam Now Doing Recommendations with Newly Launched App

Shazam, the music discovery iPhone application which gained widespread adoption thanks to its appearance in an iPhone TV commercial, is now getting a ton of new features thanks to the launch of a premium application called Shazam Encore. This new application adds music recommendations, trend charts, music searches, and more to its core set of features already made available in the free version of Shazam.

Does this mean Shazam is about to give Pandora and the like a run for their money?

Sponsor

About Shazam Encore

The free Shazam application is best known for its nifty tune identification trick. Mobile users can hold their iPhones up next to a speaker or other source of music and the application "listens" to what's being played in order to identify the song and artist. It also lets you read track and album reviews, read artist biographies, and tag songs to share with friends over Facebook and Twitter.

The new application, Shazam Encore, adds even more functionality including improved speed performance, trend lists that highlight what's popular among other Shazam users, a search function that taps into a database of 8 million+ songs, music recommendations, and a "drive-and-tag" feature that lets the app recognize when it's in an in-car dock so it can identify what's playing on the radio while you're driving.

But How are Those Recommendations?

Out of all the new features, however, it's the music recommendations option which is the most interesting. Recommendations are the killer feature which can either make or break a mobile application these days. With services like Last.fm and Pandora already providing mobile users with playlists based on a user's likes or dislikes, Shazam needs to be able to do recommendations well - really well - in order to compete with these already popular applications.

In addition, the up-and-comer streaming music service from Spotify also partnered with The Echo Nest's music intelligence platform earlier this year to help improve on Spotify's playlist and music discovery functions. The end results of that partnership have been touted as being like the iTunes' "Genius" feature, only better. Although not yet available in the U.S., Spotify's mobile application is one of the most highly anticipated applications as it provides a new way to enjoy music - through playlist creations that can be listened to both online and off. It, too, will be heavy competition for any application entering into the music recommendations game, including, of course, Shazam.

So where does that leave Shazam Encore? At the moment, its recommendations offering provides you with a list of other songs you might like based on the one track you have pulled up. While this might help you discover new music, you aren't able to create a playlist based on those songs. Instead, Shazam's focus remains more on the sharing of music via tagging and posting to Twitter and Facebook.

As far as how good Shazam's recommendations are, we would need to do a lot more testing before giving a solid opinion - the app is just too new. In fact, it's so new that it wasn't even showing up in an iTunes Store search at the time of writing. The provided screenshot in the App Store doesn't look all that encouraging, though. (Really, a fan of indie band My Sad Captains wants to listen to Katy Perry singing about "kissing a girl?" I don't think so...)

But whether or not the recommendations are up to speed, it remains to be seen whether iPhone app shoppers will be willing to fork over the $4.99 US (£2.99/ €3.99) to have access to them, especially when there's no playlist option included.

Those interested in trying the new Encore application can find it now in the App Store by clicking here.

Discuss


I’m Putting My Palm Pre on Notice [jkOnTheRun]

palm-pre-nfl-mobileThis weekend, I entered my sixth month of Palm Pre ownership. Back in June, both James and I purchased a Pre and walked away with good impressions. It’s been a solid and fun ride so far, but I’m regretfully putting my Palm Pre on notice. I’m going to give the webOS platform another few months to mature. If it doesn’t happen, I suspect I’ll either eat the early termination fee or I’ll add a different phone entirely to my Sprint account. I like the device very much, but I’m routinely carrying two phones because the platform isn’t where it needs to be for me. Many Pre owners are thrilled with their Pre and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be. I’m looking specifically at my needs — and they’re not yet met with the Pre. Why is that?

The most glaring deficit is in the available applications. It’s not a question of needing 100,000 to choose from — it’s simply a matter of not having major titles available in the Application Catalog. I realize that Palm hasn’t yet opened up the catalog to everyone, so I don’t entirely blame developers. And I knew in advance that development would be slow for this reason. But I’m getting antsy and tired of waiting. Look at this way — can you name five webOS software titles from major third-party developers? I’m struggling to do so. Even lesser known “brand names” or “web brands” aren’t in the catalog yet. It seems that as each day passes, I hear about a great new app for iPhone or Android, but not for Palm. Recently we mentioned a few of these: Slacker, Photoshop, Remember the Milk to name a few just in the past week or two.

In many cases, I can use the Pre’s web browser to get things done without using a mobile application. Much of my online time is with WordPress, since that’s where this site is hosted. I’m not creating posts on my phones, but I’m reading — and responding to — comments, checking stats, scheduling posts and more. That’s doable in a small browser, but the WordPress iPhone client has me constantly carrying my iPhone in addition to my Pre. And that’s just one of many examples. The few Twitter clients for webOS are usable, but the ones for iPhone and Android are far better in terms of the user experience. Facebook is the same way — in fact, that’s a prime example. Until recently, the limited Facebook web client for mobiles was abysmal to use — I couldn’t even respond to a wall post or comment. It’s much better now, but Facebook on iPhone is where it’s at.

And about that webOS browser — it’s good, but it still needs work. Some of the basic functionality that didn’t work on day one still isn’t there. I still can’t tell where I am on a page because there’s no indicator. And when I try to read a reader comment here on the site, tapping the link to it doesn’t take me to the comment — it simply takes me to the post page where the comment is. I have to manually go and find it myself. Is it any wonder I just use the WordPress client for iPhone?

In any case, I’m committed to give my Pre a fair chance, given the known schedule and constraints. And I do love the hardware as well as the webOS UI. I’ll probably give things until February to sort themselves out. If I don’t see enough progress, I’ll very likely look at what Android 2.0 devices are available at that time. I doubt it will be a Droid though, as I expect even better devices in the first quarter of 2010. Android is far from perfect, but its maturity is happening far faster. And it’s a vicious cycle that puts Palm at a disadvantage — as Android gains market share and features, developers are far more likely to invest their resources in a bigger platform.

Think I’m being to hard on my Palm Pre? Let me know in the comments — just keep in mind that I’m speaking about my own needs. If a webOS device is meeting all of your needs, then you should be happy with your device. I’m not trying to convince you otherwise, nor is this a “jumping on / off the bandwagon” approach. Every one of us should be evaluating the mobile tools we use. If they don’t work, then seeking alternatives is what we should be doing.

Newest experts recruited for GreenBeat: Allan, Hublou, Mezey, Pacyna, Von Dollen

We’re putting the final touches on the agenda for GreenBeat 2009, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, taking place NEXT WEEK on Nov. 18 and 19. Today, we’re delighted to announce the addition of representatives from the Electric Power Research Institute, several major corporations shaping the grid, and a bold new startup.

Before we introduce them, remember to register for your GreenBeat ticket today! With an all-star lineup including former vice president Al Gore, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Cisco’s Smart Grid guru Laura Ipsen and PG&E’s Andy Tang, tickets are going fast. You can sign up and find out more about the conference — located at the San Mateo Marriott — here, or follow us at @greenbeat2009 for breaking news on the event.

We’re also very pleased to announce support from the following strategic partners: Vantage Communications, DEMO, Matter Network and Fora.TV.

Now, joining our prestigious roster of speakers, we have:

sharon_allenSharon Allan — Senior executive and North American Smart Grid Practice Lead at Accenture. With more than 25 years in the technology services industry, Allan puts her executive skills to use helping utilities implement strategies and technology to modernize their operations. She has been working on transmission and distribution issues faced by utilities for over a decade, most recently at Accenture, but also as president of meter maker Elster Integrated Solutions, formerly known as AMCO Automated Systems.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 7.51.17 AMScott Hublou — Co-founder and senior vice president of products at EcoFactor. Before joining this startup, which makes software to turn two-way thermostats into highly programmable and efficient appliances, Hublou headed up marketing services company Sapria Design and Technology Group, which counted SAP, Oracle, BlueShield and Hewlett-Packard among its clients. EcoFactor isn’t his first startup. Prior to working at Sapria, he founded a web-based weight-loss and fitness service called Asimba, which went on to land partnerships with Disney, Powerbar and 24-Hour Fitness.

peterPhilip Mezey — Senior vice president and chief operating officer for Itron North America. Now leading strategy development for one of the biggest makers of smart meters in the U.S., Mezey climbed through the ranks of the company, focusing mostly on its Smart Grid software offerings. Most people forget that in addition to making metering hardware, Itron also provides the software and network infrastructure needed to beam energy consumption information from meters to utilities and their customers. It essentially offers the same solutions as companies like Silver Spring Networks and Trilliant. Now, with hundreds of utilities across the country receiving federal stimulus funds to install meters — likely made by Itron, Landis+Gyr, Echelon, or one of a fairly small handful of companies — Mezey has his work cut out for him. He joined Itron when it acquired Silicon Energy, where he served as vice president of software development. Before that, he founded and worked at Indus, a developer of asset and customer management software.

david_pacynaDavid Pacyna – Senior vice president and general manager of the NAFTA Transmission & Distribution Divisions of Siemens Energy. Pacyna has held this post since the beginning of the year when Siemens consolidated its energy operations, including transmission and distribution offerings and oil and gas holdings, under the banner of Siemens Energy, or SEI. Before managing the corporation’s Smart Grid manufacturing and strategy, he headed up its transmission and distribution division. Pacyna joined Siemens when it acquired Westinghouse Electric in 1998. His expertise lies in international power industries, having led sales and marketing for Siemens in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Currently, he sits on the Board of the Power Equipment Division of the National Electric Manufacturers Association.

don_von_dollenDon Von Dollen — IntelliGrid program manager at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In charge of the non-profit research firm’s program that encourages the transition to a cleaner, more efficient Smart Grid, Von Dollen works with utilities, government agencies (like the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology), energy consumers and other related companies. In addition to playing a pivotal role in NIST’s development of universal standards for the Smart Grid industry, he serves as a peer reviewer for the DOE’s GridWise Program. Before EPRI, Von Dollen worked as a research engineer at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

greenbeat_logo7213255VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Register for your ticket today at GreenBeat2009.com.


Electronic Arts buys Playfish for as much as $400 million

playfish 2Electronic Arts confirmed rumors this morning as it acquired Playfish for $300 million in cash and stock. The move gets EA into the social gaming market on Facebook in a big way.

The value of the deal — $275 million in cash, $25 million in stock, and up to $100 million in bonus cash if certain milestones are hit by 2012 — reflects the rapid growth of Playfish over the last couple of years. Playfish is the second-largest developer on Facebook, behind only Zynga. It has more than 60 million monthly active users, according to AppData.

With the deal, EA will become a major player in social games, the hottest part of the game industry and a field dominated by three companies: Zynga, Playdom and Playfish. Playfish will operate with EA Interactive, a division focused on the web and wireless games.

playfishIn acquiring Playfish, EA is putting pressure on the market leader Zynga. But in many ways, Playfish may be a better deal than if it tried to buy Zynga at a much higher valuation. Playfish has been known for creating original titles such as “Who has the biggest brain?” and “Restaurant City.” While these titles resemble older video games, they were new to Facebook and performed consistently well. Zynga, by contrast, has been known for a few hits such as its poker and mob games, which gave Zynga a cash cow that it used to create knock-offs of other hit titles. Zynga’s Cafe World, which many deride as a clone of Restaurant City, launched many months after the Playfish title and shot ahead of it to 28 million monthly active users, compared to Restaurant City’s 18 million users.

EA itself has tried to come up with hit Facebook games, but it hasn’t been easy. While console games take a team of 100 people and sometimes two years to three years to develop, Facebook games are created within a matter of weeks. And the games are constantly revised in response to user feedback. They are also launched as free games to attract lots of users. They make money with ads and because a small number of the users will pay for virtual goods, such as better weapons or clothing.

The emphasis on doing original and high quality games set Playfish apart and made it more attractive to EA. Playfish also avoided heavy advertising of its games and relied more on word-of-mouth than controversial promotional techniques to spread its games. Even with that conservative strategy, Playfish grew to more than 150 million registered users. Playfish chief executive Kristian Segerstrale noted in a statement that EAi’s entrepreneurial culture was a match for Playfish’s.

“Social gaming, with its emphasis on friends and community, is seeing tremendous growth and this is the right time to invest to strengthen our participation in this space,” said Barry Cottle, senior vice president and general manager of EA Interactive, said in a statement. “EAi has been successfully leading the charge for EA, and with the addition of proven expertise from Playfish, their broad consumer base and strong game brands, we’re moving ahead aggressively in our plans to lead in the category of cross-platform social entertainment.”

The word about the acquisition had been spreading for weeks, but both EA and Playfish executives dismissed them as rumors. Playfish raised $21 million from Accel Partners and Index ventures.


Will the Cloud Lead Me Away From the Mac? [TheAppleBlog]


cloud

There’s no doubt that cloud computing is a growing trend. All you have to look at is the popularity of netbooks to see that many people nowadays will be quite happy with a computing device that gives them access to the web, and not much else.

I’m certainly part of this trend, as I write this story I have the following web-based applications open on my Mac:

What surprises me isn’t how many web apps I’m accessing, but how few native Mac applications I am using to access these services. I am using Tweetie to access Twitter, Evernote has it’s own native Mac application and I use BusyCal to access Google Calendar. Apart from that, all of these web services are being accessed either via Safari (Facebook and Lexulous), or via Site Specific Browsers (SSBs), which means I’m using the naked, if you will, web interface for the application.

Two years ago I never would have done this. I actually wrote a whole blog post, on a now defunct blog, about how I eschewed web-based applications in favor of native Mac apps because I wanted a Mac-like experience. As such I used Mail.app to get my email, NetNewsWire for RSS feeds, Omni Focus for tasks, etc. Nowadays I use web-based apps for all those functions.

There were several factors that led me to this place. First of all web based apps have become better in terms of user experience, in some cases even exceeding, in my opinion, the user experience of the native Mac alternative, for example Gmail versus Mail. Although Google’s web apps aren’t particularly pretty, they are well thought out, and some other web apps are almost elegant, like Remember the Milk.

The iPhone has also been a driving force towards web-based applications because they are more likely to offer the ability to easily synchronize over the air. For example, I would love to use Things as my main task manager, but the simple reality is that I never remember to go through the rigamarole of synchronizing via Wi-Fi. If I can’t sync over the air with my iPhone, then I don’t want to use it on my Mac.

Probably the most important driving force, however, has been features. Google Reader is an excellent example of this. I recently went over several native Google Reader clients for the Mac, but despite this range of choices, I’m still using a site specific browser to access Google Reader. Why? Because none of these applications offer the feature set that the actual website does, and I actually use all of those features. I’ve faced similar problems with native Mac apps that purport to give you access to Facebook or WordPress.

The reality is that many web applications have reached the point of complexity that building a third-party client for them becomes very difficult, especially on the desktop where users will demand feature parity, or something close to it. Unless a company is building their own client, such as Evernote, or the service is exceedingly simple, such as Twitter, desktop clients are constantly going to be playing a losing game of catchup.

What all this means for users like myself is that more and more of my computing experience is moving away from the Mac and to the web (subscription required). I love the Mac, I love the combination of stability, elegance, ease of use and power Apple’s computers offer me, but I have to admit that I’m taking less advantage of the platform than I have in the past, and unless something drastic changes, that trend is only going to continue.

Apple doesn’t seem to be making aggressive moves towards building better support for web applications into the operating system, and this may be a dangerous mistake. Someday in the not to distant future something approaching 100 percent of the average user’s computing is going to move online, and when that happens Apple may find itself flat footed in a new world, and I may find myself looking for a computing platform better suited for my actual use.

Broadband Growth Will Come From New Tech, Not New Adds [GigaOM]

Broadband growth in the U.S. has slowed considerably in the last two years and future growth for online access technologies will come less from people adopting broadband for the first time and more from people upgrading from one technology to another, according to a report out today from Forrester. In addition to new technologies, Americans will also see speed boosts — even those on the slower service tiers — as providers attempt to offer more value on the low end rather than lower prices.

For many, the elimination of the 768 kbps or 1.5 Mbps connection options will go unnoticed, but for those that really only use email, a price decrease for barely broadband speeds will be welcome indeed — it could even spur a few laggards holding out on broadband because of pricing to step up. However, the big takeaway of the report is that most of the U.S. — at 80.9 million homes — has some access to broadband, and that such access will continue to improve.

dstream

When it comes to ISPs, subscriber growth will only help drive sales through the next two years; after that, revenue growth will have to come from new technologies, services and pricing schemes. Cable companies so far are winning, with 45 percent of homes expected to be subscribing to cable broadband by the end of 2009, but fiber to the home will make the most gains over the next five years, by which time it’s projected to grow to account for 10 percent of all access technologies from just 4 percent. And during that time, alternative wireless technologies aren’t forecast to be competitive to cable, fiber or even DSL.

While the speed boosts are welcome, I think the report needs to spend more time discussing how to make broadband access a differentiated service, beyond price and bundles. It recommends that providers focus their competitive strategies less on a bundle and more on access to online storage, TV Everywhere and in-home entertainment that require higher speeds, and help keep subscribers from switching. The irony, of course, is that such high-bandwidth applications are apparently the same ones leading providers to cry uncle under an onslaught of heavy usage.

Nimbuzz Launches NimbuzzOut Calling Service [WebWorkerDaily]

Nimbuzz has launched a premium calling service called NimbuzzOut that adds the ability to use the mobile messaging client to make calls to wireless and landline phones worldwide, as reported by Om over on GigaOM.

Om has been using the pre-release version of NimbuzzOut for about a month and recommends it for making cheap international calls — the call quality is good and the app is easy to use. Check out Om’s post for full details.

Have you tried NimbuzzOut? What do you think of the call quality?

Not Playing Around. EA Buys Playfish For $300 Million, Plus a $100 Million Earnout.

After lengthy negotiations, Electronic Arts closed it’s anticipated acquisition of social gaming startup Playfish for $275 million in cash. An additional $25 million in stock will be set aside for retaining the top talent at the startup, and another $100 million in earnouts are part of the deal as well if the business hits certain milestones. So the total value of the deal could amount to as much as $400 million when all is said and done. Although, earnouts have a tendency to come up short (see Skype).

Playfish is based in London, and has raised $21 million from Accel Partners and Index ventures. The Accel investment is from its European fund. Playfish’s estimated annual revenues are $75 million.

Last year at a presentation at the Founder’s Forum in Hampshire, England, CEO Kristian Segerstrale put up a slide with a dinosaur and expressed his desire to “kill EA.” Now he’s joining them instead. Funny how that works.

Playfish operates social games on Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, and other social networks which have been installed more than 150 million times, and claims 60 million monthly active users. It’s top games include Pet Society, Restaurant City, Country Story and Who Has The Biggest Brain?

Social games are increasingly popular and Electronic Arts needed to buy one of the top players: Zynga, Playfish, or Playdom. The issue is that all three make their money from trading in-game virtual currency for advertising offers. Many of these offers are outright scams, which may explain why Playfish got less in upfront cash than the $350 million to $500 million range it was looking for, and the last $100 million is in the form of an earnout. Playfish perhaps also is not as exposed to these scammy offers as its competitors.

Kevin Comolli, a partner at Accel, tells us that the “vast majority” of Playfish’s revenues do not come from lead generation or other types of advertising offers for virtual currency. His take on the whole Scamville affair is that “exposure is ultimately helpful. It needs to be a durable business. Cleaning this up important.”

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Happy 5th Birthday, Firefox! [jkOnTheRun]

pocketfoxCan you believe that five years ago today, Mozilla launched Firefox 1.0? Since then, the company says that 330 million users choose Firefox — Mozilla claims that it’s one-fourth of the Internet population using their browser. I can’t verify that, but I can validate that just over 40% of our visitors see us through a version of Firefox at last check. Clearly, the vast array of browser extensions — a big differentiator — have much to do with Firefox’s popularity. Maybe we should have seen the rise of the app store as we watched browser extensions add value to Mozilla’s platform. ;)

Probably the most memorable bit I have of Firefox is the large New York Times advertisement in December of 2004. But through the years, Firefox has provided plenty of other memories and new features. Here’s a stroll down memory lane with some of them:

  • Firefox 1.0 — Tabbed browsing, RSS / Atom support
  • Firefox 2.0 — Session restores after a browser crash, suggested search, web feed previews
  • Firefox 3.0 — Smart location bar, improved download manager, increased performance. This version also set a world record for most downloads in a day with 8,002,530 downloads

Related to Firefox’s birthday is a new official emblem for mobile versions of Firefox. Pocketfoxwas chosen to represent Fennec through a contest held by Mozilla. I like the image — Firefox in your pocket is exactly what mobile users are looking for.

Photoshop.com Mobile Fixes Photos on Smartphones [Downloads]

iPhone/Android/Windows Mobile: Photoshop.com, the online home of Adobe's market-leading image editor, has released a native photo editor and photo uploader for Android phones, and it's a fairly versatile solution for fixing or offloading images while you're out and about.

On Android phones, photos can be cropped, rotated, resized, and adjusted for saturation, exposure, and tint, as well as have a soft focus or black & white effect applied. Multiple effects can be undone and re-done, and if you're concerned about making a bad choice, you can upload any pic to a Photoshop.com account first. The iPhone version has a few effects and pre-set color changes—along with multi-touch functionality, of course—and the Android version features a non-multi-touch straightening tool, but the two are basically the same app in different shells. All versions are fairly robust for mobile editing apps, and do a good job of correcting the most notable failings of mobile lenses.

Photoshop.com Mobile is a free download for iPhones, Android, or Windows Mobile devices.




Happy 5th Birthday, Firefox!

Come back with me to the turn of the century, about 1996. Your humble narrator was working for campus police at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, creating FileMaker databases for their police reports. It wasn't uncommon then to see DOS machines sitting beside Windows 95 machines and the web was a primitive and strange thing. There were only two browsers of note, Netscape and Internet Explorer, and firing either up was neither comfortable or interesting. But, hidden deep behind Netscape's bland carapace, was Mozilla. When you typed "about:mozilla" in the Netscape address bar, for example, you got: