Ask the Commenters Roundup [Hive Mind]



Rollip Gives Your Photos Vintage Polaroid Flair [Photography]

Rollip is a one trick pony of a webapp, but if the pony you're after is one that can turn digital pictures into pseudo-Polaroid kitsch, you're in luck.

You can pick from a variety of technical errors that plagued Polaroid snapshots, like overly soft focus or hyper saturation, before adding text to the image.

The second step is selecting from a half dozen or so templates that offer different text and background patterns. The sample here is rocking what could be known as the Coffee Stain and Quirky Writing template.

If Rollip isn't enough to sate your web-based photo editing desires today, might we recommend blending your face with celebrities at MorphThing?



Use Egg Yolks to Give Silver Jewelry an Antique Appearance [Food Hacks]

To help bring out the shine on a piece of silver jewelry, you can go the expensive chemical route, or you can reach inside your fridge, pull out some eggs, and literally get cracking.

Photo by The ChainMaille Lady.

The egg yolk oxidization method won't work on pure silver jewelry, so don't go testing this method out on your mom's fine silver necklace. Most run-of-the-mill silver jewelry, however, is of .925 purity or lower, so you should be safe there. That said, first start out by boiling one egg, then place the contents (minus the whites) and the jewelry inside a bag. Make sure to use paper towels to help keep the yolks separate from the jewelry. Lastly, seal the bag and let the contents sit for a day (longer if you prefer more darker colored jewelry).

After you've left it to soak in the secret sauce, pull the jewelry out and gently buff the surface of the piece. Sulfur from the eggs will have tarnished (in a good way) the deeper crevices of the jewelry, while your own buffing should have successfully removed the oxidation from the higher points.

Word to the wise: whatever you do, make sure to open the bag outside, not inside your home, unless you're one to enjoy the lingering smell of old eggs. If you need to go the opposite route and get your jewelry sparkling and tarnish free, check out our previous post on how to make your own jewelry cleaner.



Cartoon: The Worm Has Turned

Last week's flurry of Twitter DM spam from hacked or phished accounts wasn't the first instance of that and won't be the last.

As long as people are willing to trust their Twitter log-in information to third parties - and don't look carefully at URLs before they log into websites - and as long as a small number of bad actors want to pee in the social media swimming pool, this kind of thing will continue happening.

Sponsor

And it's not just the log-in-here-and-we-will-steal-your-password.com's of the world you have to worry about. Legitimate third-party services whose security isn't up to snuff could be compromised, and your credentials could be stolen from them. Twitter's use of OAuth is a big step forward... although the rash of Mobster World spam shows that that isn't a perfect solution either.

Apparently there's no substitute for ruthlessly and constantly policing your own feed, thoroughly investigating services before you sign up for them, double-checking the URL every time you are about to enter info into a form, and regularly purging your OAuth settings of services you no longer use.

Also, to be safe, change your password regularly... you don't have to be obsessive about it: every three hours or so should be enough. And because erring on the side of caution is always a good idea, fake your own suicide and change your identity at least once a year.

And you thought Twitter was going to be fun? Slacker.

More Noise to Signal.

Discuss


Dirpy Converts YouTube Videos to Audio for Later Listening [YouTube]

Many YouTube videos are just as enjoyable as straight-up audio. If you'd like to grab a lecture or comedy routine for the road, Dirby can help.

Dirpy allows you to easily rip the audio from a YouTube video and convert it to MP3 audio you can throw on your player of choice. Not only can you rip the audio but you can specify what part of the audio you need. Only want the segment from 4:39 to 23:42? Not a problem with Dirpy.

In addition to simply ripping the audio, you can also edit the ID3 tags, so your download is already neatly tagged and ready to assimilate into your collection. If you find yourself wanting a copy of the video in addition to or independently of the MP3 file, you can download the video too. Dirpy is a free service and can be accessed both by visiting the main site or by using the Dirpy bookmarklet.



Tweet a “Thank You” to the Companies That Make ReadWriteWeb Possible

readwritewebOur mission at ReadWriteWeb is to explore the latest Web technology products and trends. We're fortunate to have a great group of sponsors who support this goal. So, once a week, we write a post about them; about who they are, what they do, and what they've been up to lately. Pay them a visit or tweet them a "Thank you" (see link below each sponsor) to show your appreciation for their sponsorship of this site. You can also start following some or all of our sponsors on Twitter with a few clicks on this TweepML page.

Interested in being a ReadWriteWeb sponsor? ReadWriteWeb is one of the most popular blogs in the world and is read by a sophisticated audience of thought leaders and decision-makers. We have several innovative new features in our sponsor packages that we'd love to tell you about. Email our COO Bernard Lunn for all the details.

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Ready to learn more about the smart companies that support this site you love to read? Read on...


Skip to info about: Mashery: API management services | Rackspace: cloud computing experts | Aplus.net: Web hosting | Crowd Science: demographic data | Hakia: semantic search | Domain.ME: .me domain registrar | Codero: Managed hosting | Faroo: Real-time search | Groupsite: Social collaboration | Media Temple and SixApart: our hosts and blogging software



Crowd Science

Crowd Science gives online publishers reports on the demographics and attitudes of their audience. We at ReadWriteWeb have signed up to this new service, because demographic data is something we've struggled to get in the past. It's important for any online business to know their audience, so Crowd Science is a welcome addition to the stats armory that most of us in the Internet biz use.

Sign up to get demographic data from Crowd Science.

Thank Crowd Science on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Mashery

Mashery is a platform for Web services, allowing companies to manage their APIs using Mashery's expertise. At the "Business of APIs" conference, Mashery CEO Oren Michels explained to the audience that while APIs are a technology, their use is a business decision. He went on to say that Mashery has helped customers such as WhitePages.com, Thumbplay, Compete.com, and Calais. Check out the white paper "Five steps to scaling your business development using Web services" to discover how you can use APIs for your business.

You can find out more about APIs and their business use at www.mashery.com.

Thank Mashery on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Rackspace

Rackspace is one of the world's largest hosting providers, but it's also competing in the cloud computing arena. Rackspace Cloud Hosting offers a suite of services which combines a scalable web and application hosting platform (Cloud Sites) with a cloud storage solution (Cloud Files) and on demand server instances (Cloud Servers). The addition of SliceHost a popular cloud computing and hosting provider and JungleDisk, a favorite online backup service that supports Cloud files, makes the Rackspace Cloud a powerful cloud hosting solution.

Explore Rackspace's hosting and cloud computing solutions.

Thank Rackspace on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Aplus.net

Aplus.net offers a variety of services relating to Web hosting, including shared hosting, dedicated server, managed hosting, Web design, marketing and online advertising services, search engine optimization, e-commerce solutions, and domain registration.

You can register for Aplus.net here.

Thank Aplus.net on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Hakia

Hakia is a semantic search engine. It delivers a new search experience based on focus, clarity, and credibility. You can compare Hakia to Google and Bing here.

Hakia currently powers the contextual advertising link engine at ReadWriteWeb with its semantic advertising module, Contexa. Contexa provides page-level contextual analysis (in this case, of blog posts) on the fly and outputs keywords that represent the meaning of the page along with their meaning score. The Contexa system then matches ReadWriteWeb sponsors' requirements with the contextual representation of the page to provide relevant ads for readers. Contexa is offered as a service and can be integrated into any ad system.

Learn more about Contexa.

Thank Hakia on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Domain.ME

.Me is a true phenomenon among TLDs. With its unforgettable meaning and limitless word combination possibilities, .Me gives a truly personal tone to your domain name. If you are looking for a name that speaks for itself .Me is your best choice. Let .Me speak for your online business or personal blog.

.Me potential is enormous and it simply asks for you to be creative and coin the name that suits you best. If you have a great, original idea for a domain name, register .Me before it's taken. To check out other ideas, explore the world of .Me.

Thank Domain.ME on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Codero

Codero is a former division of Aplus.net. Codero became a separate entity focusing on dedicated and managed hosting solutions after the acquisition of Aplus.net's shared hosting, web design, and domain registration services by Hostopia. "Codero" stands for collaboration, engagement, focus, reliability, and flexibility. It means a more secure computing experience for email, shopping, and data transfer.

Codero is a dedicated and managed hosting company focused on the real needs of today's small and mid-sized businesses. The company believes in supporting robust websites, storefronts and online communities that will grow and adapt.

Faroo

Faroo is a peer-to-peer Web search engine that has no centralized index and crawler. Each web page visited by users is automatically included into the distributed index. Search results are ranked based on distributed usage statistics of Web pages visited by Faroo users, which leads to more democratic, user-centric ranking.

Faroo protects the privacy of users by encrypting search queries and anonymizing its distributed architecture. The decentralized peer-to-peer architecture scales with Internet growth and requires no infrastructure or operational cost.

Thank Faroo on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Groupsite

Groupsite.com is a self-serve platform for creating social collaboration communities called Groupsites. Groupsites combine the most useful features of social networking and collaboration tools enabling groups large and small to communicate, share and network. Groupsites are currently in use by more than 30,000 groups as user communities, intranets, member communities, team workgroups and social networks. Each Groupsite can be branded and customized and includes discussion forums, calendaring, file sharing, member profiles (professional or social), activity feeds and full-featured sub-groups among other group-centric features.

Sign up and create a free Groupsite in minutes.

Thank Groupsite on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

Our Gracious Hosts and Blogging Software

370_rwwmt.jpgReadWriteWeb is hosted by Media Temple and is published using SixApart's Movable Type.

If you've ever wondered what ReadWriteWeb looks like behind the scenes, or if you've never seen the Movable Type publishing interface - that's it on the left. We recently upgraded to MT 4.23, which is the latest version. We got onto this release as soon as it was available - in fact our contacts at Six Apart emailed the actual code to us before it was up on their website. That's customer service for you!

Thank Media Temple and SixApart on Twitter for making ReadWriteWeb possible.

The companies above pay our rents or mortgages and we appreciate it. We hope you'll stop by their sites and see what they've got to offer.

Have you got a smart company that could use some more visits by the sophisticated readers of a blog like ReadWriteWeb's? Drop us a line and let's talk.

Thanks to all our sponsors and our readers for your support!

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Zoe Keating: Web Fame that Actually Translated to a Career

zoekeating-300dpiJust like Web 2.0 start-ups have been spending much of 2009 trying to figure out how to turn users and community into revenues, so too have the last few years’ crop of Internet celebrities been trying to figure out how to make a business out of those over-used buzz words “their personal brands.”

Think of all the online fame that’s been created in the last few years amid this hype of the Web democratizing celebrity. Now try to name how many of them crossed over to mainstream popularity. Tila Tequila got an MTV show and a record deal. LonelyGirl15 is on ABC Family’s Greek. And…the list dwindles from there. Amanda Congdon’s “talks” with HBO never seemed to materialize. Kudos to Julia Allison for snagging a Wired cover and starting a lifecasting site, Nonsociety, but that Bravo pilot never saw the light of day and even Gawker doesn’t cover her much anymore. (She may consider that a blessing.) The people who get the most press for using social media are still, well, the real celebrities like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher.

It’s enough to make you a cynic that celebrity isn’t really getting democratized at all—it’s just getting fragmented into slivers of micro-fame. And the truth is so far micro-fame doesn’t pay.

Enter an unlikely Internet fame winner: Zoe Keating. Keating is an avant garde cellist and that is her day job. She has no label. No agents. Nothing. Just 1,081,522 Twitter followers (and counting), the number one spot on iTunes classical music list, YouTube videos of her performances and a Web site.

Keating was on NBC’s Press:Here along with Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren this week. While Westergren left the music world to start a tech company, Keating left a high-paying tech job to become a full time cellist. Her music has been featured in film scores and commercials, but she makes the bulk of her income from iTunes. And because she doesn’t have any “people,” she gets to keep every dime. It’s an interesting flip from the mainstream model where studios make money off music sales and artists only make money when they tour.

Keating also doesn’t have the normal hang-ups of a prima donna musician. I asked her if she had the usual anti-corporate bias against her music being used to advertise products and she looked at me like I was mental. (See the clip below. The entire show is available here.) In short, she gets that the model for musicians is thoroughly broken and she revels in it. I asked if she would take a huge record deal if it came to her now and she said “no” before I could finish the question. “I would definitely do it myself because I don’t want to compromise,” she said.

This is all the more impressive when you consider she’s a classical musician—not exactly a category that flies off the shelves. Or is that part of why it worked? You don’t exactly see classical musicians on MTV’s Cribs squandering multi-million signing bonuses. So someone like Keating would have to find another way to make a living making music.

Keating says she spends 50% of her time managing and promoting her music and 50% actually making music. She also emphasized this was a long struggle to get to this point.

Lesson to would be fame seekers: It’s not really a new world when it comes to celebrity. There are no shortcuts. It’s still talent, perseverance and hard work. Even the speed and reach of the Net can’t create lasting value and income overnight.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Jeffrey Rusch.]

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

HTC Hero In Da House [jkOnTheRun]

At Mobile Tech Manor gadgets even show up on Sunday, and today it’s the cool, new HTC Hero from Sprint. The Hero is the phone based on Android that has the HTC Sense user interface. The Hero only landed 30 minutes ago so I haven’t spent much time with it. I have to admit the interface is very sweet.

How did the Hero arrive on a Sunday, you ask? I received an email this morning from the person who bought my home over a year and a half ago. The email stated a box had arrived for me a few days ago and they were holding it for me should I wish to pick it up. I promptly ran over and grabbed it, only to find the HTC Hero inside.

Dear HTC folks — I love it when you send me gadgets to evaluate but it’s a good idea to let me know before you do so. That way I can make sure you have my current address, and not one going on two years old. Thanks.

Bring Back the Radio Wars [GigaOM]

iStock_000007457826SmallThe enthusiasm in Silicon Valley over the growth of mobile broadband and mobile applications is palpable these days, but there’s one thing missing: an understanding of how the underlying network affects both the physical hardware and the way applications run. What we need is the return of the Radio Wars, those loud and acrimonious battles over exactly how we’re going to get our gigabytes of mobile data from Point A to Point B.

In the mid-’90s the debate was over CDMA vs. GSM; 2G vs. 3G wireless arguments came later in the decade and then in the last few years, shifted to 3G vs. WiMAX. So why have the “Wars” gone away? Put simply, with WiMAX finding its niche and most of the world’s major wireless operators moving to LTE (see PDF), there’s no longer a conflict. But the relative silence in 2009 — the “Kumbaya” of LTE-solves-all — has led to a reduction in critical thinking around wireless network evolution.

Looking back, the Radio Wars served a serious commercial function: They identified the challenges inherent in increasingly complex, multistandard, multiband radio networks. At the same time, they made clear through public debate and white papers the depth of complexity faced by network operators and their vendors. And they were material to the wireless world, as the lines drawn surfaced the underlying reality that wireless broadband is different than wired broadband.

Today it seems that LTE as a foregone conclusion has convinced people that there’s no longer a need to have debates around radio link budgets and “bits per hertz,” as if by ignoring technical realities somehow makes those realities disappear. Worse, discussion about network design, latency, and consumer experience are often drowned out by companies — big and small — that, coming from a PC or “Web 2.0” perspective, have a blatant disregard for the complexity of making all this stuff work. Witness AT&T’s very public challenges when it comes to supporting iPhone traffic. As vendors increasingly speak about “one Internet,” whether wired or wireless, and companies big and small increasingly pitch high-bandwidth services such as streaming video to mobiles — and users increasingly adopt them — the issues around the iPhone may end up seeming like the canary in the coal mine.

And that’s the problem. Those that believe in “one Internet” aren’t paying attention to the fact that use cases for wireless broadband users hitting their 5GB-per-month limit over their cellular laptop card and home desktop PC users coming up against their cable modem’s newly imposed 250GB-per-month cap are not the same, that ever-richer media (including all manner of video) cannot continually be pumped onto mobile networks without consequence.

Expanding 3G coverage and adding more RF channels will help, as will the addition of WiMAX networks and LTE, but none will prove a panacea. Take LTE: There are more than 15 LTE spectrum bands globally; the mere thought of designing functional handsets that support even a subset of those bands (never mind legacy bands, plus Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, DVB-H, FLO, etc.) makes my head hurt.

Jeff Belk Headshot Mar 08In order to realize true mobile broadband, over the next decade we will need networks that can support tens of gigabytes of traffic per user, per month. Multimode 3G and 4G networks won’t cut it. There will be more radios in our devices, enabling the offloading of traffic to other networks such as Wi-Fi, or the downloading of content via so-called unicast networks such as DVB-H or MediaFLO. New spectrum and network topologies, including femto/picocells, will help, as will better handset performance, new handset and base station antenna technologies, and new ways of structuring applications and shifting traffic.

But such changes will not come from those that are blissfully ignorant of the current network reality, and education is hard to come by absent a debate over radio technologies. Without such a debate, we are potentially setting ourselves up for another cycle of hype and disappointment when it comes to the evolution of networks, devices and services. In other words, it’s time to bring back the Radio Wars.

Jeffrey Belk is Managing Director of ICT168 Capital, which advises and invests in emerging and growing companies in the information, communications and technology space.

Five Best Twitter Clients [Hive Five]

Twitter has risen to prominence as the most popular micro-blogging service around. If you're underwhelmed with the Twitter web site and looking for more features you'll definitely want to check out the five Twitter clients showcased here.

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite Twitter client and what it had done to win you over. Now we're back to share the top five contenders.

TweetDeck (Windows/Mac/Linux/iPhone, Free)

TweetDeck boasts the ability to monitor multiple social-networking services, in this case Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. You can fight Twitter spam with a built-in spam monitor, follow topics with saved searchs, and preview shortened URLs from within TweetDeck. You can use TweetDeck to manage multiple Twitter accounts from one interface and thanks to web-based TweetDeck accounts you can backup and sync your TweetDeck profile across multiple machines.

Brizzly (Web-Based, Free)


If you've been reading over the various Twitter clients in today's Hive Five and thinking "I don't want some fancy application, I just want the actual Twitter web site to be more functional!", then you'll definitely want to check out Brizzly. The first thing that strikes you after logging into your Brizzly account is how similar it is to the actual Twitter interface—except vastly improved. Shortened URLs are automatically expanded, links to pictures and videos are automatically thumb-nailed and easy to preview. The left and right navigation columns are fixed, so as you scroll through the tweets you never lose sight of useful links. Brizzly is a super-charged version of the Twitter web interface. One thing, if you're ready to try Brizzly out. You'll need an invitation to the service. Fortunately invitations aren't hard to come by, Twitter is buzzing with them. Search Twitter with this link and check out invitations until you find one with an active use left.

Seesmic (Web-Based/Windows/Mac/iPhone, Free)

Seesmic not only has a diverse platform base—you can use it on the web, on your PC or Mac, and on your iPhone—but you can also use it not only for keeping up on Twitter but Facebook too. The Seesmic desktop application, built on Adobe Air, is quite configurable. You can specify which URL shortening and image hosting services you want to use, what kind of notifications you receive, how large of an event timeline Seesmic will build, and how you want all that information displayed. Video and pictures can be inserted into shared directly from Seesmic.

Tweetie (Mac/iPhone, Free)

Tweetie definitely has the most interactive GUI of any of the Twitter clients in today's Hive. On top of features like threaded conversations and direct messages, you can grab pieces of your Twitter stream and pull them right off. See a topic you're interested in keeping an eye on? You can pull it right off into a separate window. Want more than one reply window to compose multiple messages? Not a problem. Tweetie is free—but ad-supported—you can pay $19.95 to get an ad-free version.

DestroyTwitter (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)


DestroyTwitter is a very compact Twitter client that has a very IM-window kind of appearance. Everything is presented, by default, in one column which can be cycled through various views via the buttons along the top and bottom of the window—Home, Replies, Saved searches, for example. You can expand DestroyTwitter to present multiple columns at once and give it an appearance more similar to some of the other Twitter clients available, but many people prefer the simple and compact one column default. If you're looking for a lightweight Twitter client and you don't mind sacrificing some of the bells and whistles you get on the other clients like expansion of shortened URLs and thumb-nailed images, DestroyTwitter is worth a look.




Now that you've had a chance to look over the top five contenders for Best Twitter Client, it's time to cast your vote:

Can't believe your favorite didn't make it? Never had a problem with the basic Twitter site? Let's hear about it in the comments below.



New Halo 3:ODST game is heavy on action, but just a snack for hardcore fans

halo-1With Halo 3: ODST for the Xbox 360, Microsoft and developer Bungie are testing the waters beyond the story of Master Chief that occupied center stage in the Halo video game trilogy.

In doing so, they may actually catch up with the insatiable thirst among Halo fans for more content. Bungie takes its time with Halo games, which have debuted in 2001, 2004, and 2007. The last game, Halo 3, was a smashing success; its 15 millionth online player recently signed up. Halo: Reach, the next major game in the series, will come out in 2010. But ODST is a nice snack for the voracious fans in the meantime.

The game has a decent story, great action, and mildly interesting new places to kill aliens. The only trouble is that the single-player campaign game is too short. Even so, after a dull summer on the Xbox 360, Halo 3: ODST is a welcome action shooter with a lot of extra value from online multiplayer combat. The game does a good job of holding up the tradition of the original Halo, which is my favorite game. The combination of haunting and elevated music, great sounds, fast action, and game play demands that keep gamers on their toes is what the original delivered like no other game, in my opinion. So I’m predisposed to like anything Halo, except the weak Halo Wars real-time strategy game from earlier this year. For people like me, buying this game is a no brainer. The question will be how far it reaches into the mainstream gamer market.

Bungie’s decision to do the game was a calculated risk. There’s plenty of material to mine in the Halo universe, when humanity stands on the brink as an alien race invades Earth. To date, the Halo story has filled six novels, a graphic novel, three major video games, and potentially much more. This game came about because Peter Jackson’s Halo Chronicles games were canceled and Bungie had a team that was under-utilized. So the studio chiefs directed the team to complete ODST in a mere 14 months. They did a stand-up job under the circumstances. The risk of doing a short game is damage to the overall brand — a brand that’s sold tens of millions of $60 games.

warthogBut the game is more than a mere expansion pack for Halo 3. Some gamers have questioned whether it’s worth a full $60, the going price for most new video games. Expansion packs are typically cheaper, but for Halo fans, it will be worth the price.

The story revolves around a bunch of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, who are armored space marines who can drop to a planet from low orbit. They’re tough fighters, but not as resistant to enemy fire or as physically enhanced as the Master Chief. The events take place at the end of Halo 2, when Master

In contrast to prior Halo games, you have to get over the fact that you’re not a super soldier anymore. You’ll find your ODST soldiers can’t run, can’t kill an ape-like enemy known as a Brute with a single blow, and can’t wield two guns at once — which is really annoying since they have two hands. For those of you who like to be super soldiers, this is more than disappointing. But it means you have to approach the battles in a different way.

spartanThankfully, there are plenty of weapons to use against the enemies to level the odds. Variety of game play is what keeps Halo fans coming back more. If there isn’t enough variety among the human-created weapons, you can always get the satisfaction of stealing the enemies’ weapons. The sticky plasma grenades are still the surest way to take out a big Brute.

The fighting takes place in New Mumbasa, a vast futuristic city that is pretty boring as far as Halo environments go. While the environment of the original Halo was fascinating — it was a ringworld planet with waterfalls and other cool outdoor landscapes — this city is repetitive and dreary.

But the story keeps you involved with the game. The tale is told in fragments and flashbacks. You jump from soldier to soldier, each a member of an ODST squad that has a disastrous landing on the war-ravaged city, which has already been overrun by the enemy. As a member of the team known only as the Rookie, you have to piece together what happened. That makes you want to get to the next level so that you can see the cinematic sequence that unveils the next clue. As the Covenant make advance after advance, you get the feeling that your chances of finding your comrades and your ability to defend the city are doomed. You can make valiant stands under siege-like conditions, as wave after wave of Covenant enemies attack. But you’re stuck in an inexhorable retreat, and the only victories that you can find are to rescue the things that you really can’t leave behind. That’s where the spooky cinematic sequences and the doleful music come in. The theatrical effect hammers home the message of the first screen of the game: We are losing. By the end of the game, you know that whatever you do, the human race is still going to have a hard time surviving.

But there are some interesting diversions along the way. I was intrigued by the side story included in the game — Sadie’s Story — an audio story that unfolds piece by piece whenever you stop at a phone booth within the game. Bungie hired Fourth Wall Studios, a startup maker of alternate reality games, to create this side story. The drama reveals more about New Mumbasa as the Covenant take over the city.

halo-2Sadie’s Story extends the game somewhat, but the main single-player campaign is still short at six hours or so. The ending is intense, as Halo endings always are, but it didn’t drag on forever.

The saving grace for those who want more is the fightfight mode and the multiplayer gaming. With the firefight version of multiplayer, you can gather with up to three friends in a closed area and fight off wave after wave of attackers. Instead of player vs. player, you work cooperatively to fight off the enemy hordes. You get a number of lives and you see just how many points you can rack up before you die your last death.

With multiplayer, you get a bunch of maps packs from Halo 3 and three new ones as well. The Halo 3-style multiplayer is loads of fun, even if it’s hard to stay alive in a universe of Halo sharpshooters. I knew how to play instantly because I played a lot of Halo 3 multiplayer. You pick the type of game you want to play, wait for the connection, and you are thrown into the arena of your choice.

I played last night with a group of gamers for a bunch of rounds. They all had microphones so we could talk to each other and plan out the battles. The players included xxx2mike2xxx, Jester5023, gOdfat3r2, xNHxWinger, and Drunkie13. We plotted what we wanted to do in each round on maps such as Sandtrap. We rode together in purple tanks, Warthogs, and motor bikes. We rained death from above with Banshees. I leveled up quickly to second rank in one evening. But after more than an hour of joint play, our group hadn’t won a single match. It wasn’t that we sucked that bad. We had players with ranks as high as level 6. But the other players are just animals. So even if you can master Halo 3: ODST in a matter of hours; it can take months to become an online champ.

The endless hours of multiplayer fun can add to the value of the game, helping to justify the retail price. It remains to be seen how much of my fall game playing will be consumed by playing Halo 3: ODST multiplayer. After all, there’s a lot of good stuff coming down the road.


e-Book Echo — Readers Are Popping Out All Over [jkOnTheRun]

ReaderOur platform focus continues this fine Sunday with the e-Book Echo, our take on the week in the digital publishing world. There’s no question that the electronic book reader space is heating up, with new devices announced seemingly daily. This week iRex lifted the veil on its newest reader, the DR800SG, an 8.1-inch reader that’s short on frills but long on content possibilities. The DR800SG will be able to get e-books from the Barnes & Noble e-book store as well as from libraries à la the Sony Reader. It will also work with a number of DRM systems, meaning it can handle a wide range of content from various online sources. Interestingly, the $400 reader uses a Wacom digitizer to drive the screen, meaning pen interaction only.

With the appearance of so many e-book readers it’s becoming a chore to determine what sets one apart from the others. The folks at CrunchGear feel our pain and have prepared a comparison chart to help us figure out which reader does what. Currently it only features four different readers, but maybe they’ll add other readers as they become available.

Whatever happened to Microsoft Reader? Back in the day, it was the biggest, if not the only, platform for e-books. All the recent hoopla in the space got me to thinking about MS Reader, which only made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve heard anything about it. Now that e-books are here to stay, will this be another business Redmond tries to re-enter?

Artwiculate Turns Word-of-the-Day Vocabulary Building into a Game [Twitter]

The long-standing popularity of "word of the day" web sites and emails has been merged with Twitter to create Artwiculate, a Twitter-based word game that might passively expand your vocabulary while you're taking part in social interruptions.

To play you simply use the word of the day in a tweet. You don't need to use a hash tag or anything special to acknowledge its use. If the word of the day appears in a message on the Twitter network, Atwiculate will pick it up and throw it onto the front page of the site for other Artwiculate users to vote on. At the end of the day, the top 50 uses of the word are shown on the Artwiculate main page.

You could, of course, follow @artwiculate and receive the new word every day without playing along, but what fun would that be?



From The TC50 DemoPit, Trademarkia (TM) Simplifies Trademark Search

On the Web there are easy ways to search patents, but trademarks are still lost in government websites that are not particularly search-friendly. One of the DemoPit companies that launched at TechCrunch50 is addressing this problem with a website that makes trademark search a breeze.

Trademarkia let’s you search all U.S. trademarks filed since 1870, including dead marks. The company has scans of all the marks and returns results in a very appealing visual grid. You can search by company, theme, product category, or even filing attorney. Companies can also file a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through the site.

Trademarkia is a great resource for anyone researching trademarks, companies getting ready to file a trademark, or even product and brand logo designers. It operates much like a domain registrar like GoDaddy. Instead of searching for available domain URLs, you search for trademarks, and if they are available, you can register them for a fee.

Let’s say you want to use a Pegasus for your company’s new logo. On Trademarkia, you can search all trademarks with a pegasus to make sure you are not duplicating someone else’s mark. You can search for dead marks, and if you like one, you can register it for $159.

You can also can look at all 408 trademarks registered to Apple, or sort them to see just the 85 marks Apple has allowed to expire. Some of Apple’s toss-aways include “Mactel,” “iMusic,” “Vingle,” “Xray,” and something called the “Graphulator.” At one point Apple also trademarked “Cougar” and “Lynx” for its Mac OS series, but it let them die. Those are currently available.

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

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

Weekend Vid Picks: Kirk Cameron vs. YouTube [NewTeeVee]

The wonderful and also terrible thing about the Internet is that everyone’s free to share their beliefs with each other — and everyone else is free to make fun of them for doing so.

This week, Kirk Cameron, former child star and current born-again Christian, released Origin Into Schools, a 5-minute video announcing that he and evangelist Rob Comfort had teamed up to honor the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species by distributing, for free, special editions of the book to universities. What makes the book special is a 50-page forward that “presents other options” to students — specifically, one assumes, creationism as opposed to evolution — in the hopes of stemming the tide of atheism allegedly sweeping our nation’s higher learning facilities.

This has, as you might imagine, gotten some reactions from the YouTube community. Users punkoutlaw76, MPARKER18311 and muddmonkeys777, for example, re-edited the video to insert their own comments:

But agnosticman77 took a different approach, creating a song, in the style of the band Disturbed, attacking Cameron and Comfort entitled Crocoduck, which he provided for free download on his web site and also created in music video form. It’s not the most lyrical of tunes, but there’s an understandable emphasis on message over quality here.

However, while the reactions to the Cameron video have a decidedly visceral quality, they don’t have nearly as many views as the original clip, which as of this writing was closing in on 150,000. How many of those views can be attributed to true believers, though? Probably not as many as Cameron would like. Origin Into Schools’s rating was at 1.5 stars earlier today. Ratings have now been disabled.

WITN?: In sort-of defence of Britain’s ridiculous libel laws

justiceI’m writing this from the ‘club section’ (whatever that is) from San Francisco’s AT&T Park where, if I understand the scoring correctly (I don’t), the Cubs are leading the Giants 4-1. I’ve just eaten my second hot dog and I’m debating whether to buy a baseball cap emblazoned with the words ‘Go Giants’. I also just turned to my British friend Andrew to make an amusing American pop culture reference, prefacing my observation with the word “dude…”.

I mention all of this for two reasons. First, I hope it will make you understand why my column this week reads like it’s been written by a man distracted by the fear of at any minute being beaned by a baseball, and second so you’ll appreciate all of the efforts I’m making to Love America.

You see, over the past weeks I’ve realised how sensitive you former colonials are to foreigners opining on any aspect of your country, particularly if we compare it to our own. Almost two weeks after Techcrunch 50, I’m still getting hate mail over my post suggesting that your flag be moved two feet from the stage to the main floor. Much of the abuse glosses over the issue at hand and focusses instead on the indisputable fact that I am a freedom-hating socialist who would gladly see the American flag used to mop up the blood of terrorist martyrs. (Weirdly this is an accusation that I’ve heard far more frequently since joining TechCrunch than when I worked at the Manchester Socialist Guardian of Kabul.)

So again, then, let me clarify that I love America. If there were a baseball game between the Terrorists and America, I would be as crestfallen as the next man were the Terrorists to win. Ok? Are we cool, America? Good. Now hopefully I can safely and rationally talk about the differences between the British and American systems of libel law. In particular the fact that, whatever Michael Arrington might say, Yours might not be better than Ours.

More than enough has been written about Techcrunch’s – and Arrington’s – run in with UK defamation law, but I’ll sum it up in a nut for newbies. Back in July a former TechCrunch UK editor called Sam Sethi sued TechCrunch, and Arrington, over a Crunchnotes post titled ‘The Fact And Fiction Of Sam Sethi‘. In the post, Arrington recounted the sorry tale of Sam’s departure from TechCrunch and subsequent founding of a rival blog network called BlogNation. It’s a story of lies, money, spectacular mismanagement and ultimately abysmal failure – a story eerily close to my own, but without the scorned women and prison cells.

But whereas my story ended with pseudo redemption, and an – ahem – bestselling book, Sam’s ended with denial, rage and him bringing a ridiculous libel suit – brought in the English courts – against TechCrunch. Advised by lawyers that it would cost upwards of half a million pounds ($750,000) to defend the case in the UK, Arrington and Techcrunch declined to participate, leading – ridiculously – to a default judgment in Sethi’s favour.

You can understand then, why, Michael might have issue with the libel system in the country of my birth. And it gets worse: shortly after the judgment, documents came to light which showed that Sethi should never have been running BlogNation in the first place. Following the collapse of a previous business, he had been barred from being a director in England and Wales but due to an administrative fuck-up, this ban hadn’t been entered onto the statutory database. The situation has now been remedied and yet, despite the ban and the fact that Sam has apologised to Arrington and admitted fault, the judgment stands, effectively preventing Michael from visiting the UK.

And yet, and yet…

Reading Arrington’s post on the subject – entitled ‘UK Libel Law Is Out Of Control. We Know From Experience‘ – I can’t quite bring myself to entirely agree with him. Not about the Sethi stuff – Sam lied repeatedly to me and everyone else about being struck off as a director, and so deserves every bad word Michael says about him – but rather with the wider argument that libel law in the UK is in complete disarray because it allowed a UK litigant to sue an American citizen and website over something published online from the US.

Libel tourism gone mad! Wither freedom of speech?!

Hmmmm.

Like most legal issues, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. Sethi is a British citizen who was – in his deluded mind at least – libeled by a website published in the US, but available to read – obviously – in the UK. For that reason there is, prima facie, absolutely nothing wrong with his bringing his ridiculous and pointless action in the UK courts.

After all, thanks to the Internet, he was defamed (in his mind), on British soil where he has a (I’m trying here to channel my laughter through my keyboard as I write these words) reputation to defend. Libel tourism – where a foreign litigant can sue a foreign publication on British soil because one copy of the publications was sold there – is evil, but that’s not what’s happened here.

This is an unpopular point of view, even amongst my own countrymen, but I actually quite like the harshness of British libel law. For a start it puts the burden of proof on the person making the libelous statement. If you accuse me of being a bad guy then it’s up to you to prove it’s true. If you can’t, you lose. And the penalties for losing are harsh: really harsh, which is how it probably should be. Unlike me, most Brits care about their reputation and standing in the community, and it’s hard to put a value on its loss.

Really, when it comes to freedom of speech, it’s America that has the more ridiculous system. Thanks to the First Amendment and a presumption in the US that public figures are fair game, I am free to make up almost any bullshit I like about an American in the public eye without him being able to sue. “Michael Arrington fucks swans!” See, there you go. It’s actually kinda fun! And thanks to the Internet, Arrington’s fictitious swan-molesting ways will soon be known to the world. Hell, if TechCrunch is a credible source, they might even make it to Wikipedia. God Bless America.

Really the Sethi vs Techcrunch case has nothing to do with freedom of speech and everything to do with how ridiculously cheap and easy it is for a delusional litigant to bring a nuisance lawsuit in the UK against a journalist who is telling the truth. A journalist who then has to spend a small fortune defending the action. If the defendant is from outside the UK then their only real choice in these circumstances is to decline to participate, leading to a criminally unfair judgment against them. If they’re from the UK, their best hope is to settle and hope to keep their house. Either way, the delusional litigant wins, and the truth loses.

Again, though, we’d struggle to look to America and find a better system. It was you people, after all, who gave the world the idea of no-win-no-fee lawyers: bloodsucking ambulance chasers who will gladly help me sue McDonalds for making their coffee with boiling water, rendering it unsafe for me to pour over my baby’s head. In most cases outside of libel, defending a nuisance lawsuit in the US is just as expensive, and just as pointless as it is in the UK. If our system is a mess then so is yours.

Also, it’s all too easy for Americans to criticise our system without suggesting a better one. It’s like those people who stand on street corners yelling “stop the war” or “free healthcare for all” or “swans don’t put out” without demonstrating how they would solve the problem if they were in charge. Those who suggest that Britain would be better off with a US First Amendment style system are just plain wrong. Particularly in the Internet age, lies can get halfway around the world before the truth has found a decent WiFi connection. For that reason we need a system whereby liars are scared shitless from posting untruths in the UK, lest they find themselves in front of a bewigged judge capable of handing down an almost unlimited fine. It’s the only language these people understand.

So what is the solution to improving the UK libel system? As always, I have the answers…

First, we needs an immediate ban on no win no fee lawyers in all but means-tested personal injury claims. If a litigant really thinks they have a claim against a publication – foreign or domestic – then they need to put their money where their reputations is. If they can’t do that then you might ask what value they put on their reputation in the first place.

Second, it’s ridiculous that litigants can sue individual journalists when their work appears in professionally edited publications. In Arrington’s post, he referred to the case of Simon Singh, a British journalist who was sued personally by the British Chiropractic Association for an article he wrote in the Guardian. The BCA chose to sue Singh personally rather than the Guardian, thus exposing the reporter to personal ruin no matter whether he successfully defends the action or not. Only a mentally retarded chimp would think that’s fair.

Third, libel tourism could be wiped out at a stroke if there was a requirement for litigants bringing action under English law to actually be British citizens. This wouldn’t have helped in Sethi vs Arrington, but it would certainly deal with the vast majority of outrageous abuses of jurisdiction.

But by far the most important change that needs to be made to English libel law is to scrap the so-called ‘multiple publication rule‘. This is the decision, made by the English courts in 1849, that every time a publisher makes a new copy of a libelous article, they are considered to have republished – and repeated – the libel. Which is important because English law imposes a statutory limitation of one year after publication for someone to bring a defamation action.

With the advent of the Internet, the multiple publication rule has caused havoc. In the eyes of the law, every time a user accesses a copy of an article published online, the act of the publisher’s web server delivering it is considered to be a republication. In other words, as long as something remains in an online archive, it is constantly being republished and there is no time restriction on someone suing over it.

This is how Sethi was able to dither for well over a year after Arrington’s ‘Fact and Fiction’ post was first published before taking action, and it’s why the UK remains such an attractive place to bring a libel suit. Without the multiple publication rule, his suit against TechCrunch would have come too late, and been thrown out before it even started.

The good news is that the English justice system is already – forgive the pun – on the case. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice began a consultation over scrapping the multiple publication rule. In its place they are considering a single publication rule – where the clock begins ticking when the libel is first published, and stops either one or three years (they haven’t decide yet) later. After that, publishers who keep articles archived electronically would have what’s called a ‘qualified privilege’ defence where they couldn’t be sued for leaving what they believe to be accurate statements online after that time.

If the consultation results in a change of law then it won’t solve the problem entirely – the UK still needs to get rid of no-win, no-fee lawyers and to clamp down on no-British litigants and the suing of individual journalists – but it would be a major leap forward. One which would have stopped Sethi in its tracks and move the British libel system closer to being The Best In The World.

And this, America, is where you come in. If like Arrington, you think the English system is screwed, I urge you to get involved in repairing it. The Ministry of Justice has published a list of questions that it wants your answers on here. Go answer them; pretend you’re British if you have to.

I’ve already sent in my answers and I’m going to do my best to convince Arrington to do the same when he gets back from vacation in Hawaii.

Or at least he claims he’s on vacation. Do they have swans in Hawaii?

Just saying.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

This Week’s Top Downloads [Download Roundup]

  • Picasa 3.5 Organizes Your Photos with Facial Recognition (Windows/Mac)
    Google's free desktop photo organizer is stepping up to iPhoto's killer feature by adding face recognition and syncing it with Picasa Web Albums, making it easy to send Uncle Bob every single photo you've got of Aunt Marla.
  • Evernote 3.5 Beta Brings Tons of Tiny Fixes to Windows (Windows)
    If you're a happy Evernote desktop user and only wish it looked nicer, moved faster, and was smarter about how it handled your organization tools, the just-released 3.5 beta will make you very happy.
  • PhotoLapse Makes Time-Lapse Movie Creation a Snap (Windows)
    PhotoLapse is a tiny and portable application for stitching together images into a time-lapse video. Point it at a folder full of pictures, and you're mostly done.
  • Google Chrome Dev Channel Boosts Mac and Linux Versions (Windows/Mac/Linux)
    Yesterday afternoon, the Google Chrome team released another update with performance gains for platforms, but Mac and Linux users will see the greatest boosts and new, useful functions.
  • Thunderbird 3 Beta 4 Available for Download (Windows/Mac/Linux)
    Mozilla has released a new preview version of their desktop email application in the form of Thunderbird 3 Beta 4, adding a new email search, smart folders, and more.
  • Apple Releases iTunes 9.0.1 Update (Windows/Mac)
    Two weeks after releasing iTunes 9, Apple has pushed out a small update to the popular music player in the form of iTunes 9.0.1. The update addresses several bugs and improvements, but doesn't offer any significant updates (not surprising considering iTunes 9 just came out).
  • Google Chrome Frame Turns Internet Explorer into a FrankenChrome Browser (Chrome)
    Google today released a new browser plug-in called Google Chrome Frame that creates an unholy union between Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, rendering web pages in IE using Chrome's rendering engine.
  • Mint for iPhone Brings 3.0 Features to the Personal Finance App (iPhone/iPod Touch)
    Popular personal finance webapp Mint released their iPhone app last year, but today they've unveiled a new and improved version, introducing support for push notifications for important alerts and editable transactions.
  • FoodScanner Makes Calorie Counting a Breeze (iPhone)
    Previously mentioned fitness web site Gyminee has changed names to DailyBurn since we last featured them, and as of today they've also released a new iPhone application that helps track calories by scanning bar codes of over 200,000 foods.
  • FeedDemon 3.0 Final is an RSS Addict's Best Friend (Windows)
    The official 3.0 version of FeedDemon, the desktop feed reader that synchronizes with Google Reader, is now available, bringing with it many, many fixes, features, and updates for lovers of all things RSS.



Hello, And Welcome To Moviefone. Now Leave And Try ShowtimeFu.

Screen shot 2009-09-26 at 4.29.51 PMAt one time, Moviefone was the hottest way to find movie showtimes. It was so hot in the 90s that Seinfeld even made fun of it in an episode (embed below). Sadly, now run by AOL, its website is a cluttered mess. I don’t know about you, but when I visit it, I expect to find a way to easily find movie showtimes. I don’t care about the latest celebrity gossip, nor do I want to see all this behind the scenes stuff. Just movie showtimes, please.

That’s what a new site, ShowtimeFu offers. And it’s so much better than Moviefone You simply visit the site, put in your city (or it may remember it if you’ve been there before), and you get a full listing of every movie playing around you, at what time, and at what theater.

On the left side navigation, you can deselect certain movies, as well as rule out theaters. You can also deselect certain ratings, and filter the time. In the main column, you simply have a list of the movies and the showtimes. If you click on one you’re interested in, it loads a new page in this main column which contains a description of the movie (along with links to its IMDb and Rotten Tomato pages), a map of where the theater showing it is, and the play times (including a beginning and end time).

Unfortunately, one thing you cannot do is purchase tickets from the site. But it seems like that would be an easy enough feature to add. And to be honest, I never buy tickets over the web anyway, I just want the showtimes then head to the theater to get the actual tickets. So this option is perfect for me.

I long ago gave up on Moviefone. Fandango is slightly better in terms of easy access to movie times, but it’s even more cluttered. Recently, to find movie times, I’ve been using Google Search with queries like “movies ZIP CODE”. But that leave a bit to be desired if I do actually want to know a little more about the movie.

ShowtimeFu is a simple site, that won’t lead to any Seinfeld spoofs (that would be hard considering the show has been off the air for a decade), but it works — at least when I’m at my computer, otherwise there are plenty of good iPhone apps for finding movie times.

Screen shot 2009-09-26 at 4.33.24 PM

Screen shot 2009-09-26 at 4.33.04 PM

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco