Novell Pulse: Security and Backup to Google Wave

novell_pulse_nov09a.jpgEarlier today Novell demoed it's Google Wave-like product to the enterprise world. Pulse is the latest workplace collaboration platform to announce at this year's Enterprise 2.0 Conference and ReadWriteWeb was lucky enough to catch up with Novell's VP of Engineering Andy Fox for a demo of the new tool. The beta product is expected early next year.

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In late June we offered our first impressions of Google Wave. While Wave's claim to "reinventing email" has met with heavy criticism in the blogosphere, Pulse appears better-equipped to serve work-related users.

One of the great selling points for Pulse is the fact that instead of forcing users to add individual teammates for collaboration, the tool provisions groups and workmates from an enterprise identity system. This means that new employees are already set up to start. From here users can follow team and employee feeds, edit and send real-time messages and collaborate on documents in real-time.

While users can work on Novell templates within the system, they can also collaborate on 3rd party spreadsheets and documents with real-time syncing to desktop folders. This attention to backup is yet another of Pulse's advantages over Google Wave. When asked about the scenario of an employee going wild and vandalizing Pulse docs, says Fox, "We're not just offering point backup. We've got versioning on every single system keystroke."

Pulse also offers a higher degree of privacy for group settings and profiles where IT admin and general users set customized admin settings and privileges. According to Fox you can even customize the privacy on profile form fields to ensure that headhunters are not prospecting your staff from outside of the organization. Meanwhile the social aspect of a Yammer-like employee feed is enough reason to keep staff interested and engaged. And for those groups who are still committed to Wave, Pulse will also offer Wave integration via Google Wave's Federated protocol. For more info on Pulse check out the demo site.

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Twitter Testing Out New Tweet Notifications To Keep Users Engaged

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 5.35.48 PMTwitter has a problem: A number of users tweet, then lose interest. It needs a way to reengage them in the site. And tonight it’s starting to test one way: Notifications.

The test is currently only rolled out to a “limited” number of users right now, according to this update. But those who have it should notice an indicator similar to what Twitter does to let you know there are new search results on a query. There’s another service that does these types of notifications for new messages also: Facebook. Yes, Twitter for once is taking a playbook from its rival rather than the other way around.

When Twitter was still a young service, it used to auto-update with new tweets as they came in, in realtime. That was one of the first features killed off as the service began to explode in size and was having trouble scaling. FriendFeed implemented a similar live-updating stream before the Facebook acquisition, and that seemed to help boost engagement. Twitter currently offers live updating stream with its widgets.

There has always been some debate as to whether a constantly updating stream is better than notifications. Twitter is clearly now choosing the latter. When FriendFeed first launched it, plenty of users complained that the live updating was moving too fast. Seeing as Twitter is much larger than FriendFeed ever was, that could be an issue. The notification method is probably easier on server load than the constantly moving stream, as well.

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Survey Says! V to Stream Four Days After Airing [NewTeeVee]

I missed the first episode of the V last night and forgot to DVR it. “No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll catch it on Hulu tomorrow.”

Unh-unh. No such luck, my friend. V is not available on either Hulu or ABC.com today. The pilot is, however, available for free on electronic sell-through sites Amazon VOD and iTunes (hat tip to TV by the Numbers).

Instead of the full episode, ABC.com greeted me with a survey that asked a bunch of questions relating to online video and release windows for content. Screengrabs below but a good example is: “Given a choice, would you rather watch future V episodes online or on TV?”

It looks like episodes of V won’t be available online until four days after they air on TV (but, they will have fancy social TV functionality). Overall, ABC is obviously trying to gauge the viewing behavior of its audience, which, for a show like V is probably a tech-savvy one.

All the networks are coping with changing TV viewing habits, so it’s no surprise ABC is is asking some straightforward questions. We’re just wondering what took them so long. Here are some questions from the survey:

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Second Life Goes Behind The Firewall

Thumbnail image for secondlifebusiness.jpgSecond Life is introducing a behind the firewall service for enterprise customers, another sign that the very definition of collaboration is changing as more companies seek ways to do their work in virtual environments.

In addition, Second Life will unveil a marketplace in the first quarter of 2010 where people may purchase templates and other 3D environments for their Second Life Enterprise world.

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We hear so much about how "people," are at the center of a world where social technologies have an increasingly important role. The reality is that the very definitions of time and place are changing in the enterprise and what it means to be present as a person is becoming increasingly abstract. We see this with the advent of augmented reality, which provides ways to layer our physical world with digital markers. In a 3D world, the applications for business allow for an "always on," world where people may have meetings, go sailing in a virtual sea and use 3D objects for training and other purposes.

The Second Life Enterprise environment provides users an added layer of security and the ability to scale an avatar community. Servers are installed in a company's data center, providing the 3D experience. The service can support up to 800 concurrent avatars. Second Life is made up of regions. Second Life Enterprise has the capacity for eight regions that also run concurrently.

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The security component is a must for most large enterprises. Second Life Enterprise provides LDAP integration for creating and authenticating accounts.

According to Second Life, the marketplace will include collaboration tools and features that fit in a 3D world. This may include environments for meetings, events and training. Users may purchase business avatars and business oriented environments.

Second Life Enterprise will eventually provide the capability to integrate collaborative applications, meaning if a company wanted to integrate Sharepoint they could do so.

The Second Life platform compares to a service like Proton Media. Proton Media has a number of integrations already in place, including its fit with Sharepoint.

Discuss


What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Watching the World Series of Poker [GigaOM]

poker chips_banspy

I can’t play poker, but I do enjoy watching it on TV. We’re in the middle of the 2009 World Series of Poker, an event that draws thousands of professional and amateur players to Las Vegas every year. The grand finale is the Main Event, a massive Texas Hold ’Em tournament with thousands of players and millions of dollars for the winner.

Tournament poker used to be the province of professionals. But starting a few years ago, a huge wave of amateurs has invaded the game. As a result, of the thousands of entrants into the Main Event, only a few hundred are real pros.

To my surprise, I’ve actually learned a lot about entrepreneurship from watching the World Series of Poker. But it shouldn’t be too surprising. Both rely on acting strategically under conditions of extreme uncertainty. And, in both, small changes in your odds of winning can have a big impact on the final outcome. In fact, I now routinely use the Main Event to help entrepreneurs cope with a frustrating paradox.

Why are some terrible entrepreneurs so successful?

Because the structural barriers to creating a high-tech startup have been lowered dramatically in the past few years, we’re experiencing a huge influx of entrepreneurs. This is a great thing. But it’s meant that there are an awful lot of startup stories floating around. When those stories take on the status of myths, they create tremendous confusion. Naturally, we want to emulate those that have been successful. But that’s not always a good idea.

In the World Series of Poker, no professional has won the Main Event in seven years. When you think about it, this is very surprising. Professional players are so much better than amateurs that they can make a living – in many cases, becoming very very rich – by exploiting the difference between their level of skill and the level of the people they play with. The best of the best win many tournaments each year. By any objective measure, they are much better players than the amateurs. Yet the Main Event has been won year in and year out by a complete unknown player. Some of those amateurs go on to become semi-pro players. But most have never won another tournament after their big win. Why?

The reason is that being a professional player shifts the odds of winning a given poker hand in the professional’s favor, just a little bit. Over the course of a year, a given pro will play thousands of poker hands, and so this shift in probabilities adds up to dramatic winnings. But on any given hand, they still have a significant probability of losing — even if their play is perfect.

Similarly, given enough amateurs in the field, the law of large numbers means that at least some of them will get lucky enough times to outperform even the best pros. That’s why I can say with some certainty that an amateur will win the Main Event this year, even though I have absolutely no idea which of the six thousand entrants it will be.

Entrepreneurship is similar. So much of what makes a startup successful is totally out of our control: the timing of the market, the behavior of competitors, the IPO or M&A window, underlying technology trends and, of course, the human factors of investors, co-founders and employees. Truly successful startup methodologies like customer development or the lean startup can only hope to increase our odds of success — they can’t guarantee it. The converse is also true: even entrepreneurs who do everything wrong sometimes get lucky and make a lot of money anyway. Some even do it repeatedly.

That’s why, for any tactic or strategy — no matter how hare-brained — you can find some “proof” that it works in some company somewhere. That’s what makes processing startup advice so hard. Just because someone has had a success doesn’t necessarily mean they understand why they were successful at all.

Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned from the WSOP. It’s called a disciplined laydown. In poker, winning requires that your hand beats your opponents hand. The problem is that you don’t know what your opponent has. Amateur players often believe that their success depends on the quality of the cards they are dealt. Consequently, they fold their bad cards and wait for that one big hand to get their chips in with. Unfortunately, having a big hand doesn’t mean you’ll win — your opponent could have an even bigger hand. That’s why the most important skill in poker is not bluffing, counting cards, or computing the odds. It’s figuring out when you need to fold a big, big hand. Watching the pros do this on TV is amazing. Over time, they develop an uncanny instinct for knowing when they are beat, and not throwing more money after bad.

In fact, once you realize that this is the most important skill in poker, it becomes clear that when professional players bet, they are really probing for information. Everything is calculated to help them figure out if their opponent has one of those big hands that might beat them. Folding in those situations saves chips that can be used more profitably later in the tournament.

I think there’s some wisdom here for entrepreneurs, too. We get attached to our big ideas, but it’s those big visions that get us into trouble. Just because we’ve sunk a lot of time and energy into an idea doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one. In fact, the main reason we need to get out of the building and validate our ideas is so that we can realize we’re beat before it’s too late and pivot. Once you have that insight, you realize that all of the work we’re doing in building an initial idea — from minimum viable product to split-testing to customer validation — is all designed, like the bets of a poker pro, to promote learning about where we stand.

And that provides another possibility for dealing with startup advice. Instead of making an exhaustive search for all the smartest, most successful people and copying them — learn to place small bets. Take any advice (including mine), and think it through for yourself. Do you understand the underlying principles? Can you see how it applies to your specific context? Can you tease apart the impact of luck? And, once you think you have some advice you might like to follow, try it out. Find a way to pilot it without betting your whole company. And then be prepared to fold if it’s not working. Each time, make sure you do a root cause analysis, and figure out what you learned.

And, if you find advice that seems to work, be ready to go all-in.

Eric Ries is a serial entrepreneur and author of the blog Startup Lessons Learned.

Image courtesy Flickr user banspy

From the Tips Box: Soap Scum, Excel Charts, and Cell Phone Baby Monitors [From The Tips Box]

Readers offer their best tips for using scum-free soap, easily switching rows and columns in Excel charts, and using cell phones as remote baby monitors without using minutes.

Don't like the gallery layout? Click here to view everything on one page.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in—the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favorites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments or email it to tips at lifehacker.com.

Easily Switch Rows and Columns in Excel Charts

Purna shows us how to save time with a one-click axis-switching solution:

Often we make charts only to realize that the boss wants us to switch the rows and columns. For example, we might show sales and profits year-wise, but the big guy asks us to show the chart grouped by sales and profits.

There is a handy little trick in Excel where this can be done without a panicky run to the espresso machine or nearest excel guru. We can use the "switch rows / columns" button in Excel 2007 Design tab to do just this. (In Excel 2003, the button is in the toolbar area).


Use Cell Phones as a Baby Monitor

Joe shows us how to save money on baby monitors by making your own:

I have a small child, and live in an apartment - so I never had much need for a baby monitor (since you can pretty much hear the kid anywhere in the apartment when she's screaming). However, I have had occasions where I'm alone with a sleeping child - where I'd like to be able to run downstairs (to accept a delivery), or out to my car, or even to a neighbor for a minute. In the past, I would hesitate to do it, since I couldn't hear the baby if she woke up.

I have a cellphone with speakerphone - which also happens to have a friends & family allowance (unlimited calling to 5 numbers), my home phone being one of them. I have a cordless handset, that also has a speakerphone. Now, if I need to run out for a minute - I'll call my cellphone from my home phone, put the cordless phone in the baby's room, put both phones on speaker and mute the cellphone. That way, if the baby cries, I'll hear her.

I realize that this isn't a legendary hack, but it is quick, and clever - and the range I get using this hack is far greater than the range of most baby monitors. Of course, I don't recommend leaving a sleeping child alone, and going far enough where it will take a long time to get back - but thought that this hack was pretty cool - and saved me the money I would have spent on a baby monitor for the rare occasions that I actually need one.


Put Your Calendar in Your Signature for Easy Scheduling

ThePioneer shows us how he keeps other people on top of his schedule:

Create a Link in your email signature that links to your GCAL. To make it look nice, use Bit.ly (or other site) and shorten it up and make it personal. Mine says "School Calendar" and it has gotten many compliments from people that I email. It's really handy for people to take a quick look and see when I'm available to meet.

Note that any calendars you want to share will have to be public on Google Calendar.

Avoid Soap Scum with Bath Gel

Photo by Andy Butkaj.

njefferson tips us off to a way to keep soap scum out of the bathtub:

If you use bath gel instead of bar soap, you will not have soap scum, at all! Synthetic soap does not have the ingredient that creates the soap scum, and reportedly all liquid soaps are synthetic. We have tried this for five months, after my wife made me start using Irish Spring gel instead of bars, and we have NO soap scum, at all!





Last call for GreenBeat Innovation Competition (and early-bird tickets)

greenbeat_logo721325We’ve received a great response from up-and-coming smart grid startups for our GreenBeat Innovation Competition. Just a reminder that this is the last chance for you to get your ideas in: The deadline to apply is end of day today, Wednesday, November 4.

Early-bird pricing also expires tonight so be sure to get your tickets now for 30 percent off. We’ve been really fortunate to assemble an amazing lineup of some of the most influential players in the smart grid discussion today: Al Gore, John Doerr, Eric Schmidt, top executives from Cisco, IBM, GE, Oracle and the largest utilities that have received stimulus money. GreenBeat 2009 is shaping up to be our best conference of the year, so get your early bird ticket now for 30 percent off here


PayPal woos developers with $150K challenge

cash-registerPayPal has been making a big deal about convincing developers to build cool applications using its global payments platform. Today it added a little more incentive, by announcing the PayPal X Developer challenge, where the creators of the most innovative payments apps will receive a total of $150,000 in cash and waived PayPal transaction fees.

Basically, the PayPal platform is supposed to give companies and developers more flexibility about how they process payments, by opening up a number of new APIs to developers — when the platform was first announced in July, PayPal executives said they wanted their technology to become the “electricity” that powers all online commerce. The initial APIs included the ability to send money, make chained payments, and parallel payments, while new APIs announced yesterday include currency conversation, payments to non-PayPal users, and pre-approved payments.

Contest finalists will be chosen by popular vote at the PayPal developer website, then expert judges (eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, PayPal president Scott Thompson, Andreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen, and Sequoia Capital’s Roelof Botha) will choose the winners. The creator of the top app will receive $50,000 in cash and up to $50,000 in waived PayPal fees.

More than 1,000 developers tried the platform during the beta testing period, PayPal says. To illustrate what can be done with the platform, the company put me in touch with one of the beta testers, MedPayOnline. The company offers an online service to help hospitals process payments, and says it has used the PayPal platform to streamline its service. For MedPayOnline, the most significant change may be the ability to collect its fees right away — it charges a transaction fee for each payment that it processes for hospitals, but it only got paid once a day, as a lump sum.

“It could cause a significant amount of heartache,” said chief executive Clayton Bain. “Granted, we’re not talking about months here, we’re talking about hours, but within those hours a lot of bad things can happen.”

Bain said the new APIs also make it easier MedPayOnline to instantaneously make chained payments of its own, so when it’s paid by hospitals, the company’s partners (i.e., companies that package MedpayOnline with other services) get paid right away too.

[image: flickr/Fen Branklin]


Google Enters Customizable News Dashboard Market

Like some of our favorite news dashboard services, such as Lazyfeed and Guzzle.it, Google News has decided to allow users to create and save customizable news searches and consume that news in their own "sections."

Part dashboard, part feed reader, and all user-friendly, this service promises to be both popular and useful. Users can create sections based on keywords and then publish their sections to directories for sharing with others.

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Multiple sections can be added to a user's Google News homepage, creating a customized, keyword-based digest. this feature is turning Google News into the infinitely segmented, infinitely remixable modern newspaper; and with all the sources Google indexes, it's just what users need. Unfortunately, it also deals yet another blow to suffering old media publications, many of whom aren't too happy about the distribution of their content in the first place.

According to a blog post today by Google News engineers Sharad Jain and Nilesh Agrawal, "One of the great things about online news is the ability to filter by topics. Google News has long recognized this, so we've allowed users to track articles based on keywords of their choice. But it has been a little tricky at times. For example, to follow news about topics related to outer space, you would have to create a pretty complex filter.

"Now, if you're using Google News and can't find the perfect section, just create your own! You can do that by adding the relevant keywords. Then, if you are happy with the resulting section, you can publish it to a directory so others can benefit."

Currently, the directory includes such sections as Space, NFL, Day in Photos, and about 270 other sections and counting. And just for you, we've created a section all about the real-time web, one of our favorite topics at RWW:

What do our readers think? Is this new feature nifty, or what?

Discuss


Offerpal Tries Out A New CEO. Shukla, Queen Of Scams, Is Out.

Offerpal Media, the central character in the Scamville drama, is changing CEOs. Anu Shukla is no longer the CEO of the company she cofounded. Veteran executive George Garrick, most recently the CEO of Mochi Media, is now the CEO of the company.

From the press release quietly announcing the change:

Offerpal Media, the leader in virtual currency monetization for online games, virtual worlds and social networks, announced today that George Garrick has been named chief executive officer.

Garrick brings more than 25 years of experience in technology, advertising and consumer businesses to Offerpal Media. His track record of accelerating revenue growth and brokering strategic relationships with customers and partners will be critical assets in leading Offerpal Media.

I had an…interesting public exchange with Shukla last week at the Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco (see video at end of this post). I’ve also embedded it below.

She vehemently denied that her company’s offers ever scammed users. Despite her defense of the industry, MySpace, Zynga, RockYou and others have since made significant policy changes to protect consumers from the types of offers Offerpal peddles.

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In midst of offers debate, Offerpal names George Garrick as CEO

offer 3Offerpal Media has named George Garrick as chief executive. He replaces founder Anu Shukla (right), who has been in the midst of a fiery debate about the ethics of the business of offers, which are special ads that direct users to participate in a promotional deal as an alternative payment for a game or social app.

Shukla stirred lots of debate since Friday, when she got in a verbal tussle with Techcrunch editor Michael Arrington, who challenged Shukla about scam offers in social games. Shukla fought back, saying Arrington’s accusations were “shit, double shit and bullshit.” The debate continued this week as Shukla offered a rebuttal Q&A in reaction to Arrington’s stories and industry players reacted as well.

Fremont, Calif.-based Offerpal has otherwise been a quiet player in the ecosystem of social networks. Social games such as Zynga’s FarmVille have been huge hits on Facebook, which has grown to more than 300 million players. About 90 percent of users play social games for free. But about 10 percent will buy virtual goods such as poker chips or farm tractors to improve the game experience. Most pay with credit cards. But Offerpal has an alternative payment system for those who don’t have money or just prefer offers, such as a cell phone subscription deal.

There are a lot of competitors in the business, but Offerpal has handled transactions for more than 160 million consumers in the past two years. Garrick’s job is to keep it going, and, perhaps, to make sure that Offerpal comes out on the winning side of the current debate over the ethics of offers.

Garrick was previously named CEO of Mochi Media in November, 2008. But he didn’t last long in that job and has now moved on to Offerpal. He has more than 25 years of experience in tech, ad, and consumer businesses. Garrick was on a team that took Information Resources from $2 million in revenue to $300 million. And he was CEO of Flycast communications, a direct-response ad network that had a $500 million initial public offering and then was acquired for $2.3 billion.

“I have known George for a long time,” said Shukla in a statement.  “After many months of searching, I believe that George is the best CEO to scale the company to new heights. I am looking forward to working with him closely.”

The timing is, of course, very interesting. I look forward to what happens next.


eBay Launches Trend-Spotting Site Based on User Data

The Inside Source is eBay's latest announcement. The searching, buying, and selling habits of its 88 million active users have added up to an enormous dataset, one that could have easily been hoarded and sold to marketers, brands, and others with a vested interest in online retail and trends.

Although eBay isn't releasing raw stats into the wild, it is publishing editorial content and news on trends as well as a tag cloud of most popular searches right now. Coming soon are multimedia galleries and real-time visualizations of current eBay searches. Can we get an open API? Read on to find out.

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The consumer-focused site is broken up into several sections of articles by topic as well as a general blog. In addition to getting information on fashion and pop culture, users can also browse articles on "green" products and tech gadgets. Users can login through Facebook Connect, although this feature appeared to be unusable at press time.

Here's a rather scripted video from editorial director Meredith Barnett:

According to emails we've exchanged with an Inside Source representative, the site's staff is working closely with eBay's analytics team to cull information on trends. The trends examined are as broad as correlation between events and increased searches for a term (e.g., celebrity wears knee-high boots at red carpet shindig; users start looking for knee-high boots on eBay) and as narrow as data such as were used for a recent post on a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert:

For kicks, we decided to do a comparison of all the Hall of Famers participating in the concert series (there's a second show at MSG tonight that includes U2, Metallica, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, Ozzy Osbourne, Lou Reed, and more) to see which names popped up most frequently on eBay over the past week.

The results were pretty fascinating: in terms of keyword searches, Metallica was far and away the most sought after band among the bunch (more than 86,000 searches!)... Second to Metallica in frequency of keyword searches was U2 (75,190), followed by Bruce Springsteen (32,690). The number of search per artist dropped off significantly from there, with but Ozzy Osbourne coming in fourth (5,290) and Sting rounded out the top five at 4,570... The supply of concert tees correlates pretty well with the demand, with the top five live listings for the concert performers and the term "shirt" as follows as of this afternoon: Metallica (1,759), Ozzy Osbourne (327), Bruce Springsteen (376), U2 (680), BB King (61).

The editorial nature of the site also puts eBay in a unique position as both a retail outlet and a recommendation source. For example, The Inside Source features a widget on the left side of the page, a thumbnail gallery of most watched items featuring auctions from around the site. Clicking the thumbnail directs the user straight to the auction page for purchase decision making. And the post we linked to above ends in a series of recommended auctions.

While it's nice to know about trending topics, the site is also definitely geared toward encouraging positive user actions - by which we mean that eBay is still directing attention in ways that will increase sales. It would be really interesting to see more of the data released in a raw, less glossy-consumer-mag-style format. Currently, eBay offers one research-focused API, powered by AERS, for retrieving pricing information for a given search term. AERS offers a suite of tools for retrieving and parsing eBay user data, as well. Their API includes calls for popular items, trends, keywords, and more.

Discuss


Remains of the Day: MSN.com: Extreme Makeover Edition [For What It’s Worth]

MSN.com gets its first serious makeover in years (and you can preview it), the iTunes App Store officially gives you over 100,000 apps to choose from, and Mozilla Weave updates Firefox's browser-syncing tool.

  • The Madeover MSN.com Preview
    MSN.com is one of the most popular sites on the internet (that's what happens when you're the most popular operating system's default browser's default homepage), and after years of the same old blue, they're switching things up a bit, integrating with Twitter and Facebook, among other things. [MSN]
  • Worcestershire Sauce Secret Recipe Found in Trash
    A 170-year-old recipe for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce surfaces in a dumpster. They should've used Evernote. [Slashfood]
  • Windows Live Sync Now Supports Snow Leopard
    I can't imagine all that many Mac users want to use Live Sync, but for those few of you out there, Snow Leopard is now supported. [jkOnTheRun]
  • Weave 0.8 Released
    Mozilla's browser sync extension, Weave, continues pushing toward a 1.0 release. There's not a ton of major changes in this release beyond bug fixes and a better interface, but if you're a Weave user, you'll certainly want to update. [Mozilla Labs]
  • 100,000 Apps Now Available for the iPhone/iPod touch
    We're not sure why anyone would actually brag about the fact that their notoriously difficult to navigate App Store now has over 100,000 apps to fumble through, but there you have it. [Gizmodo]



Apple’s Magic Mouse — First Impressions [jkOnTheRun]

Img001_2048x1536So I unplugged for a bit this afternoon and took the Mobile Tech Mobile out for a spin. I’m moving away from using the keyboard and trackpad on my MacBook in the home office and decided to take a closer look at the Magic Mouse.

This is all part of a little ergonomic redesign of my workspace, because I’ve been having neck, back and arm pain lately. Just today I took delivery of an ergonomic chair, which should help. And I’m looking into a new desk that’s fully adjustable as well. The problem is: I hate to give up the multitouch gestures on my MacBook, and for that reason alone, I wanted to see how much “magic” that Apple’s new mouse can give me.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts after spending an hour with the new mouse.

  • It’s far flatter than I anticipated.
  • I’m not liking the two plastic rails on the bottom of it. That could be due to my work surface, which is laminated wood — moving the mouse makes a subtle scraping sound.
  • Pairing was a non-issue. I simply turned the mouse on and it was in discovery mode. Once paired, I checked for a software update because I only had basic mouse functionality. One small update later, followed by a reboot, gave me full functionality.
  • From an ergonomic perspective, it actually feels nicer than the old Mighty Mouse, provided you have a desk with the right height. My hand simply rests on it as it would a half-bar of Dove soap. It feels very natural to me because a relaxed hand isn’t flat — it’s curved. This feels like I was using a thinner Palm Pre under my hand, if that makes any sense.
  • The multitouch scrolling and swiping works really well and gives me some of what I’m missing from my MacBook trackpad. There’s a minimal learning curve. I wish — hope, even — that Apple can add support for three fingers, but I don’t know if that’s possible.
  • Occasionally, my palm has caused a little bit of unintended scrolling. It hasn’t happened often and it could be a training thing. A scroll motion near the bottom of the mouse — near the Apple logo — will still cause a scroll. Perhaps Apple should have made the actual touch portion limited to the upper half of the mouse.
  • It’s not too bad for me losing the side buttons of the old mouse — my Apple Bluetooth keyboard shortcuts are fine, but again, it’s a training thing. I do miss the ability to swipe four fingers up or down, but I’ll get over it.
  • The mouse is really light — almost, but not quite like a smaller travel mouse.
  • The edges are a bit sharp. It could just be my small hands, but the left and right edges aren’t as tapered as I think they can be.
  • By default, the Magic Mouse is set up for kinetic scrolling but is not set up for a secondary button. That’s easy to fix, of course.
  • I really like the kinetic scrolling.
  • From an ergo standpoint, my hand and fingers aren’t doing anything radically different from what they did with the MacBook trackpad.

I’ll be using the new Magic Mouse with my MacBook going forward, so if there’s any show-stopper kind of updates, I’ll report back in. For now, I’d recommend it but probably not sight unseen. That is: I spent a few minutes trying it in the Apple store first and I suggest the same to you. It’s not so much for the features — after all, if you’ve used a multitouch trackpad on an Apple laptop, then you pretty much understand the features. It’s the feel of using it for swiping and scrolling is what I’d be looking for. It felt relatively comfortable to me in the Apple store, so I made the purchase. If I didn’t feel that way, I’d probably still be out shopping for a mouse.

By the way: I also resurrected the ol’ Apple Bluetooth keyboard for my set up. I’ll probably look to replace that because it’s not really that ergonomic at all. For now, it will have to do. But it was sitting around for nearly a year and didn’t turn on at first, even after changing the batteries. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll have to tell you how I fixed it. You’re not going to believe this one — trust me!

Twitter Approval Matrix – October 2009

This is the fifth post for the Twitter Approval Matrix with data that spanned the month of October and different sources such as tweetsentiment.com, scraping archives, and observations. This month I received help from Joe Fernandez the CEO of Klout.com. Joe continues to provide some great 'hard' data that allowed me to better place more items on the grid this month.

A quick refresher, the matrix shows four quadrants used to describe trends found on Twitter. The Y-axis is partly analytical and shows popularity (mostly through scraped numbers) or perceived popularity (in the future nominated by you). The other part of the grid is more curated and subjective. The X-axis has been plotted based on my personal opinion. You may agree or disagree with my placements and that's all good to me. After all, this is partially about taste and numbers. The matrix and plots do not represent a thorough analytical treatment, but rather a view of the trends that could be found in data sources allowing me to plot with some sense of relevance.

TwitterApprovalMatrixOct.png

For this post, I've limited the data and activity to the month of October. Again, I'll continue with this project as long as I get enough feedback/help. So, if you are interested in contributing, you can comment here, or read the original post to figure out the best way for you to submit your plots.

I hope you enjoy this and see it as a potentially useful tool to monitor trends that your fellow readers are both contributing to and tracking.

EPRI’s Erfan Ibrahim: 5 Myths About the Smart Grid Buildout [Earth2Tech]

Panel discussions at technology conferences are often pretty dry affairs, but smart grid expert Erfan Ibrahim of the influential group Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) proved today at a conference in San Francisco that even topics like home area networks can rile a crowd. Speaking at The Networked Grid conference hosted by Greentech Media, Ibrahim — who heads EPRI’s work on communications, systems management and cyber security for the smart grid — dished out a sort of grab bag of opinions on a range of hot smart grid topics. Here are five myths, misunderstandings and truths he raised about how the smart grid should be rolled out.

The electric grid is not antiquated but it needs connectivity: There is a rumor that the electric grid is antiquated that is “spreading from Silicon Valley” by people who don’t really understand the industry. The grid is made up of many intelligent devices that are widely dispersed. The challenge, generally speaking, is not to improve the devices that are already deployed but to cost-effectively network them together.

Don’t put too much smarts into the meter: If you do, five years down the line you’ll regret it as technology advances. Then your meter will be obsolete. Instead, the intelligence around services like home area networks should be “in a box” that you place in the home and that can easily be swapped like a home computer as technology advances. In a related comment, Ibrahim said meters aren’t the only route for the smart grid to extend into the home. Other options could evolve, though he didn’t offer any examples.

Grid security requires comprehensive security, not just a big wall: Utilities can’t just build a big wall and expect to keep everyone out. A comprehensive approach to security will include technological advancement but also personnel training, process control and open digital security standards.

Go slow with the adoption of interoperability standards: Smart grid communication standards should be based on best practices. So the industry should develop the science first and then put the standard in place, not the other way around (Pacific Gas & Electric’s Kevin Dasso, while speaking on the same panel, appeared to disagree, however, when he said that you can either let the standards control you or you can work to control the standards) . Ibrahim also said the smart grid industry shouldn’t think it can take Internet Protocol and quickly shift it over to the electric grid. There are several reasons, one of them being that the electric grid must be more secure than IP currently enables.

Home energy management systems need to impress the neighbors: Many Americans won’t pay a dollar for a soda out of a machine, but put them at a bar next to someone they want to impress and they’ll easily spend three. So home energy management solutions that just show you how much energy you use and when won’t get much market penetration. The solution has to have some bells and whistles that will allow customers to impress their neighbors, say by linking it in some way with the family flat screen TV or by controlling appliances automatically. In a related comment, Ibrahim said he expects the private sector demand-response players, such as EnerNOC or Tendril, to increasingly offer customer-centric solutions for lowering their power usage. These solutions may be tied to home energy management systems.

Enterprise 2.0 advocates launch vague defense that industry is not a crock

enterprise crockA panel at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco today tackled the juicy-sounding topic “Is Enterprise 2.0 a Crock?” The speakers fired back against a piece from August by ZDNet’s Dennis Howlett declaring, “Enterprise 2.0: What a crock.” They delivered some interesting, but disappointingly similar-sounding, defenses of how technologies like blogs, wikis, and social networks can benefit big companies.

The panelists said that one of the hurdles to convincing enterprise-scale organizations that these new tools are worth their money is the difficulty in quantifying the business benefits. It’s hard to calculate an exact return on investment when it comes to better collaboration: “When somebody figures that out, they’ll make a million,” said Greg Lowe, social media architect and program manager at Alcatel Lucent.

But the inefficiency of older technologies has a real cost, said Megan Murray, community manager/project coordinator of Booz Allen Hamilton. She said her company once calculated that all the time wasted by an email that was sent to thousands of employees, where many recipients hit “reply all” to unsubscribe to the mailing list, was worth a total of $250,000. That number is only “an indicator” of the huge amounts of money that could be saved by adopting Enterprise 2.0 tools, she said.

Murray also argued that regardless of what skeptics say, company workforces are already adopting a new technologies: “That’s happening, period. These [Enterprise 2.0] technologies are simply allowing us to get that done smarter, faster, better, now.”

More broadly, the panelists identified five principles when it comes to bringing these applications into enterprises:

  • Workforce transformation
  • Business process/operations
  • Intellectual property/privacy/governance
  • Religious wars (technology/generational bias)
  • Bottom-line business benefits

I’d elaborate on how those principles are supposed to tie into Enterprise 2.0, but I found a lot of that discussion rather vague. That’s a general frustration I (and others) had with the panel — there was little direct engagement with the skeptics. Is it any surprise that a bunch of social media consultants and community managers would argue in favor of social, collaborative tools? I would have liked to hear fewer “Yay collaboration!” homilies and more specific responses to criticism. Even when the speakers offered real examples, they tended to involve “knowledge-based” industries, which is the one area where Howlett acknowledged Enterprise 2.0 really makes sense.

With that in mind, I’ll close with a quote from Howlett’s piece:

Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types – except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then – where are the use cases? I’d like to know.

[image:flickr/mikomatsumura]


Enterprise 2.0 LaunchPad: Newbies Take the Stage

enterprise_launchpadlogo_nov09.jpgWe're half way through the Enterprise 2.0 Conference and ReadWriteWeb has been fortunate enough to witness some of the enterprise community's brightest new stars. Enterprise 2.0 Launchpad offers early-stage companies a chance to shine. In a gong-show like presentation series, the four finalists took to the stage to battle it out for the title of best newcomer.

Sponsor

enterprise_oct09a.jpgThe Garland Group: The Garland Group offers financial institutions and banks the chance to assess their risk via a web-based management software. RiskKey offers monitoring, tracking and support to boards and advisors. As of today, the company has launched a new stats program where users can compare similar companies in order to mitigate risk across industries.

Twiki: Twiki allows users to aggregate their sales pipeline, wikis, contacts, employee status updates, documents and feeds into one easy-to-use dashboard. It's a combination Facebook and iGoogle for the enterprise. The company recently announced a partnership with ChinaSource to bring collaborative 2.0 technologies to Chinese government agencies, enterprises and academic institutions.

XWiki: XWiki is a web-based wiki platform where users access a basic WYSIWYG editor for team collaboration. The service allows users to manage multiple team wikis, install customized applications, build work-related feed readers and carve out collaborative workflow environments.

And the Winner Is...

CubeTree: CubeTree offers users a chance to create enterprise social networks with work-related feeds, org charts, status updates, wikis and collaborative documents. Earlier today ReadWriteWeb covered the company's launch of a social documents tool where users can comment on documents, spreadsheets and slides. Discuss


If the Data Center Is the Computer the Fight Is on to Control the Ecosystem [GigaOM]

Server room and devicesLiquid Computing, a startup going head-to-head with giants, today launched its own version of unified computing gear that stands in almost direct contrast to the announcements made yesterday by Cisco, EMC and VMware about Vblocks and the new Acadia services arm. Also today, HP laid out its vision and new software for a converged computing infrastructure, the heir to its adaptive infrastructure products of the last four years. These two announcements are the latest in a web of partnerships that are taking place in the data center infrastructure space as folks try to combine computer, storage and networking into some kind of monolithic compute fabric (GigaOM Pro subscription required). The end result of such efforts will be to make the data center function like a giant computer, and the fight is on to provide the component parts plus the OS.

Liquid unveiled its Liquid Elements software that will work with Intel-based servers and NetApp storage gear. The software and Liquid’s switch can be combined to deliver the same sort of unified fabric computing that Cisco has been selling. Liquid differs from the Vblocks on offer through Cisco/EMC/VMware in that the software can run on any Intel-based server, either virtualized or in a bare metal implementation, said Vikram Desai, CEO of Liquid Computing. Cisco’s servers use Intel chips, but they are all about running virtual machines.

HP’s announcements focus on its version of the data center OS that it calls the Infrastructure Operating Environment, its FlexFabric Virtual I/O, and what it calls Virtual Resource Pools, which is a not-that-fancy-way of saying virtualized clusters of server and storage hardware based on existing storage gear and operating systems. There’s also a piece that optimizes data center operations.

However, on the server side, HP has a big limitation right now in that its Flex Fabric virtual I/O software only works with HP’s blade servers. So to really get the benefits of a converged network fabric, you’re gonna have to have HP blade for now. Doug Oathout, VP of Green IT at HP, says the company plans to make Flex Fabric work on other hardware, but offered no time line.

What’s in Store for Storage

That’s the server+networking side, so what’s happening in storage? HP’s Virtual resource pools are pretty compelling in that they can work with any hypervisor and can accommodate applications that are running on bare metal servers without virtualization and a variety of storage gear. HP today also announced its HP X9000 boxes which contain software from its IBRIX acquisition. They offer enterprises the ability to create up to 16 petabytes of virtualized storage. It’s like having the ability to open a door in any room in your home and find an empty walk-in closet when needed.

On the storage side, Cisco’s servers can see it, but they can’t control or talk to the storage infrastructure. That’s why it needs EMC and VMware working with it to make a truly unified platform. Liquid Element can talk to any Ethernet-based storage gear, although it works best with storage from NetApp.

When it comes to services, HP will help you figure out how to build out this converged infrastructure and Liquid will rely on selling though channels. The creation of Acadia may signal that Cisco was having a hard time selling its equipment into organizations through a channel that couldn’t figure out how to make its gear work, Liquid’s Desai pointed out. It also may show how deals whereby large IT vendors have snapped up systems integrators (Dell buying Perot Systems or HP buying EDS) have forced Cisco to offer its own services arm in order to push its gear where those others may not.

As cloud computing and delivering IT on demand get taken over by the larger vendors, and are made palatable for enterprise customers, companies from small to large are cobbling together their vision for this highly virtualized data center infrastructure that basically acts and thinks like one big computer. Given how different the products are when it comes to openness and working with other equipment, it looks like we’re heading for a Mac vs. PC fight in the data center.

Chinese Online Video Companies Fight for Market Share, Licenses [NewTeeVee]

Chinese P2P startup Xunlei has sued its competitor Sohu for copyright infringement, according to the Shenzen Daily. Xunlei is alleging that Sohu’s search engine, Sogou, is infringing on copyrights related to Xunlei’s P2P software as well as its own search engine, Gougou.com. Sohu had previously filed its own copyright infringement lawsuits against Xunlei and other Chinese P2P vendors.

China has long been a P2P video wunderkind of sorts. Efforts to establish P2P-based consumer video platforms like Joost and Babelgum have largely failed in the U.S. and Europe, but similar offerings attract millions of users in China. However, the Chinese market is saturated with literally dozens of video vendors, and efforts to grow their business beyond the PC have stalled due to strict government licensing requirements.

Xunlei is a popular Chinese P2P client that combines BitTorrent with web-based downloads. The company’s Gougou.com search engine links to TV shows and movies hosted on various ftp servers and web sites. Users can download these files and automatically accelerate their downloads through Xunlei’s P2P functionality. Gougou obfuscates these links in order to get users to access the content with its own client and sign up for its premium services, which include remote downloading to Xunlei’s servers.

However, that didn’t stop Sohu from allegedly crawling these sites as well and publishing the direct download links without any Xunlei-specific code. Xunlei wasn’t too happy about that and decided to sue last week. Some reports suggest the lawsuits include complaints about cracked versions of Xunlei appearing in Sohu search results. Sohu previously sued Xunlei for broadcasting a TV series that the company had exclusive online rights for, and it recently announced further lawsuits against Xunlei and other competitors under the helm of a newly formed “Online Video Copyright Union.”

You know the fight for market share is getting ugly when online video companies do the dirty work for rights holders and sue each other for copyright infringement. The irony of these lawsuits is that much of the content indexed by both search engines clearly isn’t licensed to begin with. We asked both companies for their side of the story, but haven’t heard back from Xunlei, and just got a brief “no comment” from Sohu.

The lawsuits shouldn’t really surprise anyone who has been following the Chinese online video industry. The country is home to a number of large P2P video platforms as well as YouTube-like sites. P2P streaming service PPLive, for example, touts up to 30 million active viewers per month, and YouTube-like Youku boasts 140 million visitors per month. Both compete with at least a handful of similar services, many of which also have an impressive user base. There isn’t one clear market leader like YouTube in the U.S., and Chinese online video business models still seem to be in a flux.

At the same time, it’s been getting harder for Chinese video ventures to grow their market beyond the PC audience. PPStream and Xunlei have tried to get their platforms on set-top boxes and connected TV sets, but those efforts have stalled because of the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. The government agency views set-top box offerings as equal to over-the-air or cable television programming, which means that online video startups would need to get a special Internet TV license. That hurdle seems to be so high that a Chinese TV set manufacturer actually canceled plans to include PPStream in one of its connected TV sets in September.