New York Times to appear on big displays at coffee shops and other venues

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The New York Times and RMG Networks are launching a venture where the newspaper’s web site will appear on digital displays in coffee shops and other locations in five major cities.

The web site will appear on more than 800 screens in business district cafes and eateries in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. That’s a subset of more than 60,000 screens that RMG (formerly known as Danoo) has nationwide.

People standing in line waiting to get their coffee can look at the screens to see headlines and a sentence or two of the stories, as well as photos and some videos too.

Viewers can go to on their mobile devices to view the same articles displayed on the screens. Gary McGuire, chief executive of RMG, said that the company’s strategy is to offer the best video entertainment and information it can to engage people while they’re on the run. That’s increasingly necessary in an age when viewers aren’t sitting still in front of their TVs to watch 30-second commercials anymore.

On a monthly basis, the New York Times can reach six million people on the run through the 800 locations, McGuire said. Murray Gaylord, vice president of marketing at, said that the screens are a way to extend the company’s brand to business professionals in key markets.

RMG pipes in the pages to the screens via broadband Internet connections. It can send messages and coupons to the phones of the people standing in line, as long as they turn their Bluetooth radios to reception mode. Through its 60,000 screens, RMG Networks says it can reach 25 million people a month. RMG’s investors include National CineMedia and Kleiner Perkins.

Should It Be Harder to Unfollow Than to Follow?

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The more we use social services, the more updates we provide, and typically, the more friend connections we make. For the most part, for most people, the number of connections we have on our active networks are steadily increasing.

With time, the sheer volume can be considered noise, and there comes a time to make a trim. But it can be surprisingly difficult to break a connection, or to break multiple connections, on most of these networks.

I thought I would take a look at some of the major networks I use to show who makes it easy, and wonder as to whether they can make it simpler to sever ties.


On Facebook, you are increasingly seeing “Add as friend” buttons from suggestions, or running into friends of friends making comments on your connections’ news feed.

To add a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Click the “Add as a friend” at the top.
3. Click “Send Request”.

The request will then be approved or declined.

To unfriend a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and in the bottom left, click the small text: “Remove from Friends”
3. Click the “Remove from Friends” button that pops up.

The number of steps is the same, but unfriending is much less prominent, and “tucked away”. As with friending an individual, with the exception of the friends suggestions page, you have to go one by one, profile by profile, and cannot unfriend in bulk.


On FriendFeed, you can see if another user is a connection or not in a few ways. Comments from friends on items have a blue discussion bubble, and those who are not have a gray one. Also, if you mouse over someone who is not a friend, you have a “Subscribe” option. Friends’ boxes just show what lists they may be placed on.

To add a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click subscribe.
3. Choose what friend list to put them in and hit “Subscribe”.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click on their ID name and get redirected to their profile.
3. Click unsubscribe.

It is the same number of steps, but you have to be redirected to their profile, meaning you can’t unfollow them directly from your feeds, but only on their own page. You also cannot unfollow people in bulk, but you can follow people in bulk by synchronizing with Twitter or other services, such as GMail.

Following In Google Buzz

Google Buzz

To add a connection:

1. Click the user’s ID to get redirected to their profile.
2. Click Follow.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click the user’s ID to redirect to their profile.
2. Where it says “You are following”, click Stop.

Google Buzz doesn’t directly show you how to unfollow a group at a time, but if you do find you are following many people…

1. Go to your own profile, such as:
2. Click “Your name” is following “The number”.
3. This page will have “Unfollow” next to all your connections. Click unfollow for any you need, and you can reduce your connections quickly. It’s one of the fastest ways I have ever seen to reduce your total count.

I can unfollow Rick with one click.

Google Reader

To add a connection:

1. Find a person in Google Reader.
2. Click “Follow” that person.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click their name under “People You Follow”.
2. Click “Unfollow” that person.


If somebody invites you to connect on LinkedIn, adding is easy. Just click “Accept” to get connected. Otherwise…

To add a connection:

1. Find the person’s profile.
2. Click “Add this person to your network”.
3. Explain the connection. (Colleague/Classmate/etc)
4. Send invitation.

Surprisingly, there is NO way to unfollow or disconnect from somebody via their profile.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Go to “My Connections” under “Contacts”.
2. Click “Remove Connections”
3. Select Who You Want to Unfollow
4. Click Remove Connections
5. Confirm “Yes, Remove them”

The benefit to this process is that it is relatively simple to disconnect from many at once, but you can’t preview a connection if you don’t recall the relationship. It is surprising that you can’t unfollow via profile.


To add a connection:

1. Go to the individual’s profile
2. Click “Follow”.

To unfollow a connection, there are a few ways.

1. Go to the individual’s profile.
2. Select “Unfollow” from the options pull-down.


1. Click the “Following” button on your own profile.
2. Unfollow one or more people listed by clicking the “Actions” button and choosing “Unfollow” for each you want to disconnect.

In most social networks, the ability to follow anyone is relatively easy. Every profile has a button that asks you to connect. Some, like Facebook, are pushing new people to you all the time. But to reduce the connections and unfollow in bulk can be more difficult, leading to links that have since faded in importance, or can be cluttered. Twitter has done a good job to let you unfollow from multiple places, and Google Buzz makes contact management very simple, from your own profile, but there are clearly ways that most sites can improve the connection experience.

Google Challenges Bing’s Photosynth; Adds User Photos to Street View

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google street viewGoogle Street View has made a few headlines at RWW lately – once for getting itself into hot water in Europe and once, notably, for bringing Street View’s photo-tour features into retail outlets.

Now, we’ve learned that Street View will also begin to feature user-submitted photographs. According to a recent Google Lat Long blog post, “We began integrating user photos into Street View last year. User photos allow you to view locations from entirely new perspectives, whether through the eyes of a talented photographer with a knack for capturing architectural detail, or simply taken from locations we couldn’t get to… We’re making it easier to navigate through these images in a way that should feel similar to how you’re used to exploring within Street View.”


Users can submit pictures from Picasa, Panoramio and Flickr that show different views, times of day or pedestrian-only areas. Here’s an example of what the interface looks like; the square in the top right corner indicates there are user-submitted images for that area.

street view UGC

And here is the photo navigation interface. Users can also navigate through photos using new click-and-drag controls to see images from nearby areas, or different angles or crops of the same area.

street view UGC

Some have speculated that Google has chosen to highlight and integrate this feature because of competition with Bing. The Next Web recently called Microsoft’s Photosynth, a similar product launched in 2008 and integrated into Bing Maps, “the killer app of the Bing suite” that differentiates Bing from Google in a positive way.

“The feature,” wrote Jacob Friedman , “displays collections of photos stitched together into a panorama[…] The results, to put it bluntly, can be spectacular.”

While Google’s offering may not have the 3D-esque quality of Photosynth, allowing for more creative images and photos from a larger geographical area to be shared in Street View is a smart move for the company. Let us know what you think in the comments.


HP’s latest business laptops come with Day Starter fast-start software

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Hewlett-Packard’s newest business laptops come with a cool application that shows your daily calendar within five seconds, even before Windows boots.

All you do is start the computer and then press the F4 key. The screen will show your calendar items for the day in multiple colors. You can also see your laptop’s remaining battery life. The application is aimed at people who are in a rush in the morning and need to find out within seconds where they have to go.

The software comes on all new HP ProBooks and EliteBook P series laptops for businesspeople. HP is launching a bunch of these new laptops today. The application works alongside other HP QuickWeb and QuickLook software that lets you check out your email or visit a web site before Windows boots.

Among the new models are four new versions of the HP ProBook Standard Series business laptops. These versions range from the HP ProBook 4320 with a 13.3 inch screen for $719 to the HP ProBook 4720 with a 17.3-inch screen that sells for at least $925. They carry Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors that debuted in January, and they include options such as Intel HD graphics or ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chips. They have a durable brushed-aluminum finish and come in caviar (black) or bordeaux (red wine color).

The Standard series laptops come with business-class security, including a webcam that can recognize your face and log you into your account. The laptops are bundled with Arcsoft Total Media software suite for applications such as DVD playback. Battery life ranges from five hours to 10 hours, depending on whether you have the  6-cell or the 9-cell battery. The latter costs extra. The new laptops will be available later in March.

HP is also launching a new generation of its high-end business notebooks, the HP EliteBook laptops. These computers meet durability standards set by the military and come with metal hinges with steel pin axels and a reinforced display latch. The models have spill-resistant keyboards that drain spilled liquid through the bottom of the laptop.

The HP EliteBook 2740p laptop has a touchscreen and can be converted into a tablet by twisting the screen on its swivel and laying it flat over the keyboard. It has a 12.1-inch LED display, runs for 5 hours on a six-cell battery or 11 hours when attached to an optional ultraslim battery. It will be available in April starting at $1,599. An optional $299 docking station provides a DVD drive as well as a variety of connectors such as DisplayPort and hard drive attachments. The docking station is available April 12.

The 3.3-pound HP EliteBook 2540p has fewer bells and whistles and sells for $1,099. Its battery life ranges from four hours on a 3-cell battery to eight hours on a six-cell and 10.5 hours on a 9-cell battery. It will be available in April.

Why Google Pushed Buzz Out The Door Before It Was Ready

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When Google Buzz launched three weeks ago, the product wasn’t ready. There were basic privacy issues that still needed to be hammered out (and were quickly addressed by Google), but beyond that Google Buzz simply did not work smoothly enough to force feed it to 175 million Gmail users without any warning. (MG covered some of the usability issues last week).

So why was Google Buzz pushed out the door too soon? I have three interrelated theories:

  1. Google still wants to buy Twitter, and putting Buzz into Gmail might be enough of a threat to bring Twitter back to the table.  Buzz did not launch in some Google Labs backwater.  It is placed front and center in Gmail.  Buzz is Google’s strongest effort yet to enter the stream.  If Buzz can gain traction it would certainly help Google’s negotiating position with Twitter.
  2. Independent of any pressure it may place on Twitter, Google needs to have its own realtime micro-messaging communications system.  The micro-message bus is just a more efficient way to communicate than email for many types of messages so it makes sense to add it as a layer to Gmail: broadcast your public messages via Buzz, and keep private ones on email or chat, all from the same place.
  3. The other reason Google needed to establish its own social stream pronto is that links passed through social sharing are beginning to rival search as a primary driver of traffic for many sites.  Part of Google’s prowess stems from the fact that it is the largest referrer of traffic to many other Websites. It doesn’t want to lose that status to social sharing streams such as Facebook or Twitter.  Already, Buzz is helping to boost sharing through Google Reader.  While Google doesn’t benefit directly from that traffic (yet), simply knowing what links people are sharing and clicking on is valuable data which can help it improve its search results.

Google needed to get into this game as fast as it could, even if there were bumps along the way.  The question now is whether Buzz can keep building.

Photo credit: Flickr/ Chelseagirl

Google CEO Eric Schmidt Circa 1986

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This isn’t new, but it’s new for us. A 1986 TV clip of a then thirtyish year old Eric Schmidt that is just amazing. The awkward smiles and huge glasses say a lot about the era as well as the nerd cred of Google’s CEO. Today’s too cool for school hipster engineers living in lofts in San Francisco and spending more time grooming than coding should be ashamed of themselves.

Just two years later, though, Schmidt had his act together, and looked significantly more like an exec than a nerd. That’s too bad – 1986 Eric was cool.

Fotobabble: Add Audio to Your Pics

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fotobabble audio photoWe’ve recently come across an app that literally brings its users “talking pictures.”

Essentially, Fotobabble attaches an audio caption to any image you can upload. It’s a cute, fun way to share and narrate photos with friends, and could even be useful for certain kinds of online businesses – for example, photographers who wanted to explain more information about a particular shot or online retailers who wanted to give potential customers details about a product. Can Fotobabble accomplish these tasks better with audio than conventional text-based captions do now? Read on and tell us what you think.


Here’s our example. It took just a few seconds to create.

Currently, users can choose to share their creations across a wide variety of social networks or email; however, autosharing is not built in. The app is available as a web app for PC/Mac/etc. and as an iPhone app.

We do wish that Fotobabble would let users audio-caption pics from Facebook, Flickr photo streams or elsewhere on the Web. Ensuring ownership would be easy enough, as well, through Flickr’s API or Facebook Connect.While we’re on that subject, account creation should be possible through Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth. Ideally, we’d also want to be able to create slide shows and sets or groups of pics.

What do you think: Can you see yourself using Fotobabble? If so, how would you use it? Let us know what you think in the comments.


POLL: What Location-Based Mobile App(s) Will You Use During SXSW?

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foursquare gowalla sxswLast year, Foursquare was called the break-out mobile app of the conference by more than one tech journalist.

This year, a new contender has appeared – Austin’s native Gowalla. And Brightkite is still hanging on to the LBS community,

if only by a thread of loyal users – but they still offer more features than some of their better-known competitors.

Which do you use now? And when your attention is at a premium during one of the year’s most popular geek conferences, which app or apps will you use to collect badges, connect with friends, and find out where the party really is?


Gowalla’s main weakness might be that they haven’t yet developed an Android or Blackberry application. WordPress Bible author Aaron Brazell noted that while many see the iPhone as the “Jesus phone,” that doesn’t change the fact that “any company who has a business model built around… iPhone is nucking futs.”

While many of us use the mobile version of the site and patiently wait for a native app for non-iPhone devices, Foursquare’s been our go-to check-in service for quite some time. And their response to us on Twitter suggests they may see themselves as a comfortable incumbent at this point.

Both of the services we’ve mentioned also have special, built-in incentives for users at SXSW. Gowalla in particular has announced an interesting promotion. For their flagship “Tiki Room” event, the app will “be scattering hundreds of Tiki Room Digital VIP Passes around downtown Austin. The only way to get yours is to check in with Gowalla at other Austin venues and SXSW events.”

Last year, Foursquare also had special badges for SXSW, such as “Panel Nerd”, “Karaoke RV” and “Porky” (for BBQ lovers, in particular). They even made a custom badge for attendees of Digg’s party and Diggnation live show.

And while Brightkite may not have the game mechanics and rewards of other apps, it does give us the ability to upload photos in addition to text when checking into various locations – a tool we’ve found very handy when screening new venues for ambience.

So, which app or apps will you be using during SXSW? Vote in the poll, and let us know the “why” of your choice in the comments.


A Month In the Cloud Shows Potential

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At the end of January, I told you how I had recently picked up a MacBook Air to replace my aging MacBook Pro, and as part of that process, I would try to do as much as I could online instead of through desktop applications, leaving much of my rich media on the old laptop, and choosing the Web over hard disk as often as possible. A month in, it seems there is still much room for the cloud to grow, but despite the general trend for massive data growth, I still haven’t used more than 30 percent of my spartan 128 GB solid state hard drive – a back of the hand measurement of how little data I am keeping with me and not leaving in the air.

As I mentioned last month, one of the first decisions I made was to keep iTunes and iPhoto data on the old laptop. I recognized I needed to keep Microsoft Office, for pure sanity purposes, but left Adobe’s CS suite on the other machine.

Those applications I have downloaded have been rare, letting me tap into the cloud itself – for example, Skype, for audio phone calls and podcast recording, the Sonos controller to power the home stereo system, and Spotify, to access the on demand music network.

The goals are multiple. First, can I do a test run at being operating system agnostic, maintaining the flexibility to move toward a promised Chrome OS when it ships? Second, can I make the actual hardware insignificant, treating the new Air as a “disposable” machine, making migration to a newer device in the future simple? Third, and most important, can I find major weaknesses that continue to exist with an all cloud strategy?

At the end of February, my 128 GB solid state disk hard drive, much smaller than the 200 GB SATA disk it replaced, has 91.36 GB available, or just more than 71% of total capacity. This includes all system files, the pre-installed iLife applications from Apple, and preferences for many of the pre-installed apps. In fact, the one place I expected to consume a lot of data, with client files and PowerPoints, has proven to not be much at all. The folder for Paladin, with all client folders, is actually less than a single gigabyte.

Are there any headaches to going cloud-only (or close to it)? Sure. For somebody who uses PhotoShop a lot, the lack of PhotoShop has me reaching for it often. In the interim, for images for the blog, I’ve relied on lots of screen captures, and small editing in Preview. Anything stronger pushes me to the media machine. But the problems have been extremely rare. If I had an Office competitor that made it easy enough to edit all my files and save them remotely, I would be happy to give Microsoft Office the boot. But it’s not there yet. And in the meantime, I am using GMail more and my Mac e-mail account less. I have been taking Zoli Erdos’ advice and moving my Mac e-mail to the cloud, but that process isn’t yet completed. I’ll keep you posted on that, promise.

My new-ish MacBook Air isn’t just lighter in terms of weight. It’s massively lighter in terms of data too. It makes sense that in the future, so long as we have one place to put all our rich media, the rest of us really only need thin clients. We’re getting there.

Beware the BCC: Copying Can Make Us All Blind

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Assuming E-mail is the original social network, this Web 1.0 tool continues to have a large role in how we communicate and share ideas. With the exception of the clear GMail/Buzz integration or the recent Outlook/LinkedIn tie-up, for the most part, e-mail has not been dramatically revamped to take advantage of today’s faster-moving, highly featured social networks. But despite e-mail’s longevity, some basic attributes of the form continue to cause trouble between contacts who haven’t mastered their core functionality. One of the most troublesome, the infrequently used, but often abused, BCC.

With BCC, the recipient doesn’t know all who got the message.

As you no doubt know, BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy“, providing a way to send e-mails to people without revealing their e-mail addresses. This can be an aid for mass mailings without exposure, but also used to be sure an individual gets a note without the direct recipient’s knowledge.

For every blow-up around poorly-trained marketeers who copy their entire customer base, or PR flacks who display all the intended reporters by dumping their contacts database in the TO or CC field, you have quieter mistakes that happen when the intended recipient who thought they were having a private conversation sees a third party jump into the discussion without warning. As the intended public recipient sees the third party elbow their way into the conversation, they may lose trust in the original sender, and wonder what other messages were being shared.

Often, those BCC’d blow the cover of the messages’ routing.

Some e-mail clients (such as a BlackBerry) will automatically make it clear to the recipient that they were BCC’d on a conversation, which hints they should not reply all. But not all people are as discerning and recognize their role in the world of BCC to be a silent observer. I know that when I get a BCC message that any reply I provide goes to the originator and not to the others in the thread.

Given my goal to be public about communication, my own use of BCC is extremely infrequent. Due to the potential issues that can arise as trust is perceived to be broken, I tend to follow up a BCC note to the individual saying “You were BCC’d. Make sure not to reply.”

If you are someone who tends to BCC individuals as a normal course of business, I have no doubts that you can get caught by this process. Not all recipients watch the To and CC fields closely, and they may expose your willingness to overshare. With so many other ways to have private conversations 1-1, and the ease of which forwarding prior conversations via e-mail can occur, it makes sense to get above board, and preserve the BCC option for simply obscuring mass mailings.

The Day Trader’s Paradise [Featured Workspace]

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What do you get when you have space for a custom office setup, a good amount of cash, and the vision to make it all happen? Dozens of monitors and the need for your own personal power plant.

We’ve been watching Steve’s office since he first posted the construction pictures into the Lifehacker Workspace pool. Slowly, we’ve watched his office take shape from a spackled room with naked monitor mounts into the jaw dropping display of computing power you see above.

Steve just finished the project and posted some pictures to update us, writing:

Originally there was to be 60 monitors, a mix of 19s and 24s however, it changed a bit and there is now 40 24″ monitors and another 20 monitors offsite for development.

There is six computers running all the monitors, each computer has a core i7 975, 24 gb of DDR 3 memory, two SLC SSDs in raid 0 and a large amount of nvidia NVS 420s as well as Nvidia 9800 GTs.

This office is used for intraday trading and development.

And by “intraday trading and development” he means displaying the world’s largest line chart screensaver when he isn’t using it to build a better bomb and issue demands of monetary compensation to world governments—or something like that we’d imagine. Check out more pictures of his awesome setup below:

You can check out more pictures of Steve’s office by visiting the various photo sets he shared during construction: Office construction, Office, and New Office Done.

If you have a workspace of your own to show off, throw the pictures on your Flickr account and add it to the Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Pool. Include some details about your setup and why it works for you, and you just might see it featured on the front page of Lifehacker.

Disk Space Fan Analyzes Hard Drive Space with a Dash of Eye Candy [Downloads]

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Windows only: Free utility Disk Space Fan analyzes your hard drive usage to help you determine what’s taking up space on your hard drive, representing it all with fancy visualization eye candy.

Disk Space Fan joins a long line of disk visualization tools, from the classic WinDirStat to DriveSpacio, Disktective, and others. WinDirStat has always had a special place in our hearts when it came time to visualize our hard drive usage and knock off space-wasting files, but it’s not the most attractive tool in the toolbox. Disk Space Fan does the same sort of disk analysis, but it’s also very attractive in addition to being very functional.

Eye candy aside, its scans are fast, and the Explorer integration makes it open up any file or folder for a closer look. You can click any slice to drill down further (and yes, it has fancy animated transitions when you do the clicking), and you can open or delete any file or folder directly from the app.

Disk Space Fan is a free download, Windows only. (Mac users, check out previously mentioned GrandPerspective.) A Pro version is available with a few more features, but the core features that make it great are available for free.

What You Should Read This Weekend

This post is by from GigaOM

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This week I read some interesting, some bizarre, some funny but mostly mind stimulating articles. Here is a short selection that includes a must read post about the rise of narrative in social networks and a fascinating presentation by graphic designer Nicholas Felton.

Lastly, watch this video of graphic designer Nicholas Felton, the creator of The Feltron Annual Report. At PopTech 2009, he showed snapshot of The New York Times‘ front pages and what it means about America. Worthy of your time. And if you are interested in collecting personal data, check out Felton’s Daytum, a tool.

February 2010’s Most Popular Posts [[this Is Good]]

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This month we highlighted 10 Google settings you should know, detailed how to set up a fully automated media center, stopped Google Buzz from showing the world your contacts and cluttering your inbox, and a whole lot more. Here’s a look back.

  • Top 10 Google Settings You Should Know About
    As the outcry over Google Buzz’s privacy has shown us, it’s smart to explore settings in Gmail, along with other places you’re sharing data with the search giant. Let’s take a look at 10 privacy, convenience, and annoyance fixers you should know.
  • Where Can I Watch the Olympics Online?
    Dear Lifehacker, I’m a huge fan of the winter Olympics and I don’t want to miss a minute of coverage. Where can I watch the games online?
  • Set Up a Fully Automated Media Center
    We love a good media center almost as much as we love automation, so self-confessed media geek Alex Ward’s fully automated media center caught our eye. It’s all the benefits of an awesome media center without all the hassle.
  • Stop Google Buzz From Showing the World Your Contacts
    Whether you call it a huge privacy flaw or just an annoyance, Google Buzz can put the contacts you automatically follow—a.k.a. those you most frequently email or chat—on a public profile page. Here’s how to undo that.
  • LookInMyPC Is a Must-Have Tool for Computer Troubleshooting
    Windows only: LookInMyPC generates a complete report of what’s going on in a computer—from hardware to software, and everything in between. After playing around with it, this writer wouldn’t start troubleshooting a PC without it. I’m not kidding.
  • Become a Gmail Master Redux
    Gmail is easily the most popular email application among power users, and with good reason: It’s an excellent app. But if you haven’t gotten to know its best shortcuts, tricks, Labs features, and add-ons, it’s time you made Gmail sing.
  • Five Best Start Pages
    Your start page is the first thing you see when you open your browser or load a new tab—your gateway to the rest of the web. Get the most from your start page with one of these five favorites.
  • Which Media Center Is Right for You: Boxee, XBMC, and Windows Media Center Compared
    Want all your downloads, streaming video, and other techie media stuff on your TV? Wondering which media center works best for you? Here’s a look at the biggies in chart and Venn diagram form, followed by some lengthy breakdowns of each.
  • Hide/Remove Google Buzz Updates from Your Gmail Inbox
    If you just don’t have the bandwidth to manage one more set of social notifications automatically hitting your Gmail inbox, you may not be all that excited about this morning’s Google Buzz announcement. Luckily banishing Buzz from your inbox is easy.
  • Make Images 3D sans Goofy Glasses
    3D pictures are interesting, but they rely on glasses that alter the way your left and right eye perceive images. This cool 3D image-creation technique doesn’t require glasses but still produces a 3D illusion.

The future IS gaming

This post is by from Trends in the Living Networks

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I recently finished reading the techno-thriller Daemon by Daniel Suarez. It is certainly not literature, but it is a fast-paced thriller that I found hard to put down. It posits a world in which a genius who creates online games builds a systems that makes the entire world into what is effectively a game, with an augmented reality interface, and in which individuals earn points for tasks that give them higher ranking.

I have long thought it is inevitable that much of our work and play will take place in what are effectively game environments.

In Jesse Schell‘s presentation at DICE (hattip: Kevin Kelly/The Technium) he gives an array of fantastic ideas about the intersection of reality and gaming. After covering how many games such as Wii, Guitar Hero and Webkinz are bring the real world into games, he goes off (from around 18:00) on a rapid-fire string of suggestions about how every aspect of the world can be made into a game.

It is intriguing that mobile social networking, which I have written about since its early days in 2002, has only taken off when Foursquare made it into a game. As people become more familiar with gaming environments and concepts, it seems natural to bring in gaming aspects to more parts of our life. Dangerous things that way lie, but it is inevitable that games and what we think of as reality will be merged to an extraordinary degree.

[UPDATE:] Tom Foremski says why he thinks this is a scary future.

What Do You Buy Online vs. in Stores? [Ask The Readers]

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Online advertising company Permuto pulled data from the U.S. Census Bureau into a nice infographic comparing people’s purchasing habits in-store vs. online, and it got us wondering: What do you buy online vs. in stores?

(Click the image above for a closer look.)

According to the Census Bureau’s data, the old brick and mortar stores are still responsible for the majority of sales in most of the categories, save for a few notable categories, including books, clothing, and electronics. Since Lifehacker readers are a more tech-savvy crowd than most of the public, we’d guess you tend more toward the buy online crowd. Are you more of a virtual shopper, or do you still prefer to touch and feel before you buy? It certainly varies depending on what you’re buying, so tell us about it in the comments.

Update: As many readers have pointed out, the data in the infograph is a bit misleading/off, so take those numbers with a grain of salt and head straight for the data for more detailed breakdowns. The question above still stands, though.

Speed Up Your Shirt-Hanging Routine with a Simple Trick [Household]

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We love the two-second t-shirt folding technique we featured a few years back, but if you’re more of a hanger than a folder, home blog Apartment Therapy’s got a few pointers to help you speed up getting your shirts on hangers.

The basic trick: Just put your arm arm through the 10 or so shirts, get a stack of hangers at the ready, and start hanging.

Place your arm inside the bottom of the first t-shirt and exit your hand through the neck hole. No it won’t seem natural, but yes, you’re doing it right. Continue to layer all shirts on your arm in this manner. It’ll be a full house, but don’t worry, they’ll all fit.

With the arm not inside the shirts, grab a hanger from the pile. Angle it through the neckhole, and into the shoulders—while at the same time pulling the hook of the hanger taught and away from the shirt and thus, pulling the hanger up and off your arm.

It’s not quite as mind-blowing in action as the previously mentioned folding method, but it seems like a small improvement that could pick up the pace a little next time you’re hanging laundry.

The Ten Most Likely M&A Deals In Online Video

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Editor’s note: Guest author Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of video site WatchMojo. Below are his picks for the ten most likely M&A deals in online video. Previously, he wrote a series if posts about the state of online video (Part I, II, III, and IV).

Which online video companies will get bought in 2010?   Venture capitalists are desperately looking for exits while the usual suspects are sitting on more than $80 billion in cash: Microsoft ($20B), Apple ($40B), Google ($15B), Amazon ($3B), and Yahoo! ($3B) just to name the cash positions of a few potential acquirers.  Theoretically, it should be a match made in heaven, but the sheer number of venture-backed video startups is staggering so when the music stops, not everyone will find a dancing partner.

Once you assess what drives companies to merge or acquire one another, however, it seems like we’re about to enter a period of mergers between video competitors and see a series of acquisitions by larger companies looking to accelerate their video strategies, with a common theme being increasing both monetization and margins.

Right now, as the chart above shows (click to enlarge), there are two types of online video companies: those with sky-high ad rates but fairly limited inventory (company A) and those with huge inventory but woeful monetization (company B). Companies can extend profitability through technology, ad solutions or content.

With that in mind, let’s look at those 10 potential deals.

1. Demand Media will acquire Tremor Media

Demand Media has raised $355 million but to this day still generates the bulk of its revenue from its domain registrar unit, eNom. However, it is trying to move into the content business, with its “Content Farm” strategy getting a lot of attention.

Demand Media’s existing content lends itself better to an arbitrage strategy built around Google marketing and monetization, but over time it will want to do a better job entering both display and video advertising and it will do that by buying one of the many, many video ad networks out there. Brightroll, which is focused on brands, is one option.  Tremor is another, focusing on reach.  That strategy should fit well with Demand Media’s modus operandi.  Tremor Media’s ads reach 177.6 million uniques, or 85% of internet users.

2. Lagardere Groupe will acquire Dailymotion

At first glance, French media conglomerate Lagardere seemingly sees no value in communities as a marketing platform: “There is no clear business model because you have a huge, massive audience, but it is not a marketing community,” says to Lagardere’s Chief Financial Officer Dominique D’Hinnin.

Monsieur D’Hinnin might be right, but never underestimate France’s sense of nationalism. Dailymotion is France’s answer to YouTube and it has taken steps to reduce its share of user-generated and pirated content in favor of professional videos. (Disclosure: Dailymotion is also one of WatchMojo’s distribution partners).

With $68.5M in funding—including a tidy sum from Le Fonds Strategique d’investissement, which is an investing arm of the French State—you can imagine that one of the pillars of the French media landscape, Lagardere Groupe could eventually step in and acquire Dailymotion despite its admitted monetization problems: “At the moment, we are poor at monetising our audience,” admits Dailymotion CEO Cedric Tournay. Lagardere could help with that provided Dailymotion can continue to de-emphasize its less advertiser-friendly content.

Additionally, Lagardere will be able to leverage Dailymotion’s audience to promote its own content: the company owns Hachette along with numerous other media entities.

3. Scripps will acquire 5Min

When 5Min (another one of our distribution partners) launched, it focused on user-generated how-to content. Thankfully for them, they have since moved away from that and currently mesh

a) aggregated premium and super premium content with

b) their monetization engine, a strategy which has propelled 5Min to become a Top 10 comScore video company.

Scripps is a producer of super premium content, and like Discovery Holdings, it might prefer to distribute its programming through TV and cable. But, with consumers viewing more and more videos on the Web, it will need more content for its sites and will look for more inventory online.

The two companies already have a strategic deal in place, so they have some familiarity with each other.

4. Google will acquire Ooyala

Last year it was rumored that Google was going to acquire Brightcove for $500-700M. That was always unlikely because many of Brightcove’s financial backers are the very same media companies that view Google as the bane of their existence.  Moreover, Google makes a lot of acquisitions but rarely are they large (YouTube, DoubleClick and AdMob being the exceptions).

A more logical fit to expand its video foothold would be Ooyala, which competes with Brightcove and includes Glam Media and others as clients… and was founded by a former Google executive.

Google has the consumer video market cornered with YouTube.  Iit could leverage Ooyala to go after the corporate market by undercutting Brightcove.

5. Microsoft will acquire Brightcove

The consolidation in ad services peaked with Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick and Microsoft’s $6B acquisition of aQuantive. After selling ad agency unit Razorfish, today aQuantive is Microsoft Advertising, and as advertising continues to move into video, MSFT will probably want to offer a video content management to go along with the Atlas ad serving platform.  That is where Brightcove fits in.

If you think about it, Google owns video search by way of its YouTube acquisition. Microsoft wants to push into cloud computing and at least conceptually, owning Brightcove would give it a legitimate cloud computing foothold in professional video content with no real threat to any of its core businesses. It could also better integrate Brightcove (which increasingly powers media companies’ videos) into Bing’s video search, helping it kill many birds with one (albeit expensive) stone.

6. Yahoo! will acquire Freewheel

After acquiring Blue Lithium and Right Media, Yahoo! got a shot in the arm and grew its advertising reach across the Web, outside of the property.

Freewheel is founded by former DoubleClick employees but Google (which bought DoubleClick) might have less interest than one would think in augmenting its video advertising reach across the Web considering it owns YouTube which accounts for 40% of online video consumption. YouTube only monetizes a small share of the billions of videos on the site.

Freewheel, which allows marketers and publishers to manage campaigns across a variety of distribution sites, would be a nice fit with Yahoo!, which might want to extend its Audience Network in video offerings.

7. Gannett will acquire Livestream

Gannett already invested $10 million in Livestream (then known as Mogulus).

The fit is a natural: print media will want to bolster its video offerings (be it content or technology). The main challenge here is that media companies have grown wary of buying technology firms, but news organizations will have a natural predisposition for all things live and the investment sets the stage up for an all-out acquisition.

8. Nielsen will acquire TubeMogul

TubeMogulprovides analytics to countless marketers and publishers (we use them at WatchMojo). Nielsen and comScore are both looking at adding video capabilities and TubeMogul has done a good job of getting wide adoption, providing Nielsen with a quick entry into the burgeoning video space.

Also, David Toth, former president, CEO, and co-founder of the NetRatings service joined TubeMogul’s board.

9. AOL acquires Howcast

AOL’s recent acquisition of StudioNow is a sign of things to come: When AOL was spun off from Time Warner, it was shackled with restrictions on its use of cash and thus the size of the deals it could complete.

But AOL wants to create content, lots of it. AOL’s Tim Armstrong is an investor in Howcast; he was also an investor in Patch, a local startup Armstrong acquired after joining AOL (to his credit, he simply recouped his initial investment and did not participate in the capital gain).

Howcast creates videos themselves, lets users create and upload videos and aggregates other professional content (Howcast is one of our distribution partners as well). While Howcast might have proven redundant with the StudioNow acquisition, AOL has a history of doubling up when it focuses on a space (think ad services: Tacoda,, and Third Screen Media) and Howcast is more focussed on how-to videos.

10. News Corp. acquires Break Media from Lionsgate, spins off NewCo

News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch is in the process of divesting from the Web: first selling Photobucket, then chucking Rotten Tomatoes to Flixster while retaining a stake in the new venture.  I see something similar happening with Acquisition #10.

Break Media is one of the so-called YouTube clones who has managed to differentiate itself by focusing on the men’s 18-34 market and creating content, be it videos and now video games.  Back in 2007, Lionsgate invested $21 million in stock for a 42% stake in At the time, it also got a call option (basically, the right to buy) which is “exercisable at any time from June 29, 2007 until the earlier of 30 months after June 29, 2007 or a year after a change of control, to purchase all of the remaining 58% equity interests (excluding any subsequent dilutive events), including in-the-money stock options, warrants and other rights, of for $58 million in cash or common stock, at the company’s option.”

The 30 month window expired on December 29, 2009, and despite Break’s momentum, I don’t see any major incentive for Lionsgate to exercise its call option. I do, however, see the following happening (well, maybe…).

Lionsgate might be more willing to trade its 42% stake in Break Media for a smaller share in a NewCo. that houses both Break Media and News Corp.’s IGN Entertainment, another leader in the men’s 18-34 space. (again, bothh Break and IGN are distribution partners).  This NewCo. would then be a more likely candidate for an IPO and would allow both Lionsgate and News Corp. to focus on their core businesses and cash out their investment over time.

Needless to say, all of the above deals are idle, if informed, speculation on my part.  What do you think are the most likely video exits this year?

Mobile Fundraising Campaigns Begin For Chile

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Following the earthquake in Haiti, mobile fundraising via texting exploded; with over $40 million raised via text messaging alone. With the massive success of the Haiti campaign, mobile donations are now being used to raise funds for the victims of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Chile over the past weekend.

Mobile giving is fairly simple; you text a keyword to a code on your phone and a micro-donation is made to a given charity. The donation is billed via your carrier. Similar to the Haiti campaign, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile are waiving text-messaging fees for the donations. According to the Mobile Giving Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross and World Vision are all accepting SMS donations for the Chile earthquake.

Mobile Accord, which ran Haiti mobile fundraising efforts for the Red Cross, is also coordinating SMS fundraising on behalf of several philanthropic foundations raising money for Chile. Via the company’s mGive program, you can make $10 donations to Friends of the World Food Program, Operation USA, and Convoy of Hope.

It’s unclear whether the fundraising campaign for the Chile earthquake will see the impressive results of the Haiti initiative, but the model did prove to be successful.

Photo Credit/Flickr/curiouslee