Amazon Web Services Adds Long Requested Web Browser Specification

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) added support today for a browser specification that defines ways for  apps to allow resources to be accessed by web pages from different domains. The practice is called Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) and has been requested by AWS users for the past few years.

The new service represents another way that AWS automates tasks that developers once had to do themselves. We see this over and again fron AWS. They  abstract arduous tasks so developers can focus on building apps.

Jeff Barr writes on the AWS blog that developers can use the CORS specification  to build web applications that use JavaScript and HTML5 to interact directly with resources in Amazon S3 without the need for a proxy server.

Cross-scripting attacks have historically been used  to inject client-side script into Web pages viewed by other users. According to Wikipedia, “CORS makes it possible  to determine whether or not to allow the cross-origin request.  It is a compromise that allows greater flexibility, but is more secure than simply allowing all such requests.”

According to Brr:

You can implement HTML5 drag and drop uploads to Amazon S3, show upload progress, or update content directly from your web applications. External web pages, style sheets, and HTML5 applications hosted in different domains can now reference assets such as web fonts and images stored in an S3 bucket, enabling you to share these assets across multiple web sites.

The thread on Hacker News about the news shows how much credibility AWS has with its developer community:

Finally, I won’t have to proxy s3 requests through my own nginxes.

I’ve pled for this feature in the AWS forum, over their commercial support (which I bought just to bug them about this), and to werner vogels directly.

More information about CORS on AWS is available here.

Apple launches new app infringement tool, wants developers to ‘work directly with each other’

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iTunes Content Dispute

Apple has created a new content dispute tool for the iTunes App store that encourages third-party developers to work out the problem amongst themselves. As 9to5Mac points out, the new tool allows developers who feel that their app has been infringed upon to file a complaint with their contact information and a description of the infringement. Apple will then connect the claimant and the developer of the allegedly infringing app in the hopes that they can come to a solution together. If a solution cannot be reached, the developers can contact the App Store legal team to request further action. Apple’s strict App Store guidelines attempt to prevent apps that copy one another from becoming available, but this tool will allow developers…

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Now In 600+ Schools And Open To Any Student, Lore Gives Higher Ed A Next-Gen Social Network

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With social networking having permeated the way we look for jobs, share photos and music, and discover news, a startup named Lore is on a mission to do the same for higher education, and potentially re-shape the way teachers and students communicate. Formerly known as CourseKit, the Thiel and Founder’s Fund-backed startup is doing that with a platform that is part Facebook and part Blackboard — for courses. In other words, Lore aims to act as a replacement for the infamous course management system with a gradebook, calendar and document uploading (for class assignments), while giving students a social network-style newsfeed for classroom conversations.

However, until now, Lore has been primarily focused on creating functional communities around courses, and students could only join Lore if a teacher invited them. While courses are remaining the central axis of the network, the startup has launched “Lore For Students,” which now lets students join themselves and create academic profiles, follow classmates and professors and join groups (like study sessions or clubs).

The network logged its first semester live this past spring, with professors at over 600 schools testing its framework. Co-founder Joseph Cohen tells us that, since July, thousands of coures across a range of disciplines have joined, from “Experimental Poetry” at UPenn to “Organizing For Power” at Harvard — with an average of more than one course per school on board.

In July, the startup launched an end-to-end redesign of its network. Taking feedback it received over the course of the spring, it combined pre-existing features like “Stream” and “Calendar” into a Facebook-inspired Timeline, or newsfeed.

The newsfeed allows teachers to make classroom conversations public by default, instead of relying on back-and-forth group emails. It also added a feature which lets students audit classes and academic profiles, in which students could share education, experience, honors and awards, courses, groups, CV, etc.

In terms of who’s using it? Cohen said that the most eager to adopt have been teachers who want to engage with students on a medium they’re more familiar with, as well as among those who create close relationships with individual students. It gives them the ability to stay in touch with students after the course ends — or even after graduation.

In comparison, Lore For Students, which launched in time for the new school year, gives college students the ability to create a learning profile to enable them to share what they’ve learned, what they’re studying and what they want to do after school, join class communities, academic groups and use real-time messaging to contact anyone in their network.

With 600+ schools on board, Lore has been able to build strong organic growth, without relying on paid user acquisition. However, while hundreds of institutions may be on the network, only one or two classes per school may be involved, so it’s got a long way to go before reaching critical mass. So, in an attempt to bring the whole school online, the team is starting with a targeted group of four schools and working with a team of students at those schools to push the envelope. And like other networks before it, the plan is to restrict access for schools until a certain number of students have joined — and worry about monetization once enough schools (and students) are using the network.

Sounds a bit like Facebook, which raises the question: Why wouldn’t students and teachers just use the omnipresent social network? That’s because context is key for social networks, Cohen says. Students don’t want to “friend” their professors on Facebook (or connect with them on LinkedIn in any significant capacity) and they don’t want to broadcast photos from last night’s party to the world of family members and grandmas on Facebook. Your network for learning is distinct from your social or professional network, so Lore wants to create a community which recognizes that — with a context that’ll make actually want to “follow” your favorite professors.

But why not create a social network for students separate from professors? Lore is betting that there’ll be enough of the experience on its network that doesn’t require professors it won’t stifle communication. And that having professors there gives the network’s learning context some credibility.

The New York-based startup raised $1 million in seed funding back in June of 2011, followed by a $5 million series A in January (led by The Social Capital Partnership). In April, education contrarian-turned-Stanford-professor Peter Thiel joined the startup’s roster of investors (with an undisclosed sum). Thiel said of the newly-rebranded startup: “The Internet is reshaping how people learn, and Lore is one of the companies making that happen. My course at Stanford is using Lore and we can see dynamics changing already.”

There’s no doubt that the right hybrid of social network that can get kids interacting in coursework-related conversations outside the class will have a big impact on education. Whether or not Lore is that tool remains to be seen. But giving students the ability to see a roster of people in their class, click on a face and view that person’s profile, what other courses and groups they’re in and join those — within a newsfeed-style interface they’re familiar with — can’t help but seem like it has a lot of potential.

Anticipating a Blended Classroom Boom Led by Education Startups

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Blended classroom

As kids head back to school this month and next, some will find a rather new arrangement greeting them: blended classrooms.

These don’t feel like the ways that many of us attended class, with a single teacher lecturing at students from front and center (“Bueller?”). As it’s difficult–if not impossible–for cash-strapped schools to develop their own original learning products in house, startups are at the forefront of these changes. Thanks to many of them, more instruction is now being simultaneously delivered–by a live teacher, via web-based curricula, and in the form of students teaching one another, among other forms–within the walls of traditional classrooms.

Innosight Institute, a think tank started by HBS alums that focuses on innovations in education and health care, explains:

Educators and entrepreneurs are increasingly creating blended-learning environments –where rather than doing online learning at a distance, students learn in an adult-supervised school environment for at least part of the time..a small but growing number of schools are starting to introduce blended learning into their core programming for mainstream students.

This is at least partially a response to more technology-based tools and student data being accessible to educators, not to mention an increasing number of public and private funding opportunities in the space. (Department of Education funding for personalized learning initiatives will be distributed nationwide to the tune of $400M by the end of the year. This is just as some districtts, including many in Florida, are starting to require the use of blended learning approaches in an attempt to save money.)

As the number of online degrees being issued surpass traditional ones, this year the number of charter schools and districts trying startups’ alpha and beta versions of blended products and supportive offerings will be higher than ever. An increasing number of brick and mortar schools are now paying for tools that their faculty members have been requesting (more insights into individual student performance, ability to access information remotely), and startups are happy to provide licenses for technology that they are uniquely positioned to build (responsive systems for sharing curricula and cloud-based collaboration tools among them).

Rather than create one-off math or reading apps, ”middleware” companies for education are trying to help schools systemically implement blended techniques. Among the companies complimenting in-person instruction are Clever, which shared education software and hopes of standardizing APIs for schools at the most recent YC Demo DayLearnSprout has recently launched tools to make information in Student Information Systems more transparent and secure. Instructure introduced its Canvas learning management system as an open way to increase teacher effectiveness and parental engagement. And New Tech Network has built Echo, a system that integrates Google Apps for Education and online assignment information to facilitate project-based learning.

One startup working to introduce blended designs and strategies to schools is San Carlos-based Education Elements. Its SaaS, cloud-based “hybrid learning management system” will be in 44 schools this fall (up from 11 last year), including Mission Dolores Academy and Aspire Public Schools. In recent months it has brought former Starbucks COO Howard Behar onto its board. Since raising $6M in Series A funding it’s also added Shelli Taylor of Disney English in China as COO and Jawbone exec David Sanchez to lead product and partnership development. In some ways Education Elements acts as classroom curator: making recommendations about buildout of physical spaces and how to best schedule course time between collaboration, teaching, and screentime (switching between modes based on “lab,” “classroom,” and “flex” plans).

Students at California and Wisconsin-based Rocketship Education schools, which focus heavily on online content to improve the quality of students’ time spent learning, have long been exposed to the concept of hybrid forms of instruction to help them meet Common Core State Standards. But CEO John Danner said that it hasn’t always been easy to find organizational partners who were as concerned with student performances as teachers were.

“Two or three years ago, no one had metrics,” said Danner, which caused his schools to start working towards other ways to measure individualized student performance. Alas, non-profit schools working to develop software with foundation funding was a distraction from their core objective, educating students. Enter Junyo, an entrepreneurial endeavor that looked to provide learning analytics to schools and now counts Rocketship among its clients. According to Danner, “If startups can deliver blended solutions to superintendents at affordable price points, they can help fill in the missing piece.”

Junyo will be piloting its personalized student platform with thousands of students this year between charter and public schools. The Menlo Park company says it looks to give parents and teachers feedback about learner performance that schools currently operate without. Blended is not just a focus on technology, said Junyo co-founder and former Oodle VP Kim Jacobson, but also values insights that can be made offline with the availability of more objective information.

Jennifer Carolan, co-founder of the NewSchools Seed Fund, says she’s seen a major shift in how teachers are providing lessons and connecting with their students. As a non-profit seed fund, it’s among the first of its kind and has invested in Education Elements and Junyo among other tech companies. “Emerging platforms like Edmodo, Education Elements and Engrade help raise attention for the tools, products, and apps that have come on the scene,” Carolan says. (The former said it had reached 80,000 schools when it announced that it had raised a $25M Series C funding round earlier this summer. Engrade’s reported 4.5M person user base helped it secure a $3M seed round recently.)

Even as the field is in its relative infancy, it’s already offered alternative options for planning classroom content–an area that has long been dominated by textbook publishers–along with the promise of more immediate information about student progress and learning..

Image from Innosight Institute K-12 Blended Learning Report.

Open Source in Action: LinuxCon 2012

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I participated in a panel discussion at LinuxCon today with other journalists who cover Linux and open source goings-on, including our own Alex Williams. One of the questions that was asked was “What was the most important story for you this week?”

The answers from my peer journalists were interesting, and reflect the diversity in interest (and beats) between us all. From Google’s admission to using — and paying for support for — Ubuntu on the desktop, to Linus’s revelation of a Linux 4.0 release within the next couple of years, the things that piqued our various interests covered the spectrum of what happened this week.

When the question was posed to me, my immediate response was “The Hallway track”. For regular conference goers, this is a colloqualism to describe the ad-hoc conversations that spring up in the hallway between sessions. This is where conference participants most interact — both with one another and with session presenters. 

All this week I’ve overheard snippets of conversations between two or more impassioned interlocutors discussing kernel tuning, memory management, cgroups, containers, systemd, “fake NUMA”, and lots of other interesting technologies.

What has been most interesting, though, is the realization that this is open source development in action. Whether it’s witnessing an Amazon developer talk with a Rackspace developer, or a SUSE engineer talking with a Red Hat engineer, or a CloudStack dev talking with an OpenStack dev, the conversations are all focused, technical, and almost entirely without conflict. These are smart, talented people looking to solve interesting, complex technical problems.

The companies that employ these various folks may all be fighting tooth and nail for customers, but they’re doing so at a higher level in the “business stack”, and there’s plenty of room for each of them to satisfy customer needs in different ways. The technical conversations that occurred this week were all aimed at allowing those higher level business discussions to take place.

That is open source development. A diverse set of participants, sometimes with conflicting long-term goals, all working together to solve problems, create new and useful solutions, and hopefully have fun doing it. I didn’t see any acrimony or hostility this week, despite the presence of employees from companies that are fighting — sometimes bitterly — for the same limited set of customers.

As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation executive director, observed in his opening remarks on Wednesday, while the suits were planning product roadmaps and business plans at VMware’s VMworld event, the folks who were actually solving problems were here with us this week, working together and kicking ass.

Open source is where it’s at.

Apple targets Samsung’s Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note in second U.S. patent case

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Samsung Galaxy S III

Emboldened as ever by its court win over Samsung last week, Apple today said that Samsung’s Galaxy S III flagship smartphone and Galaxy Note infringe on its patents in a separate court case.

Unlike the Apple v. Samsung trial that relied on design patents, utility patents, and trade dress infringement (which led to more than $1 billion in damages lodged against Samsung), this case is focused on eight different utility patents Apple says Samsung has infringed on.

To make things even more confusing, this particular case is also being handled by District Judge Lucy Koh at the same San Jose federal court as last week’s Apple v. Samsung trial.

Back in July, Apple successfully scored a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus with the second case, but Judge Koh suspended the sales ban temporarily. Apple previously tried to add the Galaxy S III to the case back in June, well before its U.S. release.

In its court filing tonight (PDF link), Apple added two models each of the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note to the case, which was initially filed in February and listed 17 infringing Samsung devices. Some of the devices were also listed in Apple’s earlier case against Samsung, like the Galaxy S II line, but this case also includes Samsung’s tablets and media players.

Among the utility patents Apple is listing are patent ’721, which refers to unlocking a phone with gestures on an unlock image, and patent ’172, which deals with a system and interface for offering word recommendations.

Given that Apple is now targeting newer Samsung devices, like the Galaxy S III and the just-released Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, any sales ban could seriously hurt Samsung in the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple decided to go the extra mile in this case after Samsung’s poor court showing last week.

Via The Verge, AppleInsider; photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

President Obama’s Ask Me Anything on Reddit needed 60 dedicated servers (!)

This post is by John Koetsier from VentureBeat

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Apparently, POTUS is popular. 60 extra servers popular.

President Obama’s Ask Me Anything two days ago was a massive success, as Reddit highlighted earlier today in a blog post. Not only did the page get 2.99 million views on the day of the event, it has received another 2.3 million page views already as of this morning.

Perhaps the most surprising stat was the number of servers Reddit added to handle the onslaught of traffic. In preparation, Reddit added 30 dedicated servers “just for the comment thread.” When that turned out to not be enough, developers added another 30 dedicated servers.

Besides telling you how popular and/or controversial President Obama is, that also tells you that Reddit can scale servers very, very quickly.

More interesting stats from Reddit:

  • Peak transfer: 48 MBs per second
  • Peak traffic: over 100,000 page views per minute
  • Peak concurrent visitors: 198,000
  • Peak share of Reddit traffic to the AMA page: 30 percent (average for a very hot topic is 2-5 percent)

In fact, Obama’s AMA is the “only link in recorded history to have surpassed the front page.”

Reddit’s popularity seems to be growing with no end in sight, with between two and eight million unique visitors every month and six to eight million pageviews a day. Obama answering questions on the site will certainly increase that trend and expose the site to a wider, more mainstream audience.

Obama’s most interesting comment? The recipe for White House Beer will be available shortly.

And from the president’s own tongue: it’s tasty.

photo credit: Chuckumentary via photo pin cc

Filed under: dev, media, social

Walmart testing ‘Scan & Go’ in-store iPhone-based purchase system

This post is by Chris Welch from The Verge - All Posts

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iPhone Walmart Scan and Go

Checking out at Walmart may soon be a much quicker process for iPhone owners, Reuters reports. The mega-retailer recently called on employees in Arkansas to test a new ‘Scan & Go’ feature for its IOS app, which would allow customers to scan and immediately bag items on their shopping list. They’d then be able to quickly finalize their purchase at a self-checkout counter. Presumably scanning items with the iPhone would compile a list that would be reflected during the automated payment process, though details of how such a system would work are currently unknown.

Employees of Walmart’s flagship Bentonville, Arkansas location were asked to recruit friends and family for an hour-long trial run of the software, which would be videotaped and…

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Kippt, Pinboard Help Digg Users Find New Home For Old Data [Here’s How]

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Screen shot 2012-08-31 at 6.45.50 PM

When Digg launched Version 4 in August 2010, users weren’t happy about it. Some called it a revolt. As Kevin Rose said recently in a Reddit AMA, the company made some decisions during the rollout that “went against its core” to stave off declining traffic. As the story goes, it wasn’t long before the layoffs started and Rose (and other execs) resigned from the company.

Betaworks acquired Digg in July and put its team in charge of the site. Six weeks later, the new operators launched a complete overhaul of Digg. However, while interest in Digg had remained (a surprising amount, according to new CEO John Borthwick), the new site removed user access to old data, i.e. everything they’d ever posted to the old iterations of the site, like Diggs, comments, articles, etc.

The new owners had focused on getting the new version up and operational (with less expensive infrastructure) instead, but they promised a rectification to the historic data problem in the near future.

Yesterday, the team did just that and actually seems to have gone beyond what is usually characteristic for new management or a deadpooled/acquired startup to do in terms of access to historic data. They launched the “Digg Archive,” a tool that lets users of the old site (i.e. before July 2012) retrieve their Diggs, submissions, saved articles, etc.

Digg said via blog post:

We believe that people own the data they create, so while we work to determine if and how this data makes its way into the new Digg, we wanted to provide a way for users to access their history. It took some digging through the old infrastructure, but the complete Digg Archive is now live.

While a number of companies allow people to export their data after big changes and other sites independently pick up the slack, Digg seems to be one of the few that has actually partnered with other startups to provide a home for its own data via automated importing.

The first is social and collaborative bookmarking site Kippt, a Y Combinator startup whose official launch we covered in June. Kippt enables users to organize links into lists, collect bookmarks and clips, add comments, and share content, etc.

Digg users can either go to the Digg Archive and enter user info (they’ll send you an email with a link/instructions or to, Kipp’s automated, custom importer. Once imported, the site archives them and makes them searchable.

Users can also do the same for Pinboard, a simple, no-frills web archiving and bookmarking service. To do that, download your Digg Archive file, login/create a Pinboard account ($9.88 fee if you haven’t), and import.

The archive also lets users download their historic data as JSON or CSV, too. Pretty good for exporting, however, it seems Digg users aren’t able to search data via the Archive, though that might appear soon. The Digg community never really seems too happy with redesigns (or anyone, ever), and from what I’ve seen, the same goes for the new, new (new?) Digg. But at least they’ve taken steps to make them happy/depressed with access to a data-walk down memory lane. Though most Digg users seem to have just moved on to Buzzfeed or Reddit or imgur.

Apple turns up the pressure on Samsung, adds more devices to second patent suit

This post is by Bryan Bishop from The Verge - All Posts

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iphone stock 560

Well that didn’t take long. A week after its $1.049 billion victory against Samsung, Apple has accused four more products of infringement in its other case against the electronics giant. It’s the same lawsuit that targeting the Galaxy Nexus — for which Apple received a temporary injunction before the ban was lifted while Samsung appealed the decision.

According to an amended complaint filed today, Apple is naming “at least 21 new smartphones, media players, and tablets that Samsung has released beginning in August 2011 and continuing through August 2012.” (The full list, which actually consists of 22 devices, is reproduced below). Some of the devices named were also part of the just-concluded trial, but are being named here because…

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Sigma’s DP1 Merrill compact available mid-September for $999

This post is by Jeff Blagdon from The Verge - All Posts

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sigma dp2 merrill 1020

Back in February we took a look at Sigma’s DP2 Merrill — a compact shooter with the company’s characteristic 15.3-megapixel APS-C-sized Foveon X3 sensor parked behind a fixed 45-millimeter equivalent f/2.8 lens. Now, six weeks after the DP2 was released to consumers, Sigma is announcing the release of its fraternal twin, the DP1 Merrill. Announced at the same time, the only difference from its partner is a shorter 28-millimeter equivalent lens with the same maximum aperture of f/2.8. Sigma says the camera will be available in mid-September for $999 — a tough sell with the excellent Sony RX100 at $649.99, but we’re sure it will appeal to a certain crowd.

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Mystery HTC Android phone surfaces, is it bound for Verizon?

This post is by Dieter Bohn from The Verge - All Posts

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htc 5-inch mystery device

We’ve just come across a few images of an HTC Android device that looks like it could be a new hero phone for the manufacturer. Unfortunately, other than a particularly persistent rumor appearing to match up with these images, we don’t have a lot to go on. The red accents on the metal rails on the side are a Verizon-favorite for its HTC line of devices. There’s a Beats Audio logo too, plus a large sticker looks very much like what HTC has done on the One X (sealed battery and all). So while we’ve no reason to doubt these sadly blurry images are legitimate pictures of an upcoming HTC device, we’re left to speculation about which device it would be.

One likely possibility is that it lines up quite nicely with a common rumor that HTC is…

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Instapaper might have found iPad Mini proof in app stats

This post is by Meghan Kelly from VentureBeat

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It seems the proof of the iPad Mini pudding might be found in read it later application Instapaper’s device stats. Founder Marco Arment says while checking his logs yesterday, two unfamiliar devices tried to access the app.

Arment said he saw “iPad 2,5″ and “iPad 2,6″ in the stats, which follow the nomenclature of Apple’s iPad versions — iPad 2,4 being the cheaper, but upgraded version of the iPad 2 released alongside the latest iPad — though they do not yet exist in the market. Arment believes they may reference the rumored iPad mini, which some reports say might launch in the fall.

During Apple and Samsung’s patent trial, Samsung revealed an e-mail between Apple vice president Eddy Cue and a few of his colleagues in which he says the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was willing to create a smaller version of the iPad.

“I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one,” said Eddy in the e-mail. “I expressed this to Steve [Jobs] several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time.”

Arment believes the two iPad references could be a nod toward the Wi-Fi and GSM versions of the iPad Mini, though he does mention the possibility that one of his users could be using a jail-broken phone made to trick people.

iPhone 5 comparison“But who would fake an oddly numbered iPad 2?” he said in his blog post. “A faker would almost certainly choose iPad4,1.”

It is rumored that the iPad Mini will launch in October after the iPhone 5, which is expected to be released on September 12. In the lead-up to that rumored date design company, iColorOS set up what it believes the next iPhone will look like, next to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. It’s notably longer and thinner than the other two. Check out the image right.

Interested in all the rumors floating around about the iPhone 5? Check out this post.

hat tip Wired, 9to5Mac; iPad Mini image via Repairgenius, iPhone comparison image via NoWhereElse

Filed under: mobile

Hey Vendors — It’s Too Early For An API Death Match

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I am not one to argue with abundance. I am a big believer in the way we can create so much, all the time.

But I can’t stand an abundance of vendor one-upmanship and that’s just what I heard this morning at CloudOpen in a panel discussion about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) v. Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The conversation quickly turned to APIs. From there, it fell into a talk about their vision of an API and why or why not there should be one or many APIs to connect to IaaS environments – specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS). There was not one user on the panel.

But more so, in the context of the discussion, it is too early for an API death match. There are still way too many unknowns about how third party service providers and enterprise clients will integrate data centers with PaaS, IaaS or both. To cement one API makes no sense now. Open infrastructures still need to be baked out. We do not yet know how deep a functionality they will offer. Google has not yet said a lot about its APIs. So why are we talking about this?

Citrix Peder Ulander and Cloudstack’s Joe Brockmeier said it well to me today — it takes a long time to make a decision about transforming your infrastructure. It’s a once in a decade decision. Right now — for most customers it’s not about the API. And it shouldn’t be. It’s first about getting the blocks in place and establishing better automation and orchestration. That’s the DevOps way — a cultural change that has to take place before we start deciding what is the holy grail of APIs.

Opscode’s Chris Brown started with this beauty: “Who has the best API and why?”

Brown was at one time the founding member, architect, and lead developer for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS has been in the IaaS business longer than anyone else. Chris, a technically brilliant fellow, knows the answer to the question. Greg DeKoenigsberg who works as vice president of community at Eucalyptus Systems did point to how AWS lacks IT administration capabilities. He said Eucalyptus offers that functionality via the AWS API.

Only Eucalyptus has full access to the AWS API for companies to use in their own enterprise environments. AWS has the copyright on the API. So if you want to use it like Eucalyptus does you need to get AWS okay. And so far, they have not made it available like they have for Eucalyptus.

There were some great points, mind you, especially from Google’s Craig McLuckie who said it is too early to talk about one API to rule them all. He said we are still trying to figure out the shape and direction of what an API stands for in an infrastructure setting. People are over focused on APIs and API convergence as the cure-all for the cloud space. He said we, as a community, have not thought through the semantics differences of an API.

And that is in part because we still do not know what shape architectures will take across the market. It also ignores what enterprise customers will want to do.

Mind you, this has been an awesome conference. My friend Rich Miller compares it to the Gluecon conference. An apt comparison as the conversation is great here. But it’s that conversation outside the vendor bubble that makes it meaningful.

One thing is certain. The cloud market is not moving at a rapid pace. Users are giving things a try. But they are not committing in any mass way. Its going to be a long process. Most know little about an IaaS. They know even less about PaaS. So the talk about the best API is just a vendor conversation – a way to gain some advantage that is only relevant in a marketing context.

YC-Backed Private Photo-Sharing App Everyme Raises $2.15M From Tencent And Others

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So you’ve got your photos on Facebook, and you’ve got them on Instagram, and on Path. But what about that stuff that you don’t want everyone to see? Just some people? That’s what group photo-sharing app Everyme is for. And it’s just raised an additional $2.15 million to get more people using it.

Everyme is Y Combinator-backed mobile startup that allows users to create groups for private photo sharing. The startup launched its iPhone app in April, and followed that up with an Android app and Instagram integration a month later.

CEO Oliver Cameron confirmed that Everyme has raised an additional $2.15 million in a Series A round led by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, with participation from its existing angel investors. [SEC filing here] Previously, it had raised $1.5 million from investors that include CrunchFund, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, Tencent, SV Angel, Dave Morin, Joshua Schachter, and Vivi Nevo. Everyme now has seven employees and is based in Mountain View, Calif.

Despite having what CEO Oliver Cameron called an “anti-viral” approach to photo sharing, Everyme has been able to attract users to the service. Unlike other photo apps, which typically send photos out to all sorts of social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, Everyme is all about ensuring that only designated members of a group can upload or see photos.

It now has thousands of families using the app, he said, setting up groups to privately share photos between them. Families are a typical use case, as are groups of friends who go on trips together and want to share photos together without having to aggregate them from multiple photo albums on Facebook or other social networks.

But it’s not alone: there are other group photo and messaging apps that have similar functionality — like, for instance, Quilt, which just launched a few weeks ago. That, combined with the kind of anti-viral nature of what it’s doing, could make it tough to acquire customers weary of yet another social network. But who knows? This is a YC company we’re talking about, after all!

Open webOS reaches beta milestone: ‘we delivered on our promise’

This post is by Chris Ziegler from The Verge - All Posts

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Open webOS

The team responsible for open sourcing webOS — composed primarily of HP employees — has hit the beta milestone for Open webOS 1.0 today, which is on track with the schedule HP originally announced for the platform in January. Though there’s no specific hardware compatibility mentioned, we already have a sense of the plan here: the project is trying to align the kernel with Android’s so that it can draft off of hardware that’s been designed to run it. In the meantime, the package ships with an ARM emulator.

All told, Open webOS now has 54 open sourced components under its belt totaling some 450,000-odd lines of code. The original plan was to hit version 1.0 in September — but obviously, that starts tomorrow, and the team’s latest…

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Etsy unveils its infrastructure (and its Supermicro love)

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Online marketplace Etsy has been on a mission of openness lately — last week, it gave an in-depth explanation of a few recent outages — and on Friday it shared the details of the hardware architecture that powers its popular business. Etsy isn’t Facebook in terms of scale or specialization, but it’s always interesting to see what’s under the covers of growing web companies.

And under the covers at Etsy is a lot of Supermicro gear. According to blog post author Laurie Denness, a single class of Supermicro 2U, 4-node chassis powers powers a high number of workloads including memcached and web serving. Like many large web companies, including eBay, Etsy tries to stick with a limited hardware stack that’s versatile enough to handle multiple workloads.

With that in mind, Denness wrote, “A general configuration for these would be 2x 8 core Intel E5620 CPUs (@ 2.40ghz), 12GB-96GB of RAM, and either a 600GB 7200pm hard disk or an Intel 160GB SSD.”

He also notes the lack of RAID in this sytem, which could have a negative effect on redundancy. However, because Etsy uses Chef, and another tool called Cobbler, to quickly rebuild failed nodes, Etsy doesn’t think wasting power on RAID is necessary: “In our view, why power two drives when our datacenter staff can replace the drive and rebuild the machine and have it back in production in under 20 minutes?”

Etsy beefs up this same general-purpose chassis for its search engine, replacing the 8-core processors with 16-core Sandy Bridge processors and adding a boatload of solid-state storage:

[This setup] gives us machines that can handle over 4 times the workload of the generic nodes above, whilst using the same density configuration and not that much more power. … The nodes have 96GB of RAM and a single 800GB SSD for the indexes. This follows the same pattern of not bothering with RAID; The SSD is perfectly fast enough on it’s own, and we have BitTorrent index distribution which means getting the indexes to the machine is super fast.

Etsy’s Hadoop nodes

Supermicro is the name of the game for Hadoop and backup at Etsy as well. Although the post doesn’t disclose how big Etsy’s Hadoop cluster is, Denness notes that the company crams 96 cores, 384GB RAM and 24TB per 2U of rack space. For backup, it’s a 4U Supermicro box packing 36 2TB hard drives that deliver “a blistering 1.2 gigabytes/second sequential write throughput and a total of 60TB of usable disk space across two RAID6 volumes.”

HP also gets a little love at Etsy, powering both its MySQL database and a handful of special jobs, such as its Hadoop NameNodes “that don’t need much horsepower, but we deem important enough to have RAID,” Denness wrote.

Etsy’s hardware choices aren’t earth-shattering news by any means, but this type of openness is critical as a great number of businesses make their home on the web. Speaking openly about this stuff (hint, hint, Twitter) helps give other companies ideas about how to improve their systems, while also providing the opportunity to learn from suggestions from others (a la profiting from code contribution in open source software). It also helps advance the idea of a crowdsourced model for performance benchmarking, where everyone can see setups and performance data from in-the-wild systems that haven’t been tuned to the nth degree by vendors.

In a webscale world where software reins supreme, a floating hardware tide floats all boats.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user MilousSK.

California passes bills to create open-source digital library for college textbooks

This post is by Jennifer Van Grove from VentureBeat

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The state of California is on the verge of enacting legislation that would make college educations a bit more affordable for students and their parents.

The California State Senate today passed two bills, SB 1052 and SB 1053, designed to provide students at public postsecondary institutions with access to free digital textbooks for popular lower-division courses and to open source the curriculum to facility members.

The bills are said to create the nation’s first free open source digital library for college students and faculty. California Governor Jerry Brown’s signature is required before the bills are enacted into law.

“This is the first time government has come in with substantial dollars that match philanthropic efforts to create a library where students can access free textbooks and faculty can utilize their skills to remix, revise and repurpose these textbooks for their students,” said Dean Florez in a statement. Florez is president of the 20 Million Minds foundation, a nonprofit that works to reduce textbook costs for students.

Digital textbooks have been around for years, with companies ranging from Apple to Chegg providing students with digital alternatives to their hard-bound books. Under SB 1052, California, however, would establish a faculty-run council called the California Open Education Resources Council (COERC) to select and develop the free digital textbooks for students at state universities and community colleges. Companion bill SB 1053 would create an open source library to house the digital textbooks.

The 1052 bill passed the California Senate with 32-3, according to the state legislator’s website. The 1053 companion bill passed by the same margin.

Photo credit: amanda_munoz/Flickr

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Got weekend plans with friends? Saambaa can help you organize ‘em

This post is by Eliza Kern from GigaOM

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Maybe you’re looking for a fun local event to do with friends, or maybe you feel like Facebook events are for teenagers. Enter Saambaa, an event-planning mobile app meant for groups of friends to organize and share events in their area.

The app, developed this year by entrepreneurs in San Diego, provides an easy way for friends to create a new event and invite others. Users pick a date and time for the occasion and then message each other from within the app. They can also invite friends who don’t already have Saambaa downloaded, send text messages from the app, or choose from a list of suggested events that already exist in their city.

The founders launched Saambaa after spending six months in the San Diego incubator EvoNexus, and are slowly working on building their user base and growing the app with existing angel funding. They hope to raise additional capital and release an updated version this fall, although the current version is already available for both iPhone and Android.

The app joins a crowded space for event-planning apps, but seems to strike a nice balance between providing a platform for event-hosting brands while creating a space for users to interact in a way that’s more functional than group text.

A bonus feature: Saambaa has partnered with the popular transportation app Uber, so San Diego customers of both services will get $30 in free Uber credits to attend a Saambaa event or anything else they want to travel to. Founder Matt Voigt said the two companies seem like natural partners, and their message to customers is, “Discover the party on Saambaa, and Uber your way there.” He said they’re focusing on San Diego at the moment, but hope to expand the partnership going forward.

biNu Socializes Its Feature Phone App Platform

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biNu, a startup backed by Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, allows owners of feature phones and lower-end smartphones to access apps like Facebook and Twitter. Now the company is getting more ambitious on the social networking side.

CEO Gour Lentell tells me that it wasn’t really his plan to build a social network. Instead, biNu focused initially on making content accessible — whether it’s Wikipedia, the Bible, or a news site like TechCrunch. But users wanted to share and interact around the content, so biNu has been slowly adding social features over time, until the team realized that it was becoming “fully social,” Lentell says. A few weeks ago, the company launched its own social app on biNu home screen, and next week, it’s adding the last big piece, a news stream where you can follow updates from other users.

Lentell came by the TechCrunch office earlier this week to show me the app and its social features. Users can friend others, they can share photos, and they can send instant messages and SMS. It is, in other words, it’s optimized for a small screen and a slow wireless connection, but other it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a mobile social network — Lentell says that even though biNu is focused on emerging markets (such as East Africa), its users have “the same social needs and desires no matter who they are.”

There are other social services aimed at feature phones, such as mig33, but the real competitor may be Facebook, which is looking to grow on lower-end phones in emerging markets, thanks its acquisition of Snaptu. However, Lentell says that with the billions of feature phones in the world, “there’s a lot of ocean out there,” so he doesn’t think he’ll be fighting with Facebook for users anytime soon. In fact, as I noted above, biNu also offers Facebook and Twitter apps as part of its platform.

Lentell also notes that since biNu is based in the cloud, the service could eventually be made available other devices too. For example, someone might create a social account on biNu’s mobile app, but they could also log in and access their social connections (and other biNu services) when they’re on a desktop computer at an Internet cafe.

biNu says it currently has 4.2 million unique monthly users.