Jolicloud’s Beta Netbook OS: Run It With Windows [GigaOM]


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Jolicloud is an ambitious new netbook operating system from a European startup that offers some advantages over what Google’s upcoming Chrome OS will likely have. Here’s a look at this promising pre-release OS, delivered last week and intended to run alongside Windows.

Jolicloud’s operating system bears some similarity to Chrome OS, but it’s intended as a complementary, second OS for a single system. It could have a bright future in dual-OS netbooks.

As the hubbub surrounding Google’s offering continues (like Jolicloud it’s specifically aimed at netbooks), it’s worth remembering that it won’t arrive until late next year, and takes a number of significant gambles, not the least of which is that users will be required to work with all data exclusively in the cloud. Google may also be limiting its operating system’s prospects by delivering it only for a limited set of netbooks that meet pre-set hardware specifications.

By contrast, Jolicloud’s OS is targeted to run on almost any x86 netbook running Windows, and it installs alongside Windows. It also works with both local applications and cloud-based ones. You can store data on Jolicloud’s servers or locally, and you can use Jolicloud-provided cloud services, such as automatic application updates.

The Jolicloud OS is based on Debian and Ubuntu Linux, and you can download the 607MB installer here. The operating system’s progress is being overseen by a heavy-hitting management team, including CEO Tariq Krim (who founded NetVibes, a successful European startup), and Niklas Zennström, co-founder of Atomico Ventures, Skype, Joost, Kazaa and JoltID, sits on Jolicloud’s board. It doesn’t look like the company’s business model will consist of charging for the operating system; instead, Jolicloud is likely to get its revenue from fee-based cloud services, and possibly fees for prominent placement in its UI for applications.

Upon installation, Jolicloud informed me that it was seeking out and loading the most recent drivers available for Wi-Fi, sound, Bluetooth, 3G, screen size, and more. It also said it supports hundreds of mobile operators, 3G modems, and the like. Following installation, my computer restarted and prompted me to select whether I would like to work in Jolicloud or in Windows 7. I chose Jolicloud.

Jolicloud’s App Directory, seen below, gives a good sense of how the operating system allows you to use cloud-based applications alongside local ones. For example, you can install and run VLC Media Player locally with the click of one button, or update and jump into Facebook quickly.

Jolicloud’s home screen includes links to tabbed panes that you can pull up for working with and organizing video, music, photos and much more. The panes appear and elegantly whisk away upon shutdown. The whole OS also places emphasis on easy access to social-networking applications.

The operating system has a slick look and feel, and I like the way it runs alongside Windows. It is in very early pre-release form, though, and that occasionally shows. For example, on a Windows 7 HP system system that I used it on, my mouse arrow occasionally freaked out and went careening around the screen. Also, when I went to quit the OS, it took over a minute to shut down.

I can easily see users running Jolicloud as a second operating system on their Windows netbooks, though, and while the final release of Jolicloud will arrive early next year, some may want to try it now. I’m convinced that its flexibility with local and cloud apps will be an advantage that it has over Google’s Chrome OS.


NextStop, Upcoming Mobile Web Apps Skip iTunes Store – Go Straight to Awesome


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The delays and uncertainty in submitting an iPhone app to Apple for consideration is inspiring some developers to skip the process all-together and release mobile apps that leverage increasingly powerful mobile browsers.

The latest mobile web apps that have knocked our socks off are from a startup of ex-Googlers called NextStop and the Yahoo-owned events calendar Upcoming. Both offer new mobile iPhone apps that can be updated seamlessly, are available immediately and are a lot of fun to use. Could mobile web apps challenge the dominance of native apps on the iPhone? That’s an active debate.

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Check out these two hot new mobile web apps, followed by two different opinions from mobile developers about where this market is going. After years of anticipation, it seems that the time for mobile apps has finally come. Now a key question is what form they will take.

NextStop

NextStop is a local review site that has positioned itself as “Yelp for Travelers” but needn’t be limited to travelers alone. Though it doesn’t have the traction that Yelp has yet, its feature set is far superior. The two biggest differentiators of its mobile site are the ability to view collections of activities near your location and the ability to easily post attractive reviews of places from your phone. Yelp doesn’t allow users to publish reviews from their phones but NextStop makes it a joy. User Experience throughout the site is really well done.

NextStop is more attractive than Yelp’s iPhone app, it encourages you to put a bookmark on your phone’s desktop and there’s an integrated photo uploading app coming soon as a work around to that limitation. Once you put that bookmark on your dekstop, NextStop caches a long list of images and javascript so it will load very fast the next time you visit the page. IPhone app? Why bother?

It’s a wonder to behold and could become my new first stop for planning an evening on the town, even if I have to go to Yelp for now to check out more reviews of the places NextStop suggests I go.

nextstopscreens.jpeg

Upcoming

Yahoo’s Upcoming is a great social events calendar. As of today, navigate to m.upcoming.yahoo.com and you’ll find the service’s beautiful new mobile web app. It looks good on the iPhone, on Android and on quite a number of other browsers that it’s on the lookout for as well. It’s the kind of interface that makes me want to use Upcoming more regularly!

Bookmark this puppy onto the desktop of your iPhone and you’ll have a great way to catch up on upcoming local events when you’re on the go. It’s all about finding a good interface for users to plug into at the right time in the flow of their day. This is a great example of that – and why make a native iPhone app when you can get all the functionality packed into this mobile web app?

upcomingiphone.jpeg

Web vs. Native Mobile Apps

Raven Zachary and Jason Grigsby are two mobile developers based in Portland, Oregon. They worked together building the Obama Presidential Campaign’s celebrated iPhone app. After that project was done, the two parted ways to their respective companies. Zachary, who was project director for the Obama app, started SmallSociety – an iPhone development shop that’s built native apps for high-profile companies like Whole Foods and Cliff Bar. His company’s ZipCar app was showcased on stage at the MacWorld event announcing the iPhone SDK. Zachary is a big believer in native mobile apps.

Grigsby co-founded CloudFour, a mobile app shop that took a very different direction.

“After launching the Obama app,” Grigsby says, “we had people coming to us for native apps every day, but we decided we only wanted to do mobile web apps. Philosophically, I don’t see any way that web app technology isn’t going to be bigger than distributing apps through an app store. As the demographics of users change, you’ll find people aren’t going to spend their time browsing the app store. They will go to browse the web and they aren’t going to install something unless it’s heavily promoted. Who’s going to do that? Small businesses are going to need mobile apps if they are going to be found at all.”

Zachary disagrees, though, and the two say this is something they have friendly arguments about frequently.

“[Users] already browse the web more than anything else, with the possible exception of listening to music,” Zachary contends. “Apps appeal to consumers in a way that the web simple doesn’t today. The first step is getting a great mobile browser into the hands of consumers. That cuts out pretty much all Nokia, Windows Mobile and Blackberry consumers right away. That’s a huge portion of the market. That’s going to take years to rollout, and for those consumers to adapt. Meanwhile, iPhone app market keeps growing.”

Zachary also contends that gaming will be key. “The mainstream gaming market will always be native. HTML 6 or 7 isn’t going to solve that problem. [Because those games require] direct access to hardware. Gaming drives a large percentage of native app revenue.”

What do you think? Is the future all about mobile web apps or will most app development continue to be for native mobile apps, now that there are some compelling and widely used mobile app platforms?

Discuss


Save Cool Cash by Cleaning Your Refrigerator Coils [Cleaning]


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The purpose of refrigerator coils is to dissipate heat, not suck up electricity—or cash—out of your wallet. But that’s what happens if you don’t clean off those bad boys once in a while. Here’s how.

Photo by M0les.

Some fridge coils are located underneath the appliance, others are on the back of it, but they all need a good scrubbing at least once a year. When they’re gunked up with pet hair, cooking grease, and other flotsam, they won’t operate efficiently. At best, your refrigerator will use extra electricity as it runs more often to keep things cool. At worst, it will run so often that your compressor burns out—a big expense that will leave a significant dent in your wallet.

Cleaning your fridge coils isn’t as much of a pain as it sounds, and the folks at home improvement web site Home Envy walk you through it. The first step, of course, is unplug the fridge so you don’t zap yourself. Depending on where the coils are, you may need to move the appliance away from the wall.

Putting the fridge on rollers makes the job a lot less irritating, although the act of putting the rollers under the fridge takes two people and is VERY irritating, especially if the fridge comes down hard and busts one of the rollers because the person holding it had sweaty hands. If you have to move the fridge out from the wall and you don’t have rollers, put some cardboard or a heavy drop-cloth down to protect the floor or the fridge may mar it.

Once you can reach the coils without assuming an uncomfortable yoga position, grab your vacuum, a bucket of warm, soapy water, and get to work. Admittedly, cleaning your fridge coils isn’t a fun job, but it’s only once a year so it’s not that big of a deal. What once-a-year jobs around the house do you dread? How do you make it easier? Talk about it in the comments.







App Devs Bereft During Holiday Boom: iTunes Connect to Go Down


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Later this month, iPhone and iPod application developers can expect to see sales drastically increase by as much as 300 or 400 percent over the course of a couple days.

They’ll also be unable to change their applications, change marketing materials or download sales reports during much of this time. iTunes Connect, the interface that allows developers to manage all their applications in the App Store, will be unavailable from December 23 – December 28, 2009.

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The same downtime occurred last year and caused some consternation within the developer community.

“I guess iTunes Connect [team members] want a break too,” wrote one developer, “but come on, closed for the holidays when people have a lot of time on their hands to buy apps ?”

Another dev shop, Bottle Rocket, wrote, “Apple is taking the next 4 days off. Good for them. So, should we take the hint and lower the shades on Bottle Rocket for at least a few days? The answer is, well, no comment.”

Here’s a graph showing the kind of traffic and sales pattern app developers can expect to see right around Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the ensuing week or so. This is a visualization of data from iPod Touch devices last December:

So, once again, during what may be some app developers’ biggest sales spike of the entire year, they will not have access to information on sales performance or other metrics, and they won’t be able to tweak their marketing materials or create new incentives as the year’s biggest gift-giving holiday approaches.

In the interest of maintaining our holiday spirit, we will refrain from comment on whether or not this is a lame move and instead caution our application developer friends to get their ducks in a row before iTunes Connect is out of commission.

Discuss


Finally, iPhone Insurance (Sort of) [TheAppleBlog]


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A very common “feature” of many highly used iPhones are unsightly cracks in the screen. Since screen cracks are almost never covered by the iPhone warranty, an entire cottage industry has cropped up for iPhone screen repairs. Even Apple decided it wanted a piece of the pie, and now do (expensive) iPhone screen repairs. AT&T doesn’t offer any insurance for iPhones, but does for other smartphones. Obviously, this has to do with the high cost of repair combined with the likelihood of breakage. What’s a paranoid iPhone user to do?

Mission: Repair, one of the leaders in iPhone service, is now offering a program which bridges the gap between iPhone repairs and iPhone insurance.

The program, called a “Peace of Mind/Maintenance Performance Guarantee” will cover screen and other repairs to your iPhone. The terms and conditions are a bit lengthy and technically they can’t call it insurance or a warranty. Essentially, the program is a “pay in advance” system for iPhone screen repairs that in practice behaves like an insurance program.

You pay $19.99 for one year or $29.99 for two years and if your screen breaks, they repair it at no charge. For a bit more they’ll cover almost everything but the screen ($34.99 1 year/54.99 2 years) or combine the two (54.99 1 year/79.99 2 years). Unlike AppleCare, this program will cover accidental screen damage as well as iPhones or iPods that are already out of warranty.

Water damage is excluded and you have to ship your iPhone/iPod touch to them for inspection before signing up for the program in order to prove it is in good working condition (an iPhone App allowing you to test it yourself without sending the phone in to Mission: Repair is coming soon). The current requirement for advance shipping is a pain of course, but when I’ve had to do a repair before, I buy a cheap GoPhone and put my SIM card in there for a day. Additionally, users of the new program are required to install an iPhone screen protector and users are limited in the number of repairs per year. The closest equivalent is BestBuy’s $15 per month “BlackTie Protection” which covers pretty much everything. However, one only needs to pull out the calculator app to see that $180 is not a terribly good deal. AT&T’s insurance program for other phones is $60 a year, so Mission: Repair’s combined coverage program is competitive with AT&T’s offerings on other phones.

I’m sure others will pick up on the idea, but I’m glad Mission: Repair is taking the lead! I know what I’ll be giving as stocking stuffers to my risk-averse iPhone and iPod touch friends this year.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user christyxcore.


Apple Approves Video Recording App for iPhone 2G and 3G [NewTeeVee]


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If you’ve been reconsidering your position as a jailbreaker thanks to recent security threats or Apple’s strong disapproval, there’s now one more reason to consider going legit. Apple just approved a new app that allows iPhones other than the 3GS to record video. That’s right, both your iPhone 3G and even the older 2G model can now shoot video, without jailbreak.

The app will cost you 99 cents, which is kind of aggravating, since this is basically a straightforward admission on Apple’s part that the only limitation heretofore that had prevented the older devices from shooting video was a software limitation, which it could’ve easily resolved itself. iVideoCamera (iTunes link), the app in question, is a third-party program, but at least Apple didn’t kill it from the start, I suppose, and it is still cheaper than upgrading to a 3GS.

For more about iVideoCamera, including limitations beyond the cost, check out the full post over at TheAppleBlog. And if you want to remember the days when the iPhone was officially only for still photos, check out our past coverage of Qik and Flixwagon.



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Keep Food from Sticking to Your Skillet with a Simple Trick [Food Hacks]


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One of the biggest downers of cooking meat on a skillet is scraping off the aftermath. Cooking weblog Houseboat Eats highlights a simple water trick that helps you find the ideal temperature for cooking without sticking using the power of science.

Watch the video above for the full overview. In short, when a small dose of water (about 1/8 teaspoon) forms into a mercury-like ball floating on top of the heating skillet (rather than boiling and quickly evaporating), your skillet temperature is at the sweetspot for cooking without sticking. Hit up the full post at Houseboat Eats for more specifics on the science behind this tip (and to learn about things like the Leidenfrost effect and why sticking happens in the first place).

Got your own similarly clever cooking trick? Let’s hear it in the comments. Thanks Charlie!







Golden Gifts: Gowalla Steps Up Its Game For The Holidays


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Screen shot 2009-12-15 at 1.27.07 PMAs Foursquare has shown so far, gaming elements are an intriguing part of location-based services. And more recently, Gowalla has started moving more towards that space as well. And just in time for the holidays, they have a new game that can earn users presents.

During what is calls “The 10 And A Half Days of Christmas (Because 12 Days Were Too Predictable),” Gowalla is giving away gifts to users who do one of two things: 1) Follow Gowalla on Twitter and tweet in 140 characters or less about why they should receive a prize. 2) Use Gowalla to check-in to venues around your city to attempt to find one of the “Golden Gifts.” The latter makes perfect use of Gowalla’s virtual goods system that has users picking up, dropping, and swapping items. If you check-in at a place and find one of these Golden Gifts, you will see a button below that reads, “Open Open Open!,” and clicking on that will get you the prize.

So what can you win? Gowalla is giving away 100 Gowalla-branded orange iPod nanos, 200 $10 iTunes gift cards, and 300 Gowalla t-shirts. If you enter the game by tweeting, you’ll be vying for the iPod nano. Gowalla will be giving one of those away each day between now and Christmas. The Golden Gift items can contain any of the prizes. It’s important to note that to find these prizes you must be using the latest version of Gowalla (1.3) on an iPhone.

Just last week, Gowalla closed a new $8.4 million round of funding that put its valuation near $30 million. This virtual good element to the game is expected to be the way the service eventually makes money. The idea is that you check-in to a certain place, receive a virtual item, and you can then trade that in for a real-life good which Gowalla would partner with venues to offer.

Another player in this space, Loopt, also recently unveiled a holiday-themed scavenger hunt game.

Screen shot 2009-12-15 at 1.26.41 PM

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


VOXOFON Grows Up on Palm Pre [jkOnTheRun]


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VOXOFON, a company based in my hometown of Houston, has released its app for the Palm Pre. The app accesses the company’s service that provides low-cost international calling. In addition to the cheap phone calls, VOXOFON users can also place calls to Skype, Google Talk and Gizmo5 without an account on those services.

Users can make calls through the VOXOFON account, or directly from the IM/ VoIP services listed above. In addition to the new Pre version, there are versions for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. Calls can also be originated from a PC. The Pre app can be downloaded free from the App Catalog. If it looks familiar, the app had previously been available in the Homebrew catalog prior to the actual release.


India’s GupShup SMS social network crosses 26 million users


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sms-gupshup-logo-300x233Facebook and Twitter are surely be the most popular and most influential social networks on the Internet. But Indian SMS-based social network GupShup’s 26 million members proves that sites not built and hosted from the San Francisco Bay Area can attract large audiences.

GupShup published a press release this morning claiming a user base of 26 million people, adding the claim that this makes it India’s largest social network:

Part of SMS GupShup’s success has been the penetration of mobile phones in India. India’s social networking is taking off on mobile as the country currently has about a 10-1 mobile to PC ratio with SMS serving as the most pervasive communication platform. SMS GupShup is currently processing over 480 million messages a month and accounts for an astounding 5% of all texts sent within India.

The community has attracted a broad base of audiences ranging from sports fans to religious groups to commuters interested in up to the minute traffic alerts.  Currently over 2 million groups exist on the community with the average SMSGupShup member belonging to 2.75 groups. A list of premier groups can be found here: http://www.smsgupshup.com/communities.

Outside the U.S., SMS offers billions of potential customers a cheap way to commicate compared to the Internet-based data plans of AT&T and Verizon. Given the economics, it’s not a big surprise that a large number of Indian phone users would opt for cheap SMS-based GupShup rather than Facebook. And while Twitter itself was designed as an SMS service — hence its 140 character limit on tweets, based on the 160-character limit of SMS messages — GupShup offers users in India a local service built upon relatively cheap SMS rather than Internet data.

GupShup comes from startup company Webaroo, which has offices in both Cupertino and Mumbai. So far, the company has raised $22 million and change from reputable investors including Hummer Winblad and Charles River Ventures.


Where to Watch the Avatar Premiere Online [NewTeeVee]


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What do James Cameron’s new sci-fi 3D epic and Twilight sequel New Moon have in common? For MySpace and Ustream, it’s the potential for another record-breaking red blue carpet premiere. (No word on whether or not the carpet “blue” itself.) The Avatar festivities will begin streaming live Wednesday at 6 p.m. PST via Ustream, hosted by MySpace.

Online video chat by Ustream

In addition to the live-streaming, this morning MySpace is premiering the video for Leona Lewis’ closing-credits ballad I See You, Avatar’s equivalent to Titanic’s My Heart Will Go On. The video for the frankly cheesy Lewis pop tune features plenty of shots from the film, as well as Lewis singing in front of a fog machine and laser show.


“I See You” (Theme from Avatar) by Leona Lewis in HD

Trailer Park | MySpace Video

These next few days mark the end of Avatar’s long, well-hyped journey to the IMAX screen, and given the film’s nature as a 20th Century Fox property the partnership with MySpace makes synergetic sense. The question is, of course, if the audience that’s dying to see the non-CGI versions of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver will match the number of those who clicked in droves for a glimpse of their favorite vampires and werewolves.



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Embrace the Decadence of Web Work [WebWorkerDaily]


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We’re well and truly into the “business end” of the year. The business end is also the thin end: time, patience, concentration and stamina are all wearing thin right now.

Recently, I’ve overheard a few web workers who say they’re sick of working remotely. It can be isolating and lonely and grueling; when you’re frustrated there’s no one to vent to; the office ignores you until they decide to load you up with yet another new task; and so on.

All this may be true. But there are other truths, too: working remotely can give you considerable flexibility and help you get more out of life. If you’re feeling a little jaded right now, why not reacquaint yourself with the sunnier side of remote work by indulging in some of its great advantages?

These are the things I enjoy the most about working remotely — they’re the things I do to remind myself how lucky I am to live the way I do. A warning, though: following this advice may lead to a sense of acute well-being, good fortune, or even smugness. Make the most of it, but try not to brag to your on-site colleagues too much…

1. Start the day in bed.

Forget bouncing out of bed at seven: arrange your affairs (and family, if need be) so that you can wake up as late as you wish.

To optimize the sense of decadence, grab a coffee and your laptop and head back to bed to take in the news, sift through the morning’s emails, and check your schedule with a sense of leisure.

When you do finally arise, you’ll likely be more relaxed and feel more positive about the tasks you need to do today.

2. Work from a luxurious location.

Just how remote is your remote work? If you find yourself chained to your desk, it might be time to rediscover the real joys of being off-site.

What’s the most decadent location in your area? It might be on your balcony, a nearby beach, an upmarket cafe that makes great pancakes, or the domed reading room in the historic library down the road.

Whatever it is, head out to spend a little time working in the most beautiful, calm, relaxed location you can think of. While you’re there, take a moment to appreciate just how lucky you are not to be stuck in the cube farm.

3. Talk to a local.

Isolation is the bane of many remote worker’s lives. So why not break the trend today? At lunchtime, step outside and say hello to someone in your area.

Where I live, the only place I’m likely to see another person is at the general store. Fine; I’ll stroll down there to buy milk or an ice cream (more decadence!) and have a chat with the shop keeper. You may be lucky enough to have neighbors, or see strangers passing along your street: say hello and ask how they’re going.

Much has been said to the effect that going out of your way — and your comfort zone — to make contact with another person can lead to feelings of wellbeing and involvement, and boost your self-esteem and mood. It’s also unlikely to be something that would happen very often on the lunchtime-busy streets outside a city office. Just as well you work remotely!

4. Optimize break time.

It’s not just what you do with your breaks: it’s when you take them.

As a remote worker, you don’t have the boss or your colleagues tracking your every move, so you can take a break when you need to, rather than at an approved time. Make the most of that: recognize when you need time out, and take it.

There is, of course, the question of what you’ll do with that five — or fifteen — minutes. I like to spend my breaks doing things I can’t do in an office: digging something out of my vegetable garden for dinner, playing with a pet, or collecting eggs. Going for a run at three in the afternoon is, to me, a great indulgence of working off-site.

5. At 5.01, do something you love.

Those poor saps in the office rarely knock off at five, and then they still have to spend time in traffic or on transport once they finish up for the day.

Not you! Finish on the dot of five — if not a shade earlier — and make sure that at 5.01 you’re engaged in something you truly enjoy. My first choice would be to sip a martini on my deck, looking out across the countryside, but your idea of heaven may be to play with your kids, catch an early movie, or spend an hour or two mucking around on the drums before the guys arrive — exhausted from work and commuting — for band practice.

Make the most of those extra hours, and you’ll remember why working remotely seemed like such a good idea in the first place.

Try any or all of these tricks and you’ll likely find you have a reinvigorated appreciation for your remote work setup. How luck you are to work remotely! Who’d ever want to change that?

Over to you: what do you do to remind yourself of the decadence of remote work?

VirusTotal Uploader 2.0 Instantly Scans Files for Viruses Against 41 AV Apps [Downloads]


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Windows only: Previously mentioned VirusTotal Uploader automatically uploads any file to online virus scanner VirusTotal, scanning it for viruses with 41 different popular antivirus applications—and now it’s even better and faster, with instant hash checking, letting you skip uploads altogether.

Once you’ve installed the tiny VirusTotal Uploader application, you can simply right-click on a file and use the Send To -> VirusTotal option, which will take a hash of the file (a unique fingerprint that identifies the file) and submit it to the VirusTotal service. If the file has already been scanned by VirusTotal, you will see a message saying that the hash was found, and your default browser will be opened to the scan results instantaneously. If the file hasn’t already been scanned by VirusTotal, it’ll continue uploading the file; you can also choose to re-upload an already-scanned file if you wish.

You can also now open the VirusTotal Uploader window directly, choose from running processes, upload multiple files, or even download a file from a URL and automatically upload it to VirusTotal (without storing the file on your PC).

It’s a great update to an already excellent way to find out if a file really has a virus. VirusTotal Uploader is a free download for Windows only.







SunRun Adds $90M From US Bancorp, Hopes for 2010 Solar Boom [Earth2Tech]


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Solar financier SunRun has high hopes for 2010. The San Francisco-based company, which provides homeowners with solar leasing options known as power purchasing agreements, has just announced a tax equity commitment of $90 million from US Bancorp to finance residential solar installations next year. It marks the second tax equity deal between US Bancorp and SunRun, which owns, monitors and maintains residential solar panels (it’s completed about 2,700 installations so far), and sells the electricity at a fixed rate after customers pay a minimum $1,000 installation fee. In late 2008, the startup secured a commitment of about $105 million from a US Bancorp affiliate to finance some 2,000 installations. With this new financing, SunRun CEO Edward Fenster said in a statement the company will be able to “bring solar to thousands more homes in 2010.”

Snagging a $90 million tax equity agreement is no small feat these days. Such financing — in which an investor basically buys clean energy tax credits and uses them to shelter otherwise taxable income – has been hard to come by this year. In the wake of the investment bank shake-up, solar companies have had to compete for financing from a shrinking pool of tax equity investors once packed with firms like AIG, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and Morgan Stanley. Add to this the fact that profits, and therefore taxes high enough to make use of tax credits, have dropped, and energy developers have found less demand for these credits. JP Morgan managing director John Eber said at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in San Francisco this fall that tax equity financing for renewable energy is expected to total just $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion in 2009, down from $3.6 billion last year and $6 billion in 2007. 

SunRun President and co-founder Lynn Jurich told us earlier this year that the company is looking to enter some of the 10-14 states where “solar will make sense” within the next 2-3 years as a result of local subsidies, utility programs and electricity rates that will help bring solar closer to competitive pricing with conventional sources. In October the company expanded to Colorado, adding the Centennial State to its existing markets in California, Massachusetts and Arizona.

SunRun’s funding so far includes $12 million from venture firm Foundation Capital and $18 million in second-round financing led by Accel Partners — capital that the company will need to grow big enough and fast enough to stay ahead of the competition. Jurich tells VentureBeat that in order to have a real edge, SunRun needs to bring in “hundreds of thousands” of new residential customers. Investors, at least, are showing confidence in the company and its ability to make power purchase agreements — long used in the commercial solar market — work for residential installations.

There are signs that SunRun’s bet on a 2010 residential solar boom could pay off. A supply glut of solar products that has been in the making for years keeps pushing prices down, and demand has started to pick up for solar installations, especially in homes.

Photo of Oakland, Calif., residential solar installation courtesy of SunRun



What was the big news that happened in your sector in Q3? Catch up with GigaOM Pro’s, “Quarterly Wrap-ups.”

KeyboardNavigation Does Away with Mouse Clicks in Chrome [Downloads]


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Computer mice are great and all, but sometimes you’d rather not have to deal with them—say, when you’re using an uncomfortable touchpad on a laptop. Chrome Extension KeyboardNavigation helps you browse the web while keeping mouse clicking to a minimum.

Once installed, you can activate the extension by hitting Alt+G on your keyboard—this will put a number next to every link on the page. Typing in one of the numbers will take you to the linked page as if you clicked on it, and you can toggle whether to open up links in a new foreground, background, or the same tab by pressing b or g. When you want to go ahead and read the page, just hit Alt+G again to hide the numbers (as the page can get pretty cluttered pretty quickly on sites with lots of links).

KeyboardNavigation is a free download, and works with the Dev version of Chrome for Windows or the Linux beta. Firefox users, check out similar extensions like LoL.







Exclusive Video: Hands-on With Swype For Android


This post is by from TechCrunch


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I’ve been pretty pumped about Swype’s ultra-speedy alternative typing solution for touchscreen devices ever since it first debuted at TechCrunch50 2008. My excitement only grew when it finally made its way to a handset, the Omnia II, just last month – but as I’m not the biggest fan of the OS that powers that device, my thumbs were left twiddling until an Android port was released.

Earlier this morning, I got my hands-on a pre-release copy of just that: Swype for Android. So how is it? In a word: Great. If you want more than that, you’ll have to dive behind the jump for a hands-on impressions and video.

Read the rest of this post at MobileCrunch >>

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No Pick-Up In Twitter’s U.S. Traffic In November


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Twitter’s U.S. traffic rose by a little over 100,000 visitors, to 19.37 million unique visitors from 19.24 million unique visitors in October. It’s no surprise that Twitter’s U.S. growth is stalling as the numbers have indicated this pattern for some time. At least the microblogging network didn’t drop in visitors, as it did in October, declining by 8 percent in U.S. traffic.

While Twitter’s international growth also flattened in October, the microblogging network is still seeing considerable growth when it comes to year over year numbers. Twitter has grown over 1200% since November of 2008, when the microblogging network had only 1.5 million unique visitors.

But it’s important to note that these numbers don’t mean that Twitter as a service is becoming less popular. While the number of uniques to Twitter’s site isn’t growing, third part Twitter clients like Seesmic and Tweetdeck are growing like crazy. In October, CEO Evan Williams admitted to the stall in growth in the U.S. saying that many of the new features of the site could jumpstart growth in traffic, including the Retweet button, Lists, and Geolocation features.

But from the early numbers, it looks like these features haven’t really done much for Twitter’s traffic. And many of these features have been added to the third-party Twitter clients, which easily account for half of all Twitter usage. But the distance between Twitter and rival Facebook keeps growing, and if this trend continues, it looks like Twitter could be out of Facebook’s rear-view mirror completely, especially with the new Facebook feature to publish status updates to Twitter rolling out in the next week. On the other hand, maybe Facebook will help it reach a whole new audience segment.

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Hands-On Geolocation: An App For “Proud Masturbators And Public Sex Act Aficionados”


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fapmapper_logoMost press releases are extremely boring. They all say the same things. Not this one.

Today, my inbox was graced by pitch that can only be described as stimulating. It made me laugh, it made me question if it was real, and it made me a little creeped out — all in one. But it is actually relevant to something I’m particularly interested in right now: Location. It’s for a service called FapMapper, a location-based service that allows you to show where you masturbate and/or where you have public sex. Yep.

There are plenty of tagged places in San Francisco already. For example, here’s one that reads, “jerked it watching my neighbor water plants. Hot” — and yes, it includes the address where that took place. Here’s another, “post lunch office bathroom.” At least it was post-lunch, I suppose.

Generally, it’s very poor form to just copy and paste a press release into a post, but this one is just too good for everyone to miss. And honestly, anything I say can’t do this service (which works on the web and through the web interfaces of the iPhone, Droid, Pre and other phones) more justice than how they lay it out. I mean, “mastur-beta” and ““fap” is a euphemism for masturbation that is increasingly popular among young, tech-savvy Web users.” Brilliant stuff. Read the whole thing below:

There’s a Fap for That: Masturbation Mapping Utility FapMapper.com Launches

VAN NUYS, Calif. – At long last, proud masturbators and public sex act aficionados have a fully functional utility with which to document their sexual exploits; FapMapper.com (www.fapmapper.com) is out of ‘mastur-beta’ and ready for primetime.

Compatible with desktop computers, as well as the iPhone, Droid, Palm Pre and other web-capable mobile devices, FapMapper quickly picked up a relatively small but dedicated member base after its beta launch in September.

“We’ve had hundreds of users putting the FapMapper through its paces and submitting suggestions for a couple months now, and we’re finally ready to unveil the official web app,” said Kim Kysar, brand and product manager for Pink Visual, the porn studio behind FapMapper.com. “It’s very gratifying to see this important tool for sexual self-expression ready for widespread use at last.”

While the name FapMapper is a reference to masturbation (“fap” is a euphemism for masturbation that is increasingly popular among young, tech-savvy Web users), Kysar said there’s more going on within the map grids of FapMapper than self-pleasuring alone.

“We’ve got couples posting about having sex on camping trips, people just marking places where they spotted a particularly beautiful woman walking down the street, even things that have nothing whatsoever to do with sex or masturbation,” Kysar said. “That’s just the nature of any social networking tool; once you release it out into the world, the community develops on its own, and decides for itself what to do with the utility you have provided.”

In addition to comments from users, FapMapper now offers revealing statistical data, like the top fapping cities, states and individual users. The map also features icons identifying adult stores where FapMapper users will find Pink Visual titles stocked on the shelves.

“Just in case FapMapper users are in need of extra inspiration for their fapping, we thought we’d throw them a bone, so to speak, and let them know where they can find the latest and greatest Pink Visual titles,” Kysar said. “It’s a great value-add for our retail partners, too, as they are being advertised to a population of truly dedicated masturbators and porn fans without spending a dime for the exposure.”

At the moment, a user named “Bigbwoy” from Toronto owns the top spot on the Frequent Fapper charts, while California is the top state, and San Antonio, Texas is the city with the most “Fap Pins” placed thus far. Kysar said it’s still too early to declare any individual, city or state the “perversion champion” based on FapMapper’s data, however.

“I have to believe that once this thing really gets rolling, you’ll see San Francisco climb the charts from its current position as the fourth place fapping city,” Kysar said. “We clearly don’t have the penetration we need in the southern Atlantic coastal states, either; how can Florida, the ancestral home of Spring Break festivities, not even be in the top 10 Fap States? That’s just downright shameful.”

For more information, visit www.fapmapper.com. Warning: you may learn more about your neighbor’s masturbation habits than you ever wanted to know.

Not sure this beats the best man who rigged his friends’ bed to tweet during sex, but it’s close.

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iPhone Users, Get Ready for Flash Games [GigaOM]


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Photo of Evan “Rabble” Henshaw-Plath by James Duncan Davidson, used with permission

The iPhone has inspired a casual gaming renaissance that’s about to go into overdrive. OneAppAtATime, a new startup, allows developers to build iPhone applications using Flash, thanks to early access to Adobe’s new Flash developer software beta. Starting this week, the upstart will open its doors to Flash game developers, offering to convert their games to apps and shepherd them through App Store approval in return for 35 percent of revenues. (That’s a 50-50 split after Apple takes its 30 percent.)

OneAppAtATime is the brainchild of Evan “Rabble” Henshaw-Plath who previously worked on Fire Eagle, the location-based service from Yahoo’s idea incubator Brickhouse, and Odeo, the podcasting startup that spawned Twitter.

Henshaw-Plath, who recently relocated to Montevideo, Uruguay, said he hopes to produce “dozens to hundreds of games per month.” He’s targeting the many people who develop Flash games as a part-time project and in the past may have had trouble monetizing their work given many users do not expect to pay for games on the web.

But on the iPhone, where people are used to paying, Henshaw-Plath expects these same games’ prices to be about $2.99. And OneAppAtATime has a bit of a jump on the competition, though Adobe says it plans to release a public beta of Flash Professional CS5 by the end of 2009. Henshaw-Plath says he’s taking advantage of the wealth of Flash developers in Uruguay to get ahead of rivals.

OneAppAtATime, despite its name, does want to be a bit of a factory, churning out as many apps as possible, but Henshaw-Plath especially wants to adapt games that can make use of iPhone features like the accelerometer, GPS, compass and address book. For instance, one of the company’s games takes the Atari classic Breakout and enables players to control their paddle by moving their whole phone back and forth. (You can’t play it yet; none of the company’s apps have yet made it through Apple’s approval process.)

Henshaw-Plath is funding the company through Cubox, his Ruby on Rails consultancy. He expects each Flash game to take a few days to convert at a cost of “a couple hundred dollars to thousand dollars’ worth of development.”

OneAppAtATime is unleashing a bit of a monster; there are more than 100,000 iPhone applications already in existence and far, far more Flash games. With that much competition, maintaining a business won’t be easy. Henshaw-Plath says his apps will stand out from other iPhone applications because users will be able to test the games in Flash in a gallery before they buy. He’s also not getting exclusive licenses to the games, but rather giving Flash developers the right to compete against OneAppAtATime if they later think they can do a better job. And the company promises to give each game a healthy dose of social media marketing as well as advertising across its other apps.


My Health Direct secures $4M, not just redirecting emergency room patients


This post is by from VentureBeat


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ERIf you’ve ever had to visit the emergency room at your local hospital then you’re no stranger to a jam packed waiting room, crying babies and a long wait. In an effort to remedy the problem, My Health Direct, a company that provides a web-based software for healthcare providers to redirect patients with non-emergency conditions to other health care providers, has secured $4 million in first round funding led by Chrysalis Ventures.

In the press release, founder and chief executive Jay Mason says the funding will be used for expansion, both geographically and beyond the emergency room.

The platform is mainly used by nurses in emergency rooms at hospitals and clinics. As patients call or visit the ER, the nurses can determine their emergency status. If the patient is deemed as non-emergency, the nurses can then search and schedule appointments using the My Health Direct software with other healthcare providers in the community. The result, a reduction of unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms, but non-emergency patients still get treated. The appeal for healthcare providers is an overall cost savings because patients are directed to the most appropriate healthcare professional, and not forcing the provider to absorb the ER cost.

This is the second healthcare/information technology deal that Louisville, Ky.-based Chrysalis has closed in the past month.  On November 17th, Chrysalis announced its investment of $5 million in NextImage Medical, a provider of radiology services.

As part of the funding, David A. Jones, Jr., Chrysalis Ventures Chairman & Managing Director will be joining the My Health Direct’s board.

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