Apple Lockdown: Fact or Fiction? [TheAppleBlog]


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UPDATED: I apologize for anyone offended by the initial headline. If you’ll read the Gizmodo article referenced in the first paragraph you’ll see where this headline came from. This article is a response to the absurdity of Gizmodo’s article that implies that Apple uses Nazi-like tactics. We unequivocally disagree with what Gizmodo is implying or its references to Nazi/Gestapo tactics. Again, please do read the Gizmodo article first to put this in context.

Breaking Godwin’s Law at a sub-atomic level, incendiary Gizmodo cites an anonymous source describing how security finds leakers at Apple, not to mention creating a pervasive atmosphere of fear and dread, referencing “Nazi” tactics by the “Gestapo.” That is, if you believe it.

Reading like something by Fake Steve Jobs—only not nearly as entertaining—Jesus Diaz relays the experience of “Tom,” a supposed current or former employee of Apple. Tom alleges that Apple has “moles,” or informants, “working everywhere, especially in departments where leaks are suspected.” When a leak is strongly suspected, members of the Team Apple World Police “Apple Worldwide Loyalty” arrive and an “operation” takes place.

What’s described is effectively a lockdown. Employees are forced to remain at their desks. Their cellphones are collected, and anyone needing to contact the outside is monitored. Interviews are done. NDAs are signed. If security finds the suspected leaker, and “they usually do,” the person is fired after questioning. Of the questioning itself, “Tom” has no first-hand experience.

“There is a lot that goes behind doors that I don’t really know about. I do know, however, that they really interrogate people that are serious suspects, intimidating them by threatening to sue.”

Setting aside logical inconsistencies in the article like cameras being forbidden at Apple yet every employee having an iPhone, and legal questions such as confiscating personal cell phones, “Tom” asserts this type of corporate behavior is common at Apple. With 35,000 employees, it seems difficult to imagine that were such invasive tactics the norm, that it could be kept a secret, or at least made public by more than one guy through e-mail.

Looking at comments about Apple at GlassDoor.com, a website where employees can rate their employers, there’s not a lot of Nazi analogies…though from reading Gizmodo’s article you’d certainly think there should be. There are negative comments, but in aggregate the opinion is positive. In a recent survey, Apple scored 3.9 out of 5.0 for fifth place in the top 10 tech companies to work for. As CEO, Steve Jobs had an approval rating of 91 percent, highest on the list. In contrast, Dell was rated lowest among tech companies with a score of 2.8, while CEO Michael Dell’s approval rating was 28 percent.

If you are waiting for some purple prose about working Dell tech support hell in some warehouse outside of Mumbai, you’ll probably be disappointed. There’s no fame or fortune in stating the obvious.


Privacy groups petition FTC to restore old Facebook privacy settings


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facebook-privacyWith a new set of default privacy settings rolled out this month, Facebook may or may not have meant to trick its users, as some have charged, into oversharing their personal information. But regardless of Facebook’s intent, the changes have continued to agitate many users.

Today, a group of privacy advocates led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The document claims that Facebook’s new settings expose its members’ info to third parties who were previously blocked from members’ personal information by default.

The complaint says this violates Facebook users’ expectations and contradicts Facebook’s own claims.

A screenshot in the document reminds the FTC that Facebook once had a one-click option labeled, “Do not share any information about me through the Facebook API.” Now, the complaint says, the single button has been replaced with a long list of buttons that, if all used, still do not block some of members’ personal info from being accessed by third parties through Facebook’s API. This includes their name, profile picture, city, and list of friends, among others.

Media pundit Peter Kafka published a long response from Facebook that centers around this claim: “We discussed the privacy program with many regulators, including the FTC, prior to launch.”


Will Add-ons be the Secret Sauce of Success for Mobile Firefox? [jkOnTheRun]


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Add-ons in Firefox Mobile on Nokia’s N900

The release of Firefox Mobile should be under the Christmas tree very soon, but some are already looking at the add-ons that will work with the browser. Liz Gannes at GigaOm runs through a bunch of the early extensions that can be installed on the mobile browser that behaves like a desktop client. I didn’t realize that there’s already 42 extensions available, just waiting for the final release of Firefox Mobile.

Of course, the first device to see the production version of Firefox Mobile is the Nokia N900, which I currently have under evaluation. I’ve installed the most recent beta build of Mozilla’s browser, but I’m withholding judgment until I see the final release. As such, I haven’t installed any add-ons just yet, although I’m tempted to install Mozilla’s Weave Sync — that extension synchronizes bookmarks between the full version Firefox and Firefox Mobile.

After releasing the browser for Nokia’s N900, Windows Mobile will see it and then Google’s Android platform after that. With each platform already offering or supporting reasonably good mobile browsers — Opera Mobile and Android’s native browser come to mind — Mozilla is banking on desktop features like extensions to win over mobile fans. Extensions have helped make Firefox a success on full computers and it’s reasonable to assume that it will help strengthen their position in the mobile space as well.

Are you patiently waiting for Mobile Firefox or are you content with your current mobile browser?


Another Blackberry Outage: A Historical Look


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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for blackberry-screen-b2b.jpgBlackberry users had a bit of a surprise this morning. Email was down. It came back up around 11 a.m. PST but in comparison to prior outages, this was a big one.

The Blackberry email outage spared most business users as enterprise servers were not affected. First problems were reported around 2:30 a.m. PST.

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By mid-morning, the Twittersphere was a buzz with questions about their Blackberry service.

We thought it might be useful to show a history of Blackberry outages and reflect on their significance compared to today’s outage.

In 2007, RIM had a major outage. CEO Jim Balsillie said the outages would never happen again.

At the time, Balsillie did not have too much to worry about. They had a pretty tight grip on the market. The iPhone had been introduced in January but it was of little concern at the time. The biggest issue was making sure the company instituted some safeguards for government agencies and big enterprise customers.

In February 2008, RIM had another serious outage.

The outages ignited concerns but no real harm seemed to come of it.

Now comes today’s outage. The market is a far different place than one or two years ago.

According to comScore, more people use the iPhone than Microsoft devices. The Blackberry is still in first place with more than 14 million users.

But how long can the lead last for Blackberry with major outages like the one today?

The enterprise may be a different story but the lead there is not guaranteed. It’s not just email anymore. Apps are all the rage. So when email goes down for Blackberry, you know it has some real affects. Email is RIM’s crown jewel. If its reliability is questioned than it raises more interest among users in competing devices such as the iPhone or the Android.

Discuss


Googsystray Notifies You of New Activity Across Google Services in One System Tray App [Downloads]


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Windows/Linux only: Google has so many different services these days that installing a notification app for each one gets cumbersome quickly. Free system tray utility Googsystray watches Gmail, Google Voice, Calendar, Reader, and Wave so you can set it and forget it.

After installing Googsystray, you can configure which services you want it to watch and what you want it to do for each—upon receiving a new email, SMS, calendar alert, RSS article, or wave, you can have it play a sound and even run a command. The icon of the given service will also pop up in your system tray. Right clicking on it gives you a Growl-style popup with more detailed information about the notification, such as email subject or SMS content. You also have limited actions you can take depending on the service.

Google Voice is the most feature-filled, allowing you to send SMS messages with a hotkey and read voicemail transcripts. You can have Gmail monitor your inbox or specific labels for new messages, as well as mark messages as read, spam, or delete them. Google Calendar support is limited to alerts on upcoming events, and Google Reader can notify of you of new RSS articles, although you can tell it to stop notifying you when the number of unread articles reaches a certain point. Google Wave support merely notifies you of new and unread waves, along with a preview.

Googsystray is a free download, works on Windows and Linux (Python and pygtk required for Linux). Thanks, Aldeniszen!







Copenhagen & Transparency: Carbon Software Makers Watching Closely [Earth2Tech]


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The issue of “transparency” has taken over the Copenhagen climate negotiations. If and how countries will provide verifiable measurements of their emissions reductions is the sticking point of the $100 billion annual fund that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today, and a major fissure between the U.S. and China at the negotiations.

But while transparency has come onto the world stage this week, it’s something at the very core of the business models of the dozens of companies that develop software that can measure greenhouse gas emissions. These companies have been watching the Copenhagen climate negotiations closely to see if decisions from world leaders and countries will deliver insights into what is expected to be a rapidly growing market for carbon management software.

I know of three CEOs of carbon software companies that flew to Copenhagen to follow the talks, including Amit Chatterjee, CEO of Hara, Michael Meehan CEO of Carbonetworks, and Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint. In a phone conversation with Hara CEO Amit Chatterjee before he left for the event last week, he said he would be closely watching developed countries’ proposals to help fund efforts to mitigate emissions in developing countries. Chatterjee predicted that carbon software would serve as a key tool for managing and measuring the emissions reductions attached to billions of dollars of funding.

The underlying premise of the Copenhagen negotiations — that countries will agree to reduce their emissions by a certain percentage by a certain date — will only help to expand the market for software that helps monitor and manage greenhouse gas emissions. While it’s looking less likely that we’ll be getting a ground-breaking agreement from the summit, any decisions on long term financing and emissions targets made there will indicate to carbon software makers how fast or slow their industry will grow.

Emissions management software will be used for a vast array of activities by governments, NGOs and companies. Last week during a presentation from The World Bank, which I attended, the Bank said that it was looking to streamline oversight of clean energy projects it funds in developing nations through the Clean Development Mechanism. Easy-to-use and low cost emissions management software could also play a role there.

The carbon software industry has seen an emergence of dozens of players in recent years — here’s a list of 22 carbon management companies. Companies are still getting funding, and this week Carbon Hub announced that it has raised €1 million. Big software firms like SAP and Oracle are also moving aggressively into the space.

Likely there were other carbon software makers in attendance at Copenhagen, beyond these three startups, given the large impact the international decisions will have on their industry. In fact the IT industry, including software companies, communication network providers and computing firms made a shockingly vocal showing at Copenhagen this week. That’s because IT has been predicted to be able to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent below business as usual levels across industries by 2020.



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

Why You Should Consider Paying Your Early Termination Fee [GigaOM]


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The ultra-competitive prepaid market is producing some astoundingly inexpensive all-you-can eat rate plans. And breaking your cell phone contract to take advantage of them may be cheaper than you think.

That was the message during today’s press call by Consumer Action, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group that opposes what it calls “excessive” early termination fees (ETFs). The group — which is funded in part by TracFone, the prepaid service provider — offered the following suggestions for users (like Stacey) who are considering ditching their carrier in favor of cheaper offerings:

  • Determine whether you are in the ETF “penalty box.” Users who’ve had the same phone and price plan for more than two years are probably unaffected by ETFs. Those who are subject to the penalties may have to pay only a prorated amount.
  • Do the math. A $150 penalty may seem steep, but it’s quickly offset if you can cut your $90 monthly phone bill in half.
  • Avoid re-upping with your carrier. Operators typically offer new phones or more attractive price plans to users nearing the end of their contracts in an effort to lock customers in for another two years.
  • Watch for carriers looking to change the terms of the contract. Major changes in terms can allow consumers to kill service without paying an ETF — which is an option Kevin over at jkOnTheRun began considering with his Palm Pre last week.

ETFs have become a hot-button issue in Washington, too, as evidenced by the FCC’s current probe into Verizon Wireless’ policies. Verizon recently doubled its ETF for some high-end devices from $175 to $350, claiming the move was necessary to stop users from taking advantage of its buy-one, get-one-free promotion for BlackBerry handsets only to kill service and sell the phones on eBay. The FCC today granted Verizon’s request for additional time to respond to the inquiry, pushing back the deadline to Monday. But with the FCC stepping up its role as a consumer-friendly regulatory agency, ETFs are likely to continue to be a point of contention between network operators and the Beltway in the months ahead.

Image courtesy Flickr user seretuaccidente.


Google netbook rumor seems credible


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ChromeNetbook (1)Rumors of a Google-branded PC of some sort have been around for years. In 2006, I blogged a Consumer Electronics Show press conference at which reporters goaded Eric Schmidt: “What about the Google PC?” and, “You’d be stupid not to do it, so you must be doing it, right?”

Schmidt’s deadpan answer: “We issued a statement that we have tremendous partners in the PC space, so we have no interest in doing it.  I guess some people don’t believe it.”

Exactly, Eric. We don’t believe it.

Today, TechCrunch editor Mike Arrington claims to have inside knowledge that Google has talked to at least one netbook maker about building a Google-branded netbook running Google’s Chrome OS operating system.  It would ship a year from now, for the 2010 holiday shopping season. Arrington’s sources claim they’ll likely be sold through wireless carriers, just as smartphones are today, with Google paying a subsidy on each netbook to keep the sale price down.

Now that Google has a Google-branded Nexus One phone coming to market, the likeliness of a Google-branded netbook seems much more real. But notice the difference: The Nexus One is a sort of geek status-phone. It comes without a wireless plan. Getting hooked up can be complicated. The netbooks, if sold with built-in wireless enabled, would be cheaper and easier for mass-market consumers to buy than a standalone computer.

The unidentified netbook maker, Arrington says, was given a detailed set of technical specs by Google representatives. As VentureBeat’s Anthony Ha reported last month, Google is being picky about what hardware it will allow to run Chrome OS, because Google wants only fast Google PCs, not slow ones. Speed is one of Google’s core brand values. A slow Google PC isn’t a Google PC.


American Idol Co-creator Teams With Hulu for Hollywood-set Reality Series [NewTeeVee]


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Documenting attractive young people as they attempt to achieve their dreams has made Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment a global entertainment monolith — it’s that company’s coffers you fill when you watch American Idol. But for his newest project, Fuller is skipping over TV audiences and partnering with Hulu to distribute the reality series If I Can Dream, due out in early 2010.

Based on MTV News’s description, the show sounds like a never-ending Real World or Big Brother, with five aspiring actors, models and musicians living together in the Hollywood Hills as they go about their struggle to make it big. (When one leaves, they’ll be replaced by a new cast member, who will be chosen by viewers via an open audition process.)

Content will be available on both Hulu and ificandream.com, with radio, TV and mobile components as well — not to mention MySpace integration that will allow viewers to provide real-time commentary and feedback to the cast members practicing their craft on camera. And the release’s promise that the content will be available to “audiences around the world” implies that the official site, at least, won’t be geoblocked. Like any reality show, though, its success will come down to the casting. While the preview clips on Hulu confirm that the girls and boys selected are in fact quite pretty, even in the web series world, we expect a little more.



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Capture Handwritten Notes on Your iPhone [WebWorkerDaily]


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Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker App lets you take quickly take notes on the go by sketching onto your iPhone’s/iPod touch’s screen using your finger. Because scribbling small notes would be difficult, the app lets you write using large gestures, then shrinks your notes to fit onto the pages, which are about the size of a 3×5 index card.

Here’s a video showing it in action:

The app has useful extra features, like multilevel undo, multitouch gestures, JPEG export, an eraser and auto-advance, which makes taking longer notes quicker.

Bricklin says that he created the app because he found fumbling with the iPhone’s soft keyboard while jotting down notes, phone numbers and addresses frustratingly slow and error-prone. Handwritten notes are faster and mean you can also use annotations, layout and symbols to give them extra meaning.

The app is easy to use and includes a full tutorial to get you up to speed. I found that the tutorial crashed my iPhone 3G a few times, but the main sections of the app seem fine. Personally, now that I’m used to the iPhone’s keyboard, I don’t find entering notes using it that slow (and I would rather avoid having to transcribe written notes later), but if you do, you might like to try Bricklin’s app. It’s available from the App Store in two flavors: The free Lite version (iTunes link) limits you to four pages, while the full version (iTunes link) costs $1.99 and has unlimited notepads, and also includes a keyboard for transcribing notes to add them to the Address Book or paste them into other apps.

Do you find entering notes on your iPhone cumbersome?


TC Avatar Screening Is Tomorrow. We’ll Have Square There. 10 Best Comments Win A Ticket


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The wait is finally over for James Cameron’s Avatar, and we’re holding a private screening tomorrow afternoon to celebrate. The screening is at the AMC Metreon 16 (at 4th and Market) in downtown San Francisco on Friday the 18. Seating starts at 3:15, and you’ll need to be there by 3:45 or we’ll have to give up your seat (once the tickets sell out Eventbrite will open up a Waitlist). The screening starts at 4 PM sharp. Our last batch of tickets have just gone live here at Eventbrite.

In light of the holidays, we’re asking for a $5 donation per ticket, all of which will go toward either the UCSF Foundation or Malaria No More(your choice). We’re very excited to announce that we’ll have Square — the new mobile payment system from Twitter creator Jack Dorsey — at the screening. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, we’ll be accepting further donations toward UCSF Foundation and Malaria No More. These will be totally optional, but you’ll be able to count yourself among the first people try out the exciting new system.

If the tickets sell out by the time you read this, don’t fret too much — you still have a chance to get one. We’re holding a contest in the comment thread below. To win, tell us why you absolutely must get into the screening. Creativity is encouraged. We’ll pick the ten best responses and Email you at 6 PM this evening (make sure to use your real Email address).



Finally, we’re pleased to announce that all attendees will get a medium popcorn and medium soda free of charge, thanks to our four sponsors:

Building43 – A great resource for learning about how to leverage the web’s newest tools.

Mashery – A powerful API management service.

Kontera – Provider of in-text advertising generated based on the content around it.

SingleFeed – Helps retailers manage product listings on multiple shopping sites through one feed.


UPDATE: Ticket capacity has been reached. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

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


The Efficient Bedroom Office [Featured Workspace]


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Small-space workspaces are a great source of inspiration. It’s easy to make a workspace whatever you want when you’ve got all the space in the world but when you’re cramped, every inch counts.

Lifehacker reader Tito shared with us an example of making the most out of a very tiny space. While he didn’t get the dimensions of his room, based on the scale of objects in the photos, it’s likely not much bigger than 10x10ft. In that space he managed to squeeze in a work station that does double duty as an entertainment center and has ample power outlets and storage.

He build the desk to fit into the space he had. The desk is a little over six feet wide with a four foot sideboard for additional surface area. The wall-mounted Samsung monitor serves as a monitor for his mac mini, an external monitor for his laptop when he needs it, and as a television screen for his XBox 360 and cable box.

If the enormous power strip under the desk caught your eye, Tito offers an explanation:

The power pole is homemade (my father and I did it, we
tried to make something like this.), It’s just a combination of a cable raceway with several power plugs inside, it took a few hours of work. Above this power pole, there is another raceway with only cables inside. That solution fits perfectly with my desk.

For the curious, Tito hails from Spain—thus the non-US style of power outlet in his homemade power strip. Check out the photos before for a closer look at his workspace.




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







Watch The Buzz On Bitly.TV


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bitlytv

With more than two billion links a month passed through its link shortening service, bit.ly can see what is some of the most buzzed about and shared content on the Web. Today, it is exposing the most popular videos people share through bit.ly on Bitly.TV, which is the second project under bit.ly Labs (the super-short j.mp URL shortener was the first).

With bit.ly being the main way people share links on Twitter, Bitly.TV might as well be called Twitter TV. The videos featured are based on bit.ly’s bitrank algorithm. “The algorithm looks at velocity, popularity and persistence,” says general manager Andrew Cohen. “We’re examining the social distribution history of each video to determine what is trending, and to predict what will go viral.”

When you click on a video it opens up in a lightbox player along with a live stream of Tweets about that video and the ability to share it again on Twitter, Facebook, or via email. As you are watching, you get the realtime commentary in a box on the right and a retweet number so you can get a sense of how viral it is and why.

Just last week, the startup released Bit.ly Pro, which allows Web publishers to send out short links with their own branded (short) domain names such as nyti.ms, 4sq.com, mee.bo, or tcrn.ch. Publishers also get an analytics dashboard which shows realtime stats like the total number of clicks, and their distribution by geography and referring sites. The data around URL shorteners is incredibly valuable, and even Facebook and Google are jumping into the game with goo.gl and fb.me. With Bitly.TV, bit.ly seems to be upping the ante by providing a way to see the most popular videos on the web.

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More People Now Use iPhones Than Windows Mobile


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The latest quarterly survey by comScore reports that the iPhone just passed Windows Mobile phones in US market share, though it remains at just half the level of the Blackberry.

The Apple Blog points out that Windows Mobile is in fact the only major smartphone player that experienced negative growth in the latest period. The iPhone has been outselling Windows Mobile for some time, so it was only a matter of time until there were more iPhones in peoples’ hands. Android is still at the back of the pack but is showing signs of significant momentum.

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Tracing links back from blog to blog the comScore phone survey of users about what types of phones they have in their hands appears first on FierceDeveloper; comScore’s press contact was unavailable for comment but mobile developers say the numbers are unsurprising.

Android growth has been steady but that platform remains below Windows Mobile, Palm’s WebOS and Symbian. Another report by comScore this morning though found that consumer interest in Android is growing fast and now rivals consumer interest in the iPhone.

“Of those American consumers in the market for a smartphone,” comScore writes, “17 percent are considering the purchase of an android-supported device in next three months, compared to 20 percent indicating they plan to purchase an iPhone.

Android’s prospects may fare even better in the global marketplace.

“Android will continue to pick up market share, especially in the global smartphone market, because of Symbian’s lack of innovation in the last 3-4 years,” mobile blogger Jason Harris told us today. “Symbian is said to have 37% worldwide market share, and this will further erode as more folks give Android a look. Especially with the Nexus One coming out – a phone that is sold directly from Google and not from your carrier – that’s very cohesive with the European model. Right now Android has only been available from carriers, leading to OS fragmentation. Now with the Nexus One, the phone will come from Google itself, meaning your OS updates will be direct from the source, not via the carrier, who has customized the Android OS to their liking. That might work in the US, where we are carrier-centric, but not in other markets, especially emerging markets.”

Discuss


Startup Apprenda brings Silverlight to large-scale business apps


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saasgridChances are you’ve never heard of upstate New York startup Apprenda and their product, SaaSGrid. The company’s clients aren’t home consumers, they’re other IT companies like UVision Consulting and Serenity Software that build large-scale business apps. But a couple of weeks ago, Apprenda landed a $5M investment from New Enterprise Associates, one of the early backers of Salesforce.com, to market and sell SaaSGrid.

silverlightNEA’s investment got almost no attention in the press or on the Internet. But Apprenda’s announcement today of support for Microsoft’s Silverlight technology should bring Apprenda lots of customers and validate NEA’s investment. Silverlight is Microsoft’s answer to Flash. Large-scale application developers building atop Microsoft’s .NET platform often use Silverlight to make complicated interfaces that run inside their end users’ browsers.

SaaSGrid’s Silverlight integration is kind of exciting to .NET and Silverlight developers for two reasons: First, it means a single instance of a SaaSGrid-powered application can serve Silverlight to potentially millions of customers at thousands of separate companies, without leaking their data to each other. This trick, called multitenancy, is how Salesforce.com serves thousands of separate sales teams without going broke buying hardware. Imagine if Salesforce had to add a new server for every new company it signed up. Nope, instead it just punches the new customer’s account info into the multitenant Salesforce app, and it makes room as necessary to serve the new customers when they need it.

SaaSGrid likewise lets developers use .NET and Silverlight to create large-scale, Web-hosted apps. They don’t have to create their own storefronts, or their own accounting and billing systems, for example, and they don’t have to know a whole lot about multitenancy to build it into their application. SaaSGrid handles it for them.

“Silverlight is used in [the business-to-business] world as a front end to back end stuff,” Apprenda CEO Sinclair Schuller told me in a phone interview. “But Silverlight, it’s been anchored to the idea that it’s going to run in the browser with no notion of an on-demand backend system. SaasGrid ensures that Silverlight can work with back end services in a multi-tenant on-demand fashion.”

Apprenda, founded in 2006, is headquartered in Clifton Park, NY and has about 25 employees. Before the NEA investment, Apprenda operated on around $1 million in seed funding from High Peak Ventures.


Choose the Right Investment Based on the Timeframe of Your Goals [Personal Finance]


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Got extra money but not sure where to put it? Personal finance weblog The Simple Dollar suggests that choosing the best investment strategy involves examining your life goals (career, marriage, house, family) and then picking the investment type that fits that timeline.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}.

For example:

First thing – envision the life you want in five years. Do the same for ten years and twenty years down the road. Flesh out each of these visions with as much detail as you can. What do you hope to accomplish? Are you married? Do you have children? What sort of job do you have? What sort of home do you have?

If the goal is five years or less down the road, stick with something low risk, like CDs or cash or bonds. Over this short of a timeframe, putting money in market-driven assets like stocks and real estate is basically gambling.

The post discusses more good investment moves based on when you might need to access that extra cash down the road. As Trent from The Simple Dollar puts it, “Investing without goals is like golfing without a putter… you might make some general progress, but when you finally come close to the target, it will be difficult to hit that shot.”

Makes sense to us. Hit up the full post for more details, and let us know how your goals are informing your financial decisions in the comments.







Mark Shuttleworth Steps Down as Ubuntu CEO [Operating Systems]


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Computerworld reports that Mark Shuttleworth (who was generous enough with his time to show us how he gets things done back in 2007) has stepped down as CEO of Ubuntu earlier this morning. Ubuntu users who like having Shuttleworth around need not worry too much, though—he says he will remain head of the Ubuntu Community Council and Technical Board; he just won’t oversea the business aspects of the popular Linux distribution any longer. [Computerworld]







Anagram for BlackBerry Changes Name, No Longer Free [jkOnTheRun]


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One of the best free utilities for BlackBerry is still useful, but no longer free. Hopefully, you read about Anagram back in May and grabbed it prior to today — it’s now called Copy2Contact and is no longer free. But it’s still valuable because it creates contacts and appointments right from text on your screen. You don’t have to waste time copying and pasting or — even worse — trying to type contact data. If you receive an email with contact info in the signature, for example, one click of Copy2Connect grabs the name, address, phone number and more to add that contact to your handheld.

In my mind, it’s worth paying for that kind of functionality, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. You can grab a free 14-day trial of the software by pointing your Blackberry at http://copy2contact.com/bb, but after that, it’s yearly fee of $9.95. The Copy2Connect folks say that if you’re an existing user of the software, you’re entitled to a 25% discount on the yearly fee in the first year. That tells me that the old Anagram software might no longer work, but I don’t have a BlackBerry, so maybe one of you can confirm.


The Best and the Worst Tech of the Decade


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With only a few weeks left until we close out the ‘naughts and move into the teens, it’s almost obligatory to take a look back at the best and not-so-best of the last decade. With that in mind, I polled the O’Reilly editors, authors, Friends, and a number of industry movers and shakers to gather nominations. I then tossed them in the trash and made up my own compiled them together and looked for trends and common threads. So here then, in no particular order, are the best and the worst that the decade had to offer.

The Best

AJAX – It’s hard to remember what life was like before Asynchronous Java and XML came along, so I’ll prod your memory. It was boring. Web 1.0 consisted of a lot of static web pages, where every mouse click was a round trip to the web server. If you wanted rich content, you had to embed a Java servlet in the page, and pray that the client browser supported it.

Without the advent of AJAX, we wouldn’t have Web 2.0, GMail, or most of the other cloud-based web applications. Flash is still popular, but especially with HTML 5 on the way, even functionality that formerly required a RIA like Flash or Silverlight can now be accomplished with AJAX.

Twitter – When they first started, blogs were just what they said, web logs. In other words, a journal of interesting web sites that the author had encountered. These days, blogs are more like platforms for rants, opinions, essays, and anything else on the writer’s mind. Then along came Twitter. Sure, people like to find out what J-Lo had for dinner, but the real power of the 140 character dynamo is that it has brought about a resurgence of real web logging. The most useful tweets consist of a Tiny URL and a little bit of context. Combine that with the use of Twitter to send out real time notices about everything from breaking news to the current specials at the corner restaurant, and it’s easy to see why Twitter has become a dominant player.

Ubiquitous WiFi: I want you to imagine you’re on the road in the mid-90s. You get to your hotel room, and plop your laptop on the table. Then you get out your handy RJ-11 cord, and check to see if the hotel phone has a data jack (most didn’t), or if you’ll have to unplug the phone entirely. Then you’d look up the local number for your ISP, and have your laptop dial it, so you could suck down your e-mail at an anemic 56K.

Now, of course, WiFi is everywhere. You may end up having to pay for it, but fast Internet connectivity is available everywhere from your local McDonalds to your hotel room to an airport terminal. Of course, this is not without its downsides, since unsecured WiFi access points have led to all sorts of security headaches, and using an open access point is a risky proposition unless your antivirus software is up to date, but on the whole, ubiquitous WiFi has made the world a much more connected place.

Phones Get Smarter: In the late 90s, we started to see the first personal digital assistants emerge, but this has been the decade when the PDA and the cell phone got married and had a baby called the smartphone. Palm got the ball rolling with the Treos about the same time that Windows Mobile started appearing on phones, and RIM’s Blackberry put functional phones in the hands of business, but it was Apple that took the ball and ran for the touchdown with the iPhone. You can argue if the droid is better than the 3GS or the Pre, but the original iPhone was the game-changer that showed what a smartphone really could do, including the business model of the App Store,

The next convergence is likely to be with Netbooks, as more and more of the mini-laptops come with 3G service integrated in them, and VoIP services such as Skype continue to eat into both landline and cellular business.

The Maker Culture: There’s always been a DIY underground, covering everything from Ham radio to photography to model railroading. But the level of cool has taken a noticeable uptick this decade, as cheap digital technology has given DIY a kick in the pants. The Arduino lets anyone embed control capabilities into just about anything you can imagine, amateur PCB board fabrication has gone from a messy kitchen sink operation to a click-and-upload-your-design purchase, and the 3D printer is turning the Star Trek replicator into a reality.

Manufacturers cringe in fear as enterprising geeks dig out their screwdrivers. The conventional wisdom was that as electronics got more complex, the “no user serviceable parts” mentality would spell the end of consumer experimentation. But instead, the fact that everything is turning into a computer meant that you could take a device meant for one thing, and reprogram it to do something else. Don’t like your digital camera’s software? Install your own! Turn your DVR into a Linux server.

Meanwhile, shows like Mythbusters and events like Maker Faire have shown that hacking hardware can grab the public’s interest, especially if there are explosions involved.

Open Source Goes Mainstream: Quick! Name 5 open source pieces of software you might have had on your computer in 1999. Don’t worry I’ll wait…

How about today? Firefox is an easy candidate, as are Open Office, Chrome, Audacity, Eclipse (if you’re a developer), Blender, VLC, and many others. Many netbooks now ship with Linux as the underlying OS. Open Source has gone from a rebel movement to part of the establishment, and when you combine increasing end user adoption with the massive amounts of FLOSS you find on the server side, it can be argued that it is the 800 pound Gorilla now.

As Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” When even Microsoft is releasing Open Source code, you know that you’re somewhere between the fight and win stages.

Bountiful Resources: 56K modems, 20MB hard drives, 640K of RAM, 2 MHz processors. You don’t have to go far back in time for all of these to represent the state of the art. Now, of course, you would have more than that in a good toaster…

Moore’s Law continues to drive technology innovation at a breakneck pace, and it seems that related technologies like storage capacity and bandwidth are trying to follow the same curve. Consider that AT&T users gripe about the iPhone’s 5GB/month bandwidth cap, a limit that would have taken 10 solid days of transferring to achieve with a dialup connection.

My iPhone has 3,200 times the storage of the first hard drive I ever owned, and the graphics card on my Mac Pro has 16,000 times the memory of my first computer. We can now do amazing things in the palm of our hands, things that would have seemed like science fiction in 1999.

The Worst

SOAP: The software industry has been trying to solve the problem of making different pieces of software talk to each other since the first time there were two programs on a network, and they still haven’t gotten it right. RPC, CORBA, EJB, and now SOAP now litter the graveyard of failed protocol stacks.

SOAP was a particularly egregious failure, because it was sold so heavily as the final solution to the interoperatibility problem. The catch, of course, was that no two vendors implemented the stack quite the same way, with the result that getting a .NET SOAP client to talk to a Java server could be a nightmare. Add in poorly spec’d out components such as web service security, and SOAP became useless in many cases. And the WSDL files that define SOAP endpoints are unreadable and impossible to generate by hand (well, not impossible, but unpleasant in the extreme.)

Is it any wonder that SOAP drove many developers into the waiting arms of more useable data exchange formats such as JSON?

Intellectual Property Wars: How much wasted energy has been spent this decade by one group of people trying to keep another group from doing something with their intellectual property, or property they claim was theirs? DMCA takedowns, Sony’s Rootkit debacle, the RIAA suing grandmothers, SCO, patent trolls, 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0, Kindles erasing books, deep packet inspection, Three Strikes laws, the list goes on and on and on…

At the end of the day, the movie industry just had their best year ever, Lady Gaga seems to be doing just fine and Miley Cyrus isn’t going hungry, and even the big players in the industry are getting fed up sufficiently with the Trolls to want patent reform. The iTunes store is selling a boatload of music, in spite of abandoning DRM, so clearly people will continue to pay for music, even if they can copy it from a friend.

Unfortunately, neither the RIAA nor the MPAA is going gently into that good night. If anything, the pressure to create onerous legislation has increased in the past year. Whether this is a last gasp or a retrenchment will only be answered in time.

The Cult of Scrum: If Agile is the teachings of Jesus, Scrum is every abuse ever perpetrated in his name. In many ways, Scrum as practiced in most companies today is the antithesis of Agile, a heavy, dogmatic methodology that blindly follows a checklist of “best practices” that some consultant convinced the management to follow.

Endless retrospectives and sprint planning sessions don’t mean squat if the stakeholders never attend them, and too many allegedly Agile projects end up looking a lot like Waterfall projects in the end. If companies won’t really buy into the idea that you can’t control all three variables at once, calling your process Agile won’t do anything but drive your engineers nuts.

The Workplace Becomes Ubiquitous: What’s the first thing you do when you get home at night? Check your work email? Or maybe you got a call before you even got home. The dark side of all that bandwidth and mobile technology we enjoy today is that you can never truly escape being available, at least until the last bar drops off your phone (or you shut the darn thing off!)

The line between the workplace and the rest of your life is rapidly disappearing. When you add in overseas outsourcing, you may find yourself responding to an email at 11 at night from your team in Bangalore. Work and leisure is blurring together into a gray mélange of existence. “Do you live to work, or work to live,” is becoming a meaningless question, because there’s no difference.

So what do you think? Anything we missed? Hate our choices? With us 100 percent? Let us know in the comments section below.