Sunday, November 2, 2008 : Hacked or Domain Expired?

Written by The Shit

Alright good folks, looks like some bad folks have gotten hold of Usually upon visiting the site you are thrown with some cool applications and softwares that you can make use of. But this is not the case this time around. When you visit the site this is what you see,

For a site that has 20,000 plus subscribers and is a home to couple writers, we seriously doubt they would let their domain expire. I mean, come on, domain registrars send you emails quite a few times before they actually take the domain away. If they let it expire then they have to be the dumbest folks around although they have some good solid content, not renewing their domain would make them the dumbest shit.

But as far as we are concerned, we would say has been Hacked! What do you think? Expired or Hacked?

Update #1: here is an image that shows that its not expired

Update #2 : Just confirmed that it has indeed been hacked. Here is a temporary blog where you can find information on whats going on with .

Original here

High-definition TV in three dimensions – and no glasses

A 3D television screen

Tucked away in the Sound and Vision department of Harrods is a 42in LCD television set. As a not-for-sale display model, it draws only the occasional glance from the tourists and Christmas shoppers packing the store. Despite its unexceptional looks, though, this item of hardware may offer the answer to that great unsolved problem of technology: three-dimensional television.

The LG True 3-D television is one of a new generation of screens that can create a 3-D image without the viewer having to wear irritating colour-filtering goggles. And unlike previous prototype 3-D televisions, which have been small and have provided only modest picture quality (because a lot of detail is lost in the process of adding apparent depth to 2-D images), it can be manufactured in conventional television sizes to provide pictures of impressive clarity.

Philips is also getting in on the 3-D act. Last week the Dutch company showcased a 56in Quad Full-HD screen, which it claims has a resolution four times higher than that of a conventional Full HD television. “Even allowing for the reduction in quality as a result of adding the 3-D effects, this screen still delivers footage in high definition,” said Bjorn Teuwsen of Philips 3D Solutions. Impressively, this would make it the first television screen to be both 3-D and HD.

Both the LG and the Philips prototypes achieve their 3-D effect through the use of transparent cylindrical lenses known as lenticules; according to those who have viewed both, the Philips makes far better use of that technology.

A sheet of tiny lenticules is fixed onto a high-resolution LCD display in such a way that each eye sees a slightly different view of each image pixel. The effect is akin to those 3-D plastic postcards that look a bit like a hologram if you view them at the correct angle. The underlying design for this was first conjured up by Sir Charles Wheatstone, a Victorian inventor, way back in 1840.

The results are impressive, but with one striking drawback: watching the screen can sometimes make you feel seasick. This is a perennial difficulty, explains Neil Dodgson, an expert on 3-D screens at Cambridge University. “Film-makers have traditionally tended to overdo 3-D effects in order to show off the technology,” he says. “If the two sets of muscles in your eyes [focus and orientation] are overworked as a result of keeping up with the 3-D, your brain receives conflicting signals and you begin to feel sick. You need to be a skilled film-maker to avoid giving your audience nausea.”

The big question is: assuming the public has an appetite for 3-D films, where will the content come from?

There are three principal sources. The first is footage originally created on a computer. “It’s fairly straightforward to make computer-animated 3-D content,” says Dodgson. And it’s no problem for advertisers to magic up 3-D footage of, say, a beer bottle that spookily seems to float towards you.

A 3-D version of the children’s computer-animated film Chicken Little enjoyed a successful run in 2005, although it was restricted to the few cinema screens equipped with the required 3-D digital projector. There are still only about 1,500 of them world-wide. Out in the UK next February is Bolt, a 3-D animated Disney film about a dog – voiced by John Travolta – that believes it has superpowers.

The process is more complicated when it comes to live-action films, though. Footage must be “shot in stereo, usually with cameras that have multiple lenses, to achieve the stereoscopic effects”, says Teuwsen, adding: “This gives an astonishing 3-D effect, no doubt about it, but the result is more suited to the cinema than the small screen.”

Few film-makers have so far embraced the idea of shooting with stereoscopic cameras, but the numbers are growing. Tim Burton is one director to give it a whirl: he is making a version of Alice in Wonderland in 3-D, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Another is James Cameron, the director of Terminator and Titanic. His next big movie, Avatar, was shot in stereo, and there are plans to release an accompanying 3-D game. As with all the 3-D cinema releases, an Avatar spin-off game would probably use the type of technology that requires you to wear 3-D glasses.

There is huge potential for the games industry in the technology. Plugged into a suitable games-playing PC, the new screens can create a convincing 3-D effect (most existing PC games are already 3-D-compatible).

Another area in which 3-D can add realism is sporting events. The NBA (National Basketball Association, which runs American basketball) is experimenting with filming basketball matches with stereo cameras.

The widest-ranging, most exciting source of future 3-D material, however, will be conventional 2-D films converted into a format that works on the new 3-D screens. This is eminently possible, according to experts. Ben Nicholls, a director of PPC, an advertising postproduction company based in London, says: “There’s no reason you couldn’t recreate Casablanca in 3-D, though it would be a challenge because the footage is complex. Having said that, the conversion technology is growing more powerful all the time.”

To be clear, this is not - at least for now - a matter of popping a regular DVD into a special 3-D disc player, then sitting back to savour Ingrid Bergman’s luscious pout as it looms towards you.

The conversion process is painstaking and requires powerful equipment and skilled technicians to reengineer the footage. “A good print of any classic film could be converted into 3-D if there was enough will to do so,” says Nicholls. This is because video captured on 35mm film stock is of such high quality that any loss of resolution should be unnoticeable on a relatively small screen. “If it’s done badly, the results can look a bit like cardboard cutouts,” he adds, “but if it’s done well it can give you a genuine taste of the 3-D movie experience without being in a cinema.”

One fly in the ointment will be the stiff cost of the first generation of commercial 3-D screens. Philips’s smaller, 42in screen costs around £5,000 and is not sold on the high street, as it’s intended for advertising display in shops, bars and showrooms. And when it goes on sale to trade customers in mid2009, the 56in Philips Quad Full-HD panel is expected to cost an eyewatering £9,000 (though we should remember that conventional flat-panel televisions also cost unfeasibly large sums just a few years ago).

In the meantime, if you’re in a bar watching a television and you notice a beer bottle floating toward you, you will at least know why. Either you’re witnessing the latest in TV technology, or it’s high time you went home.


Is it really possible to view 3-D footage without wearing the kind of cardboard glasses that make you look like Timmy Mallett? I was sceptical, knowing that 3-D technology had always relied on seeing a split picture through colour filters to give the illusion of depth, writes Emma Smith. So would this new optical trick produce the same effect?

Last week, at a special viewing of one of Philips’s new screens, I found out. As Pinocchio’s nose grew out further and further towards my own during a clip from the animated Disney film, it seemed unsettlingly real. A boxing match was rendered even more brutal as the 3-D effect appeared to put the viewer almost inside the ring, and when a leggy dancer high-kicked out of the screen, I had to stop myself ducking.

There’s one problem: move your head just slightly to one side and the 3-D effect can slip frustratingly out of focus. The viewer must sit in one of six zones - or “sweet spots”; move between zones and the effect blurs. For a fully fledged couch potato, that level of immobility might not be too taxing, but for a fidgety film-watcher like me it was distracting. (Philips says its new Quad Full-HD screen has bigger sweet spots, which should reduce the problem.)

Perhaps even more impressive is the ability to make computer games appear in three dimensions, so that in Lego Indiana Jones, for example, you get the sensation of travelling through the landscape, with Indy’s whip flicking dramatically off the screen.

By overdoing it, 3-D films have sometimes induced motion sickness. The trailer for Bolt, Disney’s new 3-D animation, gives an indication that the genre is coming of age: it avoids the temptation of making 3-D the main attraction and tumbling from one big effect to the next. Soon you find yourself simply taking it for granted and cooing over a cute hamster, so fluffy you want to reach out and stroke it.


How do we see in 3-D? Three-dimensional objects appear at a slightly different angle to each eye. The brain processes the two views, works out the difference between them and translates the information into a 3-D image.

What does a 3-D TV look like? Like a standard flatscreen television. However, it actually sends out not one but multiple views. As long as you’re sitting in one of several “sweet spots” within a 135-degree viewing angle, each eye will pick up a separate view. This effect mimics the angular differences produced by a three-dimensional object and fools the brain.

How is the effect achieved? There is a layer of convex lenses over the screen, each one scarcely bigger than the individual pixels that make up the panel. When a suitably processed signal passes through them, the lenses produce multiple sets of paired images aimed at up to six “sweet spots”. If you are within a sweet spot, the brain interprets the paired images as 3-D.

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Intel’s New Green Processor Offers $2 Billion In Energy Savings

Samsung's T*Omnia: all that and double the i900 Omni's resolution

by Thomas Ricker

Like the i900 Omnia, eh? We sure did. Well here's its prettier, smarter cousin tagged the T*Omnia. For the most part, it's the same quad-band, WinMo 6.1 candybar with 7.2Mbps HSDPA data, WiFi, GPS, 5 megapixel cam, and nifty TouchWiz UI we've seen for months. But this hometown Korean version bumps the display to a WVGA, 800 x 480 pixels (up from 400 x 240) while slapping in a DMB digital television tuner to ensure it's non-Stateside status for eternity... at least with this specific configuration. Perhaps Verizon would be so kind as to make use of that display?

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Espionage Brings “Tricksy” Folder Encryption to OS X

by Bob Rudis and 8 people

Despite being an avid OS X user, there are deficiencies in this great OS of ours and many of the ones I focus on center — unsurprisingly — around security.

In the plethora of accurate claims of superiority in Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads, one counter-example is the ability within Windows to encrypt individual folders. While Microsoft’s EFS is no panacea of security and usability, it does work and there has been no practical parallel yet within OS X. Until now.

A Twitter post early Thursday morning from the legendary Matt Gemmell quietly announced Espionage from Tao Effect software (Greg Slepak & John Ashenden). This $14.95 utility (for OS X 10.5+) uses some interesting tricks to bring folder-level encryption and/or privacy to your workstation. Read on to see what’s going on under the covers and to find out if Espionage is the right solution for you.

Encryption Choices on OS X

Without bringing in additional tools, such as TrueCrypt into the mix, Apple offers two ways to secure your information. The first is with FileVault (which has some security and usability issues of it’s own) where you can choose to encrypt your entire home folder — but only your home folder — to keep prying eyes away.

The second is to use Disk Utility to create an encrypted disk image and then mount that whenever you need to store or retrieve data. This is a cumbersome, but effective, process and is ultimately what FileVault is doing under the covers to work it’s magic.

If only there was a way to associate these secure disk images with folders and have the mounting be handled automatically…

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Normally, the inner- and inter-workings of an application are either too-intricate (e.g. Photoshop) or too mundane (e.g. TextEdit) to cover during an app-review. However, when it comes to security, very few details are insignificant and one of the prime uses of Espionage is to secure your data and control the access to it.

Espionage has two basic features, enabling general encrypted folders (using the same “trick” as FileVault) and providing a way to “lock” folders and require a password to access them.

It performs the latter through a kernel extension named “iSpy” that is installed upon first run of the application and can be seen by dropping into the Terminal and issuing the following command:

$ kextfind -case-insensitive -bundle-id -substring 'com.taoeffect.' -print

“Protected” folders show the typical “restricted access” icon when locked:

And prompt you for an access password (which you create when “securing” the folder):

Because it operates at such a low-level, this “protection” exists even when using command-line utilities to access files in the folder. That is, even attempting an “ls” from the Terminal will bring up the access prompt (provided you have not already unlocked the folder). This “protection” only works on the system the folder was “protected” on and requires the kernel extension to be running. If you disable/unload the extension or just boot in target disk mode, you will be able to access the data. The Tao Effect developers make no claims of security with this method of protection and even go out of their way to warn you.

But, What About Encrypted Folders?!

Ah, yes. The main reason you will want to use Espionage is to take advantage of the encrypted folders. As I have indicated, they use the same slight-of-hand that FileVault uses and create a hidden, encrypted sparse disk image that then is mounted and linked with the folder you specify. For existing folders, it creates this disk image, copies the files and folders from your target selection into the new disk image and sets up the linkage behind the scenes after deleting your old files. I should warn you that it did not do a secure delete of the “expenses” directory and I was able to find it and the contents therein in the “Trash”. This could easily be recovered and is a pretty serious oversight in an attempt to make your digital life more secure.

As part of the magic, you will see that there is a new folder in your “Volumes” directory (this is where all mounted disks get placed by default) where Espionage keeps mount points for all these sparse images.

And, you can also see just where Espionage stores these sparse disk images via the Terminal or through Disk Utility.

Since it is just a disk image “hack”, Espionage also provides a way to specify the default size and filesystem type:

So, What’s The Verdict?

Espionage does have some very interesting capabilities and I was impressed that the installer (which puts the kernel extension into place) includes full details as to what it is doing.

The application also includes other niceties such as support for Growl notifications and the ability to always enable or block application access to a particular folder under the watch of iSpy — and, you will need to make use this feature if you plan on utilizing any type of automated backup solution that will include that folder in the source path list.

However, due to the deficiencies with the way it initially creates encrypted folders and also some quirks during the operation – especially when performing multiple operations on the test “expenses” folder — I, personally, will have to continue to use my existing methods of securing data. As you saw from the FileVault screen capture, I do not use FileVault, but I do use secure disk images locally, on USB sticks, fileshares and when I am backing up sensitive data to my offsite provider. I also use TrueCrypt when I need to ensure my disks are fully protected.

I strongly suggest, however, that you do watch for future updates to Espionage as the developers will no doubt work the kinks out of this initial release and provide a very solid solution to fill the gap left by Apple. Since I am not aware of any features of Snow Leopard that will obsolete the functionality of Espionage, it should continue to fill this gap through the next release of Apple’s desktop operating system.

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The Pirate Bay Tops 20 Million Peers

By November 2007, The Pirate Bay was tracking around 6 million peers, up from ‘just’ 3 million the year before. The growth has been amazing, and it doesn’t seem that it is going to slow down anytime soon.

One of the reasons it was possible for the site to handle this record number of peers are the constant improvements on the software and hardware side. New servers are added regularly, budget permitting, and UDP trackers were added to all the torrents on the site, which are less resource consuming than TCP trackers.

Pirate Bay co founder Peter Sunde, who just returned from his trip to Malaysia, told TorrentFreak that they previously had a limit on the amount of peers they could track, but that this has increased with all the recent changes. “I wish we had lots and lots of money so we could just buy like 10 servers and another gigabit,” he mused.

At the current growth rate, The Pirate Bay may be tracking over 25 million peers by the end of the year. Peter himself is aiming for 24 million peers by Christmas eve. The Pirate Bay is not the only BitTorrent site that has been growing, other torrent sites isoHunt and Mininova are breaking visitor records every week.

The only downside to this news is, that The Pirate Bay is one of the few sites that operates a (public) tracker. With 50% of all BitTorrent users relying on a single tracker, things can get quite ugly when it goes down. The Pirate Bay encourages others to start their own tracker, using Opentracker for example. The more heads the Hydra has, the better.

Google turns on OCR for scanned PDFs

By David Chartier

Google has covered quite a lot of turf during the march toward its goal of making every last bit of the world's information searchable. But considering all the ground that has yet to be covered—especially in the realms of offline data and paper documents—we weren't surprised when Google began dabbling with OCR technologies over the last couple of years. Now, the search giant has officially launched its next attempt to handle some of this previously unsearchable content.

As announced on the Official Google Blog, the company is now performing optical character recognition (OCR) on documents that it indexes and identifies as scanned as PDFs. Google has indexed documents that were saved as text-based PDFs for quite some time. But many documents wind up being made into PDFs through scans, which store the text as images. Google has now decided that its open-source OCRopus technology, based on software called "Tesseract" that HP developed, is up to the task of indexing scanned documents that can contain any mixture of text, images, and coffee stains.

Google's servers no longer need to
be afraid of these warnings

We went hands-on with the first alpha of OCRopus in October 2007, and found it to be hit and miss. At the time of our hands-on, we found that OCRopus had trouble with non-sans-serif fonts and type set in smaller sizes. But Google has since set a few engineers on the task of updating Tesseract for the 21st century. The company is obviously confident that OCRopus now has the ability to index a whole new library of texts, papers, and medical journals that previously were locked tomes as far as Google's servers were concerned.

Google didn't return our request for comment in time for publication, so we don't know what percentage of Google's massive index OCRopus has already crawled through. Google provides a few examples of the benefits of indexing scanned PDFs, though, such as this search for "repairing aluminum wiring." The first result is a PDF from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission with that exact title; the scan has all the quintessential blurry and blotchy text that makes OCR a nightmare.

Google's "View as HTML" feature is quite useful for these documents, especially if you need to copy portions of them for notes. Notably missing from Google's native text views of scanned PDFs, however, are any of the images or diagrams included in the original document. Amusingly, though, any text that Google is able to parse out of images embedded in PDFs, such as diagrams or graphs, is also indexed and available in the HTML view.

While adding OCR to Google's indexing engine will certainly make more information searchable and accessible, Google may run into opposition from organizations or universities with scanned PDFs that were placed online specifically for humans, not machines. Google has undoubtedly stumbled across PDFs that include copyrighted material and personal information; it has now made those things much easier to find.

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Twitterers Stage Mock Martian Invasion a la 'War of the Worlds'

By Jenna Wortham

A spontaneous re-enactment of Orson Welles' 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast unfolded Friday on microblogging site Twitter.

Hundreds of tweets detailed a mock Martian invasion, with reports both panic-stricken and humorous.

"Smoking, smoldering hunks of buildings, cars and people lay strewn about," wrote one user, joshlewis. "The tripods have left the Warehouse District in ruins."

Another, iancanfield, wrote: "The freeways are packed! I've heard from a few stuck on 252 and 94, they are sitting ducks."

Since the site made headlines at South by Southwest in 2007, Twitter has been used to comment on national events and disseminate crucial information quickly during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and earthquakes. A team of NASA scientists even adopted the service to blast space-loving geeks with updates on the Mars Phoenix rover's progress.

However, it appears this is the first time the service has been used for mass fiction. The mock Twittering appears to be spontaneous: Twitterers are chipping in as the idea spreads across the network.

Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles' legendary radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds," an adaptation of the H.G. Wells science fiction novel.

Welles' hour-long faux newscast sparked a nationwide panic when it aired Oct. 30, 1938, causing many Americans to believe an actual Martian invasion was under way.

To distinguish the apocalyptic messages from the rest of the updates flowing through the site -- and to prevent igniting the kind of confusion and panic caused by Welles' historic broadcast -- participants are adding the tag "#wotw2" to the ends of their fictional accounts.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said fictional, multi-user gags like Friday's "War of the Worlds" blitz are a natural evolution, given the microblogging site's instantaneous, real-time format.

"I'm impressed by the level of creativity that continues to emerge from such a simple service," said Stone in an e-mail. "Even when they are only allowed 140 characters, people find interesting, helpful and playful ways to communicate. This spontaneous game behavior is not dissimilar from the way folks tend to check in and self-organize during shared events like disasters, festivals and the recent presidential debates."

Other Twitterers contributed more colorful tidbits. Dielaughing posted: "Getting my herpes ready to infect the aliens."

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Sixteen Great Twitter Moments

Being a Twitter user (@dspark) for some time now, I like many others have become evangelical about the micro-blogging tool.

I believe what makes Twitter so valuable are these moments of connectivity that simply aren’t possible through any other communications tool. I’ve had these “Twitter moments” and I set out to discover “Twitter moments” from others as well. What all the following stories have in common is a Twitter user had a question or a concern, and someone (or many people) responded. Twitter was the connective tissue that made that moment happen in a time of need.

I’ll begin with a Twitter moment of my own that inspired me to write this article. Read on for fifteen more and make sure you make it to the end. The last one is my favorite.

Save $150 on a computer

While shopping for an HP computer online, I, David Spark found a coupon code that saved me $200. So happy about my last minute savings, I tweeted it. A follower (@drapps) tweeted back offering up a better coupon code that would have saved me $350. I cancelled my original order and ordered the computer again for the additional $150 in savings.

Get a journalist to write about your business when he wants to hear your pitch

Rafe Needleman (@rafe) of CNET tweeted that he would be attending the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC and that he’d be interested in meeting startups. Sachin Agarwal (@sachinag) of (@dawdledotcom) was listening and approached Needleman based on that tweet. Agarwal got a one hour sit down, and Needleman wrote a great overview of his business.

Get DirecTV to install your satellite in three days instead of three weeks

Three weeks was the earliest Jessica Gottlieb (@JessicaGottlieb) could hope to get her new HD DirecTV dish installed. Her husband was not happy about missing that much of the football season. Hoping for a sooner install time, Jessica called back…four times. No dice. Three weeks was the earliest they could do. Annoyed, Jessica broadcasted her frustration on Twitter and DirecTV (@DirecTV) caught it and responded. Within three days Jessica had a senior supervisor installer in her home installing the dish. While DirecTV didn’t respond to her private call, they did respond to her public tweet.

Pull a PR stunt on a journalist

Marketing rep Ashley Skiles (@ashleyskiles) has been following a medical reporter at the Atlanta Business Chronicle for one of her clients, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a fund dedicated to fighting breast cancer. One night the reporter tweeted there was a run on milkshakes at Chick-fil-a, a popular restaurant chain in the southern U.S. Next morning, Ashley ran to Chick-fil-a, picked up a milkshake for the reporter and left it at his office along with a press release from her client. She didn’t get any press (until now), but she did get the attention of the journalist.

Track a hurricane from the eye of the storm without any power

The night of the Hurricane Ike, Roshelle Gaskins (@Galvestonguru) of Galveston, Texas lost power, cutting her off from both TV and Internet news. That didn’t matter since most of the media was also forced to stay inside due to the 12 foot storm surge. Luckily Roshelle had her BlackBerry, and those Twitterers stuck in the eye of the storm (@Nickcognito, @Leighjones, and @KXAN_News) kept her up to date on the storm’s progress.

Help your family stuck in a tornado 1400 miles away

On May 25th, Britt Reints (@missbritt), a resident of Florida, got a frantic call from a friend in her hometown of Parkersburg, Iowa: “A tornado just hit Parkersburg. Houses are gone. Find your family.” Frantically, she tried to call her parents via landline and cell, but couldn’t get through. The Weather Channel had nothing. Local news sites had yet to be updated. Britt had no idea what was going on, nor did she know where her family was.

Using a Twitter locator site (she doesn’t remember which) Britt searched for users within a certain mile radius of Parkersburg and started following them. Their Tweets informed Britt as to what had happened and where the tornado went. Luckily it bypassed her parents and grandparents. When she finally spoke to her family on the phone they were still in the dark as they had no TV, radio, or Internet access. Britt and her husband made the 24 hour drive to Parkersburg. While on the road she stayed connected to Twitter, and relayed the Tweeted FEMA and Red Cross information to her family via phone.

Raise funds for a trip

Podcaster Tabitha Grace Smith (@tabz) wanted one of her UK-based writers of her radio drama to come to the U.S. to attend the science fiction and fantasy conference, DragonCon. Unfortunately, her UK-based writer had no money to come. Tabitha reached out to her listeners via Twitter and asked if they’d be willing to take up a collection. Quickly, six listeners coughed up a total of $600 using ChipIn and brought Tabitha’s writer to the States and the conference.

Convert subscribers through Twitter, not email newsletters

Paulette Ensign (@pauletteensign) had two slots left to fill for Circle of Experts, a booklet providing tips to women moving on after a divorce. Looking to quickly fill those last two slots, she sent out a tweet. Within minutes an expert responded, signed up, and provided his contribution to the booklet. That same expert is also a subscriber to her monthly ezine which always has information about the Circle of Experts service. While the expert never responded to her newsletter, he did see Paulette’s tweet and responded to that.

Monitor and stop robo calls quickly during the election season

Shaun Dakin (@EndTheRoboCalls) runs the National Political Do Not Contact Registry. While political robo calls to phone numbers on the Federal Do Not Call list are okay, robo calls to phone numbers on California’s Do Not Call List of any sort, even political, are illegal. When Shaun’s organization gets a complaint about a robo call, he quickly scans Twitter to see if anyone else has complained about the same call. If so, he follows up via blog, email, and phone for more details and then contacts the offending campaign directly and asks them to stop.

Shaun used Twitter this week to quickly track down and stop Zane Starkewolf, a Green Republican candidate for CA-1, for his odd and silly pornographic calls slamming his competitor, Mike Thompson. Because of Shaun’s quick action, the story was picked up by multiple news sources (e.g. Wired, Huffington Post, MSNBC, and CBS).

Save 20% on your favorite beauty products

Latoicha Givens (@luxetips) mentioned on Twitter how much she loves Ulta Beauty products. Immediately after her tweet she received an email from Ulta’s assistant merchandising manager thanking her for her good words and gave Latoicha and many of her friends 20 percent off discount coupons.

Uncover the truth about a rumor

John Hawbaker (@jehawbaker) runs Chattarati (@chattarati), a Chattanooga-centric local news blog. After hurricane Ike, rumors started spreading that gas was going to jump up to $5 per gallon the next day. In hours, people reacted with fear and gas stations were clogged with long lines. John reached out to his Twitter community to uncover the origin of the rumor, and discovered it came from two misinformed local radio stations. Quickly he posted the facts on his blog and stopped the panic.

Find cowboy boots in Canada

For business and formal wear, cowboy boots are Dan York’s (@danyork) trademark. Unfortunately he left them at home on a business trip up to Ottawa, Canada. He could have called around to find a place, but the battery on his BlackBerry was almost drained. With what battery power he had left, he sent a tweet asking where in Ottawa he could go for cowboy boots. Dan turned off his phone and then checked back in 15 minute intervals. He got responses and advice from followers in Germany, New Jersey, Vermont, and Alberta, Canada. Collectively, they steered him to a pair of boots from Boulet that he still has today and loves.

911 is a joke. Twitter isn’t

Andrew Warner (@andrewwarner) was stuck late at night with his bicycle on the side of the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Los Angeles. Andrew called a cab and 911 and neither would pick him up. Alone, he Twittered his dilemma and a Twitter friend (@KenFeldman) offered to pick him up. Others not in the neighborhood kept him company by Tweeting. While he wanted to take Ken up on his offer, Andrew’s girlfriend eventually was able to pick him up.

Get free tickets to Cirque du Soleil

While at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas, blogger Dave Taylor (@DaveTaylor) twittered that he was interested in going to a Cirque du Soleil show. In minutes a private tweet from Cirque marketing came in asking him which show he wanted to attend. “The Beatles: LOVE, Saturday evening” was his response. The marketing agent comp’ed him two VIP tickets to the show. When he returned home, he wrote a review of the show on his blog, and the marketing rep shared the story with the entire Cirque team.

Conduct focus group research with instant results and at no cost

With close to 3,000 followers, Jason Falls (@JasonFalls) uses his base as a personalized focus group. He works as a social media director for Doe-Anderson, a branding agency in Louisville, KY. Jason is always testing the waters for new opportunities. To see how people felt about advertising on Twitter, Jason announced that he was going to sell his 2,000th tweet for $5. Responsive to the opportunity, his followers debated the issue, Jason collected his research, and Michael Schnuerle (@metromapper) purchased Jason’s 2,000th tweet.

Suss out someone’s dating potential

Andrea (real name and Twitter ID withheld) went out on a first date with a guy. The date went well, and they talked about going out again. During the evening Andrea’s date mentioned he was on Twitter, as is Andrea. The next day Andrea looked the guy up on Twitter to send him a message that she had fun last night. But before she did, she discovered her date was Twittering nasty things about her every time she went to the bar or the bathroom. Ouch. And yes, Andrea didn’t go out with him again.

Have a Twitter moment of your own? Let us know. And for those of you who have friends you’ve been trying to get on Twitter, and they still don’t get it, please just send them this post.

David Spark (@dspark) is a veteran tech journalist and the founder of Spark Media Solutions, a storytelling production company. Read more of Spark at his blog Spark Minute or listen and subscribe to his “Be the Voice” blog and podcast.

Imagery provided by iStockPhoto/adamKaz

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London's new bomb-proof trash cans will survive the apocalypse, keep you updated on stock prices

by Laura June

London will be the first city to test out new bomb-proof garbage cans, which are also going to multitask as recycling bins with LCDs that stream travel info and news. Security concerns (AKA fear of terrorists dropping bombs in them) have kept rubbish bins out of subway stations and many of the city's streets since the mid-80's, causing frustration among citizens, not to mention what amounts to forced littering. The new cans, developed by British company Media Metrica, weigh one ton each, and were tested in the lifeless deserts of New Mexico for five years to ensure they are completely, totally indestructible, can absorb heat from explosives, prevent shrapnel spread, and extinguish "fireballs." Eh. Put 'em in New York City -- someone will surely figure out how to utterly destroy them in 24 hours or less.

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Elgan: Why netbooks will soon cost $99

By Mike Elgan

October 31, 2008 (Computerworld) Subnotebooks like the Asus Eee PC, the Dell Mini 9 and the HP 2133 Mini-Note will soon cost as little as $99. The catch? You'll need to commit to a two-year mobile broadband contract. The low cost will come courtesy of a subsidy identical to the one you already get with your cell phone.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that HP is already talking to carriers about such an arrangement but didn't say which carriers. And you can bet that if HP is talking to carriers, so are the likes of Dell and Asus.

It's likely that HP is talking to AT&T, which has already inked a deal with Lenovo and Ericsson to sell full-size ThinkPads at a $150 discount if customers sign up for a two-year contract. That discount brings the price of a ThinkPad with Ericsson built-in mobile broadband modules down to essentially the same price as one without that capability.

The ThinkPads in question are not netbooks. But the deal shows in concrete terms what a mobile broadband contract is worth to the industry: $150. If you were to apply that figure against the total price of the cheapest netbooks today -- which are about $300 -- you can assume that under existing circumstances, a subsidized netbook would cost you out of pocket about $150.

AT&T also announced a major strategic shift a couple of weeks ago that should result in AT&T stores selling nonphone gadgets that can take advantage of mobile broadband, including netbooks. In other words, the cell phone sales model, where hardware is steeply discounted to encourage wireless contract commitments, is going to be applied by AT&T to devices that are not cell phones.

While AT&T leads the U.S. market in pushing for subsidized notebook deals and also at least talking about mobile broadband netbooks that may be sold like cell phones, the carrier's competitors have their own special incentive to get on the subsidized netbook bandwagon.

AT&T holds a monopoly on Apple iPhone sales in the U.S. According to comScore, low income and cheapskate buyers are starting to use iPhones as replacements or substitutes for netbook, notebook and even desktop PCs. The report says iPhone sales for this purpose are "the strongest part of the iPhone's growth since July."

What that tells me is that a very large number of people are increasingly looking to buy a single device -- or, at least, subscribe to a single wireless account -- for all their computing and communications needs, and at the lowest possible price.

One way other carriers can compete with AT&T for these contracts is to offer very low-cost netbooks outfitted with VoIP capability or, more likely, cell phone/netbook combo deals where for, say, $200 you get a cell phone, an Asus Eee PC and a wireless contract that covers both devices.

The idea of subsidizing laptops and netbooks isn't new. Such subsidies are common outside the U.S. In Taiwan, you can buy an Asus Eee PC for $29 with a two-year contract from carrier Far EasTone. And in the U.K., free laptops have been used for more than a year as an enticement to sign up for mobile broadband contracts.

The U.S. has long resisted this model. But I think this is about to change because of seven recent trends:

The economy will squeeze carriers. Budgets are tight. Credit has dried up. Layoffs are already happening. The economy is shrinking. Naturally, consumers will start looking for ways to reduce costs. One of the most accessible areas to cut is cell phone bills. Millions
  1. of people will downgrade their wireless plans over the next year, which will squeeze carriers and panic them into hunting for revenue alternatives.
  2. Cell phone sales are crashing. IDC reported this week that cell 0phone handset sales have fallen because of the economy. For carriers, that means fewer upgrades to costlier plans and fewer new customers walking in the door.
  3. Notebook sales are rising. For the first time in the history of the PC industry, notebook sales have officially exceeded desktop PC sales. IDC reports that notebook sales accounted for a whopping 55.2% of all PC sales in the quarter that ended in September. And the fastest-growing segment of notebooks is netbooks.
  4. The netbook market is overcrowded. A year ago, it was all about the Asus Eee PC. Because of its initial and surprising success, everyone has jumped into the market in the past year. Lenovo, Dell and HP already have products in the market. Fujitsu, Packard Bell, LG, Toshiba, Samsung, Sharp and others will add their offerings soon. With margins already very thin and vendors looking for ways to differentiate, you can bet that companies will become very cooperative in working with carriers to make subsidized deals a reality.
  5. The "subnotebook" has been reconceptualized as a "netbook." Notice how the word "subnotebook" has been dumped in favor of "netbook"? It's not just semantics. The industry wants to tie tiny laptops to mobile broadband in the minds of buyers.
  6. Mobile broadband is disappointing. Apple iPhone users who upgraded from the old-and-busted iPhone to the new hotness iPhone 3G have expressed disappointment in the 3G experience. The same is true for mobile broadband users of all kinds. As the reality dawns that 3G is nice, but not as nice as people hoped, subsidized netbooks will sweeten the proposition.
  7. Moore's Law. The price of mini electronics, including the price of screens, processors and, most importantly, solid-state flash storage will keep coming down. And as those prices drop, the cost for carriers to subsidize these devices drops as well.

The age of the subsidized netbook is almost upon us. The next major milestone -- and the one that will bring customers in by the millions -- is to get netbooks down to the magic $99 price point. All the stars are aligned. All that remains to be done is for netbook makers and carriers to embrace the inevitable.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. He blogs about the technology needs, desires and successes of mobile warriors in his Computerworld blog, The World Is My Office. Contact Mike at or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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