Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top 5 Favorite Bookmarklets

By Scott Loganbill

Bookmarklets are the JavaScript-enabled links you can pull into your bookmarks that interact with whatever page you find yourself on. The best bookmarklets act as you would typically expect a toolbar to, by extending your browsing experience. However, since they’re written in JavaScript, they all by working within the browser and without requiring installation.

Here are 5 highly recommended bookmarklets you can drag to your browser’s toolbar or to your bookmarks to extend your browsing experience.

  • Note in Reader — Google Reader’s main function is to digest your favorite blog’s RSS feeds. However, its ’share’ and ’share with notes’ features have made the service far more useful on a social level. What do you do if you run across a site you want to ’share’ with your friends, but don’t want to sign up for its RSS feed to do it? Google’s bookmarklet lets you do that. Even better, the whole thing pops up in a cool in-page pop-up so you don’t have to disrupt your surfing.
  • Share on FriendFeed — I include FriendFeed’s bookmarklet for the same reason I include Google Reader. However, for sites like Twitter, Facebook and even Google Reader (through RSS), FriendFeed lets you consolidate all your updates and notify them equally. So if you prefer not to use Facebook or Twitter, you can sign up for FriendFeed and update all of these accounts at the same time anyway.
  • TwitterKeys — Sometimes, it’s hard to remember how to find that emoticon that expresses the exact mood you’re feeling. TwitterKeys pops up a list of useful zingbat-like icons you can embed in your Twitter messages. It’s even more useful than that since the little icons are based on a font most everyone has installed on their machines, so you can embed these quirky emoticons in any message you’d like — not just Twitter.
  • Edit Current Page — This little bookmarklet is based on a HTML 5/JavaScript element that lets you change the text of any HTML page like you would a text document. Sure, it’s fun for practical jokes, but if you’re like me, you’ll want to use it to hide the personal data in websites for screenshots for presentations or blog posts. Because it is based on HTML 5, it only works in the latest versions of Firefox, Safari and Opera support the contentEditable JavaScript function.
  • — The service will automatically shorten the URL of the page you are on in a nice embedded pop-up so you don’t have to leave the page or use copy and paste any more than you have to.
  • Firebug Lite — Sometimes you feel like Firebug, sometimes you just want to know how wide a picture is without diving into the nuts and bolts. This is where XRay and Firebug Lite come in. These offer JavaScript bug tracking versions of the Firebug add-on. Since the bookmarklet is based on JavaScript, it works in any browser.

Granted, your list may differ. Your favorites may depend on which services you use the most., for example, offers a bookmarklet users of should find useful. We can’t cover them all; There are a lot of Bookmarklets not included in this list. Let us know your favorites in the comments.

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Colombia tests OLPC laptops... running Windows XP

By Ryan Paul

The government of Colombia has established a deal to bring the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project's distinctive XO laptop to the country for a pilot program that will involve schools in several towns. These laptops won't be packing the penguin, however, because they will come with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system preinstalled.

OLPC is a nonprofit organization that originally emerged from MIT's Media Lab, and it produces low-cost Linux-based education laptops that are sold in bulk to the governments of developing countries. The project has suffered some serious setbacks and has largely been eclipsed by Intel's competing Classmate PC initiative.

As part of an effort to recover and change direction, OLPC decided earlier this year to collaborate with Microsoft so that the company could make Windows available on the XO as an option for governments. This was a highly controversial decision and it alienated some of the project's key contributors and most ardent supporters within the Linux community.

Colombia has now become the second country to launch a pilot program for Windows-based XO systems. (The first was Peru, which announced its own plans back in September.) The government of Colombia has decided to deploy the little laptops in the towns of Quetame and Chia. Quetame has seen particularly rough times this past year and suffered serious damage when it was ravaged by the El Calvario earthquake in May.

No big deal?

The exact nature of OLPC's plans for Windows is a subject of heated debate. OLPC chief Nicholas Negroponte says that the goal is to eventually bring dual-boot support to the laptops so that they can be shipped with both operating systems. He also says that OLPC plans to develop a Windows port of the organization's Linux-based Sugar user interface environment. This claim is disputed by OLPC's former security director who has said that Negroponte is lying and that OLPC plans to eventually ship plain Windows-based XOs without Sugar.

A new voice to weigh in on the issue is Greg DeKoenigsberg, Red Hat's community relations manager. He has been closely involved with the development of OLPC's Linux platform, which is built on top of Red Hat's Linux distribution. According to DeKoenigsberg, the significance of the Colombia pilot program has been overstated and OLPC is not directly involved with it.

"Microsoft committed to purchase 10,000 [XO] machines in May, customized to run Windows. They're free to do whatever they want with those machines. For instance: if Microsoft wants to run a pilot of unspecified size in two towns, and turn that pilot into a huge PR event... they are perfectly free to do that," he wrote in a blog entry.

"The reason these 10,000 systems had to be customized? Simple: Windows can't even boot on open firmware. Can't even boot! Which means that the other 990,000 XO (or so) systems in the wild CANNOT EVEN RUN WINDOWS with the firmware installed on them. OLPC builds XOs with Linux. OLPC will continue to build XOs with Linux. OLPC has no plans to change this. None."

DeKoenigsberg hopes to dispel the perception that OLPC has been commandeered by Microsoft or has shifted away from its open source roots to accommodate the software giant. Although OLPC has officially affirmed this on numerous occasions, we have also seen some contradictory evidence from Negroponte.

Negroponte has played up OLPC's collaboration with Microsoft in the past, saying that the XO's SD slot was added specifically to accommodate Windows. He also drew fire from critics earlier this year when he claimed that one goal of OLPC's major reorganization effort was to make the operation run "more like Microsoft," a statement that many participants viewed as being antithetical to OLPC's original values.

Despite all of the problems and controversy, OLPC does appear to be learning from some of its past mistakes. The Give 1 Get 1 program this year looks like it could be a lot more successful than the previous attempt. The original G1G1 program was launched last year to make XO laptops available for purchase in North America through a donation program that helped make free XO units available to students in developing countries. Although the concept was very good, the program failed miserably due to delays, shortages, and serious shipping problems.

OLPC has learned its lesson and has partnered with Amazon to sell the laptops this year. The latest news is that G1G1 will also be available in Europe and not just North America, a change that will open the program to many more prospective buyers.

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Take this Linux: Windows Boot Sequence Visualized

I've seen a cool visualization of the Linux boot sequence today. To those who haven't seen it yet, here's the image:

According to Perry Hung, the creator:

This is a visualization I made for funsies of a linux boot sequence where each function is a node and each edge represents a function call, direct branch, or indirect branch. Nodes are laid out using an unweighted force-directed layout algorithm, where each node is simulated as if it were electrically repulsive and had springs between nodes.

The little "lobe" on the left is made up the interrupt processing routines (irq vectors, irq_svc, etc). The tail at the top is the bootloader. The main thing in the middle is the linux boot sequence.

The entire graph represents a call chain from the bootloader up until it jumps into userspace to a shell prompt...

A while ago, I received an email from someone named Jason. He attached an image file that he described as "a visualization of the Windows boot sequence". So, I thought this might be a direct response to the "Linux boot sequence visualization" from a guy who obviously loves Windows. Until I saw the attachment from his email:

He didn't leave further description so I guess it is up to us to interpret his work of art :-)

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The Pirate Bay Sees Traffic and Peers Surge

Written by Ernesto

Only a few days before the largest BitTorrent tracker will celebrate its 5th anniversary, the Pirate Bay reached a new milestone. The site now tracks 25 million peers, which is more than the entire populations of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark combined.

pirate bayWhen The Pirate Bay was founded, November 2003, it was a site targeted at the Swedish population. This soon changed however, when the founders found out that most visitors came from outside Sweden, or even Scandinavia.

In the years to come, The Pirate Bay established itself as the largest BitTorrent tracker on the Internet. Recently, the number of peers that use the tracker at any given point in time grew larger than the entire population of Scandinavia. In fact, over the past 12 months, the number of peers more than tripled, to 25 million.

At the time of publication, The Pirate Bay tracks 25.064.271 peers, divided over close to 1.856.243 torrent files. Quite an accomplishment when you consider that it is not even 2 months ago since they the 15 million mark. Coincidentally, the server that tracks the statistics crashed due to a hard drive failure, right around the time they reached the new milestone.

We asked Peter Sunde, co-founder of the site, how this huge surge can be explained, and whether the traffic to the site is also increasing. “I think it’s because of the new updates to the software and recent additions in hardware,” Peter told TorrentFreak. “We’re putting up new trackers all the time to cope with the traffic increase. And yes, the traffic to the site is also increasing. New visitor records every week.”

In an attempt to make their “torrent tracking” record official, The Pirate Bay applied for an entry in the Guinness book of world records last week. A record that they will probably break themselves every weekend. It is estimated that The Pirate Bay tracks 50% of all public torrents, which means that they are responsible for a significant part of the total Internet traffic.

“It’s just weird,” says Peter in response to these mind boggling statistics. “It’s cool to do something that big, but it’s scary that it’s so few people managing that of a big system. PLEASE, people, start more trackers! Put them out there, have open systems! We need the diversity.”

It might indeed be a good idea to spread the load a bit. There are plenty of private trackers, but good and reliable open trackers remain scarce. Meanwhile, The Pirate Bay will continue to update their hardware, and tweak their software, while working on side-projects such as the recently updated email service Slopsbox.

Hollywood will probably not be too happy when they hear that the Swedish deviant has broken yet another record, but Peter and the other Pirate Bay founders couldn’t care less what they think. Peter has a message for them though: “Stop hating the future. Be smart and come over from the dark side.”

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Toyota Claims Ownership of Fan Wallpapers

Written by Ben Jones

Motoring giant Toyota is normally ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. The company is known for innovations like the Synergy Drive in the Prius, as well as long term reliability. However, if you take pride in your Toyota, and have it as a wallpaper on your system, Toyota doesn’t want you sharing.

toyotaToyota, one of the biggest car companies in the world, is often a name synonymous with quality. There is even a philosophy of doing business, called “The Toyota Way”, which emphasizes that the right result will come from the right process, and that solving the root problems brings the organization the greatest benefit.

This ‘Way’ is probably not communicated to its lawyers in great detail, which is why Desktopnexus, a site that provides desktop backgrounds, has been contacted by them. In perhaps one of the most wildly arrogant demands in DMCA history, Toyota’s lawyers are demanding the withdrawal of all wallpapers that feature a Toyota, Scion, or Lexus. The site’s owner, Harry Maugans contacted Toyota to clarify. He was told that all images featuring Toyota vehicles should be removed, even images with copyright belonging to others.

Speaking to TorrentFreak, Maugans said: “Their lawyer, Garrett Biggs, told us that if we wanted them to specifically identify their images, we would have to pay for them to do so”. Maugans also said he was afraid it would come to a lawsuit, fearing the attrition effect that is so common now in copyright disputes. Toyota, with cash assets of over $23Billion can surely afford to spin out the legal costs in an attempt to bankrupt the site – the same strategy that is often used to ‘encourage‘ a settlement in RIAA cases.

Yet, Toyota has also been cagey. These demands have not been sent in the form of a DMCA notice. While sending such a notice would require the takedown, it also requires that the person sending the notice legally certify that they are legal representatives for the copyright holders at issue. Making a false statement is ‘punishable under penalty of perjury‘, which is not taken lightly in US courts.

That copyright holders should be properly identified is also not lost on Mr. Maugans. “What if Toyota comes back and says “yes, we own the copyright to all of those [Toyota images on site]“. How can we know if they’re lying to get us to take them all down? How can we prove they do in fact own the copyrights on those wallpapers? Some are very hard to believe, such as this which looks more like Fan Art than a professionally designed marketing photo. Or this one which they’re claiming they own, but it has a “Created by:” line at the bottom by someone who doesn’t seem to have any connection to the actual Toyota company.”

The ‘huh what?’ value of Toyota’s position has been noticed by others as well. On the FreeCulture News site, one comment questions the action saying “What are they trying to accomplish by attacking free advertising?” Indeed, this is what it comes down to. Instead of embracing free advertising and word of mouth, Toyota seems desperate to control and micromanage every aspect of it’s publicity.

At the end of the day, the best question is that asked by Mr Maugans, “Has DMCA abuse really gotten this bad?”

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USB 3.0 to Deliver a Tenfold Speed Increase


Tighten your seat belts. Data transfer is going into overdrive as the ubiquitous Universal Serial Bus, better known as USB, prepares to make a tenfold jump in speed.

That means the vast sea of USB devices -- from HD camcorders to hard drives and music players -- will be able to transfer music, video, photos and other data much, much more quickly.

The new standard, the first update to the USB specification in eight years, will also deliver greater power efficiency and the ability to recharge a wider variety of gadgets -- and it will most likely mean the death of the competing standard known as FireWire.

To get a sense of the speed increase, consider this: Transferring high-definition video of 27 GB, the amount on a standard Blu-Ray disc, takes about 10 minutes with the current USB 2.0 standard. With USB 3.0, it will take just about a minute.

"What the user will see is really a much faster response time, less waiting, more productivity," says Patrick Moorhead, vice president of advanced marketing at AMD, one of the supporters of the USB 3.0 standard.

The USB Implementers Forum, a non-profit group founded by companies to promote the standard, will announce Monday the final set of specs that will clear the way for the adoption of USB 3.0 by device and component manufacturers. It's the first major update to USB technology in nearly eight years.

"USB 3.0 will take USB 2.0 to the next level and take away performance as an issue for data transfer in many devices," says Brian O'Rourke, an analyst with research firm In-Stat. "USB 3.0 will make it even more pervasive across devices than it is today."

Since the USB specification was first introduced in 1996, it has changed the way we interact with our computers. USB has allowed everything from keyboards, mouse, PDAs, printers, digital cameras and personal media players -- pretty much the entire spectrum of consumer electronics -- to be connected to a host PC using a single standardized socket.

It has also made the process truly plug-and-play. Devices can be connected and disconnected without having to reboot the host computer and offered perks such as allowing for many devices to be charged using the USB socket with no need for individual device drivers to be installed first.

Not surprisingly, USB's ease of use and capabilities has meant it has become nearly ubiquitous. More than 2.6 billion USB-enabled devices were shipped in 2007, estimates research firm In-Stat.

And USB's star will continue to rise, says the firm. Nearly four billion USB-enabled devices are expected to ship by 2012. Its ubiquity has meant that some manufacturers use USB ports and plug for recharging devices such as bluetooth headsets and phones without utilizing its data-transfer capabilities.

But USB 2.0 is getting a bit long in the tooth, with its slow speed, inefficient power usage and relatively small wattage. The new standard takes aim at all of those shortcomings.

Pour on the Speed

At a glance:USB 3.0
Faster: Ten times faster than USB 2.0 and six times faster than FireWire 800

Greater power efficiency: New interrupt driven protocol optimizes power management.

Better Power Output: Power output bump to 900 milliamps from 100 milliamps allows more devices to be charged faster via USB.

Backward Compatible: New Connectors and cables will work with work with devices running the older USB 2.0

The new spec will support data transfers at 4.8 gigabits per second (Gbps), nearly ten times faster than the current standard's 480 megabits per second and six times faster than FireWire 800. It's also 400 times faster than the 12Mbps offered by the original spec, USB 1.0.

USB 2.0 is also known as "Hi Speed USB," while USB 3.0 will have the confusingly similar moniker "SuperSpeed USB."

The new USB 3.0 connectors and devices will be compatible with older USB ports (on devices using USB 2.0 and 1.0) but they will be limited to the older ports' slower speeds.

The first USB 3.0 devices probably won't show up until the end of 2009 or early 2010, say analysts. But users can get a glimpse into future devices sporting SuperSpeed USB as early as the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"The first places that you will see this show up is where you get the biggest benefits---HD video cameras and hard drives," says Moorhead.

Power and Efficiency

USB 2.0 uses a polling based architecture, which means the host computer has to constantly check the bus to see if any devices are attached and if so, whether they are doing anything. As a result, that keeps the host computer busy, drawing power even when it's not needed.

"It's a problem when you attach a USB device to a laptop running on battery," says Steve Kleynhans, vice-president, client computing for research firm Gartner.

USB 3.0 offers better specifications for power management. "We will move to an interrupt-driven architecture where your PC can ignore the connected device till the latter actually does something," says Kleynhans. "That can really lower the power consumption."

It also has better power output, 900 milliamps compared to 100 milliamps with USB 2.0. That means up to four devices can be charged from a single USB port and charged faster.

Standardizing the specifications for USB 3.0 hasn't been easy. Two months ago, Intel released part of the draft specifications for USB 3.0 to developers resolving a dispute between it, Nvidia and AMD over it.

Nvidia and AMD claimed that Intel was not sharing the specifications that potentially compete with it. Intel denied it.

"There was some debate between us," says Moorhead, "but we have buried the hatchet and we are all in the same boat now."

USB Implementers Forum chairman Jeff Ravencraft declined to be available for comment.

While USB 3.0 devices are coming soon, consumers won't immediately see all the benefits. "You can get the USB 3.0 speeds only when one 3.0 device connects to another," says Gartner's Kleynhans. So the latest SuperSpeed USB-enabled devices connecting to older PCs running USB 2.0 or lower will experience data transfer rates that are much slower.

Killing FireWire

USB 3.0 is likely to signal the death of FireWire/IEEE 1394, a competing interface standard also known as i.Link and Lynx. Today, the industry is bifurcated between IEEE 1394 and USB 2.0. Many devices support both, though a single standard would be optimal.

"If we are all aligned, we are saving money and development time for the industry," says Moorhead.

With Apple seemingly taking step away from FireWire, it seems like USB could gain the upper hand. Apple's newly introduced MacBook computers lack a FireWire port and instead has USB. MacBook Pro still sports FireWire 800.

That leaves Sony as one of the few remaining proponents of the standard.

"FireWire stably declining in most markets and USB 3.0 will continue that trend," says O'Rourke. "We could see USB emerge as the standardization of a high-speed interconnect."

Monday's first USB 3.0 developer conference will be a big step towards that, say experts. "It's for everyone in the USB value chain, from chip makers to software makers to learn the new USB standard and get on it," says O'Rourke.

Photo: (Teo/Flickr)

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RED's Digital Still and Motion Camera System now official

by Thomas Ricker

After a morning of drip-fed images, RED just went official with its DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) System. The system starts with your choice of the professional Scarlet or "master professional" EPIC brains which can then be bunged into about 2,251,799,813,685,248 possible camera configurations, RED only half-jokingly chides. The brains are built upon Mysterium-X and Mysterium Monstro sensors which start at 2/3-inch and end at a whopping 6x17-cm -- when a new sensor comes out you just upgrade the brain. Scarlet will launch in 4 choices ranging from $2,500 (and possibly less) to $12,000 with a variety of lens mounts (yes, Canon and Nikon) capable of shooting 3K @120fps on up to 6K @30fps. Epic will offer similar mounts with capabilities spanning 5K @100fps ($28k) to 9K @50fps ($45k) -- a 28K system hitting 25fps is expected in 2010 for $55k. Still image resolutions will range from 4.9 megapixels to a freakish 261 megapixels. The first Scarlet systems could come as early as Spring of 2009 while EPIC should arrive by summer. Of course, the brain is just the beginning of the costs. RED also introduced a 3D camera configuration today in true, "one more thing" fashion. See all the details in the gallery below, 3D camera after the break.
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iPods rock the Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle EndeavourEagle-eyed reader Walker was perusing hi-res photos of the Space Shuttle Endeavour (which is circling the planet at this moment, docked to the International Space Station in low-earth orbit) when he spotted an iPod through the crew cabin window. It's a massively cool find and we thought you'd like to know it's not the first time an iPod has braved the 3G hurtle into space.
  • When the unmanned Jules Verne spacecraft launched earlier this month for its historic docking with the ISS, it took along several commemorative items, including an iPod containing a special list of songs chosen by the winner of a 2007 contest.
  • STS crew member Leland Melvin went to the ISS last month aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, and he took along an iPod pre-loaded with his favorite Christina McBride album and a few songs he'd composed on the piano.
  • For Charlie Hobaugh's flight last year, he let his kids load his iPod for him. (Wow, that's trusting -- he could have spent the 13-day mission listening to Alvin & the Chipmunks).
Getting an iPod into space isn't easy. The lithium batteries have to be replaced with specially certified alkaline batteries. Once docked, crew members can't bring them on board the Space Station, however, since they haven't been certified as safe in that environment.

Your iPod may never make it to outer space, but if you want to protect it on your daily land-based EVAs, why not wrap it in a piece of history? Get a case from everQuest Design that's made from a piece of the Soyuz parachute. From one space geek to another, I ask you: how cool is that?

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Google's voice search: Why on iPhone, not Android?

Google Mobile App Google plans to release a groundbreaking mobile application that allows users to say a search query into their phone and have it transcribed and returned as a Web search. Surprisingly, the technology won't be exclusive to T-Mobile's G1 phone, the first commercial device to run Google's Android operating system. It's only going to be available on Apple's iPhone at first.

When Google released Android, some worried that development for other mobile platforms would slow down. But Google's mobile search team works separately from the Android group, and it is more concerned with pushing innovative products out the door than it is with wooing consumers to the G1.

"I want to bring the most valuable applications to as many users as possible," said Gummi Hafsteinsson, senior product manager for the mobile team. "We treat all high-end [mobile] platforms equally."

The G1 has a built-in function that allows users to say a contact's name to trigger a call -- something lacking in the iPhone out of the box. And Android has its own app store, but currently no Google voice Web search app. "We're obviously working hard to add as many devices as possible," Hafsteinsson said.

The voice search function will be part of an update to the Google Mobile App for iPhone, a Web and contacts search app that hasn't seen an upgrade in two-and-a-half months. To use speak search, simply open the app, hold the phone up to your ear and yap your query. Voice search doesn't yet support contact look-up -- iPhone users can download Say Who Dialer (the link opens iTunes) for that -- but matching names in your address book will still show up for text searches.

Google expects that the new version of Google Mobile App will be available in the iTunes App Store later tonight or some time this weekend.

-- Mark Milian

Photo credit: Google

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