Thursday, July 29, 2010
The first survey has been done on the private data Google gathered with its Street View cars. Investigators from the Information Commissioner's Office in the United Kingdom have reviewed samples of the data and ruled that there is no meaningful information swept up in the harvest.
Code had been included in the software that powers the cars' cameras and they wound up collecting much more information than was allowable in most cases. This resulted in a host of investigations and lawsuits.
According to PC Magazine, the ICO released a statement that said, in part:
"(I)t is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data. There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."
This same office cleared Google Street View of charges several years ago by privacy activists.
"Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals."
Perhaps they were right. But then again, perhaps the British threshold for tolerance of data compromise will prove to be lower than other countries. The U.K., after all, has the most extravagant public surveillance system in the world in place. Exactly how many is impossible to say, as that information is not made public. Several years ago, it was calculated at 4.2 million, one camera for every 14 people.
Other countries, from France and Italy to Canada and the U.S. may be somewhat more demanding in their definition of terms like "significant amounts" and "individual detriment."
Just a week ago, we reported that 38 of 50 U.S. states' highest law enforcement authorities had agreed to collaborate on an investigation of Google.Discuss
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Easily the most interesting thing Apple unveiled today is the new Magic Trackpad. Essentially, it's a larger version of the trackpads that ship with each MacBook and MacBook Pro. But it's a stand-alone product, meant to be used with desktop computers. So why did Apple feel the need to make such a product? It's about trends and the future.
"Looking at the big picture, more users are using our trackpad because there are more notebook users than desktop users," an Apple representative told me today when discussing the Magic Trackpad. Laptops have been Apple's best-selling computers for some time now. And as time goes on, despite some of the new desktop products unveiled today, we can likely expect the gap between laptops and desktops to increase. This will mean an increasing number of users who are accustomed to using their computers via these trackpads. So this new product makes sense for users who are interested in buying Apple desktops as well.
"People love the trackpad. People love those characteristics. So we wanted to bring that kind of design to our desktop users," the Apple rep told me. So Apple designed the product (in conjunction with the wireless keyboard) to bring everything people like about the trackpads over to the desktop experience. Pinch-to-zoom, inertial scrolling, tap-to-click, it's all there.
But what's nice is that the Magic Trackpad is actually much larger than any trackpad found on a MacBook (80 percent more surface area). I asked if this meant we could expect some new multi-touch functionality for the desktop experience, but Apple refused to comment on that.
This new Magic Trackpad also makes a lot of sense with regard to the overall trend of where Apple is heading. The company has already acknowledged that it's now a "mobile devices" company. And a big part of that isn't just laptops, but the iPhone and now iPad as well. Both of those devices are obviously completely multi-touch-based. There is no mouse.
Apple is slowly but surely moving towards a place where the majority of computer interaction is done through touch gestures. The desktop remains the last great stronghold for the keyboard + mouse combination. But now Apple is chipping away at that too. First they launched the multi-touch Magic Mouse. Now we get the Magic Trackpad.
When I asked if this signaled the death of the mouse, Apple would only say that "we want to offer our users the choice." They note that plenty of people at Apple have been using the Magic Trackpad alongside the Magic Mouse. "Some operations are better for a mouse, some for a trackpad," is what I was told.
That said, Apple did acknowledge that some users will likely ditch the mouse in favor of this new device. And while Apple is keeping the Magic Mouse as the standard item bundled with the desktop computers, there is an option to get the Magic Trackpad as well with each new computer purchase (for the cost of the device, naturally).
I know that personally, this Magic Trackpad is going to replace my mouse. Even though my desktop offers the comfort of two huge monitors, recently, I've found myself using my laptop more and more simply because I prefer the trackpad and its multi-touch gestures. Now that I can get that full experience on my desktop, I'm definitely making the jump.
Others simply won't have to. They'll start with the trackpad on laptops and won't see the point of the mouse. And further down the line, users may grow up on touch tablets and won't even understand the concept of the mouse.
The mouse may be destined to become a precision tool that professions such as designers use. History may prove that this Magic Trackpad was the final mouse trap that signaled this end.
[photo: flickr/Simon Walsh]
Apple unleashed a range of new and updated products earlier today — everything from new Mac Pros to new iMacs to a new Magic Trackpad device. Lost in the shuffle was a tiny new product Apple also unveiled: the Apple Battery Charger.
But just because it's not as big or a pricey as Apple's other new toys, don't think Apple loves it any less. In fact, when I spoke to Apple today about their new products, they made sure to dedicate some time to talking all about this new battery charger.
Apple says it's proud of its new "sleek and very compact" battery charger because they managed to take a product that other companies have been doing for a while and perfect it. "The honest truth is that most [manufacturers] don't care about these," an Apple representative told me. This allowed Apple to come in and create a product that performs ten times better than the industry average, they say. What they mean by this is that their battery charger uses only 30 milliwatts when it completes a charge cycle thanks to sensors — many other draw 300 or more milliwatts in the same setting. "We've engineering these chargers to have the lowest power vampire draw of any AA chargers," Apple says.
Vampire draw. Nice.
Apple is selling this charger for $29 but that comes with 6 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries. "These are very long shelf-life batteries," I was told. Apple's website claim they can last up to 10 years. "No more late night trips to Walgreens," an Apple representative joked.
So why six? Apple envisions people using two of them in their wireless keyboards, two in their Magic Mouse or new Magic Trackpad, and then two that will remain in the charger in case the others run out.
No word on the margins Apple is seeing on these bad boys.
Gillard Government actively considering IT portfolio - Federal Election 2010, Competition Carriers Coalition (CCC) - Computerworld
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
When you think of social media, two products immediately come to mind: Facebook and Twitter. If you're in the technical world, you'd probably also mention Digg and Slashdot. A product that is rarely talked about among social media products, but has a surprisingly large footprint on the Web, is StumbleUpon. It now has 10.6 million users and regularly pushes big traffic to online publishers.
According to a new analysis by Web analytics company Woopra, StumbleUpon drives nearly twice as much traffic than Digg. StatCounter uncovered a similar trend recently, with StumbleUpon second only to Facebook among social media traffic drivers.
What's Popular on StumbleUpon?
"Explore the web like never before," declares the StumbleUpon sign up page. And indeed the beauty of StumbleUpon is how easy it makes browsing the Web. It's often called a 'serendipity engine' for its ability to turn up strange and new content.
Here's how StumbleUpon works as a user. You firstly download and install a browser add-on, then select categories that interest you. Now you're ready to explore. Simply click the Stumble button in your browser to be magically transported to an unknown web page. Where you're taken is driven by StumbleUpon's sophisticated recommendation engine, which is fueled by data from its users - who vote on whether they 'like' or 'dislike' web pages across the Web.
It's simple for the users, yet surprisingly difficult for the media industry to get its collective head around. Its randomness and lack of an easily identifiable core audience are two things that make StumbleUpon hard to understand. So what kind of content is popular there?
Much like Digg, another crowd-sourced recommendation engine, the most popular content on StumbleUpon tends to be easily digestable and entertaining. Lists, bizarre things, scientific discoveries, animals, humor, images, and so on. Among the most stumbled content of 2009 were these articles: '99 Things You Should Have Seen On The Internet' (471K Stumbles), 'Life Summarized in 4 Bottles' (439K Stumbles), '14 Rare Color Photos From the FSA-OWI' (341K Stumbles),... you get the idea.
How the ReadWriteWeb Community Uses StumbleUpon
We queried our community via Twitter to find out their main use cases. Here's a representative sample of the replies (you can see them all via Twitoaster):
@brettmorrison: "I use it to share things I find interesting and I use it to find randomly interesting things when I have a few free moments."
@EssenteeWeb: "So's I can share what I think is cool and find content I otherwise wouldn't have."
@andinarvaez: "I do, on occasion. Whenever I'm online, want to stay online, but just feel like browsing. [...] Even though they're [within] my interests, stumble upon helps me burst my usual browsing patterns & online bubble."
@rjanyk: "boredom... killing time a couple minutes at a time... entertainment. Sadly, almost thrilling not knowing what's coming next"
@MicaR: "Been a Stumbler for yrs. Great to get new ideas flowing when stuck, and, of course, great time waster. I've learned a lot, randomly."
@ezy80: "I find its a good source of 'random relevant' that nothing else provides in quite the same way..."
@lauratellsjokes: "i stumble when i am bored and to learn new things. i love stumbling through photos, art and philosophy."
@estateofflux: "I do, great for entertainment and uncovering hidden gems of content when you've exhausted all your usual sources!"
These and other replies often used words like "random" or "new." Also it seems that people tend to use StumbleUpon when they have a bit of spare time, or are bored.
Let us know in the comments whether you currently use StumbleUpon; and if so, how and why?Discuss