Instagram puts a lid on Twitter support

December 6, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Is your Instagram picture behaving all glitchy on Twitter? Well, it’s more than a glitch and there’s not much you can do about it. Because Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo sharing app, has disabled a feature called ‘Twitter cards’, which allows Twitter to properly display media content like pictures and video, embedded and viewed within a Twitter message.

Without Twitter card support, your Instagram photographs will show up as linked images, the quality of which leaves much to be desired. Users have complained that pictures are appearing weirdly cropped.

In a status update on its website, Twitter said, “Users are experiencing issues with viewing Instagram photos on Twitter. This is due to Instagram disabling its Twitter cards integration and, as a result, photos are being displayed using a pre-cards experience.”

So, now users will have to go to Instagram’s own website to view their pictures. Chief Executive of Instagram, Kevin Systrom said this about withdrawing support for Twitter cards – “We believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives.”

Before you chalk this up as another feud in time for the festive season, you might remember that rivalry between the two social media giants has been steadily growing ever since Facebook outbid Twitter to nab Instagram in April. In July, Twitter blocked Instagram from using its data to help new Instagram users find friends. And now in December, Instagram cuts off Twitter support. Oh ye mighty internet giants and your squabbles – you do entertain us, but has anyone asked users what they really want?

Facebook opens voting by users on policy changes

December 4, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Facebook has opened voting by its nearly 1 billion users to voice in on a variety of changes to the social network’s policies, including a proposal to scrap the user voting system that Facebook introduced in 2009.

The move comes after a barrage of criticism and roughly 89,000 user comments when Facebook announced proposed changes its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities  on November 21.

One of the changes that users can vote for or against is scrapping the voting system itself, which allowed users to lend their vote about amendments to the site’s governance policies.

Users can also vote on whether Facebook can share user data with and from its affiliates, including Instagram. Another voting issue includes a proposal to relax restrictions on how members contact each other via the Facebook messaging system.

30 percent of Facebook’s users (about 300 million) will need to pitch in for the vote to be binding. If voting does not reach that minimum requirement, the social network will consider the received votes to be advisory and can still go ahead with the changes. But the window is open only till December 10, after which voting closes. So if you want to vote, do it here now.

And you thought Facebook was Zuckerberg’s little fiefdom.

Surface PRO pricing out

November 30, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Microsoft has announced prices for the Surface PRO. The Surface RT’s more powerful sibling will come in two versions – 64GB which will go for $899 and 128GB for $999.

If anyone needs a remainder, the Surface PRO runs the full version of Windows 8. This means that it will be able to run new RT apps as well as Windows 7 desktop apps. Other specs include a Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, USB 3.0 port, flash memory card slot, 10.6” 1920×1080 HD resolution and even a mini-Display Port connector (to drive an external screen with a resolution of up to 2,560 x 1,440). A Surface Pen stylus for drawing and making notes will be included with every model.

What isn’t included is the fancy new Touch or Type covers. They will cost extra.

No other details like battery life have been revealed.

Its high price makes the Surface PRO a costly investment but its beastly specs will make it one heck of a machine to those who want raw power. In fact, the Surface PRO only skirts around tablet definitions – it sounds more like a powerful Ultrabook with touch and pen.

The Surface PRO is expected to be out in January next year.

‘Don’t get Scroogled’, Microsoft’s anti–Google message to all of us this holiday season

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under News

The holiday season is here again and it’s not only family get-togethers that become contentious, big software companies can’t resist either.  Microsoft has just launched a campaign called ‘Don’t get Scroogled’, that takes aim squarely at Google Shopping.

Microsoft claims that when users search for products through Google’s shopping-only section, results shown will be skewered in favour of retailers who have paid Google to be there. This means that some retailers who cannot afford to pay will not be displayed even if their products are better or cheaper for the consumer. Microsoft doesn’t want you to get ‘scroogled’ by Google’s evil ‘pay-to-rank’ system.

So, use Bing instead.

In a press release, Microsoft contends, “Bing won’t let who pays us for ads or other services affect what you see in your shopping search results. Search results are one thing; ads are another. We won’t switch to pay-to-rank to allow fees to influence the ranking of shopping search results. In short, we think that too many shoppers who use Google for their shopping are getting “Scroogled” when they should be getting fair, honest, open search results.”

A Bing blog post goes further, “In the beginning, Google preached, “Don’t be evil”—but that changed on May 31, 2012. That’s when Google Shopping announced a new initiative. Simply put, all of their shopping results are now paid ads.”

Ouch.

Shoppers are advised to visit the ‘Scroogled‘ website (a very weird looking one, this writer would like to add) and even watch a video to learn more about how to avoid being screwed by Google.

Microsoft promotes Windows 8 phones with ‘Meet Your Match’ campaign

November 27, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Microsoft recently announced a massive promotional campaign for Windows phones called ‘Meet Your Match’ and has just released a website to go along with it.

The Meet Your Match website features various videos where Ben, dubbed the Windows Phone guy (previously the PC guy), challenges people on the street to tasks that directly compare a new Windows Phone and their own existing iOS or Android phone. The tasks so far have included taking pictures in low light, recording video where the subject is moving quickly and even testing how kid friendly the phone is. As you can guess, Windows Phones always emerge on top and Ben succeeds in proving how they are a better match for you.

The challenger phones appear to be the latest Windows Phone entrants, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X. And the best part – when people realize how inadequate their current phone suddenly is, they are ‘upgraded’ with a new Windows Phone.

As some might recall, the campaign is similar to the ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ challenges Microsoft did earlier this year. But while speed was the focus there, it’s all about features here.

Check out the latest video of the campaign below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntka8LPtDLc&w=550&h=309]

Google Now is Popular Science’s Innovation of the Year

November 23, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Popular Science has awarded Google Now its Innovation of the year honour. The reason behind the selection – it’s the first product that suggests something to you before you’ve probably thought about it. Popular Science is calling it, “the first virtual assistant that truly anticipates your needs.”

 

 

Previous winners of the award include the Mars Curiosity Rover, the Toyota Prius and the Large Hadron Collider. Google Now was only launched around 5 months ago but the context and location sensitive app for Android (Jelly Bean 4.1) that keeps track of dates, events and locations, offers traffic advice, personalized recommendations and a host of other information (often predictive to an uncanny extent)  is growing in leaps and acquiring a steady fan base.

An interview with part of the Google Now team and Popular Science can be found here. It reveals that there’s a lot more in store for the milestone achieving app.

Google updates indoor maps for desktops

November 22, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Google has announced a new update to Google Maps for the desktop – over 10,000 indoor maps. This brings the desktop version of the mapping service on par with the Android version, which was the first to receive the feature almost a year ago.

Currently indoor maps are only available in locations like Japan, Switzerland, UK, Denmark, USA, France, Canada and Sweden. A host of locations are mapped including airports, museums, universities, departmental stores, train stations and even resorts. A list is available here.

The announcement also encourages venue owners to add their own floor plans to the growing list.

This is great news for slightly obsessive travelers who can now map their route through a busy airport or museum, well before their trip right on their computers.

Google, please add the UAE to your list soon. Because this writer is not afraid to be the first to admit that she would appreciate an indoor map of the pocket universe that is Dubai Mall.

Google announces Arabic Web Days

November 21, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Google has launched an initiative called ‘Arabic Web Days’ to increase and improve Arabic content available online. Currently only 3% of online content is in Arabic and there is a huge disparity between the number of Arabic-speaking Web users and the amount of Arabic internet content available for them. ‘Arabic Web Days’ hopes to bridge that gap and has Google partnering with Vinelab, Wamda and Taghreedat to help shape the 1 month program.  Twitter, Wikipedia, TED, Soundcloud and even regional organizations such as Al Arabiya, twofour54 and the Institute of Computer Research, Qatar Foundation have joined in.

Activities and events such as a YouTube Tweet Up in Doha, Qatar on December 15, various programs on one of the Arab World’s top news channels – Al Arabiya, knowledge sharing Google+ hangouts in Arabic where, for instance, a user can learn how to use the Google translator toolkit to turn English content into Arabic etc are all part of the program.

‘Arabic Web Days’ co-creator and Vinelab’s Managing Director, Abed Agha said, “‘This is just the beginning – we hope to keep the momentum beyond just this month – the talent in MENA is strong and we have yet to realize the economic potential that the web can create.”

In recognition, Google has also declared that 12/12/12 as National Arabic Internet Day,

Microsoft plans bio gas powered data center

November 20, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Microsoft has announced that it is in development of ‘Data Plant’ – the first zero carbon data center. Data Plant will be completely independent of the grid and will recycle common waste bi-products to sustainably power cloud services.

The announcement reveals that the data center will be located at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Wyoming, USA. While having the data center and bio gas facility on the same location may cause a few noses to turn up, Microsoft claims, “By capturing and reusing biogas on premise with our data centers, we will be able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions while producing beneficial uses at the same time.”

The company is investing approximately $5.5 million in R&D on the project and eventually hopes that Data Plant will “help to concretely demonstrate the benefits possible by integrating the collection, treatment, and consumption of biogas at the source to create an extremely efficient use of renewable energy.”

Don’t scoff yet, besides the noble objective of ecological self sufficiency, this writer thinks using crap to power some of the crap that’s on the internet is a goal too clever to resist reaching for.

The Ipad vs. Surface parody ad everybody is talking about

November 8, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Tablets

We can only wish that this would become Microsoft’s official response to the iPad Mini.

There’s a new parody out that plays on Apple’s recently released commercial for the iPad Mini. We reported on it here. The iPad Mini ad was simple and sweet but parody ad producers Cinesaurus take great pleasure in amping up things a level.  Stuff definitely gets messy, watch below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d5xkULjc50&w=550&h=309]

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