Category Entertainment

Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

Apple gets it right

News about Apple is every where today, as they are after all of their press conferences. Though today was supposed to be about their new line of iPods the real winner was the release of the new AppleTV. Oh, they also announced an update to iOS that should fix the horrible performance on iPhone 3G. The iPods were an evolutionary step, everything has touch, cool but not worthy of a repurchase. The AppleTV on the other hand is a brand new beast.

Even without plugging it in, at only 20% of the original size it’s clearly not the same device as it’s predecessor. Internal hard drive, gone. Instead everything streams to the device via WiFi leaving you with the device, a power cable and the HDMI to the TV. All pretty cool but not a whole lot different then Roku, Boxee or WD-TV. Also not too different is the ability to access Flickr, Netflix and YouTube.

Week in Links – the future today

One of the big events of last week was Y Cominator‘s Demo Day where 30+ companies showed of their technology in hopes for securing additional funding. Last week’s Demo Day was so big it took 2 days, if you couldn’t be there TechCrunch gives a run down of a few of the presenters.

  • If you have Gmail, then you might want to check out Rapportive‘s browser plug-in. While viewing your email it’ll provide a sidebar full of the contact’s profile including various social services and CrunchBase. At the bottom of the sidebar is an area to add personal notes for the contact. It’s a simple addition but could be priceless once you start using it. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
  • As a UX lead finding out how users are interacting with a design is invaluable. There are a number of new solutions out there providing inexpensive remote testing options. But eye tracking has required use of specialty equipment. Even though we have one where I work it’s a huge hassle and the whole process makes for a very artificial environment. GazeHawk‘s offering may change all that as it uses standard webcams. Additionally, offer a service to use their network of participants to test your work. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
  • There was even stuff for the couch potato in all of us, Teevox showed off their iPhone app. It’s a remote control for watching Hulu and Netflix videos on your PC. The app’s UI is simple and straight forward and even better is there is nothing to install on your PC in order for it to work. I encountered a few crashes on my 3G, but that seems like standard behavior with iOS4, so I can’t fault them on that. Fore more see TechCrunch’s write up.

The merger of TV and PC is getting closer everyday. Working in the industry it’s all to clear where things are going so it was interesting to read TechCrunch’s somewhat harsh editorial on the full-on assault being staged against the cable companies. In the TechCrunch editorial they get the gist right but fails to keep in mind that not everyone is as technically inclined as the TechCrunch audience. With that in mind cable TV’s convenience, flexibility and overall simplicity (despite the poor UI of their set-top boxes) will keep it alive for years. They followed up the editorial with some put things into perspective for anyone outside the industry.

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Ok, this one’s title alone made me laugh last week, Twitter’s not stupid – you just have boring friends. Andrew succinctly states for those that think “Twitter is inane, pointless, time-wasting or just narcissistic bleating only means either a) the people you’ve chosen to follow are the wrong ones; or b) you’re expecting something from Twitter it’s not offering: passive entertainment.” Still, Twitter isn’t for everyone.

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The patent war continues. With the Oracle’s suit against Google people hypothesized that it was the patent war to end all patent wars…well last week Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen (via Interval Licensing) launched his own patent lawsuit. The list of patent violators named in his company’s lawsuit covers just about every major web player out there sans Microsoft and Amazon, as noted in FastCompany’s coverage. On first blush the patents in dispute seem horribly vague and undeserved as Amazon’s “one-click” patent.

Other news that doesn’t include Google being sued for patent violations include their addition of Google Voice into Gmail.  Though I’ve read that due to high demand there has been some issues with Voice, but I’m sure that will be address shortly. In the meantime, enjoy Google’s little promo video.

Yahoo! launches an experimental search engine with a knowledge of history. Seems like an interesting concept, was a little awkward to understand the search results so I’d like to see where they go with this one.

Speaking of too little, too late, MySpace is finally getting on the Facebook bandwagon with their new Facebook status syncing feature.  Even though this is only the first version, it’s kind of funny that it only goes from MySpace to Facebook, which would require you to actually go to MySpace in the first place. Ironically, I went to MySpace for the first time in over 18 months in order to watch this video promoting their new profile editor. It features Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant that went off in a rage on a customer. It’s actually entertaining, smart and even makes a self deprecating reference to being dominated by the FB.

Had enough, if not Mashable has a Weekend Recap: 15 Stories You May Have Missed. Lastly and completely random is a list of 24 things you might be saying wrong.

Alma

Though you kinda know what’s going to happen the way the story unfolds is wonderful.  It also reminds me of a doll shop around the corner, very creepy and always empty. Thanks Bee.

Plants Using Humans for World Domination

Darwinian theory suggest that the strong survive, but how does this relate to a flower?  Based on Michael Pollan’s book, PBS’s new series The Botany of Desire presents a new way to look at the plants all around us and how they work the Darwinian rules for success of the species.

Jawbox Perform Savory on Jimmy Fallon

Last night Jawbox performed for the first time together since 1997.  They did one song, Savory, live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in support of the re-issue of For Your Own Special Sweetheart.  Great band.  Great song.  Would love to see more but Jawbox were very adamant that the reunion was one and done.

Update:
Seems they did a few more songs just not for broadcast.

68 (Fallon – web exclusive)

FF = 66 (Fallon – web exclusive)

Dreams vs. Nightmares

We all dream, but what do they mean?  What makes a dream a nightmare? How do we use dreams in the waking world?  What about dreams of what we want?

Honda visits the idea of dreams and their meanings to our day-to-day through the words and stories of Clive Barker, Deepak Chopra, and various talents within Honda.  It’s something to inspire thought which lies at the backbone of the entire Dream the Impossible series.

Links:
Dreams vs, Nightmares
Honda’s Dream the Impossible

We’ve come a long way since 1977

In 1977 computers were far from personal.  They offered 40/80 lines of green or amber text.  Around that time I got my first computer, the Commodore Pet.  It was all metal, big and heavy with a giant stand alone hard drive that held nothing in today’s standards.  There was also a separate cassette player for loading/unloading programs.  It’s graphics were limited to that classic shade of green and the alternate characters displayed on each of the keys of the keyboard.  I would spend hours either drawing pictures with those alternate characters or writing programs in BASIC and saving them on my cassette drive.  Even the highest end systems of the day were less capable then my iPhone.

Also in 1977 Star Wars was released.  Star Wars is a classic film.  I was too young to see it in theaters or remember much of it even if I had.  Still, as a child I loved the original trilogy and always loved it’s visuals.  For the time and may years after it’s visual effects were still some of the best.  George Lucas and team did amazing things with film to create all those special effects.  Computer generated EFX wasn’t even an option back then.  Well, I stand corrected.  The computer projections of the Death Star were actually done on a computer.  Below is a eye opening video of both their process and the technology that was available at the time.

Canned Humor

It’s not often that I notice a banner ad let alone interact with one but this ad for Pringles was well worth my clicks.  The banner was created by Bridge Worldwide and won a 2009 Cannes Cyber Lions Gold.  The concept is simple, provide a silly but catchy image and reward evey interaction with witty copywriting.

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Hooked on the Method

Back in the day The Crystal Method, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, The Prodigy and others were the captins of cool.  Essential parts of MTV’s Alternative Nation’s life blood.  Known for both their innovative visuals as well as their hypnotic beats.  With their mixing of sources, styles and sounds everything felt new, electronic and energetic.  Times and tastes changed, as did their sound.  Well looks like 2009 may be come back time.

Earlier this year The Prodigy returned with some new tracks and a new album, Invaders Must Die.  The first single, Omen is an updated version of the classic Prodigy attitude and sound.  The title track continues that trend, if nothing else it may even have kicked it up a notch.  Thanks to the Internets you can rock some samples from ThePodigy.com

The Crystal Method have returned to dropped some new beats as well. Their first single Drown in the Now is a bit more or a departure from the TCM of yesteryear. Visually the video ups the cool quotient, though I need to take in a few more listens before casting an opinion on the new sound. Got to say it’s growing on me. In both cases they sound nothing like any of the other new tracks I’ve been listening to which is refreshing all its own.

Links:
ThePodigy.com
The Prodigy – Omen
The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
The Crystal Method
The Crystal Method – Drown In the Now