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My Chumby is hereScripting News

November 16th, 2007 by (author unknown)

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Venus and the Moon over Denver

November 6th, 2007 by (author unknown)
A picture named venusMoonOverDenver.jpg

By Doc Searls.

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Army tests James Bond style tank that is ‘invisible’ (Daily Mail)

October 31st, 2007 by (author unknown)

Army tests James Bond style tank that is 'invisible'  —  New technology that can make tanks invisible has been unveiled by the Ministry of Defence.  —  In secret trials last week, the Army said it had made a vehicle completely disappear and predicted that an invisible tank would be ready for service by 2012.

Source:   Daily Mail
Link:   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news…

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OpenSocial, Google’s Open Answer to Facebook (Om Malik/GigaOM)

October 30th, 2007 by (author unknown)

OpenSocial, Google's Open Answer to Facebook  —  Google's (GOOG) much awaited answer to Facebook ecosystem is finally coming to light.  The existence of this Google platform was first reported by TechCrunch and is going to become official tomorrow.  —  Google will announce …

Source:   GigaOM
Author:   Om Malik
Link:   http://gigaom.com/2007/10/30/opensocial/

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Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday

October 30th, 2007 by Michael Arrington

Details emerged today on Google’s broad social networking ambitions, first reported here in late September, with a follow up earlier this week. The new project, called OpenSocial (URL will go live on Thursday), goes well beyond what we’ve previously reported. It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called “hosts”) that choose to participate.

What they haven’t done is launch yet another social network platform. As more and more of these platforms launch, developers have difficult choices to make. There are costs associated with writing and maintaining applications for these social networks. Most developers will choose one or two platforms and ignore the rest, based on a simple cost/benefit analysis.

Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network.

What They’re Launching

OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.

Unlike Facebook, OpenSocial does not have its own markup language (Facebook requires use of FBML for security reasons, but it also makes code unusable outside of Facebook). Instead, developers use normal javascript and html (and can embed Flash elements). The benefit of the Google approach is that developers can use much of their existing front end code and simply tailor it slightly for OpenSocial, so creating applications is even easier than on Facebook.

Applications can have full functionality on profile and/or canvas pages, subject to the specific rules of each host. Facebook, by contrast, limits most functionality to the canvas page, allowing a widget on the profile page with limited features.

OpenSocial is silent when it comes to specific rules and policies of the hosts, like whether or not advertising is accepted or whether any developer can get in without applying first (the Facebook approach). Hosts set and enforce their own policies. The APIs are created with maximum flexibility.

Launch Partners

Partners are in two categories: hosts and developers. Hosts are the participating social networks, and include Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle.

Developers include Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide.

What This Means

The timing of OpenSocial couldn’t be better. Developers have been complaining non stop about the costs of learning yet another markup launguage for every new social network platform, and taking developer time in creating and maintaining the code. Someone had to build a system to streamline this (as we said in the last few sentences in this post). And Facebook-fear has clearly driven good partners to side with Google. Developers will immediately start building on these APIs to get distribution across the impressive list of hosts above.

And they’ll do it soon, too. It’s clear that the developers who arrived early to the Facebook Platform party won easy customers. Those that came later had to fight much harder. Developers found their new gold strike, and they will soon all be there, mining away.

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Shai Agassi Launches Electric Car Startup, Raising $200M

October 29th, 2007 by Katie Fehrenbacher

agassi1.jpgShai Agassi, the entrepreneur who, at one time, was expected to take over the CEO role at SAP, said today that he has formed “Project Better Place,” a venture focusing on electric vehicles, and is raising an initial $200 million to fund the project. When Agassi announced his resignation from software company SAP (SAP) last March, he said he looked forward to working on alternative energy issues. Aren’t we all these days? This, however, is no small undertaking.

While this isn’t the first news of Agassi’s electric car ambitions, this is the most detailed information provided to date. The list of investors includes Israel Corp., Morgan Stanley (MS), VantagePoint Venture Partners, and private investors James Wolfensohn, Edgar Bronfman Sr. and Musea Ventures. The venture will focus on building out an infrastructure of battery-charging stations for electric vehicles; the comparative model offered is that of mobile phone companies building out the mobile infrastructure.

The company says it will work with car and battery makers so that subscribers to the network can get subsidized vehicles, but consumers will still own their cars. The WSJ says that the company will buy and own the batteries and that Agassi expects the subscription to be less than the economics for current gas-based cars.

The New York Times has the money quote for the mobile network comparison: “If you think of Tesla as the iPhone, we’re AT&T,” Agassi tells the NYT.

Update: We chatted with Tesla’s VP sales, marketing & service, Darryl Siry, about Agassi’s venture, and he said that anything that provides more places to charge Tesla cars, the better. We welcome the distribution of charging stations, he said.

While Siry said that the details of Agassi’s business model are still unclear, he also pointed out that the model of leasing batteries is unproven because there is no secondary market currently available to buy those older batteries. Siry also compared the idea of battery exchange charging stations to the propane business, and noted that this is a technically challenging model to pull off. “No one has figured out how to practically do that, but if they could it would be very compelling,” Siry said.

The company says that over the next two years, it will build out the infrastructure and put hundreds of thousands of vehicles into its network, and it hopes to have the system widespread within 10 years. In the release the company says its “new grid presents a practical solution to address barriers to electric vehicle adoption.”

As GigaOM readers well know, any venture focused on building out infrastructure and a network approach requires a massive amount of capital. And as the WSJ points out, Agassi has no background in the auto or energy industries. The plan will likely take billions of investment to build, and will depend heavily on developing those industry relationships.

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Bug.gd: Collaborative Search And Bug Solutions

October 28th, 2007 by Duncan Riley

untitled-2.jpgBilled as “humanity’s last remaining hope against computers” Bug.gd is aiming to build a collaborative search and answers database of computer bugs.

The idea is simple enough and addresses a real problem. A user is presented with an error message, they search bug.gd to see if anyone has solved it. If someone has a solution great, if no one found a solution then not so great; however Bug.gd is betting that when they can’t deliver a solution, the user will ultimately find one. Users get a reminder email in 48 hours requesting they post the solution (presuming they found one) so others can benefit from this knowledge, providing a fluid and regularly updated collaborative database of problems and solutions.

The service is free to use and ad-free. Bug.gd is looking to build revenue from corporate intranet sales of bug.gd tools that will provide a centralized in-house database of bug fixes. An API for submitting and querying against the bug.gd error database is currently being built.

It’s a simple idea that could work, although the results are really dependent on users being generous enough to share bug fixes. The Bug.gd has been seeded with 60,000 error messages and solution from Microsoft (that’s a scary number in itself) and is slowly adding new solutions daily.

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Senators Threatening Telcos With Probe Over Net Neutrality

October 26th, 2007 by Erick Schonfeld

Remember when the telcos and cable companies squashed talk of Net neutrality legislation by saying they would never try to block content on the Web? Then Comcast decided to discriminate against BitTorrent files and Verizon Wireless decided that it wouldn’t allow certain politically-charged text messages to go over its network (before quickly reversing itself). Well, some Senators remember. And now they are talking about a probe. In a letter calling for hearings, two Senators point out:

The phone and cable companies have previously stated that they would never use their market power to operate as content gatekeepers and have called efforts to put rules in place to protect consumers ‘a solution in search of a problem.

At least someone in Washington is paying attention. If the telcos are going to start asserting their right to decide what kind of information can or cannot go over the Internet, then they are asking for Net neutrality to once again become a big political issue. They should really stick to their “quality of service” arguments.

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Gigapan Project Brings Gigapixel Panoramas to the Web

October 24th, 2007 by Erick Schonfeld

gigapan-logo.pngThe Web is getting more visually immersive all the time. For a peak at what a gigapixel pannoramic image looks like on the Web check out Gigapan, a project at Carnegie Mellon University. Using a rotating stand that it sells for $279, anyone can use their digital camera to take panoramic pictures stitched together from multiple shots. You can zoom in and zoom out with amazing clarity, and really dive deep into the pictures.


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ProQuo Will Kill Junk Mail

October 22nd, 2007 by Michael Arrington

This may be the most useful website you ever read about on TechCrunch.

New La Jolla, California startup ProQuo launches this evening to help you battle all the evil that is being perpetually perpetrated against your personal information. Get countless credit card offers, catalogs and other junk in your mailbox everyday? ProQuo intends to do what the NoCall list did for telesales calls for all that stuff, too. Which means, kill it off.

ProQuo users not only save the hassle of dealing with junk mail (and the resulting identity theft risk), but also benefit the environment by cutting down on the amount of paper that’s shoved in their face.

After registration you are presented with a dozen or so types of mailing lists (coupons, credit cards, catalogs, etc.). You can stop most of them with a single click. Others require printing out a form or going to another website. But at the end of the process, you can kill off a ton of unwanted mail.

The company was founded in July 2006 and has raised $5 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In the future, they plan to expand to give users more control over other types of personal information, including financial and medical records.

Note that we’ve also recently written about CatalogChoice, which focuses on stopping unwanted catalogs. Services we’ve covered which focus on stopping identity theft include TrustedID and LifeLock.

As an aside, in my interview with CEO Steven Gal, he mentioned that the five year anniversary of the Do Not Call Registry is coming up this January. Anyone who registered at the site when it first went live is in for a nasty surprise - the opt out is valid for only five years. If you wait until January to do it again, you’ll have to put up with thirty days of telesales calls while the request goes active. And telesales companies are gearing up to make your life a living hell for those thirty days.

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