Monday, August 31, 2009

Flock 2.5

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Awards & Honors

2008 Webby Awards - “Winner: Social Networking” SXSW Interactive - “Web Award: Community”



The Flock 2.5 User Guide


Flock is built on the Mozilla Firefox open-source browser, so it has all the features you've come to expect in a high-quality web browser, like intuitive buttons and menus, personal customizability, reliable security, enhanced privacy protections, and automated updating. However, Flock is much more than that! The Flock Social Web Browser has been fully integrated with a wide range of social networking websites and popular blogging tools. So with Flock, you can now keep in touch and share text, links, pictures, video and more with friends, family and co-workers across the entire internet with unparalleled speed and seamless ease.

Read on to learn to harness the full power of Flock!

Flock 2.5 Browser Basics:

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Flock 2.5 Features:

Activate Services and Unite Your Social Networks in the People Sidebar

  • Activate Accounts and Services in Flock to Bring Your Contacts Together
  • Monitor Contacts and Perform Actions Using the People Sidebar
  • Facebook Chat

View and Share Media through the Media Bar

  • View Media in the Media Bar
  • Search for Media Using the Media Bar
  • Find and Favorite Media Streams
  • View Media in Your Own Online Account
  • Drag and Drop from the Media Bar
  • Post, Email and Share from the Media Bar

Share Pictures, Text, Audio and Video

  • Email Links with One Click
  • Set Up Your Online Photo Account in Flock
  • Edit and Upload Pictures Using the Photo Uploader
  • Drag and Drop Share - Practically Anything!
  • Use the Web Clipboard for Instant Saving and Sharing

Broadcast your activities with FlockCast

  • Broadcast your status.
  • Broadcast your blogs.
  • Broadcast your pictures.
  • Shut down FlockCast.

Set Up Webmail in Flock

  • Set Up a Webmail Account in Flock
  • Use Webmail in Flock
  • Work with Multiple Webmail Accounts
  • Share with Webmail

Activate and Manage Blogs

  • Set Up a Blog Service in Flock
  • Set Up a Self-hosted Blog in Flock
  • Use Flock to Post to Your Blog

Track Feeds

  • Find Feeds
  • View Feeds
  • Subscribe to Feeds
  • Work with Articles
  • Manage Feeds and Feed Readers
  • Use the Diggman

Use Enhanced Search Tools and Favorites Organizing

  • Save Favorites with One Click
  • Manage Favorites
  • Quick-Search Your Favorites, Browsing History and the Web
  • Change How Searches are Done
  • Set Up an Online Favorites Account
  • Publish Favorites Online

Personalize Flock and My World

  • Important: How to Change Most Settings
  • Customize Toolbars
  • Customize the Favorites Toolbar
  • Customize My World Favorite Sites, Friends, Feeds and Media
  • Customize the Download Manager
  • Set Your Start and Home Pages
  • Set Your Default Browser
  • Set Tab and Window Options
  • Change the Look of Web Pages
  • Block or Allow Pop-up Windows
  • Block or Allow Images
  • Enable or Disable Java or Javascript
  • Adjust Automatic Updates

Ensure Privacy and Manage Security

  • Change Cookie Settings
  • Manage Passwords
  • Manage Your Personal Information
  • Protect Yourself with Instant Website ID and Anti-Malware Alert

Get or Build Add-ons for Flock

  • Get an Add-on
  • Remove an Add-on
  • Build an Add-on
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Flock 2.5.2 Release Notes

Flock 2.5 delivers a more personal experience of the web, where its users are in control and more connected to what's important to them. By automatically managing updates and media from popular social services such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Digg, Flickr, AOL Webmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, and YouTube, Flock makes sharing with friends and services drag-and-drop easy.

Want to help make Flock better?

Take our satisfaction survey!

New Features in 2.5.2

  • Based on the Firefox 3 technology, providing a faster, safer, and more stable web surfing experience.
  • Incorporated Mozilla's 3.0.13 patch for Firefox.
  • Incorporated the latest Adobe Flash Player version. Please, make sure to close any Firefox window, prior to any install or update, in order for the Adobe Flash Player version to be updated.

New Features in 2.5

  • Facebook Chat has been integrated as an Instant Messaging service: Facebook Chat User Guide
  • Twitter features in the People Sidebar have undergone a complete overhaul, and now allow for several new options: People Sidebar User Guide
  • Twitter Live Results have been added to the search chrome.
  • Twitter Search widget has been added to MyWorld: Twitter Search User Guide
  • FlockCast has been integrated as a new feature in Facebook, allowing you to easily broadcast your actions from around the web directly onto your Facebook page: FlockCast User Guide
  • Bebo has been integrated as a People service.

Fixed Issues

  • Fixed the issue where logging to Flickr would log the user out of Yahoo Mail and vice-versa.
  • Fixed the issue where the Facebook notification flyout was blank, when viewing a non-Facebook page

A complete list of bugs fixed in 2.5 can be found here.

A complete list of bugs fixed in 2.5.2 can be found here.

Known Issues

Migration and Compatibility issues

Installing Flock 2.5 over an older version of Flock - Most of your items from old flock will be available. However, there are some cases where your settings will not migrate to Flock 2.5:

  • Due to a compatibility issue, the Dublin and MyBlue themes will be disabled after migrating to Flock 2.5.x.
  • favorites might not automatically be listed in the favorites sidebar. Please, allow approximately 5 to 10 min for the synchronization to kick in to see them.
  • Several issues with Accounts & Services sidebar exist when going from a newer version of Flock to an older.
  • After migrating (from 1.x to 2.5) or after importing from Firefox on first install, local and online bookmarks might not automatically appear in the "Favorites and Recently Visited" section of the search flyout.
  • Gloss and Eco users – both of these editions have custom themes that are not compatible with Flock 2.5.
  • Mozilla Extensions - Users installing extensions from or may see incompatibility notices in cases where the extension creator has not yet updated the extension to work in Flock. Also note that installing any third party extension could affect Flock’s features or performance.
  • Flash – Flock has included some tutorials in the Help menu. Users will need to have the Adobe Flash plug-in installed to properly view these tutorials.
  • Linux – some users might not be able to import their default Firefox homepage from Firefox.
  • Live Search - Users who migrate from older versions of Flock may have some disabled Live Search results from Google and TV Search.
  • The latest version of Tabs Mix Plus is causing issues in Flock such as blank tabs and loading issues. The Tabs Mix Plus team has explained that they do not and will not support Flock. For more information, please refer to this post. We suggest to use Tab Focus as an alternative extension.

Facebook Chat

  • To disable the Facebook chat in the Flock browser (not the actual feature on , please follow the instructions here.
  • When offline, Facebook notifications in Facebook page and non-Facebook page are not in sync.
  • When running some Facebook applications, the Facebook chat bars are sometimes duplicated.
  • When receiving a Facebook notification, the focus of the windows can change.
  • Facebook chat will not work with some add-ons installed, such as Calvin and Hobbes Status Bar extension.
  • In Flock's Facebook Chat, Clear History does not always sync when viewing a non-Facebook page.
  • After configuring a Facebook account, choosing to view the Facebook chat in a pop out window will trigger a message bar with the "Logout" button. You may ignore it and will remained logged in.

Favorites Issues

  • Loading favorites in the sidebar is currently not working.
  • If you were auto-updated to Flock 2.5.1 from Flock 1.x, you favorites may have disappeared. They can be retrieved by following the steps here.
  • File > Import from Firefox does not import the favorites annotations, descriptions or icons.
  • Importing Livemarks from Firefox 3 using "File > Import" will have duplicate, non-functioning Livemarks. Delete these, and add the RSS feed using Flock instead.
  • After subscribing to a Livemark, attempts to 'subscribe' to a feed from the favorites menu will not work until the page is refreshed.

People Issues

  • For some twitter friends who follow you, the Direct Message option may be missing.
  • After a computer wakes from hibernation, Twitter will refresh constantly. To fix this, simply close and open the sidebar.
  • MySpace notifications in the MeCard do not work.
  • Digg avatars do not appear correctly in the me card.
  • The friend comments notification in Digg’s me card may display a different number of comments than what exists on the Digg comments page.
  • Digg users may notice discrepancies between dates of dugg articles in the Media Bar, MyWorld, and People sidebar.
  • People sidebar loads with new Flickr account only after clicking on the configured Flickr account in the Accounts and Services sidebar.

Sharing Issues

  • Due to an API (Application Programming Interface) limitation, the number of broadcasted items via the FlockCast feature might be limited.
  • Status updates via the FlockCast feature might sometimes be listed under the "Recent Activity" section on the Facebook profile page.
  • In Facebook, dragging pictures from the Media Bar may have different results depending on where on you drag them.
  • In Mac only, drag and dropping from an open blog editor to the webmail flyout will not supply the URL for the picture.
  • Drag and drop from a web page or text into the "Post Comment" link in the MeCard for MySpace does not work in this release.
  • If you choose to share a Flock chrome URL (example: "about:myworld") to someone who is not using Flock, they will not see the same thing. You should encourage them to get Flock.
  • Drag and drop to friends you follow in Twitter and Digg (but who have not mutually friended you), will not land any content, since you are not permitted to send messages to people who have not friended you.
  • Drag and drop from the Web Clipboard to Yahoo plain text editors will not land the correct content.
  • Dragging and dropping a Web Clipboard item that includes both text and a picture do not display correctly in webmail.
  • Users that Drag and Drop images from the Web Clipboard to the Webmail icon will land a picture rather than a URL.
  • In some rare cases, YouTube notifications for a friend's new media may not light. Logging out and back in again will remedy this.

Accounts and Services Issues

  • When navigating to Flickr with a configured Flickr account after restarting Flock, a "logout" message will be displayed. Log out of Flickr and re log-in to dismiss it.
  • Save and Quit option does not keep login session for some services.
  • Those users logged into YouTube with their Google account, and then navigate to other Google services will see a Logout notification. To active the Google service (Gmail, Picasa, Blogger), click logout, then login to the service with your Google credentials.
  • Digg login detection does not work if a Facebook account's credentials are used.
  • Users who disable all cookies may be unable to login to Flock's supported services.
  • When new Picasa users sign up, the Media Bar will not operate until you opt into the terms of service.
  • Picasa login detection does not work if a non-primary email is used.

Webmail Issues

  • Yahoo Mail users may see a chat disconnection message after sending an email from the webmail flyout. To use the Yahoo Mail chat, please compose the message directly from the Yahoo Mail site instead.
  • Some users may see a blank square in place of the webmail flyout. If this occurs, forget the account in the A&S sidebar, and re-install Flock with a clean profile.
  • Due to an issue with Yahoo Mail, clicking on unread emails from the webmail flyout, in Yahoo All New mode, will actually load the Inbox.
  • Users who use the "auto logoff" setting in AOL mail may still remained logged in. 
  • Opening unread mails from webmail flyout is not detected in All-New Y! Mail.
  • Viewing unread emails from the webmail flyout for an affinity AOL mail is not working. Please, load them from the service site instead.
  • Gmail's basic HTML view is not supported the same way as standard Gmail in Flock.
  • When logging out of a webmail service with a glowing icon, the icon will remain non-glowing after logging back in. The icon will glow again once new mail comes in.

Photo and Media Issues

  • When uploading to Facebook, a JavaScript application error might appear. Please wait for a few minutes and try again.
  • New media notifications for Bebo friends can take up to 24 hours to show up in the Media Bar, My World, and in the People sidebar.
  • Regrettably, non-US Myspace accounts currently do not have the ability to detect media within Flock. This also makes viewing friends' media streams impossible.
  • Photobucket users setting photos or albums to private may not be able to find them using the Media Bar.
  • A favorited media stream will still display the media in myworld even if all media on that account is deleted.
  • Image protection in Flickr may inhibit some drag and drop sharing actions.
  • There are some issues with the data available from Revver that may cause the Media Bar to return no results for Revver.
  • Favorited YouTube media streams frequently report new items when there are none.
  • Drag and dropping Truveo videos from the Media Bar drops a very large link. In some cases, this long link will be cutoff depending on where you drop your content to.
  • When batch uploading two different batches, the uploader will wrongfully show that it will apply the first batches tag.
  • Rearranging the order of photos in the Photo Uploader may order them incorrectly.
  • Users with queued photos into the Uploader who migrate from Flock 1.x to Flock 2.1 will have to re-add their photos.
  • Filtering own private Photobucket media stream is not possible.
  • Error message will be displayed for Picasa stream on first use of new account.


  • Dates for Digg media streams in My World are not correct.
  • Incorrect timestamps for Bebo status updates in Friend Activity Widget.

Blogging Issues

  • Typepad account configuration is currently broken. Typepad users blogging from Flock will not be able to publish categories either.
  • Due to a security issue on WordPress' side, a message bar with the "logout" button will appear after publishing a blog post. This can be ignored, and publishing to WordPress will continue to function.
  • Downgrading below 2.7 of libxml will solve the posting of HTML code issue with 2.7.1 self-hosted WordPress blogs.
  • When publishing to Xanga, assigning tags does not work.
  • Typepad users blogging from Flock will not be able to publish categories.
  • If you have customized your Blog Editor in an older version of Flock, your settings may not migrate into Flock 2.5.
  • Attempts to replace a Blogsome blog post with the Blog Editor will fail.
  • Blogged videos are not always rendered correctly.
  • In LiveJournal blogs, YouTube videos aren't displayed. For other blogging services, make sure to verify on the video's YouTube page that its embedding option hasn't been disabled by request.
  • Self-hosted blogs configured in the blog editor might not automatically appear in the Accounts and Services sidebar. Close and re-open the sidebar to see them.


  • For some feeds, Flock returns old articles as new.

MacWorld Eddy Award - “It's a Web 2.0 world, and Flock 2.0 has established itself as the browser...” Webware 100 - “Winner: Browsing”

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First look: 2012

Christ the Redeemer comes crashing down Rio De Janeiro

The city of Los Angeles halved

A tsunami crashes an aircraft carrier into the White House

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Joe Hewitt magic for Facebook + iPhone= connect

The Three20 Project

Last week I released my first iPhone open source project, Facebook Connect for iPhone, and today I'm ready to start talking about the next one.
Five months ago I talked about open-sourcing as much of the Facebook iPhone app as I could, and as you can see by the delay, that has turned out to be easier said than done.

Developing an app and developing a generic library are very different goals. A lot of the code I wanted to release was not generic enough, used hacks that worked just well enough for my app, and was coupled with a Facebook-specific data model. So, one by one I've been redesigning and refactoring each of the components I wanted to open source, adding them to a new Xcode static library project, and then reintegrating them with the Facebook app. I just finished doing that a few days ago, and now I'm ready to start sharing the results.

The name of the new project is Three20, after the 320-pixel-wide screen of the iPhone. The code is all hosted on github for your cloning pleasure. There is an excellent sample app called TTCatalog which lets you play with all of the various UI components. Documentation? Well... there are instructions for how to add Three20 to your project, but I am still working on comprehensive documentation for each of the classes. For now, the sample app and the code itself are your documentation.

So, what kind of iPhone UI goodness does Three20 provide?

Photo Viewer

TTPhotoViewController emulates Apple's Photos app with all of its flick'n'pinch delight. You can supply your own "photo sources", which work similarly to the data sources used by UITableView. Unlike Apple's Photos app, it isn't limited to photos stored locally. Your photos can be loaded from the network, and long lists of photos can be loaded incrementally. This version also supports zooming (unlike the version in the current Facebook app).

This has probably been the single biggest timesink in the whole Facebook for iPhone project for me, so if I can help anyone else save that time I will sleep better.

Message composer

TTMessageController emulates the message composer in Apple's Mail app. You can customize it to send any kind of message you want. Include your own set of message fields, or use the standard "To:" and "Subject:". Recipient names can be autocompleted from a data source that you provide.

Web image views

TTImageView makes it as easy to display an image as it is in HTML. Just supply the URL of the image, and TTImageView loads it and displays it efficiently. TTImageView also works with the HTTP cache described below to avoid hitting the network when possible.

Internet-aware table view controllers

TTTableViewController and TTTableViewDataSource help you to build tables which load their content from the Internet. Rather than just assuming you have all the data ready to go, like UITableView does by default, TTTableViewController lets you communicate when your data is loading, and when there is an error or nothing to display. It also helps you to add a "More" button to load the next page of data, and optionally supports reloading the data by shaking the device.

Better text fields

TTTextEditor is a UITextView which can grow in height automatically as you type. I use this for entering messages in Facebook Chat, and it behaves similarly to the editor in Apple's SMS app.

TTPickerTextField is a type-ahead UITextField. As you type it searches a data source, and it adds bubbles into the flow of text when you choose a type-ahead option. I use this in TTMessageController for selecting the names of message recipients.

HTTP disk cache

TTURLRequest is a replacement for NSURLRequest which supports a disk cache (NSURLRequest can only cache in RAM). It has some other nice features too. HTTP posts are as easy as supplying a dictionary of parameters. The TTURL loading system can also be suspended and resumed at any time, which is a great performance helper. Network threads often fight with the UI thread, so you can suspend the network any time your app is graphically intensive.

URL-based Navigation

TTNavigationCenter is for those grizzled old web developers like myself who want to organize their app by "pages" which can be displayed by visiting a URL.

Your view controllers can simply register URL patterns that they handle, and when those URLs are visited the controllers will be created and displayed. You can also register generic actions that are called when a URL is visited.

TTNavigationCenter also persists and restores the full path of navigation controllers and modal view controllers, so your users can quit the app and come back exactly where they left off.

How mature is Three20?

As of today I would call this code alpha quality. If you attempt to use Three20 at this stage, be prepared for a little bugginess. While this code is derived from Facebook for iPhone 2.2, much of it has been rewritten, and that new code has not yet shipped in any app on the App Store. I am using Three20 to develop Facebook for iPhone 3.0, which is slated for early May, so things should be stable by then.

New open source projects are always exciting because you never know who is going to wander into your garden. If you have any questions, please email me!

October 10th, 2008

Developing Facebook for iPhone

Last week I launched the second major iteration of Facebook's iPhone app, which finally lives up to our users' expectations and delivers most of the features they wanted. Getting here has been really challenging, and I'm finally at a point where I can reflect back on the experience and try to share what I've learned.

The 1.0 version of the app was trashed in reviews for its lack of features, which was really hard for me to take given how hard I worked on it. People must have assumed that all I had to do was plug Facebook's data into Apple's ready-to-use UI components and hit the GO button. I wish it had been that easy, but unfortunately many of the components I needed were missing from the iPhone SDK, even though they existed in Apple's own apps. The lack of a mail composer and a photo browser were particularly disappointing.

I had to make a choice: I could dash off weak versions of these components and hope Apple adds the full versions to the SDK later, or I could attempt to replicate them in great enough detail to convince users they were using a standard interface. I chose to take the latter path, and it definitely cost me a lot of development time which could have been used to add more features. One other side effect was that users actually did think they were using a standard interface built by Apple, and so they gave me no love for the work I did, and instead insulted me for not taking the time to deliver more features.

In retrospect, I think I made the right decision. I still can't believe how many apps I've downloaded from the App Store which exhibit no ambition to reach the high bar of quality set by Apple's apps. Many of these apps still receive great reviews for having long feature checklists, which is unfortunate because it only encourages more lazy UI engineering. Just the number of half-assed photo browsers I've found is astounding. I've spent a ton of time working on Facebook's photo browser and it is still only about 80% as good as Apple's, but it close enough to feel familiar to anyone that has used the built-in Photos app.

I have no doubt that Apple will make big improvements to the SDK in the near future, but in the mean time I want to help the open source community fill in the gaps. The iPhone SDK agreement says that you can't distribute "frameworks", but my contacts at Apple Developer Relations have said that it is OK to distribute "sample code". I would like to try and extract as much as I can from Facebook for iPhone and publish it as simple Xcode projects that you can play with and copy from.

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Source code for Skype eavesdropping trojan in the wild

Earlier this week, Swiss programmer Ruben Unteregger who has been reportedly working for a Swiss company ERA IT Solutions responsible for coding government sponsored spyware, has released the source code of a trojan horse that injects code into the Skype process in order to convert the incoming and outgoing voice data into an encrypted MP3 available at the disposal of the attacker.

Here’s how the trojan, currently detected as Trojan.Peskyspy, works:


“When the Trojan is executed, it injects a thread into the Skype process and hooks a number of API calls, allowing it to intercept all PCM audio data going between the Skype process and underlying audio devices. Note: Since the Trojan listens to the data coming to and from the audio devices, it gathers the audio independently of any application-specific protocols or encryption applied by Skype when it passes voice data at the network level.

Note: The incoming and outgoing audio data are stored in separate .mp3 files. The Trojan also opens a back door on the compromised computer, allowing an attacker to perform the following actions:
- Send the .mp3 to a predetermined location
- Download an updated version
- Delete the Trojan from the compromised computer”

Skype is often dubbed a “national security threat” by governments all across the globe due to their — at least publicly acknowledged inability — to crack the 256-bit encryption VoIP calls.

And while some of these governments are reportedly spending surreal amounts of tax payer’s money (Rental of the Skype-Capture-Unit per month and instance EUR 3.500) in order to achieve their objectives, others are taking the cost-effectiveness path by attacking the weakest link in the process - the end user infected with a targeted DIY government sponsored spyware recording all ongoing and incoming Skype calls, thereby bypassing the need to attack the encryption algorithm.

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Disney's VISA cards

Become a Disney Rewards&reg; Visa&reg; Cardmember and Receive a $25 Statement Credit!
 To apply for a Disney Rewards® Visa Card, you must first sign in to your account.

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nokia introduces Booklet 3G 'mini laptop'

Nokia rocked the world this morning by introducing its spin on the laptop, called the Booklet 3G. If you're the rude sort (like us) you could call it a fancy netbook, what with its Atom processor and 10.1-inch display, but that screen is higher res than your average Eee, and it also sports integrated 3G wireless and a hot-swappable SIM card, so it's definitely trying to define its own niche. It looks to be running Windows 7, which isn't particularly netbooky, and also has integrated A-GPS with a copy of Ovi Maps, HDMI output, a rated 12 hour battery life, and the usual Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, all in a 2cm (.78 inch), 2.7lb aluminum body that's understated, sophisticated, and should make most Nokia fans very happy -- Nokia fans who are looking for a tiny laptop, anyway. There's a fancy promotional video after the break, and while we don't have any anticipated release date or price just yet, we'll be learning more at Nokia World 09 on September 2. We promise not to make too many Foleo references.

Gallery: Nokia introduces Booklet 3G 'mini laptop'

Nokia has just whipped the dust sheet off the Nokia Booklet 3G. A brand new breed of portable device for Nokia, this mini laptop PC sees the company step foot on freshly cut turf, and we’re a little dumb-struck with excitement at the prospect of the experience that this bite-size Booklet promises to deliver when it arrives. Not to mention what it means bigger picture, and how this product could affect the entire mobile landscape for the better (we’ll save that for another story), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

First, let’s get down off our tip-toes, take a deep breath, and soak up all the initial details on what the upcoming Nokia Booklet 3G mini laptop is set to deliver when it lands on laps. Read on for every shred of info currently available on this landmark new product, and get the first close-up look at the Nokia Booklet 3G mini laptop in our photo gallery.

The new Nokia Booklet 3G will be a Windows-based machine, supported by an efficient Intel Atom processor that promises the performance of a full-function PC. It’s efficiency credentials are boldly punctuated with battery life that stretches up to 12 hours (with normal daily use, of course – don’t expect a 12-hour Quake-fest off a single hit of juice).

Turning our attention to mini matters of a tape-measure nature, the Nokia Booklet 3G comes toting a glass 10.1-inch HD display (it has an HDMI port for HD video out). This lives within its smart aluminium shell which measures in at just 2cm thin and tips the scales at around a kilogram to ensure it’s extremely portable.

Connecting at speed is crucial with a product of this nature, so the Booklet 3G has been designed with fast downloading and uploading front of mind – it’s 3G/HSPA ready for rapid mobile broadband anywhere-access on the move. Wi-Fi has also been wedged into it’s slim body. Plus, it supports hot-swappable SIM card functionality.

It’s talents don’t end there, with Nokia’s mini laptop PC also featuring onboard assisted-GPS with Ovi Maps neatly sat in the passenger seat. There’s a single front-facing camera nestled above the 10.1-inch HD screen for video chat, with Bluetooth and a built-in SD card reader also making appearances.

You may be wondering why Nokia is adding to its range of products with an ultra portable laptop PC? Well, Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Devices, Kai Oistamo, summed it up simply as follows:

“A growing number of people want the computing power of a PC with the full benefits of mobility. We are in the business of connecting people and the Nokia Booklet 3G is a natural evolution for us. Nokia has a long and rich heritage in mobility and with the outstanding battery life, premium design and all day, always on connectivity, we will create something quite compelling. In doing so we will make the personal computer more social, more helpful and more personal.”

There’s already a lot of info to digest here, but there are still more details to come at Nokia World 09 on 2 September – expect official word on where the Nokia Booklet 3G will be available, news on how much it’ll cost, along with a detailed list of specs for the number-hungry among us.

In the meantime, share your opinions on the new Nokia Booklet 3G in the comments section below, and be sure to follow all our coverage of Nokia World 09 right here on Conversations.

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Monday, August 24, 2009


Hi Still Dreaming Nerd

Just wanted to update you with what's been going on over at Posterous-- lots of new features and more on the way all the time. Here's the biggest three features we launched since the last time we talked...

Now Available for your iPhone

PicPosterous - Your new iPhone instant camera

The new Posterous iPhone app removes all the friction with posting photos and video online. PicPosterous is designed to be a replacement for the Camera app on your phone, posting photo sets and video to your Posterous site live, as you take them. Learn more »

It's free and available NOW from the iPhone App Store. Download it now »

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Our Shout Out to Flock’s Facebook and Twitter Users…

At Flock, we love to hear from you. We want to make sure that Flock continues to help you discover, enjoy and share the relationships and content you’re passionate about. So while you’ve been talking, we’ve been listening. The result is a new version of Flock that reflects the new ways you want to use your favorite social browser along with two of your favorite networks—Twitter and Facebook.

The new version that we’re releasing today lets you keep your finger on the pulse of your social networks, yet it gives you the freedom to explore online without having to click back and forth between websites, tabs, applications and content. And now, Flock is the only browser that let’s you take Facebook Chat with you wherever you go on the Web. You can also drag and drop photos, videos, links and text into your chats, making everything simple, social and fun.

Flock 2.5 makes sharing and discovering content fast and easy. You just drag and drop URLs, photos, videos, text or other things you find on the web to a friend’s Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or other profile in Flock’s People Sidebar and it’s instantly shared. And now Flock comes with Twitter Search right in MyWorld, so you can keep up to date on all the topics you’re most interested in and save them in the best place possible, your Flock browser.

<p>Flock 2.5 - Twitter from Flockstar on Vimeo.</p>

Last but not least is FlockCast, an effortless way to share information across your social networks. With FlockCast, you can broadcast anything from blog posts and picture uploads to Tweets and MySpace status updates directly to your Facebook profile. And when you share a URL in a Twitter message, Flock automatically shortens the URL.

<p>Flock 2.5 - FlockCast from Flockstar on Vimeo.</p>

clearly, this new version of Flock is for those of you that are Twitter and Facebook fans. Our Facebook users have grown over 80% since the beginning of 2009! And, on Twitter, we are proud and appreciative of in the great things you’re writing about Flock across the Twittersphere… (check out #flock). Flock’s popularity has been almost entirely driven by the generous recommendations coming from each of you (we just passed 7.5 million downloads). We’re extremely grateful for your support and hope that you’ll  keep spreading the word. And now we’re giving you the opportunity to earn the recognition and rewards you deserve by telling your friends about Flock on Facebook at

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Web 2.0 Expo: Mozilla's UI designer talks shop

SAN FRANCISCO--Aza Raskin, head of user experience for Mozilla Labs, could be considered the Doogie Howser of the Web design world.

At the age of 25, he's heading up Ubiquity--one of Mozilla's most experimental projects, along with collaborating on Weave and the concept series. This was after Raskin--the son of the late Apple Macintosh designer Jef Raskin--discontinued his pursuit of a Ph.D. to found Humanized, the company that brought him to Mozilla.

However, at a talk about design at the Web 2.0 Expo, Raskin played down his work on some of Mozilla's latest projects, instead using it as a platform to showcase why the company needs more design help from those who can spare it. "For every one employee, we have 1.2 million users," he said. Of those, about 1,000 contribute to Firefox's code, with another 100,000 or so who do the heavy testing.

But of those large numbers, few have offered design help. And in Raskin's mind, design is something that will help drive Firefox's user interface, and the UIs of other Mozilla products, into new territories. "Right now, we have two designers, so if people want to get involved, there's an ample opportunity...the work we do here can affect one of every five people on the Web."

Raskin was referring to Firefox's install base, which continues to grow, despite new and aggressive browser releases from Google, Microsoft, and Apple, all within the past year. In fact, as of this week, Firefox 3 became the most popular browser in Europe, beating out the last three releases of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which had previously dominated the region.

But what kinds of design is Mozilla looking to improve? Raskin highlighted tabs, which he says are fantastic when only a few are open. But they do a poor job of scaling, he said--especially once you reach the threshold of having close to a dozen tabs open in a single browser window. "I think we're going to see a lot of innovation there."

However, that innovation may not be coming from Mozilla Labs, which shuttered its Chromatabs project, focused on a browser add-on that would give each tab its own color, based on the site's identity.

Instead, the company has largely put the onus on third-party developers (or even competitors) to change the way we use them and build some of the best ideas into new releases.

The new page for frequently visited sites will show you which sites you tend to visit during various times of day. It also gives users the option to search and view content from each of those sites.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

Raskin also highlighted advancements in improving the browser's memory of what you've been doing, making it easier to do simple tasks by using that information. To illustrate the point, he showed off Mozilla's latest efforts in enhancing what users see when firing up their browser or opening up a new tab. Users will soon have a page that remembers the last few sites you were using and pulls in the latest items from each RSS feed.

It's no Netvibes, though. Instead, it will remember when you use each site during the day, then custom-tailor that page to show only those sites. As Raskin described it, this will keep you from seeing some of the "late night" sites you visit when firing up your browser to read news stories and check e-mail in the morning.

So what about Firefox's next big redesign? It received a few subtle tweaks in version 3, but nothing groundbreaking outside of making the back button almost twice the size as the forward button.

With Raskin at the helm, many of the biggest UI changes could be simply embedding things that used to be buttons deeper within the application. The latest proof of that is one of Mozilla Labs' recent efforts, Ubiquity, which is effectively a command line interface that can learn new site-specific shortcuts. It can also be called up and dismissed in an instant.

Is this going to be the next way we navigate the Web, though? Probably not, but in Raskin's mind, it's a design trend to build more functionality around the sites we use every day.

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Which Cell Phone Is Smartest for Business?

Many businesses depend on mobile phones that also browse the Web, send and receive e-mail, and use other applications. But how do you choose between not only BlackBerry and iPhone, but Google's Android, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre and others?

Smartphones are big for small business. In fact, many mobile workers now depend on these all-in-one digital Swiss Army Knives that offer support for third-party applications, messaging, Web browsing, GPS navigation, media playback, and photo and video capture.

Oh, and they make calls, too.

But there are a growing number of different platforms on the market -- including BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre and others -- therefore deciding which one is best for your small or mid-sized business could be an overwhelming endeavor. So we turned to a couple of tech experts to discuss what a mobile worker should look for in a smartphone platform.

The basics

Smartphones are an increasingly popular choice for business use, but regardless which of which operating system you go with, the handset must meet a few key minimum requirements, says Scott Steinberg, publisher of Digital Trends.

"Battery life and wireless coverage are two big ones," says Steinberg, who is based in Atlanta. "Because of all of its features and integrated wireless radios, smartphones can consume a lot of power, and the last thing you need is to be on the road or at a trade show and there's only one bar left."

As for coverage areas, which can greatly affect call quality and data speeds, Steinberg suggests to do your research by visiting the websites for carriers -- such as Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint -- and click on the map that shows coverage areas. "Many people assume the smartphone will work the same everywhere in the U.S., and elsewhere, but this is simply not the case," he explains. "It's also not a bad idea to talk to colleagues or friends on that network to hear first-hand about coverage, as the last thing you need is to be on the road and you can't access your e-mail from client about a cancelled appointment."

Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-based technology research firm, says before deciding which smartphone to invest in, figure out what applications your business requires and if they're supported by the platform. "The horizontal app is e-mail, of course, but after that you'll need to list any other apps you'll want to run," says Schadler.  A small or mid-sized business "will also work out the cost per device, how many you need for your staff, the cost of the data plan, and any device management software or mobile middleware you might need."

Consider being device agnostic

Schadler, who has just published a report entitled Technology Populism Fuels Mobile Collaboration: When IT Supports Personal Mobile Phones, Mobile Collaboration Ensues, says the trend is moving towards a "bring your own smartphone" practice. In a survey completed by more than 2,300 IT decision-makers in the U.S. and Europe, one in four are now supporting an employee's personal mobile device -- so long as the applications are platform-agnostic and meets the company's security protocols. The gotta-have-it iPhone from Apple is the "big disruptor" for this paradigm shift, says Schadler.

Deciding which smartphone platform to go, however, might be dependent on the industry you're in, adds Schadler. If you're in regulated industry -- such as health care, pharmaceutical, insurance, or financial services -- you might have strict privacy requirements, such as protecting customer data, remote wiping of device if the smartphone is lost or stolen, and so on. "There are many, many different kinds of policies in these industries so you have to be careful about which phones you're supporting to ensure they meet regulatory compliance," says Schadler.

"If you want managed devices, you really only have one choice, which is BlackBerry," adds Schadler, "as RIM supports more than 450 policies -- but it'll cost you a license fee per month, per user." He adds, "Otherwise, Windows Mobile and iPhone are basically free if you're running Exchange."

Steinberg agrees with Schadler on the additional requirements for any smartphone consideration. Your priorities should be "security and privacy issues must be addressed, support for enterprise-level e-mail, and whether or not you easily sync your data with a PC," he says. "And depending on what you need, access to the company's Twitter or Facebook account while on the road might be important or GPS to find your way to a meeting or wireless or on-demand software purchases at an app store."

Pros and cons

The following are a few thoughts on each of the major smartphone operating systems:

  • BlackBerry

Pros: Reliable, fast and secure "push" e-mail; physical keyboard in most models; good battery life; supports multiple accounts.

Cons: Browser not the greatest; App World doesn't offer great selection or intuitive interface.

  • Windows Mobile

Pros: Supported by the broadest range of devices; Outlook and other Windows programs sync smoothly with a PC.

Cons: Interface and stability issues; fewer apps than most other smartphones.

  • iPhone

Pros: Elegant and intuitive touch interface; more than 65,000 apps in App Store (many of which are free); great consumer device.

Cons: No physical keyboard is obstacle for many; battery life trails other smartphones; still no MMS support in U.S.

  • Android

Pros: Powerful and versatile open-source operating system; seamless presentation and access of online Google apps; good user-interface.

Cons: Not a lot of supported devices or software; Android Market not as intuitive as Apple App Store.

  • Palm webOS

Pros: Open-source operating system anyone can develop for; can support multiple apps open at once; offers both physical keyboard and touchscreen.

Cons: Unproven for business because newest OS; poor selection of software and only one device (Palm Pre).

Posted via web from swathidharshananaidu's posterous

Putting Founders First

Entrepreneurs have long complained that investors don't understand them. Venture capitalists, they gripe, are impatient control freaks, more focused on their eventual cash-out than the steps necessary to get there. VCs, of course, have issues of their own, grousing that business owners lack the experience and fiscal discipline needed to build successful companies.

Like a peace negotiator stepping into the breach, Founders Fund, a venture capital firm in San Francisco, aims to build a bridge between these often hostile parties. Launched two years ago by three founders of PayPal--Peter Thiel, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek--the $50 million fund holds stakes in 15 companies, many of them founded by PayPal alumni, including Facebook, the well-known social networking site; Geni, a social networking site for people researching their genealogies; and Ironport, a spam-filtering company that agreed to be acquired by Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) in January for $830 million. But while Founders Fund aims to make money, it also harbors larger ambitions: to transform the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors. "We hope we will be an example for the rest of the valley," says Nosek, 31, one of the firm's managing partners.

That's easy enough to say. But the Founders Fund is backing up its words with some action, altering some of the fundamental rules of venture investing. The firm's biggest innovation is the way it awards shares to the founders of companies in which it invests. In the typical venture capital deal, investors put money in and founders can't take any money out until the VC's investment is recouped with an IPO or a sale. Why? Venture capitalists believe that a hungry CEO is a more effective CEO. Let a founder take some cash out early, they argue, and you risk diminishing his commitment and drive.

This has long been a sore point among business owners, who often have their entire net worth tied up in their companies--not to mention loads of credit card debt they'd be delighted to settle--but not a lot of cash on hand. To address that concern, the Founders Fund has created a new type of preferred stock, called Series FF. It gives entrepreneurs far more flexibility by allowing owners to convert their FF shares into subsequent offerings of preferred stock. Say a company in which Founders Fund has invested is successful and ready for a second round of financing. When that happens, the FF stockholder can convert his shares and sell them to the investors. There are some restrictions--the conversion can be done only when the new shares are issued and there are caps on the amount that can be converted. Still, the arrangement lets owners sell a portion of their stakes without being forced to wait for an initial public offering or sale of the company.

Barney Pell, founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Powerset, an Internet search firm that raised $12 million last year (the bulk of it from the Founders Fund and another venture firm), thinks that's a big deal. In fact, his company was the first test case for the FF shares. Pell maxed out his credit cards when founding Powerset; he says the knowledge that he can get some cash in a subsequent round of financing goes a long way toward reducing the anxiety that's part of founding a company. "They really think like founders and they really want to help the company," he says of his investors.

The Founders Fund shares were created just months ago, so the firm does not yet have a track record. But the program is a radical departure from the way venture investments typically are structured, says Josh Lerner, a professor of investment banking at Harvard Business School who focuses on venture capital. In the rare instances in which a CEO does cash out early, it's usually because the relationship with investors has gone awry and the investors have chosen to buy the CEO out ahead of schedule. The issue for investors, Lerner says, is whether diluting an entrepreneur's financial risk also dilutes his drive to succeed: "It's a really interesting question, and it's not one with an easy answer."

But the principals at the Founders Fund believe the arrangement will give them an edge in securing the best deals. And that's no small thing. The investment world has grown increasingly competitive, with private equity players, venture capitalists, and individual angel investors often chasing after the same companies. At the same time, particularly with the Web 2.0 companies in which Founders Fund specializes, there's been a boomlet of new companies with relatively low capital needs without a correspondingly booming market for initial public offerings. As a result, says Howery, PayPal's former chief financial officer, "the top entrepreneurs can take money from whomever they want and they don't want second-class treatment."

Howery and his partners also believe that their fund is different because it is run by former entrepreneurs--people who truly understand the difficulties of running a start-up. Indeed, PayPal's is a classic entrepreneurial success story. Thiel and Max Levchin (now CEO of Slide, a start-up backed by Founders Fund) came up with the idea in 1998 and assembled a team of recent college grads. They gained customers by paying $10 bonuses for new accounts and quickly burned through a lot of cash. By early 2000, PayPal was losing $10 million a month and on the verge of going out of business. Still, it raised $100 million in venture capital--just days before the Nasdaq stock market began its plunge. The following year, PayPal filed for an initial public offering, and when it did go public in February 2002, its shares soared 55 percent. Several months later, eBay agreed to buy the company for $1.5 billion, and Thiel and his co-founders became gazillionaires before the age of 35.

That experience resonates, says Darren Rush, chief executive of Koders, a Santa Monica-based search engine for software developers. Rush received an investment from a group led by Founders Fund last April (before the development of the FF shares). "There is cultural compatibility," he says. Suneet Wadhwa, co-founder and CEO of Engage, an Internet dating site, feels similarly. At 39, he already has had one success as co-founder of Snapfish, which was snapped up by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) in 2005. So when he began trying to raise $1.1 million in seed-round financing for Engage in June 2005, he had a lot of options. Why Founders Fund? Simple, says Wadhwa. "They've been there before."

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Stream Computing on Graphics Hardware

 BY:Ian Buck, Tim Foley, Daniel Horn, Jeremy Sugerman, Kayvon Fatahalian, Mike Houston, and Pat Hanrahan
Computer Science Department
Stanford University

To appear at SIGGRAPH 2004


In this paper, we present Brook for GPUs, a system for general-purpose computation on programmable graphics hardware. Brook extends C to include simple data-parallel constructs, enabling the use of the GPU as a streaming coprocessor. We present a compiler and runtime system that abstracts and virtualizes many aspects of graphics hardware. In addition, we present an analysis of the effectiveness of the GPU as a compute engine compared to the CPU, to determine when the GPU can outperform the CPU for a particular algorithm. We evaluate our system with five applications, the SAXPY and SGEMV BLAS operators, image segmentation, FFT, and ray tracing. For these applications, we demonstrate that our Brook implementations perform comparably to hand-written GPU code and up to seven times faster than their CPU counterparts.





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IBM tackles high-volume 'stream computing'

IBM launched this week System S, a software platform built following five years of research into the real-time analysis of large amounts of unstructured business or scientific data.

IBM calls the resulting technology "stream computing," because the software deals with streams of data.

Also this week, IBM opened the IBM European Stream Computing Center, headquartered in Dublin. The center will serve as a hub of research, customer support, and advanced testing for stream-computing applications.



System S is IBM's answer to the growing problem of data overload, the company said. In particular, it is a response to the growing amount of unstructured data--such as Web pages, e-mails, blogs, video and data captured from electronic sensors--that organizations are faced with processing.

The new IBM software is designed specifically to handle such information, as well as the structured data found in databases. It processes this data in real time, giving users the ability to make decisions based on that analysis right away, according to IBM.

"Traditional computing models retrospectively analyze stored data and cannot continuously process massive amounts of incoming data streams that affect critical decision-making," IBM said in a statement. "System S is designed to help clients become more 'real-world aware', seeing and responding to changes across complex systems."

The software is written using a programming language specifically developed for stream computing, called SPADE (stream processing application declarative engine). It is designed to run on a variety of hardware platforms, including clusters, multicore architectures and chips such as the Cell processor, IBM said.

The system can be used to analyze data such as stock prices, retail sales, and weather reports. IBM is aiming it at financial institutions, government and law enforcement agencies, and retailers, among other organizations.

System S is being used in a number of pilot projects that demonstrate the diverse types of applications IBM is targeting for the software.

Uppsala University and the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, for instance, are using a pilot system to analyze the way radio emissions from space affect energy transmission over power lines, communications via radio and TV signals, and airline and space travel, IBM said.

The Marine Institute of Ireland is using the system to monitor large volumes of underwater acoustic information, while TD Securities is using the software to develop a pilot of an automated options-trading system. A pilot at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology is using System S to monitor streams of biomedical data from critically ill premature babies.

The software is currently available in English directly from IBM, with prices ranging from $100,000 for a two-server installation up to several million dollars for a large cluster with hundreds of nodes, IBM said.

System S is scheduled to be released in multiple languages and through IBM business partners sometime in 2010.

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AMD unveils powerful 'stream computing' chip

AMD's upcoming FireStream processor might be a way for scientists to tap into a lot of performance without breaking the bank.

The company will be demonstrating its FireStream 9170 processor next week at the SC07 supercomputing show, and executives spoke this week about the promise of "stream computing." The 9170 is designed to let high-performance computing applications take advantage of the excellent parallel performance of a graphics chip.

The big trend in chip design over the past few years has been parallelism. Instead of trying to crunch all the data through a single path moving as fast as possible, the cool kids are now adding paths so data can flow down multiple outlets. This allows the chip to run at slower speeds, and therefore cooler temperatures.

Graphics processing units (GPUs) have been doing this for years. The high-performance discrete graphics chips from companies like Nvidia and AMD's ATI division have been designed with parallel performance in mind for a very long time. Certain types of customers in labs and research facilities would love to be able to tap into that kind of processing power, but GPUs require special programming techniques.

AMD is trying to bridge the gap between PC processors that are easy to program and graphics chips that offer great performance with the FireStream 9170. Think of it as a high-end graphics chip with a lot more memory than usually ships with those products, said Robert Feldstein, vice president of engineering for AMD.

The performance will be there. The 9170 is essentially one of ATI's high-end discrete graphics chips that has been tricked out with more memory and double-precision floating point units, which apparently is better than single precision. It comes with 2GBs of memory, compared with 512MBs of memory on the most powerful ATI graphics chip.

But the programming is still a little tricky. You'll need a software developer's kit, and you'll probably only want to port limited amounts of your code to run on the 9170.

"You don't have a researcher that's trying to port over thousands of lines of legacy code. They have a particular algorithm that (the researcher) knows will run well on a GPU," said Patricia Harrell, director of stream computing for AMD. "You're not worried about changing code for something that gives you an order of magnitude increase (in performance)," she said.

The 9170 isn't going to be out until the first quarter of next year, as AMD's graphics priorities for the holiday season are discrete graphics chips for PCs that all of us can use. It will cost $1,999, which might seem like a lot, but this is something you should be able to add into an existing workstation or server for a performance boost when you need it, rather than buying a fancy server for just a few lines of code.

Eventually, AMD wants to integrate this type of technology directly onto a PC or server processor. It has already announced plans to integrate graphics chips onto PC chips as part of its Fusion project, but it hasn't identified a timeframe for putting its powerful stream computing technology on a PC chip.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

China Internet users soar to 298 million

BEIJING -- China's fast-growing population of Internet users has risen to 298 million after passing the United States last year to become the world's largest, a government-sanctioned research group said.

Chinese gamers play online computer games at an Internet cafe in Shanghai in 2007. China's fast-growing population of Internet users has risen to 298 million after passing the United States last year to become the world's largest. [Agencies]

China's Internet use is growing at explosive rates. The latest figure is a 41.9 percent increase over the same period last year, the China Internet Network Information Center said in a report Tuesday.

China's Internet penetration rate is still low, with just 22.6 percent of its population online, leaving more room for rapid growth, according to CNNIC. The Pew Internet and American Life Project places US online penetration at 71 percent.


The financial size of China's online market, however, still trails that of the United States, South Korea and other countries.

The United States had an estimated 223.1 million Internet users in June, according to Nielsen Online, a research firm.

China is preparing to launch third-generation mobile phone service, which supports wireless Web surfing, that is expected to set off a new surge in Internet use.

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An invention that could change the internet for ever

Revolutionary new web software could put giants such as Google in the shade when it comes out later this month. Andrew Johnson reports

The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.


The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.

Although the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers.

Computer experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in the development of the internet. Nova Spivack, an internet and computer expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as Google. "It is really impressive and significant," he wrote. "In fact it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.

Tom Simpson, of the blog, said: "What are the wider implications exactly? A new paradigm for using computers and the web? Probably. Emerging artificial intelligence and a step towards a self-organising internet? Possibly... I think this could be big."

Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as "how high is Mount Everest?", but it will also produce a neat page of related information – all properly sourced – such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts.

The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out "on the fly", according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in "10 flips for four heads" and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.

Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths.

"I've wanted to make the knowledge we've accumulated in our civilisation computable," he said last week. "I was not sure it was possible. I'm a little surprised it worked out so well."

Dr Wolfram, 49, who was educated at Eton and had completed his PhD in particle physics by the time he was 20, added that the launch of Wolfram Alpha later this month would be just the beginning of the project.

"It will understand what you are talking about," he said. "We are just at the beginning. I think we've got a reasonable start on 90 per cent of the shelves in a typical reference library."

The engine, which will be free to use, works by drawing on the knowledge on the internet, as well as private databases. Dr Wolfram said he expected that about 1,000 people would be needed to keep its databases updated with the latest discoveries and information.

He also added that he would not go down the road of storing information on ordinary people, although he was aware that others might use the technology to do so.

Wolfram Alpha has been designed with professionals and academics in mind, so its grasp of popular culture is, at the moment, comparatively poor. The term "50 Cent" caused "absolute horror" in tests, for example, because it confused a discussion on currency with the American rap artist. For this reason alone it is unlikely to provide an immediate threat to Google, which is working on a similar type of search engine, a version of which it launched last week.

"We have a certain amount of popular culture information," Dr Wolfram said. "In some senses popular culture information is much more shallowly computable, so we can find out who's related to who and how tall people are. I fully expect we will have lots of popular culture information. There are linguistic horrors because if you put in books and music a lot of the names clash with other concepts."

He added that to help with that Wolfram Alpha would be using Wikipedia's popularity index to decide what users were likely to be interested in.

With Google now one of the world's top brands, worth $100bn, Wolfram Alpha has the potential to become one of the biggest names on the planet.

Dr Wolfram, however, did not rule out working with Google in the future, as well as Wikipedia. "We're working to partner with all possible organisations that make sense," he said. "Search, narrative, news are complementary to what we have. Hopefully there will be some great synergies."

What the experts say

"For those of us tired of hundreds of pages of results that do not really have a lot to do with what we are trying to find out, Wolfram Alpha may be what we have been waiting for."

Michael W Jones,

"If it is not gobbled up by one of the industry superpowers, his company may well grow to become one of them in a small number of years, with most of us setting our default browser to be Wolfram Alpha."

Doug Lenat,

"It's like plugging into an electric brain."

Matt Marshall,

"This is like a Holy Grail... the ability to look inside data sources that can't easily be crawled and provide answers from them."

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of

Worldwide network: A brief history of the internet

1969 The internet is created by the US Department of Defense with the networking of computers at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute.

1979 The British Post Office uses the technology to create the first international computer networks.

1980 Bill Gates's deal to put a Microsoft Operating System on IBM's computers paves the way for almost universal computer ownership.

1984 Apple launches the first successful 'modern' computer interface using graphics to represent files and folders, drop-down menus and, crucially, mouse control.

1989 Tim Berners-Lee creates the world wide web – using browsers, pages and links to make communication on the internet simple.

1996 Google begins as a research project at Stanford University. The company is formally founded two years later by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

2009 Dr Stephen Wolfram launches Wolfram Alpha.

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