Microsoft shutting down MSN TV this September

DNP Microsoft shutting down MSN TV this September

Just after celebrating the service’s sweet 16th, Microsoft has announced it will be shutting down MSN TV on September 30th. To help ease the transition, Redmond is offering current subscribers free access to MSN Premium through December 31st. After that, customers will have to pay the standard rate of $10 per month or $90 per year. Naturally, the modern service isn’t compatible with MSN TV’s defunct hardware — save it for your makeshift Linux cluster.

Users will have to switch their email addresses to Outlook accounts and copy any saved content (bookmarks, Scrapbook photos, et cetera) to SkyDrive before September if they want to access it in the future. Of course, folks that miss the WebTV experience still have other equally unwieldy options. The shut-down was inevitable, but we can’t help feeling at least a little nostalgic for the service’s 640 x 480 view of the web.

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Via: The Verge, All Things D

Source: MSN TV

Switched On: Hard drives face hard truths

DNP Switched On Hard drives face hard truths

The PlayStation 4‘s is upgradeable; the Xbox One‘s is not. For at least the second consecutive generation (the third for the Xbox), hard drives will be offered as part of the gaming experience for two of the home video game powerhouses: Microsoft and Sony. For the Xbox line, which offered a model without a hard drive in the last generation, the inclusion of an internal HDD represents, along with its x86 processor, a return to the approach Microsoft took with the original Xbox.

Indeed, the Xbox One will load disc-based games onto the hard drive automatically. Both Sony and Microsoft will also offer access via the cloud. In fact, following up on its purchase of Gaikai, Sony plans to offer a range of gaming from the cloud to multiple platforms. This may include older titles that it cannot support on the PlayStation 4 due to a lack of native backward compatibility. If such capability is expected to work, why bother to have hard drives in these consoles at all? Indeed, hardware makers of many stripes are starting to ask that question.

Facebook rolling out Graph Search to US users this week

Facebook rolling out Graph Search to US users this week

Remember that profile-specific social network search tool Mark Zukerberg announced back in January? It’s finally ready for the general public. According to the New York Times and ABC News, Facebook Graph Search will start rolling out to US users this Monday. The update is more than a simple search bar revamp, however — it allows users to mine their social circle for very specific information, asking questions like “Who are my friends in San Francisco,” or searching for “people who went to Stanford who like the 49ers.” The tool is designed to harken back to the company’s original goal of connecting people, and aims to help users draw lines between their friends and interests. Graph Search will also pull select data from Bing, allowing users to peek at the weather from the comfort of their timeline.

Despite launching on a wider scale, the service isn’t perfect — the New York Times reports that it still has trouble juggling synonymous phrases (something we experienced in our own hands-on), returning discrepant results for searches like “people who like to surf” and “people who like surfing.” The tool also works within the confines of a user’s privacy settings and public activity, meaning that you won’t accidentally uncover your cousin’s secret My Little Pony fan-group if its privacy settings are locked down. The feature is set to debut for a few hundred million users this week, and will continue to become available to the all US users in the coming weeks.

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Via: Verge

Source: New York Times, ABC News

Facebook Home Hits 500K Downloads In Five Days, Pales In Comparison To Instagram’s Android Shift

It would appear that Facebook Home has just surpassed 500k downloads on Google Play since launching on the platform five days ago on April 16. The app’s Google Play listing notes the milestone, and Ben Evans confirmed on Twitter.

Facebook Home isn’t so much of an app as a user interface for the phone, putting Facebook smack dab in the center of Android users’ smartphone experience. Users with Facebook Home can post status updates and view the newsfeed straight from the lock screen, and conduct messaging without ever being interrupted, thanks to Chat Heads.

In essence, it’s Facebook’s push past being an app like every other app and being a central force of the smartphone, a launch pad. Hopes are seriously high, as foreshadowed by Zuckerberg’s sweaty brow at the announcement, but word had originally circulated that users weren’t all that into Facebook Home around launch day.

Clearly, that’s not true as the app has garnered over 100,000 downloads a day since launch. Still, these aren’t blow-out numbers. Remember when Instagram launched on Android and hit over 1 million downloads in a day? And then hit over 5 million downloads in six days? Yeah. Those were blow-out numbers.

You also have to consider that Facebook has over a billion users, so 500K doesn’t really move the needle.

But in Facebook’s defense, the Home application is only available on select devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, HTC One X, and the HTC One X+, along with the Facebook Phone, the HTC First.

Oh, and Facebook is now quite happy for Instagram’s success on Android after that slight $1 billion acquisition.

Before You Change your DNS Server, Read this!

Public DNS services, like OpenDNS or Google DNS, may offer more reliable and faster lookups than the DNS server of your ISP but in some cases, you may get much better download speeds if you continue to stick to your ISP’s DNS server. Here’s why.

location of amazon cdn

You know about Content Delivery Networks like Amazon, Akamai, etc. that have data centers located across the globe and they serve content from the one that’s closest to you geographically. A site like Adobe hosts its files on Akamai so when you download that 1 GB Photoshop installer from, the file will be served to you from the Akamai data center that’s nearest to you. 
A CDN uses your computer’s IP Address to determine your current location and then redirects you to the server that’s nearest to you. However, if you use a public DNS service, the CDN may not get to know your accurate location as your IP address is masked by the public DNS Service. The CDN could therefore serve content from a server that’s not closest to you and hence it will take more time to download files. 
A recent story published in The Economist discusses this problem in much greater detail. 

Are CDNs serving you content through the shortest path? 

Considering the fact that all major websites – from Microsoft to CNN to YouTube – use CDNs for delivering content, it is important to know if your are getting served from the nearest located server. How do you find that out? 
Step 1: Download the Dig tool and run it against a domain (like 
C:\labnol>dig A 687 IN CNAME 20 IN A 20 IN A 
Once you have the IP Addresses, you can find the server’s physical location using this online tool. If you are in India and request a file through Adobe (Akamai CDN), it should be served from their data-center in Asia and not the one in North America. MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia 
When I asked OpenDNS about this issue, their representative told me that it is something ‘fixable’ and that they’re working on a solution where the DNS Server itself passes on the client’s location to the CDN. Unless this happens, as Atul Chitnis rightly points out, non-ISP DNS services “kill the benefits of CDNs like Akamai.”
Digital Inspiration @labnol

What you need to know about the FCC’s net neutrality ruling

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What you need to know about the FCC’s net neutrality ruling

What you need to know about the FCC's net neutrality ruling

via DVICE Atom Feed by Evan Ackerman on 12/22/1

The Federal Communications Commission laid down some ground rules governing its vision for net neutrality this week. Net neutrality matters because it’s what keeps the Internet open and accessible to everyone, so this ruling is pretty important. How’d the FCC do? Not great, but we’ll break it down for you.

SHIFT: What Google Gears means for cloud computing

via DVICE by S.E. Kramer on 2/6/09


DVICE writers take a closer look at the latest tech trends in our weekly column, Shift.

One of the big trends of 2008 was cloud computing, or the idea that you don’t have to use applications or store information on your computer’s hard drive, because you can do it easily and efficiently online. We’ve been able to store e-mail, photos and documents online for years, but never has there been so much good, free Web-based software to let us do it. Many of Google’s applications are so user-friendly that they’ve led some to announce the impending death of the operating system and software as we know it.

But 2009 may mark the beginning of a new trend: reverse cloud computing, where you store data from the cloud on your hard drive. Sound counterintuitive? It is, and it isn’t. Last week, Google announced that Gmail would work with Gears, Google-developed software that lets Gmail work seamlessly when it’s not connected to the Internet. Hit the Continue jump to explore the ups and downs of using Web applications when you’re not online.

Getting into Gear

For years, Gmail has supported systems that let you download e-mail to your computer through programs like Outlook. Unlike Outlook, however, Gears works through your Web browser: It looks just like regular Gmail. Gears isn’t new; it’s been around for more than a year, supporting programs like Google Documents (and some non-Google based Web software). It’s only just begun working with Gmail, and remarkably, it still doesn’t work with Google Calendar.

Because offline Gmail is browser-driven, it doesn’t feel like offline storage. This is deliberate: Most people will see the application not as a system for backing up e-mails in case of Internet failure, but one that lets you stay connected (or at least feel connected) even when you’re in an Internet-free zone.

But that’s a limited way of looking at it. Google isn’t infallible, and backing up your e-mail is good common sense, though backing up information on a hard drive is already beginning to sound retro.

When Gmail launched, it didn’t have a delete button— Google’s idea was that readers would want to archive everything. Google soon fixed the delete button problem — it had overestimated the value of most e-mail to readers — but it still has an “archive everything” mentality. This is hardly surprising; since as a search company Google’s in the business of finding information, not getting rid of it. But there’s a happy medium between never backing up anything and the Google Gears system of saving a document on your computer, then backing it up online and then re-downloading it as e-mail backed up on your hard drive. And it already exists.

Outlook vs. Gears

While some proclaim that the system will destroy Outlook and similar hard-drive based e-mail software, Gmail with Gears is a fundamentally different concept — Outlook lovers aren’t going to abandon the program immediately.

Outlook, and similar programs like Eudora and Entourage take mail from a server and store it even if you delete it on the server. Similarly, if you delete mail in Outlook but it’s still on the server, you can get it back. These programs retrieve mail and keep it. Gmail with Gears, on the other hand, simply creates an exact replica of your Gmail account. This means that when you delete an email when you’re offline (off your hard drive), that email will be deleted from your online Gmail as soon as you reconnect to the Internet. Similarly, when you delete a message online, it won’t show up in your offline version of Gmail.

Gmail’s system has disadvantages. Let’s say you want to clear some attachments from your online account to free up space, but you have plenty of room on your hard drive. You can’t keep just some messages in your desktop version of the program. Conversely, I found that one of the most annoying aspects of downloading Gears was that all sorts of big attachments got copied onto my computer. Mostly, the attachments were images, MP3s and documents that already exist on my hard drive. But I can’t delete them from my offline version of Gmail, because in that case they won’t be stored in Google’s cloud either.

Also, if Gmail is in Beta (which it totally shouldn’t be, since it’s nearly five years old), then Google Gears for Gmail is in Super Beta, with plenty of room for improvement. The program is slow — sometimes alarmingly slow. Shouldn’t it be faster than regular Gmail? After all, Google no longer has to retrieve messages from a server way over yonder, just grab stuff from your so-close hard drive.

Google: Not Infallible

Google search’s 55 minutes of failure last weekend showed the extent to which most computer users rely on the company. Though I love its products, I too certainly have concerns about total Google reliance. Nonetheless, I welcome Google Gears as an easy backup system that has a fantastic, Google-driven built-in search function. But it should be a little more flexible, instead of making offline Gmail a carbon copy of the online version. After all, when you delete all your girlfriend’s e-mails in a drunken fervor, you might want to be able to find the archive somewhere else when you regret that decision the next day.

Livedrive provides unlimited online storage

via Download Squad by Brad Linder on 12/24/08

Livedrive is an online storage service that offers two advantages over most services in this space:

  1. Unlimited file storage
  2. Integration with Windows Explorer

When you install Livedrive (and reboot your computer), you’ll notice an L drive show up in Windows Explorer. To copy files to the service, just drag and drop them to the L drive. You can also upload and download files through a web-based interface. And once your files are online you’ll be able to access them from any computer using the web client.

Thanks to the Windows Explorer integration, you could easily use LiveDrive as an offsite backup tool like Carbonite or Mozy. Just install your favorite file backup utility and point it to the L drive.

Livedrive is free while in beta, but I have a feeling the company will probably start charging a fee when the beta ends.

[via Lifehacker]

Google goes to war armed with a new web browser, Google Chrome

via Boy Genius Report by Kelly Hodgkins on 9/2/08

After single-handedly winning the online search wars, Google appears to be poised to now enter the browser wars. A comic book fashioned document has appeared online at the unofficial Google Blog, Blogoscoped. The 38 page scanned document details on open source browser project called, Google Chrome. It apparently will have many features of the most recent versions of Firefox, Opera, and even IE 8, including an incognito mode similar to IE 8’s InPrivate mode, tabbed browsing, and awesome Javascript support. Google confirmed the beta project on its blog and announced that it will launch the Windows XP version tomorrow in 100 countries. The whole comic book approach to introducing features is novel and throwing a new browser into the mix is just plain exciting; as long as Google remembers these three words, “No World Domination”. Look for a Mac OS X and Linux version in the near future.

UPDATE: It’s available today.


Do You Fear Monthly Internet Service Limits?

via geeksugar — Geek is chic. by geeksugar on 8/29/08

Comcast dropped the bomb the other day that it’ll be placing caps on Internet service — 250 GB per month. When a customer goes over, they’ll be contacted by Comcast and asked to curb their usage, and there’s also a possibility that the company will charge $15 for every 10 GB over the limit.

Considering Comcast is the country’s second-biggest Internet provider, this should affect tons of people (yours truly included), and in general, I’m wary of new limits on services. On the other hand, 250 GB is a whole lot of uploadin’ and downloadin’; SFGate reports that the average user only utilizes about two or three GB per month. Of course, setting a limit now could set a precedent and usher in eventual lowered limits.

What do you think — are you bummed that Comcast is capping usage, or does it not make a difference to you?