- How The Hell Is This My Fault?
- 360: TeliportMe Brings Its Killer Panorama App To Android (Oh, And It Works On Over 200 Phones)
- Three Companies Chi-Hua Chien Of Kleiner Perkins Would Love To Invest In
- Android’s Matias Duarte: Ice Cream Sandwich Will Help Devs Cope With Myriad Form Factors
- Chamillionaire Pleads With Android Design Lead To Give Him A Decent Device
- Stealth Social Mobile Startup just.me Raises $600K From Google Ventures, SV Angel And Others
- Mobile Has The Opportunity To Re-Think The Ad
- Next Jump’s Mobile App Ella Rewards You For Sharing Local Shopping Tips
- Mobile Neighborhood App Blockboard Now Covers All Of San Francisco
- Matias Duarte On iOS Vs. Android Looks: “Why Are Sicilians More Handsome Than Other Gentleman?”
- With 7M Users In His Pocket, Kevin Systrom Says The Biggest Opportunities For Instagram Are On Mobile
- HTML5 Developer Joe Hewitt: “There’s A Place For App Stores Long-Term”
- Buy A New Mac, Install iLife On Your Other Macs With This Simple Workaround
- SpaceX To Launch ISS-Bound Supply Ship In November
- Google Retires 13-Year-Old ‘Google Friends’ Newsletter
- Watch The Mobile First CrunchUp Live Here
- Money To Spend: Apple: $75.876 Billion. U.S. Government: $73.768 Billion.
- Video: This Guy Plays Air Drums That Actually Make Music
- Google Search Now Optimized For Tablets
- Latest Gmail For Android Update Breaks Third Party Apps
Posted: 30 Jul 2011 12:30 AM PDT
You’ve doubtless heard about the Airbnb fiasco – being dubbed #ransackgate by some – that’s been exploding the last couple of days. If you’re not familiar with the story, we first covered it here, and there’s some terrific source material from the woman who’s home was ransacked and robbed here and here.
A few thoughts:
1. What the hell?
2. Airbnb’s Christopher Lukezic told me on Wednesday that the company was not responsible for EJ’s losses, that they are just a service to match people and that they were helping the police find the people who did this. This was on the record, and it was a call we emailed about first. I didn’t take him by surprise. And I read this back to him before I posted.
3. Paul Graham says instead “The spokesman, who’d been told by their lawyers that he couldn’t go into detail about that because of the precedent said “I can’t comment on that.” So Arrington, in typical Arrington fashion said “Well, unless you tell me I’m going to write that you’re not willing to do anything for her.” And he did. Really not cool.
That’s a lie. What he said is what I wrote in no. 2 above, and what was in the original post.
4. Following publication of that Post, Airbnb Brian Chesky called me and I updated that post with his comments, mentioning that there was some miscommunication. I retweeted that there was an important update, and added a bold header at the top of the post mentioning the update.
5. I then added another update, an email from Lukezic. And another update pointing to a guest post by Chesky on the issue. It is absurd to think that I made up the statements that Lukezic made to me in our first interview. It wasn’t even really relevant to the story.
6. Chesky repeatedly thanked me for the updates by email and on the phone. If Lukezic wants to publicly call me a liar, he should do so directly.
7. I’ve seen this exact behavior before with the Scamville stuff a couple of years ago.
The real problem here isn’t some mixup in communication with me. The real problem is that the victim wrote that follow up post yesterday calling Airbnb out and making new allegations of an attempted cover up.
It kind of feels to me that what Airbnb really wants to do is call the victim, EJ, a liar. But they’re certainly not going to do that (although if they have evidence that she’s lying, they should be talking about that). Instead, they focus on us, call me dishonest and suggesting that the whole story is “bullshit.”
One thing I love about our readers is that they’re independent thinkers. Often they don’t agree with my opinions, and say so loudly. But this goes too far. I’m not the person who grossly mishandled a PR crisis. I’m not the person who made factually inaccurate statements on the record. I’m not the person who tried to convince a woman who’s life has been shattered to remove a blog post.
At least have the decency to stand up and say you’re wrong, Airbnb, and apologize for the lies. Because hiding behind investors, and attacking the press, is both dishonorable and stupid. That’s no way to gain customer trust.
PS – If you review our historical coverage of Airbnb, it’s hard to say there’s anything but a pattern of cheerleading the company on since it launched in 2008. And we’ve been massive, unquestioning supporters of Y Combinator over the years as well. I don’t know what Paul Graham means by “typical Arrington fashion,” but I do know this. It’s not my job to fix it when companies do stupid things.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 07:03 PM PDT
Last November, TechCrunch’s own Sarah Lacy sat down with Vineet Devaiah from "social streetview" startup, Phototour.in, which, at the time, had just received term sheets from a number of high-profile U.S. investors and had recently been awarded the “Top Emerging Technology Company of 2010″ by Nvidia. The startup was the first international, non-funded, under-20-member company to win the award, according to Devaiah.
Since then, Phototour added Academy Award certificate-winner and entrepreneur Bala S. Manian as an advisor (who was honored for “technical achievement” for his contributions to optical technologies used in films, including Star Wars) and has gained more than 47,000 users for the alpha version of its image and panorama crowdsourcing app, “360″, on Android. Users have logged more than 75,000 panoramas in a relatively short period of time, so, considering the rumors that the iPhone 5 will have a native panorama app, sources tell us that 360 might be a candidate for a potential partnership with Android, so that it can remain neck-in-neck with Apple.
What’s more, Today the startup is officially announcing that it is rebranding as TeliportMe and is bringing 360 out of alpha and into the public sphere in ready-to-wear form. For free. Granted, 360-degree panorama apps for smartphones are nothing new. There are quite a few cool apps and gadgets that have these capabilities on the market, like “You Gotta See This!”, Occipital’s 360 Panorama, and Microsoft’s Photosynth, to name a few.
In light of this competition, TeliportMe wants to distinguish itself from the field by building a high quality Android app, that works across OEMs. According to Devaiah, panoramic apps tend to be very hardware centric because of their reliance on a smartphone’s camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, RAM, and so on. Because Android relies on so many different OEMs, it becomes a tricky proposition to build a good 360-degree app for Android and is the reason why most panorama apps are built on iOS (thanks to the vertical integration it has with its hardware).
Another obstacle for Android is that only about 20 percent of its smartphones have the processing capability of the iPhone, and as panoramic apps require a lot of image processing during photo stitching, many Android phones don’t have enough RAM to make this possible (at least at speed). Devaiah cited the example of a phone like the HTC wildfire, which has the processing capability lesser than that of an iPhone 2G.
This is where the technology that won the startup the “best emerging tech” award comes into play. TeliportMe brought its photo stitching technology to the Android phone, which to a large extent negates the issues caused due to multiple hardware configurations, allowing it to function smoothly over 200 models of android phones. (The startup has also built a version of its photostitching app that works on the browser, which it will be launching soon.)
So, 360 allows its users to quickly take high quality panoramas, which they can then view on the apps 3D viewer. Users can share panoramas via Facebook and Twitter, as well as view, comment, and “like” photos taken by people all over the world on 360′s public realtime feed. The app also taps into the phone’s location to allow users to discover other people using 360 in close proximity, using its “Around Me” option.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 06:30 PM PDT
Today at Aol West Headquarters, a number of entrepreneurs, VCs, and executives gathered to discuss the state of the mobile industry and mobile technology. After a series of individual panels, the day concluded with the crowd of panelists gathering together for a lively discussion about the future of mobile, current mobile trends gaining legs, as well as what’s missing. Chi-Hua Chien of Kleiner Perkins stepped in to give an example of what’s missing in the industry by sharing three particular business models that he’d like to see make their way into the space.
In a prior panel, Chien, Skype investor Howard Hartenbaum, and Tango founder Eric Setton, spoke about how closing the "redemption loop" is becoming one of the most important goals in the daily deals space, specifically on mobile. (Something TC’s Erick Schonfeld talked about in a post earlier this week.) Chien pointed out that one of the big goals is to forge a future where a customer can walk into a store, and the merchant will immediately know who they are and what they want — and that someday soon Twitter and Foursquare will be acting in a way akin to a CRM platform for businesses to help make that happen.
But, as to the three companies that Chien wants to see, and invest in, for starters, he envisions a killer mobile company offering a completely automated personal assistant — something he said really wasn’t “something you couldn’t do before mobile”. He cited the example of one having dinner reservations with a friend who lives, say, 30 minutes away. The user’s mobile device, thanks to location awareness, knows exactly where they are and how far away they are from the restaurant. What’s more, thanks to the fact they made their reservation on OpenTable, the automated assistant will know exactly what time they planned to meet.
But, based on the fact that you’re 30 minutes away from where you’re having dinner, and tapping into a traffic app, they know that there’s congestion on the way. It then might send out an alert to the person you’re having dinner with, or can, in an automated way, message both people to confirm that they’d like to push the reservation back by 30 minutes, make that change, and close that loop with no effort.
Part of what’s making that possible now, he says, is the very existence of mobile, but it’s also thanks to the maturity of the platforms that are now being accessed by maturing APIs. The automated personal assistant addresses a need set that couldn’t be solved in an asychronous environment on a desktop.
Secondly, education is a trillion dollar market “that’s completely screwed up”, because it involves millions of children going to sit in a classroom for 7 hours, and it combines three different businesses for the state: the real estate business, the union labor management business, and certification business.
When, in reality, education should be delivered in a realtime basis to students who are learning at their own pace, who don’t have to sit in a room full of 30 people in an antiquated environment — a realtime, mobile solution that’s learning based as opposed to curriculum based. This second idea is a bit more nebulous, but Chien is hitting on an important theme here: How badly American education is in need of disruption and innovation, especially as that would relate to mobile.
The third model Chien alluded to was health and fitness. “We all wish that we could lose ten pounds”, he said, and now there’s a device in your pocket that can seamlessly manage its owner (personal assistant theme again), encourage the user to exercise, eat healthier, whatever the case may be. It can truly manage the place at which you are paying attention to your health, your exercise regimen, and helping you to lead a healthier lifestyle.
There’s a huge need here, Chien said, something that never could have been tackled in a PC environment, simply because the overhead of checking a website every day (as opposed to a mobile device that’s portable and always with you) is just unsustainable. It knows what you’re eating, what the caloric intake of that food might be, can advise you against consuming that third ice cream cone, and can tell your heart rate after a 5 mile run. When one combines that with display information designs and notifications optimized for a mobile setting — well, it’s enough to make an entrepreneur water at the mouth.
Afterwards, Schonfeld asked Chien if these were actually three stealth startups that Kleiner Perkins had recently invested in, to which Chien laughed and said, no, but if there are companies out there making these products, Kleiner may very well be interested.
“And those aren’t just dinky features … those are companies”, Chien said. “Those are companies attacking trillion dollar markets.”
I also kept hearing a theme of automation in what Chien talked about, and clearly, at least in his mind, (though I think it’s in the minds of many others as well), that automated processes, whether they be customer service, healthy living, or retail processes, are going to be big not just because we’re lazy, but because they help us focus on doing the things we love.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 05:20 PM PDT
As we closed out today’s Mobile First CrunchUp, all of our speakers took the stage for an extended roundtable discussing a variety of topics affecting mobile: design, gaming mechanics, and, of course, iPhone vs Android.
One of the last questions posed during the roundtable came from Wired’s Mike Isaac, who asked how the next version of Android, which is called Ice Cream Sandwich, would help developers produce applications that look nice across the multitude of form factors Android will spread to.
The difficulty developers face when designing for Android came up multiple times during the day (during an earlier panel I asked straight-up why iPhone apps look better), and Duarte’s message was consistent: things will be getting better as the platform becomes more mature. And the Android team is trying to do what they can to make it easier to develop for multiple form factors.
Here’s what Duarte had to say about the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich release (paraphrased):
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 04:36 PM PDT
“I’ve used all these different devices — they suck.”
Short. Sweet. To the point. Rarely do you find that at tech conferences. Luckily, Chamillionaire loves coming to ours.
That was the hip-hop star’s words to Android design lead Matias Duarte during our Mobile First CrunchUp today. During the closing panel, Chamillionaire got up to express his love for the iPhone and his frustration that Android has not been able to create even one device that can match it.
Obviously, this drew a big reaction from the audience. And Duarte took it in stride. He told Chamillionaire that everyone has different tastes (similar to his iOS vs. Android design argument earlier in the day). And he admitted that Apple does make great devices, as do competitors like Microsoft and HP.
But Chamillionaire kept pressing. He wanted a single, clear answer. Which Android device should he use? “I’m hoping that pretty soon we’re gonna have an android phone you’re gonna love,” Duarte responded, seemingly hinting at a new Android device yet to come.
When our own Erick Schonfeld asked Duarte what device he used, Duarte said it was the Nexus S. For now, that’s the one he recommends. Chamillionaire agreed to try it. We’ll see — I’m sure he’ll be tweeting his thoughts.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 04:29 PM PDT
just.me, a stealth startup playing in the social and mobile spaces, has just raised $600,000 in seed funding from a list of all star investors including Google Ventures, True Ventures, SV Angel, Betaworks, Don Dodge, Patrick Gannon, Michael Parekh, Steve McArthur, and Four Horsemen LLC.
just.me was founded by Keith Teare, a serial entrepreneur and a co-founder of TechCrunch. Teare previously co-founded RealNames Corporation, and The EasyNet Group.
Teare tells us that just.me, which was born from his incubator Archimedes Ventures, is focused on the post-PC social network. He declined to give us specifics but he says that just.me will change the way we think about mobile and social networks. From just.me’s site, There is a growing need for social networks that reflect the fundamental nature of human relationships: known identities, mutual trust, controlled levels of intimacy, and boundaries of shared information.
When asked if just.me has any co-founders, Teare responded ‘it’s just me.’ Teare says that just.me will launch later this year.
Disclosure: Michael Arrington is a shareholder in Just.me.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 03:31 PM PDT
Kleiner Perkins VC Chi-Hua Chien kicked off the “Money Matters” panel at the TechCrunch Mobile First CrunchUp with a telling understatement, “There seems to be a lot of new business models around mobile.” Indeed, what makes mobile unique as a communication platform is that traditional advertising isn’t the default. See: Kiip.
As Chien pointed out, because of constraints on-screen size, display ads won’t cut it when your screen is 3 inches wide. As constraints often necessitate creative solutions, we’re seeing a shift on mobile that has resulted in many businesses trying a multitude of solutions for monetizing mobile transactions, specifically commerce and deals or offers.
“A pop over on mobile is really obnoxious,” said Chien. “Is [an ad] really a solution if it’s interrupting the user experience without the user completing an action?”
August Capital partner and founding Skype investor Howard Hartenbaum compared the struggle to find a model that works on mobile to Skype’s early attempts at monetization, “The biggest challenge in communication is how to make money off of it,” he said.
“Something will come up, whether its paid candy hearts on Valentines Day …” Hartenbaum went on, referring to Tango founder Eric Setton’s story about offering his customers hearts they could impose on videos, and pay for. Skype originally planned to monetize by turning itself into an open Wifi network, charging customers who didn’t want to share Wifi $7 to use its voice services.
Companies are also presented with a unique opportunity with monetizing on mobile, the chance to close “the redemption loop,” or track an ad or an offer from where the customer sees it, to when it is redeemed and providing analytics around its redemption like how much was spent and where.
Brands like Foursquare are perfectly poised to close this loop, and are making incremental moves towards the goal, Foursquare most recently with its partnership with AmEx announced this morning.
“It’s more than just the ad, it’s the measurement of its effectiveness,” said Foursquare’s Tristan Walker.
Chien closed the panel by referring to the “redemption loop” as the dream, when one day large retailers and small retailers will know exactly who their customers are, and that companies like Foursquare and LivingSocial will basically function as automated CRM services. He envisions a future when someone will walk into their local store and the merchant will immediately know who they are, and possibly what they want.
“But we’re a long ways away,” Chien said. “Everyone’s [currently] focused on acquisition.”
Watch the rest of the CrunchUp live here.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 03:24 PM PDT
Next Jump, which powers rewards programs for thousands of corporations and credit card companies, has been steadily expanding its platform to offer a more social experience for consumers. For example, the startup inked a deal with LivingSocial to get access to its inventory of daily deals, and allows users to use Next Jump’s WOWpoints to buy deals and merchandise from retailers like Target and Walmart. Today, Next Jump is unveiling another piece of the puzzle with the debut of Ella, an iOS app that allows you to earn and reward WOWpoints for sharing fashion and shopping tips with your friends.
Ella’s iOS app opens up a map of your current location that shows you where fellow Ella users have posted a tip and photo of a fashion item or good deal at a store nearby. If you like the tip, you can comment on the share and reward users with one WOWpoint, which is worth a penny on Next Jump’s rewards platform, OO.com. And when you post tips and photos, you have the opportunity of earnings WOWpoints as well. Essentially Next Jump is attaching a reward to the act of liking a shopping tip. Ella also features the top users who have WOWpoints and share via the app.
You can spend these WOWpoints you accumulate on OO.com, which lists millions of products from more than 30,000 merchants including Target, Walmart, Amazon, and Buy.com.
Next Jump says that in the future, Ella will include Facebook Connect so you can access tips from your friends as well. And the company will soon launch similar apps in other verticals, such as travel and restaurants.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 03:13 PM PDT
What would Craigslist look like if it was a mobile app? It might look a little bit like Blockboard, a neighborhood app which is expanding today from its initial neighborhood of the Mission in San Francisco to the rest of the city. Co-founder Stephen Hood demoed the app at our Mobile First CrunchUp today.
It is designed from the ground-up as a neighborhood app through which neighbors can interact with one another. They can report potholes and graffiti directly to the city, alert each other about crime and vandalism through a Blockwatch, post general observations about the neighborhood, ask their neighbors questions, and post pictures of lost and found items.
The app has the feel of a bunch of neighborhood flyers on your phone. “Have you seen this dog?” “Free kitchen cabinet in original packaging on sidewalk.” “Dropped baby hat. Blue with pom poms. Near little star?” A week ago I asked, where is the best Cuban food in the Mission and received 8 answers (and that was in the private beta). At some point you can imagine people listing items for sale.
Chief engineer and co-founder Josh Whiting was actually a former senior engineer at Craigslit. Before that he was at Delicious, where he met Hood. There is another Delicious connection in that founder Joshua Schachter is an investor. The company raised a $1 million seed round last May. The company renamed itself and retooled the app from its original Blockchallk concept of pinning virtual notes to GPS coordinates.
You can still pin pictures and notes on a map, but that is almost a buried feature. The app is more about creating a community, but one that is grounded in your real neighborhood. You pick your neighborhood, which limits the posts and other neighbors you see in the app to that micro-community. In a day and age when people no longer talk to their neighbors, much less know who they are, maybe it will take a mobile app to make people good neighbors again.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 02:25 PM PDT
Today during our Mobile First CrunchUp in Palo Alto, CA, our own Jason Kincaid led a panel focused on designing the mobile experience. On the panel were Bump’s Jake Mintz, Soundtracking’s Steve Jang, and Google’s Matias Duarte (the Director of User Experience for Android). Not surprisingly, much of the talk was iOS versus Android. Such is the state of the mobile world right now.
It was a good panel for such a talk because Soundtracking is iPhone-only right now, Bump is out there for both iPhone and Android, and Duarte is obviously an Android guy. Jason came right out with it. “Why are iPhone applications better looking than Android applications?”
After a laugh, Duarte answered. “Why are Sicilians more handsome than other gentleman?,” he asked, which brought even bigger laughs from the audience. In other words, this is a case where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in his view.
But then he tried to answer the question more directly. “There’s no reason why you can’t have a beautiful Android app or an ugly iPhone app,” Duarte noted, saying that he sees a ton of Android applications every day (obviously), and many of them are very nice-looking.
“The Android ecosystem is honestly just a little younger,” he continued, to explain why some may view things this way. “You need to give people time to develop on it.”
Mintz had a theory along the same lines. “Right now we find it harder to hire Android developers. People who are really excited about mobile — iOS came out first,” he noted, again signaling that the iOS first-mover advantage. “They learned iOS first.”
But he also had another theory. “I bet if you put 100 designers in a room, more are Mac users and more are iPhone users,” Mintz said. “It’s reflecting the users of the platform,” he continued.
Jang agreed with Mintz. “There’s a cultural advantage working on the Mac platform. Most designers use Macs,” he said. “But now there’s an opportunity on both platforms for designers,” he continued, indicating Android’s huge growth.
All seemed in agreement that over-time, Apple’s iOS app design advantage will even out.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 02:01 PM PDT
At today’s Mobile First CrunchUp, Erick Schonfeld sat down with AdMob and Churn Labs founder Omar Hamoui, and Instagram founder Kevin Systrom to discuss how both founders approached mobile development vs. the web.
Systrom, whose popular iOS photo sharing app just passed 7 million users, explained that the biggest opportunities for Instagram are on mobile, not the web. “I don’t believe Instagram could have been a website and website only,” Systrom explains. “The nature of the app is about sharing photographs in the moment.” And the mobile phone is the optimal platform for this task.
Of course, Instagram is growing fast for an iOS only app, adding 2 million users in less than two months. While Systrom believes the future for Instagram lies in mobile development (hopefully that means an Android app soon?), there is work being done on a stronger web presence. But he says it’s not as simple as just putting all the iPhone app’s functionality on the web. He explains, “We’re trying to create what we have on the iPhone and make it an interesting experience on the web.”
UPDATE: In the final panel at the CrunchUp, Systrom did say that and Android app will be launching in the future. But no timeline yet.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 01:47 PM PDT
Hewitt is most famously the Facebook mobile developer that stopped doing work on Facebook’s iOS efforts after he got fed up with Apple’s staunch App Store rules. Eventually leaving Facebook five years after the Parakey acquisition, Hewitt is now working on his own, heavily HTML5-based projects.”
Hewitt seemed softer on his Apple stance at today’s talk, even telling Siegler that he was an iPhone man, “I never said I didn’t love the product.”
Hewitt also said that he’s heard that Apple has gotten better with regards to its often strict rules, “They’re more responsive to developers and the wait times are shorter.” Hewitt also admitted that he personally hadn’t submitted anything to the Apple App Store in past two years.
Hewitt thinks that while a lot of people were now writing native apps because it was trendy and exciting, some content does absolutely not work on the platform, bringing up The Financial Times as an example of an institution that successfully decided on a HTML5 web app in lieu of iOS participation. He hopes that more developers will follow this lead as the mobile web becomes more functional but native apps aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“There’s a place for app stores long-term .. [for example] games are great for app stores,” he said, referring to the format’s ability to take payments and the fact that games would be most aided by the hundreds of millions of credit cards retained by iOS for example. Hewitt held that other formats, like news and magazine apps, were not ideal, “The user experience really suffers,” he said.
You can watch the video below and rest of the Mobile First CrunchUp on the livestream here.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 01:38 PM PDT
Good news! If you're missing a little iLife in your life than have no fear, Apple's got it figured out for you. iLife has been included on the new MacBook Air and Mac mini, in the form of GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie. As luck, and Apple, would have it, once you have a licensed copy of iLife '11 (like the one that comes with your new Mac) attached to your Mac App Store user account, it’s available for download on other Macs also linked to that account.
Once you've purchased iLife '11 (either in a box at the store, or as a part of your new MacBook Air/Mac mini purchase), it will show up under the Purchases tab of the Mac App Store. That is, as long as you're running OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard or later, which gives you access to the Mac App Store in the first place. So you're sitting at your new MacBook Air, looking at the Mac App Store under Purchases, and there sits iLife '11.
Still with me? You should be, that was the easiest part. (I kid, this is all really easy.)
Ok, so now we head over to your other Mac, likely older, and see that it needs a little shot of iLife '11, too. As long as you registered your new mac with the same Apple ID, iLife '11 will have suddenly appeared for download under the Purchases tab on that computer, too. All you have to do now is install it, and the latest version of iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand will be ready and waiting for you in a just a short while.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 01:29 PM PDT
With the demise of the space shuttle program fresh in my mind, I'm forced to find my space-related solace wherever I can. Luckily, with companies like SpaceX still devoted to removing the obstacles to commercial space flight, I can't be too bummed — and as Reuters has reported, SpaceX is preparing their next step. After their literal show of force a few months back, SpaceX is aiming their sights just a little higher.
Late this November, SpaceX is set to launch their second test pod to the International Space Station and bring her back home again. Should it succeed, Elon Musk and company will have come one step closer to their goal of becoming one of two commercial entities who can deliver cargo to the ISS. SpaceX is also looking to transport people between the station and home, and is currently looking at their Dragon multipurpose craft to do much of the people moving.
Admittedly, it's no mission to Mars, but it's an important project that will help sustain the International Space Station and hopefully pave the way for similar projects in the future. Besides, once we get all this low Earth orbit business down pat, it should be time to move onto some loftier ambitions.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 01:03 PM PDT
‘Google Friends’ a charming thirteen year old newsletter that a few old-time techies still subscribed to has decided to shut down today, citing flat subscription numbers and the prominence of Google news on Twitter and the official Google blog as impetus for its retirement.
Created by co-founder and current CEO Larry Page on April 29, 1998, the newsletter started while Google was on the Stanford servers and provided fans with incremental Google updates like ” I created a new logo using Gimp (of course).” Seriously though, run through the archives it’s awesome.
From the last Google missive:
Google recommends that the Google faithful now get their news from The Official Google Blog, vertical blogs like the Chrome and AdSense blog or the various Google Twitter accounts. While one might take the move as indicative of a larger trend of how Twitter is killing all other forms of communication blah blah blah, it might just be that the search engine is now way too big for
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 12:14 PM PDT
We’re here at Aol West Coast HQ this morning, getting ready for a jam-packed day pontificating about mobile platforms before our 6th Annual Summer Party at August Capital. Our expert speaker lineup includes former Facebook Developer Joe Hewitt, Soundtracking's Steve Jang, Tango's Eric Setton, Foursquare's Tristan Walker, Kleiner Perkins' Chi-Hua Chien, and August Capital's Howard Hartenbaum. Sweet.
Couldn’t buy tickets in time or just too far away from Palo Alto? You can stay on top of all the action with the livestream above (starts at 1 p.m.) and our blog posts throughout the event. Full agenda below.
Mobile First Agenda:
1:15 to 1:30: Why Mobile First
1:30 to 2:00: Designing The Mobile Experience
2:00 to 2:30: Money Matters
2:30 to 3:00: Break
3:00 to 3:15: Mobile Demos
3:15 to 4:30: Roundtable with all of the above
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 11:39 AM PDT
15 years ago, Apple was on the verge of default. Today, the United States government is. Let’s hope that in 15 years, our government will have been able to turn it around the way Apple has.
As is being reported by just about everyone, following their massive third quarter, Apple now has more cash (and cash equivalents) on hand than the U.S. government has for its entire operating balance. Apple has $75.876 billion. The U.S. government has $73.768 billion. Wow.
Does this mean Apple could buy the U.S. or bail us out? Well, no. The U.S. gross domestic product is still something north of $14 trillion. That’s a bit rich, even for Apple’ blood. That $73 billion and change is actually just the amount of breathing room the U.S. has before they reach the debt ceiling, which Democrats and Republicans are fighting over raising right now.
Still, the fact that Apple has more cash than the U.S. has financial headroom is amazing. There are several companies that Apple could buy right now that the government could not — if the government were in the business of buying businesses, of course. If the U.S. defaults, Apple will also likely have much better credit than the government does.
After hitting $400 a share earlier this week, Apple’s stock has since settled back into the $390-range. This puts their market cap at around $365 billion — again, well behind the U.S. GDP. Apple is the second most valuable public company in the world behind Exxon. Interestingly enough, while Apple’s stock has sunk a bit in recent days, Exxon’s has been tanking. Their market cap is now below $400 billion. Apple is now less than $35 billion away from catching them (something we predicted could happen this fall).
Catching the U.S. GDP will be trickier (not the least of which is that Apple is a part of that GDP). But the way things are going now, who knows? Maybe after a stellar iPad 14 launch, Apple secedes, and they’ll be neck-and-neck — if the U.S. exists at that point. Perhaps Apple COO Tim Cook should be the next Treasury Secretary?
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 11:12 AM PDT
I find myself playing the air drums rather regularly, and the drum set on Rock Band is by far my favorite instrument, but neither of those hold a candle to what Maayan Migdal has up his sleeve. My air drums don't make real music. My Rock Band drums do, but they also take up a hunk of space in my room. His make real music and are invisible.
With a MIDI device and a little help from Arduino, Migdal has built a set of real-life air drums. Migdal cut the rake part off of a few garden rakes for the drum sticks, and added accelerometers and USB ports to each. The left stick takes care of the hi-hat, while the right stick has two separate modules that cover the snare and crash cymbals.
From there, he went on to fix up some sandal-esque foot pedals. Actually, they are more like foot pedal-esque sandals. Well, either way he stuck a pair of sensors into his flip-flops — the left, an accelerometer to pick up the bass drum, and the right, a light sensor to pull in the hi-hat pedal.
Clearly, Mr. Migdal has a knack for creating invisible instruments. If he can figure out a music-playing air guitar, he may just give Rock Band a run for its money. Check out the video from Hack A Day after the break.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 10:58 AM PDT
It’s never been hard to use Google’s search engine from your iPad or Android tablet — but the experience is about to get significantly nicer. Today Google has announced that it’s rolling out a new, touch-friendly version of Google search that makes some key changes for the tablet form factor.
The biggest is the change in navigation. Gone is nav bar at the left hand side of the screen (which has pretty dense menus, and is thus prone to accidental taps). It’s been replaced with a series of tap-friendly menus at the top of the page that let you jump between standard results, video, images, and other options. An adjacent menu will let you narrow the date range of results as well.
There are plenty of smaller tweaks too: larger fonts and thumbnails, fewer things to mistap, and bigger buttons.
Google says the new version is in the process of rolling out, so you may not see it immediately.
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 10:27 AM PDT
If you're anything at all like me, then you update your apps as soon as possible; after all, new is always better right? Well those who rely on certain apps and widgets that tie into Gmail may want to hold off.
The latest update for the Gmail Android app packs some performance fixes and battery improvements, but we're hearing that there's more to the update than meets the eye.
Certain developers (most notably Federico Carnales, of Launcher Pro fame) were notified a few weeks ago that because of potential security issues, the API used by certain apps to access Gmail messages would be removed in the 2.3.5 update. As a result, most apps that relied on that older API are locking up or force closing whenever they are opened. Even though Google seems to have made efforts to reach out to the developer community, at least a few people were caught by surprise and have updated their app descriptions in the market accordingly.
According to software engineer Chris Banes, the change in question blocks access to the app's database:
I've compiled a preliminary list of apps that seem to have been affected by the update. Bear in mind, these are only the apps that have explicitly acknowledged being affected; if you come across any more, let us know in the comments.
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