Friday, September 9, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Conan O’Brien: Apple Wants Its Lost iPhone 5 Back [Video]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:46 AM PDT

conan-obrien-nbc-new-york-los angeles

“We are planning things that will make Vlad the Impaler look like Mr. **** Rogers.”

That’s what the Graham Davies, the fictional Apple VP of Marketing in Conan’s many Apple spoofs, stated in response to someone stealing a misplaced iPhone 5. Supposedly, this latest bit, which aired last night, is Apple’s commercial, not for the iPhone 5 itself, but rather as a lethal warning for the person who stole the iPhone 5 prototype. Get it?

You see, if the Internet is to be believed, an Apple engineer left an iPhone 5 prototype in a bar (again) and then someone else took it home. Instead of selling it to Gizmodo like with the iPhone 4, this person just held on to it and then Apple security personal enlisted the help of the local police for a little off-the-books search and rescue based on the phone’s GPS records. This all reportedly went down in July and the San Francisco police just started an internal investigation into the allegations the officers overstepped their bounds. It’s no doubt a serious matter. Enter Conan.

Samsung Responds To More OS Acquisition Rumors: Nope, We’re Not Buying MeeGo Either

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:41 AM PDT


MeeGo is up in the air.

Nokia turned its back on MeeGo a while ago. Intel, meanwhile, promises to continue to support the open-source community, but reports claim that it has decided to temporarily suspend development of the platform. And so begins the rotation of a mighty rumor mill.

Mobiledia reported on Tuesday that Samsung was interested in purchasing MeeGo, citing unidentified industry sources. It’s true that Samsung does need to diversify in the OS department. The Googorola deal should have that affect on all of the major Android partners. Plus, there’s that whole “Microsoft cashing in on Android” thing to worry about.

But Samsung has even more to worry about. The company is Apple’s favorite litigation target (as well as one of its biggest competitors) and Android is Apple’s greatest obstacle on the path to mobile domination. A new OS would go a long way to get Apple off of Samsung’s back. But MeeGo? While it’s kind-of-sort-of-maybe plausible that Samsung would grab MeeGo, it’s a long shot.

Samsung has its own software platform up and running: Bada. If the company really wanted to partially split from Android, why not just work on the platform it already owns and make it perfect? Plus, even MeeGo’s co-creator Nokia isn’t all that fond of the platform. And as I mentioned earlier, Intel seems to be kind of over it, too. Why would Samsung run to snatch up a platform that has already been dropped by its makers?

Rather than dump on the platform, Samsung took the diplomatic route with its response: “Meego is an open source project which can not be a target of acquisition,” Samsung representative James Chung told CNET.

As far as software acquisitions go, all eyes have been on Samsung. When webOS was partially ditched by HP, rumors also circulated that Samsung may be interested in picking it up. Samsung denied those rumors about as quickly as they denied these.

Chung mentioned that “Samsung has been investing significantly in its own software, solutions, and content to differentiate its product offering and to provide a richer experience for consumers.” In other words, it sounds like Sammy will be sticking with Android for the time being, while continuing to tinker with Bada as a backup project.

Launch Date: September 9, 1969

Samsung is one of the largest super-multinational companies in the world. It’s possibly best known for it’s subsidiary, Samsung Electronics, the largest electronics company in the world.

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Company: Intel
Launch Date: September 9, 1968

Intel is best known for producing the microprocessors found in many personal computers. The company also makes a range of other hardware including network cards, motherboards, and graphics chips....

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Google Urges Iranian Users To Re-Secure Gmail Accounts After Attacks

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:26 AM PDT


Google is advising users in Iran to take specific steps in order to re-secure their Gmail accounts after last week’s reveal of the man-in-the-middle attacks that targeted Iranian users. The attackers used fraudulent SSL certificates issued by a compromised root certificate authority in the Netherlands, DigiNotar. These fake certificates allowed hackers to impersonate and others.

Google was only one of the domains affected in the breach. Attackers signed hundreds certificates for sites, including Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Tor, Skype, Mossad, CIA, MI6, LogMeIn, Twitter, Mozilla, AOL and WordPress. The Dutch government released a spreadsheet with a list of 531 entries of known bad certificates after the attacks. The full list is here on the Tor website.

Although Google, Mozilla and others moved quickly to remove DigiNotar as a trusted authority in their Web browsers, it was too late to protect users from the damage that had already been done.

Google tries to downplay the problem a bit in its blog post by stating that “users of the Chrome browser were protected from this threat,” but that’s not entirely accurate. They were protected after Google moved to revoke DigiNotar as a trusted authority, but there was still a period of time when users could have been compromised.

And the threat may still be present for those who have not taken action. As security research Graham Cluley explains, “even if hackers who broke into your Gmail account no longer know your password, there are still things they could have done while they had access to your email which will allow them to continue to monitor your communications.”

For that reason, Google is now suggesting that its Iranian users secure their accounts by taking the following steps:

  1. Change your password. You may have already been asked to change your password when you signed in to your Google Account. If not, you can change it here.
  2. Verify your account recovery options. Secondary email addresses, phone numbers, and other information can help you regain access to your account if you lose your password. Check to be sure your recovery options are correct and up to date here.
  3. Check the websites and applications that are allowed to access your account, and revoke any that are unfamiliar here.
  4. Check your Gmail settings for suspicious forwarding addresses or delegated accounts.
  5. Pay careful attention to warnings that appear in your web browser and don't click past them.

Those who believe their account was comprised in the attack, can begin the recovery process here.

HP Releases A Faux 3D Scanner For The Masses

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:23 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-09 at 12.21.51 PM

First off, this isn’t what you’re thinking: this scanner doesn’t actually allow you to scan objects in 3D but it allows you to scan physical objects. Think of it as a larger camera. That said, the HP TopShot scanner is clearly a bold move for the beleaguered HP. The $399 MFP prints, copies, and scans and has a special arm that swings up to scan 3D objects. For example, you could place a model on it and “scan” it (really “take a picture of it”) from different angles.

This is one of the first scanners I’ve seen with this feature set and if you’re an Etsy manufacturer or an eBay fiend, it might be a good way to grab shots of items without an expensive light box and lights. Otherwise, it’s just a bog standard multi-function printer that would look at home in anyone’s den or small office.

No availability yet but knowing HP it will probably be discontinued in 47 days [[optional sound effect].

CityGrid Media Opens Places Database of 15M Local Businesses To Developers

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:00 AM PDT


IAC-owned local media and advertising property CityGrid Media is unveiling a brand new API today that provides places data for more then 15 million local businesses and data for 1 million local advertisers in the CityGrid ad network to developers.

For background, IAC launched CityGrid last year as a set of APIs which makes all of Citysearch's local listings content and advertising available to other Websites and mobile apps. The company then rebranded its Yelp-like local business content platform CitySearch as part of CityGrid Media.

All of the local listings in Citysearch are available through CityGrid's APIs so that anyone creating a mobile app or local Website can grab business listings, addresses, phone numbers, photos, reviews, and more and build their own apps around them. CityGrid also matches local advertisers with these local publishers.

The announcement today offers the company’s most comprehensive Places database yet because CityGrid has partnered with Infogroup to add Infogroup’s full database of 15 million local businesses to the API . All of this will be paired with CityGrid’s built-in advertiser base and delivered via the new API suite.

The API includes places data for over 15 million local business listings, nearly a million advertisers across 75,000 cities nationwide, targeted web and mobile formats to drive engagement with merchant advertisers, iOS and Android SDKs and more.

CityGrid also plans to offer its API free to developers and will be leading a workshop at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon.

Node.js Knockout 2011 Winners Revealed

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 08:37 AM PDT


Joyent has revealed the winners of Node Knockout, the annual Node.js hacking competition it hosts. This year’s hackathon, which encourages developers to build apps using the increasingly popular server-side JavaScript environment Node.js, included over 320 teams with more than 700 people competing. That’s a big jump from the 100 teams and 250 participants seen in 2010.

The resulting winners are a diverse bunch, including everything from games and YouTube battle parties (we’ll explain…) to practical tools aiding in website design and game development.

Here are this year year’s winners:

Overall Winner Solo: Observer 

Observer is tool designed to help you better understand your website visitors’ behavior by watching them navigate your site in real-time. You can see what the users are typing, what they’re clicking and even what keyboard shortcuts they’re using. You can also immediately start a chat session with a website visitor who appears to need assistance.

If you don’t have time to track all your users, you can store sessions for later playback. And all of this functionality can be implemented through a simple one-script installation.

Overall Team Winner: Eight Bit Beats

Eight Bit Beats is a collaborative, social beat and melody sequencer. Upon loading the site, you enter your name/handle, choose a sound board (DJ, Drum Kit, Special FX, etc.) and then start to add music to a collaborative track made with others.


Public Popularity Winner:

For even more fun, check out, the YouTube battle party. The idea is that you create rooms on the site so that you and your friends can watch videos together in real-time. Now, where have we heard about something like that before?

Yep, it’s pretty much the same thing as Chill, with the synchronous video watching, video DJ’ing, built-in chat and all. The only difference is that the “room” looks like a drive-in theater, not a movie theater as in Chill. Oh, and has the added benefit of being able to throw tomatoes at the videos you hate. Take that, Rebecca Black!

Most Utility /Fun Winner: Doodle or Die

Doodle or Die is basically an iteration on Pictionary, where you are given things to draw and have to guess what others have drawn. The site is pretty basic, but the team is working on furthering the project as an iPad /iPhone/Android app that will be called Doodleblast.

Best Design Winner:

ACROnode is a slightly more intellectually challenging game than the above, and it’s loosely based on the original Acrophobia IRC game. Players are given a random acronym and are challenged to create "backronyms." For example, when presented with “NBAM” you might play “Narwhal Bacons At Midnight.”

Players score each other's backronyms and receive points based on the number of votes, and for being the first to submit their backronym. It’s geeky, funny and, as indicated by the win, pretty to look at, too.

Most Innovation Winner: Blue GPU Lava 

Returning to the more practical entries, Blue Lava is a small demo showing the node-webgl library. The entry is the open source library itself, not the visualization/demo. With this, developers can create advanced video games for modern platforms using Node.js. This library specifically targets the HP TouchPad. However, it can run on other platforms. Here’s the demo in action.

 Most Complete Winner: Chess@home

Chess@home is a project whose goal is to break the current world record for the largest Chess AI. It will use JavaScript and Node to organize the largest chess ever on a future “D-Day” to pit a Chess Grand Master against thousands of computers. The question is, can a JavaScript-based AI beat a Grand Master? Or will the human beat the machines?

In the meantime, you can play against the networked machines to test your own skills.

Those are all of this year’s winners, but if you’re curious about the other projects that emerged from the hackathon, you can check out the full list of entries here.

Company: Joyent
Launch Date: September 9, 2011
Funding: $22M

Joyent is a global cloud computing software and service provider, offering cloud computing solutions worldwide since 2004. Joyent licenses its cloud software to service providers, like Dell, FirstServer Softbank,...

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Sprint To Offer Unlimited Data For iPhone, But Will It Last?

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 08:27 AM PDT

Image (1) sprint-iphone.jpg for post 47454

Reports of the iPhone’s forthcoming launch on Sprint just don’t seem to quit, and today is no exception. Sources close to the situation say that Sprint plans to retain their unlimited data plans for use with the iPhone when it makes it official debut some time in October.

If this actually pans out, then Sprint gains the lofty distinction of being the only nationwide carrier to offer unlimited data for use with the iPhone.

This move stands in stark contrast to larger rivals AT&T and Verizon, who have both already made the shift into tiered data plans. Bloomberg’s sources say that Sprint hopes that by committing to unlimited data, they will siphon customers away from their larger, pricier rivals. Sprint is generally outgunned by the other two as far as network coverage, so it seems like they’re going to do whatever it takes to make their iPhone launch a fruitful one.

While offering unlimited data is quite the competitive advantage, one big question is left hanging in the air: how long will it last? If demand for a Sprint iPhone is as high as they hope, then a big wave of new customers jonesing for all-you-can-eat data could ultimately end up straining Sprint’s network. A recent study from Validas shows that Sprint’s smartphone customers already are among the hungriest in the market, meaning that customers who show up expecting unlimited data are more likely to use it.

The worst case scenario for Sprint would be if they decided to go the Verizon route: when they launched the iPhone 4 back in February, Verizon kept their unlimited data plan, only to kill it four months later. Verizon had the robustness of their network to fall back on, but with a smaller network, Sprint may not be able to accomplish that same feat. Once everyone has the iPhone, the only thing that will set Sprint apart is that data plan — let’s hope it’s here to stay.

The Touchpad Is Back (Briefly) In The UK

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 08:19 AM PDT


Gor blimey, Danger Mouse! The Touchpad suddenly appeared at UK retailed PC World for a mere $398, a far cry from the impressive $99 models offered on this side of the pond.

There’s no telling how long these things will last in store and they don’t appear to be part of HP’s official resurrection efforts. As we know, HP is toying with the idea of offering the Touchpad as a standalone product – but don’t hold your breath.

Anyway, if you live in the UK and have some cash to burn, this is the time to act!

via Slashgear

Yet Another Battlefield 3 Gameplay Teaser

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:54 AM PDT


Battlefield 3 launches late next month and DICE/EA have so far strategically released bits of video of what looks to be awesome gameplay. The Frostbite 2 engine looks astounding. Here’s the latest video showing bits of intense firefights and a brutal knife kill. Oh man, my GTX 570 and I can’t wait. It’s crazy to look at the Battlefield 1942 render on the left and then watch the video. The future is here.

New Android App Smozzy Lets You Surf The Web Without A Data Plan

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:02 AM PDT


Smozzy is a new Android application that lets you search the Web on your mobile phone without a data plan. The app works only in the U.S., only on T-Mobile phones and requires that you have a messaging plan (unless you want to be charged). Despite these restrictions, the app itself is pure genius – it cleverly uses SMS and MMS to send requests and receive the content. And to the end user, the app appears to work just like your own Android phone’s browser, only a bit slower.

The Smozzy app is very basic – just a combo URL/search bar at the top and a keyboard below. You can type in your search query in the URL bar or you can type in the exact URL you want Smozzy to retrieve.

The end user requests are sent to Smozzy’s servers by SMS and the responses are sent back via MMS. Here’s where things get tricky. Smozzy downloads the requested page and all its resources (stylesheets, images, etc.) and puts everything into a Zip file. The file is then encoded as a PNG and the PNG is sent out via MMS. It’s downright hack-tastic!

That said, you should be aware that Smozzy’s messages aren’t encrypted, so you shouldn’t try to browse secure content or send passwords via the app. (Sorry, no Facebooking, folks.)

Unbelievably, the app works exactly as promised. I tested it this morning on my HTC Sensation with no problems. The webpages aren’t stripped down in any way, and functional as usual, with links intact.

The folks on Hacker News are going crazy for this app, as well they should. (And yes, that’s where I discovered it). There have even been offers to help with hosting.

The concept behind Smozzy isn’t entirely novel, however, it’s just rare to see such an idea implemented outside developing markets. For example, in summer 2010, I wrote about an HP Labs technology called SiteonMobile which allows mobile users to surf the Web via SMS.

But with SiteonMobile, the onus was on the Web publisher to use small widget-like tools called “tasklets” to aid in site navigation via SMS. With Smozzy, though anything on the Web is available, and publishers don’t have to make any changes on their end.

Smozzy is the creation of recent UT Austin grad, now Berkeley graduate student, Jeff Donahue. He says he came up with the idea a couple of years ago when he had a BlackBerry phone with no data plan. Donahue doesn’t have any future plans for the app, since testing the app non-T-Mobile carriers hasn’t really worked out.

The only question now is whether or not T-Mobile will shut it down. Hopefully, the carrier won’t see Smozzy as threat – after all, although it lets you surf the Web without a data plan, it’s not a very efficient means to do so.

Updated: 11:30 AM with details on developer. 

Watch Windows 8 Boot In 10 Seconds, Live Life A Quarter Mile At A Time

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:53 AM PDT


My overclocked quad-core beast of a desktop takes 3 minutes to start after loading Windows 7, never mind the time it takes to POST and run through all the pre-Windows crap — and that’s with Soluto installed. The quick demo after the break shows a notebook booting from a hard power start to Windows 8 in 10 seconds flat. That’s about the time it took you to read my silly post that I’m required to write instead of just posting the video with the quick message of “Watch this. It’s awesome.”

Microsoft achieves this quick boot by writing the kernel sessions to disk, essentially putting the computer in hibernation mode rather than shutting it down completely. This improves boot time by 30-70% since the computer doesn’t have to load all the drivers and services every time. More here

Microsoft is set to unveil Windows 8 at its BUILD conference next week and will likely turn to quick videos like this to showcase its upcoming OS.

The Olympus E-PL3: DSLR Power In A Point-And-Shoot Package

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:30 AM PDT



  • 12.3-Megapixel Live MOS image sensor
  • Tilting 3.0-inch screen
  • 3D Photo support
  • ISO up to 12800
  • 1080/60i AVCHD or AVI video recording
  • MSRP: $699


  • Amazingly small
  • Excellent video recording
  • Fast shutter speed


  • Pricey
  • Lenses are pricier
  • No flash


Short Version
It’s hard to recommend the E-PL3 over the more powerful and touchscreen-equipped E-P3 but if you’re in the market for a much more compact micro 4/3s shooter and you can survive without a built-in flash, this may be the camera for you.

As Olympus perfects its micro 4/3s chops, it’s interesting to watch the products they produce improve and, more importantly, shrink. The E-PL3 is the “light” version of the original PEN line but it is not the entry level model. At $699 it’s still a mite expensive for the average shooter but I find that the more I use micro 4/3s hardware the more I like it.

This model is newer and sexier than the bulkier E-P3. It has an improved UI and features a 12.3-Megapixel Live MOS image sensor and TruePic VI Image Processing Engine. It also has an impressive autofocus system called FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology). There are also a number of improved art filters and it supports 3D shooting, albeit with iffy results.

The best thing about the E-PL3, however, is the size. It is about as big as a Canon G12 and supports all of Olympus’ micro 4/3s lenses, from the pancake 17mm to the ultrazoom 40-150mm. To shrink the camera down properly, however, Olympus had to remove the built-in flash (a hot-shoe accessory is available) and, like the rest of the line, this model eschews an optical viewfinder.

Fans of simpler camera will be pleased with this model as it is almost barren when it comes to function buttons. There is a basic mode setting dial on the top, a dedicated video record button, and a few display and menu buttons. There are no dials for various manual functions and, due to a lack of a touchscreen, it may be a bit hard to tweak things just right if you’re not familiar with the interface.

Outdoors, this camera shines. I actually noticed slightly better photos out of the E-PL3 than the EP3 in some conditions, although indoor shots were a little iffy and often blurred in non-auto modes. Obviously the camera is only as good as its lens and the focus and clarity of all of the Olympus line is quite high if not excellent for this class of lens. I did notice some purple fringing but that’s the reality of consumer-level hardware.

Autofocus is amazingly fast – a far cry from the original PEN line’s slow and steady focus. It has 35 auto-focus points and focused surprisingly quickly in video mode. It records in 1080i or 720p — I’d go with 720p.

The camera, if you care, comes in white, black, and red.


Coming at this from an amateur’s standpoint, I find the E-PL3 slightly lacking, especially when compared to its slightly larger cousins. However, it was a dream to carry around on vacation and it’s surprisingly easy for almost anyone to use, making it a good second camera for the home. While I believe something like the E-P3 gives entry-level DSLRs a run for their money, the E-PL3 is a more subtle camera, requiring real buy-in and understanding before it becomes clear why you would spend $700 on this versus a Canon Rebel.

That said, if you’re looking for the ease of a point-and-shoot with the versatility of a DSLR, this can’t be beat. Whether this particular model is the one you want is still up in the air, however. I’d recommend looking at both and deciding on a model depending on your dependence on flash indoors. If you’re a big party photographer, I’d aim for the E-P3. If you’re looking for something compact for street shooting, you can’t go wrong with this unit.

If you’d like to see a more exhaustive look at this camera, pop over here to read Photography Blog’s Fountainhead-sized review.

Microsoft’s Cloud Briefly Evaporates, Leaves Up To 365 Million Users Without Access For Four Hours

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:11 AM PDT


The first email hit TechCrunch’s tip line at 11:32 EDT. Others quickly followed saying the same thing: major Microsoft cloud services are down worldwide. Hotmail, Skydrive, and Microsoft’s recently launched Google Docs competitor, Office 365 were all unaccessable. Users took to twitter and our tip line to express their rage, but then approximately four hours after going offline, the services were restored with little explanation for their downtime from Microsoft.

Official Microsoft blogs and Twitter accounts were busy putting out the small public relations flare ups, but these things happen and there was little spokespersons could do but tell users to sit tight. Servers can go down. Databases can be wiped. Power lines can be cut.

Around 3:00 EST this morning services started working again. Microsoft announced via a Windows Live blog that the DNS servers were restored and most customers should see service restored within 30 minutes.

The company briefly explained on another blog that the outage was caused by the southern California power outage, which if you look at the downtimes, matches up rather well. However, that post was later pulled and Microsoft has yet to confirm that report. (screenshot courtesy of ITnews AU)

This happens to be the second time in less than a month that Office 365 went down. The last outage lasted 3 hours and prompted Microsoft to offer customers — you have to pay for Office 365 — a 25% discount for their trouble. No word on a discount this time around.

So just like that, at the start of the day for most of Europe, a major portion of Microsoft’s cloud services went offline and were restored a matter of hours later. Every online service sees downtime — even Google Docs — but this latest hit on Microsoft’s service is another setback primarily for its oh-so-important answer to Google Docs. Uptime is paramount to cloud services and Microsoft as of late hasn’t exactly proven it can provide a reliable services. Here’s hoping the rest of the year fares better for Office 365.

Company: Microsoft
Launch Date: April 4, 1974

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of...

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Backed By VCs, Ebates Buys And, Starts New Company

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 05:37 AM PDT

ebates, the online cash back shopping website originally started in 1998, this morning announced the creation of a new company called Performance Marketing Brands (PMB), which will specialize in shopper loyalty programs.

Furthermore, Ebates has acquired not one but two shopping sites, namely and The company’s moves were funded by August Capital, Cannan Partners, Foundation Capital and Silicon Valley Bank.

Combining shopping and reward site and coupon shopping site with, PMB aims to establish one of the largest independent shopping rewards companies.

All three websites will, to be clear, continue to operate separately.

The company posits that shoppers are expected to spend over $1.1 billion through PMB's websites and shopping programs this year.

Company: Ebates
Launch Date: September 9, 1998 is an online cash back shopping website founded in 1998. The website launched in 1999, and became the pioneer and leader in cash back shopping. Users register at

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Company: fatwallet
Website: offers consumers numerous ways to save money when they shop online. Consumers visit FatWallet for shopping and personal finance tips from the savvy community, for cash back on...

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Apple FTW, German Court Upholds Galaxy Tab 10.1 Sales Ban

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 05:15 AM PDT


Apple and Samsung have toured the globe over the course of their patent war, leaving a number of loose ends in their wake. We’re still unsure just what could happen in Japan, Australia, and even here in the U.S., but in Germany a conclusion has finally been reached. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still banned in Germany, as a Dusseldorf court upheld the EU-wide preliminary injunction granted on August 9.

Here’s the deal: The German court decided a week after that hearing that it may not have jurisdiction over a Korea-based company and what it sells to all the other European countries. Thus, the injunction was partially lifted, banning only Samsung’s German unit from selling the tablet within Germany. The Korean parent was, and is, still allowed to offer the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in other European nations, reports Bloomberg.

This case has everything to do with Apple’s Community Design 000181607 for the iPad. According to a judge, Samsung’s slate just doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the iPad, and there are plenty of other design options they could’ve chosen from. “The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible,” said presiding Judge Brueckner-Hofmann. “For the informed customer, there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks [like Apple's design].”

If you happen to recall our recent coverage of the Nintendo/ThinkOptic case, I mentioned that the Eastern District Court of Texas tends to strongly favor the patent holder. European patent expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents says this of the German court: “The Düsseldorf district court has a reputation for being our equivalent of the Eastern District of Texas in terms of a strong tendency to favor the interests of right holders over those of alleged infringers.”

And look what happened! Apple, the right holder, won. Now, I don’t mean to imply that Apple didn’t deserve the win. I can’t make judgement calls like that, as I’m not Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann. All I’m saying is that Apple did its research when picking and choosing battlefields.

For example, the same court ordered an injunction forcing Samsung to pull its Galaxy Tab 7.7 from its booth at the IFA conference in Berlin last week. This happened for one of two reasons: Either Apple easily won itself another injunction (due to the extreme similarity between the GalTab 10.1 and the GalTab 7.7), or Apple asked the court to penalize Samsung for contempt of the original injunction.

Samsung’s statement on the matter doesn’t offer much clarity: “We have decided — on a current occasion — to replace the product with our other IFA highlight product, the Galaxy Note, since, as the press reported, we weren’t going to offer the product for sale in Germany anyway, so we want to show our customers the other product — the [Galaxy] Note — more closely.”

With other cases still ongoing across the world, it’s worth wondering how this decision may affect the others, if only in perception. When Judge Annabelle Bennett of Australia or Judge Lucy Koh of Northern California step up to the mic, will they remember how Brueckner-Hofmann ruled?

Samsung said it would appeal the court’s decision, which "severely limits consumer choice in Germany" and "restricts design innovation and progress in the industry," the company said in a statement.


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Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: September 9, 1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer,...

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Smart Bar: Japan Gets Another Special Android Handset

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 02:19 AM PDT

smart bar 2

First KDDI’s iida INFOBAR, then Sharp’s clamshell Android phone HYBRID oo7SH, and now the so-called Smart Bar [JP]: Japan is getting more and more specially designed Android handsets. As you can see on the pictures, the Smart Bar adopts the “traditional” candy bar form factor but is actually powered by Android Gingerbread.

The device is manufactured by Huawei and will be distributed in Japan by mobile carrier eMobile. Targeted mainly at female users, the phones comes with a 3-inch WVGA touch display (LCD), 512MB RAM and ROM, a 5MP camera, a microSDHC slot, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, IEEE802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (tethering for up to 5 devices is possible), IrDA SIR infrared, GPS, and W-CDMA/GSM support. It’s just 51mm slim and weighs 114g.

eMobile plans to start rolling out the Smart Bar in Japan on September 22 (price: US$390).

SCINTIREX: Japanese Company Develops Radiation-Detecting Plastic

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 01:43 AM PDT


Japanese chemicals company Teijin has developed a plastic that emits a blue light when exposed to radioactivity (pictured). Named SCINTIREX, the company expects the polyester-based resin to be used as a scintillator, a core part in radiation meters (radiation quantity can be calculated based on the level of luminescence).

Teijin developed the plastic in cooperation with Kyoto University and Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Science (NIRS) and plans to market it to makers of radiation detectors wanting to push their costs down.

According to Teijin, the production cost of scintillators could be reduced by over 90% if makers of these devices started using SCINTIREX. The material is not only said to offer better formability but also to be “superior to conventional scintillators in terms of luminescence, refractive index and density”.

SCINTIREX will be made available as early as this month.

Facebook Begins Auto-Grouping Friends Into Smart Lists

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 08:11 PM PDT

Smart Lists 3

You’ve got 500-something friends, all of about 50 you really interact with. You went to school with Lucy and Henry, you’ve worked with Mike for years, and Joe lives just down the block. Facebook knows all of this — it just doesn’t really go out of its way to show that it knows all of this. Until now.

Sometime recently, Facebook began rolling out “Smart Lists” to select users — which, as the name implies, intelligently groups certain obvious groups of friends into pre-packaged lists. Take that, Google Plus!

So far, it looks like Facebook is automatically grouping friends into three different bunches:

  • People you work with
  • People you attended school with
  • People who live within 50 miles of you

If nothing else, that last one should be pretty handy for finding a few bar buddies on the quick without bugging your whole friends list (or, if we’re going for more practical stuff here, blasting out the cliche “Oh my God! Earthquake! Did anyone else feel that!” updates without sending it out to people who are on the other side of the world and obviously didn’t feel that.)

Following the launch of Google Plus and its absurdly easy-to-use grouping system, Facebook has taken a good amount of flack for their rather archaic list creation tools. Might this be the first of many improvements? The three pre-generated lists are nice, but when will I be able to be able to make my own smart lists, a la iTunes Smart Playlists? Yeah yeah, school friends, cool — when will I be able to auto-generate a list of all my friends who happen to share my love for John Leguizamo flicks? Screening partyyyyy!

[Thanks to @NickStarr for shooting the screenshot above our way]

Company: Facebook
Launch Date: January 2, 2004
Funding: $2.34B

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It...

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Ex-Googlers Launch Mobile Travel Guide To Kill Lonely Planet; Raise Funding From Chris Sacca & More

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 07:17 PM PDT

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In the days of yore, travel guides were written by intrepid travelers who spent months scribbling in diaries and field journals, or by teams of adventurous souls exhaustively scrap booking their travel experiences into the Lonely Planets of the world. Over the last decade, however, the Web has produced an untold number of personal travel blogs, digital photo albums, community-built travel guides like Tripadvisor and Wikitravel, and cool travel resources like Gogobot.

Today, Jon Tirsen and Douwe Osinga, two ex-Googlers, are officially unveiling their new mobile travel guide Triposo, which doesn’t want to just throw out the old model, it wants to do what Google did for the world’s information: Aggregate that sucka and make it easily searchable. Simply put, Triposo is based on the simple idea that travel guides can be designed in the same way that Google based its aggregation and search on some kick ass algorithms. And a little bit of indexing and semantic icing to boot.

To that end, travel guides like Triposo are possible today, because the content is there. Sites like Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and Openstreetmap have swaths of travel-related content, and Triposo wants to be the site that ranks that content so well you’ll never have to use another preachy, paper-based travel book. The environment will thank you.

Thus, the Triposo algorithm takes travel information from seven of the biggest open source aggregators (and several closed resources as well) and serves its users with content that’s relevant for them. Without any human interference, Triposo COO Richard Osinga tells me, the startup produces travel guides, with information on sightseeing, nightlife and restaurants, all ordered by Triposo’s algorithm — and complete with an easy-to-use (and offline-enabled) map. That very offline functionality in and of itself makes Triposo’s free mobile apps worth downloading.

Along with its web app, Triposo also offers 30 free destination guides for iOS using the same approach. The startup plans to release an iOS world guide, in which users can download a complete travel guide for any destination in the world, next month. Android users, on the other hand, can already find a world travel guide and guides for select cities here.

Triposo has been polishing its travel content algorithms for over a year now, and launched a swath of city guides for iOS and Android to test the algorithmic waters and user response. So far, people are using the guides on average of 20 minutes per session — so far, so good. But the end goal for Triposo is really to hone its all-in-one world travel guides, so that users can pick a destination anywhere across the globe and easily find the best cities and destinations to visit.

But how does Triposo choose these recommended destinations? “One of the things we also use intensively for our ranking algorithms are photographs”, said Co-founder Douwe Osinga. “We have a collection of a few million travel photos geotagged — with time stamps. How many pictures are taken at a place, at what time, on what day: That all helps us decide how important a location is”.

Of course, an algorithm-based company is only as good as its, well, algorithm. At the end of the day, travelers may prefer to receive personalized recommendations on destinations from their friends, or people they trust. (Or self-curated as one commenter pointed out.) And from this perspective, Triposo’s human-less recommendation platform may not suit everyone; but at the same time, it’s nice to have a free mobile app that works the same for everyone regardless. It may miss the mark for some, but the iPad app looks great, and so far, the algorithm hasn’t let me down. Amsterdam, here I come.

Along with platform unveiling, Triposo also told TechCrunch that it has raised $525,000 in seed financing from angel investors, including Chris Sacca, Taher Haveliwala, Google Wave Co-founder and Google Maps Lead Engineer Lars Rasmussen, and InterWest Partners.

The founders said that they will use this new infusion of capital to continue optimizing its algorithm, working towards the goal of becoming the best possible web and mobile destination to answer: Where should I go next? The question, however, for Triposo, is what their revenue model will be when the money runs out. Premium features? Paid apps? More to come.

For more on the interactive travel guides startup, check them out here. Let us know what you think. Travel content algorithms: Yay or nay?

Company: Triposo
Funding: $525k

Triposo makes free, interactive travel guides for mobile devices. Using an algorithm based approach Triposo focusses on presenting the most relevant options for a traveler at any given moment in...

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Twitter Closing Its $400M Secondary Offering Tomorrow

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 06:49 PM PDT

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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo confirmed its first $400 million tranche of a $800 million Series G this morning, saying that the company has just closed “more money than I’ve ever seen before” and therefore was in no hurry to IPO.

The entire series G, which involved Yuri Milner’s DST, institutional clients, T Rowe Price’s group of funds, Chris Sacca and others, was split into two parts, the first $400 million going directly to Twitter for preferred shares and the second $400 million used to buy out employees and existing shareholders. The financing values the company at ~$8 billion and  ~$16 a share.

Fortune’s Dan Primack reported earlier this morning that the second tranche of that funding is currently closing, and I’ve confirmed with multiple sources that the tender offer for Twitter employees ends tomorrow at 4 pm PST. No further documents will by accepted by the buyers after this time.

Twitter employees can currently only sell 20% of their shares before a liquidity event, and from what I am hearing many are not choosing to sell the full amount they are allowed to sell in this deal. Primack is reporting that existing investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures took this opportunity to sell existing shares but that later stage investors Benchmark Capital and Insight Venture Partners have thus far held on to theirs.

Funds will go out to those tendering shares on September 20th.

Company: Twitter
Funding: $1.16B

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to...

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