Archive for June, 2011

Turntable.fm: Hey DJ, Play it Loud!

June 22nd, 2011

(Credit:
CNET/Turntable.fm)

As a prospective wannabe DJ and geek, three things in today’s world incapacitate my productivity: finding good music, cute little avatars, and Facebook.

Enter Turntable.fm, one of the freshest streaming-music apps to hit the Web scene. Turntable.fm is part music-streaming service, part chat room, and part election. Turntable.fm is similar to other music-streaming Web apps like Pandora and GrooveShark; users can create their own custom playlists and listen to music of similar genres and interests. Now imagine taking that playlist you worked so hard on and sharing it with an audience. Live.

The more "Awesome" votes you accumulate, the points you get.

(Credit:
CNET/ Turntable.fm)

Users create a DJ avatar and enter one of many rooms where they can interact with people of similar musical taste. Five DJ slots are open for people to take their stab at sharing a song from their playlist. Unlike other streaming music apps on the Web, users in Turntable.fm all listen to the same track at once, allowing them to comment or “politely” express their disapproval all in real time. Users can also actively vote if the song is “Awesome” or “Lame.” DJs earn points for every vote, which in turn can be used to upgrade their avatars with newer costumes. If enough people vote positively, the onstage DJ racks up points, and users will be treated to a full house of head-banging avatars; enough “Lame” votes will force the current track to be skipped.

If you hear a song you like, add to your Turntable.fm queue.

(Credit:
CNET/ Turntable.fm)

While a song is playing, users can hover over the DJ table and choose to either add their song to their Turntable, Last.fm and Spotify (current not available in the U.S.) playlist, or purchase the song from iTunes store. Although it’s currently in beta stages, hopefully the catalog support will expand to other music vendors such as Amazon.

As of now, the only way to get an account is to be Facebook friends with someone who already has a Turntable ID. Despite its semiclosed registration, Turntable.fm’s membership is growing at a rapid rate. Only a few weeks ago, the number of simultaneous users we’d seen in a chatroom was about 20-30. As of this post, there are rooms that have exploded into over 200 users in one room. Silicon Valley’s Coding channel seems to be drawing the biggest crowd.

One expensive Mau5 costume.

(Credit:
CNET/ Turntable.fm)

Although Turntable.fm can be used as an idle music listening Web app, most of the fun comes from trying to actually score points as a virtual DJ. There’s a deep satisfaction that comes from watching your DJ points go up and gaining the approval of your audience, or even blackmailing for points by threatening to Rickroll them. In either case, Turntable.fm’s charm comes from being actively involved with your music and the audience, watching the avatars approvingly nod their heads to the beat, and saving up for that insanely expensive Deadmau5 helmet avatar you’ve always wanted. It’s this somewhat simplistic yet addicting system where both users (and investors) will find value in the Turntable.fm experience.

Turntable.fm’s combination of Medianet-based search results with user uploaded content already boasts an impressive amount of songs to compile that perfect playlist. One can presume that a good chunk of the profitability will come from users discovering new music through this service, as well as potential advertising opportunities as the site continues to grow.

Currently, Turntable.fm is still in its beta stages, so expect to see some bugs here and there. Log on to see if you’re friends with a Turntable member and join the social music experience. Just don’t expect to be too productive at work with this running in the background. Sound off in the comments below and let us know how your experience is with it thus far!

Google releases Chrome-based Web security scrutinizer

June 21st, 2011
Google Chrome logo

Google today released an open-source tool called DOM Snitch that tries to flag Web site software that would be dangerous to run in a browser.

The software is an experimental Chrome extension that examines how Web site code executes to see if commands could lead to cross-site scripting or other attacks used to deliver malware to computers via a Web browser.

DOM Snitch (download) “enables developers and testers to identify insecure practices commonly found in client-side code,” said Google security test engineer Radoslav Vasilev in a blog post. He elaborated:

To do this, we have adopted several approaches to intercepting JavaScript calls to key and potentially dangerous browser infrastructure such as document.write or HTMLElement.innerHTML (among others). Once a JavaScript call has been intercepted, DOM Snitch records the document URL and a complete stack trace that will help assess if the intercepted call can lead to cross-site scripting, mixed content, insecure modifications to the same-origin policy for DOM access, or other client-side issues.

The move is one of many Google has made of late to improve security on the Web–a medium the company believes is the programming platform of the future and that holds a dominant role in its own business. The company also is working hard to improve Chrome’s own security.

Other open-source Google security products include Skipfish and Ratproxy, which let people test the security of Web applications.

Originally posted at Deep Tech

Free Amazon app of the day, June 21

June 21st, 2011

Peggle is the last of three PopCap exclusives in Amazon's Appstore and is a Wi-Fi-only download.

(Credit:
Amazon)

You bought it from the games marketplace on the Xbox 360. You’ve played the demos and flash versions of it on the PC. Now, you can it get for free on your Android smartphone or tablet. The last of three PopCap exclusives to be released in Amazon’s Appstore for Android is none other than Peggle, and it’s the free app of the day.

A couple of things before downloading: As with all three PopCap exclusives, Peggle is a Wi-Fi-only download and the file size is approximately 75MB. Once installed, just move it over to your phone’s SD card, and the internal file size gets considerably smaller (just mere kilobytes).

Some of what you can look forward to are: 55 standard levels and 75 grand master challenges; Adventure, Quick Play, Challenge, and Duel modes; the ability to replay your memorable moments; and new tricks, like Off the Wall, Double Long Shot, and Extreme Slides, earn you more bonus points.

Suffice it to say that it will work on the majority of Android phones to date. The app is supposedly not optimized for tablets–pixelation may occur–but if you have one, try anyway. It’s free!

If you find yourself having a problem with downloading the game directly through your smartphone or tablet, here is a workaround:

  1. Go to Amazon’s site and log in to your account.
  2. Hover to Amazon for Android tab on the sidebar to the left. Click Apps. Click on the image of the app of the day (which takes you to the page) and on the right side you’ll see a Get now with one-click button.
  3. It may warn that you’re buying an app that may be incompatible with your device. Just click OK (and buy).
  4. It’ll start to download in your account on the PC. Once it’s done downloading, you can then install through the Amazon Appstore on your phone.

In Amazon’s Appstore for Android, you can download the full, ad-free version of Peggle. It’s free on launch day, then will go back to the standard retail price ($2.99) after the one-day promotion expires. Peggle will remain an Amazon exclusive for only two weeks, then becomes available everywhere else.

Peggle will be Amazon’s free app of the day until 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT.

Originally posted at Android Atlas

Crackle: Free movies, TV shows on Android devices

June 21st, 2011

Crackle for Android.

Crackle for Android.

(Credit:
Crackle)

Want to watch movies and TV shows on your Android phone or tablet? For the moment your choices are a bit limited. There’s Netflix, which works with only a handful of phones (unless you’re game for a little hacking) and requires a monthly subscription. Same goes for HBO Go.

Enter Crackle, a new app that lets you watch dozens of TV shows and a couple hundred movies, all free of charge (but with commercials, natch).

Available for Android 2.2 and later, Crackle is compatible with around two dozen Android phones (unlike Netflix, which runs on only half a dozen or so). I was hoping to test it with my Samsung Galaxy Tab Wi-Fi, but a tablet-compatible version isn’t available–yet. (It’s coming soon, according to the developer.) Thankfully, it worked like a charm on my Samsung Nexus S 4G.

Crackle delivers much of (but not all) the same content as its eponymous Web service. On the TV side, you’ll find shows like “The Tick,” “NewsRadio,” “Soap,” and AMC’s “The Killing.”

Unfortunately, a lot of the available series (especially newer ones) are merely clips or “minisodes,” not full eps. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I don’t want 5 minutes and 30 seconds’ worth of “Fat Albert”–I want the whole show. Hey, hey, hey!

The jewel in Crackle’s crown is its recently added batch of classic “Seinfeld” episodes, which are swapped monthly for a different batch. I’m literally pausing my writing every few minutes so I can get back to watching “The Outing.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

As for movies, they’re mostly older titles, and mostly a mix of B-, C-, and D-grade stuff. I don’t watch “Joe Dirt” or “So I Married an Axe Murderer” on cable, so I’m certainly not going to watch them here.

That said, there are a few gems to choose from: “Ghostbusters,” “The Freshman,” “Silverado,” and “Real Genius.” are among those I think are worth your time. (Most underrated gem in the Crackle library: “Go.”)

The app is easy to use, smart enough to resume playback if you have to leave in the middle, and able to stream over 3G/4G and Wi-Fi alike.

And did I mention it’s free? Sure, the selection could be better, but if you’re looking for something to watch and don’t want to pay Netflix, HBO, or anybody else, Crackle can definitely keep you entertained.

Originally posted at Android Atlas

Mozilla releases Firefox 5, first rapid-release version

June 21st, 2011
Microsoft's IE team congratulates Mozilla on every Firefox release with a cake. Here's the cake, complete with the updated IE9 logo, for Firefox 5.

Microsoft's IE team congratulates Mozilla on every Firefox release with a cake. Here's the cake, complete with the updated IE9 logo, for Firefox 5. "We have streamlined our cake release process to keep up with Mozilla's schedule," quipped Microsoft's Sylvain Galineau about the cake.

(Credit:
Damon Sicore/Mozilla)

Mozilla delivered two things today: Firefox 5 for personal computers and Android phones, and the promise to complete the new browser just a few months after its predecessor.

The organization, once the leading challenger to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, faces new challenges–notably Google’s Chrome, new versions of which arrive every six weeks. Adopting a similar philosophy, Firefox now revs on a three-month cycle, and today Mozilla met its first deadline.

“The world of the Internet is moving at a faster pace than ever, so we realized we had to start innovating faster,” said Mozilla Chief Executive Gary Kovacs in an online chat today to announce the product.

New features in Firefox 5 (download for Windows | Mac | Linux | Android) include the following:

Support for CSS animations, a technology that lets Web page elements move around the screen. That’s useful for more dynamic Web pages and Web apps.

Firefox’s new Add-on SDK, formerly called Jetpack. This foundation lets programmers build extensions out of Web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript rather than the older XUL technology. The expected advantages: extensions will be easier to write and won’t break when new browser versions arrive.

• In beta testing is the Add-on Builder, a Web-based tool designed to make writing extensions easier.

• Firefox’s do-not-track technology, which lets people tell Web sites they don’t want to be tracked for advertising or other purposes, now works on Android phones as well.

• Canvas, which adds two-dimensional graphics technology to browsers, runs faster now, and adheres better to the official specification.

Firefox 5 gives the do-not-track preference more prominence.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

• Mozilla worked on performance in various other areas, including JavaScript and launch time.

• On Android, Firefox 5 now supports the Web Open Font Format for downloadable typefaces to embellish Web pages.

• Also on Android, panning around a Web page should be smoother.

Firefox 4 was a major overhaul to the open-source browser, and Mozilla said it was downloaded more than 200 million times for personal computers and Android phones. The faster cycle means new releases aren’t as dramatically different from their earlier counterparts, though.

CNET’s full review
Firefox 5 is a worthy expression of Mozilla’s ideals. The browser is competitively fast, sports a new minimalist look, and includes some excellently executed features. Unfortunately, that describes most of Firefox’s competition, too.

“Firefox 6, 7, 8, 9, 10–they’re every bit as important, but they won’t have this massive celebration,” Kovacs said. “They’ll just be part of how we deliver awesomeness to the Web.”

In addition to the final release version of Firefox, Mozilla has added two faster-moving test versions, the beta version and the Aurora version for the more adventurous. (There’s also a nightly version for those on the bleeding edge.)

One consequence of the faster cycle is of course that developers have to move quickly to catch the next release “train.” Another, though, is that another train comes in another six weeks. That makes it easier to maintain the release schedule discipline, said Christian Legnitto, Mozilla’s Firefox release manager.

“We were a little worried about the transition,” he said, but the new schedule worked. “It’s been amazing watching the project do an about-face.”

Updated at 2:21 p.m. PT with IE cake from Microsoft and a little more detail.

Firefox 5 launch graphic
(Credit:
Mozilla)

Originally posted at Deep Tech

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