Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Net Neutrality Heats Up

Net Neutrality in the News

Net neutrality was in the news quite a bit last week. If you don't know what that is, you can use my short documentary from last year as a primer. It's been in the news off and on in the past 4 years or so but there were quite a few articles last week regarding some rules that the FCC is proposing to preserve net neutrality. Interestingly enough, the EFF is pretty pessimistic about these proposals as giving the FCC power that it doesn't actually have. The so-called Four Freedoms that the FCC is trying to support are venerable ideals: that consumers are entitled to access to legal Internet content, to run applications and services of their choice, to connect to the Internet on their choice of lawful devices that don't harm the network, and competition among content providers as well as service providers. They're simple but elegant principles to stand behind and I'm definitely glad that the FCC is at least not going the other direction and favoring Comcast et al. Even if they don't have the power to foster net neutrality I hope that in investigating their authority the issue gets enough visibility to become something that ISPs don't sweep under the rug before people wake up and figure out what a problem it is when content providers don't get a fair shake at distributing their content.

It's a common misconception that net neutrality means that consumers are entitled to pay a flat rate for unlimited Internet usage as well, but that's actually not the case. It's not as big of a deal to created tiered packages for Internet access as long as each tier has access to the exact same Internet as any other tier. This is what AT&T and Time Warner want to bring about - pay as you go Internet. Charging by the bit for your Internet consumption. This isn't so crazy considering that your water, electricity, and cell phone usage are metered, but in a country that has a long way to go in improving broadband penetration and where the Internet has become so vital to some people's lifestyles it can definitely be detrimental to everyone to have crappy tiers, and that's what I'm worried about. The world that Time Warner envisions where most people are using very little Internet and they want to charge more money to the Internet hogs isn't the future that's ahead of us anymore with things like Hulu and Netflix and YouTube growing in subscribers and content every day. If you have to pay by the bit you may be less likely to stream that movie on Netflix, and I think the Internet could see somewhat of a dip in profitability with less eyeballs. I can understand the ISPs' argument that Internet plans with unlimited access are unsustainable in the long-term, but they still need to work on upgrading their networks and coming up with affordable pricing plans, unlike the ones proposed in Texas not too long ago by Comcast that they had to pull out of because they were so unreasonable. 150 GB is definitely too small of a cap when you consider a family of four using the Internet, especially if one of the parents have a job that involves using a VPN and/or a VNC viewer when working from home.

It's good to see these issues getting slightly more exposure and I hope that we reach an agreement on a future for the Internet that makes sense for companies and for consumers.

Search Deals

There were a few high-profile search deals struck last week. The first one was Bing acquiring non-exclusive rights to search Facebook and Twitter for their real-time status updates. For a few hours, Bing had something that Google didn't. It wasn't even a day though before Google announced a similar deal with Twitter, but they had not struck one with Facebook. Given that Twitter has more public updates than Facebook, it was the bigger deal anyhow. As a cherry on top, Google whispered to the API that they plan on adding music pages to search this week with direct links to download songs and rich content for artists with images, lyrics, song previews, and other goodies. This is akin to the artist pages you find on Amazon when you search for big artists.

The real story on this is between the lines: we have actual competition in search again. Hooray! We have two giants pitted against each other to deliver better sites that ultimately benefit consumers. I'm fairly certain that Yahoo still has a bigger share of the market than Bing, but I don't think that their terrible advertising campaign is making many inroads compared to the good fortune that Bing has had in recent months with drumming up traffic (probably thanks in part to their controversial ad that involved vomiting).

Blur, Droid and a Watch

There were 3 mobile phone stories last week, but none of them were really that big.

Boy Genius posted pictures of Motorola Calgary, which is the codename for the Motorola Blur-branded handset that's coming to Verizon. It looks like a plasticky, low-end smartphone, which isn't a bad thing but that's just what the design tells me. If it's not intended to be that then they need a better design team at Motorola (that's not really news though).

You've probably seen the stupid Droid ads now, so does that mean Calgary is "Droid"? In a manner of speaking, I believe so. It turns out that Droid is not a single phone but a series of Android phones coming to Verizon. Lame. They're re-branding Android as "Droid"? That doesn't make any sense to me. Engadget believe that the Motorola Sholes and HTC Eris are the first of the line and the Sholes may, in fact, end up being called just "Droid". I imagine that we'll hear more from Verizon about this later in the week as the ads now indicate a release of something in November.

Lastly, how stupid does this thing look?

It's a Bluetooth-enabled watch for your Blackberry. They had a bad quarter but decided to sustain development of a dumb-looking watch so you can be even more connected to your Blackberry? How about making a phone that innovates instead of these handsets they put out that are just marginally better than the previous model? Besides me, who uses a wristwatch anymore anyway? I love wearing a watch because I never know what time it is and like quick access to it, especially during meetings where there's no wall clock, but I recognize that most people don't think they need one.

Amazon Tidbits

Amazon had a really great Q3 and posted a 29% increase in sales compared to Q3 2008. There was definitely a lot of hard work behind it and relentless customer obsession, I hope our good fortune and blessings continue.

There were a couple of other recent announcements that I thought were cool. Last week, Amazon announced a free PC application for Kindle owners to read their books on their PC for free and even includes touchscreen functionality for Windows 7 users with multitouch devices. The other thing was same-day delivery in seven major cities, which is just $6 for Prime users on any order. Also, Prime users formerly didn't get Saturday delivery without paying extra but can now get Saturday delivery on orders placed before cutoff on Thursday. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first year ever that Amazon is offering shipping options so that you can order a last-minute gift on Christmas morning and have it at your doorstep in time for dinner.

The Short Stuff

Alright, time to wrap up with some quick stories.

Windows 7 launched last Thursday and hardware manufacturers are hoping to benefit from the release with a sales boost this holiday season.

If you're not sold on Windows 7 yet, I've talked plenty about it already so I'll direct you to Ars Technica's rather thorough review.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 7 but are worried about re-installing your core base of applications, then you have to check out Ninite. It's a really cool program that allows you to create a single installer based around a list of applications you can choose from. It features a lot of apps that I love.

Gizmodo has a slew of images and a video of the Nook, which is the terrible name Barnes and Noble has decided on for their e-Reader, and you can find even more pictures at Engadget. The price point is $256, I wonder where they got that from.

Inglourious Basterds (see my review) was finally given an official DVD and Blu-ray release date last week of December 15, which is a few days after the UK release. It's available on Amazon for pre-order now! I already ordered my copy and can't wait for the extended scenes and the full version of Nation's Pride.

AMD announced the first triple-core processors defying the longstanding tradition in computing of sticking to powers of two.

Lastly, if you're looking for Google Chrome extensions to install then check this out.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cell Phone News Galore

Mobile News Overload

Last week was kind of slow (news wise at least, busy for me), except for several stories about cell phones - so let's dig into those.

Verizon has started an odd ad campaign for a new cell phone. They gave Apple a backhanded slap a couple of weeks ago by kicking off a cell phone ad (that I see all the time now - see last week's post) mocking the terrible 3G coverage you can expect in a lot of places if you're on AT&T with an iPhone. Now, they have an ad that even more clearly mocks the iPhone ads by copying Apple's style in order to call out the iPhone's foibles as features for what "Droid does". Normally, I'd be in support of this, but it seems a little silly. This is something the Palm Pre does and didn't have to advertise with such secrecy. It's surprising how many people notice that I have a Pre (then again, I live in Seattle), so I think the message is pretty clear that the Pre has a physical keyboard and supports background processes. This ad does nothing but attempt to drum up hype for a phone that doesn't exist yet (but, by some people's count could be here by the end of the month). I love cell phone competition, I just hate it when marketing overtakes selling the features of a product. I can understand the importance of brand image, but ads like this make me feel like I'm being tricked into caring about a product. Anyway, I really hope this ends up being a good phone, but it's risky to talk smack like this because people (like Apple and their cult of followers) will call out Verizon if they don't deliver.

Speaking of Apple, they're continuing to fight jailbreaking by quietly selling 3GS devices with a fix that kills the latest jailbreaking hack. This isn't going to stop jailbreaking, but it's probably going to hit it harder than previous updates. I really don't get this. I can understand vocally standing against jailbreaking an iPhone, but if they believe it's so widespread that they have to work this hard against it, why don't they take a step back and understand why people want to jailbreak their iPhone? I'm just surprised by how customer-unfriendly a company is being that owes its success in part to a strategy of trying to give consumers what they want. Yes, part of what consumers want is what Apple tells them they want (I'm not being caustic, it's true), but it's clear that a lot of people have fallen in love with Apple products for good reason despite the bad stuff - why not work more towards that strategy?

One thing Apple did do right last week was to allow in-app purchases in free applications. This means you could be playing a free game and then purchase level packs in game. I really hope other platforms follow from this model, because I think it's hard to buy mobile applications, as cheap as they may be, compulsively without taking a few minutes to give them a test run. Their benefits aren't as long-term as computer software normally is, so they're harder to justify without a test run, in my opinion. Obviously, there are other uses for this than shareware, I just like that use case best.

Boy Genius got their grubby paws on screens of Android 2.0, which seems soon to some folks but apparently is coming with some really cool features for Android users including the highly-awaited Microsoft Exchange support, more voice control integration, double-tap in the browser (which is now becoming as common as middle-clicking on computer browsers), Facebook support in the contacts list (likely taking a page from Palm webOS), and is apparently snappier all around. Android phones may become hot in the next couple of years if hardware manufacturers can wake up and put together a solid phone for Android.

Lastly, PC Magazine posted their review of the Blackberry Storm 2 (the first review of it that I've seen) and they seem to have confirmed what people were saying about it a couple of months ago: it improves on a lot of the original Storm's downfalls. Apparently, the haptic feedback promised in the original actually shines here. Apparently, the web browsing isn't as strong as some other smartphones, but it does have the text messaging features that Blackberry owners cling to.

Security Brief

I have a couple of security stories that I don't have a lot to say about but I think are still worth bringing up.

IT Security put up a really fun read: 10 very short stories about teenage hackers. The most infamous story is probably Mafiaboy's Denial of Service attack that took down some of the biggest websites on the Internet in 2000.

It's a bit technical, but I liked Dark Reading's explanation of how to defend against a Distributed Denial of Sevice (DDoS) attack. When a lot of computers from entirely different places are hammering your servers, there's a way to tell them you're so backed up that you can only accept a byte of data at a time, effectively overloading the attacking machines in their attempts to flood you with requests. It's called tarpitting and it's a fascinating idea that probably won't become popular in the industry for a while, but I hope it does.

Gadgets Galore

There were a few stories about gadgets (other than cell phones) that caught my eye.

Gizmodo got exclusive first shots of Barnes and Noble's forthcoming e-Reader. It has an e-Ink screen and a multitouch LCD screen (for navigation), but I'm not sold on it being better than the Kindle. I know that I'm a little biased, but B&N is a little late to the game and I don't know that I'm a fan of navigating a book without buttons. Even on iPhone and Pre screens, which are excellent, I get misfires. I've come to accept that because it's worth the tradeoff for the improved interface, but I don't think I'd be so forgiving with a book reader.

I kind of wish I was kidding about this next story: Nintendo is going to sell a Wii Exercise Bike. It looks exactly as you'd think it would: a minimalistic, white electronic exercise bike. This really shouldn't be a huge surprise given that Wii Fit did so well, and Nintendo has done crazier things (remember Virtual Boy or, better yet, the Power Glove?), but I was hoping they were beyond stuff like this. Why someone would want to buy this instead of an exercise bike you don't need a game console for is beyond me.

And finally, Maximum PC got their hands on the Western Digital TV Live digital media player and seemed to like it. It aims to integrate your media library with online video offerings, and is probably worth the $150 instead of a new computer if that's all you use your home computer for.

Final Notes

Ok, I'm fading fast here so time to run through the remaining stories.

This video
of a possible next-generation Human Computer Interface (HCI) is pretty awesome - it replaces the mouse with a multitoch pad. Unlike the new MacBook trackpads, this maps directly to your screen so it can be used all around instead of just pictures. Definitely worth a watch - hope it actually gets implemented!

Wonder what Google Wave is for? Lifehacker has a pretty nice list of possible use cases.

Six Revisions has a good roundup of performance benchmarks for the latest round of the biggest web browsers since they all have claimed performance improvements recently. Not surprisingly, Chrome dominates while Internet Explorer was exposed to run like a cow.

Acer is selling more PCs than Dell. That's kind of crazy - I guess Dell's brand has weakened, but when did people start having more faith in Acers?

Blockbuster Video on Demand is now on TiVo! Yay!

I don't typically plug Google Office tours because I feel that they make Google look like a wonderland while making people forget the cons of working there, but I have to say that the Chicago office does look pretty cool.

Have a good week everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flash on Mobile Phones: Coming Soon?

Mobile Flash in 2010

You know it's a slow news week when the biggest thing to talk about is an article from the BBC regarding Adobe's commitment to have Flash available on "most higher-end handset" by 2010. I feel like I'm back in 2007 when people thought Flash would come out on the iPhone (despite no official promise from Apple, of course). The manufacturers Adobe has on board when they say "most" are Windows Mobile, Palm webOS, Google Android, and Nokia Symbian. If it weren't for a demo they put together of Flash running on the Palm Pre, I honestly wouldn't have believed it. It looks really nice in the demo, but until we get it in our hands there's no telling how well it will actually perform. I hope it's not telling that the demo starts out with full battery life and the phone is in the red by the end of the demo.

There's a reason why Flash Lite was first released: Flash is really heavyweight. Flash is predicated on vector graphics, which are pretty CPU intensive and need solid hardware to perform well. Flash barely works on some modern-day computers without crashing - fitting it on a mobile device with the hardware available today almost seems unreasonable. Is there not a distinct possibility that Flash is something that just can't can't work well on mobile devices? I want Flash on my phone just as much as the next guy - having access to Lala at all times is really attractive. However, the Palm Pre has formidable hardware and struggles at time over even Sprint's strong 3G network to load long pages and can be sluggish in loading pages with heavy Javascript. Will heavy Flash objects lead to terrible battery life and painstaking wait times? Adobe would have you believe that Apple hasn't jumped on their ship because they're being arrogant, but I imagine that Apple has these same concerns. Why is everyone else on board? Because they're all trying to get a leg up on Apple and think that this is the key. To be honest, if Flash can be tweaked to work well on a mobile phone then it just may be a boon to some otherwise less-popular phones. However, the bottom line, in my opinion, is that Flash on mobile phones is a little ahead of its time given our current situation in hardware and wireless connectivity. I'd like to think that it will work seamlessly well someday, but I'm very wary of that day being later this year.

It could be that the way to get around having to have a phone fully support Flash is to be able to simply port your Flash-based applications into native applications for your favorite mobile platform, like you now can for the iPhone. Obviously, for sites with navigation and features entirely based in Flash rather than just games and widgets, this won't work so well, but when you go to a mobile device I think you have to accept some compromises.

Verizon Gears Up For War

Last week was a fairly big week for Verizon. They did multiple things that indicate their dedication to trench warfare against AT&T. The first thing I noticed was during the new House last Monday: a commercial that blatantly pokes fun at the "there's an app for that" commercials from Apple by using the popular perceptions of AT&T's weak 3G network against them. I was so impressed that I got up and clapped for Verizon - it was a pretty stiff jab and is exactly the sort of stuff Verizon needs point out if they're going to stand a chance against AT&T. It may not endear them much to Apple to strike a deal to bring the iPhone to Verizon, but who knows if Apple would even consider such a thing (though they really should).

The other major piece to fighting AT&T is having a solid base of competing handsets, which Verizon just doesn't have right now due to the stifling requirements they tend to impose on hardware manufacturers. There's been a lot of buzz for the HTC Hero, the first Android-based touchscreen smartphone to reach the U.S., and Verizon announced last week that it will be available on their network in November. This got little press coverage, but it's probably going to be a big deal to Verizon loyalists and I'm sure will become Verizon's crowning jewel since the Storm was such a disaster and they've still been mum on details for getting a Palm webOS-based smartphone.

There's even bigger news for Verizon though: they've reached a partnership with Google many months in the making to co-create Android-based handsets with them, which I presume will be Verizon-exclusive. Verizon was so interested in making this deal happen that they even agreed to support Google Voice. I'm not sure if that means anything other than allowing someone to install the Google Voice application on their Android phone (maybe it will pre-loaded?), but this is probably partially Google looking for solace in Verizon since AT&T unexpectedly did not approve Google Voice on the iPhone a while back.

Touchscreen Innovation

Enough about mobile phones, let's generalize a little bit and talk about touchscreens for a minute. Among other things, the support Windows 7 is providing for multi-touch has served as an impetus for advances in touschreens for PCs. I found the demos fascinating and nifty, but I don't think that they're necessarily the future of desktop PCs or even laptops. I've never had the desire to touch my laptop screen rather than use my mouse, or reach across my desk at work to open a program. Where touchscreens really shine are in collaborative environments. There have been plenty of meetings I've been in where I wish I had a touchscreen to draw on and access data on my computer from rather than dealing with projectors on whiteboards. I love whiteboards and can get along just fine without giant touchscreens, mind you, but I can see them enhancing the experience.


I'm starting to nod off here so it's time for the remaining tagged stories I have here.

IBM has decided to offer a cloud computing e-mail service to compete with Gmail. They're a little late to the game, but they are still a major player, even if they aren't as sexy as Google.

nVidia has stopped development on future chipsets due to an injunction from Intel caused by a misunderstanding in their chipset agreement.

Microsoft is replacing Microsoft Works with Microsoft Office Starter, which has ad-supported versions of Word and Excel. It's an interesting choice, but it's not like anyone uses Works anymore anyway who's not on a 486.

Kevin Rose (co-founder of Digg) posted his FOWA talk on taking your fledgling site to 1 million users. I consider it an interesting depiction of how different getting eyeballs is now than it was even just 10 years ago.

Digital Trends has a round-up of multi-function devices, and I wanted to plug it because it turned me on to some gadgets I had no idea about - like the new Canon PowerShots that shoot in HD.

Conan hunted down the real Ajay Bhatt (co-creator of USB) as popularized by the recent Intel ads, and did a hilarious interview with him. It's definitely worth watching.

I'm not a violent person, but I still enjoyed this photo gallery from Newsweek of high-tech military weaponry.

If you're a huge nerd like me and tried to figure out how to crack a Master lock when you were bored in middle school, wonder no more.

Get on those rain coats and enjoy the week, everyone!

Monday, October 05, 2009


Welcome to Zombieland

I've (thankfully) gotten some positive feedback for my movie reviews, so I'd like to continue doing that whenever I see movies on or before opening weekend, or when I get DVDs/Blu-rays on release week.

Zombieland is a zomedy/zom-com/whatever you want to call a zombie movie that's self-aware and makes fun of the genre actively. To be honest, the whole horror genre is predicated on movies that have fun scaring you and making you laugh at totally ridiculous situations, so a zombie comedy isn't really very far-fetched. It's also not very unique given the popularity of Shaun of the Dead. Fortunately, it's not like Scary Movie where it's actively making fun of a prototypical zombie movie but rather it derives humor from existing in a world where, without logical explanation, a zombie outbreak has spun out of control and virtually everyone except for our group of survivors are zombies. Aside from that, the plot just follows the main character (Columbus, Ohio, is his name - the characters don't use real names to avoid getting attached) as he tries to head home to find his family, which he's largely been estranged from. Needless to say, hilarity and misadventures ensue along the way.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. Shaun of the Dead was definitely good, but I didn't love it and didn't laugh as much as I thought I would. Conversely, Zombieland was full of situational humor and violence so ridiculous and gratuitous that it was hilarious. It had a very good visual style with superb special effects. I don't know if I've seen such detailed violence before. Part of the visual style is borrowed from Stranger Than Fiction (which I love more each time I see it and looks great just on DVD) where you have information presented to you in an augmented reality design. The main character has rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse that appear in the movie as if they're as 3-dimensional as the actors in the appropriate scenes and are just the cherry on top of already funny scenes.

I think the cast really works, overall. There's something seductive and sweet in a scary way about Emma Stone and it plays out perfectly here. Woody Harrelson really steals the show though and clearly has a lot of fun doing so. There's also a cameo so good that I'd urge you to not go to the iMDB page for the movie until after you've seen it. The cast is literally just 4 characters plus a cameo, and I found it really cool that they were able to do much with so few characters. There's no question that the plot has its issues and there are as many things that don't make sense as your average zombie movie, but you find yourself caring less about those as you have more and more fun with the movie. It has its scary parts, but they're few and far between and well-balanced with comedy, which I thought worked really well overall.

If you can stomach a few scares, this movie is well worth the price of admission. Try to see it with a group though (or with a date) - it's just one of those movies that work better when you're with other people. I give it a B+ just because I can't in good faith give a B movie and A score, but I definitely highly recommend it. It's probably the most worthwhile movie in theaters right now (unless your theater has Inglourious Basterds, which is one of the best of the year and everyone needs to see it).

Joel on Overengineering

Joel Spolsky put up an essay last week that was somewhat controversial called "The Duct Tape Programmer" as he was inspired by Coders at Work (which is on my wish list now). The essay is all over the place, but it makes a couple of points I really liked. It's important to design something well and stick to your design without being tempted with sexy new technologies. Over-engineering lurks around every corner so it's really important to stay practical. I hate that he advocates cutting unit tests in the interest of making a deadline because I hold firm to good QA being the bedrock of a successful project and I don't accept his statement that someone is just born into being a "duct tape programmer", but understanding that you're working on a project to ship a product rather than writing the most beautiful code in the world is really important. Just because you can make an optimization doesn't mean you should - it can over-complicate things and cause headaches later on. Getting the job done as minimally as possible the first time through is really a good habit to make - iteration is a good policy.

First Looks at Office Web Apps and Wave

The idea of Microsoft Office Web Apps should come as a surprise to no one - Google paved the way for online environments to do word processing and spreadsheets and the like. The technical preview is out there and PC World seemed impressed with it. It aims to seamlessly integrate the desktop experience with the cloud-based experience of web apps and sounds like it hits the mark even in this preview stage.

Meanwhile, Office sent out the first wave of invites for Google Wave. Lifehacker put up an article peeling back some of the mystery of what Wave is. Apparently, it allows you to send out "waves", which are rich documents that are easy to edit (WYSIWIG easy) and allow you to embed multimedia easily, but these waves allow for advanced collaborative functionality ideal for groups of people working together on something. Where it gets cool is the idea of widgets and robots. Widgets are little applications built on the platform that are interactive with a group of people, like a video game. Or you could send out a teleconferencing wave where the invitees put in their phone numbers and are subsequently added to the call. Robots are like bots you can add to your waves to modify them or do something with them, like blog them or plug in links automatically. I don't think Wave is useful in an enterprise situation just due to security concerns, but I can definitely see it being useful in people's personal lives. Like what if you're planning a getaway with your friends and want to organize what you're going to do online but you're all in different cities? Or what if you're just trying to catch up with friends some school and want to share information about one another in a place where everyone can be in on the conversation? I've found resistance from several of my friends in using Facebook, which makes planning events somewhat challenging since e-mail threads can get unruly and Evite is the same site as when it first launched, but I could definitely see Wave doing well here.

While I'm talking about Google: they added two new features to search. One addition is that it combs search results now and adds links within the results to key sections on a given result. The other feature is just a variation on this that specifically calls out what you were searching for if it detects it as a major section on the page. You could speculate that they're starting to feel the competition from Bing, but it's more likely just Google being Google.

Hot Stuff from Redmond

The temperature is dropping in Seattle just as it's starting to sizzle in Redmond! Ok, not really, but I thought it was funny that Mashable called some new footage on a tablet with a spine "hot". The new footage is pretty slick though. Courier is a rumored Microsoft touchscreen tablet that folds like a book. The video is almost certainly just a concept video rather than a demonstration of something that Microsoft actually has, but what I like about it is that it very much feels like if you were working with a digital spiral notebook that has access to everything on the Internet. Plus, it's a good use case for browsing magazines and newspapers. No one really knows if this is any more likely than the heavily rumored Apple tablet, but it's turning some heads so there may be more of a market for tablets than analysts think (or it could just be a lot of hype drummed up by tech journalists).

What is tangible is Microsoft Security Essentials, free anti-malware software from Microsoft. Ars Technica reviewed it and seemed quite impressed with it. They convinced me to try it out myself and I'm also pretty happy with it. It's very lightweight and easy-to-use while still providing a fair amount of customization for advanced users. I think it's cool that it has DSS, which is basically anomaly detection since it's not looking for the pattern of a specific virus or worm but rather just behavior that seems malicious.

Android and webOS Get New Releases

Android and webOS are tied for the second-highest customer satisfaction rate among smartphones (with iPhone taking the top spot), and both just got updates. The Android updates were pretty back-end including CDMA support, the introduction of WiMAX, better performance for the camera software, and universal search.

Meanwhile, webOS 1.2 is also an incremental improvement but has been long awaited from Pre users for features like copying images and text from the web and e-mail, LinkedIn support in synergy, a decent number of performance improvements that really shine, LED notification (opt-in), automatic backup to the cloud for browser data and pictures, and, perhaps most significantly, an app catalog that supports paid apps (but still has none). What really excited me about webOS 1.2 is that it's a number of things that Pre owners have been asking for and Palm has actually listened. I find that surprising and impressive. Having paid apps will definitely up the ante in the app catalog for the really good stuff. Also, Google Maps now has transit and walking directions, which is something I've wanted ever since I moved to Seattle so that's pretty awesome.

Somewhat controversially, a 1.2.1 update made available over the weekend fixes syncing with iTunes, which definitely puts a bee in the bonnet of the USB Implementors Forum since Palm broke a rule in restoring the syncing capability, but it looks like Palm is willing to take the risk to get the Pre syncing with iTunes. To be honest, I wish they'd just license doubleTwist instead of fighting with Apple - it's getting a little old now.

The Leftovers

It's past my bedtime and I'm on call so I need to turn in soon. Here's a quick rundown of what else happened last week.

PC Mag put up an impressively concise article about what you need to know about the new Intel Core i7 architecture and it definitely sounds pretty dead sexy. They're inexpensive, have an L3 cache, and add turbo boost? Sign me up.

I wanted to talk more to this, but Slate has a little editorial up about why the Netflix Prize was brilliant: they basically got a team of brilliant scientists to improve their recommendation algorithm for the bargain price of $1 million, which is much cheaper than hiring each of them individually for even a year.

Tech Radar has a good rundown of USB 3.0. Aside from being 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and supporting simultaneous read/write, it's more power efficient.

I was pretty blown away by a post on the Yahoo Developers' Blog about bandwidth. It explains the concept in a very easily understandable way and provides some great tips for improve page load times on your website.

MakeUseOf posted some tips for tweaking Internet performance on your Vista machine and, after trying a few myself, I have to admit that they actually work.

If you're bored and are looking to just surf the web, start here.

Fox put up a Dollhouse application that I think is super cool because it creates an augmented reality using your webcam where you can interact with Echo virtually (not in a dirty way!).

The "Did You Know" meme that spread like wildfire a while ago now has a fourth update on YouTube.

Enjoy your week, everyone!