27 January, 2015

Vivaldi, a new browser from the former CEO of Opera

Hot on the heels of Microsoft announcing its newest browser, Project Spartan, we’ve got another brand new contender in the browser wars: Vivaldi.

The new browser, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, is still in its early days, but offers a number of features that loyal Opera users may remember. It sports mouse gestures for browsing and the familiar “speed dial” interface that shows your favorite tabs on the new tab page.

Vivaldi also has some new tricks up its sleeves. Multiple tabs can be combined into one for easy browsing of related sites. For example, if you were doing research online you could group all the tabs on that topic into one to save space.

Another feature allows you to take notes right in the browser, along with screenshots, which makes it easy to remember exactly why you thought a page was important.

Vivaldi is using the Chromium (Blink) rendering engine that’s found in Chrome, but the browser itself is almost entirely built using modern web technologies including React, Node.js and a number of Node modules.

Right now, the browser is only a technical preview, but there are big plans for Vivaldi in the future. In the coming months, there are plans to add sync, mail support, better performance and extensions. Tatsuki also said that Vivaldi will be shaped by the community for the most part, so the feature set will be guided by user demand.

Vivaldi is available as a technical preview for Windows, Mac or Linux today.

The Tweet Activity Dashboard for iOS returns for international users

If you’re really serious about the analytics of your Twitter account, the Tweet Activity Dashboard is great. Unfortunately for international users, the iOS version was disabled on Christmas Eve. But now it’s back.

Twitter tweeted (as you would expect) news that the Activity Dashboard once again works on iOS for international users:

The Activity Dashboard gives you quick access to analytics for your Twitter account, including the engagement of individual tweets and overall engagement performance on day to day basis via a month view.

21 January, 2015

Microsoft Acquires Text Analysis Service Equivio

Microsoft announced that it has acquired Equivio, a text analytics service for legal and compliance that uses machine-learning techniques to identify documents relevant to their legal and compliance needs. Microsoft plans to use Equivio’s eDiscover and information governance tools to improve Office 365’s offerings in these areas.

“We are making this acquisition to help our customers tackle the legal and compliance challenges inherent in managing large quantities of email and documents,” writes Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365 Rajesh Jha in today’s announcement. “Traditional techniques for finding relevant documents are falling behind as the growth of data outpaces peoples’ ability to manually process it.”

Neither Microsoft nor Equivio disclosed the financial details of the transaction, but early rumors pegged the price at around $200 million.

Equivio’s line of Zoom products help businesses better manage their documents by applying machine learning techniques to automatically cluster documents into relevant groups and to identify unique documents. Once trained, Equivio’s information governance tools can then classify records according to their retention needs.

The service also offers a number of search tools to help its users quickly find documents relevant to a specific subjects — something that’s especially useful in legal cases and investigations. Equivio’s customers include the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, as well as “hundreds of law firms, corporations and other organizations.”

There are no immediate changes to Equivio’s offerings, but Microsoft’s future plans for the Equivio’s stand-alone services remain unclear. A company spokesperson only told us that Microsoft intends to incorporate Equivio’s technologies into its own products and that it will “share more on this in the near future.”

17 January, 2015

Apple’s New Programming Language Is Growing Like Mad

Developers are still going nuts for Apple’s new Swift programming language.

Since it was introduced last summer, Swift just jumped from number 68 to number 22 in the language rankings from research and analyst firm RedMonk. The rankings seeks to gauge how interested programmers are in different languages.

That growth is unprecedented in the firm’s rankings, analyst Stephen O’Grady wrote in a blog post about the findings. By comparison, Google’s programming language Go, introduced in 2009, only just broke into the top 20 this quarter. That’s not bad considering the top languages in the rankings are still venerable languages like Java, JavaScript, PHP and C++, but it’s nowhere near as meteoric as Swift’s rise.

It’s important, however, to keep RedMonk’s rankings in perspective. They don’t reflect what languages are most commonly used at companies today, or where the most jobs are. It uses only two dimensions to rank developer interest: the number of lines of code in the popular code hosting and collaboration site GitHub, and the number of questions being asked about a particular language on the question and answers site StackOverflow.

But they might just give us some insight into what languages programmers are actually interested in, and given the intense competition between companies for engineering talent, it could help companies make strategic decisions about what languages to use for new projects. And it gives us some insight into the changes occurring beneath the surface of our favorite apps.

As mentioned, Go still continues to grow quickly—-possibly due, in part, to its popularity in China. And Rust—a language created by Mozilla, the makers of the popular Firefox web browser—saw some upward momentum as well. But nothing is really coming close to topping Java and the other top tier languages.

That fits well with a ranking of database technologies that found that Oracle’s flagship product is still the top dog, despite rapid adoption of newer technologies. Such findings suggest that developers aren’t ditching old technologies, but adding new ones to their skill sets as they seek out the best tools for particular jobs.

Java and Oracle aren’t going anywhere, but the growth of languages like Swift and Go and the rising popularity of alternative databases shows us that the days when one or two development platforms could completely dominate the industry are over.

16 January, 2015

The Free Encryption App That Wants to Replace Gmail, Dropbox, and HipChat

Cryptographers devote their careers to the science of securing your communications. Twenty-four-year-old Nadim Kobeissi has devoted his to the art of making that security as easy as possible. His software creations like Cryptocat and Minilock encrypt instant messages or shared files with three-letter-agency-level protection, with user interfaces that require Lincoln-Log-level skills. Now he’s combining elements of his dead-simple apps into what he’s calling his biggest release yet, a single platform designed to encrypt everything you and any group of collaborators do on the desktop.

Today, Kobeissi plans to announce Peerio, an “encrypted productivity suite” meant to help individual users and businesses encrypt everything from IMs to online file storage. The software, initially launching as a Windows and Mac app as well as a Chrome plugin but coming to mobile platforms soon, resembles a simplified Gmail with IM and Google Drive features included. Unlike Gmail, all communication sent via Peerio are end-to-end encrypted and can’t be decrypted by anyone but the recipient—not even someone with access to the Peerio server itself.

“With Peerio everything you share or communicate with your team is secured with state-of-the-art encryption, and it’s as easy as using Gmail. You don’t need to learn to use it,” says Kobeissi. “Peerio brings crypto to where the people are.”

You can read the completer article here

12 January, 2015

MongoDB Has Raised Another $80 Million

MongoDB, the company known for its next-generation open source database technology, has closed on nearly $80 million in new funding.

According to a regulatory filing issued this week, which was signed by MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB has closed on $79.99 million so far in an equity offering worth a total of $100 million. That means there is just over $20 million in company stock remaining to be sold in the round. According to the document, the first sale in the offering was made on December 10, 2014.

When contacted yesterday, a company spokesperson confirmed the $80 million raise, but did not provide additional information on the remaining amount indicated in the offering.

This isn’t the first big money funding round for the New York City-based MongoDB. In October 2013, the company raised $150 million in Series E funding in what it said at the time was the largest round ever for a database company. That raise reportedly valued MongoDB at $1.2 billion. Being that MongoDB’s competition includes deep-pocketed entrenched database giants such as Oracle, the money should certainly come in handy.

The new funding comes as the company is apparently sharpening its focus on its financials. Yesterday, MongoDB announced that it has hired longtime software industry exec Carlos Delatorre to serve as its Chief Revenue Officer.

Twitter May Have Found A New Way To Make Money Off Of Non-Users

Twitter is planning to sell ad space on Twitter feeds embedded on other websites or apps, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The report said Twitter talked up this plan during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, as part of its effort to monetize non-Twitter users.

If true, that means we'll start seeing ads within Twitter streams on 3rd party websites or apps. For example, ESPN's website shows a Twitter feed that aggregates all the tweets from its sports writers for each vertical. Those feeds are visible to all ESPN readers, meaning any ads placed there could be seen even by people who are not necessarily Twitter users.

It's unclear how exactly Twitter will carry out this idea, but the WSJ says Twitter is working on some form of revenue sharing plan with the publishers. ESPN and Flipboard have been mentioned as possible partners, although they haven't confirmed yet.

Twitter has been busy trying to diversify its revenue streams lately. In November, it announced plans to increase sales from $665 million in 2013 to $14 billion by 2024. To do so, it said it plans to increase the share of ads that appear in user timelines to 5% and to start showing ads to the 500 million non-logged-in users that see its streams. Twitter currently has only 60,000 advertisers, a tiny size compared to Facebook's 1.5 million.

09 January, 2015

Facebook Acquires QuickFire Networks, A ‘Pied Piper’ For Video

Facebook has a acquired QuickFire Networks, a TC Disrupt 2014 Battlefield contestant that built a custom hardware and software platform for reducing video file sizes and upload times. The Wall Street Journal got the news earlier today, with confirmation later arriving on QuickFire’s site.

QuickFire’s tech speeds up encoding videos with different profiles for frame rate, resolution, color and audio settings for different platforms. QuickFire’s solution relied on custom motherboards built to accommodate 11 high-end Intel Core i7 processors. Custom software let these processors work in unison, and a layer on top of that let the startup massively scale up by distributing work among multiple motherboards.

For users, the end result of Facebook integrating QuickFire’s tech would be reduced buffering of videos without degradation in quality.

According to a letter announcing the acquisition on QuickFire’s site from CEO Craig Lee, the company will wind down its prior business operations as the team transitions over to Facebook.

The Apple Watch May Be Released In March

Apple may release its first Apple Watch by the end of March, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman reports.

Citing sources familiar with Apple's retail plans, Gurman says Apple will ask one or two representatives from each US Apple Store (depending on the size and market) to visit Apple's corporate offices in California or Texas in early February, in order to train those employees on how to describe the watch and sell all its features.

Then, those employees will return to their respective cities and train their fellow Apple Store colleagues in the days leading up to the Apple Watch's public release date.

Gurman states "March is the current plan," but that could change due to unforeseen delays in manufacturing and software development.

Gurman has been accurate and reliable in the past when it comes to Apple rumors - he clearly has viable sources within the company - so there's no reason to believe Apple won't have its Watch out by late March or early April barring any hiccups between now and then.

Apple plans to sell three versions of the Apple Watch: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition, which will all have their own distinctive wristbands available for purchase. Apple says the most basic Apple Watch will cost $349, but official pricing has not yet been announced. 

08 January, 2015

Sony's New TV Is As Thin As The World's Thinnest Smartphone

The new ultra slim 4K TV named the Sony Bravia X900C measures just 4.9 millimeters thick - that's the same thickness as the world's thinnest smartphone, the Oppo R5.

Despite its narrow frame, Sony says its television boasts sharper contrast, clearer blues and greens, and a more vivid picture than its 4K competitors.

"8 million pixels work to show off a super-detailed picture, which is four times the resolution of the 1080p HDTV you've been watching for the past half decade or more," Jennifer Jolly at USA Today reports.

Finding 4K content to watch, however, could prove challenging. The majority of programming is currently not produced in such a high resolution.

Sony is confident consumers will find things to watch by the time the TV launches later this spring though, and notes that by that time, there will be over 1,400 titles to watch in full 4K resolution.

Sony did not specify where those 1,400 titles would be available - and whether those were movies, TV shows, or video clips - but there's already a ton of 4K content available on YouTube, for instance, as 4K video cameras become more readily available.

The set runs on Google's Android TV operating system, which was announced in 2014. The system allows the television to take advantage of smartphone capabilities such as voice search, music, photos, movies, games, and apps.

Sony has not yet revealed the price of the TV, but it's safe to assume this top of the line product will come with a hefty price tag.

06 January, 2015

Lenovo gets into wearables with E Ink VIBE Band

2015 is going to be the year everyone throws their hats into the wearable ring and Lenovo doesn’t want to be left out of the party.

The company today announced it’s new VIBE Band that sports an E Ink display and a seven day battery life. The band can show notifications from your phone for calls, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and more, but with no more than 150 characters.

The VIBE band also tracks fitness, but only monitors the basics like steps and sleep. It’ll work with iOS and Android devices running 4.3 and above out of the box.

The VIBE band will cost just $89, which makes Lenovo’s new offering extremely competitive considering the Pebble is priced at $99. It’s not clear when the VIBE band will be available for purchase, however.

I have been using a Phone watch made by Spice, not calling it a smart watch considering the limitations it has when it comes to features it provides. It would be interesting to see what Indian Mobile manufacturers would launch in the market in this stream. 

Facebook acquires speech recognition startup Wit.ai

Developers use Wit.ai to get structured data from speech; it’s as simple as sending the speech to the service and it makes available structured JSON for your app to use.

It’s not clear why Facebook wants Wit.ai, but it could be working on anything from a product to rival Siri to voice search integration for future release in Facebook’s main app.

Wit.ai says it’s existing platform will remain available for all to use and will become entirely free for anyone to use.

This speech recognition startup Wit.ai has been acquired by Facebook today for an undisclosed sum.

02 January, 2015

Messaging app Snapchat raises $486 million

Messaging service Snapchat had plenty of reasons to celebrate on New Year's Eve.

The startup disclosed it raised $486 million in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the filing, the funding round involved 23 investors.

Bloomberg reports the new round of funding values Snapchat at $10 billion.

The mobile app allows users to send ephemeral messages and videos to friends. In October, multiple reports surfaced that Yahoo was seeking to invest in Snapchat following the sale of Alibaba Group stock.

Snapchat is the latest tech darling to scoop up enough funding to draw eye-popping valuations. Earlier this month, Uber closed a funding round worth $1.2 billion, while Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi revealed this week it raised $1.1 billion to fuel a $45 billion valuation.

Messaging apps is the new Social Media sure you would agree