Gadgets, Life Hack

Experiences Of A Newbie iPhone Developer

It is now 4 months and 24 days since my contract as a Senior Technical Writer with a large PC manufacturer was terminated; a result of “streamlining”, “resource rationalization” or whatever the currently favored term for “axe wielding” is.

4 months and 24 days of energy sapping job hunting, wondering when the next significant income will present itself, and doing everything possible to avoid being a statistic and a burden to the welfare system.

It is 2 months and 6 days since, over a few bottles of budget beer, illustrator Dennis Harrison and I had an idea for an iPhone application that would surely leave other developers in awe, and the global iPhone community screaming for more. This was it – the solution to our financial woes – we’re going to make millions! All we need is a little bit of money and a good iPhone developer.

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Life Hack

Create Skittles-Flavored Vodka

Certain combinations of things are practically fated to be together: peanut butter and jelly, nachos and cheese, Skittles and vodka. Skittles and vodka? Yes, and you can really taste the rainbow.

Being a nearly flavorless high-proof alcohol with a vampire-like ability to suck the flavors out of things dumped into it, vodka can be shifted into a lot of flavor profiles, as we noted in our previous post on DIY infusions. Skittles are certainly not immune to such alchemical magic. Over at the appropriately named blog Mix That Drink, they’ve put together a detailed and photo-heavy tutorial for combining cheap candy and cheap vodka into a rainbow of palette-punching goodness. If you’re horrified by the idea of turning vodka, even the bottom shelf variety, into a fluorescent lime-flavored potion, don’t despair.

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Events

IBM And Juniper Networks Hoping To Gain Cloud Computing Market Share

IBM will be unveiling a number of new cloud computing technologies at its CIO Leadership Exchange in Shanghai and its Pulse Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday with networking giant and Cisco-rival Juniper Networks by its side. We reported last summer that Juniper is doing a good job of making inroads on Cisco’s turf, and this partnership with IBM is a sign of Juniper’s continued strength in the cloud computing sphere, an area where Cisco is also hoping to make its mark.

IBM, through its Blue Cloud Initiative, is rolling out a number of new cloud computing solutions for enterprise users, including joint Juniper Networks and IBM or businesses to install hybrid public-private cloud capabilities across IBM’s 13 “Cloud Labs” spread across the world. The companies have created technology that would allows enterprises to extend their private clouds to remote servers in a secure public cloud at the click of a button. Once the technology is installed in the Cloud Labs, businesses can easily switch clients workloads when resources become constrained.

With cloud computing possibly representing a $42 billion market by 2012, it comes of no surprise that IBM is making some pretty hefty investments in its Blue Cloud Initiative.

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News

Google Sync Keeps Contacts and Calendars in Sync on Your Mobile Phone

Google has just release a new tool called Google Sync, a service that syncs your Google Contacts and Calendar wirelessly to your iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian, or Windows Mobile phone.

Google Sync uses a Microsoft Exchange server to keep all of your contact and calendar data in sync over the air. If you’ve added a new calendar appointment from your desktop, Google Sync will push the update to your phone. Likewise, changes you make from your phone are automatically synced to your Google account in the cloud.

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News

CNBC No. 2 Jonathan Wald Leaving For Bloomberg

Jonathan Wald, a senior vice president at CNBC who runs the network’s editorial operations, is leaving the the company. Jonathan reports to CNBC boss Mark Hoffman. The newsroom reports to Jonathan.

According to a source, Jonathan is leaving because his contract runs out at the end of the quarter, and he and the network could not come to terms on an extension. CNBC staffers suspect that he has another position lined up elsewhere.

A source close to the situation says Wald is not headed to Bloomberg, where the Managing Editor, Jonathan Meehan, is leaving. The source says Wald wants the top job somewhere, and CNBC boss Mark Hoffman isn’t going anywhere. A former student of Jonathan’s at Columbia Journalism School speculates that he might also be headed there, but this seems likely to remain a part-time gig.

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Events

IBM’s Sequoia Supercomputer To Shatter Speed Records

In 2012, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will fire up an I.B.M. BlueGene machine expected to reach 20 petaflops of performance. That means the system — called Sequoia — will handle a quadrillion mathematical operations per second and run about 10 times faster than today’s top supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was also built by I.B.M.

The United States Department of Energy continues to finance these behemoths, using them to model the decay of our nuclear weapons arsenal. Such modeling is required given the ban on nuclear weapons testing, and as far as we know, the massive computers predict how weapons age just fine. Fingers crossed.

For the United States, the giant computers also give the government an excuse to boast about the country’s high-tech leadership.

The I.B.M. BlueGene designs remain unique in the computing industry. Most large supercomputers are constructed by melding together thousands of standard computer servers. BlueGene, by contrast, relies on custom chips and what amounts to hand-crafted innards. The specialized design caters to the types of operations handled by national labs and other scientific bodies.

Read the full story here.

 

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News

Obama Gets a Google Vet–But Not for CTO

Barack Obama has yet to announce who his chief technology officer will be. But he has hired a Silicon Valley exec for another role: Google product manager Katie Jacobs Stanton will be the new President’s “director of citizen participation,” starting in March, sources tell me.

What the job entails isn’t completely clear to me, but I gather that she plans on using Web tools to let, well, citizens participate in the Obama White House.

The model: Google’s “Moderator” tool, which let people submit questions for the Presidential debates, and was later used to let them suggest initiatives for the new administration via its Change.gov site.

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News

Streaming video cannibalizing DVD rentals, says Netflix

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted that there were millions of subscribers using the Watch Instantly feature, and that Netflix had seen a “substitution effect” among subscribers who do so.

“We are seeing early signs of less DVD usage with some subscribers who are also watching instantly as compared to subscribers who only receive DVDs,” said Hastings. “Time will tell whether this substitution effect is an attribute of early adopters or a mainstream behavior.”

“The phenomenon reinforces the fact that online offerings really do compete with physical media for the same pieces of the movie pie, and that could prove worrisome for Blu-ray as online video continues to grow in popularity. “

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Life Hack

Activists call for a mashup-friendly Recovery.gov

As President Obama’s $825+ billion financial stimulus package works its way through Congress, a number of groups have started to call for increased transparency in the way that data on the proposed spending will be shared with citizens.

Most noteworthy are demands from public-interest groups and academics that the the data be provided in a format conducive to user-generated mashups and remixes.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed through the House Appropriations Committee a couple weeks ago, and it is expected to come up for a full House vote in the coming weeks.

In addition to authorizing the spending of an obscene amount of money, the act also mandates the creation of a Web site to “foster greater accountability and transparency” in the use of those funds.

While the bill does a great job in mandating the kinds of information that will be put online (contracts, audits, inspector general reports, etc.), it is rather vague with regard to details on how the information will be provided.

The only hints include language mandating that the information be “easy to understand” and “regularly updated,” and include a “database of findings from audits,” “printable reports,” and “user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of funds.”

Such statements bring to mind the possibility of yet another boring and difficult-to-navigate federal government Web site, perhaps similar to the Federal Communications Commission’s antiquated and ineffective home page, or the Federal Elections Commission’s slothlike campaign donation search engine.

mment left with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had yet to be returned.

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Business, Events

Mozilla’s Test Pilot: A Global Usability Lab for Firefox

Doing extensive usability studies has always been a problem for open source projects. Mozilla has decided to implement a new way of tackling this problem for its projects and is moving ahead with the Test Pilot project, which was first announced last year.

Test Pilot is currently only a “still-in-concept platform,” but the plan is to build a representative sample of Firefox users that will be recruited to evaluate new interface concepts and features.

As Mozilla points out in its ‘vision’ statement for Test Pilot, it’s not just Firefox that could profit from a usability lab on this scale, but every Mozilla Labs project could benefit from this wide-scale testing of new ideas and interfaces. As Mozilla’s Aza Raskin notes, most of the feedback that Mozilla currently receives is in the form of feedback from early adopters, anecdotes from users, and ad-hoc experiments.

How it Will Work

After the installation, the Test Pilot addon will gather non-personally-identifiable information from its users and then put these users into different demographic buckets. Depending on the tests that need to be run, users will be selected to participate in different experiments and will be asked to provide feedback on a regular basis. All the information gather through this plugin will be made available to the public.

This sounds like a great project, and we are happy to see that Mozilla is moving forward with this. It will probably still be a while before we see the fruits of this idea, however, as Mozilla is only now hiring a full-time developer to create the actual implementation of the Test Pilot program.

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