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Security Issues with Dolphin HD Browser

Tapping the designated corner in the Dolphin HD browser will let you control many browser functions with gestures.(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)
The makers of a popularmobile browser called Dolphin HD confirmed that their software leaks the addresses of all Web sites a user visits, a potential privacy and security breach.

MoboTap, a Pasadena, Calif.-based mobile developer, told CNET today that Dolphin HD forAndroid transmitted the Web addresses back to the company's servers but that they were not stored. The addresses were used to determine whether to format Web pages in "Webzine" format, MoboTap said.

The privacy and security implications arise when a user connects to a secure Web site (usually shown by "https://" and a closed lock icon). The second, surreptitious connection to MoboTap is unencrypted, allowing an eavesdropper on a Wi-Fi network to learn what's happening.

"In some cases, if you knew the URL you can take over the user's session," says Seth Schoen, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has advocated the adoption of encrypted Web browsing to thwart eavesdroppers.

Alan Cooper, a spokesman for MoboTap, downplayed the impact of the security snafu, saying that "we've never stored anyone's user data" and have no intention to do so.

In a blog post, MoboTap said that: "With roughly 300 Webzines supported at the moment, it was necessary for the client to check the current user URL against a database housing these 300 Webzine columns... In terms of security, on a scale from one to ten, this is a zero."

EFF's Schoen disagrees. "I wish browser vendors would think things like this through before implementing them," he said. "It seems like they could have forseen the security implications of it."

Cooper said that "the issue has been 100 percent fixed already" in Android Market update 7.0.1. A post on a developer's forum, however, says 7.0.1 "still forwards URLs." Cooper said he would bring this to the attention of the developers for them to "double-check."

He added, in an e-mail message, that:

Dolphin didn't collect any device data in the API request, and doesn't know which clients are being used. The request was served only to crosscheck the URL against the availability of a corresponding Webzine. Using https for this functionality (which will become an opt-in service with accompanying notification of URL pinging) is a great suggestion and we'll be working it into future versions.
Another privacy implication is that MoboTap was also notified what files you're using Dolphin HD to browse even on your computer. A post on suggested one way to fix the problem would be to block connections to the MoboTap-operated Web site,

Dolphin is a popular gesture-based browser for iOS and Android devices (see CNET's coverage last month when theiPad version was released, a video review, and our "how-to" report on browsing with gestures). Dolphin HD received an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 in the Android Market.

Update 2:10 p.m. PT: Just got e-mail from MoboTap representative Alan Cooper: "It came to our attention that yesterday's hot fix did not fix the URL concern, and we've just published version 7.0.2, which fixes all URL issues. It's just been pushed to the Market, and all users should be seeing it rolled out as an update shortly."


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Reasearch says Web Porn Stops Men from "Performing"

Men in their 20s have a lot to worry about.

Will they ever get a job? Will they ever keep that job for more than a few months? Will they ever have enough money to pay their student loans and still be able to spend $100 a week on pot? Will they ever put their pants on the right way round at the first attempt?

Now it seems that something they do for recreation, in order to take their mind off their worries, is having increasingly worrying effects.

My hard-core reading of Psychology Today caused me to come across a pained and painful piece called "Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction is a Growing Problem."

The thesis behind this frightful news--supported by research performed in Italy and elsewhere--is that Internet porn desensitizes young men to such a degree that, when actually faced with a real human from their target sex group, they are entirely unable to participate as they should.

No, no. Not a good idea.
(Credit:CC AmusingThailand/Flickr)

Indeed, research from the University of Padua in Italy suggested that erectile dysfunction due to excessive Web porn begins for many men in their teens. 70 percent of those young men who came to seek help for performance issues said they were Web porn habitues.

The weary and wise might offer that this problem must be psychological. Yet the researchers declare: "Hold on there, big brains."

For their belief is that Web porn simply numbs men's pleasure receptacles, desensitizing responses to the neurochemical dopamine. This is a chemical associated with reward and, in young men, researchers believe that gorging on Internet porn simply shuts down the physiological sense of reward from sex.

Because the Web allows for so many different--and, if the user so chooses--ever more intense stimulations, the mind-body continuum begins to feel nothing at all. Yes, it's a little like 15 minutes of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

It seems that when these young men are suddenly confronted with a real sexual encounter, the idea of coupling with a real human being feels suddenly numbing--and therefore frightening.

You might wonder what happens when young men try to wean themselves off their Web porn habits. Studies show that they experience all sorts of withdrawal pains, including insomnia and catchall flulike symptoms.

I know that the Web is supposed to be the repository of all that is open and shared and loving. It seems possible, though, that its very ease offers so much of a good thing that the put-upon males of Generation Y just can't cope, poor dears.

Perhaps all porn Web sites should exclude anyone under 35. For public health reasons, you understand.

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Preparation for Google+ to rival Facebook

Google will be rolling out major enhancements for its social networking platform Google+, such as integration of search and Google Docs, over the next three months in a bid to bridge the gap with rival Facebook.

According to a Financial Times report on Wednesday, the Internet giant will be looking to compete better with market leader Facebook with major improvements to its Google+ platform. The first round of enhancements will include incorporating Google Docs, the word processing application which will make collaborating on documents easier "within days", and its search function with the networking platform, noted Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering, in the report.

Subsequently, all of Google's Web offerings "are going to be fundamentally changed by the Google+ graph", he added.

Users of multiple Google services, for instance, will be able to rely on a single system for sharing across the different platforms and not have to wonder whether to share content using Google+ or YouTube, Gundotra explained.

He also said the company is delighted with the more than 40 million users who have registered for its social networking service, but acknowledged the figure is still less than a tenth of Facebook's user base. The executive declined to say how many daily active users the platform has, though.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who sat in on the same interview, noted that Google was cleaning up its multiple brands in order to make them less confusing and said Google+ would be one of the core products going forward.

While in the past, the company wanted to let "a thousand flowers bloom", Brin noted that once these flowers bloom, "you [would] want to present them in a coherent bouquet".

Google had earlier showed its determination to streamline its operations by shuttering Buzz, Photovine and Fast Flip, among others, in recent weeks.

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Child Pornography Sites were Taken Down by Hackers!

Anonymous is known as a hacktivist group, pursuing
its agenda through online attacks.
Hacktivist group Anonymous has briefly taken offline 40 sites it claims traded in images of child sexual abuse.

As part of the action it published the names of 1,500 people who it says used a site known as "Lolita City".

The attacks were carried out as part of Operation Darknet which targeted abuse groups that swapped images via the Tor network.

Experts condemned the attacks saying they could have scuppered ongoing investigations or tainted evidence.

Vigilante action
The Tor network tries to aid anonymity by routing web browsing queries through a series of servers scattered around the net. This makes it harder to trace users and monitor what they are seeing.

Many protestors, in nations such as Egypt and Syria, use Tor to hide their location from authorities.

One innovation, recently added to Tor, is the ability to create a "darknet" - a network that works in a similar way to the web but can be seen only by Tor users.

In early October, Anonymous hackers noticed that one site hosted on this Tor darknet contained links to images of child sex abuse.

Anonymous members removed the links but they were soon re-posted. It knocked the site offline with a denial of service attack and worked out which firm was hosting the links.

In a document detailings its actions, Anonymous said it ordered the firm to remove the illegal content. It claimed the the demand was refused, so it broke into the firm's network and shut down a series of computers hosting the abuse images.

It vowed to continue the attacks until the images and other content was removed.

The firm accused of hosting the content has yet to respond to a request for comment on the attacks.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security firm Sophos, said the attacks were misguided.

"Take-downs of illegal websites and sharing networks should be done by the authorities, not net vigilantes," he said.

The attacks could have put an existing investigation at risk, stopped the police from gathering evidence they need to prosecute, or made it difficult to argue that evidence has not been corrupted, said Mr Cluley.

"The Anonymous hackers may feel they have done the right thing, but they may actually have inadvertently put more children at risk through their actions," he said.

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New Features of Tech News

There is always a need for us to reinvent and innovate our site. Thus we have added more features for Filipinos to read about. We have added Philippine News to our servings of daily news online. Be up-to-date with all the happenings in the Philippines!

Philippine News Sites:

 We also have feeds from different Technology Blogs around the World!

You can find it in the Global Tech News Tab.
Blogs we feature:
  • Tech News - Techie Geek's Confessions
  • CNET Technology News
  • Crave
  • Digital Home
  • Privacy Inc.
  • Apple Talk
  • - Technology
  • BBC News - Technology

Hope you enjoy these new features! Many more coming for the next weeks. Stay up-to-date!

Comment below if you have suggestions or ways to improve our site.

Thank you very much!
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Confused about Android Phones?

The Bionic was supposed to be positioned as Verizon Wireless' flagship 4G LTE smartphone--the first with a dual-core processor--when it launched in early September. But its reign barely lasted a month, and following several recent announcements, it may not even rank as the third-bestAndroid phone in Verizon's lineup by November.

The speed in which new Android devices are hitting the market speaks to the strength of Google's mobile platform. But it also leads to a lot of headaches for consumers who can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options emerging every day. It's like the Best Buy commercial parodying the next great device coming out moments after you buy it, only it's playing out in real life.
The Motorola Droid Razr was in the spotlight for a few hours.
Handset manufacturers can't like the pace either.

They spend millions of dollar of research and development on the hot new device, only to lose the spotlight after a few days (or, in the case of the Droid Razr, a few hours).

"This sort of churn bothers both consumers and OEMs, for whom such a cycle is costly and, arguably, wasteful," said Roger Kay, an analyst for Endpoint Technologies.
For simplicity's sake, let's just look at Verizon's lineup for the holidays. In the past, the carrier has focused its marketing efforts on one big phone, known in the industry as a halo device, since the buzz around it often draws in consumers and drives the sales of other phones.
It was a short reign for the Droid Bionic.

Past results have been mixed. The first Droid by Motorola was a smash hit, and helped propel Android into the mainstream. Prior to that was the BlackBerry Storm, which sold well but was plagued with glitches and a clunky user interface. Back then, customers knew exactly what was the phone to get.

That strategy has now been thrown out the window, as Verizon has at least four to five high-profile smartphones to offer for the holidays, one seemingly looking to top the preceding one.

Yesterday, Verizon and Motorola jointly unveiled the Droid Razr, a dual-core 4G LTE smartphone that boasts a thinner profile than theiPhone 4S. It represents a massive upgrade over the Droid Bionic, which just hit the market a month ago.

Granted, the Bionic suffered a well-documented series of delays, and should have technically hit the market in the second quarter. But the extra time to redesign the phone and bring it to market seems wasted with the introduction of the Razr. Why would anyone buy the Bionic now?

Several hours after the Razr unveiling, Google and Samsung showed off the Galaxy Nexus, the first smartphone running on Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the latest version of Android. The upgraded operating system is the first to integrate both smartphone andtablet user interfaces, and comes with a raft of new features. The Galaxy Nexus will run on LTE and is expected to also come to Verizon.

Does anybody remember the Stratosphere?A few days ago the Galaxy S II phones were among the hottest. Not anymore.
The Galaxy Nexus comes on the heels of the Stratosphere, which just launched last week as part of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S II line of Android mobile devices. Samsung clearly took pains to customize the Verizon version of its popular Galaxy S II phone, adding a keyboard and LTE compatibility, yet it is already selling at a discount at various retailers.

For Verizon, having such a robust lineup--which includes the recently launched iPhone 4S--is a boon, and a stark contrast from the older basic cell phone days, when the hottest devices only ran on the GSM network used by AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Gadget bloggers, and tech journalists such as myself, love the torrent of new devices because it means more to write about.

But the rate at which these new super smartphones are emerging is dizzying. That run of phones doesn't even include the wave of devices hitting the market with the other major carriers. People often hold off purchasing new phones so they can see what's coming ahead; with such a steady flow of new products, they may end up paralyzed with indecision.

It sounds counterintuitive, but the Android world, customers, and handset manufacturers included, could stand to see fewer launches of the next big thing.

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Google Doodle: Tribute to Mary Blair

Search giant Google on Friday marked the 100th birth anniversary of American artist Mary Blair - best remembered for her work with The Walt Disney Company - with one of its patented Doodles.

Visitors to Google's homepage were greeted with a stylized logo reminiscent of Blair's art style.

As in the past, clicking on the Google Doodle will take the visitor to a Google search results page on "Mary Blair."

Mary Robinson Blair was born on Oct. 21, 1911 in Oklahoma and worked in the animation industry, according to an article on

She began her lifelong multifaceted art career in the 1930’s as a member of the prestigious California Watercolor Society, according to the website.

By 1940, she was working for Walt Disney and in 1941 her passionate “explosion of color" style began to emerge during the Disney Studios “South American Goodwill Tour."

She continued to make extensive contributions to the “world" of Walt Disney off and on for over 30 years. Some of the films she influenced include:

  • Johnny Appleseed, 1948
  • Cinderella, 1950
  • Alice in Wonderland, 1951
  • Susie the Little Blue Coupe, 1952
  • Little House, 1952
  • Peter Pan, 1953

    Her passion for painting children began at home, with her own two sons – Donovan, born in 1947 and Kevin, born three years later in 1950.

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, she worked on multiple commercial art projects in her home studio in Great Neck New York.

    In the 1970s, she expressed herself through texture, color and collage art.

    Techie-Buzz said Blair won several awards, including:

  • 1991: the Disney Legend award
  • 1996: the Winsor McCay award from ASIFA-Hollywood.
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    Google and Samsung's Ice Cream Sandwich Galaxy Nexus

    Samsung Electronics and Google took the wraps off the Galaxy Nexus, the latestAndroid handset to carry the flagship smartphone moniker.

    The smartphone, unveiled at a Samsung event in Hong Kong today, marks the debut of the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich (each iteration of Android is named after a dessert).

    For Samsung, the introduction of another flagship Google phone underscores its growing influence as an Android vendor. While the company was slow to shift away from basic phones and move into the smartphone game, it has more than made up for lost time with the success of its Galaxy line of Android mobile devices, particularly with its recent line of Galaxy S II phones in the U.S. It also made the previous Nexus phone, the Nexus S.

    "Samsung and Google have closely collaborated to push the mobile experience forward," J.K. Shin, head of Samsung's mobile business, said in a statement.

    Unlike previous versions, Ice Cream Sandwich will run on any mobile device.

    "Ice Cream Sandwich demonstrates the Android platform's continued innovation with one release that works on phones andtablets and everything in between," Andy Rubin, head of Google's mobile business, said in a statement.

    As with all Nexus phones, the Galaxy Nexus boasts some impressive specifications. The smartphone features a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor, a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD screen with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a pronounced curved shape that is intended to cradle the face. There's a a 5-megapixel camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats, and support for 1080p HD video capture and playback. Samsung says that its camera experiences zero shutter lag.

    The body of the HSPA+ version is a svelte 8.9 millimeters thick (Neither Google nor Samsung specificed the thickness of the LTE version in their presentation.) The Nexus S also featured a subtle curve in its design, in keeping with the original curve of the Samsung Nexus S.

    The Galaxy Nexus will launch in November in the U.S., Europe, and Asia (including China and Japan). Although no pricing has been announced, Samsung did mention that NTT DoCoMo will be the Japanese carrier.

    The Galaxy Nexus debuts amid a number of other super smartphones. Earlier today, Verizon Wireless and Motorola unveiled the super-thin 4G LTE-enabled Droid Razr, a 7.1-millimeter thin phone that comes on the heels of the Droid Bionic. Apple, meanwhile, boasted of selling 4 million iPhones over the weekend after the 4S launched on Friday.

    Since the first Nexus One from HTC, Google has used its line of Nexus phones as a showcase for the latest user interface and features available with the updated version of Android. In fact, theNexus One was Google's stab at selling smartphones directly to consumers, although the lack of marketing and customer supported quickly forced the Internet giant to shutter those plans.

    The anointed handset vendor partner, meanwhile, gets an early peek at those upgrades, useful for planning out the rest of its Android lineup. The Nexus S, for instance, was the first to have an integrated near-field communications chip, allowing it to use the Google Wallet mobile-payment system. The Galaxy Nexus will also have an NFC chip.

    It's unclear how long Google will continue to pick its favorite Android partners; it plans to get into the hardware business itself with the planned $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google, for its part, said it will remain a neutral partner to all of its vendors.

    The pervasiveness of Android and Google's ability to work with multiple partners has fueled its ascent in the mobile world. The momentum has allowed it to take a dominant lead in the smartphone market even as Apple's iPhone remains the top-selling smartphone in the world. Google hopes the Galaxy Nexus will be able to sustain that strength.

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    Upcoming Facebook App: Know How Much Electricity YOU and Your Friends Use!

    Friends can compare energy consumption, compete to improve. The free app is set to release early next year. It helps consumers make smarter energy decisions.

    An upcoming Facebook app from OPOWER lets you compete to use less energy than your friends.
    (CNN) -- Add energy consumption to the laundry list of things you can share with online friends on Facebook.

    OPOWER, a company that uses game mechanics to encourage people to use less energy in their homes, is working with Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council to create an app that will let people share data about how much -- or little -- electricity they're using at home.

    The app is expected to be available early next year, according to Facebook and OPOWER.
    "It's not that sexy of a topic. People don't spend a lot of time thinking about their energy use -- so we're really excited to bring this conversation to life" with the upcoming app, said Marcy Scott Lynn, who leads sustainability programs at Facebook.

    The hope is to get friends to compete against each other to use less energy, and to hold each other accountable for energy-use-reduction goals, said Ogi Kavazovic, a spokesman for OPOWER.
    "A person in London could compete in energy usage with a person in California," he said.

    A feature called "Friend Rank" lets Facebook friends see who in their social network uses the least energy per day. Another lets the app's users compare themselves to people who have similar-sized homes. The app also will let people compare their energy use with the Facebook community at large.

    "People will be able to benchmark their home energy use against a national database of millions of homes. All benchmarking will be done on an aggregate level, ensuring complete data privacy," OPOWER said in a statement.

    The app will automatically upload energy consumption data if a person approves that functionality.

    "Everything you do related to this app will be a choice in terms of whether or not you choose to sign up for it; what you choose to share, if anything; how much of it gets published to your news feed; or whether you share it with your friends or invite your friends to use it," said Lynn, from Facebook. "It's entirely a choice

    The Facebook app essentially builds on how OPOWER already works. The company uses smart meter data from 60 utilities in the United States and the UK to give customers more detailed information about the energy they're consuming. Bills from OPOWER, for example, tell people how their monthly energy use compares to their neighbors, on average.

    If they're doing well, or beating the average, customers get a smiley face on their bills.
    It's a subtle effort to promote do-goodery, but the company says it's effective at getting people to use less power.

    An average OPOWER customer uses 2 to 3% less energy, CEO Dan Yates told CNN last year.
    NRDC, the environmental group, says the app will offer energy savings tips for users.
    The point is to give people more information about how they're using electricity, said Jenny Powers, an NRDC spokeswoman.

    "Right now you get your electricity bill and it's just one big charge and you have no idea what that means or how you can compare it with others," she said. "This sort of thing finally makes it relevant -- puts it into perspective, and offers solutions about how you can go about cutting that bill back, without losing any of your everyday comfort."

    OPOWER currently reaches about 55 million homes, Kavazovic said. A person's utility must sign up with OPOWER and approve the Facebook app in order for the customer to activate the service.

    The app could make these kinds of services more popular, Powers said, causing a "snowball effect" in which more utilities will want to sign up.

    "In every other part of our daily consumption, we're able to find good deals -- coupons at the supermarket, sales at the hardware store. But we never catch a break on our electric bill," she said in an e-mail. "This app will collectively empower people to find their own hidden deals right within their bills."

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    Angry Birds Origin? and Download Links

    This is probably the first blog post I do personally.

    Found this photo on Facebook. Truth is, I am a player of Angry Birds. Nice to know that it came from the Sesame Street characters. [Not confirmed if true]

    You can download it from Google Chrome's App Store or from any of these search engine results:
    Slingshoot higher...Go Angry Birds! :)

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    It is Final! Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion!

    Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the new Skype Division immediately, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

    Microsoft Corp. on Friday said it has closed its $8.5 billion acquisition of Luxembourg-based Internet voice and video communication provider Skype.

    Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the new Skype Division immediately, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

    The acquisition is however still under review in a few countries, and will be completed in those countries when such reviews are closed, Microsoft said without naming the countries. The deal was cleared by the Department of Justice in the U.S. in June and antitrust regulators in the European Union this month.

    Microsoft announced in May that it had agreed to acquire Skype, and said at the time that it would be integrated with Microsoft's products, without affecting availability of the popular Internet telephony application on platforms from competitors.

    The Skype division will continue to offer its current products to millions of users globally, Microsoft said on Friday. In the long term, Skype will also be integrated across an array of Microsoft products to broaden Skype's reach and accelerate its growth as a fundamental way for people to communicate online, it added.

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    Opera 11.1: Full-packed for Android Devices

    Opera Mobile 11.1 for Android has now arrived the Android Market, as one of the most popular web browser, the latest mobile version adds a lot of cool stuffs, and meanwhile fixes some bugs, it could be said the mobile version can...

    Opera Mobile 11.1 for Android has now arrived the Android Market, as one of the most popular web browser, the latest mobile version adds a lot of cool stuffs, and meanwhile fixes some bugs, it could be said the mobile version can absolutely do the exactly same as the desktop one, actually it can do even better than that, it provide a more secure environment for the web surfing users.

    As a web browser for smartphones and  PDAs, the first version of Opera Mobile was released in 2000 for the Psion Series 7 and netBook. Today, it is available for a variety of devices that run on Android, S60, Windows Mobile, Maemo (labs), and MeeGo (labs). Opera Mobile 10 was released to operators and OEMs on December 10, 2009, as a direct-to-distributor version and was made available on the Opera website on March 16, 2010. It is available on Android, BREW, Windows Mobile, and Symbian/S60 smartphones, and it is in development for Maemo devices.

    Opera Mobile uses the Presto layout engine and supports many web standards, as well as Ajax. As of version 9.7, it can use Opera Turbo that compresses web pages via Opera Software's "Turbo" servers, thus reducing download size. Because web pages are compressed, page loading times are improved, and bandwidth consumption is reduced by up to 80%.

    The browser can dynamically reformat web pages for small screen, using Opera's Small Screen Rendering (SSR) technology and text-wrapping. Opera Mobile 10 includes a "Speed Dial" feature, which allows the user to add links shown as thumbnail images in a page displayed when a new tab is opened. Once set up, this feature allows the user to more easily navigate to the selected web pages, and visual tabs, that allow the browsing multiple Web sites at one time. It also includes a password manager and pop-up handler, and it supports copy and paste,address auto-complete, zooming, history, and bookmarks. The browser can be used by either using finger-touch or stylus on a touchscreen or with a keypad and can be displayed in portrait and landscape mode. 

    The latest version doesn’t  add anything revolutionary, but instead builds upon the current experience, with fixes for some software bugs and several security flaws, one of which could allow rogue apps access to user information stored in the browser cache. The new features include a new interface looks better on your device and gives Opera Mobile a sleek, modern browser appearance, pinch-to-zoom and smooth panning let you surf in a natural, intuitive way, synchronize bookmarks, Speed Dial and more with your computer or other mobile devices via Opera Link, Twitter and Facebook support is built in, so you can easily share Web content with others, games and free apps can be downloaded from the Opera Mobile Store in Opera Mobile's Speed Dial.

    Of course, the update also makes several changes beneficial to all Opera Mobile users, whether on Honeycomb or not. Primarily this comes in the form of a security flaw fix which now isolates Opera’s cache files, making them more secure as they were previously a bit vulnerable to intrusion from potentially malicious apps. Other useful changes include general stability improvements and corrections for some fonts not displaying properly on some devices. A black screen bug was also fixed along with a disappearing text bug.

    Other improvements include auto-complete support, auto-suggest for domain search, and enhanced text selection. Overall, the browser is supposedly more stable, and should deliver better performance with the upgrade in the Opera Presto rendering engine. Various fixes are part of update, with font, stability, black screen, disappearing text, and HTML5 issues being resolved across a range of devices. The update is compatible on devices bearing Android 1.6 or higher.

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    Firefox 7: Faster Performance and Conservative Memory Usage

    Performance and improved memory use were the goals ofFirefox 7, which arrived on schedule today from Mozilla. Firefox 7 is available to download for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android
    The new Telemetry feature asks you to opt in before it will collect your data.

    The wide-release version of Firefox 7 brings changes to the majority of Firefox users that the beta and Aurora channels have been playing with for some time. These include claims of significant gains in reducing memory use, "often 20 percent to 30 percent less, and sometimes as much as 50 percent less," a company representative wrote in a blog post based on work by Firefox developer Nicholas Nethercote.

    These performance gains are the first public results of an internal Mozilla project called MemShrink, which, as the name implies, is about reducing the browser's system impact. Mozilla cited several specific areas of improvement in Firefox 7, including when the browser is kept open for long periods of time, when multiple tabs are open at once, and when the browser is used concurrently with other programs that also use a lot of memory. The company also noted that MemShrink was successful in part because of the rapid-release cycle that a vocal minority of Firefox users have been criticizing.

    The spotlight on performance is something that Mozilla clearly plans to keep lit. When you install Firefox 7, you'll be prompted to opt in to a new anonymous-reporting measure that the company is calling Telemetry. Not unlike security suites that use your data anonymously to improve threat detection rates, Mozilla plans to crowd-source its performance data to learn more about how the browser performs in real-world situations.

    Unlike the security suites, Telemetry is an opt-in reporting system, so Mozilla won't be collecting data without permission. Lead privacy engineer Sid Stamm addresses security concerns in a blog post, but the short version is that Mozilla is far more open about the data it collects--and why it collects that data--than competitors such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Currently, Telemetry looks at four categories: memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, and startup speed. Curious readers can install the about:telemetry add-on to see the personal statistics Firefox is gathering.

    If you've enabled Telemetry and would like to disable it, you can go to Options, Advanced, and uncheck the Submit Performance Data box at the bottom of the General tab.

    Mozilla chart showing decreasing Firefox memory usage.
    Other changes in Firefox 7 for desktops include a new version of hardware-accelerated Canvas for faster HTML5 games and animations, and improvements for Web developers. These include support for the W3C navigation timing API, which allows developers to measure page load time and site navigation against factors like bandwidth, and a new set of Firefox tools for developers.

    Firefox 7 for Android includes a laundry list of changes, including the ability to select text in a Web page for copying and pasting. Long-tap on a site, and theAndroid-style drag handles will appear. There's a new Quit feature under Preferences/More to force an exit from the browser, the WebSocket API now works on Firefox for mobile devices, and image rendering has been improved on Tegra-poweredtablets and phones. The browser also now auto-detects your system default language if it's supported, and a new Preferences option enables you to change the language displayed in the browser on-demand.

    Full release notes for Firefox for desktops are here, while Firefox for Android release notes can be read here.

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    Firefox's Facelift makes it load faster on Android Devices

    Mozilla has decided that when it comes toAndroid devices, performance is more important than the wealth of add-ons that can be used to customizeFirefox

    Yesterday, Mozilla's Director of Firefox Engineering Johnathan Nightingale announced on a mailing list that Firefox will move to Android's native user interface, ditching the XUL technology that has been in use by Mozilla since before there even was a Firefox.

    "Firefox on Android is a critical part of supporting the open Web, and this decision puts us in a position to build the best Firefox possible," Nightingale said.

    Firefox is widely used on personal computers but a rarity on mobile phones, where--unlike Apple'sSafari or the unbranded browser Google builds for Android--it's not installed on any phones by default. Firefox is the chief way Mozilla tries to implement its vision of empowering users of the Web and keeping that Web an open technology.

    Firefox with a native Android interface should mean faster start-up, less memory usage, and smoother zooming and panning, Nightingale said. The native UI project page for mobile Firefox, aka Fennec, also listed better battery life as a benefit.

    It's not clear when the rebuilt version will arrive, but it won't be for either the beta or Aurora versions currently in testing, Nightingale said.

    Start-up time is a big deal when comparing Firefox to the built-in browser on Android, especially since Firefox often gets kicked out of memory when not in use, forcing another sluggish load when a person taps a link and needs the browser again.

    "After substantial discussion, we have decided to build future versions of Firefox on Android with a native UI [user interface] instead of the current XUL implementation," Nightingale said.

    Only the user interface will change; the browser will still use the underlying Gecko engine for processing Web page elements. But leaving XUL behind will be a big deal for anyone who built Firefox add-ons using the technology, and it complicates the process of translating Firefox into different languages, too.

    "It's still early days, so we have a lot of questions to answer," Nightingale said. "We're talking with the Add-on SDK team about the best way to support extensions. We're talking with l10n [localization] about how to ensure we support Firefox users wherever they live around the world."

    One possibility, according toSome meeting notes on native-UI Firefox is blunter: "Extensions are gone." The notes raise the possibility of using Mozilla's Add-On Software Developer Kit (SDK), an online tool for creating add-ons, but at present that works only for new-style "Jetpack" add-ons that aren't available on mobile right now.

    For now, there's a lot of planning to do about the transition.

    "By the end of next week, we will have a clearer outline of the work ahead," Nightingale said.

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    Nvidia's 3D Vision 2...Gaming must have!

    Gamers hate the light. It's true. It's why we do most of our gaming in basements. Specifically, our's mom's basement. Nvidia knows this, so it redesigned the 3D Vision 2's glasses to block out more ambient light. Yes. Now you can let the darkness just shower over you even better than before.
    Nvidia's 3D Vision
    According to Nvidia, the number of 3D-capable monitors increased by 112 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter in 2011 and the number of 3D notebooks increased by 126 percent in the same period. And with more than 550 3D games available on the PC. So, it would seem that at least hard-core gamers are taken with the tech.
    The technology isn't perfect, though, and Nvidia seeks to improve the 3D experience in a couple of key ways with its new 3D Vision 2.

    Glasses get a redesign, not an 'upgrade'
    The original 3D Vision glasses were made of hard plastic, and thanks to their active-shutter technology made game images look a lot darker than when playing normally. Nvidia seeks to change that.

    While none of the actual hardware or base technology in the 3D Vision 1's glasses have changed for Vision 2, the company increased the size of the lenses by 20 percent, giving the user a wider viewing area. And, according to the company, the glasses block out external light more efficiently, resulting in higher color fidelity.
    There's also now a silver Nvidia logo on the sides and the material is made from soft composites, in hopes that your 3D glasses and headphones are no longer digging into your head, leaving unsightly marks.

    The glasses are also backward-compatible with older 3D Vision content and hardware.

    Boosting light levels
    One of the criticisms of 3D gaming on the PC is just how dark games look when viewing them through 3D glasses. It kind of comes with the territory with active-shutter technology, but Samsung has found ways to minimize it. Nvidia is taking a different approach, however.

    According to Nvidia, monitors supporting its new 3D LightBoost technology deliver up to two times brighter 3D images "than existing 3D solutions," as well as improved color quality. Nvidia also points out that environmental lighting is increased dramatically, making gaming keyboards and mice more visible in your
    dark, dank man cave
    office. LightBoost also purportedly reduces 3D ghosting.

    The ASUS VG278H is the first 3D LightBoost-certified desktop display. The monitor has a 27-inch LED-based screen, with a 1,920x1,080 resolution, an HDMI 1.4, and a Dual-link DVI input.

    The monitor will also utilize Asus' upgraded overdrive technology called Trace-Free II and will feature a 120Hz refresh rate and 2ms response times. More LightBoost-compatible monitor are expected from Acer and BenQ, in the next few months.

    No verdict yet
    Right now it's hard to say how much of a leap in performance 3D Vision 2 offers over the previous generation as well as active-shutter tech on the PC from Samsung. Once we've had a chance to spend more than an hour with it, we'll have a better idea and will pass that info on to you.

    The 3D Vision Kit 2 launches this month with a wireless USB IR emitter for $149 with the glasses alone, available for $99. The Asus VG278H will also be available in October and come with a built-in IR emitter and 3D Vision 2 glasses for $699.

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    Android OS and iOS will not break down like Blackberry

    BlackBerrys around the world could not get messages this week; that wouldn't happen to iPhone or Android, experts say.
    (CNN) -- Here's a little secret BlackBerry doesn't want you to know:

    It would be technically impossible for all Android phones or iPhones to experience a global four-day outage like the one BlackBerry saw this week, according to mobile communications experts.

    Why? The answer is in the technical details of how Research in Motion -- the company that makes BlackBerry smartphones, with their click-clacking keyboards and tie-wearing owners -- handles e-mails and text messages.

    Here's the gist: RIM acts as a middleman for all e-mail and BlackBerry text messages. It picks up messages from the wireless carrier and passes them on to the recipient.
    BlackBerry says outage restored

    Androids and iPhones don't have a middleman for texts and e-mail.

    It's this BlackBerry baton-passing system that went down Monday, killing or slowing e-mail and texting services for millions of people in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The ordeal lasted four days.

    "It's because of the way RIM has set up the (network) architecture that is the downfall when it comes to these types of outages," said Sean Armstrong, who manages wireless communications at a large tech company. "When it's working fine, it's a great system. When it's not working fine, it's a failure."

    This week, it's fair to say the system was a big ol' failure. On social media sites, some BlackBerry users said they were so upset about the outage -- the largest in the company's history -- that they were switching to Apple iOS and Google Android devices. And customer satisfaction with BlackBerry already was low.

    "Add up every other thing we've ever written about why BlackBerry is dying," wrote the tech blog Gizmodo. "This is worse."

    This is not to say that Androids and iPhones never experience network outages.

    But they wouldn't be global. And they would be the responsibility of a particular wireless carrier -- AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile -- or a particular messaging system, like Gmail, Hotmail or iMessage, Apple's new in-house messaging service. Not the maker of the phone.

    That makes their problems inherently more localized.

    "All the stuff goes through them for some form or fashion," Nan Palmero, a writer for the site, said of the way BlackBerry handles messages and e-mail. That makes it possible, he said, for the global BlackBerry network to crash, which wouldn't be the case for iPhones or Androids.

    RIM, however, takes issue with this analysis.

    "I would not characterize that as fair," RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said at a Thursday news conference. "We run a global, secure-push environment that provides the kind of instant messaging that's made BlackBerry so compelling and so valuable."

    RIM filters e-mails and BlackBerry messages through its own server farms -- giant warehouses full of computers -- for security reasons, said Armstrong. The company scrambles messages, making them more difficult to intercept.

    That's won BlackBerry big fans in the business world.

    The system also uses less battery power because RIM handles much of the computation work, Armstrong said.

    "The process for checking your e-mail with a BlackBerry is done by the RIM servers," he said. "So RIM is going to handle all the heavy lifting of going to your inbox and looking for new e-mail, and if it finds new e-mail, it's going to push it back your devices."

    It also creates the risk of a global crash.

    But maybe that's not a completely bad thing.

    "For two years, we haven't had a huge issue like this," Armstrong said. "It's just been little bumps along the way. So I don't really see (the middle-man system) as a weakness. I see it as expected, because no system can be faultless."

    Rich Miller, who runs the industry blog Data Center Knowledge, said it's clear BlackBerry was unprepared for a failure like the one that began on Monday.

    "From what we can see from this outage, it appears RIM doesn't have the infrastructure or the process in place to handle a failure properly when it happens and then to recover from it once it's got a backlog of e-mail in its pipes," he said.

    RIM has said this week's outage was caused by a failure at one of its messaging servers in Europe, along with the subsequent failure of its backup system.

    Mike Gikas, a senior editor for technology at Consumer Reports, said problems like the one BlackBerry had this week could actually become more common because people are storing more of their data -- from photos to music and documents -- in the cloud, meaning on remote computer servers rather than at home.

    "If these services ever get disrupted, that could just mean a lot of unhappy customers," he said. "More and more of our stuff is stored on remote servers, and there's increasing burden on the networks to have them available 24/7."

    As the BlackBerry outage shows, he said, not all of them are ready.


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    Blackberry News Update: Blackberry is "stabilizing."

    RIM founder Mike Lazaridis: "We expect continued progress..."
    Blackberry's founder Mike Lazaridis has said services "are returning to normal", following a three-day global blackout.

    Millions of customers worldwide had their messaging and email service disrupted with many turning to Twitter to express their anger.

    In a video message on the company website Mr Lazaridis gave no date for when a full service would be restored.

    He also warned that there could be more instabilities to come.

    "We are now approaching normal levels in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa," he said, although there could be possible "instabilities" as the firm continued to clear the backlog of messages and emails.

    "I'd like to give an estimated time for full recovery round the world but I cannot do this at this time," he added.

    RIM has been responding more quickly to customers in the last 24 hours, following criticism that it was not communicating well when the problems began.

    "We know we've let many of you down. You expect more from us. I expect more from us," he said.
    Users began to report loss of services mid-morning on 10 October and the problems spread around the world.

    The firm is keen to be seen as sorting the problems swiftly, following confusion earlier in the week when it said services were back to normal, only to be contradicted by frustrated customers.

    Robin Bienfait, chief information officer of RIM, the Canada-based owner of Blackberry, issued an apology for the ongoing issues.

    "You've depended on us for reliable, real-time communications, and right now we're letting you down. We are taking this very seriously and have people around the world working around the clock to address this situation," he said.

    "We believe we understand why this happened and we are working to restore normal service levels in all markets as quickly as we can."

    It blamed the ongoing issues on a backlog of emails to Europe from Asia and the Americas, following a "core switch failure" in its infrastructure.

    "Clearly we have a backlog in Europe... as you can imagine, with the global reach of Blackberry and people using it to contact others around the world, there's a lot of messages to Europe from Asia and the Americas," RIM software vice president David Yach told a press conference in Ottawa, Canada.

    "Over time that backlog has built up and affected our other systems."

    'Data backlog'

    Many tweeters called on the phone firm to "sort out" the problems and get the network running again.
    RIM eventually explained what had caused the problems in the first place.

    "The messaging and browsing delays... in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure," a company statement said.

    BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones: "Blackberry has so many high profile users..."
    "Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested.

    "As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible."

    The server problems are believed to have originated at RIM's UK data centre in Slough.

    The "issues" left many Blackberry owners only able to text and make calls.
    Such a major failure will come as unwelcome news to RIM, which has been losing market share to smartphone rivals - in particular Apple's iPhone. Many corporate clients have switched to the device after Apple made a concerted effort to improve its support for secure business email systems.
    Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said the timing of the outages was bad for RIM.

    "The current situation with the Blackberry outages couldn't come at a worse time for RIM, following some harsh criticism in recent months," he said.

    Such crashes may lead RIM and others to "re-evaluate their reliance on centralised servers and instead look to investing in more corporately controlled servers", he added.

    But he thinks customers will stick with the firm despite current frustrations.

    "It will take more than just a couple of collapses to persuade loyal consumers of Blackberry services to look for alternatives," he said.

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    BlackBerry outage blamed on 'extremely critical' network failure

    BlackBerry outage spreads
    (CNN) -- Millions of BlackBerry users remained without service on Wednesday as a three-day network outage spread to North America, causing massive frustrations for people who rely on these smartphones for business and personal communications.

    "BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning," Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones, said in a statement. "We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available."

    The outage now impacts people on nearly every continent, according to the company's statements.
    An "extremely critical issue" on the BlackBerry network caused the outage, Stephen Bates, RIM's managing director in the U.K., told CNN's Richard Quest. He added: "We're putting all of our focus with all of our engineers and all of our network specialists on trying to understand the nature of why this backup system didn't work as it should have ..."

    The service outage started on Monday with customers in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, before spreading to South America and Asia on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning it appeared to hit the United States and Canada. The outage appears primarily to affect text messaging and Internet access from the mobile phones, not necessarily their ability to place calls.

    No customer e-mails have been completely lost, and they will be delivered eventually, RIM said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, according to CNNMoney's Julianne Pepitone.
    Millions of BlackBerry users lose service
    CNNMoney: RIM can't win

    In a statement released Tuesday, the company said the "messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested."

    The company said it is working "around the clock" to fix the problem.
    "A large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible," the Tuesday statement said. "We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed."

    There are about 70 million BlackBerry users worldwide. RIM has not commented on how many users are affected, but reports suggest the number of users without some sort of service has climbed into the millions.
    BlackBerry users, many of whom use the devices primarily for business purposes, were angered by the outage.

    Overheard on BlackBerry outage not all bad

    Many people took to Twitter to both complain about lost productivity and to make light of the situation.
    "COME ONNNN. Sort it out #blackberry. This is ridiculous in this day and age," a Twitter user named @Suzy__G wrote.

    "OK, this #Blackberry business is now SERIOUSLY pissing me off," CNN's Piers Morgan tweeted.
    Later, he said: "One positive of the #Blackberry crisis - my personal trainer can't get hold of me.


    "#DearBlackberry I can't work, I can't study, please, please come back from that coma!" @marianaae wrote.

    "What did the one #Blackberry user say to the other?..........nothing....," said another Twitter user, @giselewaymes.

    "And iPhone users everywhere smile smugly and search for the 'I Told You So' app," wrote another.
    A website called popped up to track developments.

    People who visited the site on Wednesday afternoon were greeted with a red screen and a giant word: "Yes."
    This is not the first time RIM has faced a major service outage.

    "I have been an analyst for 25 years and have watched RIM wrestle with this same outage problem time after time. Every few years we get pinched by yet another major problem," tech analyst Jeff Kagan said in a statement.

    Is the outage affecting you?

    This outage, however, comes at a particularly bad time for RIM, since it faces increasing competition in the smarpthone market, Kagan says. Apple's iPhone and phones on the Google Android operating system have been gaining ground, and the new iPhone 4S goes on sale Friday.

    The tech blog Electronista wrote:

    "RIM's outage is now one of its largest in recent memory and is now edging even closer to the iPhone 4S launch than before, leading to a possible temptation for those already looking to upgrade their phones. Commentary on Twitter has shifted gradually from frustrated patience to open anger and has led some to remark that they're now likely to switch to the iPhone, Android, or another platform."

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    Apple releases iOS 5 on schedule

    The new software, which powers Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, comes after seven beta versions of the software, dating back to June when iOS 5 made its debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.

    iOS 5, which is available as a free update, brings an overhaul to Apple's notifications system, alongside a new messaging platform called iMessage that lets iOS users text and chat with one another free of charge. The software is also deeply tied to Apple's iCloud service, which ferries photos, applications, and settings back and forth between iOS devices, and serves as a built-in backup solution. Perhaps most important of all, iOS 5 lets iOS devices stand on their own, removing some of the ties to Apple's iTunes by letting users update their software and edit media right on the device.

    The new version of the software can be found by plugging your iOS device into iTunes. It's compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, third- and fourth-generation iPod Touches, and both the first- and second-generation iPad. Users with older iOS devices remain on older versions of the system software.

    Below is the full change log:

    iOS 5 Software Update
    This update contains over 200 new features, including the following:

    Swipe from the top of any screen to view notifications in one place with Notification Center
    New notifications appear briefly at the top of the screen
    View notifications from lock screen
    Slide the notification app icon to the right on the lock screen to go directly to the app

    Send and receive unlimited text, photo, and video messages with other iOS 5 users
    Track messages with delivery and read receipts
    Group messaging and secure encryption
    Works over cellular network and Wi-Fi*

    Automatically organizes magazine and newspaper subscriptions on Home Screen
    Displays the cover of the latest issue
    Background downloads of new issues

    Reminders for managing to do lists
    Syncs with iCloud, iCal and Outlook
    Location-based reminders when you leave or arrive at a location for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4

    Built-in support for Twitter
    Sign-in once in Settings and tweet directly from Camera, Photos, Maps, Safari and YouTube
    Add location to any tweet
    View twitter profile pictures and usernames in Contacts

    Camera improvements for devices with cameras
    Double click the home button when device is asleep to bring up a camera shortcut on iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation)
    Volume Up button to take a picture
    Optional grid lines to line up shots
    Pinch to zoom in the preview screen
    Swipe to camera roll from preview screen
    Tap and hold to lock focus and exposure, iPad 2 and iPod touch (4th generation) only support exposure lock

    Photo improvements for devices with cameras
    Crop and rotate
    Red eye removal
    One tap enhance
    Organize photos into albums

    Mail improvements
    Format text using bold, italic, or underlined fonts
    Indentation control
    Drag to rearrange names in address fields
    Flag messages
    Mass mark messages as flagged, read or unread
    Customize mail alert sounds

    Calendar improvements
    Year view on iPad and new Week view for iPhone and iPod touch
    Tap to create an event
    View and add event attachments

    Game Center improvements
    Use personal photos for your Game Center account
    Compare your overall achievement scores with your friends
    Find new Game Center friends with friend recommendations and friends of friends
    Discover new games with custom game recommendations

    AirPlay Mirroring for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S

    Multitasking Gestures for iPad
    Use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen
    Swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar
    Swipe left or right to switch between apps

    On-device setup, activation and configuration with Setup Assistant

    Software updates available over the air without tethering

    iCloud support
    iTunes in the Cloud
    Photo Stream
    Documents in the Cloud
    Apps and Books automatic download and purchase history
    Contacts, Calendar, and Mail
    Find My iPhone

    Redesigned Music app for iPad

    Hourly weather forecast

    Real-time stock quotes

    Wireless sync to iTunes

    Keyboard improvements
    Split keyboard for iPad
    Improved autocorrection accuracy
    Improved Chinese and Japanese input
    New Emoji keyboard
    Personal dictionary for autocorrection
    Optionally create keyboard short cuts for frequently used words

    Accessibility improvements
    Option to light LED flash on incoming calls and alerts for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4
    Custom vibration patterns for incoming calls on iPhone
    New interface for using iOS with mobility-impairment input devices
    Option to speak a selection of text
    Custom element labeling for VoiceOver

    Exchange ActiveSync improvements
    Wirelessly sync tasks
    Mark messages as flagged, read or unread
    Improved offline support
    Save a new contact from a GAL service

    More than 1,500 new developer APIs

    Bug fixes

    Products compatible with this software update: iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad, iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (3rd generation)

    * Normal carrier data rates may apply. Messages will be sent as SMS when iMessage is unavailable, carrier messaging fees apply.

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    Zynga secretly launches developer platform in plain sight

    Mark Pincus launches Zynga Direct.
    (Credit:Rafe Needleman/CNET)
    SAN FRANCISCO--At the Zynga press conference today, CEO Mark Pincus dropped a bombshell that, according to the army of press handlers there, I was the only person to hear. "We are building a platform for play," he said. "We're not trying to be the company that makes the next hit game...but it's ok if we do. We're trying to do something broader than that."

    Pincus said he's trying to get Zynga to build something similar to the Facebook platform, "but at a game level."

    What I heard: Zynga's going to open up its network, and maybe its tools, to non-Zynga developers. This model has worked brilliantly for Facebook, as he said. And Zynga appears to be at the right stage in its growth--huge but at a plateau--to launch an initiative like this.

    What I'm supposed to have heard, as three Zynga PR people told me: Zynga Direct is the company's new direct-to-consumer platform for connecting individuals who want to play games together. The new ZTag identity that you can get on Zynga today represents the first "product" on the Zynga Direct platform. Zynga Direct will be a network of gamers that will exist independently of Facebook, even though it will rely on Facebook Connect for sign-up.

    This is big news itself. There is a natural tension between Zynga and Facebook. Both companies make money by rubbing people together, via updates and apps (Facebook) or play (Zynga) and then extracting small revenues from the masses via ads or online sales. The more Zynga can shake off Facebook, while not walking away from the social graph that connects its users together, the more influence and money it can keep for itself.

    The Zynga Direct that we're supposed to focus on will let users create their own game identities. You'll soon be able to play your Zynga games on Facebook using this pseudonym and not your real name, although since you log in with Facebook Connect, at some point they will have to be linked. At least at launch.
    You should eventually be able to use your ZTag to log into Zynga games you play on Facebook as well as off it. So if you want to play Words With Friends on Google+, or your smartphone, without attaching that instance of the game to your Facebook account directly, yet still play with friends who are on Facebook, it should be possible. As Zynga gets more users on disparate platforms--Facebook, iOS, Google+--it becomes even more important for the company to make its network of users its own, and transcend any one social network that its piggybacking on.

    In other words, as it grows, Zynga can't bet the bank on its relationship with Facebook. And as Zynga gets more aggressive with mobile games (it announced four iOS titles today), it also has to figure out which of its platform partners it's going to be happy paying. At the moment, an in-app purchase on aiPad Facebook game will generate a bill from both Facebook and Apple. Zynga might be wanting to reduce the number of companies it has to pay by half. And it's easier to cut out the social platform than the operating system.
    But back to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't version of Zynga Direct that Pincus (I think) announced, the Zynga Direct that will allow developers to connect with users, not the one that will allows users to connect with each other: It's time. Zynga has strong user numbers and awesome analytics about how users interact (4 billion "neighbor connections" it does analytics on, according to Zynga CTO Cadir Lee). The company has a team of strong social and game developers. But imagine what we might see if outside developers could get into this network.

    After all, Facebook is a social powerhouse in part because it opened its platform to developers like Zynga. Now Zynga could become a platform unto itself and pass the baton down the line to a new generation of developers and entrepreneurs. Done right, there is more money to be made by building a platform than by building a few good apps.

    I believe that is what Pincus intended to convey this morning. The timing is right. It will help the company grow. It's one of the ways Facebook became huge. And it's the smart next move for Zynga.

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    Gumby-themed on Google Doodle

    Search giant Google on Wednesday paid tribute to stop-motion clay animation director Arthur "Art" Clokey with an interactive Google Doodle featuring "clay-animated" characters.

    Replacing the usual Google logo on Google's home page are "balls" of clay beside a "G" block. The "L" animates to invite the user to click on the other balls.

    Each ball is a different character that animates when clicked on. They are based on characters crated by Clokey.

    A screenshot of Google's doodle paying tribute to clay animation.

    Clicking on the text on top of the doodle – "Art Clokey's 90th Birthday" – takes the visitor to a search results page on Art Clokey.

    Clokey was born October 12, 1921 and died January 8, 2010.

    He was was a pioneer in popularizing stop-motion clay animation, beginning in 1955 with a film experiment called Gumbasia.

    From the Gumbasia project, Clokey and his wife Ruth invented "Gumby," who with his horse "Pokey" became a popular presence on television.

    The Gumbyworld site said Clokey worked with clay for 50 years to produce works of art that form a catalog of “firsts" in the medium of film.

    It credited him for making the first music video, Gumbasia, where colored clay shapes moved and transformed to the jazz rhythms.

    Also, he was the first to introduce the use of clay models of objects, animals and people in television commercials.

    "He was the first to develop clay animation techniques and the first to use them in full-length feature films. He invented trimentional animation based on kinesthetic principles, and it became the signature of his career," it said.

    "(Clokey) was a dynamic creator who inspired children and adults for the past six decades. Gumby, his most famous character, is a pop-culture icon. He and his first wife, Ruth, also created the famed Davey and Goliath series," it added.

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