Facebook goes down and Twitter lights up

Social network crashes during lunch break; users turn to Twitter to vent

Facebook crashed for at least 10 minutes today and then struggled to fully come back online.

When users tried to open or refresh their Facebook pages a little after 12:30 p.m. ET today, they were greeted not with their news feed but with a largely blank screen that simply said, “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

The site began to come back online around 12:50 p.m., though some users reported still having trouble loading the site until about 1 p.m.
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Facebook did not return a request for information on what caused the problem.

The web site reported that Facebook, the world’s largest social network, with 1.49 billion monthly active users, was likely suffering a service disruption.

Frustrated users quickly turned to Twitter to complain about the crash, during what would be lunch break time on the East Coast.

At least Little Caesars was quick to take advantage of the situation, tweeting, “With #facebookdown, make sure to KEEP CALM & STAY CHEESY and then step out and grab a $5 HOT-AND-READY LUNCH COMBO. ;-)”

And others just took the opportunity to have fun with it.

“Is everybody ok? Did something happen? Are the zombies attacking? I’m scared!!! #facebookdown,” tweeted @MootePoints.

And UK Banter tweeted, “How am I meant to judge the people I went to school with now? #FacebookDown.”


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Will Facebook envy wreck Twitter?

Twitter has become so obsessed with the users it doesn’t have that it could lose the ones that it does.

There’s never been anything quite like Facebook. As a company, Facebook specializes in collecting, hoarding, keeping and engaging users. As a social network, it dominates the market with the largest user base. Facebook has a monopoly as the social network of choice for friends and families.

As the biggest social network, people often compare Facebook to MySpace. But at its peak in 2008, MySpace maxed out with fewer than 76 million unique monthly visits.

Facebook, we learned this week, boasts just under 1.5 billion monthly unique visitors. Facebook grows so fast in users that it adds more than two additional MySpaces a year to its user base.

Even more impressively, Facebook has 1.8 billion users outside of Facebook itself: 800 million users on WhatsApp, 700 million on Messenger and 300 million on Instagram.

Of course there is a huge and unknown overlap. Still, Facebook’s total active user number is 3.3 billion. That’s a higher number than all the other major social networks combined.

As Facebook proved in its earnings report this week, the opportunities for monetization are enormous. The company has demonstrated that it can make huge revenue in mobile and video ads, and the company is just getting started in those areas. It’s also investing heavily in keeping users glued to Facebook with music and video. They’re getting into commerce. If all that’s not enough, they own Oculus VR, and are likely to be a major force in the coming virtual reality revolution.

The trouble with Twitter
Twitter also announced earnings this week. After the call, the company’s share price dropped to a 52-week low. The reason is that interim CEO Jack Dorsey said the company is lousy at communicating to and thrilling “mainstream” users, and as result, struggles to gain new users. He added that fixing Twitter will take “considerable” time.

Twitter now has 316 million monthly users, up from 308 million in the first quarter. (Twitter is about the size of Instagram, the smallest social network in the Facebook fleet.)

Even more troubling is that Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said during the call that “sustained, meaningful growth” can’t happen until Twitter reaches “the mass market.”

The “mass market” is just Twitter code for “Facebook users.”

Twitter has a serious and obvious case of Facebook envy and, perhaps, is suffering from identity crisis. They want what Facebook’s got, and they’re apparently planning to get it by re-creating Twitter in Facebook’s image.

And that might be a huge mistake.

Twitter was the best Twitter

Twitter gained fans by asserting itself as the hyper-minimalist alternative to all other social networks. It’s beauty and power was the 140-character limit on messages. While that’s hard for people trying to have conversations or express complex ideas, it’s great for followers. They could follow a large number of people and news sources without being overwhelmed.

Twitter is the peace-of-mind social network. You can trust Twitter — what you see is what you get. When you follow someone, you get all their tweets — you don’t have to wonder what you were missing. Facebook, on the other hand delivers by default only a tiny minority of the status updates posted by your friends.

When you’re away from Twitter for a few hours, no worries! There’s no anxiety to find out what you missed. Twitter is all about the now.

Every new tweet from every person you follow appears instantly and reliably at the top of your stream. When it appears, you know that “this is the most recent tweet from everyone I follow.” It feels honest. Users feel in control because there is no secret modifications to their streams. Twitter feels good.

Because of all these attributes, Twitter gained extremely influential users. Nearly every journalist, politician, singer, actor, scholar, scientist and public intellectual seems active on Twitter.

Sure, they’re only as big as Instagram. But the “quality” of the Twitter user base from a fame and influence perspective is second to none. And that’s what sets Twitter apart and makes it unique.

Twitter’s got a good thing. But it looks like they’re getting ready to ruin it.

Twitter will be the worst Facebook
The most unsettling comment during Twitter’s call was from Dorsey. He said that in order to appeal to “mainstream” users, Twitter needs to be more like Facebook and stop serving up tweets in reverse-chronological order. This, he said, would be part of a broader “questioning of our fundamentals” and would “balance recency with relevance.”

Twitter’s “Project Lightning” will use human editors and curators to cobble together cherry-picked content from Twitter accounts you’re not following.

Twitter has already started dabbling in the algorithmic arts. When you’re away for awhile, Twitter now serves up a software-determined subset of the tweets you missed based on a variety of invisible “signals.” The new homepage design went into widespread release Thursday and shows “greatest hits” like tweets from users you don’t follow.

They’re also emphasizing pictures, Vines and videos and even auto-playing videos. They’ve gotten rid of the 140-character limit for direct messages. They’ve packed streams with advertising, promotional design elements (for example, constantly suggesting new people to follow), and Periscope invitations.

The mobile version has a “card” interface, which Twitter copied from Facebook and Facebook copied from Google. It’s also got a new “Twitter ads” button for managing advertising. Many external articles now “auto-expand” to show pictures and part of the article right in your feed.

Twitter last month got a new Facebook-like “birthdays” feature, so you can tweet “Happy Birthday” to people without having known what their birthday was. And you’ll feel obligated to do so.

Both Dorsey and Noto spoke urgently about the need to satisfy investors with user growth and monetization, all based on the need to expand beyond the existing loyal user base.

And this expansion involves re-making Twitter in Facebook’s image.
Whether Twitter’s user base grows fast or not, the company intends to deliver better financials to Wall Street. That means each user will be increasingly bombarded with advertising, including video ads.

How Twitter could lose it all
Twitter used to be special. It had a unique purpose, look, feel and functionality. As a result, it gained a unique user base and became the default social network for public people like celebrities, politicians, journalists and activists. It’s been the network of choice for breaking news as well as important world and entertainment events and commentary.

These qualities are what made Twitter better than Facebook in powerful ways. By copying Facebook and abandoning minimalism in favor of Facebook-like clutter, Twitter risks losing both its uniqueness and its special audience.

If that happens, Twitter won’t be better than Facebook in any way. I fear that Twitter has been led astray by both the pressures of going public and by the winner-takes-all culture of Silicon Valley. Every company has to win every user, and at all costs.

The supreme irony in copying Facebook is that, well, it’s not what Facebook would do. If Facebook felt fear of missing users, it would build or buy an external service to gain those users. Facebook would never fundamentally change what it is to chase users.

If Twitter wants to copy Facebook, it should copy Facebook’s approach to defending itself against rivals. Instead of killing the Twitter that we know and love and re-making it in Facebook’s image, Twitter should launch or buy another service and build a separate Facebook.

By transforming Twitter into a Facebook clone, Twitter is essentially saying it doesn’t want to be Twitter anymore. All I can say is: Be careful what you wish for.

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Twitter stock jumps on report that CEO is on way out

After reporting slowing growth and getting passed by Instagram in number of users, Twitter’s stock price jumped Tuesday on speculation that CEO Dick Costolo might be leaving the company. reported Monday that Robert Peck, an analyst at investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, predicted that Costolo will leave the social network in 2015.

“We think there’s a good chance he’s not there within a year,” Peck said. He also said there are “a lot of interesting candidates” that could take over Twitter’s helm.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The prediction caused the company’s stock to jump 3.6% Monday, reaching $38.43 a share. On Tuesday, the stock rose to $39.25 and then dropped to $37.79 by mid-afternoon.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he’s not surprised that interest in Twitter spiked on even speculation that Costolo might be leaving.

“I know there’s a lot of questions about his ability to run Twitter,” Kerravala said. “If the company doesn’t perform well or the company misses a couple of quarters, there will be tremendous investor pressure to oust him. If the company performs, he’s OK.”

Twitter, though it’s increasingly used for political and social protest and company branding, has suffered from slowing growth.

In October, the company reported slower growth in active monthly users than it had in the previous quarter. In the quarter ending in Septembertt September, Twitter’s monthly user base grew by 4.8%, to 284 million users around the world. In the previous quarter, however, the user base grew by 6.3%.

Earlier this month, Twitter received more unsettling news when photo-sharing site Instagram announced that its monthly user base had jumped 50%, taking its base to 300 million users.

With that leap, Instagram surpassed Twitter in number of users.

The company also shuffled several executives this year, with three different heads of product in 2014 alone. Daniel Graf, one of Twitter’s head of products this year, was demoted in November and then left the company in December, according to re/code.

“There appears to be a lot of executives leaving for other companies,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Twitter has had a tough time compared to Facebook and that’s what investors are fixated with. I think they’re feeling mounting pressure from shareholders and employees.”

Kerravala said it would help the company if Costolo leaves his top post. “Initially, it would be a good thing,” he added. “But long term, it depends on who they bring in and if the slowing growth at Twitter is leadership related or more structural.”

He added that a lot hinges on the company’s next financial report. “This upcoming earnings call in February will have a lot to do with whether [Costolo] is CEO next year at this time.”

Moorhead, though, isn’t sure that a change in leadership would help Twitter.

“I think Costolo should be given a year under close watch by the board,” he said. “The company is too young and just recently public. The cement needs to dry a while before that makes sense. That is, unless, there are some things going on that people are unaware of. For instance, if the executive team has lost confidence in Costolo, it would be time for him to go, but I just don’t think Twitter is there yet.”

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Microsoft kissing Hotmail goodbye

The company aims to draw users away from Gmail and Yahoo Mail

Microsoft on Tuesday began publicly previewing a new webmail service for consumers called that will eventually replace Hotmail.

Microsoft also expects that will draw people away from competing consumer webmail services like Google’s Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

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With, Microsoft set out to “reimagine personal e-mail — from the datacenter all the way to the user experience,” wrote Microsoft official Chris Jones in a blog post. features what Microsoft describes as “clean” and “intuitive” user interface that gives more prominence to messages and less to other elements, like headers and search boxes. It doesn’t include display ads.

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With Exchange ActiveSync, accounts can be synchronized across a variety of devices, and it features native integration with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and, in the near future, Microsoft’s own Skype.

This means that users can access content and notifications from those social media accounts within the interface. also sorts messages of different types into separate buckets, so that e-mail from contacts, newsletter subscriptions, e-commerce notifications and social media content is arranged into different groups.

The new webmail service also includes Office Web Apps, the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote along with the SkyDrive cloud storage service.

Once exits its test phase, it will replace Hotmail’s user interface, although users will be able to retain their, and addresses as well as their contacts, messages, password and rules.

“While today’s preview is just the start, is ready now to become your primary email service. We’re expecting millions of people to try it out. Starting today, you can get an email address, and we’ve also made it easy to get started with your current email address if you want to,” Jones wrote. is not to be confused with the Outlook email and calendaring PC application, nor with Outlook Web App, which gives Exchange users access to their accounts via a browser.

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Useful Twitter search tool

Like other Twitter devotees, I encounter a lot of useful tidbits on Twitter. But while a tool like Tweetdeck allows me to more easily monitor lists of people and subject-specific hashtags I care about, it still relies somewhat on serendipity: that I’ll see what I need when I happen to be monitoring.

But what if I want to search for something specific on Twitter among people I follow? Unfortunately, Twitter’s own advance search page only offers up tweets that are fairly recent — and there’s only an option to narrow by specific accounts, not “my stream.” Tweetdeck lets me search my stream, but only in a limited timeframe. If I want to search tweets from the last few months, you’ll need another tool.

PostPost creates a searchable index of your Twitter stream that lets you look for tweets by term and then filter results by specific Twitter account. You can also narrow tweets based on whether they include links, photos or videos. This can be helpful if you’re trying to find a tweet that you sent last year (“What was that cool mapping site I shared?”) or, even tougher, a useful tweet that you know you saw awhile back, but you can’t remember from whom. Or, perhaps you’re researching a new subject and want to see what some of the smart people you follow on Twitter have had to say about it over the past few months.

PostPost today is touting an additional feature that aims to show you a personalized “trending topics” — just among people you follow. I’m not finding this especially useful, perhaps because my timeline is being flooded by comments about the new iPad. Trust me, I don’t need a tool to tell me the iPad is a “trending topic” among people I follow. And given that my list is weighted toward data-visualization topics, I don’t need PostPost to tell me that “#dataviz” and “Web design” are popping up on my “Timeline Topline.”

This particular feature might be more helpful if your Twitter timeline is somewhat broader subject-wise than mine is. But while I’ll pass on the PostPost Timeline Topline algorithm, I’d still recommend PostPost for its original purpose: finding useful nuggets in your Twitter stream. If you want to look through more of your social networks, Greplin will index multiple sources including LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Docs as well as Twitter. But if you know that you’re just seeking info on Twitter, PostPost is a useful option.

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ViewSonic ViewPad 10 tablet: Windows plus Android doesn’t add up

As is the case for Android 2.2 on smartphones, the built-in Email application supports only unsecured Exchange accounts, in addition to POP and IMAP. The ViewPad’s version of Android doesn’t support passwords — meaning you can’t secure access to the tablet’s Android partition even at a basic level. There’s a VPN feature in its Settings app, but the VPN capability doesn’t work; ViewSonic says it plans to fix that issue in a future update.


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As in the Window OS, there’s a smattering of apps preinstalled, including Email (but not Gmail), Messaging, Music, Calculator, App Store (which goes to a private app store, not the Android Market), a couple games, and — oddly — the ConnectBot SSH client. I say “oddly” because ViewSonic told me it expects ViewPad 10 users to run Windows 7 for work and employ the Android OS for personal entertainment such as playing music. Never mind that Windows 7 has a perfectly good music player app; perhaps ViewSonic assumes companies will lock that down so that users can’t use it.

ViewSonic didn’t bother; neither should you
It’s Microsoft’s fault that Windows 7 isn’t really designed to work on tablets, but ViewSonic is to blame for putting Microsoft’s OS on a device that’s not powerful enough to run it. ViewSonic is also to blame for using a nontablet version of Android on its tablet and for making that OS so awkward to use. It’s ViewSonic’s fault that its boot loader and Android interfaces don’t match the physical button on its case.

I could go on about the ViewPad’s heavy weight (1.93 pounds), overly thick case (nearly twice as thick as an iPad 2), high-glare screen, and lack of rear camera. I could note it comes with Wi-Fi only and that its 10-inch widescreen is a very awkward ratio. I could even say how many ports it has. But who cares? If the hardware were better, this tablet would still be unusable.

ViewSonic didn’t bother to design his product so that all the components worked together. Instead, it took whatever body parts it could scrounge up and created a Frankentablet. Leave the monsters in the movies, and get a real tablet instead: an Apple iPad 2 or a Motorola Mobility Xoom or a Windows 7 ultralight laptop.

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Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers

Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers: Corel WordPerfect Office X5
There was a time, in the DOS days, when WordPerfect was for many professionals the word processing program. Law offices still swear by it, since it’s heavily backward compatible with previous versions and has features that appeal to legal professionals.


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WordPerfect has since been made part of a suite that contains the Quattro Pro spreadsheet (originally from Borland) and Corel’s own Presentations application. The newest version of the suite, WordPerfect Office X5 (or version 15), was released in 2010, and has little to attract users from other suites. It’s slightly less expensive than Office 2010 — the home version is $99 and runs on up to three PCs — but SoftMaker Office and the various derivatives all offer more.

When you launch WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, or Presentations, the first thing you see is the Workspace Manager — a way to automatically set the program’s look and the menu options to one of a number of included templates depending on the user’s preferences. Aside from the standard WordPerfect mode, there’s Microsoft Word mode, which includes a toolbar of document compatibility options and a sidebar that gives you quick access to common document functions; WordPerfect Classic mode, which emulates the white-on-blue look of the old DOS-era WordPerfect and even the macros of same; and WordPerfect Legal mode, which brings up toolbars related to legal documents.

If you open anything other than native WordPerfect documents, the program runs a conversion filter first, a process that can take anywhere from a fraction of a second to a minute or two depending on the file size and source format. The conversion process for OpenDocument word processing (.odt) documents, even small ones, is much slower than for Word files (.doc or .docx), and as with the other programs here the level of fidelity for document conversion will vary widely. For instance, inline comments from both Word and .odt documents were preserved, but any information about who had made specific comments didn’t seem to survive the conversion.

The mortgage calculator spreadsheet loaded in Quattro, but just barely. The charts didn’t display any values, and the sheet itself lost most of its functionality; most of the cell formulas didn’t work. While I was able to get an existing PowerPoint presentation to import, the transitions were all replaced with simple wipes and many presentation details (such as the aspect ratios of slides) didn’t translate accurately. That’s where file format support ends — WordPerfect Office can’t open spreadsheets or presentations in Office 2007/2010 or OpenDocument formats.

Most of what drew people to WordPerfect in the first place has been aggressively preserved across the many versions of the program. Take the way WordPerfect deals with document formatting: The user can inspect the formatting markup for a document in great detail and edit it directly. It’s a great feature.

But the general stagnancy of the program is off-putting, like the fact that WordPerfect still doesn’t support Unicode after all this time. Open a document with both Western and non-Western text and you don’t even see gibberish — non-Western text simply doesn’t display. For this and many other reasons, WordPerfect Office X5 is unlikely to appeal beyond WordPerfect’s existing user base.

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Delicious’ death sentence commuted by YouTube founders

Preventing what would have been a shutdown of the service, Yahoo said Wednesday that it had sold popular social bookmarking site Delicious to YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. The two entrepreneurs are returning to tech under their new venture called AVOS, based out of San Mateo, Calif.


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Yahoo acquired Delicious in 2005, looking to integrate the service’s social aspects into its own web offerings. However, amid increasing competition the company overall began to struggle, and last December Yahoo undertook a major restructuring, meaning the shuttering of several acquired brands.

Delicious was one of those sites targeted to close, along with Altavista, Yahoo Picks, Yahoo Bookmarks, Yahoo Buzz, MyBlogLog, Alltheweb, and MyM. Altavista and Alltheweb are already gone, and Buzz shut down on April 21. It’s likely that Delicious wasn’t too far behind these other brands.

In a statement, Yahoo said that it would continue to operate the site during a transition period “for the next few months.” Once that transition is complete, users’ information would be transferred to AVOS’ servers.

“As we have said, part of our product strategy involves shifting our investment with off-strategy products to put better focus on our core strengths and fund new innovation,” Yahoo said in a statement. “We believe this is the right move for the service, our users and our shareholders.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Yahoo said there was considerable interest from third parties in Delicious’ assets. What Hurley and Chen have in mind for the venerable brand isn’t exactly clear yet, but it is said that the duo is hiring aggressively to support it.

“We see a tremendous opportunity to simplify the way users save and share content they discover anywhere on the web,” Hurley said in a statement.

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One IT pro explains why he fears and embraces disruptive cloud and mobile platforms

Betanews welcomes reader contributions. Here, Eric Neumann responds to two February 21st posts by Joe Wilcox — “iPad is not a PC” and “5 reasons Macs will never outsell PCs.” If you would like to submit a post, please email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

Being a business IT professional, I have been watching with great interest and excitement the emergence of the iOS model of computing and cloud movements hitting the personal and now commercial computing worlds. However, I must add that initially I have also viewed these big changes with fear; as recently as 2006, my career was purely based on the SME IT status quo of on-premise Microsoft and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stacks.



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I have always enjoyed the ensuing comment threads that some of the topics spawn. In the interest of participating in the discussion I would like to offer a few counter points to your earlier articles “iPad is not a PC” and “5 reasons Macs will never outsell PCs.” I make five points to counter others which you made: 1) iPad is not a PC; 2) Macs cost too much; 3) Windows’ ecosystem is too big for Macs to compete; 4) Windows owns the enterprise, and Apple isn’t even trying; 5) Windows’ shadow ecosystem of malware writers and cybercriminals is large and profitable.

1. What used to be a PC vs. what will a PC be. In a way it makes sense to classify PCs exclusively as independent devices and to exclude devices that don’t fit this profile, such as iPad. For many years PCs were the center of their own respective universes, with networking and external data hubs and control points being mere optional extras. They were not core to the “PC experience.”

Today we are rapidly moving away from an independent device arrangement across all our form factors. iOS devices require another device to update the OS, require an App Store cloud to gain and update applications. Android devices are dependent on the Google cloud. Chrome OS is cloud or bust.

I believe that in a few years we will need to either change our definition of a PC or accept that all our personal computers have become dependent devices (and thus no longer PCs.)

2. Macs cost too much… But so may Windows some day. Microsoft has always expertly priced Windows to be the cheapest commercial product and so gained and held the OS market for generic devices. This expertly gained monopoly has also been under threat from free non-commercial offerings for over a decade, with no market share losses to speak of.

This new phenomenon of commercial-but-free (and maybe even cheaper-than-free) options appearing from Google are not to be confused with the Linux threats of the past. Android and Chrome OS are commercial ventures that have significant developer efforts and funds backing them. These OSes have behind them teams of people working on development, distribution, partnerships, advertising — the works.

Consider that major Windows-PC vendors like Dell, Samsung and LG are already active Android licensees and HP has noted plans for WebOS PCs. The sole protective barrier currently shielding the Windows ecosystem is the form factor divide. When Android, Chrome OS and HP’s WebOS invade the Windows-PC space, there will be trouble.

Microsoft has tons of smart people, they will surely be able to match any technology disruption in the PC OS space. However, responding to a business model disruption via Google (advertising, information) or HP and Apple (hardware), will be more difficult. There is some precedent with Windows Mobile’s business model disruption by Android and iOS to illustrate my point.

3. Windows ecosystem is simply too large…to adapt. There is no doubt that the Windows ecosystem is large, mature and has been outstandingly successful. The dark side of these attributes — it’s age, it’s established but outdated ways and customs — are also its weakness.

Chrome OS, WebOS and the like will at some point breach the Windows form factor barriers and start spilling into the laptop and desktop world. When this happens the Windows ecosystem with its informal application distribution, secret handshakes and focus on traditional standalone applications will be squaring off against a single store, single merchant model a la App Store with the dominant focus on cloud-centric applications.

To contrast the ecosystem differences, I cannot imagine my mother sufficiently finding, purchasing, downloading and installing a single application on her Windows 7 laptop. Even more importantly, she wouldn’t even attempt it. Windows software is installed by whizz-kid relatives, that’s how it has always been. On the other hand, let her loose on an iOS device with her established iTunes account and 6 weeks later there is almost a full page of purchased, downloaded and installed applications on it.

4. Windows owns the enterprise – and Apple isn’t even trying… but the cloud is! The on-premise enterprise ecosystem (e.g. the windows stack) will be eaten by cloud computing at a pace approaching Smartphone-PC revolution pace. I’m currently watching this unfold from the coalface working in business IT, and it is remarkable just how readily established businesses with a lot to loose are prepared to jump into the cloud with both feet.

To be clear, I don’t mean to say Microsoft will be the loser in this change; but it does leave Windows on the enterprise desktop very vulnerable to attack. From a business perspective, a core cloud computing attribute is that services are self contained. A cloud provider wants the list of prerequisites for its prospective customers to be as short as possible.

The result is that the inherent stickiness of the enterprise desktop SOE is fading away at a remarkable pace.

5. A note about the Shadow Ecosystem. A shadow ecosystem thrives because of a strong platform; not the other way around. An ecosystem contributes must-have applications, word of mouth “buzz,” associated advertising by third parties and much more back to the platform. A shadow ecosystem on the other hand siphons off large amounts of money from the consumer without doing anything to retain or attract new consumers into the fold.

Malware writers and cybercriminals have plenty incentive to keep the Windows ecosystem running, but they lack any direct control to do anything about this desire.

Eric Neumann has worked in the IT industry as a consultant for almost 10 years. His technological bread and butter are advising businesses on IT system decisions as well as implementing solutions. He currently works at a boutique IT firm providing on-premise and cloud solutions to the SME market. In his free time he pursues software development as a hobby.

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New Wi-Fi gear aims to wipe out Ethernet edge switches

A third new service is a patent-pending technology called Orthogonal Array Beam Forming (OABF). WLAN vendors over the past two years have been adding support for various optional parts of the 11n standard, (see from May 2010, “Major Wi-Fi changes ahead”) including transmit beam forming (sometimes “beamforming”). The same waveform is sent over 11n’s multiple antennas, with the magnitude and phase adjusted at each transmitter to focus the beam direction toward a particular receiver. This increases the signal’s gain so it’s more stable, and can be “steered around” interferers so it’s more reliable.


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[Ruckus Wireless in 2009 was the first to introduce beam forming for 11n products, exploiting its unique multi-component antenna design. Wireless blogger Craig Mathias used that introduction to explore the topic.]

Meru has created what it says is a more fine-grained alternative. Each Wi-Fi signal is made up of about 60 sub-carriers over a wide swath of spectrum, says Graham Melville, Meru’s director of product management. Meru’s code can optimize each of the sub-carriers and the result, he says, is an improvement in gain, or sensitivity, on the order of 8-10 dB.

The result of the improved gain is a higher signal quality and higher data rates: where Meru saw 36Mbps before applying its beamforming technology, it saw 54Mbps after, for example. “It stays at the high data rates because the signal is stronger, and better quality,” Melville says.

The new access points also can use the optional Meru Proactive Spectrum Analysis as part of another service, called Air Traffic Services. One of the AP400 radios can be assigned the job of continually monitoring the Wi-Fi radio frequencies for unauthorized radios, analyzing the spectrum usage and interference, and running Meru’s integrated wireless intrusion prevention system.

Another network service is called Mobile Application Segregation: administrators can create a dedicated channel for individual applications or groups of them, high definition video, or wireless VoIP.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”

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Microsoft, VeriSign Secure .NET

Since Microsoft announced its upcoming .NET and Hailstorm services, the company has faced much criticism from security experts and privacy advocates. In turn, Microsoft has decided to add an extra touch of security by extending its partnership with VeriSign. In addition to Microsoft’s own Passport authentication system, the integrity of certain transactions will be augmented by digital certificates. Both companies were eager to point out that the extra security measure does not require any additional passwords.


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Although Passport will remain the standard method of authentication for most of the .NET services, particular scenarios demand enhanced security. In instances were users transfers funds, or divulge sensitive personal information such as their medical history, a certain level of trust is required. Mountain View, California, based VeriSign touts its digital certificates as the solution to these concerns. Both companies will collaborate on fine tuning the technology as Microsoft’s Hailstorm progresses.

The agreement between the two companies is non exclusive, meaning that either party is free to seek out other partnerships. This announcement puts to rest speculation that Microsoft would develop its own digital certificates for Hailstorm – at least momentarily.

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Microsoft Applauds Strong Piracy Conviction

Microsoft applauded a federal court’s decision Thursday to jail a man convicted of hawking faked certificates of authenticity for the company’s software. Judge Orinda D. Evans of the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia sentenced Justin Harrison to 46 months in prison for his participation in the crime ring. Harrison ran Sales International, which participated in the trafficking of the certificates.


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“The sentence recognizes the value of intellectual property and the threat that software piracy presents to the global economy and consumers throughout the world,” Microsoft said in a statement. The case, which was investigated by the FBI, found that Sales International was distributing Microsoft software with the faked certificates.

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Yahoo says DRM issue overblown by media, but will offer refunds

Yahoo told BetaNews that the media was hyping the expiration of the company’s DRM certificates and didn’t expect a user backlash, but said it has decided to offer refunds to those affected anyway.

Last Week, Yahoo announced in an e-mail to customers that it would remove its DRM keys for authorizing song playback on October 1. This means that although purchased music would continue playing, it cannot be reauthorized, essentially locking it to the current computer. If a user buys a new PC or reinstalls the operating system, the purchased music would no longer be playable.


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The move sparked criticism from industry groups and heavy media coverage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation rebuked Yahoo for suggesting users should simply burn all their purchased songs to CDs, saying the company “wants its customers to invest more time, labor and money in order to continue to enjoy the music for which they have already paid.”

“What is worse, this suggestion could put customers at legal risk, as they may not have documentation of purchase,” the EFF added.

For its part, Yahoo believes the situation is being overblown. The company claims it notified users of change in February, when it first announced it would be closing its Yahoo Music store. But although customers were told they would be migrated to Real’s Rhapsody service, BetaNews found no mention of the expiring DRM on songs that were purchased.

Those customers who were merely paying for the subscription rates will simply see their music library converted over to Rhapsody songs, and shouldn’t experience any problems. Yahoo said it will refund customers who opt not to switch to Rhapsody but still have time remaining on their subscriptions.

But after September 30, those who actually purchased songs from Yahoo will be left without any options. Yahoo says it is now considering how to make amends with such customers, although it seems they will need to contact the company directly and be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

A Yahoo spokesperson told BetaNews she could not disclose the procedure for reimbursing customers who purchased songs. Reports have stated the company is looking into providing customers with DRM-free versions of the tracks they bought instead of a refund, but the spokesperson could not confirm this to BetaNews.

Some are questioning why Yahoo isn’t following in the footsteps of Microsoft, which shut down its MSN Music store two years ago and had planned to expire its DRM license keys on August 31, 2008. After a large public outcry, Microsoft reconsidered the decision and in June said it would continue to authorize DRM playback for another three years.

Yahoo Music customers should contact the company to find out how they can be reimbursed for their purchases.

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