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Tag Archives: Online Services

YBUY Lets You Try Before You Buy

By David Ponce

If you fall squarely in the early-adopters category, but find that you also have a smidge of the buyer’s remorse syndrome, new startup YBUY might ease some of your pains. They charge you a $25 per month membership fee, but as a member they will send you (with no shipping charge) one gadget per month for you to try. If you like it, you buy it and subtract that month’s membership fee. If it’s not your cup of tea, simply return it. The catch of course is that the site decides which device is featured on any given month. So that’s why it’s important that you be someone who absolutely spends his every waking hour looking for the next thing to purchase. YBUY claims they pick the items based on “the best user reviews” and at least from the picture above, the stuff on there doesn’t seem to be on the low end of the spectrum.

They recently launched and are apparently getting clobbered under too much Internet traffic. Some of that investment money should have gone to more solid servers, it looks like. Still, by the time you read this, maybe the lights will be back on.

[ YBUY ] VIA [ Engadget ]

[CES 2012] DocuSign Ink Makes The Paperless Office Possible

By David Ponce

Ok so this is going to sound like it’s terribly boring. E-Signatures… Ugh! Right? But hear me out, because this is actually interesting. So this is the thing, the dead tree business is really going to die. Like the VHS: it’s going the way of the dodo. This is a fact. But it’s a painful transition and some of us still suffer from the ongoing stretch marks. Take contracts. If for some reason you’re sent a contract over email, you’re likely going to be asked to print it, sign it and FAX it back. Fax? Even if you don’t fax, and you just print, sign, scan and email… that’s still archaic! Who prints? The printing business is a racket anyway, so DocuSign is really onto something with their new DocuSign Ink product. It’s an application on the Apple app store that lets you take any document sent to you and sign it digitally. This is how. It downloads your document (any format), converts it to a PDF and lets you affix your previously created signature and date anywhere on it. You can then email it right back and you’re done. The best part is that it’s completely free to the end user and works even if the company sending you a document doesn’t have it.

Brilliant.

VUDU Launches On Xbox 360

By David Ponce

VUDU is a movie streaming service that was acquired by Walmart in 2010. It became relatively popular due in part to the fact that it starts streaming instantly, as opposed to other services which require some buffering time. And it’s been announced that VUDU is now available on the Xbox 360. This means you can purchase or rent movies directly from your console, and if you have Kinect, you can do this with hand gestures or voice control. As an incentive, Walmart is offering a $4.99 credit towards your first rental or purchase.

[ Press Release ] VIA [ Joystiq ]

Facebook Sends Some Guy A CD With 1,222 PDFs Of His History On The Site

By David Ponce

Privacy laws in Europe are a little tougher than in North America, and if you request that Facebook send you everything it has ever logged of your activity on the site… it has no choice but to comply. That’s exactly what 24-year-old Max Schrems of Vienna, Austria did. And sure enough, he received a CD in the mail containing 1,222 PDF documents listing in excruciating detail just what he’d been doing on the site since he joined. While we’ve known for some time that this was going on, it’s interesting to see just how much data is actually collected.

Collected together were records of when Schrems logged in and out of the social network, the times and content of sent and received messages and an accounting of every person and thing he’s ever liked, posted, poked, friended or recorded. The archive captured friend requests, former or alternative names and email addresses, employment and relationship statuses and photos, in some cases with their GPS locations included, to name a few.

As we said this practice is nothing new, and maybe Zuckerberg was onto something when he declared last year that the age of privacy was over. Yet there is this feeling that there isn’t enough transparency and education with regards to just how much of our lives are leaving digital footprints, and just how exposed we truly are. Maybe privacy is dying, but it would be nice if it did with our informed consent.

VIA [ More Info ] VIA [ DVice ]

Have You Looked At Your “Other” Facebook Messages Lately?

By David Ponce

So this isn’t a new “feature” by Facebook but it’s recently been brought to my attention and I’m a little shocked. It appears that under Facebook’s “Messages” section on the left, there’s a sub-section called “Other”. How messages end up there instead of in your main message window I’m not sure… but what I do know is that as soon as I found out and went to look, I discovered a good half dozen, terribly important messages just sitting there unanswered. This is ridiculous. When I check for messages, I do it through the top navigation bar, by pressing on the icon sandwiched between the notifications and the friend requests. Pressing this brings you to your main message window and there’s no sign of the “other” sub-section unless you specifically look for it. At no point was I informed of this and had I not come across the source link today, these messages might have sat there for yet another eternity.

We realize that it’s become a spam folder, but there clearly are many false positives in there. Again, Facebook could have been a little more vocal on the specific changes they were making to the site, however well intentioned.

Any of you just now discovered important messages?

VIA [ Slashgear ]

Seats 3D Shows The View From Your Seat

blazers

By Evan Ackerman

Seats 3D is a website that provides virtual views of all kinds of athletic arenas, concert halls, and other event venues. Who cares? You care! Next time you buy a ticket to something, you can use Seats 3D to look up the view beforehand to make sure that you’re getting the view that you’re paying for. The only thing missing from the 3D view is all of the tall and annoying people who will inevitably be sitting in front of you.

So obviously, we need ticketing systems to take height into account. When buying your ticket, it should cross reference your name with some kind of national database (gonna need lots of funding for it) with your height and hat preferences. Then, someone should come to your house and verify that you are as tall as you say you are (just to be sure). That information goes back into the Seats 3D system, and it puts a silhouette into the virtual stadium, so that other people can tell if they might be sitting behind someone unacceptably tall.

I suppose there’s a chance that this might add a small premium to the cost of a ticket, but won’t it be worth it to know that your viewing experience will be uncompromised? I’d say definitely, maybe.

[ Seats 3D ] VIA [ GeekSugar ]

Live3D Gives Google Earth Live Updates, Adds Potential For Creepiness

By Evan Ackerman

Google Earth lets you view the entire world. It’s sweet. But most of the time, you’re viewing the entire world as it was a year ago or more. If you’ve played with Google Earth, the first thing you probably did was go find your house. The second thing you probably did was go find your ex-girlfriend’s house and then get really disappointed when you couldn’t actually peek in the windows.

Now you can! (Maybe.)

A project called Live3D, brought to you by the Media and Machines lab of Washington University in St. Louis, takes live webcam images and overlays them on Google Earth. This is something that you could do before, but Live3D makes it fast and easy and integrates the images onto Google Earth’s 3D models. There’s a database of live webcam images, and it’s super easy to add your own via drag ‘n drop tools in Google Earth itself. So as long as there’s a webcam operating in the area, you get a constantly updating view of whatever the webcam sees (in stills, not video yet). Cars driving, people walking, everything, with a level of detail limited only by the resolution of the webcam.

Of course, this brings up all kinds of potential privacy issues, since you can set a webcam up wherever you want and have it pointed wherever you want and make the image accessible on Google Earth. People have always been able to do this, but somehow when it’s easy, it tends to become a problem.

[ Live3D ] VIA [ New Scientist ]

Twitter Trends Goes Local

twitterlocal_610x315

By Gaurav Kheterpal

Twitter has recently added a local flavor to the popular Twitter Trends service. It’s now possible to select a geographic region to see what’s hot and what’s not in your city or any city of your interest. The current Twitter Local Trends serves 15 major US cities and 5 countries aside from the United States and I’m sure that it’s a matter of time before more countries and cities are added.

This latest offering further strengthens Twitter’s portfolio of location aware services. Last year, it had launched a Geolocation API which helped make twitter applications location aware. For a start, Twitter offered the Local Trends facility to 1% of its user base and I’m lucky to be amongst the chosen ones. From what I’ve seen so far, Local Trends seems to work well without any major issues.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter refines it as it adds more countries and cities.

Twitter ] VIA [ CNET ]

[CES 2010] Lacie’s Wuala Takes A Bite Of Cloud Storage Out Of Your Drive

wuala_logo By Evan Ackerman

Lacie would like to offer you some free cloud storage to back up your data and make it accessible to you and your friends anywhere, anytime. It’s called Wuala, and you can get as much of it as you want. Really. Infinite cloud storage, for free. Absolutely free.

Well, sort of free.

Kinda.

Okay, so it’s not totally free. But you don’t exactly have to pay for it, either. Wuala (it’s pronounced like “voilà”) functions by transforming your local storage into cloud storage for someone else. Here’s how it works: if you want a gig of cloud storage, you donate a gig of your local hard drive to the Wuala cloud. Wuala will dump a bunch of data onto your drive, and in return, you’ll get up to a gig on Wuala. Unlike most cloud storage solutions, Wuala itself isn’t a bunch of servers somewhere, but rather a bunch of users who have donated drive space to other users. Your data is encrypted before it leaves your computer, and it’s stored in several different places (like a big distributed RAID system), so it’s safe. Essentially, you’re just trading storage with other people, and Wuala is managing everything.

Now, this does mean that you’ve got some random stranger’s files on your computer. They’re encrypted, so you can’t DO anything with them, but I could see being bothered by having a bunch of random crap sitting on one of my drives. Plus, if random stranger dude wants to get at his stuff, it’s going to cost you bandwidth. Since the storage network is distributed, it’s not a big deal, but again, it’s the principle of other people using your resources that I could see being mentally problematic, even if it does make a lot of practical sense. The other catch is that this system collapses if everybody shuts their computers off, so unless you leave your computer on pretty much all the time, you won’t get a 1:1 trade for your storage.

Any way you look at it, Wuala is an interesting communal storage idea. You can try it for free from Wuala.com, and it comes bundled with Lacie’s hard drives and flash drives, including these durable little flash drives shaped like keys:

DSC_3109

The key drives start at $20 for 4 gigs and are available at 32 gigs for $100.

[ Wuala ]
[ Lacie USB Keys ]