Ask the Readers: How to stop workday interruptions?

Reader Dan, who spends his days in a cubicle, can't get any work done--too many interruptions!

I've tried putting foam box inserts in the doorway, but people just wander by and ask, "What's going on here?" I've tried working from home, but my manager won't allow me to do it regularly. How do you manage and prevent interruptions without being mean to the interrupter?

Here's how David Allen does it. As for me, because I'm sequestered in my basement, my only interruptions come from my pesky loving family. But I'll bet those of you who work in cubes have some great tips to share with Dan. Put 'em in the comments, of course.

Paste notes on web pages with Stickis


Ever wish you could leave yourself a note on a web page and have it reappear the next time you returned? Stickis lets you do that and more. It's a social network for sticky notes.

Similar in concept to Mystickies, Stickis lets you add notes to sites you visit--resizable windows . They're not just for you, though: Notes can be shared publicly or privately. Thus, if you find a useful story on, say, Lifehacker, you can leave a note about it for your circle of friends, complete with tags, formatted text, embedded images, etc.

Stickis strikes me as a bit more complicated than it should be, and I don't like the tiny tag text in the "tray" that shows note summaries for the current page. Still, I can see all kinds of useful applications for this once you've mastered the learning curve. The required plug-in is available for IE and Firefox.

Download of the Day: Restart (Windows)


Windows only: Freeware system tray application Restart turns the generally tedious process of booting into another installation of Windows a breeze.

After you install Restart, you'll see a green restart icon in your system tray. If you've got multiple pre-Vista versions of Windows installed, you should see your list of available boot partitions. Just click the one you want to restart into and Restart will reboot your computer and automatically boot into the chosen partition. Anyone who dual boots knows how easy it is and what a pain it can be to reboot with the intention of choosing a different OS, but missing your chance because you've left the room - which means you have to reboot all over again. Restart is freeware, Windows only; unfortunately, I'm assuming due to Vista's new boot manager, Restart only works pre-Vista.

Ask MetaFilter Roundup

Create and use virtual disk images on your Mac


The MacApper weblog has a simple, beginner's tutorial for creating and using virtual disks on your Mac using the built-in Disk Utility.

As MacApper explains, Disk Utility allows you to back up a CD or DVD to your hard drive in the form of a disk image, which you can then mount and use just like you had inserted the optical media from whence it came. Aside from the handy I-don't-need-a-disk freedom the disk image gives you, it also means you can have more than one disk image mounted at a time if you so please. As a former Windows-only chap, it's so great to see how Apple actually bundles this sort of useful tool in the OS without the need for a 3rd party software. If the image you want to create contains sensitive data, you might want to consider encrypting it.

Early Adopter Download of the Day: Minimo (Windows Mobile)


Windows Mobile only: Previously mentioned freeware app Minimo is a mobile browser based on the same wonderful Mozilla technologies that bring us Firefox.

Minimo's come a long way since we last posted about it, and its strong feature set includes pretty good javascript/AJAX support and tabbed browsing that looks and feels like regular Firefox tabs. This little browser is still very young, and support for a lot of javascript and AJAX may end up being a bit too much for what you Windows Mobile device can handle while remaining snappy (at least it was for mine - Google Maps did work, but it was a little jumpy), but this is a nice looking mobile browser you might want to keep your eyes on. Like Firefox, Minimo claims to have extension support, but as far as I could find, there currently aren't any extensions available. Either way, it's a definite step up from the mobile version of Internet Explorer if that's what you're browsing with on your mobile device.

Extend Vista's activation period indefinitely


Web site Windows Secrets posts a registry hack that claims to allow users to bypass Vista activation altogether.

According to the post, after editing a key in the Vista registry, you run the previously mentioned rearm command (designed to let you extend Vista's activation period up to 120 days). If the little registry hack is accurate, you can repeat these steps any number of times to push back your activation indefinitely (by default, you're only supposed to be able to run the rearm command 3 times).

I know Windows wants me to buy a separate copy of Vista for every time I install the damn thing, but I'm not one to drop $300 just so I can have a second or third Vista partition for testing purposes, so I'm hoping this works - at least for a while. Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage blog is reporting the the workaround is ineffective, but I may have to try it myself before I take their word.

Daily news roundup

  • Video Games Conquer Another World: Retirees [NYT]
    "Older Americans are increasingly turning to video games that rely on quick thinking as a recreational alternative."
  • Users warned on Windows cursors [BBC]
    "Microsoft is warning users about a flaw in Windows animated cursors that could leave users open to attack."
  • US 'no longer technology king' [BBC]
    "The United States has lost its status as the world's engine of technology innovation, the World Economic Forum says."
  • IBM developing wiki how-to tool [CNET]
    "Wikipedia-like tool aims to help people automate repetitive tasks performed on the Web, such as filling out forms or paying bills."
  • ETech provides peek inside Microsoft labs [CNET]
    "Mobile browser, game that challenges kids to program are among the new technologies that Redmond researchers unveiled at the ETech conference."
  • Hacking Apple TV [Macworld]
    "sooner than Apple TVs start arriving on retail shelves did intrepid users start taking them apart."
  • ICANN votes against .xxx domain [AP]
    "The agency that sets the Internet addressing guidelines influencing how people navigate the Web defeated a proposal Friday to give adult Web sites their own ".xxx" domain."
  • Google goes back to pre-Katrina maps [AP]
    "Google's popular map portal has replaced post-Hurricane Katrina satellite imagery with pictures taken before the storm, leaving locals feeling like they're in a time loop and even fueling suspicions of a conspiracy."
  • Data theft believed to be biggest hack [AP]
    "A hacker or hackers stole data from at least 45.7 million credit and debit cards of shoppers at off-price retailers including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls in a case believed to be the largest such breach of consumer information."

Download of the Day: Send To Toys (Windows)


Windows only: Freeware application Send To Toys lets you customize the hell out of your irregularly used (if I'm any indication, that is) Send to context menu.

Send To Tools adds a slew of useful defaults you can send an item to (like the clipboard, command prompt, a mail recipient, or any folder you choose). If you're sending a file to another folder, you can choose to copy it, move it, or just create a shortcut. Allowing for quick customization of pretty much every menu item in the Send To menu, this is clearly a program built by someone who decided it was time to get better use out of a potentially useful menu. (To be honest, the only Send to item I ever use now is the Compressed (zipped) Folder command.) If you're already a big fan of the default Send To menu, let us know how you use it in the comments.

Track Lifehacker comment responses with Yahoo! Pipes


Now that readers can respond to individual comments here at the big LH, you need a way to keep track of the comments directed at you. While I hope we'll have something to do this built into the site someday, in the meantime it can be done using Yahoo! Pipes.

Filter Lifehacker's comment feed to see only the items with @your-name in them using my new pipe. Enter your your name as it appears when you post into the search box and grab the results as a feed so you never miss it when another reader responds to one of your comments.

Note that when you enter your user name, unless you've been responded to in the last 10 comments published here, there won't be any results. But subscribing to the feed, over time, will yield results when other commenters respond to you. Let me know if you have any troubles with this one, and feel free to clone, riff and improve as you see fit.

Friday Fun: Make a wallet from an old keyboard


Crafty hacker zieak over at Instructables offers a how-to on making a geektastically gorgeous DIY wallet with an old keyboard's innards. Zieak says:

Why? In taking apart electronics I find uses for most of the parts. Things which can not be reused go into scrap piles for recycling. But these sheets couldn't be easily reused and probably can not be recycled. I tried using overhead transparency sheets that had been printed on for a customized clear wallet pattern but the sheets mark when folded or creased. These circuit sheets are extremely durable.

If the result is really as durable as duct tape wallets, I've got a new DIY wallet love. Thanks, JH!

UltraNewb: How to reset your frozen iPod

Your iPod just crashed, and it's gasping for breath and giving you the black iPod screen of death. Resuscitate it with the magical, life-giving key combination:

1. Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.)
2. Press and hold the Menu and Center (Select) buttons simultaneously until the Apple logo appears, about 6 to 10 seconds.

This works on the latest click wheel 'pods; check out the whole Apple document for instructions on older models and other iPod troubleshooting techniques.

MacGyver Tip: Shine your shoes with vegetable oil


Real Simple magazine's got a quick tip for shining up scuffed shoes in a pinch:

Use a damp cloth to wipe away dirt, then apply a small drop of [vegetable] oil to a soft cloth and rub the surface to remove scuff marks.

You can get rid of shoe scuffs using Pledge wax/wood shiner, too.

Love and Money: Thanks to this week's sponsors

High fives all around to this week's sponsors: Don Julio, Igo, Intel, Mio, Nokia, Playstation, Sprint, Webroot's Spy Sweeper, and Verizon. You want a high five? Advertise with Lifehacker.

LH Top 10: Free Windows Downloads


At every turn on the internet, someone's offering a free software download for your PC. But separating the wheat from the evilware-addled chaff isn't for busy users with better things to do than test applications all day long. That's where we come in.

Today we've got our top picks of free Windows software downloads that will make your PC faster, stronger, more functional and productive. This list was tough to whittle down from a huge field of candidate applications, but that means our 10 choices are that much stronger.

Read on for 10 great free Windows downloads sure to make your PC experience that much better.

Step through Lifehacker's Top 10 Free Windows Downloads>>

Or, get the whole list at a glance:

10. 7-Zip (file archive manager)

9. Foxit Reader (PDF reader)

8. SyncBack (backup utility)

7. Picasa (photo manager)

6. Notepad++ (text editor)

5. foobar2000 (media player)

5. foobar2000 (media player)

4. GAIM (instant messenger)

3. Paint.NET (image editor)

2. Launchy (keyboard launcher)

1. Mozilla Firefox (web browser)

Now, we wanted to list almost as many apps on this list as an honorable mention, but I'll leave that up for discussion. What would your top free Windows download list looked like? Let us know in the comments.

Apple's iPhone will be released on June 11 (Declan McCullagh/CNET

Apple's iPhone will be released on June 11  —  Ever since Steve Jobs' keynote at the Macworld Expo in January, we've known that the iPhone is being released sometime in June.  But we haven't known exactly when.  —  Now Cingular is confirming that the release date will be June 11.

Source:   CNET
Author:   Declan McCullagh

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

SellABand Music Model Gaining Traction (Michael Arrington/TechCrunch)

SellABand Music Model Gaining Traction  —  Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote about German startup SellABand when it launched last August.  —  Like Amie Street, SellABand has an innovative way for struggling new artists to get their music heard, and make some money as well.  Artists sign up and upload some of their music.

Source:   TechCrunch
Author:   Michael Arrington

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

c,mm,n, the world's first open-source car (Mark Vanderbeeken/Core77 Design ...)

c,mm,n, the world's first open-source car  —  Earlier this week c,mm,n (website in Dutch), the world's first open-source car, was revealed at AutoRAI, the Amsterdam car show.  The initiative and vision behind the c,mm,n (pronounced "common") comes from the "Stichting Natuur en Milieu" …

Source:   Core77 Design Studio Bullitts
Author:   Mark Vanderbeeken

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

NewTube Is Just The Beginning - Give it up for NBC Universal ... (Business Week)

NewTube Is Just The Beginning  —  Give it up for NBC Universal and News Corp. (NWS ), because in late March the two old-media titans made the biggest splash for a nonexistent product since the iPhone.  —  Of course, Steve Jobs has a couple of prototype phones that a lucky few can dandle.

Source:   Business Week

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

Why I Voted For XXX - The ICANN Board voted today 9-5 ... (Susan Crawford blog)

Why I Voted For XXX  —  The ICANN Board voted today 9-5, with Paul Twomey abstaining, to reject a proposal to open .xxx.  This is my statement in connection with that vote.  I found the resolution adopted by the Board (rejecting xxx) both weak and unprincipled.

Source:   Susan Crawford blog
Author:   Susan

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

Today's Other Malware Threat: IE7.0.exe (Jose Nazario/Security to the Core)

Today's Other Malware Threat: IE7.0.exe  —  Lest you think that the ANI thing was the only thing going on today, you'd miss the other part of today's entertainment.  There's a new Trojan spam going around trying to entice you to download MSFT IE7.0 Beta 2 (never mind that it's been released).

Source:   Security to the Core | Arbor Networks Security Blog
Author:   Jose Nazario

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

Is Google Too Powerful? - As the Web giant tears through media ... (Business Week)

Is Google Too Powerful?  —  As the Web giant tears through media, software, and telecom, rivals fear its growing influence.  Now they're fighting back  —  It's the year 2014, and Googlezon, a fearsomely powerful combination of search engine Google Inc. (GOOG ) and online store Inc. …

Source:   Business Week

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

Video Games Conquer Retirees (Seth Schiesel/New York Times)

Video Games Conquer Retirees  —  CHATAWA, Miss. — For 133 years the School Sisters of Notre Dame have lived here in a thick forest just up the hill from the Tangipahoa River.  In a modest but stately compound called St. Mary of the Pines, 52 retired members of this Roman Catholic order spend …

Source:   New York Times
Author:   Seth Schiesel

Techmeme permalink

[via] Techmeme

Digitizing media with AudioDizer

audiodizer podcast audioAudioDizer wants to pack our iPods and portable devices with more content than we can handle.

This text to speech company is aiming at creating a new distribution channel for traditional media companies, creating high quality MP3 podcasts for newspapers, magazines, websites, and advertisers. AudioDizer uses multiple voices, speech patterns and accents to enhance listening experience while trying to improve the content that is stored on devices.

The whole text to speech does seem creepy when heard, and can be a little distracting if the timing is off or when words don't flow together properly. Technology Review uses AudioDizer for every article they publish online and it has been working great for their users. The process is simple for the user, choose an article, then choose whether you want to listen to the article, or download an mp3. I have to say, it is high quality, but still has that creepy distracting feel to it. Mind you it has the potential to be very beneficial when you are in a rush, or on your way to work and want to catch up on your favorite sites content.

What do you think? Click here for an mp3 sample.

Minimo 0.2 released

MinimoLast time we checked in on the Minimo project, the Windows Mobile web browser was in its infant stages. Now, with the release of version 0.2, it might be safe to call this little guy a toddler.

The version of Internet Explorer that comes with Windows Mobile tends to be a bit on the anemic side. Pages are slow to load, and there's no support for tabbed browsing.

Minimo is not an official Mozilla project, but it is hosted on The browser takes many cues from Firefox, and the browser tabs even look like Firefox tabs.

Unfortunately, the latest release is only available for Windows Mobil 5.0 and newer devices. The Minimo team recommends anyone with an older model download version 0.16.

Organizing school life with mySchoolog

myschoolog plannerGetting and staying organized in any school level can be a little difficult, now there is a free online application that could help.

mySchoolog is an online application that students can easily use to track and organize their school lives. Users start off by entering lessons they take and organizing them into categories, and make weekly schedules. Schedules can be made through a drag and drop lesson planner with times associated for each class to keep them organized. Of course it has a to-do area where appointments, homework and anything else can be added, and reminders set to be sent out by email or sms. Lesson notes can be entered online, searched, exported and printed so they can be kept and used when required. 20GB of File storage is available for documents, audio or images, and can be categorized by lesson.

But really, is there any time to organize yourself while in school? Sometimes not, so hopefully this might help a bit.

Discover blogs with BlogRovR

blogrovr blog discoveryBlogRovR is a site that has just been launched by the team behind Stikis, creators of the "write notes wherever you browse" overlay.

BlogRovR will let users know about content from blogs that they normally read by telling them about content when and where they are likely to be interested in reading about it.

It works by downloading an application, and entering in blogs that are frequently read. BlogRovR will then search all blogs while you surf, when it finds relating information it displays an overlay into your browser notifying you with summaries about the posts it has found. You can then read what your favorite bloggers have said about the page you are currently visiting without leaving.

Why would someone really want to use this application? Are we missing something? Would you want to read your favorite bloggers commentary on every site you visit? It seem like it could get a little distracting. It is however good for a little cross referencing when doing research, and gathering links to same topic posts from a familiar voice.

Create your own comic strip with ToonDoo - Today's Time-Waster

What better way to waste time then to create a cartoon. Who cares if you have no skills, ToonDoo will help you out.

ToonDoo is created by Jambav, and backed by AdventNet, the folks behind ZoHo. They have put together an easy way to create comic strips where users can choose characters, props, and backgrounds and make a cartoon in under five minutes. Seriously, you can sit for hours playing with different scenes and setups, fine tuning characters and writing scripts in speech bubbles. Cartoons can be saved, and when you feel they are good enough, you can publish them for visitors to the site to check out. It's very addicting.

Feel free to drop a comment with a link to your ToonDoo!

Google Notebooks redesign for added productivity

redesigned google notebook

Get a little more organized with this updated Notebook release from Google. The organizational tool looks a little nicer now, care of some AJAXy goodness from the team at Google. They have updated and transformed the once boring Google Notebook, into something extremely useful.

Notebook now uses a nice blend of AJAX and common Gmail features to store and share notes. Users can create a list of nicely organized Notebooks, or folders on the left hand side where notes are stored and auto saved. Notes can easily be made in each Notebook, and even shared with other users for collaboration, or exported to Google Docs for further work.

Take a look at the new Google Notebook, Its pretty helpful now. Especially with the Google Notebook Firefox Extension that you can easily use to clip and collect information as you go about your WWW travels. Maybe Google will think about adding this into the Gmail interface one of these days? It would do wonders there.

Microsoft releases Deepfish, an enhanced mobile browser

microsoft deepfish mobile browserCould thisbe the start of "Browser Wars 2, the quest for the stronghold on the mobile world"?

Microsoft has just entered the space with their new enhanced mobile browser offering, Deepfish. The Deepfish browser plays off of what the iPhone showed us a short while ago, showing the user a recreation of desktop browsing on mobile devices, not stripping anything out. Deepfish gives users on mobile devices an identical look and feel of pages rendered on typical desktop setups. The application allows scrolling and zooming in and out of web pages, enabling increased readability, standard navigation, and simple form submission. When completely zoomed out, images are lossy, but zooming in provides more detail. If you are a little worried about your Windows Mobile device struggling when browsing with all of this extra content, don't be, Deepfish has bandwidth optimized rendering for faster content delivery.

Microsoft might be getting a little worried about Opera, and Mozilla's minimo.2 quickly entering the Windows Mobile device space and quickly starting to become the default offerings.

Deepfish is sadly in an invite only mode at the Microsoft Live labs. It's for Windows Mobile Smart Phones or Pocket PC's running Windows Mobile 5.0+, with a minimum of 64 MB program memory.

Check out a video of Deepfish's capabilities.

Google map your way to Stockholm

We love road trips at Download Squad. That's why we're so excited about Google Maps ability to provide driving directions. It's not new, but Google Maps works very well. So well in fact that Google Maps can provide you with driving directions that span continents; Continents that aren't even linked by roads.

Try it yourself. Go to Google Maps and enter a location in North America, and a destination in Europe. Your resulting driving driections will include a brisk swim across the north Atlantic ocean. And, you thought you were going to be bored over spring break!

[via Gadling]

Microsoft launches private beta of screen sharing software

TahitiMicrosoft has launched a new program that allows you to share what's on your display with up to 15 other users over the internet. The program, code-named Tahiti is in a private, invitation-only beta at the moment. Here's how it works:

You login using your Windows Live information. Then you can invite users to see applications running on your computer. You can also selectively grant control of those applications, enabling long distance collaboration on projects. If a problem arises, you can click on your mouse or press a button on your keyboard and you regain control.

If you're working on a Word document with other users, Tahiti will track changes and assign a name and color to the changes made by each user.

Tahiti also allows file sharing, so you can send files and documents to other members of your team without using email, FTP or any other external application. Tahiti runs on Windows XP and Vista.

[via Digital Inspiration]
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Microsoft issues security warning regarding animated cursors

CursorsYou know those web sites that have kooky animated cursors? Yeah, don't surf to those with Internet Explorer unless you want to leave your computer vulnerable to hackers.

Microsoft has issued a notice that it is investigating the vulnerability. If users visit a web site or view an e-mail containing hacked .ani files (the animated cursor file type), so Microsoft's advice for the moment: be careful when opening unsolicited emails or browsing new web sites. A long term fix is still a few steps away.

The vulnerability appears to affect Internet Explorer 6 and 7 running on Windows XP SP2. IE7 on Vista doesn't appear to be affected.

[via ZDNet]

101 free applications, 2007 edition

101 free applicationsOnce again PC World publishes an article that is packed with tons of great freebies found all across the internet. We covered it last year, and the gang is back at it. From System Utilities, Communications, File Sharing, File Management, Productivity, Music, Photos, and Video its all here.

The 101 freebie list also includes a great People's Choice winners list that is an awesome place to check out what applications come highly rated by actual everyday users. Winners in this category include Ad-Aware SE, Google Gmail, Windows Live Messenger, Nullsoft Winamp, Google Desktop, YouTube and Picasa.

If you are in need of a free application, take a look here first to check out what the top rated ones are.

Create your own music video with Fliptrack

RIM yanks steering wheel towards mobile computing with new API

Blackberry owners could soon be dancing in the streets over RIM's new developer API which, for the first time, enables those propeller-headed software engineers to do neat stuff like embed multimedia content, support common formats like Mp3, WMA and AAC, and access the camera available in newer models.

In addition, there's also a sweet new maps API which will allow applications to draw a route or show an address with minimal fuss.

Windows Mobile has been kicking some Blackberry-behind of late, but this could give some new life to the family of devices. Frankly, when you think of the first devices RIM brought to the party -- a line of greenscreen pagers with thumbwheels -- they've come pretty far. I wouldn't count this puppy out just yet.

iTunes adds Complete My Album feature

Complete My AlbumApple introduced two new features to the iTunes store today. The first is a new "my alerts" section that lets you know when there's new music available from artists whose music you've previously purchased.

The bigger news is Apple's new "Complete My Album" feature. Previously, if you'd already purchased two or three tracks from an artist and then decided you wanted to buy the whole album, you were essentially forced to pay for those downloads twice.

Now you get credit for the songs you've already bough, meaning you can purchase the rest of the album at a discount. While this is obviously an attempt on Apple's part to convince you to spend money on albums and not just singles, it's also good news. Having to pay twice was probably one of the major reasons albums sales have slowed recently. That and the fact that when it comes to pop music, many listeners might only want to own the popular tracks.

The Complete My Album discount works for any album you purchase up to six months after buying a song from that album.

[via tuaw]

New web and mobile browsers from Opera released

opera browsersLooks like this one slipped by our radar, but Opera previewed their new web and mobile browsers this week, as we mentioned earlier this month. Not only are the new browsers out in beta versions, but Opera Mobile shows off the next generation of browsing for Windows Mobile devices.

The biggest feature change in the desktop browser is the new Speed Dial, an integration where users can create nine visual bookmarks for frequently viewed sites, and have them available at any time in any new tab. Speed Dial can be set up by opening a new tab, clicking on a numbered square, 1-9, then using Ctrl + [1-9] to activate the quick Speed Dial link. It's a very handy feature that makes browsing a little quicker and a little more keyboard shortcut friendly.

Opera Windows Mobile Mini has some very handy updates, including searching directly from the address bar, the ability to copy text, a save function for images, and Internet Explorer bookmark importing. How does it compare with the new Deepfish from Microsoft? We would have to say that Deepfish is a little cooler.

Both the Opera 9.2 and the Opera for Windows Mobile beta are available from the Opera website.

[Updated link to Opera Mobile for Windows 8.65]

Manage your business plan with PlanHQ

planhq business plan manager

Could PlanHQ be the differentiating factor on whether your business succeeds or fails? Well, no, but it could help you to set some goals and compare forecasts in order to run your business a little more smoothly.

At first glimpse, PlanHQ does not say much about what it does, other than it brings plans to life. Upon further digging users will discover that it's an online tool that helps business grow through planning, take business plans online, developing business plans from scratch, and helps investors report on the success of their investments.

There is a 30 day free trial plan, that lets users configure business plans, set goals for sales and customers, set target markets, outline team members and their skills, and plot out financial performance. Other plans are based on the amount of users and goals, and range from $15/month to $50/month.

[via eHub]

Googleholic for March 30th 2007

In this issue of Googleholic we cover:

  • Toll roads in Google
  • Word search in Spreadsheets
  • Google Spam report update
  • LG Phones welcome Google Software
  • Summer of code applications in
  • Swim across the Atlantic Ocean!
  • Importing your archived email into Gmail
  • Google TV ads could be coming soon
  • Twitter gadget for Google's homepage

Continue reading Friday's Googleholic...

Continue reading Googleholic for March 30th 2007

Andy's Death Quest: Time waster of the day

Andy's Death QuestToday's time waster is a tail of death, money, death, weapons and death. In Andy's Death Quest you have the option to play in two different modes: Story mode or death match mode.

In death match mode, you start out with easy opponents, no cash and no weapons. Working your way through your choice of death match gets you more money. Which, in turn, gets you more cash, allowing you to buy different and better swords, guns and/or bombs. The more it costs, the more it will help you through the more difficult levels.

Story mode was a bit of a let down. After Andy made his way through the game unlocking all available death matches, he's able to bring in his own weapons (Shotgun and Laser Sword are Andy's favorites) and had his pick of whatever type of villain he wanted to fight. However, in story mode you have a very limited spread of bad guys to test your strength out on as well as a limit on the amount of money received. Death match mode was much more entertaining for Andy. That and the pool of blood after a glorious victory of a savage battle!

[via digg]

ETech: Big Company Hacks at Yahoo

Earlier today Yahoo launched a Yahoo Mail API. Recently we analyzed the current API and Mashup trends on the Web and noted that Yahoo is one of the big companies most active in this area. Also not long ago we profiled Yahoo! Pipes - a new tool that, we argued, treats the web as the database. We later expanded these ideas in our post entitled When Sites become Web Services. The major theme running through all these posts is that the Web is turning into a database exposed via APIs. Web giants like Google, Amazon and Yahoo! have been tapping into the large web development community, by exposing their services via APIs. 

Here at ETech, Chad Dickerson, Sr. Director of the Yahoo! Developer Network, gave a session about Yahoo's experience in engaging its own engineers to utilize Yahoo! APIs in creative ways.

According to Programmable Web, Yahoo! currently has over twenty APIs. These APIs, along with additional development resources, are available on the Yahoo! Developer Network. There is plenty to dive into - from the better known Flickr, Chat and Map APIs to online Ad Management and Web Site Analytic services. The latest edition is of course the Mail API. These APIs provide a big opportunity to get creative. So to facilitate the exploration and to encourage the discovery of new mashups - and possibly products - Yahoo! management decided to call on their own engineers to play around. Or in Yahoo's lingo, to hack. The official Yahoo! Hacks program calls for self-directed projects by Y! engineers, which do not need to be approved by anyone in advance.

Yahoo's method to the madness

The self-organization is exciting and powerful, but to get results there needs to be control. Yahoo's answer is "Hack days", where developers can showcase their creations to their colleagues. Here are the rules:

  • Build something in 24 hours;
  • No Power Points;
  • Present in 90 seconds;
  • No prior review, anything goes.

These rules encourage small teams to do what they love, letting people create what they want and, occasionally, letting the bizarre out.

In addition to internal hacking, Yahoo! opened up the program to a group of external hackers and invited them in September to the Yahoo! campus for a full day of hacking. According to Yahoo! the day turned out to be a "mega success".

Examples of Hacks

What goes on during the internal hack days is kind of a secret. Chad shared an example of a rather controversial hack. It was a web site built in 'Hot or Not' style, showing pictures of Yahoo! employees and letting people choose who they think is the boss of who. The application kept track of all "mistakes" and then displayed a chart for who should be promoted or demoted. Apparently calls from the Human Resources department followed.

Another hack was a purse that would take a photo after you walk every 100 steps and then use the Flickr API to upload it online. Yet another interesting hack was created by a group of developers, who turned an old TV into a widget display. One of the widgets connected to the internet and showed (you guessed it) the current weather.


At first, this 'hack' culture might seem to be somewhat chaotic and wasteful. It is in a way, but there is also a big potential gain. By using self-organization, Yahoo! bets that while a lot of these hacks will be mildly interesting - there may be a handful that are profound and game changing for the company. Since there are so many APIs, possibilities are almost endless. 

Yahoo! hacks is a great program that could lead to breakthrough ideas and products. The key question is how to add a process on top of this dynamic and fluid process, that drives productization and monetization of the best prototypes. Presumably, the really interesting solutions get noticed and get on the management radar screen. It is not clear if Yahoo! is doing this already, but it would seem that an nternal, Digg-like system where all Yahoo! employees would be able to rate creations, could be also helpful. We will see over the next year or so how Yahoo! executes this project, but the potential is definitely there.

P2P: Introduction and Real World Applications

Written by Can Erten and edited by Richard MacManus. This is the first in a 2-part series on Read/WriteWeb, exploring the world of P2P on the Web. Part 1 (this post) is a general introduction to P2P, along with some real-world applications of P2P. Part 2 will discuss future applications.

As the connection speed of the internet has increased, the demand for web related services has also increased. After the Web revolution, peer-to-peer networks evolved and currently have a number of different usages - instant messaging, file sharing, etc. Some other revolutionary ideas are still in research. People want to use peer-to-peer in many different applications including e-commerce, education, collaborative work, search, file storage, high performance computing. In this series of posts, we will look at different peer-to-peer ideas and applications.


Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks have been receiving increasing demand from users and are now accepted as a standard way of distributing information, because its architecture enables scalability, efficiency and performance as key concepts. A peer-to-peer network is decentralized, self-organized, and dynamic in its pure sense, and offers an alternative to the traditional client-server model of computing. Client-server architecture enables individuals to connect to a server - but although servers are scalable, there is a limit to what they can do. P2P networks are almost unlimited in their scalability.

In "pure" P2P systems, every node acts as a server and client - and they share resources without any centralized control. However most P2P applications have some degree of centralization. These are called "hybrid" P2P networks and they centralize at least the list of users. This is how instant messengers or file sharing programs work - the system keeps a list of users with their IP addresses.

Different applications of P2P networks enable users to share the computation power (distributed systems), data (file-sharing), and bandwidth (using many nodes for transferring data). P2P uses an individual's computer power and resources, instead of powerful centralized servers. The shared resources guarantee high availability among peers. P2P is a really important area to research, because it has a huge potential in distributed computing. It is also important for the industry as well, as new business models are being created around P2P.

P2P Standards

The key thing for the architecture of P2P networks is to achieve reliability, efficiency, scalability and portability. 

For the moment there are no standards for P2P application development, but standards are needed to enable interoperability. Sun has tried to implement a framework basis called JXTA, which is a network programming and computing platform for distributed computing. Sun was the first company to try and develop standards for P2P, but surely other companies will also try to implement their own standards. Microsoft, Intel and IBM are investing and working in their research laboratories on P2P supported application frameworks or systems. It is an open area where no standards are accepted yet.


Gnutella has been used in many applications to allow connecting to the same network and searching files in a centralized manner. It's an open, decentralized search protocol for finding files through the peers. Gnutella is a pure P2P network, without any centralized servers.

Using the same search protocol, such as Gnutella, forms a compatible network for different applications. Anybody who implements the Gnutella protocol is able to search and locate files on that network. Here's how it works. At start up, Gnutella will try to find at least one node to connect to. After the connection, the client requests a list of working addresses and proceeds to connect to other nodes until it reaches a quota. When the client searches for files, it sends the request to each node it is connected to, which then forwards the request to the other nodes it is connected, until a number of "hops" occurs from the sender.

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2005 Gnutella is the third-most-popular file sharing network on the Internet - following eDonkey 2000 and FastTrack. Gnutella is thought to host on an average of approximately 2.2 million users, although around 750,000-1,000,000 are online at any given moment.

The industry use P2P networks in many different ways, each with different business model and different infrastructure. So  now let's look at some real world applications for P2P... 

Instant Messaging

The first adopted usage of P2P applications was instant messengers. Back in the early days of the internet, people used gopher and IRC servers for communication. These technologies could only handle a certain number of users online at the same time, so there were delays for communicating whenever the server was approaching its limits. However the use of P2P changed the whole idea of IM. The bandwidth was shared between users, enabling faster and more scalable communication.

File Sharing

The peer-to-peer file sharing era started with Napster and continued with much more powerful applications such as Kazaa, Gnutella. These programs brought P2P into the mainstream. Although some P2P file-sharing applications have stopped because of legal issues, there is still a high demand in the industry. Now Napster has gone 'legit' and there are new media P2P apps like Joost (P2P TV) arriving on the scene. We will discuss this more in the next post.

Collaborative Community

Document sharing and collaboration is really important for a company. This issue has tried to be solved by internal portals and collaboration servers. However the information has to be up to date and with portals this wasn't always possible. Collaboration with P2P broke that barrier, by using peoples computer resources instead of a centralized server.

Groove is a software with P2P capabilities which was acquired by Microsoft in April 2005. Groove is now offering Microsoft Office based solutions, mainly using P2P for document collaboration. It also allows the usage of instant messaging and integration with some video conferencing solutions. It provides user and role based security, which is one of the most important aspects of P2P for an organization. Groove is also a "relay server" to enable offline usage. 

IP Telephony

Another major usage of P2P is IP telephony. IP telephony revolutionaries the way we use the internet, enabling us to call anywhere in the world for free using our computers.

Skype is a good example of P2P usage in VoIP. It was acquired by eBay in 2005. Skype was built on top of the infrastructure of P2P file-sharing system, Kazaa. The bandwidth is shared and the sound or video in real-time are shared as resources. The main server exists only for the presence information and billing users of the system whenever they make a call that has charges (e.g. SkypeOut).

High Performance Computing - Grid Computing

High performance computing is important for scientific research or for large companies. P2P plays a role in enabling high performance computing. Sharing of resources like computation power, network bandwidth, and disk space will benefit from P2P.

Hive computing is similar - it is where millions of computers connecting to the internet can form a super computer, if it is successfully managed. One of the popular projects is SETI@HOME (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which enables users to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It is a voluntary project with more than 3.3 million users in 226 countries - it has used 796,000 years of CPU time and analyzed 45 terabytes of data in just two and a half years of operation.

Some industrial projects also exist in this area. Datasynapse is charging users for the CPU cycles they use. Open Source projects also exist, like Globus and Globus Grid Forum.

Coming soon...

In Part 2, we will explore future applications of P2P. In the meantime, let us know which real world applications you use right now and what you think of the P2P industry in general.

Image credit: RocketRaccoon

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