Start.io delivers a customizable start page engine


Start.io is an engine for creating customized start pages, with the added bonus of letting you know when your favorite sites have updated. It comes equipped with a drag-and-droppable interface for adjusting and grouping your links, and several nice-looking preloaded layouts to choose from. On top of that, the CSS is entirely customizable, so you can modify existing layouts, or build your own from scratch.

The first thing I wondered about Start.io was why it just lets you know that one of your links has updated, instead of using RSS to show you exactly what the updates were. The answer (explained on the about page) makes a lot of sense: you don't come to your start page when you want to read a bunch of RSS feeds. You go there when you want to click through to the sites themselves, not Google Reader or your standalone RSS app. If you want an RSS reader as your start page, there are other services you can check out, but I haven't see a complete start page engine like Start.io anywhere else.

What's your start page? Do you like Start.io, or do you have a better alternative? Let us know in the comments.

Google introduces better related terms and longer snippets


We report on a lot of new software and projects from Google, so sometimes it's easy to take it for granted that search is still one of the things they do best. Google searches just got even better, too, with useful improvements to the way the search engine finds related concepts and an increase in the length of search result "snippets" for longer searches.

Longer snippets are something I've wanted for a long time. I hate it when I get really close to finding the entirety of the information I need without actually having to click through to a result, but the snippet comes up one word short. That frustration should be greatly decreased with longer snippets that attempt to show more of your search terms together. This new feature kicks in when your search contains 4 or more words.

The improvements to related terms mean that Google can now more accurately suggest other searches that relate to your search terms. The example they give is searching for principles of physics, which now suggests searches for things like quantum mechanics, special relativity and the big bang. This should make narrowing down your results and finding what you want on Google even easier.

Grotrian Pianolina - Time Waster

Download Squad is a strange place to read about German piano builders, but when their site has a time waster as good as this one, we can't ignore it. I don't know whether Grotrian makes good pianos, but I know that their Pianolina game is a great way to kill some time. It's a sort of open-ended music composition toy, where different colored blocks represent different notes that sound when they bounce off a wall or another block.

To get you started, the Pianolina has a few pre-programmed compositions by the likes of Beethoven and Satie. These quickly go awry, though, when things inevitably start bumping into one another. If you let them play long enough, you wouldn't recognize the melodies anymore. When you switch to compose mode, and start experimenting with your own composition, half the fun is in hearing it gradually break down. Pianolina may be a time waster, but at least it's a creative one.

Hulu plans to go international


Online video site Hulu has become one of the most popular video portals in the internet over the past year. It showcases high quality content from major television and film studios with fewer commercials than you'd see if you watched the same programs on TV. But Hulu has faced one major hurdle: The company doesn't have deals in place to distribute that content outside of the US, which is why international users are typically met with a message telling them that videos aren't available when they visit the site.

Hulu's been planning to go global for a while now, but it looks like the company could be a bit closer. PaidContent reports that the company has hired a new vice president to oversee international operations.

It seems likely that one of the first areas outside the US that Hulu will be available will be the UK. What I'd love to see is a reciprocal relationship, where in addition to streaming US content to British viewers, Hulu could work out a deal to distribute BBC content in the US.

PirateBay's IPREDATOR VPN service to debut on April 1

It's no April Fools' prank. On April 1st - the same day that Sweden's Draconian new intellectual property legislation (IPRED) goes into effect - the Pirate Bay will debut their new IPREDATOR VPN service.

Where IPRED aims to make it easier for copyright holders to get their hands on ISP log files to investigate suspected transgressors. With IPREDATOR, a user can give "the man" a swift kick in his digital groin and sneak away unscathed while he's doubled over in agony.

No log files are maintained, and all traffic is tunneled, making it more difficult to track activity to a specific user.

Initially, the service will be opened to a select group of 500 testers. Once the kinks have been worked out, IPREDATOR will be available world-wide for a modest 5 Euro monthly fee.

Those who are interested and want to roll the dice in hopes of getting in early can register for the beta at ipredator.se.

[via TorrentFreak]

Drop.io launches Conference.io real-time collaboration in 2 clicks

Conference.io
Last week file sharing service drop.io launched a new real-time feature that allow users to chat with one another at a drop site. Today the company is fleshing out the real-time features by adding support for free conference calls. This means you can set up a virtual space for a conference at a moment's notice, chat with participants, talk on the phone, record or listen to voicemails, and share files all from one location.

Here's how it works. Just hop on over to conference.io and name your chat room. If you want to add any files you can do it here, but you don't have to. Click the drop it button and you're good to go. You can set an administrator password for the room, but again you don't have to.

Conference.io isn't the first service available that lets you set up a web-based chat room in a matter of seconds. But it's the first one that I'm aware of that also supports file uploads, embedding images in chat, and telephone conference calling.

Zinc Beta 3 is a better multimedia web browser

Zinc beta 3
Zinc is a full screen browser for internet video. But that description doesn't really do the application justice. Basically, it allows you to watch internet video on your television screen using a remote control almost as easily as a keyboard and mouse. You know, a lot like Boxee. But there's one major thing setting Zinc apart from Boxee: Zinc is based on Firefox. And that's going to make it awfully hard for content partners to detect whether you're using Zinc or Firefox, which means it'll be a lot harder for companies like Hulu to ask Zeevee (the makers of Zinc) to block access.

Zinc started out its life as the interface for a hardware set top box that ZeeVee wanted to charge $499 for. That business model didn't really pan out, so the company split is focus and started working on a $2500 enterrprise hardware solution that lets companies like hotels stream HD content throughout the building and the free Zinc media browser.

Version 3 which came out today has a smoother interface, more detailed information about videos and channels, and content from new sources including The CW, Revision3, and Netflix. You can either install Zinc as a standalone application or download and install a Firefox extension that will let you launch the Zinc interface from within Firefox 3.

Right now Zinc is Windows only, but a Mac version is due out next month.

[via NewTeeVee]

Get the best deals on eBooks with ebookprice.info

ebookprice.info
When you walk into a bricks and mortar book store, you can either pay the price the company is asking for the books, or decide that you can get a better deal and walk away. On the internet, you can just shop around from the comfort of your desk chair until you find the best price and click buy. But there's an even faster way.

Ebookprice.info is a web site that finds prices for a handful of popular eBook stories including Amazon, eBooks.com, and Powell's. I'll be honest. The web site is ugly. But it's functional. In a quick scan, I've found several titles that are going for $7.99 in one store and over $16 in another.

[via jkOnTheRun]

Lifehacker's Better Gmail scripts come to Google Chrome


Since I wrote a post about ten great Firefox userscripts, I've been excited to see how user scripting is progressing for other browsers. Apparently, in the case of Chrome, it's come along far enough that Lifehacker's insanely popular Better Gmail script collection now has a Chrome version. Many Gmail addicts swear by these, so this could make the difference in choosing a browser for some.

So, what's better about Better Gmail? You can hide the stuff you're not using, including chat and the unread spam message count. You get handy visual touches like highlighting a row when you hover over it, and showing icons for attachment types without having to open a message. You can also use labels as folders, sub-folders included. These sound like small improvements, but you'd miss them if you didn't have them. Now users of one more popular browser don't have to worry about that.

Redlasso rises from the ashes, set to offer TV clips from Fox

Redlasso
Redlasso is a company that made a big splash last year by offering bloggers and web publishers the chance to find and embed television clips on their web sites. And then it was hit by lawsuits from NBC and FOX and it sort of faded away into oblivion.

Now Redlasso says the suits have been settled and the company has reached an agreement with Fox News Corp to distribute clips from local Fox affiliate stations. Clips from local news reports and other content will be available. And Redlasso will split advertising revenue with Fox.

It's interesting that Redlasso will be providing local content and not material from FOX's national programming. Techcrunch infers that this means the relationship is a trial run. It could also be an attempt to figure out a new way to monetize local news content at a time when local news outlets are having a hard time keeping afloat.

[via Business Insider]

Mozilla unveils "cognitive shield" new tab concept for Firefox

Cognitive Shield
When you open a new tab in Firefox 3.0 you see a blank page. Mozilla has been working on ways to make that page more useful for a few weeks now. Mozilla isn't the first company to rethink the blank window. Opera has offered a "speed dial" feature with user-customizable thumbnails for your favorite web sites for a while. And Google Chrome automatically generates thumbnails from your most frequently visited pages.

But Mozilla doesn't just want to give you quick access to the sites you visit most. The team also wants to make sure the new tab area isn't too distracting. And that's led to a completely new concept that the developers are calling a "cognitive shield."

What happens is that Firefox will keep track of your recently and frequently visited pages. But instead of showing you a list of links or thumbnails every time you open a new tab, Firefox will show you a dull gray set of icons for those pages. If you type an address or search term into the location bar, you'll never see anything other than this unremarkable list of icons. But if you scroll your mouse over the page it will expand into a colorful list of web sites and favicons.

Unlike Opera's speed dial, the Firefox bookmarks are automatically generated. But unlike Google Chrome's thumbnails, you can add or remove links from the Firefox new tab page. You can also disable this behavior by clicking the asterisk in the bottom left corner of the screen.

In order to try out this concept design, you'll need to have the most recent beta version of Firefox 3.1 and then you can download and install the New Tab prototype add-on. Eventually this feature or one very much like it could find its way into a future version of Firefox.

Qimo Linux teaches kids to be penguins from an early age

Qimo Linux
Want your kid to love Linux as much as you do, but worried that he or she might be learning too much about Windows and OS X on the streets (or at school) to feel comfortable with an open source operating system? Qimo is here to help.

Qimo Linux is based on Ubuntu, but it's designed for children over the age of 3. It features large cartoon-like program icons and comes with a bunch of open source and educational games including Tuxmath, Tuxpaint, Tuxtype (a typing game) and even some games that don't have Tux in them like GCompris and Childsplay.

Unlike Edubuntu, Qimo is designed for home use, not classroom use. The operating system can be run from a LiveCD or installed. Qimo uses a simple interface based on Xfce.

[via instant fundas]

Box.net launches full text-search



Content storage and collaboration solution, Box.net, has really been on a tear with new and enhanced features. In the last two months, the service has launched enhanced collaboration tools and a web-based word processor; today, they add another new feature: full-text search!

Now, Box.net Business customers can search the full text of PDF, TXT, CSV, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files and Box Web Documents. The new search feature will also scan any file descriptions added by users, which is great for more generic documents that might be tagged for something more specific. According to Box, they've already tested the new search feature with one customer who has more than 300,000 documents, and the results have been great.

When I talked to Box last month, it was clear that the company's focus is really on building tools for small and large businesses. Having used Box to share and collaborate with some of my fellow Weblogs bloggers, that focus really comes through in the actual service itself.

With full-text search, Box is really making the argument for businesses to move their file systems online or over to Box, without having to pay for something like Microsoft SharePoint. And because you can access the documents from anywhere, this is a really nice solution for telecommuting employees or businesses with multiple locations.

Last.fm to charge international users a subscription fee

Last.fm playerOnline music streaming service Last.fm is about to begin charging users in all but three countries a subscription. If you don't live in the US, UK, or Germany, you'll be able to listen to up to 30 tracks as part of a free trial. after that, you'll need to shell out €3.00 each month to use the service.

Last.fm, which is owned by CBS works with thousands of musicians, labels, and others to secure the rights to stream music in the US and internationally. But either Last.fm is getting greedy, or someone at the company realized that the cost of streaming music and paying for license fees in all of those countries was too high and Last.fm needs to find some way to pay its bills.

Last.fm competitor Pandora pulled the plug on all of its international streams in 2007 and 2008.

[via Mashable]

The Windows 7 UI changes that Microsoft discarded

Windows 7 taskbar prototype
Windows 7 has a shiny new user interface that aims to make it easier to accomplish tasks on your computer without getting distracted by all the eye candy. But before settling on the new Windows taskbar, Aero Peek feature and other design elements, Microsoft considered a number of other possibilities. TechRadar has a look at some of them.

For instance, an early toolbar design had a taskbar with thumbnails of running programs instead of icons and pop up menus. But the icons were too small to be usable. Another version used a "Bat Signal" because when you scrolled your mouse over an icon the full window would open on the desktop, and a spotlight would shine up from the taskbar at it.

You can find more early ideas for Windows 7 at TechRadar.

Start.io delivers a customizable start page engine


Start.io is an engine for creating customized start pages, with the added bonus of letting you know when your favorite sites have updated. It comes equipped with a drag-and-droppable interface for adjusting and grouping your links, and several nice-looking preloaded layouts to choose from. On top of that, the CSS is entirely customizable, so you can modify existing layouts, or build your own from scratch.

The first thing I wondered about Start.io was why it just lets you know that one of your links has updated, instead of using RSS to show you exactly what the updates were. The answer (explained on the about page) makes a lot of sense: you don't come to your start page when you want to read a bunch of RSS feeds. You go there when you want to click through to the sites themselves, not Google Reader or your standalone RSS app. If you want an RSS reader as your start page, there are other services you can check out, but I haven't see a complete start page engine like Start.io anywhere else.

What's your start page? Do you like Start.io, or do you have a better alternative? Let us know in the comments.

Google introduces better related terms and longer snippets


We report on a lot of new software and projects from Google, so sometimes it's easy to take it for granted that search is still one of the things they do best. Google searches just got even better, too, with useful improvements to the way the search engine finds related concepts and an increase in the length of search result "snippets" for longer searches.

Longer snippets are something I've wanted for a long time. I hate it when I get really close to finding the entirety of the information I need without actually having to click through to a result, but the snippet comes up one word short. That frustration should be greatly decreased with longer snippets that attempt to show more of your search terms together. This new feature kicks in when your search contains 4 or more words.

The improvements to related terms mean that Google can now more accurately suggest other searches that relate to your search terms. The example they give is searching for principles of physics, which now suggests searches for things like quantum mechanics, special relativity and the big bang. This should make narrowing down your results and finding what you want on Google even easier.

Grotrian Pianolina - Time Waster

Download Squad is a strange place to read about German piano builders, but when their site has a time waster as good as this one, we can't ignore it. I don't know whether Grotrian makes good pianos, but I know that their Pianolina game is a great way to kill some time. It's a sort of open-ended music composition toy, where different colored blocks represent different notes that sound when they bounce off a wall or another block.

To get you started, the Pianolina has a few pre-programmed compositions by the likes of Beethoven and Satie. These quickly go awry, though, when things inevitably start bumping into one another. If you let them play long enough, you wouldn't recognize the melodies anymore. When you switch to compose mode, and start experimenting with your own composition, half the fun is in hearing it gradually break down. Pianolina may be a time waster, but at least it's a creative one.

Hulu plans to go international


Online video site Hulu has become one of the most popular video portals in the internet over the past year. It showcases high quality content from major television and film studios with fewer commercials than you'd see if you watched the same programs on TV. But Hulu has faced one major hurdle: The company doesn't have deals in place to distribute that content outside of the US, which is why international users are typically met with a message telling them that videos aren't available when they visit the site.

Hulu's been planning to go global for a while now, but it looks like the company could be a bit closer. PaidContent reports that the company has hired a new vice president to oversee international operations.

It seems likely that one of the first areas outside the US that Hulu will be available will be the UK. What I'd love to see is a reciprocal relationship, where in addition to streaming US content to British viewers, Hulu could work out a deal to distribute BBC content in the US.

PirateBay's IPREDATOR VPN service to debut on April 1

It's no April Fools' prank. On April 1st - the same day that Sweden's Draconian new intellectual property legislation (IPRED) goes into effect - the Pirate Bay will debut their new IPREDATOR VPN service.

Where IPRED aims to make it easier for copyright holders to get their hands on ISP log files to investigate suspected transgressors. With IPREDATOR, a user can give "the man" a swift kick in his digital groin and sneak away unscathed while he's doubled over in agony.

No log files are maintained, and all traffic is tunneled, making it more difficult to track activity to a specific user.

Initially, the service will be opened to a select group of 500 testers. Once the kinks have been worked out, IPREDATOR will be available world-wide for a modest 5 Euro monthly fee.

Those who are interested and want to roll the dice in hopes of getting in early can register for the beta at ipredator.se.

[via TorrentFreak]

Drop.io launches Conference.io real-time collaboration in 2 clicks

Conference.io
Last week file sharing service drop.io launched a new real-time feature that allow users to chat with one another at a drop site. Today the company is fleshing out the real-time features by adding support for free conference calls. This means you can set up a virtual space for a conference at a moment's notice, chat with participants, talk on the phone, record or listen to voicemails, and share files all from one location.

Here's how it works. Just hop on over to conference.io and name your chat room. If you want to add any files you can do it here, but you don't have to. Click the drop it button and you're good to go. You can set an administrator password for the room, but again you don't have to.

Conference.io isn't the first service available that lets you set up a web-based chat room in a matter of seconds. But it's the first one that I'm aware of that also supports file uploads, embedding images in chat, and telephone conference calling.

Zinc Beta 3 is a better multimedia web browser

Zinc beta 3
Zinc is a full screen browser for internet video. But that description doesn't really do the application justice. Basically, it allows you to watch internet video on your television screen using a remote control almost as easily as a keyboard and mouse. You know, a lot like Boxee. But there's one major thing setting Zinc apart from Boxee: Zinc is based on Firefox. And that's going to make it awfully hard for content partners to detect whether you're using Zinc or Firefox, which means it'll be a lot harder for companies like Hulu to ask Zeevee (the makers of Zinc) to block access.

Zinc started out its life as the interface for a hardware set top box that ZeeVee wanted to charge $499 for. That business model didn't really pan out, so the company split is focus and started working on a $2500 enterrprise hardware solution that lets companies like hotels stream HD content throughout the building and the free Zinc media browser.

Version 3 which came out today has a smoother interface, more detailed information about videos and channels, and content from new sources including The CW, Revision3, and Netflix. You can either install Zinc as a standalone application or download and install a Firefox extension that will let you launch the Zinc interface from within Firefox 3.

Right now Zinc is Windows only, but a Mac version is due out next month.

[via NewTeeVee]

Get the best deals on eBooks with ebookprice.info

ebookprice.info
When you walk into a bricks and mortar book store, you can either pay the price the company is asking for the books, or decide that you can get a better deal and walk away. On the internet, you can just shop around from the comfort of your desk chair until you find the best price and click buy. But there's an even faster way.

Ebookprice.info is a web site that finds prices for a handful of popular eBook stories including Amazon, eBooks.com, and Powell's. I'll be honest. The web site is ugly. But it's functional. In a quick scan, I've found several titles that are going for $7.99 in one store and over $16 in another.

[via jkOnTheRun]

Lifehacker's Better Gmail scripts come to Google Chrome


Since I wrote a post about ten great Firefox userscripts, I've been excited to see how user scripting is progressing for other browsers. Apparently, in the case of Chrome, it's come along far enough that Lifehacker's insanely popular Better Gmail script collection now has a Chrome version. Many Gmail addicts swear by these, so this could make the difference in choosing a browser for some.

So, what's better about Better Gmail? You can hide the stuff you're not using, including chat and the unread spam message count. You get handy visual touches like highlighting a row when you hover over it, and showing icons for attachment types without having to open a message. You can also use labels as folders, sub-folders included. These sound like small improvements, but you'd miss them if you didn't have them. Now users of one more popular browser don't have to worry about that.

Redlasso rises from the ashes, set to offer TV clips from Fox

Redlasso
Redlasso is a company that made a big splash last year by offering bloggers and web publishers the chance to find and embed television clips on their web sites. And then it was hit by lawsuits from NBC and FOX and it sort of faded away into oblivion.

Now Redlasso says the suits have been settled and the company has reached an agreement with Fox News Corp to distribute clips from local Fox affiliate stations. Clips from local news reports and other content will be available. And Redlasso will split advertising revenue with Fox.

It's interesting that Redlasso will be providing local content and not material from FOX's national programming. Techcrunch infers that this means the relationship is a trial run. It could also be an attempt to figure out a new way to monetize local news content at a time when local news outlets are having a hard time keeping afloat.

[via Business Insider]

Mozilla unveils "cognitive shield" new tab concept for Firefox

Cognitive Shield
When you open a new tab in Firefox 3.0 you see a blank page. Mozilla has been working on ways to make that page more useful for a few weeks now. Mozilla isn't the first company to rethink the blank window. Opera has offered a "speed dial" feature with user-customizable thumbnails for your favorite web sites for a while. And Google Chrome automatically generates thumbnails from your most frequently visited pages.

But Mozilla doesn't just want to give you quick access to the sites you visit most. The team also wants to make sure the new tab area isn't too distracting. And that's led to a completely new concept that the developers are calling a "cognitive shield."

What happens is that Firefox will keep track of your recently and frequently visited pages. But instead of showing you a list of links or thumbnails every time you open a new tab, Firefox will show you a dull gray set of icons for those pages. If you type an address or search term into the location bar, you'll never see anything other than this unremarkable list of icons. But if you scroll your mouse over the page it will expand into a colorful list of web sites and favicons.

Unlike Opera's speed dial, the Firefox bookmarks are automatically generated. But unlike Google Chrome's thumbnails, you can add or remove links from the Firefox new tab page. You can also disable this behavior by clicking the asterisk in the bottom left corner of the screen.

In order to try out this concept design, you'll need to have the most recent beta version of Firefox 3.1 and then you can download and install the New Tab prototype add-on. Eventually this feature or one very much like it could find its way into a future version of Firefox.

Qimo Linux teaches kids to be penguins from an early age

Qimo Linux
Want your kid to love Linux as much as you do, but worried that he or she might be learning too much about Windows and OS X on the streets (or at school) to feel comfortable with an open source operating system? Qimo is here to help.

Qimo Linux is based on Ubuntu, but it's designed for children over the age of 3. It features large cartoon-like program icons and comes with a bunch of open source and educational games including Tuxmath, Tuxpaint, Tuxtype (a typing game) and even some games that don't have Tux in them like GCompris and Childsplay.

Unlike Edubuntu, Qimo is designed for home use, not classroom use. The operating system can be run from a LiveCD or installed. Qimo uses a simple interface based on Xfce.

[via instant fundas]

Find local food in season with the Locavore iPhone app

There are lots of iPhone apps that help you find nearby places to eat or shop, but Locavore offers a totally different twist. It tells you which foods are in season and available locally, and also helps you find farmers' markets where you can pick them up. It also links to information and recipes for each of the ingredients in its database.

The search is by state, so some of the markets that come up might not be as close as you'd like. On the plus side, Locavore does use the iPhone's location features to show the closest markets first. If you're a serious foodie, Locavore looks like the app you want in your pocket when you plan a shopping trip. The pricetag is a reasonable $3.

Vuze adds remote playback support for videos on iPod, consoles

You're probably using a bittorrent client to download the occasional movie or episode of The Office by now. If you're looking to make the process of going from torrents to remote viewing a little more hassle-free, you might want to take a look at the newest version of Vuze. After conducting a user poll, it was clear that Vuze users wanted easier access to their downloads on devices like the iPod Touch, PS3, and Xbox 360.

The development team has delivered, with beta support for those devices. Turn on device support, and adding a file to iTunes requires only a simple click-and-drag - Vuze takes care of conversion. PS3 and Xbox users, your content is automatically ready to stream from your desktop to your console.

CEO Gilles BianRosa states in the official blog post that "Vuze has always supported open platforms and technologies, and we've designed our device support to embrace as many of the devices you asked for, as possible. Expect more to follow soon." Based on the results of the poll, Wii users should be next in line.

Device support makes Vuze a very compelling option for media-heavy torrent downloaders, especially less technically savvy types that don't want to be bothered with having to convert files after downloading.

To try it out, grab the new version from Vuze's download page.

[via TorrentFreak]

ScreenToaster adds support for YouTube uploads, MOV downloads

ScreenToaster
ScreenToaster is a web-based screencasting utility. You just fire up the web page, hit record, and ScreenToaster launches a Java applet that lets you record audio and video of anything happening on your desktop. It's great for recording tutorials, presentations, or showing off your video game skills to friends.

Today the ScreenToaster team launched a few updates that make the service even more useful. First, users can now automatically upload HD screencasts directly to YouTube from ScreenToaster.com. Second, you can download videos in MOV format for editing on your desktop.

There's also a new beta API available that lets web publishers incorporate ScreenToaster with their web sites. You can let your visitors record and publish videos directly on your site using the API.

These are just the latest new features. ScreenToaster also recently added the ability to download SWF files, set privacy levels, and share videos via email, social networking sites, or social bookmarking pages.

Use Google Voice with your own phone number? Not yet, but maybe soon

Google Voice phone number porting
Google Voice, or the service formerly known as GrandCentral, assigns users a single phone number that you can give out to friends, colleagues, enemies, or just about anybody else. You can then link that number to your existing phone lines so that when a user calls it will ring your home, work, and/or cellphone. You can set permissions so that calls from some numbers will always go straight to voicemail. And you can get text transcriptions of voicemails emailed to you.

There's just one problem - you have to give everybody a new phone number. To date there's been no way to make your current number the primary number for Google Voice or GrandCentral. But it looks like that feature could be coming soon.

In the Google Voice help section, there's an area labeled "Porting your number." Unfortunately, right now the page says that you can't actually do this... yet. But it does state that Google is looking into this option and the company is asking for feedback. So if you like the idea of using Google Voice but don't like the idea of reprinting your business cards, go ahead and send Googel a note to let them know what you think.

[via Lifehacker]

Google introduces better related terms and longer snippets


We report on a lot of new software and projects from Google, so sometimes it's easy to take it for granted that search is still one of the things they do best. Google searches just got even better, too, with useful improvements to the way the search engine finds related concepts and an increase in the length of search result "snippets" for longer searches.

Longer snippets are something I've wanted for a long time. I hate it when I get really close to finding the entirety of the information I need without actually having to click through to a result, but the snippet comes up one word short. That frustration should be greatly decreased with longer snippets that attempt to show more of your search terms together. This new feature kicks in when your search contains 4 or more words.

The improvements to related terms mean that Google can now more accurately suggest other searches that relate to your search terms. The example they give is searching for principles of physics, which now suggests searches for things like quantum mechanics, special relativity and the big bang. This should make narrowing down your results and finding what you want on Google even easier.

Grotrian Pianolina - Time Waster

Download Squad is a strange place to read about German piano builders, but when their site has a time waster as good as this one, we can't ignore it. I don't know whether Grotrian makes good pianos, but I know that their Pianolina game is a great way to kill some time. It's a sort of open-ended music composition toy, where different colored blocks represent different notes that sound when they bounce off a wall or another block.

To get you started, the Pianolina has a few pre-programmed compositions by the likes of Beethoven and Satie. These quickly go awry, though, when things inevitably start bumping into one another. If you let them play long enough, you wouldn't recognize the melodies anymore. When you switch to compose mode, and start experimenting with your own composition, half the fun is in hearing it gradually break down. Pianolina may be a time waster, but at least it's a creative one.

Hulu plans to go international


Online video site Hulu has become one of the most popular video portals in the internet over the past year. It showcases high quality content from major television and film studios with fewer commercials than you'd see if you watched the same programs on TV. But Hulu has faced one major hurdle: The company doesn't have deals in place to distribute that content outside of the US, which is why international users are typically met with a message telling them that videos aren't available when they visit the site.

Hulu's been planning to go global for a while now, but it looks like the company could be a bit closer. PaidContent reports that the company has hired a new vice president to oversee international operations.

It seems likely that one of the first areas outside the US that Hulu will be available will be the UK. What I'd love to see is a reciprocal relationship, where in addition to streaming US content to British viewers, Hulu could work out a deal to distribute BBC content in the US.

PirateBay's IPREDATOR VPN service to debut on April 1

It's no April Fools' prank. On April 1st - the same day that Sweden's Draconian new intellectual property legislation (IPRED) goes into effect - the Pirate Bay will debut their new IPREDATOR VPN service.

Where IPRED aims to make it easier for copyright holders to get their hands on ISP log files to investigate suspected transgressors. With IPREDATOR, a user can give "the man" a swift kick in his digital groin and sneak away unscathed while he's doubled over in agony.

No log files are maintained, and all traffic is tunneled, making it more difficult to track activity to a specific user.

Initially, the service will be opened to a select group of 500 testers. Once the kinks have been worked out, IPREDATOR will be available world-wide for a modest 5 Euro monthly fee.

Those who are interested and want to roll the dice in hopes of getting in early can register for the beta at ipredator.se.

[via TorrentFreak]

Drop.io launches Conference.io real-time collaboration in 2 clicks

Conference.io
Last week file sharing service drop.io launched a new real-time feature that allow users to chat with one another at a drop site. Today the company is fleshing out the real-time features by adding support for free conference calls. This means you can set up a virtual space for a conference at a moment's notice, chat with participants, talk on the phone, record or listen to voicemails, and share files all from one location.

Here's how it works. Just hop on over to conference.io and name your chat room. If you want to add any files you can do it here, but you don't have to. Click the drop it button and you're good to go. You can set an administrator password for the room, but again you don't have to.

Conference.io isn't the first service available that lets you set up a web-based chat room in a matter of seconds. But it's the first one that I'm aware of that also supports file uploads, embedding images in chat, and telephone conference calling.

Zinc Beta 3 is a better multimedia web browser

Zinc beta 3
Zinc is a full screen browser for internet video. But that description doesn't really do the application justice. Basically, it allows you to watch internet video on your television screen using a remote control almost as easily as a keyboard and mouse. You know, a lot like Boxee. But there's one major thing setting Zinc apart from Boxee: Zinc is based on Firefox. And that's going to make it awfully hard for content partners to detect whether you're using Zinc or Firefox, which means it'll be a lot harder for companies like Hulu to ask Zeevee (the makers of Zinc) to block access.

Zinc started out its life as the interface for a hardware set top box that ZeeVee wanted to charge $499 for. That business model didn't really pan out, so the company split is focus and started working on a $2500 enterrprise hardware solution that lets companies like hotels stream HD content throughout the building and the free Zinc media browser.

Version 3 which came out today has a smoother interface, more detailed information about videos and channels, and content from new sources including The CW, Revision3, and Netflix. You can either install Zinc as a standalone application or download and install a Firefox extension that will let you launch the Zinc interface from within Firefox 3.

Right now Zinc is Windows only, but a Mac version is due out next month.

[via NewTeeVee]

Get the best deals on eBooks with ebookprice.info

ebookprice.info
When you walk into a bricks and mortar book store, you can either pay the price the company is asking for the books, or decide that you can get a better deal and walk away. On the internet, you can just shop around from the comfort of your desk chair until you find the best price and click buy. But there's an even faster way.

Ebookprice.info is a web site that finds prices for a handful of popular eBook stories including Amazon, eBooks.com, and Powell's. I'll be honest. The web site is ugly. But it's functional. In a quick scan, I've found several titles that are going for $7.99 in one store and over $16 in another.

[via jkOnTheRun]

Lifehacker's Better Gmail scripts come to Google Chrome


Since I wrote a post about ten great Firefox userscripts, I've been excited to see how user scripting is progressing for other browsers. Apparently, in the case of Chrome, it's come along far enough that Lifehacker's insanely popular Better Gmail script collection now has a Chrome version. Many Gmail addicts swear by these, so this could make the difference in choosing a browser for some.

So, what's better about Better Gmail? You can hide the stuff you're not using, including chat and the unread spam message count. You get handy visual touches like highlighting a row when you hover over it, and showing icons for attachment types without having to open a message. You can also use labels as folders, sub-folders included. These sound like small improvements, but you'd miss them if you didn't have them. Now users of one more popular browser don't have to worry about that.

Redlasso rises from the ashes, set to offer TV clips from Fox

Redlasso
Redlasso is a company that made a big splash last year by offering bloggers and web publishers the chance to find and embed television clips on their web sites. And then it was hit by lawsuits from NBC and FOX and it sort of faded away into oblivion.

Now Redlasso says the suits have been settled and the company has reached an agreement with Fox News Corp to distribute clips from local Fox affiliate stations. Clips from local news reports and other content will be available. And Redlasso will split advertising revenue with Fox.

It's interesting that Redlasso will be providing local content and not material from FOX's national programming. Techcrunch infers that this means the relationship is a trial run. It could also be an attempt to figure out a new way to monetize local news content at a time when local news outlets are having a hard time keeping afloat.

[via Business Insider]

Mozilla unveils "cognitive shield" new tab concept for Firefox

Cognitive Shield
When you open a new tab in Firefox 3.0 you see a blank page. Mozilla has been working on ways to make that page more useful for a few weeks now. Mozilla isn't the first company to rethink the blank window. Opera has offered a "speed dial" feature with user-customizable thumbnails for your favorite web sites for a while. And Google Chrome automatically generates thumbnails from your most frequently visited pages.

But Mozilla doesn't just want to give you quick access to the sites you visit most. The team also wants to make sure the new tab area isn't too distracting. And that's led to a completely new concept that the developers are calling a "cognitive shield."

What happens is that Firefox will keep track of your recently and frequently visited pages. But instead of showing you a list of links or thumbnails every time you open a new tab, Firefox will show you a dull gray set of icons for those pages. If you type an address or search term into the location bar, you'll never see anything other than this unremarkable list of icons. But if you scroll your mouse over the page it will expand into a colorful list of web sites and favicons.

Unlike Opera's speed dial, the Firefox bookmarks are automatically generated. But unlike Google Chrome's thumbnails, you can add or remove links from the Firefox new tab page. You can also disable this behavior by clicking the asterisk in the bottom left corner of the screen.

In order to try out this concept design, you'll need to have the most recent beta version of Firefox 3.1 and then you can download and install the New Tab prototype add-on. Eventually this feature or one very much like it could find its way into a future version of Firefox.

Qimo Linux teaches kids to be penguins from an early age

Qimo Linux
Want your kid to love Linux as much as you do, but worried that he or she might be learning too much about Windows and OS X on the streets (or at school) to feel comfortable with an open source operating system? Qimo is here to help.

Qimo Linux is based on Ubuntu, but it's designed for children over the age of 3. It features large cartoon-like program icons and comes with a bunch of open source and educational games including Tuxmath, Tuxpaint, Tuxtype (a typing game) and even some games that don't have Tux in them like GCompris and Childsplay.

Unlike Edubuntu, Qimo is designed for home use, not classroom use. The operating system can be run from a LiveCD or installed. Qimo uses a simple interface based on Xfce.

[via instant fundas]

Find local food in season with the Locavore iPhone app

There are lots of iPhone apps that help you find nearby places to eat or shop, but Locavore offers a totally different twist. It tells you which foods are in season and available locally, and also helps you find farmers' markets where you can pick them up. It also links to information and recipes for each of the ingredients in its database.

The search is by state, so some of the markets that come up might not be as close as you'd like. On the plus side, Locavore does use the iPhone's location features to show the closest markets first. If you're a serious foodie, Locavore looks like the app you want in your pocket when you plan a shopping trip. The pricetag is a reasonable $3.

Vuze adds remote playback support for videos on iPod, consoles

You're probably using a bittorrent client to download the occasional movie or episode of The Office by now. If you're looking to make the process of going from torrents to remote viewing a little more hassle-free, you might want to take a look at the newest version of Vuze. After conducting a user poll, it was clear that Vuze users wanted easier access to their downloads on devices like the iPod Touch, PS3, and Xbox 360.

The development team has delivered, with beta support for those devices. Turn on device support, and adding a file to iTunes requires only a simple click-and-drag - Vuze takes care of conversion. PS3 and Xbox users, your content is automatically ready to stream from your desktop to your console.

CEO Gilles BianRosa states in the official blog post that "Vuze has always supported open platforms and technologies, and we've designed our device support to embrace as many of the devices you asked for, as possible. Expect more to follow soon." Based on the results of the poll, Wii users should be next in line.

Device support makes Vuze a very compelling option for media-heavy torrent downloaders, especially less technically savvy types that don't want to be bothered with having to convert files after downloading.

To try it out, grab the new version from Vuze's download page.

[via TorrentFreak]

ScreenToaster adds support for YouTube uploads, MOV downloads

ScreenToaster
ScreenToaster is a web-based screencasting utility. You just fire up the web page, hit record, and ScreenToaster launches a Java applet that lets you record audio and video of anything happening on your desktop. It's great for recording tutorials, presentations, or showing off your video game skills to friends.

Today the ScreenToaster team launched a few updates that make the service even more useful. First, users can now automatically upload HD screencasts directly to YouTube from ScreenToaster.com. Second, you can download videos in MOV format for editing on your desktop.

There's also a new beta API available that lets web publishers incorporate ScreenToaster with their web sites. You can let your visitors record and publish videos directly on your site using the API.

These are just the latest new features. ScreenToaster also recently added the ability to download SWF files, set privacy levels, and share videos via email, social networking sites, or social bookmarking pages.

Use Google Voice with your own phone number? Not yet, but maybe soon

Google Voice phone number porting
Google Voice, or the service formerly known as GrandCentral, assigns users a single phone number that you can give out to friends, colleagues, enemies, or just about anybody else. You can then link that number to your existing phone lines so that when a user calls it will ring your home, work, and/or cellphone. You can set permissions so that calls from some numbers will always go straight to voicemail. And you can get text transcriptions of voicemails emailed to you.

There's just one problem - you have to give everybody a new phone number. To date there's been no way to make your current number the primary number for Google Voice or GrandCentral. But it looks like that feature could be coming soon.

In the Google Voice help section, there's an area labeled "Porting your number." Unfortunately, right now the page says that you can't actually do this... yet. But it does state that Google is looking into this option and the company is asking for feedback. So if you like the idea of using Google Voice but don't like the idea of reprinting your business cards, go ahead and send Googel a note to let them know what you think.

[via Lifehacker]

Newssift: business-oriented news trend browser

Newssift is a way to gauge the media buzz around various business topics, companies and people. It analyzes qualitative data from a whole bunch of news sources, and lets you browse stories on a subject and see if the overall media vibe is positive or negative. It strikes me as a sort of Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes for the business world.

Newssift has a search feature, and also a list of popular topics to browse from the front page. You can combine more than one topic into a single search, and save searches if you want to keep up to date on them. Newssift also shows a breakdown of the sources on a specific topic, so you know how many stories are coming from newspapers, TV or blogs. I'm not in the financial field, so I'm not sure how useful a tool Newssift is, but it's definitely an interesting experiment.

Thomson releases mp3HD lossless codec and toolkit

Lossless audio codecs (like FLAC and ALAC) have been around for a while, but Thomson's new mp3HD format might be the one that finally achieves mainstream adoption.

mp3HD has one key advantage over other lossless formats: it's fully backwards compatible, meaning you should be able to play encoded files back on any device that supports mp3.

Bitrates are similar to FLAC, ranging from 500 to 900kbps. The average bitrate for pop/top 40 music comes in at 876kbps which produces a 26mb file for a four-minute track.

One more thing mp3HD has going for it is that it utilizes something most users have grown accustomed to: the .mp3 file extension. Familiarity means a lot to the average user - try asking some of your non-techy friends what an .ogg file is. Using the extension that has become synonymous with digital audio files should improve mp3HD's chances of achieving mainstream adoption.

Thomson has also released a command line enocder and decoder for Windows and Linux, as well as a Winamp plugin for mp3HD.

Browser Ball - Time Waster

Browser Ball is an experimental time-waster that lets you spawn new browser windows and throw a beach ball around them. You can set up as many new windows as you want, and the ball will bounce off their edges and cross between overlapping windows, which makes for satisfying free-form play.

The most appealing part of Browser Ball isn't the game itself, but the concept of using multiple windows to create a playing surface. Sure, you can blow off steam by bouncing a beach ball around, and it's actually kind of addictive, but this could also be a fun way to create simple environments for browser-based games. Your desktop is the playing field, and that's pretty neat.

Skype goes corporate, allows Skype calls from SIP phones

Skype for SIP
Skype has launched a new beta service that allows businesses using SIP telephone systems to make and receive Skype calls on their regular telephones. No headphone and computer needed.

Skype for SIP beta works a lot like Skype, in that you can call and receive calls from other Skype users for free, and pay Skype rates to make calls to domestic and international land lines or cellphones. Customers can also purchase Skype phone numbers that people can use to call in from traditional phones.

The service is aimed at medium to large sized businesses tht use PBX phone systems with Session Initiation Protocal, or SIP. Because the service hooks right into the PBX, users will be able to use their phone hardware to do things like route calls, engage in conference calls, record calls, and record voicemail.

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