Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Caught Cheating in the SunSpider Benchmark?

Internet-Explorer-9-Cheats-Benchmark SunSpider is one of the commonly used artificial JavaScript benchmarks for measuring the efficiency of a browser’s JavaScript engine. With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft managed to pull off significant improvements, and leap frogged Firefox (which has already fired back with JagerMonkey) in the SunSpider benchmark. However, it appears that Microsoft might have resorted to cheating to achieve its considerable gains.

Rob Sayre, Mozilla’s Platform Engineer, was the first one to notice that something is fishy. He documented his observations in a bug report, and published it on his blog. The revelation was soon picked up the tech crowd at Hacker News, who further delved into the matter to dig up some compelling proof. It appears that Internet Explorer 9 is employing some optimizations that are specific to the math-cordic test on SunSpider. While it’s not illegal to come up with clever optimizations that improve performance, it’s important that they are applicable to a wide range of cases. Unfortunately in this case, even simple modifications to the benchmark code, like setting return to true, has been found to significantly alter the results returned by Internet Explorer 9.

It’s possible that this is just the result of an unreliable and narrow implementation of dead code optimization. However, if Internet Explorer is specifically targeting the SunSpider benchmark to work around its tests, then that is a probably a case of cheating.

(Image taken from www.ietestdrive.com)

Update: Rob Sayre has penned a new blog-post, in which he makes it pretty clear that he believes that Internet Explorer 9 is targeting the SunSpider benchmark.

Google Docs Goes Mobile: Adds Edit Support for Android, iPhone and iPad

If anyone believes in the power of the web, it’s Google. The Mountain View, California based internet giant has been one of the most vocal champions of web applications. So, it’s not surprising that some of the best web applications are from Google. Google Docs might be no match for Microsoft Office’s complexity, but it’s certainly good enough for many organizations. Unfortunately, Google Docs is restricted to the desktop. Mobile users can open documents in their browser, but can’t edit them. However, this is about to change.

Google has announced that it will begin rolling out edit support for English users of Docs over the next few days. Supported devices include Android phones (Froyo or newer), iPhone (iOS 3 or newer) and iPad. Android users will also be able to take advantage of the inbuilt voice recognition feature. Check out the video below to see Google Docs Mobile in action.

Reddit Revolts Against TSA’s New Enhanced Pat-Down Search

If you are an American citizen, be weary, be very weary of the airports. TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) new enhanced security protocol grants screeners the right to subject anyone to a full body backscatter scan. Not only is the scanner shockingly detailed, but also injurious to health.

TSA
via Don’t Scan Us

Of course, you can opt out. However, in that case you will have to endure an enhanced pat-down search during the course of which the screener is free to palm your privates. Here’s a particularly graphic account shared by a popular blogger:

She then moved in front of my (sic) and touched the top and underneath portions of both of my breasts. She did not tell me that she was going to touch my breasts. She then felt around my waist. She then moved to the bottoms of my legs. She then felt my inner thighs and my vagina area, touching both of my labia. She did not tell me that she was going to touch my vagina area or my labia…

…I stood there holding my baby in shock. I did not move for almost a minute. I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official. I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent. I shook for several hours, and woke up the next day shaking.

Even as the horror stories continue pouring in, Americans are beginning to collectively raise their voice against TSA’s invasive procedures, and for this they are resorting to the internet. Reddit is trying to gain the attention of the mainstream media by collectively tweeting the following:

@cnn Mr. President: Would you send Michelle/Sasha/Malia through TSA screening? Naked photos or invasive genital groping, you get to pick.

Reddit Floods CNN

Others have decided to mark Thanksgiving as National Opt out day to gain the attention of lawmakers. Campaigns are also being organised through Twitter.

How do you feel about TSA’s new security measures? Is violating the dignity of a human being the only way to ensure safety? Is this really needed?


via We Won’t Fly

Google Launches Hotpot: Rate and Recommend Places with Your Friends

Location based services are quite the rage these days. Although, recent data suggests that the market for these services might be shrinking (instead of growing), most companies remain bullish about the future of location oriented services. Google already has a couple of location based services like Latitude and Places. Now, the internet giant has launched Hotpot, which is a social recommendation service built on top of Places.

Google Places is quite good at aggregating data on local restaurants, bars, hotels etc. Hotpot uses the very same data and makes it more personal. Not only can you read up about restaurants in your vicinity, but you can also view what your friend’s think about them and add your own rating.

Google-Hotpot

Interestingly enough, although Hotpot is a Google service, it doesn’t utilize your Google profile. This is probably due to potential privacy pitfalls. All reviews you submit to Hotpot are public. Anyone can read your review and check out your Hotpot profile. However, only friends will be able to see your Google profile.

There are already established players like Urbanspoon and Around Me. However, as always, Google’s biggest advantage is its ubiquity. Once Hotpot matures, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it baked into Android devices in some form. For now you can head over to www.google.com/hotpot to check it out yourself.

Update: Google has updated Maps for Android to add Hotpot integration.

Facebook Gains Control of Fb.com: More Proof of the Impending Launch of Facebook Mail

Yesterday we reported that Facebook might be preparing to unleash its own Gmail killer. Developed under the codename Project Titan, Facebook’s super-secret project is expected to see the light of day on Monday.

According to rumors, all Facebook users will be offered @facebook.com email addresses. This raises the question, how will Facebook differentiate between employees and users? DomainNameWire’s revelation that Facebook has seized control of the fb.com domain name offers a possible answer. Facebook acquired the domain name in September and began using its nameservers yesterday. It’s extremely likely that Facebook will be offering employees @fb.com email addresses.

Even more interestingly, mail.facebook.com (as well as mail.thefacebook.com) is redirecting to an Outlook web app login page. However, this doesn’t mean that the new Facebook email service will be using OWA as its front-end. A more likely scenario is that Facebook is just using Microsoft Exchange to handle employee email accounts.

Linux Mint 10 Julia Now Available for Download

The latest incarnation of Linux Mint, the popular Ubuntu based distro, is out. Linux Mint 10, which has been codenamed Julia, is based on Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat), and is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions.

Last month, we previewed the release candidate (RC) build of Julia. As in previous editions, the final build contains only minor fixes. In fact, if you have already installed the RC build, you don’t even need to download the new build. Simply applying all Level 1 and Level 2 patches from the update manager will suffice.

Linux-Mint-10

Aside from the upstream changes, the biggest change in Linux Mint 10 is the user interface. The Shiki theme has been replaced with a new metallic theme called Mint-X. Other changes include an improved mintMenu, software manager, update manager and upload manager.

[ Download Linux Mint 10 Julia ]

Facebook to Launch Email Service on Monday?

Facebook will launch a new webmail service on Monday that will offer every Facebook user an @facebook.com email address, if TechCrunch is to be believed. Rumors regarding Facebook’s secret Project Titan have earlier surfaced on numerous occasions; however, this time it might make an appearance for real.

Facebook

With more than 500 million users, Facebook is larger than Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and Gmail. Over the past few months, Facebook has beefed up its Photos and Events features, and launched a new location based check-in feature. It has already become an integral and indispensable part of life for millions around the world, and launching an email service will only strengthen Facebook’s grip.

Facebook’s growing dominance has earned it the ire of Google, who recently criticized the social network for trapping user’s personal information. If TechCrunch’s predictions regarding Facebook’s Monday event pans out, then Google better watch out. People might not need another webmail service, but if Facebook manages to integrate the new messaging system tightly with the main interface, it might find quite a few takers.

Yahoo! Mail and Messenger for Android Updated

Close on the heels of a major revamp of the webmail interface, Yahoo has updated its email and instant messaging apps for Android. “We’ve been pleased with the success of both Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger on the Android platform, but of course we never stop looking for ways to make the apps even better,” wrote Lee Parry, the Product Manager of Yahoo! Mail.

Yahoo-Mail-Messenger-Android

The major new features are:

Multiple-account support: Over the years, many of you have probably accumulated multiple Yahoo accounts for different purposes. Now, you can seamlessly manage all of them from the Yahoo! Mail app.

Contact sync: As the name suggests, you will now be able to sync your yahoo mail contacts with your phone.

Photo preview: The update makes Yahoo! Mail capable of displaying quick previews of images received as attachments.

Video Calling: The Yahoo messenger app now supports video calling along with photo and video sharing. However, you will need Android 2.2 along with Yahoo! Messenger Video Add-on to take advantage of the video calling feature.

[ Download Yahoo! Mail for Android | Download Yahoo! Messenger for Android ]

Google Steps Up Its Game Against Facebook: Calls It A “Trap”

Google might rule the roost today, but five years on the scenario might be very different. Facebook is amassing a treasure trove of data on users around the globe that might give it the competitive advantage it needs to take on Google, and Google is obviously aware of this.

Facebook

Earlier this week, Google updated its ToS (Terms of Service) to stop Facebook from importing contact data from Google (Gmail). Within a couple of days, Facebook found a way around this by encouraging users to manually download and then upload their contact information. This trick ensured that users could still import information from Gmail, without Facebook needing to directly access Google’s Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API.

As you might have guessed, Google isn’t too happy about this. After terming Facebook’s trickery as “disappointing”, Google is now resorting to a more direct approach to discourage users from importing data into Facebook.

Google is automatically displaying the following warning to all users who land on the contacts export page via Facebook:

Google-Facebook-Trap

Hold on a second. Are you super sure you want to import your contact information for your friends into a service that won’t let you get it out?

Here’s the not-so-fine print. You have been directed to this page from a site that doesn’t allow you to re-export your data to other services, essentially locking up your contact data about your friends. So once you import your data there, you won’t be able to get it out. We think this is an important thing for you to know before you import your data there. Although we strongly disagree with this data protectionism, the choice is yours. Because, after all, you should have control over your data.

Google’s motto has always been “Do No Evil”. Of late, critics have questioned Google’s dedication to that motto. However, Google obviously knows the value of being counted amongst the good guys. Even though it doesn’t want to provide Facebook free access to its social graph, it isn’t explicitly blocking its users from exporting their own data.

It will be interesting to see if this actually works. Casual users are notorious for not paying attention to messages like this. However, Google has definitely succeeded in highlighting the closed nature of Facebook, which has been criticized heavily in the past by privacy and data portability advocates. Well played Google.

Sony Ericsson Anzu – The Successor to Xperia X10?

Sony Ericsson has been surprisingly quiet about the successor to the Xperia X10, it’s current flagship device. Earlier on, there were rumours suggesting that the successor, bearing the codename Cliaro, will feature a 1.5 GHz TI OMAP4 processor. That bit of information obviously didn’t pan out. However, new information about Sony Ericsson’s next high-end device has leaked, and this time around we have pictures, loads of them.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-X12-Anzu-Back

The Xperia X10 blog has learned that the next flagship device is going by the codename Anzu, and is expected to be launched in Q1 2011. It will have a 4.3 inch display, HDMI output, front facing camera, and will be capable of capturing 1080p HD videos. Design wise it will be similar to the Xperia X10, but will be a lot thinner.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-X12-Anzu-Side

The best thing is that Sony Ericsson is expected to ship Anzu (possibly Xperia X12) with Gingerbread onboard. Sony Ericsson has been mauled for their inability to deliver timely updates for the current Xperia line of products. Thankfully, it appears that they have finally learned their lesson.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-X12-Side

The hardware specification is still a mystery. True HD video recording capability suggests that it will house a meaty processor; however, we will have to wait for the specifics. The Xperia X10 blog was also told that the display of the new handset is crisp, and the volume level of the loudspeaker has been significantly improved. The new handset might be launched simultaneously with the PlayStation Android phone that Sony Ericsson is currently developing.