All posts by Tehseen Baweja

Tehseen likes to write about Internet tools that make life easier. Check out his blog at Ijaar.com for more good stuff or follow him on Twitter @tehseenbaweja

GoDaddy Will Stop Registering Domains In China

Looks like Google’s brawl with China does not have a limited impact. Google’s apparently courageous act of stopping censorship of results in China despite a possible loss of half a billion dollars, is encouraging other companies to stand up against the questionable regulations proposed by the Chinese government.

GoDaddy, the largest domain registrar in the world, says they will no longer register domains in China due to a new requirement for excessive personal information. Reportedly, a new domain registration applicant in China also has to provide a photograph now in addition to lots of other information. Authorities in China claim that these regulations will help in better monitoring, however, it is quite apparent that all China wants to monitor is anything said against it. There have been numerous incidents of websites being shutdown due to having questionable content without providing any detailed explanations to the website owner or hosting provider. Most of these websites had information about topics like Tianmen Square or Human Rights.

As more and more companies like Google and GoDaddy cease or limit their operations in China, the issue will take a much more serious political turn with the two governments getting involved. Google’s Sergey Brin along with thousands of other people are already requesting the US government to take this issue up with China at the government level.


10 Tech Wars of 2010

Technology can make your life easy or difficult, depending on your perspective. History has shown that difference of perspectives can grow huge and sometimes even lead to wars. The tech battles mentioned here do not involve fist-fights and explosive ammo, their weapons are legal reasoning, public support and user dependencies. Here are some of the biggest tussles of the tech industry in 2010:

Tech  Wara

1. Google vs. China:

To put it simply, China wants Google to censor search results but Google isn’t ready to. They say they would rather leave their $600 Million annual revenue coming from China than compromise on freedom of speech. China doesn’t seem to care and it is probable that Google will exit from China, but it’s not over till it’s over!

2. Android vs. iPhone:

There are other smart phones too but these two are the giants and want to take each other out. We have already seen lawsuits from Apple targeting HTC, the main manufacturer of Google’s Android based phones. So, even though it is a fight between two smart phones, it becomes very serious because of the companies behind them, Google and Apple.

3. iPad vs. Kindle:

Kindle was released quietly a couple of years ago and has gained a solid ground in the e-reader market. The iPad was launched with a lot of hype which turned into a let down for users. Launching soon, iPad will directly take on the Kindle and with both allowing third-party apps, the competition will be tough.

4. Flash vs. HTML5:

HTML5 slowly crept into many platforms this year and threatens to take over Flash. Adobe is naturally angry and heated arguments are ensuing all over between the advocates of HTML5 and that of Flash. Within next few months the picture might get a little clearer as to where Flash stands vs. the new technology. Specially with Apple shunning Flash from its upcoming iPads, Flash better get its act together to stay in the game.

5. FourSquare vs. Gowalla:

2009 saw a new breed of location based social networks. Top two players are FourSqaure and Gowalla and they are fighting it out pretty aggressively. When Gowalla launched an updated iPhone app, FourSqaure didn’t take many days to follow path.

6. PayPal vs. AliPay:

The parent companies of these two, eBay and AliBaba, fought it out a few years ago and AliBaba beat eBay hands down when it came to the Chinese market. Now, PayPal is trying to get a stronghold in the Asian market but it is up against the already established AliPay.

7. Battle of the Browsers:

Mozilla and Google are fiercely after cutting down Internet Explorers long established market share and they are coming pretty close. Google doesn’t care if somebody uses Firefox or Chrome (it supports both), all they want is Internet Explorer to disappear. A massive campaign was launched recently against IE6 but Microsoft’s latest browser IE8 seems to be pretty tough when it comes to security features.

8. Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office:

Google Docs was quickly adopted because of its Cloud based technology but with Microsoft also moving towards the cloud and a lot of third party add-ons available to the desktop based Microsoft Office, the competition is far from over.

9. YouTube vs. Viacom:

This one is not a true war of technologies but its outcome may change the online video industry forever. The case is going on in the court right now. Expect to hear some historical decisions within the next couple of months.

10. Appstore vs. Developers:

Apple has been notorious about its vague and ridiculous app store policies. Developers hate it, but as of yet they can’t seem to do anything about it. IPhone app store is still a pot of gold that want to get a chunk of. Will this change in the next few months? May be.

What do you think will be the outcome of each of these? What other tech wars can you think of that are going on in the current year?

How To Auto Mute Your Computer Sounds During Startup

System sounds in any OS are a great way of notification but can be pretty annoying and embarrassing if you are at a public place. Imagine starting your laptop in a crowded airport with all the loud sounds and beeps. Now you can turn these off with a simple freeware utility called AutoMute.

Once installed, AutoMute turn off the sounds during startup, log-off and even shutdown. Simply check the option to run it when Windows starts. You can also use it to control the annoying sounds when a screen saver starts. If for some reason you want to manually turn the sound on or off, just press Ctrl + F10. When the software is active, it will just give you a small beep before turning on the system sounds but you can change that in the preferences. So no more waking up your kids when you start your computer for work in the middle of the night.

Auto Mute

Overall, it is a very simple but handy utility that can save you in a lot of awkward and inconvenient social incidents.

Download AutoMute here. [Via ghacks]

Turn Your Keyboard In To a Virtual Piano

If you are one of those wanna be pianists that just can’t afford proper equipment yet, check out Virtual Piano. It is a free utility for Windows and Mac that turns your keyboard into a Piano. You can then play the piano through your mouse or your keyboard keys. Each key on the Piano is mapped to a button on your keyboard and the complete mapping is displayed once you click on the ? button or the Piano Notes button.

The utility also displays keys for popular songs from bands like Linkin Park and Guns and Roses so you can try playing those on your own. You can scroll through the selection of these songs by clicking on the respective up or down arrow. If you are a mouse person, you can de-activate the keyboard functionality. There are also several loop functions and pre-recorded pieces of music to give you a good background beat. Just press the space bar key to turn off the music at any time.

Virtual PianoVirtual Piano

Overall, it is a great tool for somebody who wants to learn music but doesn’t want to spend tons of money of expensive equipment. It also looks like a real piano so you get the feel of it when you play around. You can download the Virtual piano from here. The tool also comes as a MAC Widget that can be download here.

Hotmail Watcher: Firefox Add-on For New Email Notification

There are a number of browser and desktop based notifiers for Gmail but not many for Hotmail or Yahoo! email services. Hotmail Watcher changes that. It is a Firefox add-on that notifies you of new email in your Hotmail Inbox without leaving your current page.

Once you install it from here, you can configure it to check your email at your desired intervals which can be between   5 minutes and 4 hours. If you don’t like the automated checking of your inbox, there is an option to manually check it whenever you want. When Hotmail Watcher does find some new email in your inbox, it can notify you through a sound alert, display alert and/or a blink alert. As you can see, there are a number of customizations that can be done to suit your needs. The tool does not ask you for your Hotmail username and password but rather works based on cookies set by Hotmail. That means, after installing the add-on you will have to login to your Hotmail Inbox once.

Hotmail WatcherHotmail Notifier

We have seen a number of notifiers for Gmail but very few for Hotmail. However, for a person like me who is an active Gmail but a passive Hotmail user, this tool is much better than going to the Hotmail Inbox every time to see if there’s new mail.

The add-on can be installed here. [Via ghacks]

New Bing App For iPhone Has Tons Of New Features

Since the re-launch of Microsoft Search as Bing in summer 2009, it has been gradually increasing its market share. Bing doesn’t only work well on the web but also on your smart phones and with the revised iPhone app, Bing brings you a lot of new features along with improved browsing.

Similar to web, you can now share your search result by emailing them to anybody. If you like something you see on a website, just copy/paste the URL or bookmark it. Remember, you can also bookmark maps, directions, search terms and access all these bookmarks from your Bing homepage. Do you let your kids use your iPhone, use newly introduced parental controls so inappropriate searches cannot be done without a password. Besides that, you can also view/edit search history or turn on the private search option which doesn’t store any information about your web searches.

Bing Bookmarks

Bing options

Bing also introduces the explicit location setting that lets your iPhone find you or search interesting things nearby your location. All this do indicate that Microsoft is very serious about trying to get ahead of Google, even if its just on mobile phones. The implementation of some cutting edge features mostly based on user feedback definitely shows that they are heading in the right direction. Do you think Bing will able to beat Google at least in the mobile search market?

Google Analytics Will Allow Users To Opt-Out

Google Analytics is probably the most commonly used tool to monitor traffic on a website. However, it provides a lot of information to a web master that users may consider a breach of their privacy. For all those privacy-lovers, Google just announced its plan to let users opt-out of the Analytics.

This will be done through a browser based add-on or plugin and will prevent every website with Google Analytics from tracking the user. This move will definitely bring Google some much needed PR after the Google Buzz privacy fiasco. However, the number of users who will realize this and actually go through the pains of installing an add-on to opt-out will be so insignificant that it will make almost no difference to over all stats. Hence, a win-win situation for Google. The plugin is expected to be launched within the next few weeks.

This will also make Google stand out from all other analytic software unless they jump on the idea quickly enough.

Download Zemana AntiLogger For Free With 1 Year License

Discovering that your machine has a Key Logger installed can be a nightmare. Key Loggers are well-hidden pieces of malware that save anything you type and are one of the most commonly used tools for identity theft. The only way to save yourself from a Key Logger is having an AntiLogger installed on your machine. Zemana, is a popular AntiLogger that usually sells for $40 but is being given away for free this week only. Here is the link to download your free copy of Zemana and get a 1 year license.

The software runs of Windows XP, Vista and 7 and will actively identify and shutdown Key Loggers on your computer. Besides that, Zemana also looks for other types of trojan, spyware and malware and helps you in removing them from your machine. A freeware like Zemana is good to have in all cases, but if you have even a slight concern that somebody might be stealing your information, it is a must.

Zemana AntiLogger

Zemana will also warn you about apps that try to submit any information on the web but the fact that you can set rules for different alerts make managing it an easy job. Similar to other protection software, Zemana stores a log of all important events so you can review them later.

Download Zemana here.

[Via MyDigitalLife]

Hacker Takes Revenge By Disabling 100 Cars Using a Web Console

We have always seen this kind of stuff in movies but now it is turning into reality. Around 100 cars were disabled when a hacker breached into a web-based vehicle immobilization system that is generally used get attention of delinquent customers. Omar Ramos-Lopez is a former employee of Texas Auto Center who was let go a few weeks ago but decided to sought revenge by disabling cars sold by his former employer.

Omar’s account was terminated when he was fired, but he used another employee’s account to hack into the system and made the cars do weird stuff in addition of horns going on in the middle of the night. This was caught when after 5 days the company reset the passwords for all employee accounts. The suspect has been arrested and is facing charges. The immobilization system called Webtech Plus is developed by a Cleveland based company Pay Technologies.

Even though this incident is claimed to be one of its type, it clearly shows how vulnerable material objects become when they are controlled remotely. If a hack into a small company’s web console can make 100 cars do crazy things, imagine how vulnerable millions of cars would get if somebody manages to hack into a system like OnStar?

PayPal Betting Big On Eastern Markets

Despite all its recent problems in India, PayPal is sure Asian markets are the future. This is quite prominently reflected in company’s recent announcement to double its workforce in Asia from 1000 to 2000 employees. Most of the new hires (100 out of 1000) would be for PayPal’s regional headquarters in Singapore. Others will join offices in Taiwan, India, Australia, Japan, China and Hongkong.

However, this is not the only bit of news suggesting PayPal’s ambitious intentions for the Eastern markets. According to another report, PayPal has partnered with China UnionPay to fight the already established competitor AliPay. A Subsidiary of world’s most popular business network AliBaba, AliPay is already well established in the market and will not be an easy beast to tackle. Right now, AliPay has 300 Million users in China, three times more than what PayPal has. AliPay already does an average of $85 Billion worth of transactions each year compared with PayPal’s $9 Billion worth of transactions in the Asian market.

PayPal sees the future belonging to the east and it is trying hard to make a place but with a natural bias towards local alternatives, would companies like PayPal, eBay and Google succeed? We have already seen eBay losing to AliBaba and Google losing to Baidu. Let’s see if PayPal can achieve a different outcome for a change.

Twitter Tuesdays | Early Days Of Twitter

With over a billion messages posted, Twitter is one of the most popular social networks on the web. It has been exponential growth in last couple of years and has gone beyond the expectations of everybody. However, success doesn’t come without hard work and Twitter is a great example for that. It becomes clearly evident when we look at the early days of Twitter:

1. An Insider’s View of How Twitter Was Born:

Dom is one of the oldest team members at Twitter and was actually a part of Odeo, the parent company of Twitter. In this really insightful post he explains how Twitter came into existence and evolved through its early stages. He shares information on how Jack Dorsey got the idea and how Odeo gave it a chance to come up with something innovative.

2. Twitter Was Twttr at First:

Twitter got its present name a couple of months after the creation, before that, the founders referred to it as Twttr. Here are a couple of tweets from Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone to show that:

3. Twitter Was Born On March 21st 2006:

Jacks Dorsey has the oldest account on Twitter and his tweet was the first one ever.

4. Twitter Was Not a Unique Idea:

Dodgeball had the same idea and was started before Twitter, but they were surely lacking something because they gave up after a year.

5. TechCrunch Didn’t Like Twitter At First:

TechCrunch has written literally hundreds of posts about Twitter but their love for Twitter wasn’t always like this. In their first ever post about Twitter, there tone wasn’t too good and neither were their readers. Here are some earlier comments ever on TechCrunch about Twitter:

6. FiveLimes Was The First Product To Be Launched Via Twitter:

It is common for users to post about their new projects and businesses on Twitter but it wasn’t always so. Twitter was mostly used for personal updates and the first time somebody used it to announce their new project was the tweet about FiveLimes.

7. Ashton Kutcher Was First To Get Million Followers:

A lot of power users and celebrities have crossed this milestone now but Kutcher was the first to do so in April 2009.

These are some of the examples that illustrate the initial struggles faced by Twitter, after that, it has been a nice ride for them.

Tumblr Now Lets You Upload Videos

WordPress is a really great tool for full time blogging but if you are looking for a rather quicker and shorter blogging experience, nothing beats Tumblr. You can also think of Tumblr as a micro-blogging service but with plenty of features. You could always insert links, images, and audio to your Tumblr blog but the only way to add a video was to embed it using a service like YouTube or Vimeo.

Now, it seems like Tumblr just got their hands on a lot of extra bandwidth because they are allowing users to upload a video on their Tumblr blog right from their computer. Each video file can be up to 100 MB in size, however, should not exceed a 5 minute time limit. This is not bad for an average Tumblr user because it is primarily used for short content anyways. If you want to upload a video of more than 5 minutes you’ll just have to use a service like YouTube or Vimeo. Most of the videos you upload to Tumblr don’t need transcoding and as a result, appear in your blog right away.

Tumblr Video Upload

Recently, Tumblr has been quiet active in adding new features to their platform and with a multitude of Tumblr clients now available, it seems to be on the right path to become huge, though, it already isn’t bad with over 2 Million posts a day and 1 Billion pageviews each month.

[Via DigitalInspiration]

Android Gains One More Point In Android vs. iPhone War

As the battle heats up between two great mobile OS, anything and anybody can shift the balance. Recently, Android gained some more momentum by Tim Bray joining the team. Tim Bray, is a popular internet personality in addition to being the inventor of XML. He didn’t only join the Android team, he did it with a bang by telling the world what’s wrong with Apple and iPhone.

In a personal blog post, Tim Bray explains how his thinking completely aligns with Google and why he hates Apple due to its stringent yet vague policies and lack of freedom to developers. Going on with a list of things that make Android a much better philosophy than iPhone, Tim Bray clarifies that he will prove to Apple the impossibility of giving consumers the freedom of internet on their phones yet restricting their trivial activities and choices.

On the surface, it seems like Android is gaining support from all corners of the world, but deep inside many Apple critics admit the unmatchable technology Apple offers. For example, Tim Bray mentions:

The tragedy is that Apple builds some great open platforms; I’ve been a happy buyer of their computing systems for some years now and, despite my current irritation, will probably go on using them.

This definitely suggests that Apple can make an easy come back in the game by just making a few changes to its philosophy and attitude towards users and developers. They can definitely things make very difficult for Android if they start listening to their own kin.

Is Google Really Losing It?

When we talk about strong profits and increasing revenues, of course not! However, there is another front where Google has struggled on and off in the past few months; public image. Ryan Tate of Gawker media has written a very interesting post about Google’s increasing arrogance and delusions about themselves. He mentions six factors with incontestable examples and tries to show how Google, specially it’s leadership is becoming so full of itself.

Ryan provides plenty of examples demonstrating Google’s attitude towards disregarding users’ privacy and being ready to compromise on many fronts when it comes to making their products successful. For example, when the whole privacy fiasco happened with Google Buzz, Google’s attitude was anything but apologetic, in fact, Google’s product engineer for Buzz said

What we’re going to have to come to terms with is this stuff happening more. I honestly don’t think it’s a bad thing for people to be exposed to the issues this way.

Add this up with what Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO) said a few months ago and you would understand what user privacy means to Google:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

What makes Googlers so delusional about their brand is apparently the price of their stock. At least thats what it seems like based on a number of remarks by Google employees and Google’s CEO. However, what’s interesting about this issue is none of these examples, controversies or accusations involve Larry Page or Sergey Brin. Is it possible that the founders have left a lot to their CEO and executives? May be they need to step in once more to shake things up a bit and set Google on the right path again.

Google Wave Extensions Gallery Introduced

Google Wave may not have lived up to its hype but it is still used by millions of people. Today, Google announces the extensions gallery for Wave to enhance the user experience through various Google and third party created add-ons. The gallery can be accessed via the extensions link in the Wave navigation panel on the left hand side.

Google Wave Extensions Gallery

Goolge Wave Extensions

The gallery essentially lists waves containing links to extension installers. All these extensions use the Google Wave API. As the official blog post from Google indicates, the gallery might not be very pretty right now since it is just an initial version. If you are a developer and want to try your luck with a Google Wave extension, you can submit it for review using this link.

You can read complete details and instructions on how to use the installers here. The gallery would definitely make Google Wave users to find extensions they need without searching on Google or opening up a new web page. The gallery currently showcases 18 extensions but its bound to grow pretty rapidly. Do you think offering extensions can help Google Wave do a bit better than it has since it launched?