Tracking Flight Cancellations Due To Iceland Volcano

If you have read any newspaper or watched any news channel in last 3-4 days, you are sure to know about the disaster in Iceland and its implications. A volcano has erupted in Iceland but the ash cloud formed by the lava has moved so fast across Europe that thousands of flights have been canceled due to potential of engines being harmed.

NewYorkTimes has designed an interactive tool that tracks flight cancellations based on airports and countries. A nice colorful map shows you which airports have all flights canceled (marked in red), which airports have some flights canceled (marked in yellow) and which airports are open (marked in green). Below the map, is a complete list of European airports that have been affected along with their airport code and a recently updates status. Clicking on any of the airport takes you directly to their website where you can read latest news.

It is a great tool to track impacted airports and flights through this natural disaster that has already caused airlines billions of dollars.

Iceland Flights

Iceland Flights

XAuth: A New Social Sharing Service To Take On Facebook Connect

With 400 Million users and a FacebookConnect button on thousands of websites, Facebook is slowly monopolizing the way people do social sharing. Not any more. Meebo, the company behind Meebo Bar and web-based chat platform is introducing a new way for people to share links.

Instead of giving users 10, 15 or 20 top social bookmarking sites to choose from, XAuth will find out what services the site visitor uses and prompt them to log-in so they can share stuff with friends on those networks. It completely eliminates the need to guess is visitors to a site would be more interested in Digg or Reddit or StumbleUpon. What makes XAuth seriously competitive to FacebookConnect is the fact that Google, MySpace and Yahoo! have already joined in.

XAuth

This is how XAuth would work. When a visitor comes to Techie-Buzz, XAuth will ping all participating social networks like MySpace and Yahoo! and Google Buzz to see which of these services are used by the visitor. Whichever services return a positive reply, will be displayed to the user. For Meebo, it provides another opportunity to display more ads and make some money. For other networks who will opt-in, it will just provide a way to counter the growing share of FacebookConnect on social sharing.

There are ofcourse privacy implications because not every user would want every website in the world to know what social networks it uses. For example, if a NSFW or adult website implements the XAuth system, it can also get information about the social networks you use, something most of the people would not like due to privacy concerns.

[Image Credit: VentureBeat]

PicGhost: Edit, Resize and Watermark Images In Bulk

There are many tools that let you resize or watermark your images but very few that let you do both. PicGhost is an online tool that lets you edit images, resize them and add watermark to them in bulk. The images can either be uploaded from your computer or from the web.

Once the images are selected, you can specify a custom width and height or resize them to match the smallest or the largest image. You can also choose from one of the many recommended sizes to quickly resize the images. The option to lock the aspect ratio maintains the proportionality of your images.

PicGhost

The tool also lets you add a text or image watermark to your images. You can either upload the watermark image from your computer, or enter the text to display. Custom selection of font, font size and color let you customize the look of your watermark. You can also choose the alignment of the watermark on your images or have it tiled. Once the images are edited, you can preview them before downloading them as a single zip file.

PicGhost

Techie Buzz Verdict:

PicGhost is a great multi-purpose image editor and resizer that saves a lot of time and effort. The interface is intuitive and the the functionality is simple.

Rating: 4/5

Zynga Could Be Worth $5 Billion Now

ZyngaPeople often think what 237 Million monthly active users mean for the popular social gaming company Zynga. Well, according to some equity analysts, the traffic, monthly revenue and some other metrics mean Zynga is worth around $5 Billion right now. The report was recently released by analysts at SecondaryShares.com and   claims that each Zynga share would fetch $15 if it were to go IPO right now.

Currently, Zynga is a privately-held company and the shares are traded by accredited investors at places like the SecondaryMarket at $9 per share. Analysts think that with projected $500 Million revenue for the current year and cross-marketing opportunities Zynga has, the revenues might go as up as $1.6 Billion in next few years. These assumptions are based on an estimated $2.25 revenue per Monthly Active User. If Zynga continues at the projected growth rate, it may very well be worth up to $15 Billion by 2015.

The assumptions are also , quite heavily. based on the numbers that Chinese social gaming company Tencent brings in. It is also interesting to note that Zynga was the #2 merchant for PayPal in 2009 and owns 6 of the top 7 games on Facebook. However, with Facebook as well as Farmville about to reach the peak of their popularity soon, it would be quite difficult for Zynga to maintain the same growth rate in coming years. Still, Zynga is one of the best examples of how something as casual as social games can turn into a very serious business.

The complete report can be downloaded here.

Is Yahoo! Really Buying FourSqaure?

FourSquareFourSquare, the popular location-based social network, is probably only rivaled by Twitter when it comes to growth in early years. With millions of users checking-in daily, it is the hottest property around. BusinessInsider reports that Yahoo! deal-makers are talking about buying FourSqaure for $100 Million. The story which is quite vague on details reads

“Yahoo’s M&A deal-makers are deciding right now whether or not to buy super-hot location-based startup Foursquare for ~$100 million, says a source close to bankers involved in Foursquare’s current fund-raising efforts.”

But with some of the biggest VCs (Khosla and Accel) fighting to invest in FourSqaure at a valuation of $80 Million, the sale price of $100 Million doesn’t sound a really good deal. Moreover, with no comments from Dennis Crowley, FourSqaure founder, or Yahoo!, it seems more probable that the whole deal is just an effort by the investment bankers to sweeten the $80 Million valuation.

Dennis Crowley’s first project was Dodgeball, a Twitter-like service that was bought by Google in 2005. Dennis claims he only sold it because of the lack of funding. This, however, isn’t the case with FourSqaure and with the current growth and popularity FourSqaure enjoys, the deal would be a very cheap bargain for Yahoo! but a very unfortunate one for Dennis.

Finland Postal Service Will Open, Scan and Send Mails Electronically

Postal service in Finland, it seems, has had enough of sending postmen out in freezing temperatures and on long routes. In order to be more time and energy efficient, they will now open the letters, scan them and send them electronically to recipients. Currently, the program is in a trial mode and 126 households and 20 businesses are participating.

The message would be sent to a secure digital mailbox that can only be accessed by the original recipient. An email and mobile phone alert would also be sent informing the recipient about new mail. The exercise of opening and scanning the mail would take place in specially secured premises where the staff is bound by confidentiality obligations.

The program aims at reducing CO2 emissions and the number of employees used to distribute mail in the scattered population of one of the coldest countries in the world. The trial program starts on April 12th and will continue through the end of the year. However, despite all the claimed social, economical and environmental benefits, the program is being heavily debated by people who think that it would compromise the privacy. People are going as far as to suggest that this program will be used to spy on the confidential communication.

Do you think it will work in Finland or elsewhere in the world? Or is it too impractical due to privacy and other issues?

HP Slate To Have a Faster Processor, More Storage and Two Cameras

With the whole world drooling for the recently launched Apple iPad, HP is trying to assure its employees, through an internal presentation, that HP Slate wouldn’t be anything less than competitive. As Engadget reports, HP Slate will have a 1.6 GHz processor compared to iPad’s 1 GHz, and the minimum storage would be 32 GB compared to iPad’s 16 GB.

HP Slate will also have an SD/SDHC.SDXC Card Reader providing up to 12 GB of extra storage for all those movies and songs. It will run on the very successful Windows 7 Home Premium edition and will have a VGA Webcam. While Webcam and SD Card give a big advantage to HP Slate, the smaller screen, lower-performing battery and an extra 50 bucks would make it difficult for HP to win the hearts.

Some other specs also include a 1 GB RAM, USB Port, a 1024 x 600 multi-touch display, an extra 3MP outward facing camera and an HDMI outlet. The whole list of specs is displayed below via Engadget.

Over all, iPad might be the better looking one of two, but when it comes to functionality and possible integration with other devices such as Computers and Mobile Phones, I believe HP Slate would be better off.   What do you think? Would you wait for an HP Slate or are rushing to get an iPad right now?

aMSN: An MSN Messenger Clone That Is Better Than The Original

To start with, aMSN is an exact clone of MSN Messenger offering the same functionality and even the same look and feel. It lets you chat, transfer files, arrange contacts in groups, save chat logs, set automated away messages, do conferencing, use web cam and almost all the other good stuff that the original MSN Messenger allows you to. However, there are many features that make this clone almost better than the original MSN:

  • Multi OS Support. Works with Windows, Mac OS, Linux and even Nokia N900.
  • Multi language support: currently in over 40 languages.
  • Multi-account sign in.
  • Over 25 different skins to choose from.
  • Much lighter and quicker to install than MSN.
  • Lots of third-party plug-ins to customize the functionality.
  • Time stamping and tabbed chat windows.
  • Dual display pictures.
  • You can create your own plug-in.

MSN Messenger Clone

These are just some of the features that, to me, make aMSN a much better candidate to use than the original MSN Messenger. Of course there are other uses of it too for example if your school/office doesn’t allow you to install MSN or if the original MSN messes up your OS. To me, the simple fact that it is such a light-weight alternative is good enough to make the switch.

Download aMSN here. [Via ilovefreesoftware]

Convert One Hyper-Link Into Many

Hyper-links probably have a history as old as the internet. They are used almost in every article, blog post or website pretty heavily to point the user to a different web page. They work very well indeed, but how about a situation when you want to point your reader to multiple web sites. Traditionally you would create multiple hyper-links for them since it is the norm.

Butns is a new web service that is trying to revolutionize the way hyper0links work. It allows you to hide multiple hyper-links under one. For example, instead of saying “Check out Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Bing and Twitter” you would say, check out these websites”.

These multiple hyper-links are called butns and can be easily generated at butns.com. Just start by entering the word you want to turn into hyper-links and then choose a style for your hyper link. You can have it underlined, double underlined, bold or even dotted. After that, specify the hyper-links you want to include in your butn; you can choose from many popular URLs or enter a custom one. Once done, butns will generate a code for your hyper-link that can be pasted on your website or blog.

It may take a couple of minutes more to do than the traditional hyper-links, but it will definitely save some screen real-estate and make your website look good.

Multiple Hyper-Links

Browse YouTube Comment-Free With This Chrome Extension

Millions of views on a video is okay but even a few comments can make it annoying for some people. YouTube does have an option to block comments in works but how about if you can do it more easily. If Google Chrome is your browser of choice, there is a great extension that can block all the YouTube comments for you.

Once you have installed the extension from here, browse YouTube like you normally do and you won’t even notice that the comments section has completely disappeared. The extension works seamlessly without making it obvious that the comments have actually been blocked. In addition to keeping out the useless banter between users, blocking the comments also makes the page shorter and hence easier to scroll.

Chrome Extension To Block YouTube Comments

The extension was introduced very recently so might have a few bugs but overall seems to be a very useful and productive add-on. If you are looking for some more useful Chrome extensions, here are some really good ones that we have covered in the past. On the other hand, if you are a Firefox user and want to manage YouTube comments better, here is a great add-on for that.