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

TwitweeClock: A Clock That Cuckoos For Specific Tweets

Twitter has been used in all sorts of amazing things. The latest one is a clock that cuckoo’s everytime a tweet matching your query comes in. This clock called TwitweeClock has been designed by Haroon Baig, a communication designer from Germany.

You can set the TwitweeClock to cuckoo anytime a tweet with your user name or a specific hashtag comes in. For example, in the video below Haroon demonstrates how the TwitweeClock cuckoos when any tweet carried the word TwitweeClock. It is a great tool to be used in emergencies or in situations where you are expecting a critically important tweet but cannot be around your computer or mobile phone.

Once the clock cuckoos, the incoming tweet can be read on a small screen attached to the clock. The screen can also be used to scroll through previous tweets that have come in through to TwitweeClock. Here is some other information on how Haroon put this together:

From a technical point of view the clock consists of a touch screen display with a controller board and a wifi dongle, that is distributed as an open source/ open hardware platform with a linux operating system by Chumby Industries. On the device there is a Flash Lite Player installed, a flash runtime for mobile devices from Adobe. A custom built widget for the Twitwee Clock connects to the Twitter API to receive new tweets. The mechanic of the cuckoo is controlled by the Arduino Board.


Via FlowingData

Pakistani Court Orders To Ban Facebook Over Controversial Caricatures

It seems like nothing is going right for Facebook at this time. In addition to the privacy havoc, user complaints and a movie ridiculing its founder, Facebook is now facing a complete country-wide ban in Pakistan. The order to ban Facebook came from a Pakistani Highcourt when Facebook failed to take an initiative in acting against a controversial group that invited people to draw Mohammad’s cartoons.

Interestingly, the group inviting people to draw cartoons only has 42,000 members while the group that is asking Facebook to take action against this has 58,000 members. This however, has failed to get Facebook’s attention. After lots of protests and boycott-Facebook campaigns online, people also gathered on the streets of Pakistan to push Facebook for an action. When disappointed, users appealed the Government to intervene and as a result the ban was issued.

Right now when somebody in Pakistan logs on to Facebook.com, they see a blank page with the message “This site is restricted”. Facebook currently has over 1.8 million users in Pakistan, which may not sound that large of a number but given the tremendous growth Facebook is experiencing in that region, Facebook cannot afford to loose that userbase.

However, it is very probable that the ban will not be permanent. Lot of users in Pakistan are already angry and think that this will only create more hype of the issue. Previously, Pakistan has placed similar bans on YouTube and Blogger.com which were soon revoked.

[Image Credit Dawn]

BestBuy’s Movie Download Service Ready To Launch

BestBuy will provide the service under the brand name CinemaNow. The service will allow users to download latest movies to their connected TV sets, Blue-Ray players and computers at a pay-per-download price. The service is expected to launch by the end of the month and will be powered by Sonic Solutions.  Rentals for new movies will be around $2-$4 while complete purchase would be somewhere between $10 to $20 depending on the title.

Unlike Netflix, the service will not offer any subscription based plans. The CinemaNow.com website by Sonic that currently already offers movie downloads will also be relaunched under the new ownership with a much more user-friendly interface.  This will put BestBuy in direct competition with Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, fighting out a market which hasn’t been able to bring in much money yet. Walmart tried a similar thing recently by acquiring Vudu but hasn’t been able to make a big impact in the industry yet.

The only two things that can help BestBuy take over this market is offering latest titles and providing the service on a wide array of devices. Theoretically, BestBuy shouldn’t have a problem with either of these factors and if BestBuy can offer the service on a large number of devices that would make it different than services like Netflix and Hulu that only work on a limited number of devices.

Hotmail To Launch a Massive Overhaul This Summer [Screenshots]

With Gmail taking over the world, Hotmail guys don’t want to sit in the back seat and do nothing. As a result, Dick Craddock of Hotmail announced in a blog post today that Hotmail is being re-invented and the new version will be launched sometime this summer.

The post goes into lots of details about users’ needs and the changes Hotmail is making to meet those needs, but here is a quick summary:

Hotmail Highlights: As soon as you log into your Hotmail inbox, you’ll see a summary of messages such as email from contacts, social updates e.t.c.

Email categories: Even within your inbox, you will see tabs like From Contacts, Social Updates and From Groups.

Sweep: Sweep is more like  Rules or  Filters in Gmail. You can sweep email in bulk from inbox to folders or set rules to do it for new mail as well. You can also do it for your Gmail and Yahoo! mail accounts that have been integrated to Hotmail.

Photos & Documents: In addition to viewing photos right in your inbox, Hotmail will now use the Office web apps to let you open any Word, Excel or Powerpoint within your inbox as well.

Videos: Watch a video from YouTube or Hulu directly in your inbox.

In addition to these, the new Hotmail will also offer a better syncing with your mobile phone, enhanced account protection, sub-folders, contact management, multiple email account and full session SSL. More details and discussions of these and more features is available at HotmailPreview.com.

Over all, the changes are great for Hotmail users but there is absolutely nothing in these offerings that Gmail already does not offer. Hotmail can definitely say they will be better than their current state but I think they would still be in no comparison to Gmail.

ISParade Makes a Cute Parade Animation Of Your Twitter Timeline

There are hundreds of tools that let you view your Twitter timeline and do all sorts of fancy things on Twitter. ISParade, however, is the most fun app to view Twitter. Instead of showing your friends and their tweets as text, everything is converted into a very cute animation parade with some really up beat background music.

To start, just enter a Twitter username or a keyword and ISParade will convert those tweets and their users into a marching band parade. Each user is represented by an animated guy with profile picture as his head and the tweet popping up as a bubble. Just sit back and enjoy the show! You can turn off the music anytime pr even take a screen capture for your blog or mobile phone with the built-in photo capture tool.

It is undoubtedly one of the coolest Twitter apps around.

[Via Digital inspiration]

Extend MS Office 2010 Trial Version For 180 Days

If your trial period of 30 days has run out on the latest Microsoft Office version 2010, don’t sweat. Trial extender lets you renew your trial period for another 30 days and you can repeat the drill up to 5 times. That comes to a total of 180 days of using latest MS Office for free. Trial Extender is based on a built-in feature so we assume it is safe and legal to use.

You do have to have a .NET framework installed on your machine but other than that there are no restrictions and no strings attached. The Trial Extender can be downloaded here. Hopefully in 6 months you would have had enough trial of the software and would have made a decision to buy it or not. This latest version of MS Office offers some great new features and we have already told you about some really good tips and tricks to optimize the software.

Extend Office 2010 Trial

Facebook Served 176 Billion Ad Impressions In First Quarter

Irrespective of all the issues that continuously surround Facebook, it is growing beyond all expectation. The userbase is about to reach 500 Million and according to ComScore, Facebook served the largest number ad impressions to US based internet users in first quarter of this year. The 176 Billion impressions that Facebook served in the 3 month period represents 16.2% of the total ad impressions served to the US based internet users.

Facebook was followed by Yahoo! with 132 Billion impressions while Microsoft sites only managed to serve a meager 60 Billion impressions representing less than 6% of the total market share. The total number of impressions for Q1 in 2010 went up to 1.1 Trillion which is 15% more than the same quarter of previous year. This includes static and rich media ads but does not include video ads (no wonder YouTube didn’t make it to the list).

Over all, these impressions cost $2.7 Billion which brings the average CPM to $2.48. Out of the 1.1 Trillion impressions, around  2.4% or 26 Billion ads were of AT&T followed by Verizon, Scottrade and Experian Interactive. The 15% growth witnessed in the last quarter is a strong sign of recovery for online display ads market which slipped into a recession in late 2008. If the growth continues, the US market alone will amount up to 4.5 Trillion impressions for the full year of 2010.

OpenBook Lets You Search Public Facebook Updates

With Facebook still trying to deny the privacy risk these new settings expose users to, OpenBook is a strong evidence of how screwed up Facebook’s privacy policies are. It is a simple search engine that lets you search Facebook updates that have been made public. These updates are from people who are either not smart enough to understand these new privacy settings or brave enough to share their status updates with the world.

OpenBook is to Facebook what PleaseRobme was to FourSquare. The only difference is that FourSquare hardly has a million users while Facebook has close to 500 Million. A simple search on “going out” tells you how many Facebook users will leave their houses unattended tonight and where they will be. The website even lists some latest searches to show you what people have been looking for. If you are worried about your privacy, and you should be, you can search OpenBook to make sure none of your status updates are showing up publicly. If they are, you can change your privacy settings.

OpenBook is yet another example that proves how messed up Facebook’s privacy settings are. As some people may argue, users have the choice to opt-out of these settings but is that so easy for a 50 year old non-English speaker to tweak around these now-complicated settings? Specially when they are changing almost every week!

[Via Ghacks]

Groupon Acquires CityDeal, Expands To 18 European Countries

Groupon, the much talked about daily deal website has acquired its European clone called CityDeal. This acquisition will expand Groupon from US and Canada to 18 more countries including UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. This truly reflects the strong funding base Groupon has and reiterates its valuation of being a $ 1 Billion company.

Mashable reports that CityDeal was founded by the same people who earlier formed Alando, a clone of eBay which was later acquired by eBay. CityDeal has 600 employees and will continue to operate as usual until the transition completes. There is no word yet on how much Groupon paid to CityDeal and what were the terms of the payment, but with a recent funding round of $135 Million, we definitely know that Groupon has deep enough pockets to pay a good price.

Groupon uses power of the group to bring a great deal every day to major cities across the US. It is a win-win situation for both the businesses selling their products at a discount as well as the hundreds of people who buy the product at a much lower than regular price. Groupon has been growing pretty rapidly and with this step towards global expansion, they are bound to have an effect on how online retailing works.

Hollywood Is Making a Movie About Mark Zuckerberg

With all the heat Facebook’s founder is already taking over the privacy issues, being depicted in a Hollywood movie is the last thing he would want. The movie called  The Social Network will depict Mark Zuckerberg as a sex maniac and portray a fantasized version of how and why he created Facebook.

The movie is based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionares and has a budget of 40 Million pounds. The movie is supposed to be a comedy one but will surely add to the ridicule Mark Zuckerberg is already a target of. The movie is produced by Kevin Spacey and is expected to be released this October. The film claims several things about Facebook’s history that might or might not be completely accurate but it definitely sounds like a fun thing to watch.

Mark’s role will be played by Jesse Eisenberg while his co-founder Sean Parker will be played by Justin Timberlake. More details about actual scenes of the movie are available here. A few years ago people were comparing Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates or even Steve Jobs but I think recent events have shown that he is not even taken seriously let alone being a tech legend

ZapShares Protects P2P Users From Copyright Infringement

ZapShares is a very interesting software based on a very simple idea. Whenever you download content through a Peer-toPeer (P2P) client like uTorrent or LimeWire, the software automatically also starts uploading the content hence distrubuting to other users without the content owner’s permission. This makes you liable for copyright infringement.

If you have ZapShares installed, it simply puts all the downloaded content into a secure vault hence making it impossible to upload/distribute to other users and saving you from potential legal problems. Well, a big assumption in this case is that you have the right to download the content in the first place because if you don’t, you are getting involved in copyright infringement right there.

ZapShares

In addition to this, ZapShares also protects you against several types of malware that creep into your system via these P2P files. It scans your system for these threats and clean them. ZapShares also makes sure that you or any other user of your computer do not accidentally start sharing content on a P2P network. Over all its a great and very useful software but will it really protect you from the copyright infringement lawsuits? I am not too sure!

[Via iLoveFreeSoftware]

FreebieGeni Is a Search Engine For Free Stuff

Love free stuff? Forget Google and check out FreebieGeni. It is a search engine exclusively indexing free giveaways found on the internet. It scans tons of websites for free stuff and lists them for you so you don’t have to spend hours on useless websites, blogs and forums trying to find freebies.

You can browse through the recently listed freebies or explore deals in around 60 different categories ranging from food and clothing to software and blogs. Still not finding what you are looking for? Use the search feature to quickly scan all the freebie listings for your specific keywords. You can even restrict the search by category.

Freebie Geni

If you are wondering how to tell if a free giveaway is really worth it, check the rating next to each deal. This user based rating system indicates how good a deal is and lets you rate deals as well. However, since there is no accountability (one person can rate a deal multiple times), one should not be too dependent on these ratings. A very good way to keep up with the site is to simply add it to your feed reader and quickly glance through the updated freebies everyday to see if there’s anything that matches your interest.

Bing ReDesigns App For Windows Phones, Adds Turn By Turn Navigation

Bing app for Windows phones which was already pretty good just got even better. All the mobile phones that run a Windows Mobile OS got a nice redesign of the app today along with a voice based turn-by-turn navigation. The new design of the app focus on greater accessibility and displays common searches like ‘Movies’ and ‘Maps’ upfront. Besides these, users can also get a single-click access to  Maps, Directions, Local and  Favorites.

The turn-by-turn navigation feature is available for all Windows phones with a Windows Mobile version 6.x and is obviously powered by Bing Maps. Now while using the app to get directions, clicking on the ‘Navigate’ button will calculate your shortest route and guide you at each turn with voice alerts and visual arrows. You can also choose to avoid highways or tolls or simply get a list of directions.

However, the navigation feature is currently only available to users in the US. The navigation feature currently works with the following phones:

HTC FuzeHTC PureHTC HD2

HTC Tilt 2

HTC Touch Diamond 2

HTC Touch HD

HTC Touch Pro

HTC Touch Pro 2

Motorola Q9c

Samsung Jack

Samsung Omnia II

Samsung Propel

T-Mobile Dash 3G

Twitter Changes Algorithm For Trending Topics

If you were almost fed up of seeing Justin Beiber as the trending topic every day, you will find a refreshing change today. Twitter has finally tweaked their algorithm used for identifying trending topics and Justin Beiber is finally out of the league.

Instead of including topics that have been simply popular on daily basis, Twitter will trend topics that are immediately popular and that are more relevant to that particular moment. These topics will be more like “breaking news” instead of just being the “most discussed” topics. The algorithm is still a  work in progress so there might be some anomalies but it appears to give a much better picture of the Twitterverse as compared to the previous algorithm that constantly included topics like  Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga or  iPad. It will also serve as a more purposeful resource to people who often come to Twitter for news as they will get more fresh and dynamic information now.

This will also help prevent situations where a few users tweeted about a topic heavily so it could trend on Twitter. With the latest algorithm, getting a topic to trend won’t be as easy as before. Here’s an official statement from Twitter about the changed algorithm:

The new algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the most breaking’ breaking news from across the world. (We had previously built in this emergent’ algorithm for all local trends, described below.) We think that trending topics which capture the hottest emerging trends and topics of discussion on Twitter are the most interesting.

TweetDeck To Launch a Browser-Based Mobile Client

TweetDeck is one of the most popular clients for using Twitter. Besides the desktop version, TweetDeck has apps for almost all major mobile platforms but they don’t think that’s good enough. TweetDeck is now working on a browser-based mobile version that will be based on the recently hyped HTML5.

This will eliminate the need for developing and maintaining separate apps for different mobile platforms and would help a small company like TweekDeck focus more on innovation and quality rather than extensive development. TweetDeck CEO Ian Dodsworth also mentioned that a browser-based client will consume less battery power than a platform native app and will provide greater accessibility.

However, as ReadWriteWeb notes, a browser-based client means there would be no interaction with local apps or the local environment. If you are running it on the iPhone, you might not be able to use all the shortcuts and touch functions that you can use on the native app. Overall, it seems like users who want a better performance will go for the browser-based client but the users who are not willing to sacrifice the unique features of the app will stick to the platform native apps.