Facebook Open Sources Presto for Munching Petabytes of Data

Facebook unveiled Presto, a SQL-on-Hadoop engine that it developed in-house, back in June this year. The SQL engine is capable of doing fast interactive analysis on the social networking site’s enormous 250-petabyte-and-growing data warehouse, with processing speed 10 times faster than Hive.

Today the company has open sourced Presto and the code was made available today under the Apache v2 license. According to Facebook, Presto is “ten times better” than alternatives such as Hive when it comes to CPU efficiency and latency for a large number of queries.

“It currently supports a large subset of ANSI SQL, including joins, left/right outer joins, sub-queries, and most of the common aggregate and scalar functions, including approximate distinct counts (using HyperLogLog) and approximate percentiles (based on quantile digest),” Martin Traverso, a software engineer at Facebook said.

Presto

Facebook initially relied on Hadoop MapReduce along with Hive, however, as users increased and its data kept multiplying, the approached seemed very slow. To overcome this issue, Facebook started the development of Presto in the fall of 2012 and was released to Facebook employees last spring. Facebook says that the engine is used by over 1000 employees, running over 30,000 queries on a daily basis.

So, who can use Presto? Well, if you’re a business with 750GB or more data, Presto could be the right choice for you, and Facebook estimates that the system could be relevant for such businesses.

Presto, unlike Hive, does not depend on MapReduce computing framework, which in fact has led to improved scheduling, says Facebook. The software is already being tested by a number of other large Internet services, namely AirBnB and Dropbox.

You can get the source code here.

 

Here’s What You Need to Do to Get a Custom Google Plus Profile URL

Ever since Google announced Google+, users have been craving for custom Google Plus profile URL, and now the wait has finally come to an end. Google+ users can grab a vanity URL for this profile and finally stop using third-party services like gplus.to

While a bunch of users are enjoying their Google Plus vanity URL, many users are still wondering why the option to get a vanity URL is still not available. Getting a custom URL for your Google Plus profile, Business Page, and Local Page requires some basic eligibility. Here’s what you need to in order to get ahead of the line:

Eligibility for User Profiles:

  • You should at least have 10 or more followers
  • Your account should be 30 days old or more
  • A profile photo is a must

Eligibility for Business and Local Pages:

  • Must be a verified local business
  • Must be linked to a website

If you meet the above eligibility you will be intimated by Google with a notification to create your Profile URL. Google also automatically suggests you a custom URL for your page or Profile, however, you can still opt a URL of your own choice using the provided option.

Google.com/+YourName

If you have requested for a change, Google will review your Request for the new custom URL and allot it for you if it is available and strictly meets the site’s Terms and Policies.

If you’ve met all the above criteria and still haven’t received the option to create a vanity URL for your profile, you just have to wait as Google is rolling out the feature in batches.

Instagram Starts Showing Ads

Instagram has started to display ads, starting with a sponsored photo of fashion brand Michael Kors, and this is how it looks:

Instagram's First Advertisement

Last month the company announced two categories — Sponsored Photos and Sponsored Videos, which has now started to appear on user’s feeds, promising user engagement with those brands they don’t follow or aren’t aware of.

The very first ad that popped up was a sponsored photo of a Michael Kors ladies’ watch, displayed on a table, with a caption stating “Pampered in Paris.” Instagram in a note said, “Michael Kors ran the first ad on Instagram this morning, targeting women in the US in a certain age range.” By late Friday, the sponsored photo had garnered more than 181,000 “likes”, along with some comments by unhappy Instagram users.

Instagram currently has about 150 million active users, and Facebook is quite positive in making a good revenue from Instagram. It is also said that Facebook is carefully adding magazine-quality photo ads to Instagram as it hopes to bring in revenue from the service without alienating users.

LG G2 Review

After playing catch-up for several years, LG Mobiles is finally in a position to take charge. Samsung is still the market leader by a huge margin, but the Nexus 4 succeeded in instilling the belief among consumers that LG can also make good smartphones. Last week, LG Electronics India (LGEI) launched its latest flagship Android smartphone – the LG G2. The G2 has a lot riding in it. LGEI expects to pick up 10% of the Indian market share by the end of the year, and it’s targeting Rs. 200 crore in revenue from the G2. On paper the G2 is a monster; however, how does it stack in real life? Read on to find out.

Appearance, Display and Battery

LG-G2-Front

Unlike in the Nexus 4 or the Optimus G, the G2 is made entirely out of plastic. There’s no metal or glass to be found anywhere in the construction. Personally, I don’t mind the absence of glass. There’s no denying that the aluminium bodied Xperia Z1 exudes a more premium feel, but avoiding metal often helps in bringing down the cost and reducing weight, and glass is way too fragile to be practical in a device that you’re going to use day in and day out. However, what I’m disappointed about is the return to the cheap glossy exterior that LG had done so well to avoid in its 2012 line-up. The rear cover has a reflective pattern that’s mildly interesting, but the glossy finishing means that it’s a smudge magnet. The battery in the Indian version of the G2 isn’t user replaceable, but that has allowed LG to fit in a giant 3000 mAh battery in the relatively compact dimensions (138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm) of the G2. However, even with a plastic body, the G2 is fairly heavy, weighing about 143g.

LG-G2-Rear

The most distinctive feature of the G2 is its button placement. All the buttons in the G2 are placed at the back, just underneath the camera. This seems counter-intuitive and definitely takes some getting used to. In fact, this is probably the single most debated aspect of G2. When I began using the G2, I wasn’t entirely convinced about the idea. In theory, the button placement made sense. Single handed operation isn’t exactly a joy in most recent top-of-the-line droids, and the reason for that is that reaching buttons placed on the top or on the sides is difficult for anyone with normal sized palms. The G2’s rear buttons should be a lot more convenient to use since they are placed just where your index finger should reside while normally gripping the phone. In practice, things didn’t start so well. For the first couple of days, I had to repeatedly turn my phone to see where the buttons were. However, things improved quickly as muscle memory kicked in. After just a week of regular usage, I instinctively knew exactly where the home and the volume buttons were . In fact, the rear-buttons are now among my favourite things about the G2. LG deserves to be applauded for coming up with the concept and being brave enough to use it in their flagship.

LG-G2-DIsplay

The gorgeous edge-to-edge full-HD display that we saw in the G Pro has gotten even better in the G2. The G2 features a 5.2’’ full-HD (1920×1080) IPS display with a 424 ppi pixel density. This is a good two inches more than the Sony Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. However, the G2 is actually smaller than the Z1 and about the same size as the S4, thanks to its extremely slim bezels, which almost vanishes when the display is off. As far as quality is concerned, there isn’t a single thing that I could find to criticize. The colour reproduction is brilliant, viewing angles are great, and outdoor visibility is never an issue.

LG-G2-Another-View

As I mentioned earlier, the battery in the Indian version of G2 is non-user replaceable. However, this has allowed LG to use a special step design to pack in more power. I didn’t run any benchmarks, but the G2’s battery backup is among the best I’ve seen in high-end smartphones. It’ll easily last through a day and a half of normal usage on 3G, and will probably keep on ticking for well over two days on 2G. LG claims a talktime of 21 hours on 3G and 31 hours on 2G.

LG-G2-Battery-Backup

Hardware

The LG G2 is powered by the mighty Snapdragon 800 chipset, which includes a quad-core Krait 400 processor clocked at 2.26 GHz, and an Adreno 330 GPU. In terms of performance, the G2 is in the same league as the Note 3, Xperia Z1, and Xperia Z Ultra, and ahead of pretty much everything else. No matter what you do, performance is never an issue with this phone. It maxed out the normal 3D Mark benchmark, maxed out a few of the tests in the 3D Mark Extreme benchmark, and was in the top 3 in the 3D Mark Ultra benchmark. The G2 has crazy amounts of processing power, which allows it to do stuff like zoom into full-HD videos and play them in windowed mode with adjustable transparency.

LG-G2-Quadrant-Benchmark-Score

Quadrant Benchmark Score

LG-G2-3DMark-Ultra-Benchmark-Score

3D Mark Ultra Benchmark Results

My review unit has 16 GB internal storage; however, a 32 GB model is also available. I’d recommend going for the latter since it’s only a couple of thousand rupees more expensive and the absence of any expandable memory support makes the extra storage crucial. The LG G2 has all sorts of connectivity options that you can imagine. Some of them are Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy mode support, and USB on-the-go. The chipset that LG is using is LTE enabled; however, the units being sold in India are 3G only. I suspect that LG might have disabled the LTE chip to conserve power. LG didn’t elaborate if it’s possible to later enable the LTE functionality through an update.

Software

I’m not an Android puritan, and don’t by default hate all software customizations. With that being said, it’s worth nothing that my main complaints with the G2 are all software related. There are a bunch of unique features in the G2. The first one that you’re going to encounter is the Knock-on feature. One of the disadvantages of having the power button at the back is that you’ve to lift up to phone to unlock it. Knock-on attempts to alleviate this issue by allowing you to unlock the G2 by simply tapping on the screen twice. The concept is deceptively simple and brilliant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. It works most of the time, but it also fails enough times to make me prefer the physical button over Knock-on.

LG-G2-Optimus-UI-Launcher

The G2’s built-in launcher is among the better ones, and is capable enough to not make me miss any of the third-party launchers. It has all the essential features including folders and dock, and even throws in a few fancy features like multiple transition effects.
The G2 runs on Android 4.2.2, which is recent enough, but is still a version older than what Samsung Note 3 ships with. This isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, since Google has decoupled a lot of functionality from Android updates. Sure, I’d love to have Android 4.3 on-board, but I don’t feel like missing out on anything significant even with Android 4.2.

Somewhat disappointingly, LG hasn’t opted to leverage the Quick Settings feature introduced in Android 4.2. Instead, it has retained its old Notification pane with scrollable power buttons, Q-slide apps, brightness control, and volume control. With the exception of the volume control, all of these are handy additions that you’d find yourself using every now and then. However, packing all of them into a single screen is a bad idea, as it makes the notification pane look horribly cluttered. In the G2 only about half of the notification pane is actually available for displaying notifications.

LG-G2-Voice-Mate

Some of the other unique features in the G2 are:
– Guest Mode: You can protect your privacy by setting up a limited environment for your friends or kids while lending the phone. In guest mode only pre-configured apps are accessible.
– Clip Tray: Just like the Microsoft Office Clipboard, the Clip Tray provides you access to stuff you have copied in the past. The Clip Tray in G2 can store as many as 20 texts or images.
– Text Link: This is another really neat productivity enhancer. The G2 is capable of understanding certain phrases and sentences in your message. If it detects an address in an SMS, it’ll offer to open up maps. If it detects an appointment, then it’ll offer to add the event to your calendar or to your Memo.
– Audio Zoom: This feature was first introduced in the G Pro, but is featured more prominently in the G2. While recording in landscape mode you can tap on a particular subject and the G2 will attempt to amplify the sound from only that subject in the recording.
– Slide Aside: A three-finger swipe from right to left dismisses the currently open app and saves it in a container. A three-finger swipe from left to right restores it. You can save up to three apps using Slide Aside and quickly switch between them. LG claims that it radically improves multi-tasking, but it seemed more like a gimmick to me. The default Android Task Switcher can be used to do the same thing with a lot more ease.
– Shot and Clear: This is similar to the context aware fill feature in Photoshop. In theory this allows you to fix photo bombs, and get rid of other artefacts in an image. However, this feature obviously has limitations, and doesn’t always work.
– Life Square: Life Square is an automated journal that logs pretty much everything you do. This includes events in your calendar, updates you post on Facebook, links you share on Twitter, pictures you take on the camera, and people you text and talk with on the phone.
– QuickRemote: Like most of its competitors, the G2 features an IR blaster, which allows it to act like a customizable universal remote.
– QuickMemo: The trusty old QuickMemo feature is retained in the G2. Quick Memo is the quickest way to capture, annotate, and share a screenshot.
– QSlide: QSlide is like the Pop out feature in Samsung, which allows apps to run in a part of the screen, while freeing up the rest of the space for other tasks. So, you can run the YouTube app in a corner of the screen, while working away on your email. LG has also thrown in the ability to adjust the transparency of apps in QSlide mode. There are a bunch of QSlide enabled apps including the Video player, SMS app, and Calendar.
– Capture Plus: Capture Plus option in the Browser takes full page screenshots of websites.
– Answer Me: To receive a call, simply hold up the phone next to your ear.
– Voice Mate: Voice Mate is LG’s own attempt at creating a voice assistant. The app has pretty decent speech detection, but can’t really do much. Google Now is miles ahead of Voice Mate, and I don’t understand why Samsung and LG are even trying to compete with Google in this arena.
– Smart Screen and Smart Video: These are two more gimmicky features, which were undoubtedly inspired by the Samsung Galaxy S4. Smart Screen allows the G2’s display to stay on when the phone detects your face, and Smart Video automatically pauses the video when the phone cannot detect your face. LG obviously realizes that both of these features are far too inaccurate to be of significant use, and hence has disabled them by default.

LG-G2-Life-Square

There are a bunch of other features including a Translator, and a Task Manager. Traditionally, one of the strong points of the LG Optimus UI has been its customizability, and G2 continues that tradition. There are a massive number of things you can change without ever having to install custom ROMs. This includes customizing the touch navigation buttons, changing the lock-screen swipe effect, changing font type and size, and tweaking notification LED behaviour.

LG-G2-Customizable-Front-Buttons

Multimedia

Cameras are back in the spotlight, and the Nokia’s Lumia series has really set the cat among the pigeons. Everyone including Apple and Sony are trying to beef up their camera. LG has fitted the G2 with a 13-megapixel camera that’s at least mighty on paper thanks to its optical image stabilization and muti-focus capability. The good news is that the camera is truly among the best we have seen in a smartphone, and delivers on its promises. The Xperia Z1 will probably outdo the G2’s shooting capability, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The G2 features manual focus, which allows it to take some stunning macro pics. In fact, the automatic Macro focusing mode is also among the best I’ve seen in a phone camera. The G2 supports ISO levels up to 800, and beats the S4 as well as the HTC One hands down, as far as low-light photography is concerned. The optical stabilization mode also makes its effect felt while recording from a bus or an auto. The G2 captures full-HD (1080p) videos at 60 fps with stereo sound. HDR mode has also been thrown in for good measure. However, when it came to audio zooming, that feature just didn’t work for me. For now, I’m chalking it up as a gimmick rather a real enhancement.

LG-G2-Camera-Sample

Low light shot with Manual Focus

LG-G2-Camera-Night-Mode

Outdoor photo in Night mode

LG-G2-Outdoor-Pic-High-ISO

Outdoor photo in Normal mode with high ISO

I’ve always been a fan of LG’s Video player, and it has retained its strengths in the G2. You can pinch to zoom into any part of the video, or zoom and track a particular subject. With YouTube like seek preview, you can preview exactly where you’re about to jump to in the video. And with Q-slide you can continue to playback the video while doing your work.

Like the Note 3, the LG G2 can output 24 bit 192 KHz Hi-Fidelity audio. LG has paired its flagship with the new Quadbeat 2 earphones, which are surprisingly good. They’re not as bass heavy as Sony’s stunning MH 1c, but the soundstage is equally wide, and the IEMs sound really balanced. In fact, if you are looking for a budget IEM, the Quadbeat 2 is something you should definitely look at. Although, LG has done a great job with the bundled earphones, the phone’s speaker is bit of a disappointment. The speaker isn’t bad by any means, but it sticks out as a sore point because pretty much every other aspect of the G2 is superb.

Conclusion

LG has gotten a lot of things right with the G2, including the display, the SoC, the physical button placement, and the camera. As a result, the G2 is an absolute joy to use. The downers are the lack of expandable storage, the average speaker quality, the slightly old Android version, and some poor design choices in the Optimus UI. The 16 GB model of G2 is selling for about Rs. 40,000. The 32 GB model costs a couple of thousand bucks more. This makes it about ten percent cheaper than the Note 3, which is also significantly bigger than the G2. In my opinion, the biggest competition to the G2 is the Xperia Z1, which has the advantage of a better build quality, dust and water resistance, superior camera, and slightly better benchmark scores. Where the G2 outshines the Z1 is display quality and ergonomics. The G2 is a better phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. However, the Galaxy S4 is now available for about Rs. 36,000. I suspect that within a couple of months the G2’s price will also come down to similar levels. However, until then the price difference also makes the Galaxy SIV an alternative worth considering.

LG’s biggest achievement is that it has gone from competing solely on price to competing on performance and quality. Until a year or two back, you brought LG phones because they offered good value for money, not because they were the best phones in the market. With the G2, LG has succeeded in raising the bar and changing the game.

Celkon Mobile Launches The ‘Rahmanishq’ AR 45

Celkon Mobile, a relatively new entrant in the Indian mobile market, today unveiled its new budget Android powered smartphone – the AR 45. The company will be offering the handset under the Rahmanishq series, and will be pre-loading some hit content of the musical composer on the handset.

On the specs side, the AR 45 does pretty well by offering a 4.5-inch screen with WVGA (800*480) resolution, a 1.2GHz dual-core A7 processor and 512MB of RAM. There is also 4GB of internal storage space, of which 1GB has been dedicated for installing apps. The presence of a microSD card slot should please all the music lovers by offering them abundant storage space.

 

Elaborating on the product, Mr. Murali Retineni, Executive Director, Celkon Mobiles said, “With the launch of RahmanIshq series, we are raising the bar for affordable innovation especially for the music lovers. AR45 has a full display touch screen and a 5MP rear camera with a novel feature of smile detector. RahmanIshq smartphones are power packed with pre-installed AR Rahman’s chartbusters.”

At the back of the AR 45 is a 5MP camera with software gimmicks like smile detection. Celkon has been emphasised on the music quality of the handset, and has packed in stereo speakers along with K-class amplifiers.

The handset will hit the retail stores for Rs 7,999 in October.

Bring Back Gmail Mouse Gestures With Chrome Extension

Gmail Mouse Gestures

Back in 2011, Gmail had a labs experiment called “Mouse Gestures” that let you navigate your inbox  using the right click of your mouse. Dragging to the right/left would open the next/previous email and dragging the mouse up would open up the inbox. The experimental feature was one of my favorites so when it was discontinued in May 2012, I was a little saddened to the say the least.

A Change.org petition was launched soon after calling for its reinstatement, but who are we kidding, it’s Google after all. They shut down Google Reader in spite of its loyal following – what chance does a little lab experiment stand?

So I was quite elated when I came across a Google Chrome extension that accomplishes the same task, unofficially. Simply named Gmail Mouse Gestures, the extension does the job just as advertised. There are a few limitations to its functioning however. It hasn’t yet been updated to work with the latest tabbed-and-segregated Gmail interface so if you’re browsing emails in the Promotions tab and drag up to go to the list of emails, the extension takes you to the list of emails in the Primary tab. Left and right browsing works alright in all the tabs, thankfully.

WordPress 3.7 Will Come With Automatic, Background Updating

Today, blogging and content management software WordPress released the first beta for its upcoming 3.7 version of the software. Among several bug fixes and feature updates, the biggest apple in the bucket is the ability of the software to update itself – overnight, without any manual input.

wordpress-logoWordPress has had this feature since antiquity, but always via plugins. It is only now that the WordPress core can boast of it. “3.7 Beta 1 will keep itself updated. That’s right — you’ll be updated each night to the newest development build, and eventually to Beta 2. ” — says  Andrew Nacin, WordPress Lead Developer.

There will be situations where “WordPress can’t reliably and securely update itself” — Nacin mentions, and for these you’ll be alerted via email. The automatic updates will also work for official translations, in case you’re running WordPress in a language other than English.

The 3.7 Beta 1 for WordPress is nowhere near a complete, stable offering and you should be wary of installing it on websites you don’t want to risk the working of. In any case, if you’re one of the hard ones, the link to the beta is right here →

Cmd.fm Brings SoundCloud To The Command Line

greenshot_2013-09-29_01-40-02CMD.FM is a nifty little website that lets you play various genres of music from SoundCloud.com in a nice in-browser terminal window, almost evocative of the bygone DOS days.

With all the player controls managed by textual commands, terminal aficionados on Unix or Windows alike will feel at home with the black and neon presentation. The service fetches songs from SoundCloud and plays them in the form of  a radio governed by tags or genres; however unlike the convention of typical radio broadcasts, this one can be paused and songs skipped.

Whether it’s just a vintage itch that you need scratched or you need a new online radio for your arsenal, CMD.fm with SoundCloud’s backing makes a solid pick.

Yahoo Maps Gets Design Refresher

Following the Yahoo logo update three weeks ago, Yahoo Maps today landed in tow and got itself a design and usability update.

tumblr_inline_mtoww8PDq31qhxx5sThe Yahoo Search Company blog reports a couple of “key new features and content options” that enhances results for local searches on Yahoo Maps, but only in the United States, it seems. With the new updates, the system now shows you different routes to a destination depending on whether you plan to walk or take the public transport. “The public transportation view lets you see different options so you can pick which one looks best to you. All connections and transfers are clearly presented in a thoughtful manner.” – says Anand Chandrasekaran, Senior Director, Product Management on the company blog.

Along with the new route updates, Yahoo has also updated satellite imagery. ” We’ve recently refreshed satellite imagery for over 14 million square kilometers of land – significantly reducing  cloud cover, improving edge matching and image sampling and creating coast to coast views” – promises the web company.

There’s no denying Google’s monopoly in online mapping and street routing, but a little competition in every field does nothing but good for the average consumer. If you appreciate Yahoo’s gusto, check out their maps offering on maps.yahoo.com

Kim Dotcom Working On New Music Service Called Baboom

Earlier this week, Kim Dotcom, the flamboyant German-born entrepreneur and founder of file hosting site Mega, stepped down as director of the startup. Mega was launched in January this year and coincided with the seizure and shut down of Megaupload, its predecessor.

Launched with much pomp and show, Mega has undoubtedly been a success. Dotcom reported that the service acquired 100k registered users within the first hour of its launch, a number that jumped up to a million in two days. Kim also reported 500 uploads to Mega’s servers every second! According to other statistics published by the company, it currently hosts more than 50 million files. If the startup is doing so well, one may ask the question, why is the founder stepping down from administration?

Leaving Mega under the reigns of CEO Vikram Kumar, who was instated in February this year, Kim Dotcom has decided to move towards fresher ventures and brighter pastures. At the top of his bucket list right now seems to be a new music startup, which he’s decided to call Baboom. As tacky as the name may sound, the idea itself is not new. Dotcom has wanted to make a revolutionary music service ever since his row with Universal back in 2011.

Back then, the proposed name was Megabox, but Dotcom decided to use something better and without the mega branding. He has also said that the new company will be owned and managed completely by him, unlike Mega. Dotcom says the Baboom project has already received several millions in funding and tie ups with artists is an ongoing process.

Baboom aims to be a free music streaming service, wherein artists will receive 90% of revenues which will be collected using advertising. There will be a subscription model too, which will provide for an advert-less experience.

“I am really excited about Baboom. I can’t wait for artists to see what i have created for them. Their entire career can be managed on Baboom. Artists never had more freedom, transparency and control.” — Dotcom

Dotcom doesn’t plan on launching a less-than complete product, so we’ll have to wait a few months however, he does plan on keeping the excitement up throughout the waiting period and this teaser of the website he provides helps with just that.

Baboom

In an emailed statement to a publication, Mega CEO Vikram Kumar said Dotcom — otherwise known as Kim Schmitz — resigned “to be able to focus on the extradition case, an upcoming music website, and to build a political party.” However Kim recently found out he can’t exactly run for parliament. His twitter says “I cannot run for parliament because I’m not a New Zealand citizen. But I can be Party President. So be it.”

So there we have it. New music service on the block and Kim Dotcom playing politics in New Zealand. How will it stack up against the formidable labels and how will he vie for the good public eye? Only time will tell.

Additional reporting aided by Torrentfreak exclusives.

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