2 Simple Steps to Clean Up Your Facebook Profile and Hide Your Past Indiscretions

Facebook has come a long way since its humble beginnings almost eleven years ago. From being just a wall of posts, it has morphed into a powerful aggregator with a wide variety of content. The trouble is that somewhere beneath all the content that you’ve created over the years, there are all your past indiscretions waiting to be discovered. Did you go on a liking spree when Pages were introduced and Facebook invited you to become a fan of your favourite personalities and brands? Did you post silly nonsensical content when you were in your early teens? Chances are all of that history is still available online for anyone to discover. If you want to break free from your silly, old Facebook days, here are a couple of steps that should help.

Limit Old Posts

Hide Old Posts in Facebook
Hide Old Posts in Facebook

Head over to Facebook Settings and select the Privacy tab. Under the subheading “Who Can See My Stuff?” you’ll have the option to “Limit the Audience for Old Posts”. This option will change the visibility setting of all posts that are either “Public” or “Friends of Friends” to only “Friends”. Be warned though, this action is non-reversible. The only way to undo this will be to go through your previous posts and change their settings one by one.

Unlike Pages

Bulk Unlike Pages in Facebook
Bulk Unlike Pages in Facebook

Over the years your tastes have probably evolved. However, chances are that the pages that you became Fan of five years back are still a part of your profile. PageUnliker is a nifty website that fetches all Pages that you have liked, and gives you the option of unliking them. Save yourself the embarrassment and get rid of the things a younger you might have liked. You’ll also be tidying up your feed as posts from the pages that you unlike will no longer show up.

Skype Translator: Universal Translator Begins Preview (English-Spanish For Now)

Skype Translator UI

Skype Translator, the near real-time translation feature in Skype, which was announced in May and for which the preview sign up started in November of 2014, is now available. Those who signed up for the preview back in November, and those who are on Windows 8.1 (or Windows 10 Technical Preview), can now voice and video chat in English and Spanish in close to real time.

In addition to the voice translation between English and Spanish, more than 40 languages are available for IM conversations. A sample video provided by Skype:

Per Microsoft, this is a project that has been over ten years in the making:

Skype Translator is a great example of the benefit of Microsoft’s investment in research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era. Skype Translator is the most recent and visible example.

On the Skype Garage blog, they explain how the Skype Translator technology works, simplistically:

It is interesting that the blog states how Microsoft has learnt colloquial language usage by being the translation service for social media sites like Facebook. It is clear that whatever deal Microsoft made with Facebook and Twitter to supply the translation services on those sites, was not just to be the translation service, but also to learn from the data and improve other products in their portfolio and fine tune products like Skype Translator.

Another nuance mentioned in the blog post is that the translation appears almost as a third person because based on research, they know customers “who are used to speaking through a human interpreter are quickly at ease with the situation”.

Although there will be kinks in the service, this is a bold new product that can truly help break barriers in communication around the world. Also, given that the service relies on machine learning which in turn gets better as there appears more data to work with, Microsoft and Skype urges everyone to try the service and provide feedback.

Sign up now at this page.

Instagram Launches Bolt, Its One Tap Messaging App

Facebook owned Instagram recently launched its newest messaging app named Bolt. It is a one tap messaging app for Android and iOS smartphones which directly compete with the extremely popular Snapchat app. Bolt is currently available only for users in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, while the app will roll out globally in the coming weeks.

bolt_1

Similar to Snapchat, this app allows you to send images and videos to your friends, which is automatically deleted after it has been viewed by the recipient. It also lets you annotate messages with text captions. You don’t need a Facebook or Instagram account to sign-up. Bolt allows you to sign up using your phone number and add up to 20 friends in your favorite list.

You can easily send images by tapping on your friend’s face or you can even long-press to send a video. After the message has been received, your friends can directly reply by sending text or images. The best part is the shake-to-undo feature, which retracts your message by shaking your phone within the first few seconds. Currently, you cannot send messages to more than one person at a time and you cannot add more than 20 friends from your contacts to the favorite list.

bolt_2

Apart from taking photos from the rear camera, Bolt also allows you to take selfies. You can also turn on the flast from the on-screen button. To delete a message, just swipe it to the right and it is gone forever. We’ll review the Bolt app in the coming days. Stay tuned! If you live in New Zealand, Singapore or South Africa, you can download the Bolt app right now from the download links given below.

[ Bolt for Android ] | [ Bolt for iOS ]

iOS Bulks Up with iOS 8

On June 2, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its iOS mobile operating system among many other announcements. iOS 8 will introduce a bevy of features, many of which have huge platform implications.

Many of the new features, both consumer-facing and developer-oriented, seem to be pointed squarely at the “power users”. Such users are the ones who may have switched to or prefer Android because of a lot of capabilities in that operating system which iOS did not have or allow until now. But let’s just consider it the natural evolution of the iOS platform, now at over 800 million users (a stat Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his keynote at the event).

Let’s take a look at some of the key features that Android and to a lesser extent, Windows Phone offer, which lure customers to those platforms, and how iOS 8 has responded to those.

  • Third party keyboards
  • Actionable notifications
  • Widgets
  • App-to-app communication and sharing
  • Google services, including the contextual Google Now
  • Larger choice of devices of various form factors, mostly larger screens

Keyboard improvements

Windows Phone introduced Word Flow, which is to this day, the best predictive keyboard I have used. It is a way by which the system can provide the next few words that you may be about to type, based on what you start typing. For example, if you type “how are”, there is a good chance you want to type “you” next, and the predictive nature of the keyboard will prompt “you”, and maybe a couple of other options like “things” or “the”. iOS gets such a feature finally. It is very similar in nature to Word Flow but obviously it is something the iOS keyboard has missed all this time. No more.

iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard
iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard

Third-party keyboards

In what I thought was a surprising move, Apple also announced that they are going to let third parties provide their keyboards so customers can replace the system keyboard with a third-party keyboard. That is huge because the likes of Swiftkey and Swype have made a name for themselves in the Android world, and users of those keyboards claimed it is a big enough reason for them not to move back to iOS. Already, several key names have announced their keyboards are coming to iOS 8, which is not surprising at all.

iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards
iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards

Interactive notifications

Apple’s Notification Center, while a decent imitation of Android’s notification center, is a bit clunky. Even the upcoming Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1 does a better job managing notifications. So it is no surprise that Apple decided to make some changes and one of the big changes is the interactive notifications. Android has this feature already, where quick actions can be taken on notifications that land in the notification center, without opening the apps. Interactive notifications aim to do the same, and more importantly, Apple has decided to open it up to third parties from day one. That means, developers can enable quick actions like Facebook’s Like and Comment, Twitter’s Retweet and Replies, etc. directly in the Notification Center. Obviously it is a big deal on Android because of the productivity gains, and it was about time iOS implemented the same. (As a part-time Windows Phone user, I do hope this feature is on its way on that platform as well. It is badly needed.)

iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party

Widgets

The other big improvement in the iOS Notification Center comes in the form of widgets. This has been another ding against iOS until now because Windows Phone first introduced Live Tiles which enable quick information that app developers can provide to customers via the app icon(s) flipping and updating. Android later added widgets which were sub-sections of the apps that could be placed on a home screen and provided snippets to live information to the customers. With Widgets, iOS 8 somewhat addresses this “gap” by enabling developers to provide live updates, although in the Notification Center, not in the app icon or on the home screen like the competition. So the widget will look like a notification but it will have more real estate and will be able to take more forms vs. a text update. For example, score updates during a game could show the two team names and scores by quarter.

iOS 8 Widgets
iOS 8 Widgets

This is hugely welcome news, for customers and developers alike. For customers, it means more than just text updates and for developers, it is somewhat of a parity with other platforms as well as another way to keep their customers engaged with the app.

As for app-to-app communication, Apple has made it possible for apps to communicate and share data with each other. Although the details are more important than the announcement in terms of how useful this feature is, it is remarkable that after so many years of keep each app limited to itself, Apple has decided to enable inter-app communication which has been a stable in Android as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When it comes to Google services, they are already available on iOS in the form of various apps, including Google Now. Although this has prompted many customers to consider Android, where the integration with the phone is even tighter, I suspect it will also make it easier for them to make the return trip going from Android back to iOS.

Finally, although perhaps it may be an even more compelling reason for normal users to try Android, there is this thing about larger screen phones. It is rumored and by now almost a given that Apple will be introducing phones with larger screens this Fall, which is usually when they update their hardware. A larger screen iPhone will almost certainly be a hit, if the popularity of large screen devices running Android are any indication. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the application UI. When they introduced the iPad, they had an elegant (although ugly) option of a “2x” mode. It will be interesting how they handle the larger real estate and yet, make developers’ work to address the larger screen, minimal.

Some other important updates from Apple with regard to iOS, not so much related to Android, but definitely showing signs of bulking up:

iCloud Photo Library

Until now, the Photostream feature backed up photos from all our iDevices automatically, but it was limited in storage. Apple also announced at WWDC that they are moving to an “iCloud Photo Library” which would store all photos *and* videos in full resolution, from all our iDevices. The first 5GB is free but instead of the currently expensive storage purchase options, Apple is also introducing inexpensive storage that can be purchased for what they refer to as iCloud Drive. Effectively, much like SkyDrive camera Roll in the Windows world, and Google+ Photos in the Google/Android world, the iCloud Photo Library is the entire photo library, always available in the cloud and all the Apple (Mac and iOS) devices and Windows 8 PCs. All edits made on one device are instantly available on all other devices. For a company that has not been at the forefront of well-implemented cloud services, the proof of the pudding will lie in the tasting, but as of now, it seems like Apple gets it and is on the right track. Also, in another move that shows Apple is opening up in a way they have not done traditionally, they have enabled other apps to integrate their editing tools and filters within the new Photos app.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library

Messaging updates

In what seems like a carpet bomb attack on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Snapchat all at once, Apple’s iMessage will now support audio messages, video messages, group messaging and automatically disappearing messages. Apple also added the ability to share location which is very handy when coordinating meetups with groups. So instead of relying on several different apps (and therefore, different logins, different address books, etc.), you can do the same with the default messaging app, only as long as everyone you communicate with is on iPhone :-) But that has been the modus operandi for Apple from day one, so there is nothing out of the ordinary in that strategy.

iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Messages Record Video
iOS 8 Messages Record Video

iOS 8 is claimed to be a bigger update than when Apple announced the mobile App Store and it certainly seems like there are many huge changes coming in iOS 8 for iOS developers which may end up increasing the app quality gap between iOS and Android even more than it is today. iOS is still usually the first platform for mobile developers to build their innovative solutions and experiences. With these changes, despite the rocketing market share of Android devices, Apple is poised to make it even more worthwhile for developers to build for their platform(s).

 

(All images via Apple’s website)

The New Facebook for Android App: What’s New and How to Download It

Facebook-Android-App-Redesigned

Close on the heels of the website refresh, Facebook is pushing out a major revamp of its Android app. I am not a very big fan of the recent Facebook website redesign; it took an already cluttered user interface and made it even worse. Fortunately, the changes on the Android front are a lot more positive.

The new app feels a lot more vibrant and cheerful, mainly due to the use of lighter and brighter shades throughout the UI. Everything is also distinctively flatter.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI

The top bar has been split into two, and the navigation drawer on the left has been removed. The new layout is not only more visually appealing, but also more intuitive.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI-Places-Activities

The upper half has just two buttons – one for Search and the other for accessing phone contacts. The second half contains all the navigation options including Friend Requests, Messages, Notifications, and Profile and Settings.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI-Settings

The new Android interface is more compliant with the Android design philosophy, and is definitely a step in the right direction for Facebook. Unfortunately, it’s still not ready for prime time. It’s currently only available for the Facebook alpha testers. If you want it right away, there are a few hoops you’ll have to jump through.

  • Go to the Facebook Alpha Testers group and signup with your Google account. This needs to be the same one that you’re using for the Play Store.
  • Once you’ve signed up successfully, you should be able to see the following page.

    fb_google_groups

  • Follow this link to become an alpha tester. If all goes well, you’d be able to see a message stating “You are a tester”.

    Facebook-Alpha-Tester-Signup

  • Now open the Play Store on your mobile phone, and you should be able to see an option to update Facebook. Download and install the update.
  • Go to Settings –> Apps –> Facebook. The current version of the Alpha build is 9.0.0.0.19. Your version should be same or higher.

    fb_app_version

  • ‘Force Stop’ the app, and ‘Clear Data’.
  • Launch the Facebook app. You will have to sign in once again. Once you login, you should be able to see the new Facebook layout.

Please keep in mind that Facebook builds released in the alpha channel are expected to be buggy. They might be buggy, crash-prone, or might not work at all. If you want to go back to the normal build, simply “Quit the Test“, and un-install and re-install the Facebook app from the Play Store.

[via Reddit]

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.

 

Facebook Acquires Mobile Technologies, Developer of Jibbigo

Facebook announced in a status update that it has acquired Mobile Technologies, a 12-year old speech recognition and machine translation start-up that developed the app Jibbigo. The terms of the deal, however, were not disclosed.

With the latest acquisition, Facebook looks forward to effectively make use of the voice recognition and translation tools to connect with the rest of the world. Jibbigo is the world’s first speech-to-speech translator that runs both online and offline.

Facebook Acquires “Mobile Technologies”

“Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution,” Tom Stocky, Facebook’s director of product management, wrote in a post. “We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap as we continue towards our company’s mission.

Here’s the full post from Tom Stocky, Director, Product Management at Facebook announcing the acquisition:

Expect a New Facebook Login Page Very Soon

Have you seen one of those Twitter backgrounds with profile pictures of ‘followers’ arranged in a tiled manner? Well, something similar to that is what Facebook is testing for its new login page.

Jash Jacbo, blogger at Techzei, spotted the new Facebook login page that is being tested features a colorful tiled background of profile pictures. The current login page has a plain light-blue background color with new features being highlighted on the left and a sign up form on the right.

Facebook New Login Screen

The new login page design focuses mainly on the sign up form displaying it as a dialog box. The top bar is the same login-bar where users can enter their login credentials to login.

Unfortunately, it was just a test. The new login page only opened up for a few minutes until Facebook decided to switch it was back to the old one.