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.

Twitter Acquires Lockscreen Android App Cover

Twitter has acquired Cover, the Android app that allows users to create customizable lockscreens. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed. Continue reading Twitter Acquires Lockscreen Android App Cover

Twitter Launches New #Music App

It has long been rumored that Twitter is looking to step into the music space. However, no one quite knew exactly what the popular micro-blogging service was planning. A short while back, Stephen Philips, the CEO of a music startup called “We are Hunted”, which was acquired by Twitter less than a week ago, officially announced Twitter #Music — a new music discovery service that is powered by Twitter conversations.

#NowPlaying Section in Twitter Music
#NowPlaying Section in Twitter Music

Unlike previous Twitter features and services, #Music is not integrated with the existing Twitter experience. Instead, it is accessible via an independent web app and an iOS app (Android app will be launched later). The main purpose of #Music is to aid music discovery by surfacing music being played by your friends and shared by artists you follow, in addition to showcasing trending and emerging tracks. You can browse through band and artist profiles, view their top tracks, and get a taste of their music. By default, Twitter plays a short preview pulled from iTunes. However, if you are an existing Spotify or Rdio subscribers, you can log into your accounts to enjoy full tracks from their respective catalogues.

Twitter is aiming straight for the mainstream audience with its new #Music app. In addition to partnering up with two of the biggest players in the online music segment, it also went to Good Morning America to announce its new feature. Currently, Twitter #Music is restricted to US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand; however, more countries will be supported in the future.

[ Download Twitter #Music for iOS or use Web App ]

North Korea’s Twitter and Flickr Accounts Hacked by Anonymous

The official North Korean “Uriminzokkiri” Twitter and Flickr accounts have been hijacked and defaced by groups that claim to be a part of the online hacking activism collective Anonymous. Both of these accounts are managed by the Government of North Korea.

The reason behind these attacks seems to be the retaliation to North Korea’s most recent threat to attack the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons.

Here’s a screenshot of the hacked Twitter and Flickr account. At the time of writing this post, the Twitter account had 14,325 followers. The first tweet after the hack was sent at 22:45 PDT on Wednesday:

North Korea's Twitter Account Hacked

One of the photos uploaded to the Flickr account shows Kim’s face with a pig snout, ears and a tattoo of Mickey Mouse:

North Korea's Flickr Account Hacked

The hack follows last week’s attack on North Korean news site, where the hackers, a part of the ‘hacktivist’ collective, have stolen nearly 15,000 passwords.

Although the hacks are far less entertaining, what’s surprising to me is that nearly eight hours after the accounts being hacked, the government has still not reacted to regain access and delete the tweets posted by the hacker. Having said that, I really doubt if the government will even try to get back its accounts from Anonymous. Even more surprising is that neither Yahoo nor Twitter has helped regain them the accounts back.

The hackers also claim to have hacked The site has currently gone offline, however, what we believe that it could be down to a DDoS attack rather than a hack.

Twitter Rolls out Android, iPhone and Mobile Web App Updates

Twitter has redesigned its official Twitter for Android app that reflects a native Android experience and closely follows the “holo” Android styling. The latest update comes after the release for the Android 4.0 version. iOS and mobile web apps have also been updated, however, the Android version has received the most significant changes.

In a blog post today, Twitter announced that the experience is “a native Android experience: wider and taller timelines that fill the screen, a flat navigation bar, tap and hold for quick actions, and more.”

With the Twitter for Android update, users will now be able quickly navigate between the four tabs — home, connect, discover, and me — by simply swiping their fingers across the screen. Users will also be automatically offers for user and hashtag suggestions as they compose tweets or do searches.

Twitter for Android Update

Other improvements to the app include:

  • Faster launch times and general performance upgrades
  • “Retweeted by” in Tweet detail is now tappable
  • Fix for reply-to-self in conversations
  • Fix for bug that prevented undoing retweets in some cases

For those on iOS devices and using, you will now see photo galleries, apps, and product listings in expanded tweets. Also, the new version now supports links to other mobile apps right below the content from which it is shared. For instance, if a friend has checked-in to a place and has shared a photo via Foursquare, you’ll see a link below the tweet saying “Open in Foursquare app.” If you don’t yet have the app installed on your phone, you can tap to install it from within the Tweet.

Twitter Starts Charging $5 Per Month for Tweets with Vowels

In a bizarre move, Twitter announced in a blog post that users can use the micro-blogging service for free only by using consonants in their tweets. Yes, you read that right. You can no more use vowels — A, E, I, O, U — in your tweets and if you want to continue tweeting using vowels, then a fee of $5 per month will be charged.

The change is effective from April 1st onwards. Twitter has been struggling hard to generate revenue and has failed terribly to sell ad slots for advertisers. Hence, the company has come up with this amazing concept which it thinks is the best for not only increasing its revenue, but also to make interaction between Twitter users a meaningful one.

Twitter April Fool

Here’s what Twitter had to say about the disruptive approach to scl ntwrkng:

We’re doing this because we believe that by eliminating vowels, we’ll encourage a more efficient and “dense” form of communication. We also see an opportunity to diversify our revenue stream.

In addition to that, Twitter has also announced that it is now offering “a single character extension, expanding the length of a Tweet to 141 characters, for those moments when you need just one more character to finish your thought.”

You can read more about the new service Twttr here. Hppy twttng




P.S. Happy April Fool’s Day ;)

Catholic Church Announces New Pope Francis on Twitter for the First Time

The whole world was waiting for a cloud of white smoke to come out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, and is it did a loud cheer emerged out from the thousands of people gathered at the St Peter’s Square. It was a similar situation in the online world when the official and verified Pontiflex Twitter account tweeted “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM.”

Within a matter of time, the tweet was retweeted and added to ‘favorites’ by thousands of followers, with several replies pouring in every second. The tweet “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM,” is roughly translated into “We have a Pope Francis.”

New Pope Announcement on Twitter

This is first time ever a Pope was officially announced on the social media site, simply proving how informative and important Twitter can be in terms of spreading breaking news as quickly as possible to the world.

The Catholic Church set up the official and verified Pontiflex Twitter account during the service of Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict, immediately after he stepped down due to health issues, deleted all of his tweets. We are yet to be clear if the Catholic Church will follow the same procedure every time a new Pope is elected.

Twitter Music to Be Launched on iOS Very Soon

A year back Twitter acquired We Are Hunted, which was one of the World’s leading music discovery services. Now, the social media company is planning to offer music as a service alongside the micro-blogging service with the use of same technology used by We Are Hunted.

Since the acquisition, Twitter has been working on the technology used by We Are Hunted to develop a standalone app called “Twitter Music” on iOS, a person familiar with the situation told CNET. The app is designed to suggest artists and songs to listen to, and it personalizes music based on the Twitter accounts the user is following.

The songs will be streamed to the app via SoundCloud. Earlier in February, We Are Hunted founder Stephen Phillips tweeted the following test message, perhaps using the test version of the app.

Twitter Music

According to CNET writer Casey Newton, explained that:

“Twitter Music uses four main tabs. ‘Suggested’ recommends songs and artists based on a user’s follower graph — artists they are following, and artists that other people they follow are following. #NowPlaying brings in links to songs tweeted by people you follow who tweet using that hashtag.”

The app is expected to be launched by the end of this month, and will directly compete with Facebook’s music section of its new News Feed.

Update: We Are Hunted is now taken offline and visitors to the site are now greeted with a message stating, “We Are Hunted is not available at the moment.”

Tweet Archive Now Supports 12 More Languages

Twitter enabled the most awaited option for users to download their past tweets and retweets (Tweet Archive) back in December 2012. The feature started to roll out slowly to a small percentage of users whose languages was set to English, however, starting today, users will be able to download their Twitter Archive in 12 more languages.

Today, the company announced in a tweet, stating that Twitter Archive is now available in the following languages: Hindi, Farsi, French, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Dutch, Malaysian, Norwegian, Finnish, Hungarian and Polish. This means that Twitter Archive option is now available in 13 languages including English.

Twitter Archive in 12 More Languages

To start downloading your past tweets, you need to first request for your account’s Twitter Archive. To do so, go to Settings and look for the new option “Your Twitter archive” at the bottom of the page. Once requested, you’ll receive a link to download a ZIP file of your tweet archive by email.

The company already has plans to make Twitter Archives available in all supported languages – “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll make it available to all users around the world, for all the languages we offer.”

Plume and Falcon Pro For Twitter Get Updated; Bug-Fixes Galore

LevelUp Studio has released a major update to Plume today that bumps the version number to 5. The update brings with it new re-designed widgets, Facebook timeline support for the widgets, new Profile viewer, improved scrolling performance, stability and bug-fixes. The update also includes changes needed for Plume to support the new Twitter API v1.1.

– add support for columns for a single account (app and widgets)
– refresh the look of the widgets
– add support for Facebook in the widgets
– display the Twitter profile banner
– propose to resend a tweet when a picture upload fails
– smoother scrolling
– handle URL redirection on wifi hotspots that require a login
– add support for Twitter API 1.1 (off by default)
– fix issues with the Pull To Refresh
– fix issues with the picture cache
– fix issues with the event logger

While the update does make Plume more bearable to use, the app is still nowhere close to Falcon Pro or Carbon for Android in looks. The default theme is a complete mess with multiple colors making the app look like it has been designed by a kid. The dark theme is much better, and is my go-to choice. While Carbon and Falcon Pro definitely look much better than Plume, the latter absolutely trumps the former(s) in terms of features.

Falcon Pro, the current favorite Twitter app of the Android community, also got a bug-fixing update. The developer has also added subtle animations to the app, probably inspired from Carbon for Twitter.

The bug-fixes include improved timeline position handling, fixed rotated images on Sony/Samsung devices, and brings an option to load inline images on timeline on 2G/EDGE connections.

 New option to get inline previews on 2G/EDGE
– New live streaming stays on top of the TL
– New screen transition animations
– New error dropdown when API limit reached
– Improved position holding
– Fixed rotated pics on Samsung/Sony devices
– Fixed auto refresh stopped on reboot
– Fixed tweetmarker
– Fixed in & out sharing

The update is already live in Play Store and can be downloaded from here.