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This blog is dedicated to various news stories and breaking news related to diverse topics. Some of the news stories may be rich in multimedia content.

The latest news stories added to the blog appears on the front page, below this help snippet. All the other stories, stored in the archived pages may be accessed by the appropriate navigation buttons on the right of the site. If in need for any particular information, feel free to comment.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Technorati: Problems Continue

These days, whenever one opens Technorati, all one finds is the crap of Technorati monster! Their cage has rusted like anything to hold this imp that he escapes always. Time warrants cage redesign, Technorati, and keep the monster in custody. Let him not wander the Web like a mischievous child. Police your search engine with more people.

Technorati is the largest blog search indexer in the Internet, started by Dave Sifry. It indexes almost all blogs out there and gives (or kept giving) updates on them, including which other blogs linked into them (the authority count), which blogs have posts regarding them (the blog reactions), and who favorited them.

Also it kept ranking the blogs according to the popularity and link count of the blogs. Most popular blogs in the blogosphere are Technorati top hundred, top thousand, etc. This blog is not in Technorati.

But recently this monster continues to have problems there. Most of the time the Technorati website is down and shows only a custom message “Duh! The Technorati monster escaped again! We are trying to find it, back in a sec!”

When I first found it, Technorati was very appealing to me. With their green design and links with dotted underlines, it looked a very robust website. Also, it is based on the open source technology, and Technorati community contributes a lot to open source. But what happened now? At first it was a week long updation issue, during which it continued to show that the favorites were not available.

But when they got it right finally two days ago, it was not possible still to favorite any blog. It led to errors. Now, 90 per cent of the time, Technorati website is down and shows that stupid message.

Will they get it right any time?

BlogCatalog Rolls Out New Design

Here is the new design from BlogCatalog. If you are not into this community of bloggers, do sign up right away. It’s a wonderful place to get your blog known, and most of the members are very active unlike in MyBlogLog. It has a wonderful cool design now, with a blue theme and everything kept nicely away in tabs. Also, the menus have appeared on top. A Technorati-ish dialog balloon also appears. Maybe a reaction of Facebook’s announced profile redesign.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

‘Safe’ Explosives in Development!

We know of so many explosives, TNT and RDX, being perhaps the most talked-about. But are they really safe to the people working in the explosive manufacturing plants? How much can exposure to these substances affect their health?

TNT (Trinitrotoluene) is behind so many sooty explosions in the World War. Minor exposure to TNT causes skin irritation, turning it to bright yellow color. And prolonged exposure can cause stomach and liver dysfunctions, anemia, etc. In some other cases, it includes liver and spleen enlargement, tumors, and weakening of the immune system. All these have been proved scientifically, through tests in animals.

RDX (Research Department Explosive or Royal Demolition Explosive) in excess causes nervous and physical convulsions known as seizures in human beings. Other anomalies include decrease in body weight, development of tumor, and liver or kidney damage.

All these dysfunctions and anomalies are normal in people working for years in explosive production plants. To end this suffering, scientists have been in research to find safer alternatives to these explosives.

And this research recently had a turning point, when some scientists in Germany gazed at the recently discovered chemical materials called tetrazoles. Tetrazole is a class of synthetic carbon-nitrogen compounds. Tetrazole chemical formula is CN4H2. They were first prepared by a reaction between anhydrous hydrazoic acid and hydrogen cyanide.

The scientists, upon realizing that most people ignored the explosive nature of these materials, studied them further and developed two models of bombs codenamed HBT and G2ZT.

Their advantage besides the fact that the poisonous expulsion is minimal is that they are less likely to explode accidentally than the counterparts. Also, in initial experiments, HBT was proved as powerful as TNT and G2ZT, even more. Though they expelled highly poisonous hydrogen cyanide in the initial trials, mixing them with oxidizers avoided the production of the gas. It also increased the explosiveness of the products.

Thomas Klapotke and Carles Miro of Munich University headed the research. They are slated to publish their findings in Chemistry of Materials, a science journal on 24 next month.

I believe there is no such thing as safe explosive. When they explode, they are not safe for anybody. And a world without explosives is still distant, as evident from these findings.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Eagerly in wait for Firefox 3.0?

After a three-year development, Mozilla releases Firefox 3.0 next month. IE 8 is expected to be released by the end of the year, and altogether, these browsers, which share more than 90 % of the browser market, would be in for a great competition, since IE 8 is also expected to boast some cool new features (which we will look at a later post).

Firefox 3 is based on the new Gecko 1.9 web rendering engine, which was in development for more than the past two years, incorporating two millions lines of code edits and fix for more than 11,000 issues. This all-new Gecko engine will make Firefox a lot more robust and reliable. Firefox is based on Gecko 1.8.1.

Here is a video I found about Firefox 3.0. I haven't watched it fully due to my connection problems. But I hope it will be rich with some good information. If not, please let me know by comments.

Firefox boasts these features in particular:

One click site information: You will find a favicon on the address bar of the web browser when the site is loaded, and on clicking this icon, you can get details of the site’s ownership.

Malware protection: In this, the users are warned against the site whenever they arrive at a site known to install malwares in the user machines.

Web forgery protection page: The contents of pages, which are suspicious of fraudulence such as phishing, are not at all shown when you visit them.

New SSL error page: Clearer and stricter error pages are shown when Firefox finds an invalid SSL certificate.

Add-ons and plug-in versions: Firefox will automatically check for add-ons and plug-in versions and update them, and all add-on updates will be completely secure.

Antivirus integration: As one of the greatest features of antivirus integration, Firefox alerts the antivirus in the system of the executable downloads, so that the antivirus can scan whatever is being downloaded.

Cool user friendly features

New download manager with resumable download: Here, at last a browser incorporates a resumable download manager. Never in the past was there a browser with a complete download manager. IE’s greatest weakness was a good download manager, which could resume downloads. Here, Mozilla Firefox comes up with a resumable download manager, in which locating files downloaded is also pretty easy.

Full page zoom: You can now zoom the entire page with images, layout and of course text. In the past, it was text only that got zoomed.

Tab scrolling and tab quick menu: With the new feature known as tab quick menu, a simple menu is added to make finding the tabs easy. It’s similar to IE7. Also, the tabs now are better organized to open pages. When you open something on a tab, another tab is appended rather than the current tab is overwritten.

Text selection made easy: Double-click and drag, and you will select entire words. Triple-click and you will select entire paragraph, and use ctrl button, you can select multiple words and paragraphs.

Vista integration: New Firefox will show Vista-visual menus.

Star bookmark: There will be a star button for the bookmarking in the location bar itself. The bookmarks may be added very quickly. Also, a second click will file and tag the bookmark.

Improved display: New text handling and display code within Gecko will smooth the text display (an improvement present in IE7) and will display the text and graphics in a better, smoother, eye-candy way.

Color management: You can now change the color profiles of images displayed in Firefox.

You don’t want to know anything about the system requirements. All systems in existence can support the software, and the memory improvement done has fixed about 300 memory errors. This will drastically boost the performance. The testing has shown an estimated double performance gain in Firefox 3 for applications like Gmail, Zoho Office, etc. Also the software’s beta version was released in 45 languages, while the original Firefox 3 may support even more. The browser, with the total market share of 17 % will soon be a grave competitor to IE, with over 75 % of the market.

Everything else, when the new browser itself gets released for us.

[Apologies to readers for no blog post tomorrow. I was at work another post on another blog of mine about the scam known as Associated Content, please read it.]

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Microsoft Offers Search Incentives

The search engine giant Google holds more than 60 per cent of the searches done on the Internet and thereby huge revenue through search contextual ads. The other major players in this field, Yahoo! and Microsoft have been trying extra hard to be seen in the scenario by boosting their technology. As a last attempt, MS even tried a merger with Yahoo! for 47 billion to compete with Google. But nothing worked out and the Google giant stood tall and still in its merit fortress.

So, now here is a grave new development from Microsoft, which, feeling that they may trip off the cliff if this goes on further. MS offers cash back to the users of their search engine (Live Search) to find products from the Internet. As a last strategy from MS, would this work out or not, we have to wait to see.

In a press conference held in Redmond, Washington, Bill Gates, MS chairman, conferred the glad news to the web searchers. The cash back payment would be made through the popular online money transfer subsidiary of eBay, PayPal. And the customers of course have the options to choose checks or drafts.

The most important announcement for the advertisers is that the new advertisements will be “Cost per Acquisition.” This means, the advertiser need pay Microsoft only if the searcher clicked and purchased from the site. Otherwise, they don’t have to pay. Google’s Pay-Per-Click monopoly would get a big hit from this?

Adwords, the largest advertisement network in the world by Google uses Pay-Per-Click technology, meaning the advertiser pays a certain pre-calculated amount (nearer to $1 for major search words and some cents for less competitive search words) per click. If the CPA scheme from MS becomes popular (and which the advertisers would love to see), then Google’s business may be in an awkward position.

It’s not a great news for ad publishers, however, if any system goes CPA, because the publishers will get paid only if an actual purchase happens. Currently, they have both options (the CPA option coming from companies like Amazon and ClickBank and CPC from Adsense, Adbrite, and many others). So, CPA getting popular will help only giants like Microsoft.

Google’s stronghold in the search engine world is completely based on merit. Their contextual ad strategy is such well developed that the advertisers have the opportunity to get maximum business from it, well optimized for the keywords they target. So, Google’s CPC ads are well in with the advertisers. In this scenario, how many of them would love to test MS technology is questionable. Also, cash back scheme would attract a hundred thousand more greedy searchers to MS Live search and thereby ten thousand more sales for advertisers. But how it will compete with Google is yet to be seen. Google’s superior technology makes 60 % more revenue from contextual ads than their next rival, Yahoo!.

After the failure of MS’s 47 billion bid on Yahoo! and the recent talk of cooperation of Yahoo! and Google opening partnership, MS, sitting idle, may just vanish from the table without even their knowledge. So, this strategies are their wriggles to fight drowning. Desperate, any giant would attempt anything!

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Google-Yahoo! Against Microsoft?

Soon after the challenging Microsoft-Yahoo! merger conjectures, we have here, another interesting news. Google is in for a partnership with their archrival Internet company, Yahoo!. While Microsoft put forward a deal with Yahoo! some time back, which almost came down to a merger, and to MS’s disappointment, was dropped, here is a thunderbolt on its already shattered dreams.

If Google collaborates with Yahoo! or in the future, even decides to acquire the giant, then it will be a nightmare for with Bill Gates. Eric E Schmidt, Google’s chief, said about a proposed alliance with Yahoo! that Google would allow Yahoo! to use their most innovative contextual ad technology within Yahoo search results. This would enable Yahoo! rake in an extra $1 billion every year.

And in exchange, Yahoo!, currently number two in overall searches made in the WWW, would hand over some of its subsidiary services to Google. Eric Schmidt only gave the reply that “We would anticipate structuring a deal to address antitrust concerns.”

And analysts have only a vague idea of the cooperation. Some believe it will only be a supplier arrangement. Meaning, Google supplies its services to Yahoo! and in exchange, purchases some Yahoo! services. Similar to Dell’s supplying hardware to Adobe or Accenture.

Still, some of the concerns raised include the thought that this move by Google is anticompetitive. Google, with the search market share of 60 %, the highest, if shares its strategy of search contextual advertising with Yahoo!, the experts believe that it will reduce the competition. The Yahoo! share of the market is only around 20 % and their ad share revenue falls far behind Google’s.

Google’s superior contextual ad technology and their better market share make them 60 % more revenue from comparable Yahoo! ads. Sad that the giants cannot publicly use the technology of each other, maybe due to their ego. They are, instead, forced to invest too much in developing a similar technology, and failing in it, lose all that money. The same happened here with Yahoo! and Microsoft, who tried to collaborate with each other to shatter Google’s monopoly. But now that Google itself came to the scene with partnership with Yahoo!, it seems Microsoft will be the loser.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A DigitalPoint Scam Unveiled: Don’t Lose Your Money!

I have made myself an active member of DP forums recently. This is a meeting place of those Internet entrepreneurs, who discuss on various topics ranging from SEO, link building, legal issues, content development, freelance opportunities, etc. It’s a wonderful place, where people with some knowledge come to the aid of newbies.

Also, being a place, where you can sign up for a membership and post your views freely, anyone can have a membership there. Anyone can present their views remaining completely anonymous. And being an amateurs’ marketplace, anyone can sell anything, if they have some reputation in the board posting some useful information and getting some user gratitude.

So, recently, a guy named Ranveer, supposedly an Indian, scammed DP members of almost 20,000 USD and got away. Please read this post, one of the other famous DP members has made about this scam. As a news blog, I felt it right to alert my readers of such scams.

About the scam: It’s a double-your-money program. That means if you invest 20 dollars with this guy, you will get it back in 40. And if you invest 100, you will get 200. That’s it.

But actually this scammer does absolutely nothing with your money.

He advertises in DP that he has a scheme of doubling your money over some work he does, and if you send him a minimal investment, within a few hours, he would send you back the amount in double, from his pocket of course. And to gain trust, he would take disposable amounts of money from other members, in 20, 30 or even 100 dollars. And he would send back through PayPal, the double of the sum.

Within some time, when word on his scheme is spread, and he is backed by comments from some profited members that the scheme is genuine, more people will pour in, some would be willing to send in 100 or 200 dollars. And when the guy has enough of money to cover all his needs, he would erase his Internet identity altogether and get away, only to come back after a month’s retreat in a fresh identity and fresh DP account to scam allover again.

To fight such scams, try to get in touch with the financial program he uses to send or receive money, like PayPal. Contact PayPal directly and alert them of the crime happening. You may also assemble comments from other scammed members.

So, people, be wary of any such scheme, and never, ever do business with online entities not backed by a trusted party. Always use an escrow service for doing business. And my personal request to DP forum owners is that they start some kind of escrow service especially for the transactions happening through their forums.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Facebook Redesign Announced: Will It Work?

If you so far liked the Facebook’s user profile page, which has everything on a single page with special buttons right below your profile image, which will move your screen to point to the particular application when clicked, then you are in for a surprise. Facebook executives have announced on Wednesday a site redesign for the largest social network with more than 70 million members.

The new site design, aimed at lowering the clutter on the Facebook profile pages, would bring in a tabbed interface (everything is in tabs these days—IE, Opera, or Firefox). If you look at some profiles, you will see two dozen applications installed. Such complete mess of profiles would load in minutes in your browser, and would make you hope you hadn’t clicked. So, such a clutter-free design is a welcome change to Facebook, which remained without any changes for many months.

A redesign preview, released on Tuesday, showed member information under five new tabs—personal news feeds, profile information, photos, applications, and a customizable tab. The news feed, resizable in three different sizes, would take up the member profile home. And from the home page itself, you can post a wall message, update applications, or upload photos.

The member profile information will be moved to the information tab, the second one. And the third tab, meant only for photographs, draws a lot of attention. According to a Facebook executive, more than six billion photographs are extant in Facebook network.

The profile box tab, with applications will have all information on the application widgets they installed. Most probably, this is the one tab that will need a redesign in the days to come. But it seems that Facebook already addressed the issue that this particular tab may get cluttered soon: they put the last tab, meant for customization. Using this tab, people can add or remove newer tabs, specifically for particular applications.

Though the developers are concerned about the application compatibility issues related to the profile redesign, the executives of Facebook confirmed that this redesign would be a great success for them, and the profile rollout to happen within some weeks ahead, would give enough time for the developers to refine their applications.

But there are a certain community of people who love and would continue to love the current design. And most “Hate changes.” So, we should wait and see how much acceptance it would get. Voice your opinions, comment on!

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Story of a Deception of over $1 Billion in Advertisements

While millions of bloggers and Internet entrepreneurs out there are busy getting clicks on their PPC ads, while many are earning scanty sums, while many are just about to begin with no idea of what SEO, SEM, etc., are, here are eight big shots, who, before the advent of all these advertisement schemes, before every boom in Internet today, showed an ad revenue of about $1 billion.

Year 2000: AOL, one of the largest Internet communications companies of the US, acquired a proportionately larger Warner Inc. You might find this interesting to note: AOL, which is far smaller a company than Time Warner Inc. bought out Time Warner, and the deal was closed with former AOL shareholders holding 55 per cent of the AOL Time Warner (name of the merged company) shares, while the former Time Warner shareholders held only 45 per cent. Like a sheep ate up the whole wolf!

Time Warner, which has an assets holding of nearly $58 billion now, had far less than that six years ago (only $15 bn). And AOL stood at $5 bn. But, AOL CFO (Chief Financial Officer), Michael Kelly told that the company generated more than $40 billion every year in ad revenues, and $1 bn in EBITA (Earnings Before Interest Tax Appreciation). So, it looked like naturally the AOL was the bigger company (or made to look), and could pull off the deal in its favor.

And the merger, the largest in the history, was to create a company worth around $300 billion, with reach over whole of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. With conjectures that it would touch everyone’s life at least once, the company would be the largest media conglomerate that ever existed. It was also adjudged that the conglomerate would soon acquire Yahoo! and would force Microsoft for cooperation with it (possibly another merger).

And Steve Case, that time CEO and chairman of AOL, would be the CEO of AOL Time Warner. Analysts from allover the world blabbered supporting the timeliness and intelligence of the companies to pull off such a deal without the slightest idea of what was to come. And the merger finally happened on February 11, 2000, with high hopes. It’s needless to say of the part that $1 billion played in the merger.

The forecast of the analysts was: AOL, which is largely an Internet based company would allow Time Warner expand their Internet reach to millions. And the Time Warner, with their Internet service provider subsidiary, Roadrunner, would strengthen the ISP business of AOL, which hitherto had no ISP facility. And soon enough, the merged company, the largest of the time, would gorge up other players in the industry like Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google and would thenceforth be possibly the largest company in existence in history.

But soon after the merger, the ISP business of AOL dropped, and market share of many independent companies also fell for the merger, directly affecting also, AOL. Time Warner, whose subsidiaries worked mostly on their own resented having a new boss in AOL. Many Internet providers, who provided service to Time Warner, lost their client after the merger, since Time Warner and its subsidiaries were forced to use AOL for all their Internet needs. Thus, those other companies dipped in market share. But the huge load on AOL, soon failed its network, and Time Warner had to go back to the previous service providers, shattering the trust people had on it.

Soon, enough damage was done, and AOL faced serious set back in market. And together they reported a terrible annual loss of $98 billion in 2001, the year after the merger. Their loss was almost equal to the total revenue of IBM or HP.

Now, let’s come back to the task at hand. The one billion in EBITA. Eight of the AOL’s employees are now under the wrath of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This one billion in EBITA had been a major factor in the merger in 2000, when AOL had been under pressure to show high ad revenues to have a successful merger with Time Warner. And eight ‘loyal’ employees of AOL allegedly helped the company achieve the target by scribbling on paper an extra $1 billion. And that helped the easy pull off of the deal.

Four of these eight men, have already settled their charges by throwing in huge sums. The other four may soon clear their names too. F MacGuidwin, former controller of AOL, David M Colburn, former head of AOL business affairs unit, Eric L Keller, an AOL business affairs exec., and Jay B Rappaport, another business affairs executive, are those who cleared their names off the affair. John Michael Kelly (the person who announced the $1 bn), the former CFO of AOL, Joseph A Ripp, former CFO of AOL division, Steven E Rindner, former business affairs executive of AOL, and Mark Wovsaniker, former head of accounting policy, are the four yet to clear their names, as reported by The New York Times.

These are the figures they will pay for clearing their names:

Mr. MacGuidwin: $2.4 million

Mr. Colburn: $4 million

Mr. Rappaport: $750,000

Mr. Keller: $1 million

And Mr. MacGuidwin and Mr. Colburn were debarred from serving in any company director board for 10 and 7 years to come respectively.

About the other defendants, we have to await the charges and see if they would clear their names as well.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Google Health is Live for Users

Google’s Google Health, the online bureau for all your medical records was opened to Google users this Monday. Using this service, you can track your health information from a number of pharmacies and healthcare institutions, which maintain online database of your medical history.

Using this service, you can

  1. Organize your health information all in one place
  2. Gather your medical records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies
  3. Keep your doctors up to date about your health
  4. Be more informed about important health issues

With Google Health, you can create and save your medical conditions, including your allergies, any symptoms you have, and medications you have undergone. And Google Health, once it gets hold of this information, can crosscheck your health data with the references and prescribe (like a doc) the best course of action to undergo. Also, you can add information on your spouse, your children, etc., and create separate profiles for them.

For your convenience, Google allows you to import your online medical records to Google Health. Google’s partnership with many medical institutions and pharmacies will help you get your medical profiles imported fast, easily, and securely to your Google Health profile. You can identify with the partner sites, with the respective username and password and confirm transfer of data to Google Health, that’s it!

The most attractive section on Google Health is the reference guide with all information on all diseases known to man, complete with symptoms, diagnostics, and treatment. It is a complete doctor’s reference for you. You can well be a health consultant if you go through this reference.

The data you submit to Google Health, your allergies, medications, and the treatments, all are checked within Google Health for potential complications and troubles, and it will alert you of your current state of health.

Google’s innovative search algorithm and their map application, which is the pioneer of online maps, are integrated to Google Health, and as a wonderful database, it has information on all major doctors across the US whom you can consult for your particular health problem. Using the search on the top, you can get to the best doctor around for your particular medical condition.

Google Health is still in beta and according to the user preferences and feedback, Google Health will see more innovations and additions in the coming days. They will, however, face tough competition from the other parties in the field, Microsoft HealthVault and Revolution Health from AOL. For now, all you need to do is get yourself to google.com/health and sign in with your already existing Google account.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar

Monday, May 19, 2008

Microsoft’s Cooperation with Yahoo! Takes a New Phase

Some days ago, we witnessed the story of Microsoft going into potential big-game partnership with Yahoo! Inc, and later by May 8, they backed off from that. But the latest in the news raises an entirely different development. It seems now that Microsoft will end up acquiring Yahoo!.

Though Microsoft earlier said that they would only consider a merger after some deeper brooding, they are likely to change their mind in this regard. But a new development happened as one of the topmost investors of Yahoo!, Carl Icahn of California, sent a letter to Yahoo! denouncing the board’s action of not accepting the Microsoft’s offer of merger.

According to him, the merger with Microsoft would prove to be better for Yahoo! as a company, and as one company, they can be better equipped against the competitors.

Being major investor in Yahoo!, Icahn’s message would have deep effects. In his letter, he also specified the opinion of other investors with the company, who collectively talked with him favoring a merger.

Microsoft had made an initial bid of $31 per share for Yahoo! but later increased it to $33. Still, Yahoo!’s steadfastness (that it would not go below $37) is under suffered denouncements from the shareholders. And to retaliate, Microsoft bought up ten nominees to oppose Yahoo! board, which gets re-elected every year.

But since, Icahn’s proxy battle would hit Yahoo! badly, Microsoft proposed a better alternative for them. Though Microsoft equivocated the alternative deal, the sources are in belief that it would finally result in an acquisition.

In pressure from Microsoft and Yahoo! shareholders, Yahoo!, which closed at about $20 per share on 18, would find it difficult to let down Microsoft’s deal of $33, which may take a fresh effect soon. Let’s wait the latest developments.

Copyright © Gayatri Jayashankar 2008