Casual Games Arrive at Google+

Google Games Homepage
New Google Games dashboard. Image via Google.

Google has started to release an initial set of games with testing starting for selected users on the private Google+ Games homepage. The selection of games includes large developers such as Rovio (Angry Birds), Zynga and PopCap Games with many other games available also on Facebook.

Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President, wrote on the Google blog and told users “We want to make playing games online just as fun, and just as meaningful, as playing in real life.” Users also have total control if they want the games section to be visible in their Google+ stream saying “Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.”

Web developers should soon be able to use the Google+ platform with the creation of a new blog by Google. The use of the platform is only slowly being rolled out. Google explaining “we chose to start with a small number of partners so that we could experiment, get the kinks out of our APIs, and get real end-user feedback before opening up to the world. ”

The current game selection is:

  1. Angry Birds (Rovio)
  2. Bejeweled Blitz (PopCap Games)
  3. Bubble Island (Wooga)
  4. City of Wonder (Playdom)
  5. Collapse! Blast (GameHouse)
  6. Crime City
  7. Diamond Dash (Wooga)
  8. Dragon Age Legends (Electronic Arts)
  9. Dragons of Atlantis (Kabam Games)
  10. Edge World
  11. Flood-It! (Lab Pixies)
  12. Monster World (Wooga)
  13. Sudoku
  14. Wild Ones (PlayDom)
  15. Zombie Lane (Digital Chocolate)
  16. Zynga Poker (Zynga)
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Remove Yourself from Online Records with UnlistMy.Info

UnlistMyInfo

UnlistMy.Info helps users remove personal information from popular privacy-invading website which scour the internet for information to run background checks and people searches by listing opt-out information.

The website was announced on Reddit by Reddit user Cblaz, saying “I think the information is important and should be easily accessible to anyone who wants to protect their privacy.” The Redditor highlighted that they learned of how the remove the information from a post by LawyerCT and Pibbman who used a list of “top” websites and found removal instructions.

The original Reddit poster works at Albine, an online privacy startup, who offer the service for $75 and say “many smaller search sites rely on the big guys for their data, so deleting you from the big databases prevents them from feeding your information to sites across the web.”

Spokeo, just one infamous people search engine, is willing to reveal your email address, social network links and even your ethnicity, gender, wealth and home value all for a monthly or yearly fee. Julian M Bucknall, programmer and journalist in the United States, paid $15 for access to the profile to see what information they actually successfully collected. The results showed wide inconsistencies even though Bucknall publishes a blog, résumé and has public social network profiles.

Metropolitan Police Posts Images Online for Identification of London Rioters

Suspected looters outside shop in South London
One of the images from CCTV camera footage and posted on the Metropolitan Police Flickr, "a group of eight males entering the shop. Note the male in the Stone Island hooded jacket, blue Nike tracksuit bottoms and blue face scarf."

The Metropolitan Police has started releasing the photographs of suspects found looting “from incidents of looting in Croydon over last night and in Norwood Road SE27 in the early hours of this morning” onto their Flickr website. More than 450 detectives have also been assigned to the case with some using leads from CCTV images.

Simon Foy, Head of Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said “Operation Withern is continuing apace. As well as the many arrests and charges the team is working hard to identify suspects.”

The Metropolitan Police have appealed that people who are able to identify the suspects call the Major Investigation Team on 020 8345 4142 and that “anyone can report crime and provide information anonymously” by calling 0800 555 111 for Crimestoppers.

Concerned internet users have started photo identification websites including Zavilla who are accepting photographs from email. They say “when a rioter is positively identified by several people, their information will be passed to police.” Catch a Looter and London Rioters also have published photographs of suspected rioters.

The Metropolitan Police so far arrested 768 people “in connection with violence, disorder and looting” as of August 10 according the Metropolitan Police Twitter.

Gizmodo Says Gadgets Aren’t Sexy, Really Gizmodo?

The word "sexy' crossed out

Gawker Media’s Gizmodo has recently taken a stab at technology writers who use the word ‘sexy’ to describe beautiful technology products. Mat Honan, senior reporter at Gizmodo, realizes that Gizmodo is one of the worst offenders. In one post Gizmodo writers describe how the Olympus PEN Mini was “comparable in size to its sexy older cousin”, the blogger said “change must start at home, so we’re ending the practice now. You’ll not see it used here improperly again.”

Maybe Gizmodo doesn’t subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary’s two definitions of the word “sexy”, one “sexually attractive or exciting” and the other informal use of “very exciting or appealing” but Honan can’t contain the rant targeting popular technology writers saying “Walt Mossberg! Please explain to me exactly how you intend to use this Dell touch screen in a sexually stimulating way!” Doing the same for David Pogue and Joshua Topolsky in cruder words.

If Gizmodo doesn’t like informal usage of words their argument would be much stronger if they didn’t start it like this: “tell me, do you intend to f**k it, or do you simply plan to shove it up your ass?” Last time I checked those expletives were the overused clichés.

The New York Times Releases beta620 to Test Projects

beta620 website

The New York Times will now test out experimental projects on beta620, the newspaper’s public testing website including the ability of users and developers to”suggest and collaborate on new ideas and new products.”

Projects now included are instant search, a dashboard for community members, a crossword web app as well as four other smaller projects. Interestingly, the website already had graduates which were a recommendation engine, coming up next and a Times Skimmer app which spreads the news onto a newspaper-like HTML app.

Currently there is no option of developers outside of the New York Times to submit into the three categories of social, mash-up or app, though developers can use the New York Times API with documentation and code to create their own tools.

The launch of the project was delayed after the March 28 2011 introduction of the paywall which limits users to 20 articles a day until the paywall asks users to subscribe to continue to get access to online content.

HTTPS Everywhere Extension 1.0 Released

HTTPS Everywhere logo with padlock
Based on logo by the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and The TOR Project have released the first stable release of HTTPS Everywhere. The extension for Firefox has now exited beta, supports over a thousand websites, has a better user interface and “performance improvements” according to the developers.

The extension forces website to use the secure HTTPS where available and encrypts requests from your browser to websites. Peter Eckersley, Senior Staff Technologist at EFF, said “without HTTPS, your online reading habits and activities are vulnerable to eavesdropping, and your accounts are vulnerable to hijacking.”

Currently the extension is only available for Firefox users as Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari APIs have limitations in request rewriting. EFF say “that means that there is currently no way to write a secure version of HTTPS Everywhere without modifying the Chrome source code.” KB SSL Enforcer is an alternative though EFF say that it does not appear to be secure.

The extension was first released June 17 2010 as public beta by TOR and EFF. The project was “inspired by the launch of Google’s encrypted search option.” EFF had asked Google to include encrypted search and said “we’re very pleased to see it come to pass”.

US ‘Spam King’ Arrested for Hacking 500,000 Facebook accounts

Wall of spam cans
Spam Wall by Freezelight (Flickr)

Sanford Wallace, also know by his nickname “Spam King”, surrendered to FBI agents in Las Vegas on Thursday, he was charged in  San Jose with six counts of fraud with electronic mail, three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer and one count of criminal contempt.

Sanford Wallace had allegedly sent more than 27 million spam messages by compromising the friend lists of 500,000 Facebook accounts and stole personal information between November 2008 and March 2009.

Prosecutors say Wallace found a way to evade Facebook’s spam filter then automated a method to farm friend lists and post messages. Wallace was also believed to have collected email addresses and passwords for Facebook accounts using a deceptive method then sending them to a affiliate website where Wallace was paid for the users he redirected.

Sam O’Rourke updated a October 2009 post about spamming titled “The Fight Goes On“, saying “we applaud the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to bring spammers to justice and will continue to pursue and support both civil and criminal consequences for spammers and others who attempt to harm Facebook or the people who use our service. ”

Facebook has previously won $711 million in damages in 2009 from Sanford Wallace though he previously filed for bankruptcy. MySpace also filed a suit in 2007 after the spammer created 11,000 fake profiles to direct websites to questionable content.

Skype To Use Open-Source VP8 Codec

Skype Logo

Microsoft’s VoIP software Skype will now use the open-source VP8 video codec, released by Google, in Skype 5.5 for Windows for one-to-one calling after its use in group video calls.

John Luther, Product Manager of the WebM Project, in an announcement of the new codec use said “Skype was one of the earliest supporters of VP8, and we’re really excited that millions more of their users will experience the superior quality and performance of VP8 video calling.”

WebM developers say the VP8 video encoder “has features specifically engineered to overcome the challenges inherent in compressing and transmitting real-time video data”, and that it was excellent for use in real-time applications such as video conferencing software.

MPEG LA, a consortium which has essential patents needed for the use of MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Visual and WebM, could compromise the currently royalty-free state of the video codec after discussions. MPEG LA gained patents after a call for “patents essential to the VP8 video codec specification used to deliver video images”.

Microsoft’s $8.5 billion dollar acquisition of Skype took place on 10 May 2011 and was Microsoft’s largest acquisition. Microsoft is yet to support the VP8 codec in Internet Explorer.

Google Docs to Get New Look

New Google Docs Look

Google Docs has started to allow users to test out the new look that integrates the user interface with the rest of the redesigned Google websites. More padding to given to the document list and a move towards the new Google color scheme of grey text and orange highlights for the buttons.

To activate the new look click on ‘Try the new look’ near the gear icon in the top-left of the screen. Google staff said that the new look would be rolled out to “users over the next few days”.

The redesign will also include keyboard shortcuts which will make it possible to browse the Google Docs interface without a mouse. Pressing the question mark key will bring up and list of the new shortcuts including Shift+t to start a new text document, this changes for the starting letter of each file-type, for example a presentation is Shift+p.

Google has also started a feedback form for submitting comments. The dense view can decrease the padding by clicking on the gear icon then selecting document settings.

Google Says Patents Used to Tax Android

T-Mobile's G1 phone (HTC Dream), using Google'...
Image via Wikipedia

Google has publicly criticized the use of “bogus patents”, saying that patents are being used to unfairly attack Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices. Google believes the consortium that purchased Nortel’s patents for $4.5 billion including Research In Motion, Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, EMC and Sony as well as a bid for Novell’s old patents was done “to make sure Google didn’t get them.”

Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote in a Google blog post that patents were being used to wage “a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.” They pointed out that Microsoft demanded a $15 licensing fee for every Android phone produced and that Android manufacturers including Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola and Samsung were been targeted.

“Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it” and Google would extend its own patent profile to prevent litigation and to allow Android products to remain competitive.  Drummond continued saying “unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.”

Ken Walker, general counsel for Google, also argued that patents were unfairly been used saying “the patent system should reward those who create the most useful innovations for society, not those who stake bogus claims or file dubious lawsuits”, in another Google blog post from April this year.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, told Twitter followers “Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”