Archive for May, 2013


DailyDoseMic3 520x245 TNWs Daily Dose: Google Calendar, Instacart, and North Korea

In today’s Daily Dose, a new Google search test, Instacart keeps up the yuppie pressure, and North Korea gets tinted.

You can catch The Daily Dose every Monday through Friday right here on The Next Web. Be sure to hit the subscription button of your choice below to get The Daily Dose as soon as it’s available.

  • An Instagram look behind the secret walls of North Korea. Read more.
  • Weeks after adding Trader Joe’s, grocery delivery service Instacart now supports Whole Foods. Read more.
  • Google adds Calendar results to Gmail and Web search in expanded field trial program for US users. Read more.

Twitter Birds 520x245 Easy to read: Twipster for Chrome and Safari gives you a tidier Twitter interface

An app doesn’t have to offer too many features, but what it does do, it should do it well.

With that in mind, Twipster is a simple Chrome and Safari extension that tidies up your Twitter stream to make it just a little bit more readable.

Indeed, once you install the add-on and visit your Twitter account, you won’t notice a huge change to the look-and-feel, but it will look different enough to make you switch back to the original interface just to compare.

Twipster 730x447 Easy to read: Twipster for Chrome and Safari gives you a tidier Twitter interface

Indeed, Twipster essentially strips out all the noise, including ‘Who To Follow’ and ‘Trends’, while pushing the ‘Home’, ‘@Connect’ and ‘Me’ tabs to the top. What remains is a long, continuous stream of tweets with no distractions.

Nice and simple.

Twipster – Chrome & Safari

In our constantly evolving world of advanced physics engines, retina displays, and that are graphics cards that are pushing games over 100 frames per second, it’s hard to look at a game like the original Super Mario Bros. and imagine what it would be like if it was published today. As a 2D scroller, Mario was a fun but challenging even in the early levels. The creator of the original First Person Mario (Freddie Wong) has come back to show everyone how unbelievably impossible the ending of this game would have been in 3D.

First Person Mario: Endgame is the sequel to the original demonstration of what Mario would look like if it were made using today’s FPS happy world. In the original, it was made pretty clear that the experience would be chaotic. It sounds almost as crazy as playing the 2D version with a 5-foot wide Lego controller, but that’s been done already.

The first part of Mario, at least in 2D land, is pretty easy though. The obvious question is whether or not you could survive in that same experience later on in the game. A quick look at FPM: Endgame pretty clearly makes the answer a flat “no”. Even if you were able to survive jumping from tank to tank and taking out the baddies, there’s no way you could manage jumping on the sheer volume of cannonballs being shot at you. Even in a 3D space, being stuck on those tanks makes it impossible to strafe or dodge in any way. There’s only one thing to do: jump and pray.

First Person Mario

Once you get beyond the tanks, of course, you’ve got to take on the final boss. 3D Bowser is infinitely more menacing that his 2D self, and seeing his massive body flung towards you makes it hard to imagine you’re going to be able to run underneath of him in time. Of course, you know you you’re going to win, and you’ve got that HUD showing you life in 2D is so much simpler while you panic. The battle comes rapidly to a close and Bowser inevitably puts his massive body through the floor and plunges to his doom. Everything is as it should be, and Mario ends as the hero we all remember him.

The most impressive part of this visual experience is that it comes at the hands of five talented individuals after four weeks of rendering and anmation. Brandon Laatsch lead the way to the sequel with a combination of 3dsMax, After Effects, Premier, Vray, and Krakatoa. Brandon comments that on a single computer this project would have taken 50 hours in just rendering, but through a networking his computers together the process took significantly less time overall. You can take a look at a behind the scenes for this impressive video on Brandon’s YouTube channel.

Virtual reality for gaming has seen an influx of support recently due to the existence of the Oculus Rift VR headset. The headset is nearly finished and has growing support from developers, including Valve and John Carmack.

The Oculus Rift won’t be a success unless it has the games to support it, but it looks as though adding support isn’t actually that difficult. Modder Nathan Andrews has already got the headset working with Half-Life 2, and now he’s ported his Oculus Rift mod over to Crysis. The video above shows him playing the game using the headset. Unfortunately there’s no footage of him moving around, just the game being played from his perspective.

Oculus Rift

The other good news is Andrews says he’s working on adding support for CryEngine 3, meaning Crysis 2, Crysis 3, MechWarrior Online, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, and many more titles could get patched in the future to also support Oculus Rift.

What you may notice from watching the video is the aiming isn’t great. That’s simply because this is a work in progress and Andrews has yet to get the crosshairs tracking properly. He also says the game takes a bit of getting used to playing in this way, which is understandable, and the recording is one of his earlier sessions.

The potential is certainly there for Oculus Rift to be a huge hit with gamers, and Andrews says its accuracy is continuing to improve. He has started using a 9DOF 1000hz YEI 3-space tracker and claims he’s seeing a 4-fold accuracy increase over what Carmack was enjoying with the Hillcrest tracker beta firmware.

Here’s the Half-Life 2 video Andrews created which actually shows him moving around while playing.

Now read: Hands-on with the nearly finished Oculus Rift VR headset

Google is showing off its speedy browser synchronization kung fu using a new browser-based game called Chrome Super Sync Sports. There’s a trio of cyberathletic contests, and you can take them on solo or challenge your friends in an online multiplayer session: run, bike, or swim your way to victory!

To get started, you have to sync your mobile device to your desktop or laptop. You don’t even have to use Chrome, though Google’s obviously pitching that as the preferred browser. Fire up a session on your computer, then point your mobile browser to g.co/super and punch in the unique code Google provides, and you’re ready to go.

Your tablet or smartphone becomes the controller while the game plays out on your big(ger) screen. The concept itself isn’t a new one — it’s very much like the dozens of Smart TV, Blu-ray player, and set-top box remote control apps that you can install from Google Play and the App Store. There are two key differences, however.

Compared to the remote app for my Sony network player, for example, Google’s Chrome Super Sync demo is much smoother and more responsive. Sports manages to track rapid pattern gestures in Safari on my iPhone and zap them instantly to the cloud and back over to my laptop where they’re interpreted as gamepad input to move my avatar around the track.

chrome super sync safari ios

And while the speed is impressive, it’s even more impressive that this is happening entirely in the browser. It would be even cooler if I’d managed to get Super Sync to work with a non-WebKit browser — both Firefox and IE10 on my desktop failed to make the necessary Websockets connection required to start the game. Nevertheless, Super Sync Sports remains an impressive demonstration of where we’re headed.

The web is already capable of enabling some pretty amazing experiences, and they’re only going to get better with companies like Google, Mozilla, and yes, even Microsoft pushing things forward.

Titanic II

Clive Palmer, and Australian billionaire who made his money mainly through mining operations, has announced he intends to enjoy the money he has earned over his life by spending it before he dies. His first big investment? Building a new cruise ship that will be a replica of the Titanic.

The announcement was made and a blueprint of the ship released on board the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. It’s called the Titanic II and is set to be constructed in China at the CSC Jinling Shipyard over the next 3 years. Passengers are expected to be using it to cross the Atlantic beginning June 2016.

The ship is a replica of the original, but the design actually makes it 3-inches longer than the 1912 version at 883 feet. Anyone enjoying the luxuries of modern cruise ships will be disappointed, though. To keep things “real,” the Titanic II won’t be outfitted with access to the Internet or even a TV. Your entertainment looks likely to be whatever was on offer in the early 1900s. Who knows, they might even ask for your gadgets to be handed in before you are allowed to board.

Despite that, Palmer says he’s already had a lot of interest and over 40,000 people sign up for tickets. That’s good news as he needs 2,435 passengers to fill it and 900 crew members to keep the ship running during its 5 day trip across the Atlantic.

The worry is that after the excitement has died down there won’t be much interest on using the ship to travel. Some have even said it’s a bit tacky recreating the ship that 1,500 people died on when it hit an iceberg. There’s also the issue of cost, with Palmer quoting $750,000 to $1 million if you want to secure one of the cabins on board.

Looking on the bright side, even if the Titanic II does fail it will still be able to act as an almost perfect recreation of the original ship and could become a museum attraction once it stops sailing.

Now read: The final voyage of the USS Enterprise

safariswipez

Few days back we showed you a number of jailbreak tweaks that enhance mobile Safari’s functionality on your jailbroken iPhone and iPad.

Add SafariSwipez to that list. It’s a new jailbreak tweak that allows you to close tabs in mobile Safari with a swipe.

After installing the jailbreak tweak, all you need to do is swipe up or swipe down on the open page instead of tapping on the x button.

You can check out the brief demo of the jailbreak tweak in action below:

It doesn’t add any options to configure the tweak in the Settings app. Install the tweak to enable the feature, and uninstall it if you want to disable it.

SafariSwipez is available for free on Cydia on the BigBoss repo. If you like gesture driven jailbreak tweaks such as Zephyr then you’ll definitely like it. It just seems a lot more natural way of closing tabs.

Click on the download link below to install the package from Cydia if you’re on a jailbroken iOS device.

Download link

hollywood_tv_ad

Ken Segall, the creative director of the Think Different campaign and author of the book Think Simple, a book that details how Steve Jobs worked, believes that Apple is no longer untouchable when it comes to advertising.

He points out that Samsung is generating more buzz by spending a lot more than Apple and with its people-based ads compared to Apple’s product based ads.

In a blog post titled “Apple battling where it used to crush” he writes:

The fact is, it is being touched – often and effectively – by none other than Samsung.

Samsung has made remarkable inroads in a very short time, for two big reasons.

First, it is spending a fortune to run its ads. According to this report, Samsung spends more than Apple, more than HP and Dell, and even more than Coca-Cola to get its message out. In marketing, as in political advertising, the bigger the budget, the bigger the chance of success. Assuming, of course, that the message is a potent one.

The big surprise is that Samsung’s message has proven to be tremendously potent. The company continues to bash away at Apple, delivering ads that are well produced, well written and seem to be striking a nerve.

In contrast to Apple, which has been sticking to its product-based ads, Samsung has been scoring points with its people-based ads – most of which play off some growing negative perceptions about Apple.

He points out how Samsung invested in a two-minute Super Bowl ad, whereas Apple did nothing and the Korean company also created a new story for the Oscars featuring Tim Burton whereas Apple aired a variation of the iPad ad it had run few days back during the Oscars.

While I admit that I am not a big fan of Apple’s ads off late, the numbers don’t seem to suggest that Apple is losing its momentum. At the end of the day, iPhone 5 was the best selling smartphone in the last quarter, and Apple sold more units of the iPhone 4S (which was launched in 2011) than Galaxy S3 units.

In his book Segall had said that to copy Apple, rivals need to build a company like Apple, not just products, but in his blog post he seems to suggest that a bigger advertising budget and ads that take a dig at rivals and their fan base should be more than enough to generate the buzz.

What do you think? Is Apple losing its buzz because of the Samsung ads?

Samsung’s Super Bowl ad:

Samsung’s ad during the Oscars:

Apple’s ad during the Oscars:

Fears that deadlock will lengthen Italy’s two-year recession and spill over into rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe

Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters’ rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics.

The governing stalemate in Rome and the vote in the general election – by a factor of three to two – against the austerity policies pursued by Italy’s humiliated caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, meant that the spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the eurozone would grind to a halt, risking a re-eruption of the euro crisis after six months of relative stability.

Fears that the deadlock will lengthen Italy’s near two-year recession and spill over into the rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe. The Italian banking sector fell 7% in value, dragging the main MIB stock market index 4% lower.

The market turmoil in Milan spread to Germany, France and the UK, with domestic banks among the biggest fallers. Deutsche Bank saw almost 5% knocked off its value, while Barclays suffered a 4% decline. The FTSE 100 fell 1.4%. The German Dax slumped more than 2% and the Paris Cac was down 2.75%.

The cliffhanger vote saw the maverick comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement take almost one in four of the votes and the political revival of the ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But the narrow victor, Pier Luigi Bersani, on the centre-left, claimed the mantle of the premiership, although it was unclear if he would be able to form a government.

Despite the withering popular verdict on cuts and taxes, Brussels and Berlin insisted the austerity programme had to be continued in Italy. France and others seized on the outcome for their own purposes, arguing for a relaxation of spending cuts and greater emphasis on policies to boost growth and job creation.

Bersani moved to try to cobble a government together by wooing the upstart Grillo with tentative talk of a reformist leftist coalition. Looking weary, Bersani said it was time for the 5 Star movement to do more than just demand a clean sweep of Italy’s established political order.

“Up to now they have been saying ‘All go home’. But now they are here too. So either they go home as well, or they say what they want to do for their country and their children.”

Grillo said earlier his followers in parliament would not join a coalition, but would consider proposals “law by law, reform by reform”.

Bersani said that, since his four-party alliance had won an outright majority in the lower house of the Italian parliament and more seats than any other grouping in the Senate, it had a responsibility to suggest ways in which Italy could be governed, despite the deadlock in the upper house.

Shunning the idea of a grand coalition with Berlusconi and the right, he proposed a government committed to a five-point plan for sweeping reform of Italy’s political parties and institutions.

The north-south split in Europe opened up by the election presaged clashes between eurozone governments, likely to surface at an EU summit next month, amid calls for a shift away from the harsh regime prescribed and driven through by Berlin in recent years as the price of bailing out insolvent eurozone periphery countries.

The Italian stalemate combines with tough negotiations over a bailout for Cyprus, being resisted by Germany, worries about the French economy, an unresolved debt crisis in Spain, and David Cameron’s decision to throw Britain’s future in Europe into question, making EU politics unusually volatile.

“Italy plays a central role in successfully overcoming Europe’s debt crisis,” said the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.

“So we assume that the policy of fiscal consolidation and reform will be consistently followed by a new government.”

Angela Merkel, bidding for a third term as German chancellor in September, has been banking on a period of eurozone calm in the run-up to her election, but Italian voters have wrecked that calculation.

The Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, recently made head of the political committee that runs the euro, said Monti’s policies had to be continued. “They are crucial for the entire eurozone.”

The European Commission echoed the calls for sticking with the austerity medicine. Italy has the highest national debt level in the eurozone after Greece, although its budget deficit is in better shape than many others, including France and the Netherlands.

But Paris led the chorus for a policy shift. French government ministers, including Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, demanded a change of course in remarks directed at Berlin.

Spain waited anxiously to see what impact the Italian leap in the dark would have on its debt crisis. “This is a jump to nowhere that does not bode well either for Italy or for Europe,” said the foreign minister, Jose-Manuel Garcia-Margallo, adding he was “extremely concerned” about the effect on Spain’s borrowing costs.

Both Berlusconi and Grillo have been harshly critical of the Germans, decried Monti’s austerity packages, and have raised questions as to whether Italy, the eurozone’s third biggest economy, should remain in the single currency. Grillo has called for a referendum on the matter.

Berlusconi rounded on the Germans on Tuesday, declaring that the “spread” – the difference between how much Italy and Germany pay to borrow on the bond markets – had been “invented” two years ago. This was code for saying that Berlin and Frankfurt, the German government and the European Central Bank, conspired to push up the cost of Italian borrowing in 2011 in order to topple Berlusconi and bring in Monti, the technocratic darling of the eurozone elite.

The turmoil saw Italian bond yields also jump, indicating that any new government will be forced to pay a higher interest rate on its debts.

The 10-year Italian bond yield edged back into dangerous territory on Tuesday after it passed 4.9%, although this is a far cry from 2011 when the yields shot above 7%.

Hewlett Packard CEO who supported California’s Proposition 8 when running for governor switches to back same-sex unions

The Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who supported a California law that barred same-sex unions when she ran for governor in the state, explained on Tuesday that she had changed her mind after being persuaded that gay marriage would strengthen society rather than weaken it.

Whitman is among scores of high-profile Republicans, including top advisors to George W Bush, former governors and members of Congress, who have signed a legal brief which is to be filed this week to the supreme court, in support of a lawsuit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, the controversial Californian ballot initiative on same sex marriage.

Whitman said her decision to switch her stance on the issue came about “after careful review and reflection” in the three years since she ran for governor. “Like several others who have either sought or held public office, including president Obama, I have changed my mind on this issue,” Whitman said.

In a blogpost published on Tuesday, she quoted David Cameron, the British prime minister, as among those who helped her to alter her thinking on the issue. She wrote: “In reviewing the amicus brief before deciding to put my signature on it, one passage struck an immediate chord with me. In explaining his own support for same-sex marriage, British prime minister David Cameron once said: ‘Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.’”

Whitman said that the amicus, or “friend of the court”, brief argues that the “oft-cited claims” that marriage between same-sex couples will hurt traditional marriage and be detrimental to children have been “rejected by social science”. It argues that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children to grow up in stable two-parent homes and thus advances conservative values of limited government and individual freedom.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sponsor of the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, said it had worked hard to “strip the partisan veil” from marriage equality. It assembled a bipartisan legal team, led by Theodore B Olson, who was US solicitor general under George W Bush, to build up a case to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates the US constitution by denying millions of people their fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of the laws.

Adam Umhoefer, the AFER’s executive director, said: “The support for marriage equality demonstrated by this amicus brief represents a microcosm of what we see happening all across the country.

“Americans are united behind the concepts of freedom, dignity and strong families. The conservative movement toward the freedom to marry is what we like to call the ‘Ted Olson effect’. We value the support of our conservative colleagues and welcome their voices to the growing majority of Americans who stand for marriage equality.”

Legal analysts told the New York Times, which first reported news of the Republican-supported legal brief, that the document had the power to affect conservative judges, as much for the legal arguments within it. The signers include a list of Republican officials and influential thinkers, many of whom are not normally associated with gay rights and some of whom, like Whitman and Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who opposed gay marriage during his 2012 presidential election campaign, have altered their thinking.

Among the names are representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, and Richard Hanna of New York. Stephen Hadley, a Bush national security adviser, James B Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official, and David A Stickman, president Ronald Reagan’s first budget director, also signed.

Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio, now retired, said on Monday: “Like a lot of my country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I just think its the just the right thing and I think it’s on solid legal footing too.”

Huntsman announced his change of heart in an article for The American Conservative entitled Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause.

Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay a few years ago, is on the board of AFER and was a key figure in gathering signatures. He told the New York Times: “We are trying to say to the court that we are judicial and political conservatives and it is consistent with out values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”

The supreme court will hear oral argument in Perry vs Hollingsworth on 26 March.

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