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WordPress 3.9 is here!

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Doodle for Google 2012

Google has announced an interesting competition for creative school kids in the US. Children K-12 (Kindergarten through 12th Grade) can participate in this competition to submit “doodles” with the theme “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”. The prize is a $30,000 college scholarship for the kid plus a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.
Watch the video below for some more information.

Of course the contest has its own home page, where all the detailed terms and conditions, and entry forms are provided. Although the video above says the participants have to be US citizens, the FAQ clearly says:

At the time of submitting the doodle, the student must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. legal resident (e.g., must be able to show proof of legal permanent residence, for example, a “green card”), be enrolled in a U.S. based school and be living in the U.S.

The submissions are due by March 23, 2012.

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Featured Articles Technology

Law, Sausage and the Apple

Foxconn, Shenzhen, ChinaIt is said that if you love sausage and respect the law, you should watch neither being made. Now here is something that will make you add your favorite Apple gadget to the list of your dear things that you would rather not watch being made. Actually, this applies not just to the Apple devices but most gadgets you use.
This story from This American Life on National Public Radio brings to light the conditions in the factory in China that makes most of the gadgets we use. According to Wikipedia, Foxconn manufactures products for most electronics companies – from Acer and Apple to Toshiba and Vizio. Do listen to this story. Download it to your Apple iPod and listen to it on your way to work, or wherever. But do listen. What is special about this story is the way it is told by a “worshipper belonging to the cult of the Mac”. He uses innovative methods to get the story out of Foxconn, the enigmatic factory that makes “most of our crap”, and where workers are treated such that “Week after week, worker after worker has been climbing all the way up to the tops of these enormous buildings and then throwing themselves off, killing themselves in a brutal and public manner, not thinking very much about just how bad this makes Foxconn look.”

I strongly encourage you to listen to the story by clicking the “play” button above, but you can also read the transcript here, which is not the same as listening to the inimitable Mr. Mike Daisey.

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Entertainment Featured Articles Technology

Google TV 3.1 – A Critical Review

Last Wednesday (7-Dec-11), Google TV announced on its blog that “all units of the Logitech Revue™ will begin to receive an over-the-air (OTA) update of the new Google TV software”. This update was much awaited and several weeks later than the update was announced for the other Google TV device – the Sony. Anyway, my Logitech Revue got its update yesterday (10-Dec). However, so far the software has not really lived up to its expectations — Google could have, and should have, done a much better job. Anyway, here is a detailed review of what works better and what got worse on Google TV 3.1. For the record, I tested it on a Logitech Revue (with a regular keyboard), hooked to a 51″ Sony Bravia LCD, connected to Comcast cable.
What Got Better:
Let me first talk about what got better. The interface definitely looks much better. When you press the “Home” key on the keyboard, you get a nice toolbar at the bottom of the TV screen.

This toolbar contrasts with the vertical sidebar in the last version, which did have its advantages that I will come to later in this post. Anyway, the first icon in the toolbar is the “All Apps” icon. The second icon is the “Live TV” icon. It is the third icon “TV & Movies”, which is the best feature, and perhaps the only better feature, of Google TV 3.1. This brings up a list of all movies and shows available — currently on live TV, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and so on. You can also change the time from “Now” to a future time and see what is coming up.

Google TV 3.1

Another great addition is the Android Market. However, other than some games, there was not much of my interest. I am sure this opens Google TV up to a large improvement in coming days and weeks.
What Got Worse:
Earlier the “Home” screen had access to almost everything — Applications, Bookmarks, Spotlight, Chrome, and so on — all in the left sidebar, which is now gone. Now, when you go to the “All Apps” screen from the home toolbar, it only brings you to the Apps. There is no more easy access to Bookmarks.

Google TV 3.1

Since all my favorite online video sites were on “Bookmarks”, I need an easy way to get there. Unfortunately, the only way to get there is by opening Chrome, pressing the “Menu” button on the keyboard and choosing “Bookmarks”. The favorites key on the keyboard should have taken us there. Also there seems to be no way to delete existing bookmarks.

Google TV 3.1

Also, the earlier version of the software had an easy way to close a window — press the “Menu” key and choose “Close Window”. Now there is no easy way — you need to keep backing out of the window until you get to Home screen, or press “Menu” key, click on Windows and then click on the “X” next to the current window. Not user friendly at all.

Google TV 3.1

What Stayed the Same (or didn’t get better):
The online TV works as well as it did, as long as it is not blocked. The following picture is from NDTV, a TV channel streaming online from India. All such channels in my bookmarks work fine.

Google TV 3.1

Also, other channels accessible via Google Chrome (e.g., youku.com, vimeo.com, etc.) work fine and offer a lot of content.
“Spotlight” is described as “TV Optimized Websites”, but doesn’t live up to its name for most items listed under it. Well, the website interface is optimized alright, but the content is not made available for Google TV in all cases. Look at the following screenshots from TBS, TNT and Sidereel. The interface is fine, but there is no content to watch. On TNT, there is an option to log-in to your cable provider account, but clicking on that option gets you nowhere. So much for “TV Optimized”.

Google TV 3.1 Google TV 3.1
Google TV 3.1 Google TV 3.1

Then there is the already existing problem of major online TV resources, like Hulu and major TV networks, blocking its content from Google TV. Google 3.1 brings no solution to this issue.
My cable provider is Comcast/xfinity. I can log-in to the Comcast website to watch content online on my PC. This I consider as paid content, because I am paying for access to Comcast. However, when I try to do the same thing on Google TV, it brings up a message asking me to install Microsoft Silverlight. Obviously, there is no way Google TV is going to allow me to install this add-on, and who knows if that is the only missing link.
Maybe it works better on Dish Network, but it is not worth switching TV providers. In fact, I want Google TV to get me closer to cutting the cord, but right now I am nowhere near it.
Fortunately, I bought my Logitech Revue recently for a measly hundred bucks, compared to the earlier price of $300, so I think I am getting my money’s worth with whatever I am able to watch, but Google is not coming up to its expectations, where Google TV is concerned. Why is the “Beta” sign not where it belongs most?
All said and done, as I figure out easier ways of getting things done on Google TV, and get used to the interface, and as more items become available in the Android marketplace, I am still looking forward to a great experience with Google TV.

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Technology

Cartoon Pictures for Facebook

Thousands of people are changing their profile pictures with their favorite cartoon characters. Some are even cartoonifying their own pictures. Watch the following video to listen to today’s news from ABC network about the trend.

If you want to cartoonify your own image, one of the free utilities available online is: befunky.com. Here you can upload your picture and turn it into a cartoon in seconds.

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Technology

Gmail Experts, Submit Your Video to Google

This post, along with all other posts belonging to computer and internet related content, have been moved to my new blog CompuSutra. Click below to read this post at the new location:
Gmail Experts, Submit Your Video to Google

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Technology

Just Upgraded to WordPress 2.8.2

This post, along with all other posts belonging to computer and internet related content, have been moved to my new blog CompuSutra. Click below to read this post at the new location:
Just Upgraded to WordPress 2.8.2

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Technology

Gmail Out of Beta But Issues Persist

This post, along with all other posts belonging to computer and internet related content, have been moved to my new blog CompuSutra. Click below to read this post at the new location:
Gmail Out of Beta But Issues Persist

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Technology

Gmail Search has Auto-Complete

This post, along with all other posts belonging to computer and internet related content, have been moved to my new blog CompuSutra. Click below to read this post at the new location:
Gmail Search has Auto-Complete