The skinny on Bing's new panorama maker (video)

Posted by Harshad

The skinny on Bing's new panorama maker (video)

The skinny on Bing's new panorama maker (video)

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 02:52 PM PST

Bing logo

Microsoft unloaded a dump truck's worth of changes on its Bing service earlier today, and some of the real gems to come out of the lot are the updates to Bing mobile.

New to the company's iPhone app--and soon other mobile iterations of Bing--are two very visually impressive, and downright useful additions: a Streetside viewer for local maps, and something called Bing Vision, which adds a way for users to pick out specific words from photos to create a customized Web search.

Missing from the update but headed to the app in a future release is the real bit of eye candy: panoramas. If you've ever used Occipital's 360 Panorama app, the idea Microsoft has put into place is pretty similar. You move your phone around and it captures multiple images together into one panorama you can come back and view later.

Though unlike Occipital's app, Bing users will have to manually snap shots to have them get stitched together by the software. This necessity ends up giving users a little bit more control when waiting for someone to walk in or out of the frame. Another big difference from competitors is what Microsoft intends to do with the imagery once users have captured it.

In Microsoft's own words, it's crowd-sourcing that data, and is in the process of giving anyone with a smartphone a way to get involved. Users can either save a panorama and store it away, or they can upload it for others to see. The options for sharing will include social networks and Bing Maps at large. This, along with a partnership with Everyscape will give businesses and individuals the means to add interior or exterior imagery to the service.

CNET got a few minutes following today's announcements to chat with Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Microsoft's architect of Bing Maps and Bing Mobile, who gave us a demo of the new features. In the video below we get a brief look at the new panorama maker, as well as Streetside view and Bing Vision--both of which came as part of today's version 2.0 software update. The panorama maker itself was not a part of that update.

Originally posted at News - Microsoft

Apple fixes bugs with iTunes 10.1.1 release

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 12:53 PM PST

Apple has released a small update to iTunes 10.1, which, in addition to addressing a couple of bugs that could affect performance and sometimes result in the program crashing, also includes a couple of enhancements for syncing to iOS devices and using AirPlay to stream videos to Apple TV. The update should be available in Software Update, or you can visit the iTunes 10.1.1 Web page and download a standalone installer for the software.

The update specifically fixes the following features:

  • Addresses an issue where some music videos may not play on Macs equipped with Nvidia GeForce 9400 or 9600 graphics.

  • Resolves an issue where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when deleting a playlist that has the iTunes Sidebar showing.

  • Fixes a problem where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when connecting an iPod to a Mac equipped with a PowerPC processor.

  • Addresses an issue where some music videos may not sync to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.

In addition to the bug fixes, Apple has included new AirPlay and synchronization features:

  • Use AirPlay to instantly and wirelessly stream videos from iTunes to the new Apple TV.

  • Sync with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch with iOS 4.2.

  • Provides a number of important stability and performance improvements.

As always, be sure to back up your system before installing the update. The update requires OS X 10.5 or later, and is a 90.5MB download for OS X. More information about the update can be found at the iTunes 10.1.1 release Web page.

Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
Be sure to check us out on Twitter and the CNET Mac forums.

Originally posted at MacFixIt

Google proclaims Chrome business-ready

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 09:59 AM PST

Google Chrome logo (Credit: Google)

Chrome is ready for corporate use, Google argued today in blog posts.

"Today, we're announcing that Chrome offers controls that enable IT administrators to easily configure and deploy the browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux according to their business requirements," product manager Glenn Wilson and programmer Daniel Clifford said.

Of course, it'll be up to those administrators to decide whether it really is ready. But Google has added several features, most notably Windows policy template support that lets administrators control Chrome settings across an organization.

And for those not satisfied with poking around help files and exercising search engines to get support, there's phone and e-mail support through Google Apps for Business, Google said.

Google also announced some organizations that have installed Chrome: Vanguard, Boise State University, and Procter & Gamble. That's not much compared to the broader adoption of Firefox and of course Internet Explorer, but it's notable.

Chrome has spread to account for nearly 10 percent of browser usage worldwide, but Google would like more; Chrome fuels its ambitions to make the Web a faster, more powerful foundation for applications, and it also helps the company propagate its technology ideas.

Corporate administrators are notoriously conservative. One modern-day trend, exhibited by technologies such as the iPhones and Google search, is the "consumerization of IT." And Google evidently would like some help from consumers spreading Chrome: "let your administrator know to give it a try and let us know what they think," Wilson and Clifford said.

Originally posted at Deep Tech

Myst sequel Riven now available for iOS

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 09:51 AM PST

Riven is back, and beautiful as ever.

Riven is back, and beautiful as ever.

(Credit: Cyan Worlds)

If you're under the age of 30, the name "Riven" might mean nothing to you. But for us old fogies of PC gaming, it's instantly recognizable: Riven is the sequel to Myst.

Myst, of course, was the groundbreaking, best-selling puzzle/adventure game--of 1993 (and for the next decade, until The Sims came along). That title made its iOS debut back in May 2009.

Now comes Riven, which features all the sights, sounds, and gameplay of the original. It's available in the App Store now for $5.99 (quite a bit less than the PC version).

Set right after the events of Myst, Riven takes place almost entirely on the Age of Riven Island. Your goal: to help Atrus rescue his captured wife from power-mad Gehn.

The game relies on the same basic island-exploration and puzzle-solving mechanics as Myst. I can't say I'm a fan of looking at a series of still images and trying to figure out where to click (or in this case tap), but legions of Myst/Riven fans can't be wrong.

One important note about installing Riven: you need a whopping 2GB of free space, though the game itself occupies "only" 1GB after installation is complete. Make sure you have room available (or are willing to make room) before buying.

Originally posted at iPhone Atlas

Microsoft gives Firefox an H.264 video boost

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 07:47 AM PST

Firefox logo

Mozilla is outspoken in its dislike of the patent-encumbered video technology called H.264, but Microsoft, an H.264 fan, is providing a plug-in that will let Windows 7 users use it anyway.

H.264 is a codec--technology to encode and decode video--that's widely used in videocameras, Blu-ray players, online video streaming, and more. It's built into Adobe Systems' Flash Player browser plug-in, but most people don't know or need to know it's there.

When it comes to the flagship feature of built-in video support coming to the new HTML5 specification for creating Web pages, though, codec details do matter. Not all browsers support H.264 or its open-source, royalty-free rival from Google, the VP8-based WebM. That means Web developers must make sure they support both formats or provide a fallback to something like Flash. Otherwise they risk leaving some viewers behind.

To help bridge the divide, Microsoft has released a plug-in that lets Firefox tap into Windows 7's native H.264 support for HTML5 video. The move could help pave over some of the new Web's rough patches, but also irritate WebM fans who want to see the Web move to unencumbered technology.

"H.264 is a widely-used industry standard, with broad and strong hardware support. This standardization allows users to easily take what they've recorded on a typical consumer video camera, put it on the Web, and have it play in a web browser on any operating system or device with H.264 support, such as on a PC with Windows 7," Microsoft said. "The HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in continues to offer our customers value and choice, since those who have Windows 7 and are using Firefox will now be able to watch H.264 content through the plug-in."

According to the plug-in's release notes, "The extension is based on a Firefox add-on that parses HTML5 pages and replaces video tags with a call to the Windows Media Player plug-in so that the content can be played in the browser. The add-on replaces video tags only if the video formats specified in the tag are among those supported by Windows Media Player. Tags that contain other video formats are not touched." Microsoft is working on ironing out user-interface differences between Windows Media Player controls and those that would show with video playing natively in the browser.

Microsoft already had offered a related Firefox plug-in that let people watch Windows Media videos on the Web.

Mozilla is working to try to establish WebM as a required codec for HTML5, a specification standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Updated 8:37 a.m. PT with download link and release note information.

Originally posted at Deep Tech

Chrome 9 beta to bring faster, fancy graphics

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 07:01 AM PST

Google Chrome logo (Credit: Google)

Mozilla and Microsoft have been racing to see which will be the first to release a production-quality browser with hardware-accelerated graphics, but at the current rate, it could be Google's Chrome 9 that crosses the finish line first.

Google likely will be issuing Chrome 9 in beta form soon. It had been planned for Tuesday, but Anthony LaForge, a Chrome technical program manager, pushed it back. "The crash rate [of] 400 crashes per million page loads on the browser is simply too high," he said in a mailing list message

Hardware acceleration isn't a simple either-or situation, but rather a long list of possible ways a graphics chip can speed up the task of painting pixels on a screen. Among aspects that can be accelerated: SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics); 2D graphics drawn with the new Canvas feature; font rendering; video decoding and resizing; the graphical formatting, transitions, and transformations of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets); WebGL for 3D graphics; and compositing different elements of a Web page into the single view a person sees.

Chrome is due for at least some of them--compositing, WebGL, and 2D Canvas, for example. However, it's very much a work in progress: accelerated 2D Canvas is disabled in Windows XP, and a second phase of 2D Canvas acceleration is currently scheduled for Chrome 11.

WebGL holds the potential to dramatically transform the Web, most notably through 3D games but also many other possibilities such as online maps and virtual worlds. Google, with Chrome OS heightening its emphasis on Web applications as an alternative to native, is a major advocate of WebGL.

Chrome relies on the OpenGL interface for 2D and 3D graphics acceleration. That's complicated on Windows, where OpenGL support is spotty in comparison to Microsoft's rival DirectX technologies. Google sidesteps the limitation through a project called ANGLE that translates OpenGL commands into DirectX.

Even so, there are plenty of problems. To minimize them, Chrome will come with a blacklist to disable the feature on incompatible computers.

Also of note for Web appliction fans is Chrome 9's support for IndexedDB, a developing standard that enables Web application storage. That could be instrumental for reinstating Google Apps' ability to work offline, a major requirement for the success of Chrome OS and the cloud-computing philosophy.

Speaking of Web applications, Chrome 9 also comes with a new task manager to show what Web applications are running, including background applications that might not be immediately apparent.

Originally posted at Deep Tech

OoVoo Mobile takes on Qik, Fring for Android video chat

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 05:00 AM PST

OoVoo Mobile for Android

OoVoo Mobile will connect up to six callers from desktop and Android phones.

(Credit: ooVoo)

Fring, Apple FaceTime, and the Evo's Qik app for Android may have shone a light on mobile video chatting, but OoVoo is making good on an almost year-old promise by rolling out a new free app today that one-ups them all. Two things set the cross-platform service apart. First, in addition to two-way video chatting like Fring and Qik, it lets six callers video chat on a single line. Second, since Oovoo Mobile extends OoVoo's Skype competitor on Windows to the mobile phone, it doesn't restrict calls to mobile users, as does Fring.

Oovoo Mobile has most of the touch-friendly controls you'd expect, and in a clean interface design. While on a call, you can turn on speakerphone, mute the audio, and even mute the video broadcast from your end. You'll be able to switch between broadcasting from both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and can add more callers during a call or before you start. In addition to video and voice calls with other mobile and desktop users, there's also instant messaging through the app to other OoVoo users. This usually comes in handy for arranging calling times or communicating in case of a technical obstruction.

CNET got an early look at OoVoo Mobile last week, speaking with OoVoo employees we called on a mix of PCs and Android phones. The video and app were impressive overall, even if the early preview version we saw lacked some key features that are promised at launch (like the camera swap mode and landscape video support.)

Video quality varied in our demo, which we expected. Although the stream was never photorealistic, some callers looked sharper than others, and one caller was downright choppy. We also noticed some caller delay at times. These are all flaws that crop up in every VoIP service we've used, so we're willing to cut OoVoo some slack for now. The quality of the phone's camera or desktop Web cam, and the bandwidth strength will also play a role in overall quality, too, which you should also keep in mind.

What OoVoo can perfect is the way it manages videos from multiple parties. The app will let you toggle among callers' full-screen videos at launch, but it won't display thumbnail videos in a single layout for all active callers, and it won't let you swipe left or right in full-screen mode to advance through the callers' video streams. 

Pricing, competition

OoVoo Mobile is getting its start on Android phones with front-facing cameras, like the HTC Evo 4G and the Samsung Epic 4G. The company expects to have a release for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and iOS around February 2011, and we wouldnt' be surprised if it also hopped onto more Android 2.2 phones (even some 2.1 phones with just audio calling.) The app will be free for registered users, but we could see the first advertising models applied in six months or so.

Like we said, it's been almost a year since OoVoo first announced its intention to go mobile. That's given competitors like Fring, Qik, and Skype plenty of time to bolster their own products. Skype's lack of video support in its mobile apps is especially surprising, and OoVoo's accomplishment on Android may very well spur the VoIP giant on.

However, this isn't the first time CNET's played with video conferencing on a mobile phone--iVisit Mobile snagged those honors over two years ago on a Windows Mobile phone.

Originally posted at Android Atlas

New scam tactic: Fake disk defraggers

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 05:37 PM PST

Beware of this fake disk defragger program.

Beware of this fake disk defragger program.

(Credit: GFI Labs)

We've all heard about fake antivirus programs, also known as scareware. These programs falsely claim that your computer is infected with malware and prompt you to buy a product that will do nothing for you, except put your credit card number into the hands of criminals.

Well now there are fake disk defraggers that masquerade as applications that fix disk errors on a computer. In a post today the GFI Labs (formerly Sunbelt Software) blog Dubbed the programs FakeAV-Defrag rogues and said they had names like HDDDiagnostic, HDDRepair, HDDRescue, and HDDPlus.

It would appear that the scammers are trying out the new programs to see which might best confuse potential victims and evade detection by legitimate antivirus software. The defragger clones emerged last month with names like UltraDefragger, ScanDisk and WinHDD and which pretended to find "HDD read/write errors. Earlier this month, there was PCoptimizer, PCprotection Center, and Privacy Corrector that were more generic security products rather than specifically antivirus, the post says.

Computer users should be suspicious of applications that are advertised via e-mail, pop up warnings about problems (especially immediately after you click on a Web page video), demand that you make a purchase before it will fix the problems, and prompt you to update your browser, GFI Labs said.

If you aren't sure if a program is legitimate, you can search by the name on a search engine or on GFI Labs' site.

Originally posted at InSecurity Complex


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