David vs. Goliath In The Search Engine Wars

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From TPM’s Carl Franzen:

Google’s core product — its web search engine — has been hit with a barrage of criticism for changes Google made in the way it displays search results, putting content from Google’s social network, Google Plus, up front and center, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. Add to that concerns from users and regulators over Google’s new privacy policy, and Google search has had a difficult 2012 so far, to say the least.

In contrast, the fortunes of a relatively unknown search engine focused on privacy, called DuckDuckGo, have never been better.

DuckDuckGo, which promotes its simplicity and strict privacy protections over competitors, has experienced a record surge in traffic over the past three months, up 227 percent to nearly 1.5 million unique searches daily.

DuckDuckGo’s founder Gabriel Weinberg said that he knew the tide was turning when his four-year-old search engine saw a million searches per day on February 14.

There’s more. . .

Forgot Password?

English: This was the most up-to-date DARPA lo...

Image via Wikipedia

A question I’m often asked. But, if this research bears fruit, that will never be a problem again.

From the NY Times’ Digital Domain:

IMAGINE sitting down at your work keyboard, typing in your user name and starting work right away — no password needed.

That’s a vision that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the Defense Department, wants to turn into a reality. It will distribute research funds to develop software that determines, just by the way you type, that you are indeed the person you say you are.

More HERE.

Pogue’s Take on the iPhone

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or as I call it, my toddler’s phone.

I’m with AT&T. So far, so good. The Verizon debut doesn’t mean anything to me. A few years ago, after a horrible experience with a Verizon rep — and her equally obnoxious supervisor — I canceled my Verizon service “forever.” That same day I switched carriers and haven’t looked back. I’m sure Verizon doesn’t miss my eighty five bucks each month. I don’t miss them either.

It’s here. After almost four years of speculation, the iPhone will finally come to Verizon’s network on Feb. 10.

And to answer everyone’s question, the Verizon iPhone is nearly the same as AT&T’s iPhone 4 — but it doesn’t drop calls. For several million Americans, that makes it the holy grail.

I took the Verizon iPhone to five cities, including the two Bermuda Triangles of AT&T reception: San Francisco and New York. Holding AT&T and Verizon iPhones side by side in the passenger seat of a car, I dialed 777-FILM simultaneously, and then rode around until a call dropped.

There’s more…

The Not-So-Free Free Textbook

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Via the Technology section of The New York Times:

INFURIATING Scott G. McNealy has never been easier. Just bring up math textbooks.

Mr. McNealy, the fiery co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, shuns basic math textbooks as bloated monstrosities: their price keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same.

“Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,” Mr. McNealy says.

Early this year, Oracle, the database software maker, acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, leaving Mr. McNealy without a job. He has since decided to aim his energy and some money at Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material that he spearheaded six years ago.

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Gardening For Dummies

SproutRobot sends you seeds and tells you when to plant them (via TechCrunch):

Gardening For Dummies: SproutRobot Sends You Seeds And Tells You When To Plant Them

It’s no secret that home-grown fruits and vegetables are usually really good, handily beating what you’ll find lining the aisles at your local supermarket. But If you’re like me,  gardening has always seemed like something of a dark art — you put seeds in the ground, add water, do some other stuff, and a few weeks (or months?) later you have some tasty fruits and vegetables.

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via TechCrunch

Pixar’s Creative Formula

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Pixar Studio's Creative Formula via Wired

Animating a Blockbuster: How Pixar Built “Toy Story 3″ via Wired:

Screenwriter William Goldman once famously declared that the most important fact of life in Hollywood is that “nobody knows anything.” It was his way of describing a reality that continues to haunt the movie business: Studio executives have no idea which pictures will make money.

Unless, of course, those pictures are made by Pixar Animation Studios. Since 1995, when the first Toy Story was released, Pixar has made nine films, and every one has been a smashing success.

Pixar’s secret? Its unusual creative process. Most of the time, a studio assembles a cast of freelance professionals to work on a single project and cuts them loose when the picture is done. At Pixar, a staff of writers, directors, animators, and technicians move from project to project. As a result, the studio has built a team of moviemakers who know and trust one another in ways unimaginable on most sets.

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Filming a Promo Video

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When preparing to upload my project at Kickstarter, I wrote, rewrote and polished the script for my promotional video. When I was satisfied, I did three takes using my Canon Elura 80, tripod and remote. I wasn’t happy with any of the shoots for different reasons: lighting was problematic, the sound was poor — the E-80 doesn’t have jack for an exterior mic — or my delivery just plain stunk. The one shoot that had the most promise, done outside with spring foliage in the background, I had to discard. I realized later that my dog Celeste had been in the frame, walking around the rear part of our yard, looking for squirrels to chase.

Turns out I’m not an actor nor a filmmaker, but I understand the importance of a promotional piece. So I was committed to getting it done. The biggest issue for me was memorizing the script. Index cards didn’t help. Yelling: “Line!” didn’t help either. Short term memory was not cooperating. So this is how I got around this problem:

I rigged up a “poor-man’s teleprompter.” I copied the script into an iMovie title, the one where the words roll up a la Star Wars. I then placed the laptop by the camera and with two remotes — one for the camera and the other for the computer — I could manage the speed of the script while turning the camera off when needed. Here’s the set-up:

and this is where I sat, opposite my camera:

I decided to go black and white for a couple of reasons. First, the lighting was not optimal and the color version was not complementary. Second, because ESPERANZA FARM is a historical novel, the black and white of the video adds a document quality that I preferred.

So there you have it. If you’re filming your own promo, I hope this makes it a bit easier. If you need more details on my “prompter,” drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you the “specs” : )