субота, 05. октобар 2013.

Dropbox update adds screenshot sharing and one-click import for iPhoto libraries

Dropbox will now upload any and all screenshots you take on PC or Mac to the cloud for immediate sharing. It's an extremely simple but long-awaited feature that, in lieu of official support, has largely been handled by third-party apps like puush — until today. But now you can do away with the extra software, as Dropbox's own solution is finally here. It works exactly as you'd expect: after capturing a screenshot, a link to the file is automatically copied to your clipboard. Like the company's automatic camera upload feature, screenshot sharing can be turned off at your convenience. And while backups of your recent camera photos are nice, Dropbox wants to make it easier to put your entire photo collection in the cloud. Users on OS X can now import their complete iPhoto library to Dropbox with a single click.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others back NSA and FBI transparency bills

Over two dozen companies and a number of trade groups have signed a letter supporting bills that would let them reveal more details about the government's secret information requests. Submitted by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the letter urges Congress to pass Representative Zoe Lofgren's (D-CA) Surveillance Order Reporting Act of 2013 and Senator Al Franken's (D-MN) Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013. The bills, both introduced in early August, would give companies more options for disclosing when and how often they received national security-related requests and provided data to the government. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo all signed the letter, as did the Software Alliance and the Internet Association, a lobbying group founded by Google, eBay, and others in mid-2012. These aren't just big names in the tech world, they're also the companies that were named as contributing data to the PRISM surveillance program — and the ones that have been fighting back against secrecy restrictions. All four of the aforementioned companies have suits pending against the US government, arguing that being unable to tell users how many requests have been received and complied with violates their right to free speech. AOL, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Reddit, were among the other signatories. A number of companies also added support to a previous letter urging the White House, NSA, and others to loosen the restrictions. While companies are asking for the right to publish nearly exact numbers of requests, neither of these bills goes that far. Lofgren's would allow estimates in bands of 100 (compared to 1,000 as currently allowed), though it would allow companies to sort requests into separate categories (again, in estimates of 100) based on which law justified them and could put out new reports every quarter. Franken's doesn't say companies have to round to any particular number, but if they received fewer than 500 requests in a given period, they can't be more specific than that. Since companies have said they don't receive a large number of national security-related requests, it's not clear how helpful these striations will be. Dropbox, for example, has said it received under 100 requests from all of US law enforcement in 2012. The bills would, however, give legislative weight to the companies' existing legal challenges. Both bills are currently in committee, where they must be passed before moving onto the House and Senate floors.

$999 Xi3 Piston gaming console will finally be available on Black Friday

We've been hearing about Xi3's modular gaming console for years now — it was originally pegged as one of the first "Steam Box" consoles until Valve broke its association with the company. Regardless of that past drama, it looks like Xi3 is finally ready to get its hardware out into the hands of consumers. The Piston gaming console (essentially a small-enclosure PC) will be available on Black Friday, November 29th at the previously-announced $999 price point. If you're one of those who pre-ordered the console when Xi3 put it on sale way back in March, the company intends to get you your console faster — those pre-orders should be available to customers "on or before" November 15th. Additionally, Xi3 has made a few improvements since putting it up for sale: the console's storage capacity has been "doubled" thanks to the addition of a second SSD slot. From the sound of things, it'll still ship with a single 128GB SSD included, but now with two slots, upgraders can put in two drives instead of one. In a somewhat ironic twist, the company specifically notes that the extra SSD slot will be useful for those wanting to dual-boot into a second OS, "including the newly announced SteamOS." The Piston will also come with some "pack-in" games, though Xi3 didn't have any details yet on what games will be included. Otherwise, specs are the same — a quad-core, 3.2GHz processor powers the console, and it comes with 8GB of RAM and the aforementioned 128GB of solid-state storage. There's no word on exactly what the gamepad situation will be when the console ships, but a Piston FAQ says that any "made for PC" controller will work with it, including the Xbox 360 controller — just like any other PC.

Facebook Graph Search gets more useful with comments and statuses

Facebook is about to make Graph Search a lot more powerful. Though the service has been able to query fixtures of your social graph — including likes, personal details, and photos — until now it hasn't been able to index what you or your friends wrote in comments or status update. But Facebook is now starting to roll out an update that will allow users to search for anything that's been written about, so long as it's currently shared with them. The feature will begin appearing for some users later today, though in true Facebook fashion, it'll be a slow rollout from there. Search for any comment that's been shared with you The new searches should work just like existing Graph Searches, allowing users to narrow down their results by adding in people, places, timeframes, and other details that have to match up. While before you could search for friends living in your home state who like Breaking Bad, now you'll be able to find out which of those friends are also writing about Breaking Bad, or even the friends who also tagged their post with "#heisenberg." Facebook finished rolling out the initial version of Graph Search to all US users over the summer, after initially announcing the feature back in January. The company promised back then that more complex search features — like today's comments and status updates — were on their way, but didn't give a more specific timeline than "the coming months." Other search options like what music your friends have been listening to should still be on the way, though Facebook hasn't mentioned them again just yet.

Microsoft hunts for a new CEO as the Steve Ballmer era winds down

Microsoft is in one of the most challenging periods in its 38-year history, and Steve Ballmer — its CEO for the last 13 years — is on his way out. In August, Ballmer announced that he'll retire just as soon as the company finds his successor. The decision comes after a major reorganization that aims to turn Microsoft into a "devices and services" company. The challenges the company faces are massive: Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Surface tablets have each so far failed to find the blockbuster status that the PC-dominating company was once known for. And it's taking on the phone division of struggling Nokia, with a $7.2 billion bet that it can make its own smartphones without alienating hardware partners in the process. The path forward isn't clear and Ballmer is leaving with a mixed legacy. However, two things are clear: Ballmer's charismatic and passionate leadership style is one of a kind, and Microsoft's next boss will take the reins at an intensely difficult time. Microsoft has just announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within the next 12 months. He will step down from his post as soon as the process of choosing his successor has been completed. Ballmer has written an open email to the Microsoft team explaining the decision and the strategy for "moving forward." He had this to say in the official Microsoft press release: "We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Ballmer's successor atop the Microsoft hierarchy will be selected by a special committee, which is chaired by John Thompson and will include company founder Bill Gates. International executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles has been recruited to assist with the search, which will include consideration of both internal and external candidates. Did Ballmer choose to retire or was he forced to? Bill Gates has expressed his support for the outgoing chief executive officer in saying that Microsoft is "fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties." Steve Ballmer has been a senior member of Microsoft's leadership team since joining the company in 1980 and was the man to take over after Gates stepped down from the CEO role in 2000. The years immediately following saw Microsoft continue its excellent growth and profitability, buoyed by the extraordinary success of Windows XP and the exponential growth of the computing industry. Alas, the great success has been punctuated by major missteps as well. Windows Mobile proved incapable of extending Microsoft's desktop software dominance in the mobile realm, and Ballmer and company were forced into a painful reboot of their mobile efforts with the introduction of Windows Phone. That transition is still ongoing, as is the move toward a more touch-oriented Windows experience. Although Ballmer remains bullish about Microsoft's achievements under his leadership, he does concede that the time has come to find a new boss to drive the company's transformation to its conclusion. Stock markets have reacted positively to today's news, with Microsoft's stock trading 7.5 percent higher.

Inside Guardian editor's struggle to publish NSA leaks

After headlines detailing smashed hard drives and international intrigue, The New Yorker takes a long look at Alan Rusbridger's tenure as editor of The Guardian, struggling with both government intimidation and the equally forceful economics of web-era publishing. After the Snowden scoop, the site is now the third-highest trafficked newspaper website in the world, but the path has not been easy. The piece details GHCQ's particularly puzzling move to destroy Guardian hard drives containing the leaked data, along with the intercontinental backup system Rusbridger devised with the help of ProPublica and The New York Times. One particularly impressive detail: At the same time that he was grappling with the British government, Rusbridger was pouring hours into the piano, trying to master Chopin's Ballade in G Minor. As one friend told The New Yorker, "It’s the same thing: 'I am quite prepared to spend hours and hours to learn Chopin. I’m prepared to spend hours and hours to get the story.'"

Arcades aren't disappearing, they're moving to the casino

The classic American arcade may be on its way to extinction, but many of the concepts that made arcade gaming popular are sprouting up in an unlikely place: slot machines. As Buzzfeed reports, slot machine makers are turning to video games to lure younger players, using techniques like flashy visuals and big brands to attract them. The twist is that it's all just window dressing. "It can't be skill-based, you can't be better than the machine," says Roger Gros, from industry mag Global Gaming Business. "So they have to give you the impression that you're beating the machine but you just can't do that." Be sure to check out Buzzfeed for the whole story.