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Google Wants You to Remember You Have an Android Device

posted Friday Mar 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Google Wants You to Remember You Have an Android Device

My guess is that, if you are reading this, you are aware what operating system your phone runs. Whether you chose your phone because of the operating system and found the best manufacturer, or you chose the manufacturer and got the OS it came with, you know what you have. There are a lot of people, however, who purchase a Samsung, HTC or LG phone and don't know that it is powered by Android; mostly because those manufacturers do all they can to bury Android as deep as possible.

Google is starting to realize that their business model for Android might not have been entirely in-line with their corporate goals and are trying to change that. Starting with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), all Android devices that will have access to the Google Play Store must boot with the "Powered by Android" branding.

Now, this is not to say that all Android-powered devices will carry this branding. In fact, many devices that run Google's open-source operating system purposely hide the Play Store, such as Amazon's Kindle Fire line and Nokia's new Nokia X family, both of which host their own Android app stores. You'll also see it on cheap drugstore tablets who are trying to make back the money they lose on the hardware.

Knowing Samsung's interest in running Tizen on their devices, it's possible that Google forcing the co-branding might be the push they need to abandon the platform all together. It might also help Samsung convince other manufacturers to switch to their OS. This could also be a boon for Microsoft, who have been rapidly increasing their manufacturing partner list, but haven't yet seen an increase in hardware announcements.

Do you think it is a good idea for Google to force dual-branding on Android handsets in exchange for Google Play access, or is this a move that could damage the brand even more? Sound off in the comments.

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Marissa Mayer Might Launch YahooTube

posted Friday Mar 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Marissa Mayer Might Launch YahooTube

Marissa Mayer, since taking over as CEO of Yahoo, has been working on a plan to make Yahoo into Google, but without the abandonment of its principles. When Marissa was at Google, being one of the early employees, one of her chief responsibilities was to ensure the developers didn't ruin the homepage. She was also responsible for the overall web presence of the brand, ensuring all Google properties felt like Google.

At some point, someone decided that Google didn't need to be Google anymore, and moved her away from the thing that had kept the company consistent and into other positions. It hasn't worked out the way they wanted. Since joining Yahoo she has worked to create a cohesive Yahoo that spans the Internet with relevance and content. With a new logo, older product shut downs, remodel of Tumblr, among many other changes, Yahoo is becoming a new, successful brand.

One of the aspects of the Internet that Yahoo had managed to avoid like a drunk girl at a party is video. There were several meager attempts, but it never felt as if the company was interested in participating with the rest of the Net. Last year, Mayer began the process of fixing that, purchasing Saturday Night Live rights from NBC, available now. They also purchased a live concert streaming service and hired broadcast news star Katie Couric to add credibility to their offerings.

What they are still sorely lacking is user-generated content. Having unsuccessfully tried to acquire Dailymotion, they are still no closer to taking on YouTube, but a YahooTube option is something that the company certainly needs if it is going to continue to compete. With Tumblr the company has text and photo (mostly), but no good platform for video.

One thing that Yahoo will need to do to succeed is to focus on what YouTube has been unable to accomplish: quality. Since being purchased by Google, YouTube's video streaming quality has taken a sharp turn downward, constantly buffering and failing to load videos, and the problem gets worse by the day. If Yahoo can create a video streaming service that actually streams videos, they will be far ahead of YouTube.

Next, they need to focus on the quality of the content. While a user-generated site will always have a little of everything, by guaranteeing that top-creators are able to generate revenue from the platform, they will create more content, therefore drowning out some of the less-desirable videos of drunk texting and high school fights. Instead, getting content like What the Buck and the recently hiatused =3 through revenue sharing are what a YouTube competition from Yahoo must look like.

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Mozilla Employees, Board Members and Developers Revolt After Brendan Eich Hire

posted Friday Mar 28, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Mozilla Employees, Board Members and Developers Revolt After Brendan Eich Hire

Within the software world, Brendan Eich is a well-known name. Eich is the creator of JavaScript, the half-hearted scripting language that tries hard to power the Web. He was also involved in the creation of the Mozilla Foundation when AOL shut down Netscape Navigator in 2003. He has served on the Board of Directors and as Chief Technology Officer since 2005. To the outside world, it would appear that he was a logical choice to replace Gary Kovacs as Chief Executive Officer.

One of the interesting things about Mozilla is the way people stay with the organization, even after departing the top post. In fact, Kovacs has remained on the board for the past 12 months, despite taking the top spot at AVG Technologies a year ago. Also remaining on the board post-CEO is John Lilly, a partner at Greylock Partners. That changed this week when these two past CEOs, along with board member Ellen Siminoff, former Yahoo executive and current CEO of Shmoop, left the board together.

The resignations of three high-profile board members of a high-profile corporation at the same time would normally suggest a problem, but anonymous sources within the company did not allow speculation to build, instead stating exactly why they were leaving: Eich. The sources report that the board members left because, during the search process for a new CEO, an outside hire was sought to work with CTO Eich and Mozilla founder Mitchell Baker rather than promoting Eich to CEO.

The Board of Directors aren't the only people miffed about the promotion of Eich. Employees within the organization have begun a bit of a revolt, demanding the ouster of Eich after the discovery that Eich donated money to the Proposition 8 debacle in California, which was designed to prohibit gay marriage.

Open Badges project lead Chris McAvoy started it off, followed by Chloe Varelidi and others. Hit the break to see some of the tweets. These employees believe in a Mozilla which is open and inviting, knowing that a diverse workforce breeds better ideas. Obviously, a CEO who believes that some of the employees are inherently entitled to less than others as citizens does not breed that same atmosphere.

Followed by the employee protest comes a developer protest right on its tail. A number of developers of software for the Firefox Marketplace have pulled their products until Eich is removed from his office. Whether the board agrees with Eich's political position or not, they cannot agree with the environment that his donation has created. Either the board will get a grip on this disaster or Mozilla's dwindling supporters will continue to leave en masse. Now would be the worst time for the company to encourage its users to leave.

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RiffTrax Meets MST3K in New Television Mini-Series

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

RiffTrax Meets MST3K in New Television Mini-Series

The guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater 3000 are back and doing what they do best: making fun of media. From blockbusters to Batman: The Fatal Blast, there is something for everybody. The way it works is: you download the MP3, play it along with your DVD, Netflix, etc. and laugh and laugh and laugh. And you can find out all of the content available by going here. At least, that used to be the only way to make it happen.

Next Tuesday, April 1, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett will be bringing their unique sense of humor back to television for the first time in almost 15 years. After MST3K was canceled by Sci-Fi (now SyFy) in 1999, the guys went off to found RiffTrax, a way for them to continue doing what they love, and what people loved of them. Now, under that same brand, the guys are joining National Geographic for a 3 episode special.

They are expected to take on television programming of some sort, but being on National Geographic means we have NO IDEA what kind of content to expect. The good news is, no matter what media these guys are put in front of, the results are always funny. There is also no better day for, what I suspect is a pilot run of sorts for a regular series, April Fools' Day.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about RiffTrax being on television. In the past 10+ years, the team has gotten used to getting away with whatever they want and not having the FCC involved in what they do. Being back on television means they will have to tone down their natural tendencies, and trying to cap a comedian is almost never a success.

We won't have to wait long, however, as the premiere is only 10 days away. In the meantime, check out some of their unrestrained content.

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Mt. Gox Claims to Have 'Found' $116 Million

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Mt. Gox Claims to Have 'Found' $116 Million

Bitcoin is the story that won't die lately. Between the disaster that is Mt. Gox and Newsweek's editorial blunder, the tech industry seems to be unable to avoid Bitcoin this year. This week has not changed this fact, as Mt. Gox is back in the news following an incredibly weird revelation.

After their bankruptcy filing and subsequent class-action lawsuit, Mt. Gox claimed on Thursday evening that they had "found" 200,000 Bitcoin which had been stored in "old-format wallets." Based on the exchange rate at the time of the announcement, that equated to $116 million. That is a tremendous amount of money to have just totally lost track of, rather than having been heisted from inside or outside. Gil Luria of Wedbush Securities, a company with a precarious grip on gaming, but a pretty rational understanding of Bitcoin, said,

I think that it's yet another illustration of how incompetently managed that hobbyist operation was. That you can lose that much Bitcoin and then find it tells you that we're not talking about robust levels of security and control.

Where we are now is in this period of quiet transition before we see the emergence of actual exchanges. The hobbyist operations are behind us and the robust, enterprise-grade operations are ahead of us.

While I don't entirely agree that we are on the verge of professional exchanges, I do see the end of the hobbyist organizations coming quickly. The problem with enterprise operations coming into the Bitcoin world is the fact that the underlying technology behind Bitcoin is so unsound. This has never been better illustrated than the fact that there is such a thing as an old-format wallet, and that money can be lost within one, despite still controlling said wallet.

For as long as stories of Bitcoin exploits, heists and insecurities continue to be published, the currency will never have the perception of any sort of security. At least with standard currencies there is a perception of security, despite the fact that physical dollars can be stolen from a physical bank just like Mt. Gox seems to have experienced.

For as long as Bitcoin is perceived to be an insecure currency that is used mainly for illegal or illicit activity, I don't see any major financial institution attaching their name to it. Banks like Bank of America have enough trouble controlling their brand image through actions that they control, let alone having their brand affected by outside activities of an outside organization.

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Bear Simulator: Where No Game Has Gone Before

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

<i>Bear Simulator</i>: Where No Game Has Gone Before

Tired of always playing as a human in a game? It seems that the trend is always human, human, human, kids (also known as humans) who battle using their pets, or plumbers and toads. Some call it a disturbing trend. That's why Portland-based Farjay Studios has brought to life a Kickstarter campaign for a revolutionary game: Bear Simulator.

Throw away your notions of a typical simulator or open-world game, because in Bear Simulator, you are the bear! As the intro video says, you can forage for berries, steal some honey, defend yourself from dangerous animals (like bunnies), rest in your den to replenish health and even explore a huge open world to find secrets that will blow your mind! But tread carefully, because not all secrets are worth finding. Plus, you do this all in FPB, or First Person Bear.

From the explanation on the Kickstarter page of what Bear Simulator is,

A few games in the past got it right and have been rewarded with universal praise, notably Banjo-Kazooie and EnviroBear, but there hasn't been many solid, somewhat realistic bear simulation games (if at all). That's where this comes in.

Sure it may seem like a "dumb idea" or a "really dumb idea" but you can't honestly tell me you've never secretly wanted to be a bear wandering around the forest. That's just an outright lie.

As the developers put it, it's like a mini Skyrim but you're a bear. I don't need any more convincing, but if you do, there's some interesting backer rewards for funding the campaign. Things like creating your own edible thing for the bear to eat, showcasing your artwork in the world or getting to play the game early are all available if you decide to invest in this insanely different, yet awkwardly cool take on a simulator.

All gameplay and animations are still in very early Alpha stages, but the Kickstarter page is full of well-detailed, extremely rich information that explains every aspect of the game's development and time tables. Farjay Studios looks to launch the game in November of this year and if you want to see some gameplay footage, check it out after the break. The Kickstarter page is in the source link below if you're interested in supporting the bear movement. The only question left is, what kind of bear will you be?

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