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  • Steven Woda

links for 2009-06-28

Nokia (NYSE: NOK)’s answer to Apple’s App Store rolled out to a bumpy start, as the company’s debut of the Ovi Store was plagued with problems. The over-the-air mobile content store was launched late Monday night, and users reported issues such as problems signing into their accounts, lack of applications, and overall sluggishness.

Despite its use of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other standard Web coding, developers still need the tools from Palm in order to create official apps that can take advantage of the hardware. Developers looking to create applications for the Palm Pre will have to wait awhile, as Palm said its software development kit likely won’t be available until the end of summer. Palm intentionally built its webOS operating system to be developer-friendly, as it enables content makers to create mobile apps using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other standard Web coding. But these developers still need an SDK in order to create official apps that can take advantage of the hardware. “We’ve been working very hard on the SDK and are eager to open access on a wider scale, but the software and the developer services to support it just aren’t ready yet,” Palm wrote on its developer blog. “Our goal is to make the SDK available to everyone by the end of summer.”

Sometimes you need access to your PC but that doesn’t mean you have to carry your laptop with you on a short trip. You may be able to access your PC or servers right from your smartphone. Here are but a few ways to accomplish this. Engadget had a post today on a VNC client (VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing) for the Palm Pre. Right now it is a lookie but no touchie version, but I am sure subsequent releases will allow you to do more than just look at your PC’s desktop from the Pre’s screen. VNC and other remote access solutions exist for other smartphones as well. Some of the solutions I list are free and others cost money. With a little digging, you may be able to allow full remote access from your phone with no financial cost at all.

(tags: remote)

On the evening of April 27 a ferocious rain raked the windows beside Jamie Williams’s cubicle as the physicist sat, exhausted, immersed in the minutiae of food science. On the computer screen before him were raw tables of information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, containing data on 7,000 foods, from blackberries to beef. He and a four-person team were “curating” the data, readying it for a new kind of online search. He combed through the tabs that identified 150 properties (nutrients, calories, carbohydrates, and so on), making sure the various abbreviations were consistent and readable by computers. He organized foods into groupings to facilitate natural-language queries. A search for nutritional information on “milk” would provide an average value, for example, while “skim milk” would provide a specific answer.

(tags: search)

Many online activities are deeply social: writing and reading blogs, visiting social-networking sites, sending instant messages and e-mails, and making Internet phone calls. However, actually browsing the Internet is usually still a solitary pursuit. Researchers from the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, hope to change that with software called RCB (for real-time collaborative browsing) that makes it far simpler to connect with another person as he or she clicks around the Web.

Sharpcast Inc. today announced the addition of several new sharing and mobile features to its widely popular digital life management service. The company also launched a referral program which will allow users to get up to 10 GB free for each person they refer to sign up for a SugarSync account. Starting today, SugarSync accounts will have improved folder sharing capabilities, allowing users to easily collaborate with anyone in their Gmail, Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo Mail contact lists. Users can also directly upload photos stored in SugarSync to Facebook, providing a streamlined way to share photos with Facebook friends while also securely storing them in their SugarSync accounts.

(tags: sugarsync)

Package-goods marketers tried — and largely rejected — e-commerce about a decade ago. But their interest has rekindled lately, and a novel start-up named is betting they’re ready to party again like it’s 1999. After months in beta, was set to go live today as an online marketplace for everything from laundry detergent to body wash to lipstick, but with a more compelling economic proposition for consumers and brand marketers than conventional e-commerce.

Microsoft’s free antivirus and security suite, Microsoft Security Essentials, releases today, sort of. Incredibly, while millions of users have anticipated the release, only 75,000 downloads will be permitted. The decision to limit the number of Microsoft Security Essentials downloads to 75,000 betas when the suite’s site goes live today, may be an attempt to avoid the sorts of download overload problems the company has suffered from in the past.

Custom browser toolbars are big in Latin America and Eastern Europe, but they never really caught on here in North America. But toolbar leader Conduit wants to change that with new Conduit Open features that create a kind of “app store” for toolbar components. Adam Boyden, Conduit president, tells me that his company’s toolbars are currently in use by some 200,000 publishers and 60 million end users, but only 25% of those are in North America.

On Jan. 21, his first full day in office, President Obama promised to open up the government, ordering officials to use modern technologies like Internet message boards and blogs to give all Americans a bigger voice in public policy. Well, the people have spoken. But many of them are not sticking to the topics at hand. The White House made its first major entree into government by the people last month when it set up an online forum to ask ordinary people for their ideas on how to carry out the president’s open-government pledge. It got an earful — on legalizing marijuana, revealing U.F.O. secrets and verifying Mr. Obama’s birth certificate to prove he was really born in the United States and thus eligible to be president.

Everyone’s a critic, as the saying goes. Nowhere is that more true than in cyberspace. The number of user-generated ratings sites has exploded in recent years, with citizen reviewers posting millions of opinions about everything from their local dry cleaner to their latest hotel stay. Some sites offer a place to rave or rant. But others have developed rankings and search functions, allowing users to zero in on top-rated services and products. can show you which ships cruisers think are best for fitness buffs. allows readers to rank the books and movies they buy. features top 10 lists, generated from user reviewers, for products as diverse as televisions and strollers. Is it consumer empowerment or an imperfect source of information? It seems to be a little of both.

Just looking at the numbers, it’s hard to be optimistic about the job market in the coming years. Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has shed approximately 7 million jobs, taking the unemployment rate to 9.4 percent. The total number of Americans who are out of work stands at 14 million, a 26-year high. Another 9 million find themselves in the category of involuntary part-time workers, a jump of 3.7 million in just over a year. That’s a staggering 23 million people in need of full-time work. Plus, the economy must create 125,000 jobs a month just to stay even with population growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a daunting task for the healthiest economy, but the U.S. is still mired in the worst recession in 80 years. If history is any guide, unemployment will continue to rise after the recession bottoms out, according to Steve Hipple, an economist with the BLS.

As eBay’s senior manager of seller advocacy, Jim Griffith gets a daily earful about what’s wrong with his company’s online marketplace amid the ongoing wave of changes implemented there. But instead of discouraging or tuning out the feedback, Griffith is urging eBay members to keep it coming–as long as it’s constructive. The ever-shifting online auction environment means there’s always more to learn and new tactics to try in an effort to bolster sales on eBay, whether you’re a veteran of the auction wars or an eBay greenhorn. Here are some insider sales tips from Jim Griffith, eBay’s senior manager of seller advocacy: “I don’t want them to keep quiet,” says Griffith, who joined eBay in 1996, when its users numbered in the thousands, not the millions, and years before it began building a corporate empire that now includes the online payment processing system PayPal, the internet communications company Skype and others.

(tags: eBay)

Mary Knudson requires students in her medical writing class to Twitter from a scientific conference and to write narratives in no more than 140 characters — academia in disposable snippets. Not only does Twitter teach students to write concisely with its strict limit on the length of posts, she said, but it also enables them to share valuable information — links to stories about scientific discoveries, Web sites with new research and other material she never would have come across on her own. Before she adopted Twitter, Knudson had to overcome her own reservations about the technology. It destroys the ability to spell, she said, as vowels are dropped or numerals used in place of words. She doesn’t want her students to write online from conferences about medical discoveries, preferring they take time to consider the studies and discuss them with other researchers.

(tags: Twitter)

Paul Allen must be sick and tired of wading through email. First, the Microsoft co-founder incubated Gist, a Seattle startup that’s trying to help people more effectively manage and consolidate personal messages flowing through Twitter, Facebook and email. Now, the billionaire is launching Xiant Filer, a Microsoft Outlook add-on designed to help people better organize email messages. In fact, Xiant — a unit of Vulcan Technologies — was a direct outgrowth of Allen’s frustration trying to keep up with email. “Xiant Filer started as a personal project to help Paul keep up with heavy e‐mail traffic,” said Chris Purcell, vice president of Vulcan Technologies in a release. “It worked so well we all started using it, which led us to take it to market.”

(tags: email)

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