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Microsoft’s Outlook.com lures 1M users in 6 hours

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 31 July 2012 9:31 pm

Outlook.com has seen more than 1 million people sign up for the service in just a few hours, Microsoft has said.

The sign-up figures for the successor to Hotmail were tweeted by @Outlook yesterday just over six hours after the new service was first announced.

The changes include the new e-mail address — @outlook.com — which will replace the older @hotmail.com address, used by hundreds of millions worldwide across its more than 10 years of its service. Users can already “upgrade to Outlook.com” to keep their existing address.

Microsoft’s figures on Outlook.com signups

(Credit:
Outlook.com/Twitter)

The new Web-based e-mail service will eventually integrate Skype, delivering a new rival to Gmail-embedded Google’s Talk service. Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion last year after European regulators signed off on the deal.

But the real measure of success will be if existing Hotmail users voluntarily make the jump to Outlook.com of their own accord: the software giant still has to hope it can generate enough buzz around the new service to prevent a mass exodus to rival services, such as Google’s Gmail.

Google remains in the lead with 425 million users, while Hotmail had more than 350 million at the last count.

Microsoft Outlook.com e-mail (pictures)

Hijacked Walmart Facebook Promotion Holds a Lesson in Local Marketing

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 31 July 2012 3:23 pm

Call it a rare win-win-win for online corporate marketing: Internet pranksters successfully hijacked Walmart’s Sheets Energy Strips campaign, Walmart and Sheets reaped all the publicity they could have hoped for – and the citizens of Kodiak, Alaska, got a rare visit from an international rap star. Does that mean Walmart ran a brilliant social network promotion? Well, no – and yes.

Walmart’s online promotion of Sheets Energy Strips (think Red Bull meets Listerine tongue strips) promised to send Florida-based rapper Pitbull to the Walmart store that racked up the most likes on Facebook. On June 29, David Thorpe and Jon Hendren, two writers from the website Something Awful, spurred fans on Twitter and Reddit to “like” the Facebook page of the most remote Walmart in America, located in Kodiak, Alaska.  Less than a month later, after hundreds of press mentions and 65,000 Facebook likes, Pitbull dropped by the Kodiak store to sign autographs with Thorpe in tow.

Thorpe’s worst fear about the whole Kodiak affair, besides being eaten by a bear, was that corporate types would “spin this as a Big Social Media Win, which is kind of gross,” the writer told the Associated Press. The campaign did not owe its success to marketing savvy, he pointed out. Before he got involved, Walmart’s concept was “fairly dull.” His own effort to subvert the campaign made it worth anyone’s attention.

“Voting for Pitbull to visit your local Walmart isn’t too thrilling,” he wrote in an email to ReadWriteWeb, “but voting to send him somewhere totally strange seems like a lot of fun. It was a collaborative prank that everyone could get in on. Each and every person who voted can now picture Pitbull in a big furry coat in the Kodiak wilderness and think, ‘I made him go there.’ This got in the news ‘cause it was a prank and it was funny, and because it WASN’T run by corporate bigwigs.”

Marketing experts don’t necessarily disagree. Ben Carcio, the founder of Promoboxx, a start-up doing marketing for big brands, believes that Walmart and Sheets had the right tactic, just the wrong strategy with Pitbull, whom the Web wanted to send to the outskirts of civilization for not-so-nice reasons.

Carcio’s take-away isn’t the ease with which corporate campaigns can be co-opted: It’s the power of local retailers. One of the big winners of this social media campaign, as Carcio wrote in a company blog post, were individual Walmart stores, each of which has its own Facebook page in accordance with the company’s My Local Walmart program. The Kodiak store’s page saw an unprecedented volume of activity in the weeks leading up to Pitbull’s appearance, not only from curious onlookers around the world but also local residents.

“The method of a brand (Sheets) connecting with local retailers (MyLocalWalmart) was extremely innovative,” Carcio said. “With this campaign, Walmart established a new marketing asset, the local Walmart retailers. Now brands like Sheets can market their products with the local retailers vs. the national brand.”

Facebook as a vehicle for hyperlocal marketing? That doesn’t sound so gross.


Open Source Asterisk Leader Kevin Fleming Leaving Project

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 31 July 2012 9:22 am

Kevin Fleming

From the ‘Open Source Heroes’ files:

The first time I spoke with Kevin Fleming, was back in 2006 about a new collaboration that Asterisk built at the time with Zimbra. I had spoke with Mark Spencer, the founder of Asterisk many times before, but Fleming was the ‘new’ guy, taking on a leadership role in the open source Asterisk VoIP project.

Fleming announced today that he is now moving on from Asterisk and its corporate parent Digium.

Across the last six plus years, I’ve seen and reported on the incredible leadership that Fleming brought to Asterisk – an open source project that I literally cannot live without. Asterisk in the beginning was an effort to provide an open source alternative to commercial PBX systems, and over the years it has grown to be a defacto standard for many of us.

While Fleming is leaving Digium, he’s not leaving open source.

“In the middle of September, I’ll start working for Bloomberg, L.P., in the Office of the CTO, helping to lead their nascent open source initiative,” Fleming wrote in a mailing list posting. “I’ll be working to bring the power of open source software, open standards, and community building to the financial market data services industry, where it is sorely needed (and overdue).”

Good luck Kevin – hope you have as much success at Bloomberg as you had at Digium.

Digium isn’t sitting idle either – they have already moved to try and replace the impossibly large shoes that Fleming filled. The new Asterisk project leader will be Matt Jordan and the Technical Lead for the project is now Mark Michelson.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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Five ways to screw up your startup’s pitch

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Tuesday 31 July 2012 3:07 am

Sometimes I feel like this after a day of horrible pitches that could have been avoided.

(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

Pitching your startup idea to investors, journalists, and random people on the street is a rite of passage for all entrepreneurs. You have to convince hundreds (if not millions) of people that you’re building something worthwhile and that they should get on board.

Most pitches fall flat though (the best VCs invest in perhaps 1 percent of the startups that pitch them), and it’s often because of simple problems that could’ve been avoided. Nervous entrepreneurs stray from their story, and arrogant entrepreneurs demand unreasonable valuations and then get laughed out of the room by top-tier angels.

Here are five ways entrepreneurs often screw up their startup’s pitch. Avoid these mistakes at all costs:

1. Not having the numbers to back up assertions. Succeeding with a startup pitch requires that VCs and journalists buy in to your assumptions about market size and user behavior. Most entrepreneurs don’t lay out a convincing case to defend their assumptions, though. They don’t survey and quantify potential users, they skip the heavy market research, and they don’t have the proof to show they’re onto something big.

In other words, most entrepreneurs don’t do their homework. Good VCs always notice. It’s a sign of irresponsibility and inexperience. So, please do your homework and come armed with numbers.

2. Telling an inconsistent story. A great pitch is simple and straightforward. It’s the story of a problem that needs solving, the opportunities that await once it’s solved, the product that will solve it, and the team that will build that product.

Entrepreneurs all too often stray from this story, though. They talk too much about the competition or talk about other problems they think their product will solve. This only serves to distract from the main story.

Don’t start creating new story lines in the middle of your pitch. Stick to the main plot and you’ll do fine.

3. Not having a demo. The only people who should pitch a startup idea without a demo are proven entrepreneurs with a history of exits. For everybody else, a demo or prototype is essential. Nothing helps a VC understand what you’re trying to accomplish like a hands-on demonstration.

There’s no reason to start pitching your startup before you’ve even built a prototype. Resourceful entrepreneurs always find a way to get it done — you can, too.

4. Coming across as rude and unfriendly. Investing is all about teams and relationships, and it’s especially true at the seed stage. Angels and VCs choose investments primarily based on their impression of the team. Are they smart? Do they know their stuff? Can they pull together when times get tough?

Nothing kills a great startup idea like a bad team or a rude founder. Arrogance is fine — we expect a little bravado from winners — but if you don’t pass the beer rule, you aren’t going to get a second meeting.

5. Asking for a ridiculous valuation. I can’t tell you how many times an unproven team has come to me with a product that has yet to launch and claims that they’re going to raise at a $10 million valuation. I’m still shocked every time I hear sky-high numbers come out of an entrepreneur’s mouth.

Startup accelerators, Facebook, falling development costs, and a shortage of engineering talent have all contributed to the growth of startup valuations, especially at the seed stage. The best investors aren’t going to accept ridiculous terms, though. They have so many other opportunities with better valuations — why should they pay your ridiculous price?

Raising a round of funding isn’t about getting the highest valuation possible — it’s about getting the best investors possible. I’ve heard countless stories about how Ron Conway or Marc Andreessen saved one of their companies from the brink of death. These are the type of investors you want on your side.

Don’t be greedy with your valuation. Do your research, talk to lots of entrepreneurs, and find an appropriate price point. Don’t knock yourself out of the game by asking for too much.

Investment in Digital Health Triples Over Past Year

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Monday 30 July 2012 8:51 pm

It’s not just mobile health (mHealth) that is growing fast. The overall digital health sector – which includes mHealth, B2B apps and consumer services such as ZocDoc – is also rapidly expanding. That’s if venture capital funding is anything to go by. A report by financial services company Burrill Company states that private financings in digital health more than tripled in the first half of 2012. This follows a June report from nonprofit foundation Rock Health that showed “skyrocketing” VC funding in the sector.

According to Burrill Company, digital health investments “grew to $499 million in 46 transactions during the first half of the year, compared to just $156 million in 19 transactions for the same period in 2011.”

The 2012 figure was boosted by four significant funding deals. Healthcare pricing consumer information service Castlight Health raised $100 million financing in May, web-based home healthcare software provider Kinnser Software $39.9 million in March, electronic health records provider Practice Fusion $34 million financing in June, and telehealth provider American Well $37 million financing also in June. That’s $211 million in funding in four digital health startups; more than the entire funding amount in digital health over the first half of 2011.

Burrill Company notes that the growing venture investment in digital health is part of “an overall pick-up in venture activity in the first half of 2012 within the life sciences sector,” which grew nearly 31 percent globally to $6.2 billion.

Rock Health included more companies in its digital health index, leading to a larger figure of $675 million in digital health funding over the first half of 2012. Its data is sourced from CapitalIQ, CrunchBase, NVCA and the Rock Health funding database.


Rock Health sees four main themes in digital health investment:

  • Physician Tools
  • Sensors
  • Home Health
  • Data

Over the rest of the week, we’ll profile an example startup from each of these four themes.


Linux Desktops Dominate at Black Hat

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Monday 30 July 2012 2:32 pm

Black Hat USA 2012

From the ‘Linux Desktop Lives!’files:

There are some people that don’t believe the Linux Desktop is relevant.

I’m not one of them, and apparently neither are hordes of security professionals that were at the recent Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas (including me).

The show itself doesn’t calculate who uses what..but Aruba Networks (they have a Linux powered set of wireless routers) does measure.

For desktop OS users of the Wi-Fi network, the top desktop OS was…

LINUX

That’s right Linux (and no we’re not talking about Android either).

Linux came in at 19.9 percent of the total users on the Wi-Fi network. Windows came in at 19.2 percent and Mac OS was 13.7 percent.

While Linux lead on desktops, when you add in mobile OS’s it falls to second behind iOS, which came in at 29.6 percent. In contrast Android was only 17.6 percent.

So yes, the Linux desktop is alive an well. No Android isn’t the savior necessarily either. Linux on its own (gnome, kde or otherwise) can do well in certain environments. Those of us that use Linux desktops have long relied on it for security, which is likely the chief reason why it showed up so well at Black Hat.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


MetaWatch Strata smartwatch looks sorta familiar

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Monday 30 July 2012 8:28 am

Strata smartwatch

We did a double take when we spotted the Strata.

(Credit:
MetaWatch/Kickstarter)

The Strata from MetaWatch is a waterproof smartwatch that connects to your
iPhone or
Android handset via Bluetooth. You can receive calls, texts, e-mails, and Facebook and Twitter notifications via the watch, as well as use the integrated running and cycling app to track your workout.

Developers can also use the open-source software development kits for the watch, which is listed on the crowdsourced funding platform Kickstarter, to create Strata apps and widgets.

If you think all this sounds familiar, that’s because the Pebble does exactly the same thing.

You might be inclined to think the Strata is a ripoff, but there are key differences. For one, the Strata will have enhanced functionality for iOS 6, on top of iOS 5. Also, the Pebble has an e-ink display, while the Strata’s screen is an LCD.

Strata smartwatch

The Strata comes in blue or blue with digital camo, as well as orange and green.

(Credit:
MetaWatch/Kickstarter)

Actually, MetaWatch has already been in the smartwatch business for the past eight years; its founders left Fossil’s watch division in 2004. The company has been selling a smartwatch on its Web site, albeit aimed at developers creating their own apps and products.

MetaWatch has placed limits on the number of people who can back the project, presumably to avoid the same situation the Pebble ran into — oversubscription, resulting in a shipping delay.

We still prefer the Pebble’s clean design, e-ink watch face and (slightly lower) price, but find that the Strata is probably more suitable for slimmer wrists due to its smaller 96×96-pixel display.

If you want a Strata, it costs $159 now, excluding shipping charges. It ships in November, after which it will retail for $179. In comparison, the Pebble is now up for preorder at $150.

(Source: Crave Asia)

ISPs Make Good on Bandwidth Promises (More or Less)

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Monday 30 July 2012 2:25 am

Does your broadband connection seem a bit faster lately? If so, it’s not a fluke. Many ISPs are delivering speeds that are close to, or even exceeding, the download speeds they’ve advertised, according to a report by the Federal Communications Commission. A few of the big ones, unfortunately, continue to lag.

Most startling was the huge improvement by Cablevision, which now delivers an average of 126 percent of its advertised speed, compared to just 76 percent last year.

“Almost across the board, the July 2012 Report shows that ISPs are doing a better job of delivering what they promise to their customers today than they did a year ago,” the commission concluded. Why the improvement? More investment in network capacity by the ISPs, the FCC says. 

However, that “almost” glosses over significant underperformance from two of the largest Internet service providers, ATT and Verizon. ATT improved by four percentage points and now delivers 89 percent of advertised speeds. Verizon, which has talked about abandoning its copper DSL network in favor of fiber, saw its service deteriorate from a robust 115 percent last year to 89 percent this year. 


It’s important to note that tested speeds are averaged over an entire week and generally slow down significantly during peak periods. And because download speed is affected by numerous factors, your own connection may be much slower than average. 

 


Defcon: Will Open Source Divashark Unseat Wireshark for CTP?

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Sunday 29 July 2012 8:11 pm

defcon

From the ‘Maybe Next Year’ files:

We all love open source Wireshark for packet capture right?

Apparently, that isn’t always the case. Researcher Robert Deaton took the stage at Defcon to announce a new open source effort that could one day possibly unseat Wireshark.

Deaton said that every team at the Defcon CTP (Capture the Packet) contest uses Wireshark. That said he argued that in his view it’s the wrong tool for the job.

In his view there is lots of noise in Wireshark, especially when looking for something simple like usr/pswrd, there is too much detail at the tcp level. So for example, one of the CTP challenges was to find a user’s Reddit login which is possible with Wireshark, but it’s unduly tedious.

“Do we really care about packet level details?,” Deaton said. “Divashark a tool to make live network forensics easy, it gets you the info you care about as quickly as possible without getting bogged down in small details.”

Deaton explained that Divashark will do the same type of capture as Wireshark and it automatically follows tcp and udp streams as they come in, then the packets are run though a port independent classifier. He added that the system has powerful abilities to filter traffic at an application level. The http dissector lets researcher filter by user-agent, or whatever url has been requested.

“Divashark will make a competition like CTP easier as it will no longer be about who can hunt through wireshark the fastest,” Deaton said. “It could make CTP as a competition,  almost not a competition as everyone will be able to find almost every answer immediately.”

There is however a catch.

Divashark was not done as of the time of Deaton’s presentation, so he couldn’t demo it. Also his project page, 

divashark.org/defcon was  not available. That said, Deaton pledged to have his code up within a few days and the code would be open source.

I for one am cautiously optimistic about this – I’ve spent my fair share of time in Wireshark and the opportunity to get an open source tool that will make that type of analysis easier is incredibly exciting.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

High-tech imaging helps usher in record-setting panda birth

Posted by eXactBot Hosting | News | Sunday 29 July 2012 2:09 pm

The San Diego Zoo’s 20-year-old panda Bai Yun gave birth to a brand-new cub today, her sixth. Here, she’s seen three years ago with her last cub, Yun Zi.

(Credit:
San Diego Zoo)

SAN DIEGO — For hundreds of thousands of passionate panda watchers, the birth at the San Diego Zoo today of a new panda cub is an event well worth celebrating, especially given that the mother is probably the second-oldest known panda ever to successfully deliver. And thanks to some high-tech imaging, the zoo was able to monitor the pregnancy every step of the way.

For weeks, the panda team at the zoo here has been on tenterhooks, hoping against hope that the 20-year-old mother, Bai Yun, would carry to term what they were nearly certain was a healthy cub. But since Bai Yun had had an unsuccessful pregnancy last year, and because of her age, the team was unwilling and unable to say with certainty that they would soon be meeting a brand-new panda.

Using high technology to prepare for a baby panda (pictures)

Now, though, champagne corks are surely popping in San Diego as the approximately 4-ounce pink and gray newcomer, still without sight, joins one of the most beloved species on Earth. Unfortunately, the public will have to wait for an unknown amount of time to meet the new panda, as Bai Yun and her new cub will spend weeks hidden away in the mother’s den, and the only chance the world will have to see the new offspring will be if Bai Yun happens to move with it in front of what is known as the “Panda Cam.”

Video streaming by Ustream

As part of Road Trip 2012, I got a chance to visit with Bai Yun’s medical team as the members conducted a very early morning ultrasound earlier this month. And though I wasn’t allowed to see the pregnant panda, for fear of upsetting her — no unfamiliar people were being allowed immediately near Bai Yun — I was just a few feet away as they conducted the procedure (see videos below).

Until Friday, zoo officials were keeping mum about Bai Yun’s progress, and in fact had become pessimistic about the outcome after an ultrasound on July 24. But a new ultrasound seemed to have turned everything around. “Based on hormone testing, behavioral observations, and ultrasounds, the staff (began) their birth watch for a cub,” the zoo said in a release Friday. “Ultrasound video taken (July 26) clearly showed a panda fetus. The spine and a leg are visible and veterinarians were also able to detect the heartbeat.”

Panda tech

Though Bai Yun has had five previous cubs, the zoo staff was not certain she would be able to carry another pregnancy to term. In large part, that’s because of the panda’s age, and because of last year’s disappointment. And while during my visit to the zoo the team attending to Bai Yun was upbeat and very hopeful that she would be able to beat the odds and give birth to a new cub, they weren’t getting attached to the idea.

Daniel Terdiman

More from Road Trip 2012: Tech out West

Check out the latest from Daniel’s tour of all things geeky in the Golden State, with jaunts into Nevada, and Arizona.

The team was leaning on ultrasound to help them determine the state of things, but they had other technology at their fingertips as well, specifically a device originally developed for the military known as a forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR). According to the zoo’s director of reproductive physiology, Barbara Durrant, FLIR was used to give the panda staff a look at the heat signature inside Bai Yun’s belly, allowing them to examine a heat spectrum that generates the full range of colors between black and white. (Durrant said an in utero cub would put out a red heat signature.)

Durrant began using FLIR about a third to halfway through Bai Yun’s gestation period — which has ranged from between 101 and 134 days during her previous pregnancies. On about day 60 after Bai Yun’s breeding with a 20-year old male named Gao Gao — with whom she’s had four previous cubs — the team began to see promising signs with the tool. That’s a much earlier warning that there might be a new cub in Bai Yun’s future than what ultrasound is capable of.

But while that was a signal that something was happening, the embryo had yet to implant in the mother’s uterus, Durrant said. That’s not unusual, though: Pandas and Sun Bears are known to have their placentas start to grow prior to implantation. “A panda’s fertilized egg remains suspended until a trigger in the environment indicates it is time to implant,” the zoo release explained. “The trigger is still unknown to scientists. Giant pandas routinely delay the implantation of the fetus as long as four months.”

As I watched from off to the side, a clicking sound — which Bai Yun associates with reward — indicated that the medical staff was trying to convince her to change positions so that her feet would be resting on something.

Ultimately, while the ultrasound didn’t tell the staff anything about whether Bai Yun would be able to deliver her new cub, the team insisted on doing the procedure about once a week — and more in the final weeks — because, said zoo veterinarian Meg Sutherland-Smith, “it’s an opportunity to gather data to learn about fetal growth rates. The more data we collect, it helps us and other institutions with knowing” more about panda pregnancies.

Twins and triplets

Over the years, though Bai Yun has never given birth to more than a single cub at a time, she’s historically shown early signs of being pregnant with two or even three. This year, however, there were never signs of more than a single cub, and that was something that worried the staff.

Last week, though the ultrasound showed the sign of a heartbeat, it didn’t “look great,” Durrant said, meaning she wasn’t altogether optimistic about the outcome of Bai Yun’s pregnancy.

But now, Bai Yun and her tiny offspring will remain in her den for as long as five months before moving back into the public panda exhibit. Indeed, the zoo staff won’t even know the sex of the youngster until they are able to examine it, which could be as long as two months from now. That should be about the same time its characteristic black and white markings begin to show up.

For now, then, the countless panda fans — the “pandamaniacs,” as they’re called — will have to make do with obsessively watching the Pandacam for their own glimpse of the new cub. But before too long, if all goes well, the cub will be brought out into the panda exhibit for all to see.

Then, it will have about three years at the zoo. After that, it’s unclear. With the exception of a few pandas in a Mexican zoo, the entire species belongs to China, and that country determines what happens to each once they turn three.

In the meantime, the San Diego Zoo staff must be feeling nostalgic about their pandas. After all, given that the zoo has just one adult female, and she may be at the end of her cub-bearing years, it’s very possible that the zoo has seen its last panda cub for a long time. But for now, the sound of corks popping coming from San Diego indicates some very happy panda staffers.

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