I spent a good part of yesterday tooling around with the new Google Maps Street View feature. It's one of those Web services that just works. Here at CNET, we're also centrally located in one of the few cities (San Francisco) to have nearly all of its main thoroughfares Street View-enabled. The data for four of the five Street View-enabled cities comes from a company called Immersive Media. In addition to these interactive 3D pictures, they use the same technology for videos. Both use an 11-lens camera called Dodeca 2360 that captures an immensely large surface area of … Read more
Apple's iTunes store began selling DRM-free songs from EMI on Wednesday.
DRM (digital rights management) software prevents owners from copying or freely using a digital file across multiple devices.
As expected, all the songs from music label EMI that are sold on iTunes are now available in DRM-free versions. Shoppers have the option to purchase either a 256kbps AAC-encoded DRM-free song for $1.29 via iTunes Plus, or the usual 128kbps AAC-encoded DRM-version for 99 cents.
"We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this … Read more
Can you sell physical tokens to access Web sites? At the D5 conference, Qigo is launching its "keys" for Internet content. Qigo keys are nothing more than USB sticks with small executables that fire up Web content, and there's a unique identifier in each. So when you put a Qigo key in your PC or Mac, it launches a Web site, perhaps with exclusive or personalized content. When you remove the key, the site closes.
It's a marketing ploy, and it has some potential. Qigo keys can be made into collectible items, thanks to the addition … Read more
Today, Swivel is adding a new geography view to its data-sharing service. Users will now be able to view data containing city or country information in a variety of different ways, using integrated Google Maps.
Geographic data is represented as a heat map, which will display data as darkened and lightened areas--like you'd see on a weather map. You can also turn your own data set into a one of these maps.
Like other data sets on the service, users will still be able to compare multiple sets of data at the same time, as long as the data … Read more
Spam, zombie robots, and the rest of the dark underbelly of the Internet has led to one of the Web's big annoyances: the captcha. That's the barely readable block of random letters you must translate in order to prove your humanness, and it's supposedly the one thing that separates us from the machines. It's also used in nearly every site registration process--and more recently at site logins. The bottom line is that it's annoying but also utterly necessary to keep evil at bay.
Enter reCAPTCHA, a project of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. A mix between disease-curing Folding@Home, and MyCroft [review], reCAPTCHA requires users to solve two jumbled words: one is the actual captcha, the other is just a word that needs to be translated into text. These words come from various scanned books and documents residing on the Internet Archive. Many of those books were written before computers and in their current state (PDFs and image files) are just glorified photographs--a medium that is still hard to sort through. Once complete, they'll be digital text, and completely searchable.
Words for translation are not just chosen by random. Documents that have been scanned, get checked by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine, which is able to pick up many of the words. Those that are misspelled by OCR, or are impossible to read, are plucked and put into the ReCaptcha word pool. Sites can implement ReCaptcha several ways. There are plug-ins for WordPress, MediaWiki, phpBB, and PHP.
I've embedded a sample ReCaptcha below. You'll notice both words look similar, as ReCaptcha is using both words from the same source, so you can't tell which one has already been solved.
CoComment is an interesting service that helps you monitor comment threads on blogs and Web sites. The service does two big things. One is letting you subscribe to any post's comments, regardless of whether the site in question offers notification of replies. The second element is scraping comments from threads you've replied to, so you can monitor and access the responses for multiple sites in one centralized location. If you're a frequent commenter on several different blogs or sites, this could be a worthwhile service for you.
In order to see if a page you're on has an active coComment discussion, you need to install a small Firefox extension. Alternately, there's a bookmarklet for other popular browsers such as IE and Opera. The key benefit in using the coComment extension is that it will automatically link your on-site comment with your watched comment threads. You need simply click the coComment button, and the service will give you the option keep track of the conversation, add tags, and mirror the thread to your watch list.
When browsing, the plug-in will change colors from blue to orange on any page you're on to let you know a coComment thread on the site or post already exists. Like the bookmarklet, when you click the plug-in button, you'll get the option to follow a thread or comment through coComment, instead of via the site's comment engine. This is one aspect that I don't like, since it's taking potential discussion off the site's built-in discussion. At the same time, for sites without the option to comment, coComment can add this functionality.
To keep track of what others are commenting on, registered members can become friends. Users can see who has subscribed to their conversation feeds, as well as see other coComment users who have responded to the same threads. Each user also gets their own comment and subscriber count, which acts as a general way to tell how much clout or interaction coComment users have.… Read more
Box.net is beta testing a new plug-in for Microsoft Office that lets users save Office files to their Box.net storage folders. The plug-in works for both Office 2003 and 2007 on Windows XP and Vista, provides users a new "Save to Box.net" button, and gives visual notification when the file is uploading and then successfully sent. Users can then access that file anytime on their Box.net Web storage folder.
Zoho released its Notebook service today, better rounding off its suite of Web-based productivity tools. Zoho Notebook (more here) is really more like a scrapbook than a notebook. You can add spreadsheets and word processing files from your Zoho folders. Even more fun is Zoho's capacity to hold songs and video--as well as Web pages and RSS feeds--from a hard drive or from around the Internet.
The capability to share your stuff with other people makes Notebook a potentially cool tool for group projects at school or work. Chatting with other users in addition to recording and playing audio … Read more
Editor's note: This post has been updated from first publish. See note below for more.
This morning Justin.TV has relaunched itself as a live video platform. The site is planning to enable video livecasters to build out their own video broadcasting page, complete with a custom URL, branding, and chat room. Unlike uStream.TV, which has made similar functionality available to anyone and everyone for several months now, the initial crop of broadcasters who want to use the platform will be handpicked by Justin Kan and crew. Eventually it will be opened up to anyone.
For viewers, Justin.… Read more