Archive for July, 2012

Left 4 Dead fan short is ‘Seriously’ gory

Seriously Left 4 Dead is a new fan short revolving around three characters that seem to hate each other as much as they do the zombies. Watch this one in the comfort of your own home, unless your office approves of excessive swearing and blood-filled zombie heads popping all over your monitor.

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Amazon drops free Gravity Rush in with Vita

We recommended Gravity Rush pretty enthusiastically. But we understand that not everyone has had a chance to play it, due to unfortunate factors like not owning it, and not owning a Vita to play it on.

That’s where Amazon comes in. Through August 4, any purchase of a Vita will qualify the buyer for a free copy of Gravity Rush. Amazon is also throwing in a screen cover, which you’d want anyway to keep the dangers of the world from reaching that precious screen.

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Twitter clocks half-billion users: Study

PARIS: Over 500 million people are on micro-blogging site Twitter and Americans and Brazilians are the most connected, according to a study by social media monitor Semiocast released Monday.

Twitter surpassed the half-billion mark at the end of June, with the United States accounting for both the most users and largest number of “tweets” or short messages of no more than 140 characters posted on the site.

The Paris-based monitor carried out the study by analysing data like time zone, geolocation and language available for the social networking site’s total 517 million accounts.

The US accounted for more than 141 million of Twitter users, with Brazil ranking second with 41 million after seeing its number rise by 23 percent since the start of the year. Japan came in third with 35 million users.

Americans also posted the highest number of Twitter messages, with 25.8 percent of all tweets hailing from the US.

Japan came second accounting for 10.6 percent of all tweets, making Japanese the second most common language on Twitter after English.

The study found Jakarta to be the most active Twitter zone, with 2.4 percent of all tweets originating in the Indonesian capital.

The popularity of Twitter continued to soar in the Arab world following the site’s key role in the “Arab Spring” revolutions last year, with Arabic now the site’s sixth most common language.

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General Atlantic in talks to buy stake in Snapdeal

Online retailer Snapdeal is close to sealing a deal to raise $80-100 million (Rs 440-550 crore), in the process potentially snagging private equity investor General Atlantic Partners which was once in funding negotiations with rival Flipkart.

Snapdeal’s existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Nexus Venture Partners and IndoUS Venture Partners will also participate in this round of investment, a person directly involved in the negotiations said without divulging details about how much stake is being sold.

General Atlantic did not reply to questions sent by email. Kunal Bahl, founder and chief executive officer of Snapdeal, declined to comment.

The transaction, when it is complete, will possibly see Snapdeal pull ahead of Flipkart in terms of the total amount of private equity capital raised.

In July 2011, it raised $40 million from Bessemer, along with existing investors Nexus and IndoUS, at a valuation of around Rs 1,000 crore. This followed an investment of $12 million by Nexus and IndoUS in January the same year.

The deal will also mark General Atlantic’s first investment in an Indian ecommerce venture. Last year, talks between the fund and Flipkart failed due to differences over valuation.

Snapdeal model resembles that of eBay in that it connects retailers from across the country with consumers. The online retailer does not hold any inventory and it is the retailer who handles packaging and deliveries through Snapdeal-accredited courier companies.

Flipkart, on the other hand, has chosen the Amazon model of holding inventory. Flipkart also handles its own logistics, including product delivery to customers, employing around 4,800 staff, many of whom are posted at its logistics arm. In comparison, Snapdeal employs around 1,500 staff.


Flipkart, which is based in Bangalore, has formally announced receiving private equity capital of $31 million but has offered no official confirmation of the additional funding from its existing investors Tiger Global and Accel Partners in early 2012.

Three independent industry professionals have told ET that the fund-raising was in the range of $75-100 million at a valuation of $500-600 million.

For General Atlantic, which has invested over $1 billion in Indian companies, including Genpact, the current negotiations with Snapdeal coincide with a sharp dip in valuations of ecommerce companies.

Few online retailers have registered consistent profits and most are spending $1-3 million every month on marketing, overheads and salaries in pursuit of growth.

“Last year, entrepreneurs dictated valuations, but now it is investors who are calling the shots,” said Deepak Srinath, director at Viedea Capital Advisors.

Valuations have plummeted to 1-2 times revenue from a high of 4-10 times, according to bankers with knowledge of deals in the sector. By this token, Snapdeal, which is targeting revenue of Rs 600 crore in fiscal 2013, will have a value of around Rs 1,200 crore.

Bahl, along with Rohit Bansal, founded Snapdeal in 2010 as a group buying site featuring heavily discounted deals on local services. However in 2011 the company changed its focus to products as consumers shifted from daily deals to actual online retail.

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3 mn copies of Mountain Lion downloaded in 4 days

NEW YORK: Apple says Mac users downloaded 3 million copies of Mountain Lion, its latest operating system, in the first four days it was available.

That makes it the fastest launch of an Apple operating system ever, the company says. It released Mountain Lion Wednesday.

Apple charges $20 for the software. That pays for downloads for all of a buyer’s personal computers.

Apple also provides the OS for free to buyers who bought a Mac on or after June 11.

Mountain Lion brings features from the iPhone and iPad to the Mac. The enhancements include tight integration with Apple’s online storage service, iCloud, and a “Notification Center” that shows incoming mail, calendar reminders and other events.

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Oracle to buy Xsigo Systems

Software maker Oracle Corp said it would buy privately held Xsigo Systems, a network virtualization software maker.

San Jose, California-based Xsigo’s software helps customers save costs by allowing them to connect any server to any network.

The eight-year-old company, backed by Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures, counts British Telecom Plc, eBay Inc and Verizon Communication Inc among its customers.

“The acquisition is a testament to the momentum behind software-defined networking and network virtualization technology and a sense of urgency among large IT vendors to position themselves following VMware Inc’s acquisition of Nicira,” ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall said.

VMware last week said it would acquire privately held Nicira Inc for $1.05 billion in cash to expand its portfolio and establish a leading position in virtualized networks.

Oracle did not disclose the terms of the deal. Evercore Partners advised Xsigo Systems on the deal. Earlier this month, Oracle bought software maker Skire Inc for an undisclosed amount.

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Master Chief surveys the Art of Halo 4 book cover

Above, your eyes can gaze upon the cover of the upcoming Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 art book, featuring all sorts of concept art and designs from Microsoft’s upcoming Halo 4. It’s got everything you want in a Halo book cover, including Master Chief, some crazy epic Forerunner structure, and a trusty assault rifle.

Actually, that’s not quite true; we could use at least a little Covenant. Is that a Covvie ship flying through the background? Unclear. You’ll have to wait to get a better look when the book arrives on store shelves in November, along with the new game itself.

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Rumor: PlayStation All-Stars characters and stages leak all over the place

A slew of images reportedly pulled from a private beta of PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale shows off many of the game’s characters and stages. An original image posted by Reddit user 696Ly is a leak in the truest sense of the word, as the word “leak” is written all over the picture (seen here).

More visible images of 14 stages and 12 characters from the game were posted online by NeoGAF user miladesn. The images appear to be pulled from the game’s stage and character select screens, including the BioShock Infinite-inspired “Columbia” stage seen above.

Joystiq have reached out to Sony for confirmation.

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Indigenous technology must fend off cyber attacks: Hackers

NEW DELHI: IT security specialists also known as ethical hackers today pitched for indigenous development of software and hardware for securing the country against international espionage.

“There are countries which are subsidising their domestic companies to sell products in foreign nations at prices lower than cost of production just for the sake of spying,” IT security expert Jiten Jain claimed at a Hackers Conference here.

He said the practice is common among unfriendly nations but some countries do it against friendly nations as well.

“Only using complete indigenously developed technology can save country from espionage,” Jain said.

Jain talked about cases of malware being installed in telecom networks and smartphones.

“Around 85 to 90 per cent smartphones can be infected in the world. There have been instances when some components have been found in phones and telecom equipment which auto-update themselves without user’s knowledge,” he said.

The IT expert mentioned that nature of bugging and type of malwares are also changing with some companies making malware that can destroy themselves and some only bug hardware for one-time use only mainly at critical stage.

“There is new method being adopted by companies and countries. They initially supply clean hardware. Later install malwares required to spy by auto-updating products,” he said.

The conference was attended by government officials from Central Bureau of Investigations, Delhi Police, Defence, National Informatics Center and other security agencies.

CBI officials and Delhi Police (DP) officers urged ethical hackers to collaborate with government in spreading awareness and detecting vulnerabilities in the networks.

Delhi’s Additional Commissioner of Police SC Mishra said police officers have to spend more time acquiring skills to investigate cyber crimes.

“Investigation in cyber crime remains challenging as the same officer who has acquired a particular set of skill cannot stay on the same position for long as per administrative policies. Hence, we have to depend on experts for solving a case,” Mishra said.

Ethical hackers showed live demonstration on vulnerabilities in smartphones and famous internet browsers at the conference.

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Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera: The next generation of digital cameras

The Lowdown

Traditionally, the quality of digital photograph was always directly proportional to the physical size of the camera. But the new breed of Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC) are defying this stereotype.

The first generation of mirrorless cameras used the Micro Four Thirds system, created by Olympus and Panasonic. These cameras were smaller, lighter and had large sensors (though not as large as what a traditional DSLR offered).

Sony started the second round of innovation in this segment with the NEX series of cameras. The NEX also has a smaller body than a DSLR, but Sony managed to fit in APS-C size sensor – the same kind of image sensor that most DSLRs have.

The large sensor not only enabled much higher image quality but also high-quality HD video recording with autofocus. This was followed by Nikon with their 1 Series, Fujifilm with their X-Pro1 and now Canon, a late entrant into the segment, has announced the EOS M system.

There are some downsides to mirrorless cameras too. For starters, not many lenses are available, and the ones that are available, are expensive. Now that almost all major manufacturers have entered the segment, we should see lower costs and more innovation.

How They Differ

Sensor

DSLRs have a much larger image sensor, mirror-box, a complex optical viewfinder system and lots of physical buttons – these aspects contribute to their much larger size as compared to compact cameras.

In the new crop of Micro Four Thirds cameras and interchangeable lens cameras that use DSLR-size APS-C sensors, the mirror and viewfinder is done away with, effectively reducing the overall size and weight. They also usually have touchscreens. Since one of the most important aspects, a large and high-quality sensor, is retained, you will end up with results that are very close to what a DSLR offers.

Lens

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras use larger lenses as compared to compact cameras. The lenses allow the sensor to capture more light and make for an overall sharper image from edge to edge. These lenses are not directly compatible with other DSLR lenses because each manufacturer uses a proprietary mount.

However, you still have a choice, ranging from 14mm ‘pancake’ lenses to 30-110mm zooms. Sometimes, you can also use a lens mount adapter to attach a DSLR lens, but a possible drawback is that the autofocus system in the lens may not work.

PROS

The larger image sensor in these cameras captures light more easily, giving you better images in low light and lower noise.

Manual controls for exposure (aperture, shutter speed), ISO (light sensitivity) and various creative modes/filters are always included in these kinds of cameras.

A higher quality interchangeable lens means that this kind of camera will deliver results close to what a DSLR will. Plus, the system is capable of expanding to meet future needs.

CONS

They tend to be larger and heavier than the usual point-and-shoot camera – definitely not ‘pocketable’.

An optical viewfinder is a rarity in a Micro Four Thirds or interchangeable lens camera – you only have the LCD.

They are expensive compared to entry-level DSLRs. In many cases, you can buy a DSLR with similar performance for the same amount or less.

Limited and more expensive accessories – since the market is limited, add-on lenses and accessories tend to be more expensive than DSLRs.

Compact body

The absence of a mirror and in certain models, the lack of an optical viewfinder is the main reason for the compact size of mirrorless cameras. Usually, they are half the weight of a DSLR.

Video

Most mirrorless cameras can record full HD video and that too with continuous autofocus – a feature that most DSLRs lack.

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