Archive for July 12th, 2012

Over 500K attempting to survive in Arma 2 mod ‘DayZ’

DayZ, the zombie-focused mod for ultra-realistic shooter Arma 2, has reached the 500,000 user milestone, the dev’s Twitter account revealed today.

“Congratulations everyone, with your support through tough times, mistakes, troubles, and technical problems, we now have over 500k users,” the tweet revealed. The ‘Alpha Version’ of DayZ, which requires Arma 2 and its standalone expansion Operation Arrowhead, was released in April 2012.

Speaking earlier this week at the indie-focused event, Rezzed, mod creator Dean Hall said his free mod will soon eclipse sales of Arma 2 at the rate it’s being downloaded.

“Currently we’re running 22,000 concurrent at full peak, and 10,000 off peak, which is pretty huge numbers considering the original data structure and system was designed to handle 100 concurrents, and two servers,” Hall said during his talk, according to Eurogamer.

Hall, who works for Arma developer Bohemia Interactive, revealed that an estimated 400,000 users had experienced the mod by Friday, July 7, and noted an average of about 10,000 new users were jumping into the fray each day.

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Protection You Can Afford

There are numerous ways you can lose the information on your computer. Your child decides to play Chopin on your keyboard, a power surge, lightening, a virus, or even simple equipment failure. Therefore, backing up the contents of your hard drive is an absolute MUST. By regularly making backup copies of your files and storing them in a separate location, you can typically get some, if not all, of your information back in the event your computer crashes.

While a regular backup to floppy, CD, or zip drive will save your files, wouldn’t it be great if you could create an exact copy (a drive image) of your hard disk? That means backups of all your files, programs, and user settings. This would definitely save you time when it came to reloading. Acronis may be able to help.

Acronis True Image 9.0 is a robust disk-imaging utility software that copies the entire contents of your hard drive including data and operating system files, personalized settings, and more, onto another disk or disk partition. Its layout is easy to use and navigate. It also includes wizards which can walk you through both backing up and restoring your computer. Highlighted features include:

• Secure Zone — allows you to save data to a special hidden partition located on your hard drive which would eliminate the need to purchase an extra hard drive.
• PC Cloning — you can upgrade to a new system disk without needing to reinstall the operating system and applications, or configure user settings.
• Acronis Snap Restore – lightening-speed restore of your PC from an image. You can start working in seconds while your system is still being restored.

Acronis provides a free test-drive of its product and a 30-day money back guarantee. When you are ready to purchase, you can either download for $49.99, or if you so desire, order a boxed version for $59.99. With Acronis True Image Home 9.0, you can rest easy that your family pictures, personal documents, tax returns, resumes, and other important information will not be lost forever.

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5 Important Rules in Website Design

When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every minute detail to make sure it performs optimally to serve its purpose. Here are seven important rules of thumb to observe to make sure your website performs well.

1) Do not use splash pages

Splash pages are the first pages you see when you arrive at a website. They normally have a very beautiful image with words like “welcome” or “click here to enter”. In fact, they are just that — pretty vases with no real purpose. Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the “back” button! Give them the value of your site up front without the splash page.

2) Do not use excessive banner advertisements

Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you will be wasting valuable website real estate. Instead, provide more valueable content and weave relevant affiliate links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy.

3) Have a simple and clear navigation

You have to provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don’t know how to navigate, they will leave your site.

4) Have a clear indication of where the user is

When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, you will want to make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don’t confuse your visitors because confusion means “abandon ship”!

5) Avoid using audio on your site

If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site, reading your content, you will want to make sure they’re not annoyed by some audio looping on and on on your website. If you insist on adding audio, make sure they have some control over it — volume or muting controls would work fine.

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Phishing For Your Identity

Who hasn’t received an email directing them to visit a familiar website where they are being asked to update their personal information? The website needs you to verify or update your passwords, credit card numbers, social security number, or even your bank account number. You recognize the business name as one that you’ve conducted business with in the past. So, you click on the convenient “take me there” link and proceed to provide all the information they have requested. Unfortunately, you find out much later that the website is bogus. It was created with the sole intent to steal your personal information. You, my friend, have just been “phished”.

Phishing (pronounced as “fishing”) is defined as the act of sending an email to a recipient falsely claiming to have an established, legitimate business. The intent of the phisher is to scam the recipient into surrendering their private information, and ultimately steal your identity.

It is not at easy as you think to spot an email phishing for information. At first glance, the email may look like it is from a legitimate company. The “From” field of the e-mail may have the .com address of the company mentioned in the e-mail. The clickable link even appears to take you to the company’s website, when in fact, it is a fake website built to replicate the legitimate site.

Many of these people are professional criminals. They have spent a lot of time in creating emails that look authentic. Users need to review all emails requesting personal information carefully. When reviewing your email remember that the “From Field” can be easily changed by the sender. While it may look like it is coming from a .com you do business with, looks can be deceiving. Also keep in mind that the phisher will go all out in trying to make their email look as legitimate as possible. They will even copy logos or images from the official site to use in their emails. Finally, they like to include a clickable link that the recipient can follow to conveniently update their information.
A great way to check the legitimacy of the link is to point at the link with your mouse. Then, look in the bottom left hand screen of your computer. The actual website address to which you are being directed will show up for you to view. It is a very quick and easy way to check if you are being directed to a legitimate site.

Finally, follow the golden rule. Never, ever, click the links within the text of the e-mail, and always delete the e-mail immediately. Once you have deleted the e-mail, empty the trash box in your e-mail accounts as well. If you are truly concerned that you are missing an important notice regarding one of your accounts, then type the full URL address of the website into your browser. At least then you can be confident that you are, in fact, being directed to the true and legitimate website.

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In Sun Valley, less adulation of tech startups

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO: After a year of mixed initial public offerings and continuing disruptions in the media industry and the broader global economy, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over this year’s Allen & Co.’s annual conference, aka the summer camp for moguls.

Last year, the industry was busy toasting the new Web kings – a group led by Mark Pincus, the chief executive of Zynga; Andrew Mason, the chief executive of Groupon; and Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, who brought his playful Puli, Beast. At the time, their companies were on the verge of going public at sky-high valuations.

And while many technology hotshots are back, their golden glow has faded. In the months since, the startups have received a swift lesson on the capricious nature of the public markets.

Zynga, the game maker, is about 50 percent below its offering price. Groupon is trading below $8, a record low. Facebook, after a tumultuous first month, has clawed its way back but is still 18 percent below its offering price. The pain in the public markets has seeped into still-private companies, damping enthusiasm for other prominent startups like Twitter, the microblogging service.

At least one technology powerhouse, however, has managed to hold its weight.

Amid all the big names, Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of Apple, has been a magnet for moguls here. His predecessor, Steve Jobs, was never a Sun Valley fixture. Apple, known for its secrecy, has generally been a no-show. That makes Cook’s attendance notable in itself.

On Wednesday, Cook tried to keep a low profile, although he has lined up several one-on-one meetings, fueling speculation that he is busy cobbling together partnerships for the next-generation Apple TV. Wearing a blue button-down shirt and jeans, he walked briskly past the photographer pit with Paul Sagan, chief executive of Akamai, the Internet content delivery service.

When asked what he was looking forward to at the conference, Cook demurred.

“I’m looking forward to all the private discussions I’ve set up this week,” he said.

There has been a power shift at the Sun Valley conference, hosted by the boutique investment firm.

Tensions remain between media and technology companies over the distribution of content via digital platforms. But in the past year, media executives have said they feel more positive about harnessing new media as a means to build additional revenue sources. Some attendees also expressed relief that the technology executives – once seen as infallible, with the keys to the media industry’s future – have been taken down a peg. Indeed, many media executives strolled in this week, with a spring in their step.

At the Duchin Lounge on Tuesday night, a small group of technology and media moguls took advantage of the opportunity to mingle and informally discuss potential partnerships. Mark Pincus and Eric Lefkofsky, the co-founder of Groupon, made quick visits before retiring to their rooms. (Mason of Groupon, joined at the hip to Lefkofsky last year, was noticeably absent.) Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and Square, held court with a small group outside. After a late entrance, Zuckerberg also showed up, alongside his friend Drew Houston, the chief of Dropbox. Clad in a gray shirt and jeans, Zuckerberg made a quick beeline for the lounge.

Politicians, business leaders and philanthropists are also among the prominent attendees this week. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg arrived with former city schools chancellor Joel I. Klein (now chief executive of News Corp.’s newly formed education division) and Cory Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J.

Kazuo Hirai, the recently named chief executive of Sony, rushed past reporters as his predecessor, Howard Stringer, lingered in the lobby. Filmmaker Harvey Weinstein also made a brief appearance.

Although it is unclear if any big deals will get done in Sun Valley, the moguls seemed optimistic that Sun Valley was at least ripe for productive discussions.

Time Warner’s chief, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, who once compared Netflix with the Albanian army taking over the world, said he had already chatted with the Netflix leader, Reed Hastings, at the conference, with more discussions planned during the week.

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Is Twitter building ad biz at innovation’s expense?

SAN FRANCISCO: Is Twitter a technology platform, a media company — or both?

With Twitter’s recent moves pointing toward “media company,” there is a growing concern among technologists that a trend for greater content control will compromise both innovation and Twitter’s future in favor of short-term profits.

The days of fledging start-up are gone for six-year-old Twitter, which is now a major player in the big battles shaping the future of the Internet. With over $1 billion in investment, it has backers looking for an IPO payday — an environment that demands more than trumpeting a nifty communications protocol.

The most recent dust-up arose after a top executive announced in late June that the company would soon introduce “stricter guidelines” around how independent developers may build applications on top of Twitter. Around the same time, the social networking service LinkedIn disclosed that it no longer had permission to include Twitter streams.

Those moves are part of a larger clamp-down on how and where Twitter’s content – the stream of Tweets – is viewed by users, who collectively publish 400 million Tweets daily. Twitter’s monthly active users have steadily risen to over 140 million, although it lags far behind Facebook, which claims over 900 million.

Technologists want the service to remain an open, free-wheeling environment, where new applications can be built without restriction and innovation remains the main goal.

For Twitter, increasing control smooths the path to selling advertising and other money-making deals.

Greater control makes it easier for Twitter to sell advertising against its content — the media industry’s traditional proposition. It could also facilitate future initiatives in e-commerce, where Twitter could allow shoppers to click on deals within Tweets and take a cut of the revenue.

“The question is, ‘is Twitter the dial tone or is Twitter the content?'” said Greg Cohn, a former Yahoo executive who oversaw the company’s developer partnerships. “I think increasingly the indications are showing that Twitter is the content.”

How Twitter moves forward with its developer circle will likely shape the fate of its business, if recent history serves as a guide.

What appears to be Twitter’s increasingly ad-driven approach is upsetting third-party developers, many of whom helped the service gain popularity in its early days by providing features that Twitter itself did not, from slick desktop clients like Tweetdeck to photo-uploading tools like Twitpic.

“They’re going to keep compromising themselves over and over again because they need to make money,” said Dalton Caldwell, a programmer who founded the music streaming service imeem and App.net, a software toolkit for developers. “We can’t fault them for following their business model,” he said. “But it’s going to disappoint us. It’s a shame.”

“WE’RE NOT A MEDIA COMPANY”

Twitter’s ad business began to take shape after the 2010 ascension of CEO Dick Costolo, who defined the company’s core business of selling ads as “promoted tweets” within the Twitter stream, and selling “trending topics.” Twitter aims to show individual users relevant promoted tweets by deducing interests from the accounts a user follows.

Costolo has significantly ramped up Twitter’s sales operations, expanding the team from a handful of employees to over 250 around the world. He’s also built out the content offerings with everything from an expanded “Discover” feature, which presents popular stories being shared on Twitter in a news-like format, to special events such as Twitter chats and even originally produced video that’s integrated with major ad campaigns.

Still, Costolo has consistently rejected the notion of Twitter as a media company, instead characterizing the service as nothing more than a new-fangled distribution network.

“We’re not a media company,” Costolo said in January at a media industry conference hosted by All Things D. “We’re in the media business. We distribute traffic.”

That stance helps assuage concerns on the part of the many media companies that use Twitter extensively that the platform is not a competitor. Twitter, in fact, is aiming for deeper partnerships with media firms with new offerings such as “expanded Tweets.”

It has also suited Twitter to pose as a tech company when it comes to potential regulatory and legal burdens, said Lou Kerner, founder of the Social Internet Fund.

Twitter has adopted the legal position that it has no ownership of individual tweets. The matter came to the fore in May, when a New York court ordered the company to hand over information about a user who was arrested during an Occupy Wall Street protest.

But even though it lays no claim to the content of tweets, Twitter has moved aggressively to absorb or squash companies that have built products on top of the Twitter platform.

In 2010, Twitter acquired the maker of Tweetie, a popular iPhone client. The following year, Twitter acquired Tweetdeck, and then sought to shut down UberMedia, a company that made another competing Twitter client software.

Developers’ fears were fanned again late last month, when LinkedIn revealed that it no longer had a license to stream its users’ tweets within the professional networking web site.

Dozens of developers took to Internet forums and their personal blogs to voice their frustration, including Aaron White, a developer who quickly published a blog post declaring that he would no longer write apps for Twitter.

Twitter had abruptly cut off its data pipeline to White’s own app in January. Twitter said the app, called “Proxlet,” which lets users filter out Tweets on certain topics or mute certain accounts, had violated Twitter’s rules.

“They want to control the whole ecosystem,” White said. “If I were making a third-party app right now I wouldn’t feel too safe.”

THE PAST AS PROLOGUE?

The fortunes of other tech companies may provide a sobering guide on the how efforts to control developers translates into success.

In 2006, as the first iPhone was nearing release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs resisted allowing third-party apps onto the phone, according to his authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson. Jobs, who died last year, changed his mind only after top deputies lobbied him repeatedly, but insisted on closely screening the apps and keeping tight control over Apple’s product.

The App Store – which today offers over a half-million apps curated by Apple – has emerged as a major success, helping propel the iPhone’s popularity and supporting a lucrative industry of app developers.

Contrast Apple’s fortunes with MySpace, the once-dominant social network whose decline began around the same time.

In 2006, after News Corp. acquired Myspace, divisions emerged over the issue of third-party developers. MySpace executives resisted ceding control of the platform, while Ross Levinsohn, the head of News Corp.’s digital division and now interim CEO of Yahoo, pushed for more openness, former News Corp. employees said.

A year later, in 2007, MySpace competitor Facebook opened its API, a move that eventually gave rise to popular Facebook apps like FarmVille, the hit game by Zynga Inc., and Spotify, the music streaming service — all of which bolstered Facebook’s transformation into a sprawling network.

But even as Facebook grew, it faced regular complaints that it was neglecting its developer community.

“The relationship between a developer and a platform is a very delicate one,” Cohn said. Twitter’s growing pains, he added, are “nothing too different from what any platform goes through as they mature.”

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