Friday, June 27, 2008

Move over '.com' and get ready for '.hotel' or '.sports'

London, June 27 (ANI): Come 2009, and almost any word will be able to replace ".com" in a Web page address - thanks to a decision made by the organization that manages the technical underpinnings of the Web, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN).
ICANN unanimously approved the new guidelines as weeklong meetings in Paris concluded.
Top-level domain names, or TLDs, refer to Internet name suffixes, such as the ubiquitous .com, .net and .org, among others. Currently, there are more than 200 TLDs, which also include the two-character country codes used by websites, such as Britain's .uk.
Under the new plans, a domain name, the suffix at the end of a website address, can now be based on any string of letters.
This will allow individuals to register a domain based on their own name, for example, as long as they can show a "business plan and technical capacity".
The result could be the creation of thousands or even millions of new addresses.
ICANN also voted collectively to open public comment on a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.
"We are opening up a new world and I think this cannot be underestimated," BBC quoted Roberto Gaetano, a member of ICANN, as saying.
Dr Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN, described passing the resolution as a "historic moment".
ICANN officials said some technical issues for the new system must still be worked out, but it could be reviewing the first applications for new TLDs as early as 2009. (ANI)
Fri, Jun 27, 2008 Courtesy Yahoo

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Firefox thrives, Netscape fades

Firefox, the open-source Web browser, has claimed that it crossed half a billion downloads worldwide last week.
The browser that was born from Mozilla, the free cross-platform open source Web browser framework, turned out to be the most popular of the “open” alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It acquired new users at a steady 20 million-a-month during 2007. However, its overall share among leading browsers in use is estimated to hover around 17 per cent.
Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004 as an experiment within the Mozilla Project and the currently available free download is version — a 5.7 MB tool. However, version 3 is already in the beta or testing stage and has incorporated some 1,300 changes.
An edition optimised for portable phones called Mozilla Firefox for Mobiles will be available later this year, to start with for the Windows Mobile and Linux platforms.AOL’s recommendation
Ironically, Firefox’s surge forward in the browser stakes comes in a week that also saw the passing into history of the iconic browser Netscape, which for millions of users provided their first feel of surfing the world wide web in the Internet’s dawn, the early 1990s.
On Saturday AOL, which has owned Netscape since 1994, withdrew the browser’s life support system and recommended users to change over to Firefox or Flock, two browsers which like Netscape are also based on Mozilla.
Netscape was not the Internet’s first browser — that honour goes to Mosaic — but it was crafted by American software engineer Marc Andreessen who created Mosaic when he was a student. The market share of Netscape dwindled after Microsoft entered the field with Internet Explorer. By 2006, Netscape was being used by just 1 per cent of surfers.
As of today, it will still be operational. But AOL has stopped all active support, which will effectively kill it very soon… a sad day for those who recall, with fondness, its friendly look-and-feel.
Courtesy, The Hindu 2 Mar 2008

Your own ‘drive’ in Net ‘sky’

Users can upload and store their files in three folders
There is a generous limit of 50 MB for any one file
BANGALORE: If you have portable hard drives and large-capacity memory sticks that you lug on your travels, prepare to shed them now.
Microsoft is offering free personal and secure storage on the Web of a whopping 5 gigabytes to users registered for its Windows Live services.
Users of its Hotmail e-mail service can access this virtual hard drive on the web using the same name and password.
The service, which was in a beta form with limited storage and went live last week across the world, can be accessed at
Users can upload and store their files in three folders: “Personal,” which they alone can access; “Share with friends,” which will be open to designated friends who are also registered Windows Live users; and a “Share with the World,” where one can place files that are open to the wider public to view.
This is arguably the largest free virtual storage offered so far by any Web player and opens up a lot of possibilities for us, lay users of the Internet: One can upload photos or documents for public consumption... useful for those, like teachers or public speakers who like to quickly share the text of their talks, courses or even Powerpoint-type presentation material.
Many uses
There is a generous limit of 50 MB for any one file. In fact, frequent speakers can store their PPT archive so that they can update and give any of their lectures as and when required, without having to carry their material on CDs or thumb drives.
One can post photos or travelogues for a limited circle... ‘shaadi’ albums for the viewing pleasure of close friends and relatives.
The personal store will be particularly useful to keep copies of important documents — copies of e-tickets, short duration insurance policies, hotel booking records, visa references, scans of important documents such as degree certificates and birth or marriage records — which can easily be retrieved if the originals are lost.
Microsoft’s Windows Live head in India, Samir Saraiya, says that the level of security is similar to that of online banking... all file transfers are protected using what is known asSecure Socket Layer.
There have been other online store services, mostly for virtual photo albums and the like, but the flexibility of Skydrive makes it a formidable offering and the size of the storage makes it comparable with what one would get on the solid state drive of an Ultra Mobile PC today.
Courtesy: The Hindu

And now a site-specific browser

A new breed of the browser, called a site-specific browser (a browser tailored to a single on-line application), is slowly evolving.
A mainstream browser (like Firefox) is indifferent to the kind of web site being accessed. Whether the site is your vital email service Gmail or an ordinary web page, for the browser they are all the same.
For applications like on-line word-processors, several browser features (like the navigation buttons, and the home button) are actually unnecessary and have only a nuisance value. However, a user cannot avoid them as the application can be run only with the browser.
If loaded with several web sites, a browser often fails (due to memory shortage or a system error). This browser crash is a recipe for disaster if you are on an on-line application (say, a Google spreadsheet) and in the midst of some serious data processing.
Besides these issues, keeping some applications opened alongside sites on multiple tabs could pose some security threats as well. For instance many have the tendency to keep their web mail (like Gmail) account tab open for accessing the mail interface with ease. Browsing the Net keeping one’s Gmail a/c ’always on’ (with the same browser) is not advisable given the security/privacy risks involved ( To counter these issues, a new concept known as a site-specific browser (some even call it a single site browser) is gaining ground.
A site-specific browser (SSB) lets you dedicate a customised browser to a specific web application/site. Once an instance of this browser is integrated with the application, it will continue to stay on your system tray -- just like a desktop application. This enables you to readily access this on-line application in the same way in which you access a desktop application. An SSB integrates your favourite on-line application with the desktop and enables you to run it like a desktop application.
Windows based tools
Bubbles (, is a good product in this genre with many innovative features. To create a site-specific browser with Bubbles, start the program and enter the URL of the web application you wish to integrate with it.
Once a site-specific bubble (say, for Gmail) is thus created, you will find a bubble icon on the system tray and you can load the application (here Gmail) by clicking on this icon.
Of course, you can create any number of site-specific bubbles this way.
Another feature of this service is the site-specific extension for enhancing the power of a bubble meant for an application. For example, if you have created a Gmail-specific bubble, you can install the gmail-specific extension ( meant for regularly notifying you about new/unread mails.
If you are a Facebook user you may find the Facebook bubble chat extension ( useful.
The concept of the SSB is not new. Mozilla’s SSB project, Prism ( Prism), which seems to be the inspiration for some SSB products, has been around for some time. Despite being aware of Mozilla’s Prism several months ago, Netspeak earlier failed to see the real potential of the SSB concept. You can download Prism from here:
Mango ( is yet another site-specific browser application worth a test. An advantage of Mango is its facility to export an application as self-executable ’.exe’ file.
The SSB is an evolving trend in browser space. Many new/better products may surface soon. Before settling down to a product let us wait and watch how this technology takes shape.
Courtesy: J. Murali, The Hindu

Firefox 3 Web browser hopes for record downloads

LOS ANGELES (Xinhua): Mozilla, an open-source community in which thousands of people, mostly volunteers, collectively develop free products, announced on Monday that it will launch a new version of the Firefox Web browser and hopes for record downloads.
Firefox 3, scheduled to be launched today, features improvements in security, speed and design, according to Mozilla.
With many of the enhancements in Firefox 3 involving bookmarks, the new version lets Web surfers add keywords, or tags, to sort bookmarks by topic. A new Places feature lets users quickly access sites they recently bookmarked or tagged and pages they visit frequently but haven't bookmarked.
There's also a new star button for easily adding sites to the bookmark list -- similar to what's already available on Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 7 browser.
Other new features include the ability to resume downloads midway if the connection is interrupted and an updated password manager that doesn't disrupt the log-in process.
Yahoo is the only Web service initially supported. To use rivals like Google Inc.'s Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail, developers of those services will have to enable that capability first.
Firefox is the No. 2 Web browser behind Internet Explorer. Mozilla has been developing Firefox 3 for nearly three years and has been publicly testing it since November for Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
Mozilla is trying to set a world record for most software downloads in a 24-hour period.
Courtesy: The Hindu, 19 June 2008

Exit keyboard and mouse

It is not yet the end for keyboard and mouse. But unrelated product announcements last week, suggest that it might be the beginning of the end for these electro-mechanical interfaces to computers and Internet access devices. Hewlett Packard has unveiled the revised editions of its TouchSmart PC, first launched last year.
New version
Almost simultaneously, Apple showcased the new 3G version of its iconic iPhone, which virtually pioneered the use of touch to access the various ‘smart’ functions of the handset.
While the Tablet PCalso offered touch as a key component of its ‘electronic slate’ functionality, it was not very successful in the marketplace till recent roll outs of smaller form-factor UMPCs or Ultra Mobile PCs gave the tablet a second lease of life.
HCL’s MiLeap Y or Allied Computers’ ACi Ethos are two examples of made-in-India touch sensitive UMPCs. Microsoft’s Surface Computer, extends the touch sensitive screen to coffee table size; but this remains a pricey option for shops and public information providers rather than lay users.

Interface technology
Meanwhile, touch as a device interface technology continues to evolve: On one hand ‘haptics’ (this means, simply, touch technology that touches back) which was nascent when we first reported on it in this space a year ago (‘Haptic technology set to touch all of us’; IT Trends, The Hindu, July 19, 2007), has made considerable strides in the lab, but few applications have reached consumers.
Nokia might just be the first to offer a key-less keyboard (yes!), where individual keys on a phone are replaced by an ultra touch-sensitive haptic pad that produces a significant reaction, when the user punches a number.

Touch-sensitive screens
Another promising direction in touch-sensitive screens, is the one pioneered by Jeff Han, who has perfected technology for large multi-touch screens, accommodating 10 or 20 fingers at a time.
Mitsubishi developed a Diamond Touch Table in an earlier era, with a similar functionality, but it seemed to have been an idea ahead of its time. Multiple users ranged around a large screen can become collaborators and this might well be the ‘killer application’ for touch technology tomorrow.
Like basic touch technology, multi touch tends to use one of the three mainstream methods of achieving touch:
Resistive: conductive surfaces held apart by spacer ‘dots’. Touching a point closes the circuit and a voltage is generated;
Capacitive: uses the capacitance of the human body; when a person touches the surface, a voltage drop is sensed;
Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW): Sound wave reflectors along the edge of the glass; touching generates a change in sound amplitude.
For very large screens companies like have developed infra red touch technology to go with the plasma screens.
The next edition, after Vista, of Microsoft’s PC operating system will feature advanced multi touch features.

Connectivity devices
These ‘touching’ developments have been almost parallel to those that have marked the industry’s innovative use of voice as an interface for many connectivity devices, especially hand held phones and car-based systems.
The percentage of success, especially of products which promised to transcribe spoken words into machine-readable text, however, never reached levels where they were worth the trouble of correction.
But things are changing. Nuance Communications, the makers of the Dragon Naturally Speaking, speech recognition products for PCs, have perfected some of best voice-command systems for mobile phones. Daniel Hong, at DataMonitor, feels voice commands are now poised to become mainstream applications. From Motorola’s Mobile TV sets to TomTom’s GPS navigation devices, voice is now a standard interface.
It is particularly meaningful in car-based navigation or email services, where the driver is unable or prevented by law, from operating a key board.

Biomedical instruments
The biomedical instruments industry has been an early user of combined voice and touch sensitive interfaces. GEHealthcare has a range of hospital diagnostic equipment — the Logiq series of ultrasound machines is just one example — where touch screens complement voice-activated commands, leaving nurse or technician to do other things with their hands.
Such combinations may soon be the rule rather than the exception in mass consumer products like PCs or handheld wireless Internet tools.
Military users have already caught the potential of such interfaces in reducing the margin of error in mission-critical situations.
A study in Canada at the Ecole Polytech de Montreal, found that operator response was 33 per cent better with voice commands compared to touch screens.
But in some military environments — the cockpit of a fighter aircraft or the operations room of a submarine or frigate — there will be situations where entering strings of code is faster, more reliable, using touch rather than voice. The conclusion: Both technologies have much going for them, and a combination might often work best.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Firefox will become available for free download

Bangalore: Within weeks of each other, the most popular Open Source operating system and one of the most used web browsers for lay users have unveiled their latest avatars — and chances are they will attract millions of first-time users. On Tuesday, the third edition of Firefox will become available for free download. Such is the build-up and hype for this Open Source web browser that 1.6 million users have already pre-registered to get the software on Download Day, June 17 — and as of Saturday, 21,300 of them are based in India.
Mozilla, which promotes Firefox, hopes to create a Guinness World Record for the highest number of downloads on a single day (downloads can be done from /en-US/worldrecord/firefox3).
Firefox has a reputation for blocking viruses and other malware more effectively than many competing offerings, and many users whose PCs or laptops run on proprietary systems still choose to browse with Firefox.
The browser has ironed out almost all its minor glitches during months as a beta and what is offered now is a robust version.
Going by the pre-release versions, Firefox 3 will be available in the Punjabi and Gujarati versions also.
The switch to an Open Source operating system has become just a bit easier, with the recent availability of the latest version — 8.04 — of the Linux distribution, Ubuntu. A free download from Canonical, U.K., Ubuntu has become one of the most popular Linux flavours — and the latest version can be saved on a DVD and will run directly from that drive without disturbing whatever operating system one may be running. It can be downloaded from but since the full software takes almost 4 GB, readers may prefer to use one of the free DVDs being offered with the June 2008 issues of the computer monthlies Digit and Chip in India. This correspondent used the Chip DVD and it opened Ubuntu in trial mode on a Windows Vista PC, allowing sampling of all its features, including the OpenOffice suite and the Open Source graphics software GIMP, which are bundled. At the end of the trial the DVD can be removed and the PC returned to the Vista desktop, without hassle.
This feature alone will give many first-time users the courage to give Open Source a try.

Courtesy - Anand Parthasarathy, The Hindu, 15 Jun 2008