Microsoft is overhauling its free webmail service, dropping the Hotmail brand it has used since acquiring the product in 1998, and adopting the name Outlook.com.
The revamped service will help sort messages as they arrive and allow users to make internet calls on Skype.
It said the move would help tackle the problem of "cluttered" inboxes.
The action may also be designed to win over users of Google's rival Gmail service.
Microsoft said that in many cases email had become a "chore" because its users accounts had become "overloaded" with material.
Its solution is to automatically sort messages into different areas to distinguish between emails from contacts, newsletters, package delivery notices, social network posts and other identifiers determined by the account holder.
In addition it is taking steps to link the Outlook account with other services the user might have subscribed to.
"We are giving you the first email service that is connected to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, and soon, Skype, to bring relevant context and communications to your email," the firm's Chris Jones said on its blog.
"In the Outlook.com inbox, your personal email comes alive with photos of your friends, recent status updates and tweets that your friend has shared with you, the ability to chat and video call - all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is connected to your social networks."
In what may be perceived as a dig at Google, Mr Jones added that the firm would not scan email content or attachments in order to sell the information to advertisers or others.
He also announced that web versions of the firm's Office apps were built-in, potentially helping it counter competition from other web-based application suits such as Google Docs and Zoho Docs.
Outlook.com also links up with Microsoft's Skydrive cloud storage, allowing users to send photos and other documents via the service to avoid the risk of going over their attachment size limit.
This could pose a threat to the rival Google Drive service as well as Dropbox, Sugarsync and others.
Mr Jones said the firm had built a "brand new service from the ground up". But Matt Cain, an analyst at the tech consultants Gartner, played down the suggestion of a major leap forwards.
"Outlook.com represents reverse-consumerisation - taking a ubiquitous business tool and recrafting it for the consumer market," he told BBC.
"There really is no new technology here - the filtering tools have been around for some time as well as the social network integration.
"What is new is the cleaned up user interface, and the marketing spin, and the tight integration with office web apps and Skydrive, and the forthcoming integration with Skype."
Microsoft is offering the service in a "preview" mode for the time being and has not announced an official release date. While it advises users to upgrade, Hotmail subscribers can stick with the old system if they wish - at least for now.
Windows 8 was the widest and most deeply tested OS in Microsoft's history according to Steven Sinofsky, which he believes means that the world is ready for Windows 8 and its new workflow. Seeing as Windows 8 was tested so widely when compared to previous iterations of Windows, it should signify that Windows 8 will be another rock solid OS out of Redmond.
Microsoft released three 'previews' over the development cycle (Developers, Consumer and Release) and there were 16 million PCs actively participating in these programs to help iron out bugs and perfect the platform. The Release Preview was downloaded 7 million times that and was launched only ~8 weeks ago.
Windows 8 has been thoroughly tested, to say the least, and it should leave a good impression on consumers from a stability point of view.
You can get Windows 8 starting on October 26th either by upgrading for $39.99 or with the purchase of a new PC. If you buy an eligible Windows 7 PC today, you will be able to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 (U.S.) through the Windows Upgrade Offer.
Since the rollout of its Wallet product, Google has been partnered with MasterCard and the credit card company’s PayPass product. But today, Google tells us that the platform is opening up, moving to the cloud and accepting cards from Visa, American Express and Discover.
“To support all credit and debit cards, we changed our technical approach to storing payment cards. The Google Wallet app now stores your payment cards on highly secure Google servers, instead of in the secure storage area on your phone.”
That’s an interesting change of lines for Wallet, after security concerns were raised especially for rooted Android devices. Those initial concerns surrounded the PIN system, whereby card information was kept private. The new system stores only a virtual card number on the phone itself, and Google says that having the system server-side will allow faster integration by card companies.
The company is also releasing an update to the service which will allow for Wallet to be remotely disabled in the event that your phone is lost or stolen. Just head to the Devices section within the Web interface and you’ll be able to select the device that you need to disable.
Unfortunately the device selection for Wallet is still pretty limited. The Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3, HTC Evo 4G, as well as the newly-released Nexus 7 and LG’s Viper and Optimus phones are the only ones available with the service for now. Chances are that upcoming generations of NFC-enabled phones will get Wallet as well.
Spectators at the Olympic Games have been urged not to send text messages or post on Twitter from venues unless necessary as the volume of data is disrupting event information being delivered to the media.
Viewers complained on Saturday during the men's road race at the dearth of information being provided by race commentators on timings and riders' positions.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suggested this was due to the huge use of mobile phone networks, with a spokesperson confirming to V3 the issue had affected some of its coverage.
"During Saturday's road race there was an issue with the network provider's signal. As a result the delivery of some of the data could not be sent to the broadcasters," it said.
"This did not affect the time keeping of the race and the results in any way. The issue was dealt with and the system worked for the Women's road race."
V3 contacted LOCOG for comment on the issue but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Telecoms analyst Stephen Hartley from Ovum said it would be surprising if no preparations had been put in place to ensure guaranteed coverage for the IOC for the event.
"Obviously everyone knows there'll be a huge demand for information and with so many people owning smartphones they're going to use them for live text updates and to send messages, so it would be odd if the IOC were just relying on public 3G networks," he told V3.
"In the Olympics Park and other venues you know where everyone will be so you can pre-empt demand but with something off-site like the road race it's harder to predict."
The Games began on Friday night with a huge opening ceremony in London that included a tribute to the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
O2 has announced that its free cross-London Wi-Fi network is now live, just in times for the Olympics Games, offering residents and visitors alike a chance to get online during the event.
The plan for the network was unveiled at the start of the year in conjunction with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and will cover key areas across central London including Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden.
The areas around High Street Kensington and Exhibition Road will also be included in the network.
The network is being run at no extra cost to the taxpayer, with adverts from stores in the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots used to part-fund the rollout. The adverts will display based on the location of the use, with house of Fraser the first exclusive advertiser on the network.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, welcomed the announcement as another vital element of boosting London's technology infrastructure in time for the Olympics.
"With millions of extra people coming to town for the Games, we want to ensure we showcase the capital as the best city in the world to work and visit," he said.
"The addition of free Wi-Fi to some of our most popular landmarks is crucial in helping to maintain that reputation."
O2 confirmed to V3 that the network would remain free after the Olympics.
The rollout is one of several key Wi-Fi provisions for the Games, with BT offering over 1,000 access points across the Olympics Park in Stratford and Virgin Media bringing Wi-Fi to the London Underground.
Memes. supercuts and meta-memes:
Junk culture, or Shakespeare?
The Last Word - The Week
They are little more than video clips that have gone viral online - but "memes" are considered so culturally significant, and so commercially lucrative, that they have a biennial university conference dedicated to them. Matt Labash investigates....
It's been two decades since I graduated form college, and I'm glad to be back, walking the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Not that I went to MFI - I couldn't have got in on a bribe. I have not come to further my education, I have come to meet the future, as embodied by the 850 cutting edge types here for two days in May. They are the stars of You Tube videos that went viral, and others who've become online "memes" , execs from the likes of Google, ad mavens and TV producers looking to cash in on the memefication of the west , along with the geeks and academics who celebrate and study memes.
This is the third biennial ROFL conference, And for those few of you remaining who prefer English to the web jargon that is fast supplanting it ROFL means "rolling on the floor laughing" (ROLF is not to be confused with the many other permutations of online mirth such as lol, lulz, lulwut, ROFLcopter, and trollololol, the distinctions of which I'll skip explaining to you in the interest of keeping us both awake.) If in this article I sound like I'm implying that a New Dumbness has dawned, an era in which disposal internet culture as er know it- at light speed- I'm implying no such thing. Rather, I'm stating it outright. The people here are some of the brightest people you'll ever meet. But rarely in history have so many smart people applied their intelligence to something as dumb as aggregating and propagating LOLcars (cute kitty pictures with captions in misspelled baby talk - "I can has cheezburger?" being the ur-example).
Speakers and sponsors come from places such as the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, which harvests vast aaarchies of research titles such as Salience vs. Commitment: Dynamics of Political Hastags in Russian Twitter. Or there's Kate Miltner, who has a master's degree from the London School of Economics. She is one of two academics at the conference who specialise in LOLcats, the other being a linguist from Louisiana State University whose aster's thesis is titled: I Can Has Thesis? A Linguistic Anaysis of LOLspeak.
The ROFLcon programme is a 95 page Choose Your Own Adventure paperback. (Remember paperbacks?) Choked with in-crowd cultural references, it contains everything from philosophical questions about the early years ("whatever happened to the Are My Balls guy?") to de rigueur Star Trek implorations like "set phasers for awesome". There are narratives and metanarratives, in-jokes and meta-in-jokes. One panel is called "Metameme". Second to meme, Meta is the most overused word here. Which in meta - fashion is acknowledged in the introduction to the "Supercuts" panel, which urges the panellists to "strip every use of the word meme from the video stream (current count: a bajilliion)."
Supercuts are a subgenre of the memesphere in which the supercutter might edit together every insistence of the F-word in The Big Lebowski, or every time someone says "I'm not here to make friends " in a reality show. They are meta-commentaries on our clichéd culture. Never mind that meme culture itself, which is still greatly dependent on remixing non-internet -generated material from old-school media dinosaurs, when not copycatting its own memes, is probably the worst cliché of all. Take an ultra-popular meme like Nayan Cat (a viral video of an animated cat running to a song whose sole lyric is "Nyanyanyanyanyan"). This gave birth to Nyan Cat Ten Hours (the same punishing video looped for ten hours). Which begets Nyan Cat Smooth Jazz (the same cat, now in shades, running to a smooth jazz soundtrack).
This is not a brave new world of innovation and enlightenment. As the virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier once put it , online culture has "entered into a nostalgic malaise... dominated by trivial mashups. It is a culture of reaction without action." Lanier adds, "People will accept ideas presented in technological form that would be abhorrent in any other form."
By this time, many of you are probably asking yourselves: what the hell is a meme? Good question. I have always detested the word, and not just because it was coined by Richard Dawkins, though that helps. The concept originated in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Dawkins was on the hunt for a monosyllable that rhymed with "gene", and borrowed from the Greek word "mimema" (something imitated). The dictionary defines a meme as "an idea, behaviour, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture ". In the olden days, that was called "word of mouth" - too easy for Dawkins. As followers of the world's most insistent atheist know, he never hesitates to lend his scientific authority to that which goes beyond ethology and evolutionary biology, his fields of expertise. In the case of memes, Dawkins took this generic concept and spit -polished it to a scientific shine, insisting memes are discrete units that contain our cultural DNA and that seek to replicate themselves, like genes. Philosopher Mary Midgley dismisses meme theory as " a pretentious way of stating the obvious".
Meme is now a catch-all for popular internet content, especially jokes. Some sceptics don't find it so amusing. Cracked.com recently complained, "Instead of going to all the trouble of humour, everyone just agrees on what's funny and repeats it." But evangelists wheel out heavy artillery to defend cat pictures. Recently, I was listening to a radio show about memes, Christina Xu who works at the MIT Centre for Civic Media, was asked: "Is this building up our culture, or is this just a funny picture?" Her answer: "I would argue there's no distinction between the two. If you look back, how many of Shakespeare's plays involved just, like, jokes about flushing toilets essentially, right?"
Yes, her host replied, "But they were that and more" "They were that and more," agreed Xu. "And I would argue that internet memes are that and more. There are a good number that are just not very meaningful and ways to pass the time. But there's also some that I think will go down in history and I think are a way for people to express themselves about what's happening at the moment in a very powerful way." She cited the Texts from Hillary meme (fake texts from Clinton) as an example to my party? it's my birthday ..." Hilla ry interrupts: "yo, colin. i'm really happy 4 u. imma let u finish, but i am 1 of the best secretaries of state of all time." It's pretty heady stuff, living in this world of Web 2.0 ideas.
While I've been admittedly hard on the memeverse, one of the enjoyable aspects of attending ROFLcon is meeting the "talent", the viral video stars who populate the panels. Most of them seem slightly disoriented, accidental tourists on the fame train who have gone from anonymous to universally known overnight. They may have racked up 100 million YouTube views, but like so many in the digital culture, they often have no idea how to monetise it.
I hang out with Tron Guy , aka Jay Maynard, from Minnesota. Maynard became famous for wearing a luminescent leotard modelled after the suit worn in the 1982 sci-fi film Tron. This resulted in juicier pop-culture plums, like being parodied on South Park. But he's not so in demand now. "I understand why movie stars get hooked on drugs," he says. "While you're big, everyone wants to tell you how wonderful you are. Then all of a sudden, nobody wants to talk to you." Later, I meet Charlie Schmidt. He is the originator of Keyboard Cat, which is a video of his late cat playing a keyboard in a T-shirt (YouTude views: 25,271,864). Charlie has fared better than Tron Guy. Since his dead cat hit the big time, he's flown all over the world. He's licensed the footage for TV. His new cat plays a key board in a nut commercial.
Charlie differentiates himself from the other viral stars. Most do. They all like to believe they're special, that their fame is a reflection of their creativity and individuality. "Many of these guys are insurance salesmen, and their kid falls in a bucket of poop, and the camera was running. It's different for me". But he admits that going viral can spoil you. "It's like when guys go to the Moon. They can't come back and sell insurance. Most go nuts and drink." What does all of this add up to? What does it mean that a grown man can pull down a six-figure annual income making piano-playing-cat videos in the US in the middle of a recession? "It means that people are nuts," shrugs Charlie.
Matt Harding of Where the Hell is Matt? fame (in which Harding dances like an idiot in locations throughout the world - YouTube views: 43,413,218), complains that the internet is losing its individuality, that it's getting corporatised. It's the eternal complaint of hipster subcultures: "It was great as ling as it was just us, then they ruined it." But he is right. And it's not just the aggregators - the Huffington Posts of the memesphere. Even TV types are smelling where the action is. The guys from Eyegoogie, Inc. are here on behalf of their new YouTube channel, PopSpot. They are now going to be captioning viral videos with behind the scenes fact and interesting asides. It's a way of hovering up the traffic of those who have already created viral brand awareness.
But it's not all filthy commerce. If there's one meme who seems to be on a spiritual journey, it is Double Rainbow Guy, aka Bear Vaswuez. Unless you're Amish, you've probably seen his video. Bear, who lives in a trailer on a mountain outside Yosemite, saw a double rainbow, and started filming. While his face never appears, he talks to himself in a series of "oohs" and "ahhs" and exclamations. There is squealing. There is crying (YouTube hits:34,458,444). Bear is the star of his panel. He makes the crowd laugh when he insists he wasn't high when spotting the double rainbow, though he was during an earlier effort - Single Rainbow . Bear is not only being watched by the crowd. A habitual YouTube uploader, he is watching them with two cameras of his own - one handheld, one on a tripod. The meme, while the whole thing is filmed by PopSpot. Mega-meta.
He admits that the success of Double Rainbow has changed him: he no longer experiences things in order to experience them. He experiences them thinking about how other people are going to see him experience them. "When I shot Double Rainbow I was completely by myself and didn't have any expectation of anyone seeing it. Now, that ability to capture the perfect moment is gone. The perfect moment is not there any more, because I'm not by myself. Everyone is watching."
This is an edited extract of an article that first appeared in The Weekly Standard (Washington).
Yahoo "electrified " Silicon Valley and its own 12000-strong workforce this week by poaching Marissa Mayer, one of Google's earliest and most famous employees, to become its new chief executive, said Stephen Foley in The Independent. It's a "stunning" defection given that Yahoo, which has now had five bosses in five years, is seen as "the most poisonous chalice in tech". It would be hard to imagine Yahoo securing a better CEO, agreed Lex in the FT. Mayer, a computer science engineer, has been a crucial part of Google since the start, guiding the look and feel of all its consumer products, from the home page to Gmaps. At Yahoo, Mayer may struggle to solve the riddle of whether the former giant is a tech company or a media and marketing business, said Rob Cox on Breakingviews. She certainly has the "engineering cred", but it's "not clear she has the marketing chops" to pull it off.
Only seven per cent of internet connections in the UK are being used for superfast broadband services despite high-speed connections being available to 60 per cent of premises in the UK.
The figures, from Ofcom's Communications Market Report 2012, suggest that despite the government's push for 90 per cent of the population to have access to superfast services by 2015, there is meagre demand for such capabilities.
This will make for disconcerting reading in government as it ploughs millions of pounds into the funding of networks in remote regions to ensure all areas of the country can access good broadband services, setting aside £830m for this purpose in 2010.
However, while superfast broadband demand is stagnating, the clamour for smartphones and tablets continues unabated.
A total of 39 per cent of UK adults now own a smartphone, up 12 per cent on the previous year, with email and internet access the key uses of the devices according to Ofcom's research.
Tablets, meanwhile, continue their assault on the home market, with over 10 per cent of households owning a device by the first quarter of 2012, up from just two per cent in the first quarter of 2011.
The rise in smartphone use has coincided with an increase in mobile phone calls, with half of all calls in the UK, 52 per cent, now made on mobile phones, rather than landlines.
This has also come as the cost of mobile calls has fallen to the same levels as fixed lines for the first time.
The Times - The Week - 14th July 2012
One of the joys of using an e-reader, so it is said, is that nobody can tell what you're reading.
Not true, says Ben Macintyre. Sure, your neighbours on the train won't know you're engrossed in a "mummy porn" novel, but your Kindle or Kobo certainly will.
These devices record not only what you read, but how fast you read and where in a book you get bogged down - and they pass that information back to publishers. This has provided the book trade with a vast new source of data. Until recently, the only way to gauge a book's success was through sales, reviews or letters. Now publishers can measure readers' responses to every part of a book and see which plotlines and characters work best. Some are already using this digital feedback to "road test" new works on the public through newspaper serialisations. Discovering that "most readers fall asleep in chapter three might be a new and painful experience for an author", but it might also help them write better books.
13:30 - Following previous updates, our tests now show that all our 2G and 3G services have been fully restored for affected customers. If any customers are still having problems we recommend they turn their phone off and on again.Once again, we are sorry.
11:00 - Following the previous update that our 2G network service has now been restored, our 3G service has been restoring gradually. We expect full service to return this afternoon. In the meantime customers who were affected should still be able to make and receive calls (and may wish to try switching their mobile phones off and on as service returns). We are sorry again for the inconvenience this has caused some customers. We continue to deploy all possible resources, and will do so until full service is restored.
10:00 - We can confirm that our 2G network service has now been restored. Customers who were affected should now be able to make and receive calls.Our 3G service is starting to restore and customers should expect to see a gradual return of data services as the day progresses.Customers affected may wish to try switching their mobile phones off and on as service returns.We are sorry again for the inconvenience this has caused some customers and can provide reassurance that we continue to deploy all possible resources, and will do so until full service is restored.
05:40 - We're continuing to drive the recovery of this issue with our support teams and vendors. We're working to restore service as quickly as possible. Unfortunately we're unable to confirm any timescales for service restoration at this time. We'll let you know as soon as we can. We apologise once again for any inconvenience this incident is causing.
03:25 - We're still working with our support teams and vendors trying to restore service as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused whiile this recovery work is in progress. We'll provide further updates as soon as we can.
01:00 - We can confirm that the problem with our mobile service is due to a fault with one of our network systems, which has meant some mobile phone numbers are not registering correctly on our network. As a result, some customers are having difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data. We, and our central supplier, have deployed all possible resources and are working through the night to restore service as soon as possible. We apologise again to customers affected and will provide further updates as soon as we can
23:00 - Our engineers and vendors are continuing to deal with the problem as a priority and we hope to restore full service as soon as possible.
19:00 - We continue to manage the problem on our network that is affecting some of our customers. Customers may still be having difficulty making and receiving calls, sending texts or using data.We are sorry for any inconvenience. Our engineers are dealing with the problem as a priority and we hope to restore full service as soon as possible.
16:45 - We're currently seeing a problem on our network affecting some of our customers.As a result, you may have difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data.Our engineers are dealing with the problem as a priority and we hope to restore full service as soon as possible.
02 have reported that their network is currently down for most of the UK.
According to their service status page the problem was reported around 1:30pm today.
There is no official fix time for the 02 network being down but we would imagine this would be during this evening.
According to o2 the problem is to do with the HLR and the central register failing. This means that some customers are working fine yet their neighbour isn't.
Making calls and using data
We are currently seeing a problem on our network affecting some of our customers. Those customers affected will have difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data. Our Engineers are dealing with the problem as a priority and we hope to restore full service as soon as possible.