Apple releases iOS 5.0.1 to fix battery life; many users still report problems

Less than two weeks after the battery life issue was first reported, Apple has released itsannounced iOS 5.0.1 update to fix it, as well as bring other bug fixes and improvements to the platform. A large portion of the most recent user reports on the Apple support forums however, claim that the update does not actually fix the battery life problem for them, and in some cases, makes it worse. Apple has yet to respond to these reports.

As announced last week, the iOS 5.0.1 update will bring various other changes to the platform, such as new multitasking gestures for the iPad 1, various security improvements, bugs fixes for FreeType, bug fixes for iCloud documents, and enhanced voice recognition for Australian users. Also notable, is the fix for a major security issue that had allowed hackers to develop rogue apps for iOS devices. The iOS 5.0.1 update was the first update to roll-out over-the-air (reportedly less than 50MB), though it can also be downloaded via iTunes (reportedly nearly 790MB).

Pointed out by established security researcher Charles Miller (a four-time winner of the Pwn2Own hacking contest), the issue was that Apple’s App Store’s code signing could be bypassed by developers, spreading malware onto users’ devices without their knowledge. Miller proved the existence of the bug by developing an iOS app that Apple approved and distributed, an app that forced the device to phone a controlled server, which could then issue various commands on devices running iOS 4.3 or higher.

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Beyond the Steve Jobs bio: More stories on the creation of the Mac

Ever wonder why the original Mac dismissed the expansion slots that many of the competing machines of the era had? Or why so many of today’s user interfaces have rounded rectangles surrounding the windows? Or why so many of the original Mac designers left Apple so soon after the machine shipped?

Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in The Valley (2004) will tell you. Hertzfeld was one of the key original software designers of the Mac and a witness to, and often a participant in, some of the best stories ever told about making a computer.

While a number of good stories about Apple’s creation of the Macintosh pack the pages of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, it barely scratches the surface of what really happened behind the scenes. I’ve read a number of books about Apple, but somehow I missed this one, which truly captures the creation of the Mac.

Subtitled “The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” this book is filled with great anecdotes—like the time Bill Gates entered an Apple conference room surrounded by Jobs and ten Apple employees following the Windows announcement in 1983.

 

“You’re ripping us off,” Jobs shouts.

 

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it,” Gates replies. “I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set only to find that you had already stolen it.”

 

Some of these stories are well known; Isaacson clearly referenced the book for a number of the incidents he told in his Jobs biography. Many others are less familiar, delving into the workings of the team, and the antics, camaraderie, and energy that led a small group of people to create the Mac software. For instance, you’ll read about the “five different Macintoshes,” as the original concept morphs into the machine that shipped in January 1984. You’ll also read about the continuing battles between the Mac team and the team charged with creating the Lisa.

 

The stories in the book are short, generally a page or two each, befitting of a book that got its start as a website, folklore.org. Most are written by Hertzfeld, in his entertaining conversational style, but occasionally other members of the team chime in and add their own voices.

 

Reading all the anecdotes together makes the book feel more cohesive than a series of posts on a website, and it’s helped by wonderful (and mostly unaccredited) photography of the team.

 

Because the stories are short and anecdotal, those looking for a more linear history of the Mac and how it fits in with the bigger picture of tech in the era should turn elsewhere, perhaps to Steve Levy’s Insanely Great or Jim Carlton’s Apple. But Revolution in The Valley is a fun read and it gives some of the best internal perspective I’ve read on the creation of a tech product.

 

The last post in the book, aside from a comment on how the book was made and a new afterword, sums up Hertzfeld’s memories of the era:

 

Enthusiasm is contagious, and a product that is fun to create is much more likely to be fun to use. The urgency, ambition, passion for excellence, artistic pride and irreverent humor of the original Macintosh team infused the product and energized a generation of developers and customers with the Macintosh spirit, which continues to inspire more than twenty years later.

 

Beta of OPERA 11.60

It might feel a little confusing to now have an Opera 11.60 beta while Opera 12 has been in the news recently. Snapshots of Opera 12 have been available from quite a while now for those who like to stay on the cutting edge however there is a slight change of plans from Opera Software; Opera 12 will be delayed, and an interim Opera 11.60 will be released. The good news is most of the awesome features that were to come with Opera 12 will now ship in Opera 11.60 instead.

So why release Opera 11.60 instead of Opera 12? Well, because one of major features that was supposed to come with Opera 12, hardware acceleration is still not to the level of quality that Opera Software would like, and they’d rather have it done right, than done fast. So while hardware acceleration, WebGL and Themes won’t make it in this version other major features of Opera 12 will, such as:

The improvements to Opera Mail are a completely new addition, and worth taking a look at. Opera has always had a decent email client for those who still use one. Well integrated into Opera, and light while still being very functional. Now the mail client has received a visual overhaul, redesigned simplified interface, new icons, etc.

The mail interface now features a two-lined message list, with messages on the right instead of below the message list. This is similar to Outlook and works a lot better on today’s wide-screen monitors. Of course, the old layout is still available for those who prefer it. Mails can now also be “pinned”, the equivalent of starring them on Gmail (pinned messages will sync to starred messages on Gmail).

Opera is also now the first browser to support HTML5 microdata.

The beta version of Opera 11.60 can be downloaded from Opera website, although be careful while installing as it will upgrade your stable Opera 11.52 install. Opera has posted instruction for how this beta version can be installed alongside the stable version. This version is also separate from the Opera 12 builds, which will continue to be released in the Opera.Next channel.

Review of EA Sports FIFA 12

FIFA 12 is a great game when you get on the pitch and actually play football. The off-the-pitch issues are what plague it most, which sort of makes it realistic and close to real-life, just not in a way EA Sports – and certainly not the way the fans – expected it to.

Pros
  • Tactical Defending is a great addition
  • Precision Dribbling gives players a lot more time on the ball
  • Nice, solid presentation
Cons
  • Impact Engine is a bit wonky in places
  • Both Online and Offline game modes are plagued with bugs

FIFA 11 was a very strange game, in that it brought out a myriad of reactions – often polar opposites – from us at different times during the game experience. The convergence of the offline game modes into one Career mode was a welcome move, as was the move to a less-automated passing system. The superhuman defenders and numerous bugs, however, were routinely subject to deluges of expletive-filled outbursts. Ultimately though, FIFA 11 wasn’t a significant enough upgrade over its predecessor to warrant a purchase, even if it was drastically different.EA Sports have looked to change that with FIFA 12, as one might have noticed with all the pre-release “best FIFA ever” talk. We dismissed that as the perennial hype machine, but come September 30 we were actually left wondering if we were a little too quick in our dismissal of the claim, with the biggest reasons for that being the changes in gameplay.

FIFA’s gameplay changes have followed a bit of a trend recently. In their quest to get ever-closer to realism, EA Sports have focused on a particular aspect of football each year. Two years ago, 360-degree dribbling was introduced, and last year it was the passing system that got a revamp. This year, it’s the turn of the aspect that has stayed pretty much untouched for more than a decade now – defending.

If you thought defending in FIFA 12, like in every other recent FIFA, would be about holding down the A or X button (or the D key) to press and tackle the opponent, think again. Tactical Defending, as the feature is called, takes the focus away from pressing and closing down to a more positioning and timing based system. You are encouraged to intercept the ball, or contain the opponent in a specific area to stifle the attack.

Conclusion
FIFA 12’s gameplay is extremely solid and is only a few Impact Engine tweaks away from being excellent, but the numerous bugs and issues that plague both the offline and online game modes are quite the mood killers. One can only hope patches are on the way, but we’ve seen EA Sports do this year after year, and there are no signs that lead us to believe this year is any different.

The bottom line, though, is that FIFA 12 is a great game when you get on the pitch and actually play football. The off-the-pitch issues are what plague it most, which sort of makes it realistic and close to real-life, just not in a way EA Sports – and certainly not the way the fans – expected it to.

 

Adobe kills mobile Flash, giving Steve Jobs the last laugh

Mobile Flash is being killed off. The plugin that launched a thousand online forum arguments and a technology standoff between Apple and the format’s creator, Adobe, will no longer be developed for mobile browsers, the company said in a note that will accompany a financial briefing to analysts.

Instead the company will focus on development around HTML5technologies, which enable modern browsers to do essentially the same functions as Flash did but without relying on Adobe’s proprietary technologies, and which can be implemented across platforms.

The existing plugins for the Android and BlackBerry platforms will be given bug fixes and security updates, the company said in a statement first revealed by ZDNet. But further development will end.

The decision also raises a question mark over the future of Flash on desktop PCs. Security vulnerabilities in Flash on the desktop have been repeatedly exploited to infect PCs in the past 18 months, while Microsofthas also said that the default browser in its forthcoming Windows 8 system, expected at the end of 2012, will not include the Flash plugin by default. Apple, which in the third quarter captured 5% of the world market, does not include Flash in its computers by default.

John Nack, a principal product manager at Adobe, commented on his personal blog (which does not necessarily reflect Adobe views) that: “Adobe saying that Flash on mobile isn’t the best path forward [isn’t the same as] Adobe conceding that Flash on mobile (or elsewhere) is bad technology. Its quality is irrelevant if it’s not allowed to run, and if it’s not allowed to run, then Adobe will have to find different ways to meet customers’ needs.”

Around 250m iOS (iPhone, iPod Touches and iPad) devices have been sold since 2007. There are no clear figures for how many are now in use. More recently Larry Page, chief executive of Google, said that a total of 190m Android devices have been activated. It is not clear how many of those include a Flash plugin in the browser.

At the start of 2011, around 20m devices had Flash in the browser, Adobe said, and it expected that by the end of this year the total would be 200m.

“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe Air for all the major app stores,” Adobe said in the statement. “We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations.

“Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.”

The decision comes as Adobe plans to cut 750 staff, principally in North America and Europe. An Adobe spokesperson declined to give any figures for the extent of layoffs in the UK. The company reiterated its expectation that it will meet revenue targets for the fourth quarter.

The reversal by Adobe – and its decision to focus on the open HTML5 platform for mobile – brings to an end a long and tumultuous row between Apple and Adobe over the usefulness of Flash on the mobile platform. The iPhone launched in 2007 without Flash capability, as did the iPad in 2010.

Steve Jobs, then Apple’s chief executive, and Apple’s engineers insisted that Flash was a “battery hog” and introduced security and stability flaws; Adobe countered that it was broadly implemented in desktop PCs and used widely on the web.

Jobs’s antagonism was partly driven, his biography reveals, by Adobe’s reluctance after he rejoined Apple in 1996 to port its movie-editing programs to the Mac and to keep its Photoshop suite comparable on the Mac platform with the Windows one.

But Jobs also insisted that mobile Flash failed in the role of providing a good user experience, and also would restrict Apple’s ability to push forward on the iOS platform. Studies of browser crash reports by Apple’s teams showed that Flash was responsible for a signficant proportion of user problems; Apple was also not satisfied that a Flash plugin would be available for the first iPhone in 2007 which would not consume more battery power than would be acceptable.

Jobs managed to persuade Eric Schmidt, then Google’s chief executive and a member of the Apple board, to get YouTube to make videos available in the H.264 format without a Flash “wrapper”, as was then used for the desktop implementation.

But the disagreements between Apple and Adobe intensified, especially when Android devices began appearing which did use the Flash plugin. Apple refused to use it, and banned apps from its App Store which tried to use or include Flash.

In “Thoughts on Flash“, an open letter published by Jobs in April 2010, he asserted that “Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

“New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

Adobe’s chief executive Shantanu Narayen hit back at Jobs, saying that “Thoughts on Flash” contained statements about the plugin that were false (relating to battery drain).

Linux Mint 12 to feature extended version of Gnome 3

Linux Mint,

which is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that aims to further simplify Ubuntu, faced a conundrum when it released its previous Linux Mint 11 version. Linux Mint 11 was to be based on Ubuntu 11.04, however that was also the first Ubuntu version to ship with Unity. So Linux Mint could either adopt Unity from Ubuntu 11.04 (on which it is based) or adopt Gnome 3, which was the latest Gnome release, or stick to the old, and soon to be outdated Gnome 2.32. Switching to either Unity or Gnome 3 would be a big shift in the user experience of Linux Mint, and make it difficult for old Linux Mint users to adapt easily. Those familiar Linux Mint will know that it decided to stick with Gnome 2.32 for Linux Mint 11, but that approach could only last so long.

Now with the release of Linux Mint 12 around the corner, people were waiting to see what the developers of Linux Mint would do about this situation. Now they have a response, and it should please users of Gnome 2, and Gnome 3 alike.

With their 3.0 release Gnome completely changed the way Gnome users could interact with their system in an attempt to simplify computing. For people who are already used to interacting with computers in a certain way though, this meant a huge change in the way Gnome functions. The lack of configurability meant that old Gnome users would have to adapt to the way Gnome 3 works, rather than it adapting to their requirements. While I feel that Gnome 3 is a great shell for users willing to rethink the way they interact with the computer, or those just getting into computers, not everyone can spare the time or go through the effort of readapting to the way their desktop environment works. They have to get work done.

Linux Mint developers have decided to “look forward and embrace new technology” but in such a way as to not alienate their old user base still used to Gnome 2-like interfaces. Linux Mint 12 will use Gnome 3, but will include what they call MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions), which are addons for Gnome 3 that bring a number of Gnome 2 features to Gnome 3. By disabling all these extensions one can get a pure Gnome 3 desktop, or users can pick and choose the extensions they like to get an experience somewhere between Gnome 2 and 3.

Here are the features that MGSE enables in Gnome 3 to make it closer to Gnome 2:

  • The bottom panel
  • The application menu
  • The window list
  • A task-centric desktop (i.e. you switch between windows, not applications)
  • Visible system tray icons

Additional extension by Linux Mint developers will also be available with Linux Mint 12.

That isn’t all, for those with older systems incapable of running Gnome 3, which requires hardware acceleration, there is MATE. The MATE desktop is a fork of Gnome 2.32 intended to support the Gnome 2 interface for those who still want to use it. In the absence of hardware accelerating Linux Mint will fall back to MATE.

 

It seems Linux Mint developers have managed come up with a solution that works for everyone without seeming line a compromise. Rather it seems like a solution that other distro developers might adopt as well. There is no reason why the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions should be restricted only to Linux Mint, if nothing else, they will be open source.

 

A release candidate of Linux Mint 12 should be available in a few days (November 11), so you can try this out for yourself.

 

India soon will have the highest number of Facebook users

Facebook expects India will soon surpass the US and Indonesia to become its largest market in terms of users.

“India is our third largest market in terms of number of users and what we’re excited about and why we’re here is because some time in the future, we think that India will pass first Indonesia, which should happen soon, and then US,” says Facebook’s vice president for mobile partnerships and corporate development Vaughan Smith.

India has nearly 30 million Facebook users, while Indonesia has more than 45 million users. According to reports, more than three-fourth of all Facebook users are outside the US. The figures released by ComScore in June revealed that the number of Facebook users in India was growing at a phenomenal pace. According to the data, one out of three Internet users in India was a Facebook user.

Moreover, the Indian companies from various sectors including retail and hospitality are harnessing Facebook to reach out to their audience and promote their businesses. Smith highlights that more than half of Facebook users in India access the social network via theirmobile devices.

With number of Internet users in India expected to touch 121 million by year end, Facebook’s prospects look better in the country. According to the annual I-Cube report jointly published by IMRB and the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IMAI), India is likely to surpass the US, which has some 245 million Internet users, within two years.

Finally, Google+ Pages for business arrives

Following months of anticipation and speculation, Google has finally started rolling out its social networking service Google+ to businesses and brands, allowing them to set up their own Google+ pages. Google says the Google+ Pages will help companies increase communication with their audiences. Google+ Pages is pretty similar to Facebook page services, which also allows businesses to promote themselves.

“So far Google+ has focussed on connecting people with other people,” Google’s engineering headman Vic Gundotra wrote in a blog post. “But we want to make sure you can build relationships with all the things you care about – from local businesses to global brands – so today we’re rolling out Google+ Pages worldwide.”

 

A number of pages are already available; any organisation can join the community at plus.google.com/pages/create.

 

Direct Connect

In addition to the Google+ Pages, Google has also launched a new search feature called “Direct Connect”, which allows users to directly connect to a Google+ page. All one needs to do is type a “+” before the name of an organisation or business (like +Angry Birds and +google).

Direct Connect is however presently available for a limited number of pages.

Cloud computing: the lowdown

Much of our computing (including the storage of our personal data) is now being done remotely via the ‘cloud’. But what is it? Here is a brief history of this radical shift while, below, we assess the relative merits of four cloud computing services

‘Where did the computer go?” was the slogan Apple used in 2004 when it launched the first of its current range of iMac desktop computers. The question was designed to draw attention to the ingenuity with which the company’s designers had managed to pack the components of an entire desktop computer into what was effectively an enclosure for a large flat screen. But actually it’s a question with a more contemporary relevance, because nowadays most of us rely on “computing” that’s provided by machines we never see and could not locate even if we tried. They are somewhere out there in the internet “cloud” (so called because the network is often drawn as a cloud in technical diagrams), which is how so many of us came to be users of something called “cloud computing”.

It’s very different from how things used to be. Once upon a time the computer was the PC (or the laptop) on your desk. If you wanted to do word processing, or calculations on a spreadsheet, or to read and write emails, you did so by launching a program that ran on your computer. And the data – the documents, calculations or messages – that you produced were likewise stored on the hard drive inside your machine. Even if the PC was connected to the net, most of your computing activity happened inside the box on your desk.

And now? First, most of what we think of as “computing” is increasingly done using a smartphone or an iPad or a simple, stripped-down, laptop or “netbook”. Much of our data – documents, emails, photographs, spreadsheets – is no longer stored on our devices but is held in distant server farms operated by the likes of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. And if you’re a serious user of computing resources you will not only store your stuff in the cloud, but rent virtual computers from companies such as Amazon on which to run your own programs.

What made this possible was the penetration of broadband – ie internet connections that were fast enough to ensure that interactions with distant machines happened at a tolerable speed. Once these types of connections became widespread, the die was cast.

For individuals, reliance on cloud computing came about mainly because companies such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo offered useful services – think search (Google, Bing), webmail (Hotmail, Gmail), image hosting (Flickr, Picasa) and social networking (Facebook) – that were apparently free (ie supported by advertising) and required no special software (other than a browser) running on their computers.

For companies, the route into dependence on cloud computing was driven by economics. Building and running IT services for thousands of employees is an expensive and unrewarding business. But for several decades companies had little alternative – just as a century ago they had no alternative except to build and operate their own electricity generators. But eventually it became possible to purchase electricity off the grid, and so most companies shut down their generators and left the messy business of producing electricity to utility companies. Now they’re doing the same with computing services, which they regard as a utility – just like electricity or water. In other words, the net has become another kind of grid.

Apple / iCloud

Key features iCloud launched in early October, promising a simple and elegant way to store music, photos, documents and other files on Apple’s servers and then access them from iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and computers. The key point is that a lot of this is done automatically in the background without you having to do anything. For example, a feature called Photo Stream makes all the photos you take appear on your other devices for up to 30 days.
iCloud also lets you download all your previous purchases on Apple’s iTunes Store to your Apple-registered devices. Meanwhile, developers making apps for Apple devices can also use iCloud’s storage. Early examples include game saves being accessible across iPhone and iPad, and document editing apps working across all these devices.

Devices iCloud works on any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running the iOS 5 software, as well as any Mac running the OS X Lion operating system. But it also works on PCs, through iTunes.
The cost iCloud is free with 5GB of storage space for your content, although anything you buy from iTunes doesn’t count towards this total, nor do your Photo Stream pictures. 10GB of additional storage costs £14 a year, while 20GB costs £28 and 50GB costs £70.

Ease of use The key to iCloud is that, often, you don’t have to “use” it: the service does things in the background without you needing to upload or download anything. The idea being that quickly, you’ll just assume your files and content are available on whatever device you’re using at the time.

Privacy and security iCloud involves a lot of your personal content being sent over the internet and/or stored on Apple’s servers, although the company uses encryption technology to keep it secure. Apple also has a policy of only storing location data from individual devices for 24 hours on its servers before deleting it.

Great for… Anyone with an Apple device, but particularly for those with two or three.

Microsoft / SkyDrive

 

Key features Microsoft’s SkyDrive is part of its Windows Live service, with strong links to services such as Hotmail, Windows Messenger and Xbox Live. It’s more of a virtual hard drive in the cloud, using a similar system of folders to organise your stored files.
You can store documents, photos and videos in your SkyDrive, as well as other files. Documents can be edited within Microsoft’s Office web apps – just like Google. Meanwhile, Hotmail is the basis for synchronising your contacts, email and calendars across all these devices.
SkyDrive also has the ability to make certain folders public – to share their contents with friends and family, for example. This feature is useful for workmates collaborating on big documents or projects. Like Apple, Microsoft wants developers to incorporate SkyDrive into their apps, both on PCs and Windows Phones.

Devices SkyDrive is accessible from PCs and Macs, but also fromsmartphones running the Windows Phone operating system. It has a good mobile website, too, which works on other mobile devices.

The cost SkyDrive is free, and you get 25GB of storage for your documents and files. At the time of writing, there is no way to buy additional storage.

Ease of use One easy way to use SkyDrive is from within Microsoft applications, such as the latest version of Office, which lets you save documents directly to your SkyDrive. It’s also integrated into Windows Phones, allowing you to save photos to your SkyDrive immediately after taking them. Using the main website to upload and access files is simple, too.

Privacy and security Microsoft gives every file you store on SkyDrive its own web address, making it easy to share them with friends – and the URLs are long and complex enough not to be guessed. You can also set files and folders to share with specific contacts or to be entirely private.

Great for… Anyone with a Windows Phone and the hardy people who are still using Hotmail in 2011.

Google

Key features Google has a number of cloud services that increasingly interlink. Gmail, for example, now offers an impressive 7.6GB of free storage for emails and attachments, while also storing your contacts.
Another Google cloud service is Google Calendar, which stores your engagements in the cloud so you’re never far from a device telling you when your dentist appointment is.
Google Docs is for creating, editing and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations – an online equivalent of Microsoft’s Office (although in response to Google Docs, Microsoft now has one of those too).
Google eBookstore is a cloud service for buying ebooks and accessing them from any web-enabled device, while the company has a music service live in the US, and coming our way soon.

Devices Google makes its cloud services available across every device possible: computers, tablets and smartphones. On the latter two, this is a mixture of apps and (often superior) mobile websites. They work particularly well on devices running Google’s Android software.
The cost All Google’s cloud services are free. That said, if you find yourself bumping up against the upper storage limit on Gmail, 20GB costs $5 a year, 80GB costs $20, 200GB costs $50, 400GB costs $100 a year and 1TB will set you back $256.

Ease of use Google’s experience shines through: its services are easy to use, with Google Docs presenting no problems for anyone switching from desktop tools such as Office. Over time, the different services have also linked together in some good ways, such as prompting you to make a calendar appointment from within Gmail.

Privacy policy Google’s policy of selling ads relating to keywords in your emails can spook new Gmail users, but the company says its systems are entirely automated – and are also used to screen out viruses and spam from your inbox. Security-wise, Gmail can offer a two-step verification process to enter an additional code when logging in.

Great for… Cost-sensitive web users who buy into the Googleplex dream.

Dropbox

 

Key features Dropbox is the independent option in the four main cloud services we have chosen: it’s a startup that doesn’t make its own devices or operating systems. Its pitch
is simple sharing, with files saved to Dropbox made instantly available across all your other devices.
Other key selling points are the fact that Dropbox works when you’re offline because the files are actually stored on your devices, but it also keeps data usage to a minimum – important for mobile users – by only transferring the parts of files that change when you edit them.
Dropbox also includes sharing features to give friends, family and colleagues access to specific folders, so that it’ll feel like that folder is stored on their computer too. You also have a Public folder where every file has a link for anyone to view.

Devices Dropbox works on just about anything: its website is fine for PCs and Macs, while it has apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry. Phone users can edit files and then upload their photos and videos.
The cost Dropbox is free at its basic level, which provides 2GB of storage for your files. You pay $9.99 a month for the Pro 50 package (50GB) and $19.99 a month for Pro 100 (100GB).

Ease of use Dropbox has been designed to be easy to start using straight away, even if you’re not a geek. The focus is on simplicity, from uploading files to sharing them with others. From the moment that your different devices are set up to synchronise your files, it’s seamless.

Privacy policy Dropbox caused a stir earlier in 2011 with a change to its terms and conditions taken by many people as a claim to ownership over the files stored on it. The following week, however, it clarified to users that “You retain ownership of your stuff… We don’t own your stuff.”

Great for… Independently minded souls with a range of devices from different manufacturers.

Cloud atlas: Specialist providers

Photos: Digital cameras and smartphones mean a lot of people have thousands of photos stored on their computers. Why store them in the cloud too? Partly to make them easier to share, but also for security: a back-up in case your hard drive comes a cropper.
Flickr is the best-known cloud photos service, although in recent years it has faced serious competition from Facebook. You can upload to Flickr from your computer or mobile device, and it now makes it easier to post them on social networks too. Rivals include Photobucket and Picasa Web Albums, although now there are also mobile cloud photo apps such as Instagram and Picplz, which let you apply a range of visual effects before sharing.

Music: Apple’s iCloud will soon be the most high-profile cloud music service in the UK, but there are already rivals available.
Sony’s Music Unlimited is one of the best, because it combines the ability to store your existing music collection in the cloud with a Spotify-style library of songs you don’t own, to stream. It works on computers, but also Android devices and the PlayStation 3 console.
Carphone Warehouse also has a cloud music service, My Music Anywhere, which stores your collection online, including playlists, and allows you to access it from other computers and your smartphone.
There is also US service MP3tunes, which is controversial within the music industry (record label EMI sued it), but it was one of the first to offer a music locker, with 2GB of free storage and more for customers who pay.

Games: When it comes to games, the term “cloud” means something different. It’s not about uploading your games to a remote server, but about never having to own the games in the first place: no downloads or discs required. Your chosen game runs on OnLive’s server, delivering video to whatever screen you’re playing on – PC, Mac, TV or tablet – then transmitting your controls back up to the server. One key advantage is that you don’t need the most powerful hardware to run even the latest, most graphic-intensive games.
To play on a TV, you’ll need the OnLive Game System (a set-top box and joypad) which costs £69.99 plus subscription at £6.99 a month, although you buy access to brand new games separately.
One rival is Gaikai, which aims to strike deals with websites to make games and demos playable within the web browser.

Cloud hardware: The lowdown

Most of the talk around the cloud concerns software and websites, but increasingly there is hardware too. Google’s Chromebooks are laptops designed to be used with the company’s cloud services. They even boot up straight into the web browser. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet works with that company’s cloud services. It goes on sale in the US this month, but no UK release date has been set.

 

 

 

 

India to have 121 million Internet users by December end

India is set to have 121 million net users by end of the next month, becoming the world’s third largest Internet market after China and the US. This means one out of every 10 Indians will be an Internet user. The figures were revealed in the annual report I-Cube report jointly published by IMRB and the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IMAI).

According to the report, the Internet population is likely to rise from 100 million users ( as in September this year) to 121 million by December, 2011. In addition, out of 121 million, some 97 million users will be active Internet users, who use Internet at least once in a month.

“A 100 million internet users is considered a critical landmark for the country. With this internet use in India is expected to enter a critical period of growth with the possibility of becoming the largest internet using country in the world in in this decade,” says the study.

The study also shows the evolving profile of users. It says that Internet has deeper penetration into small towns in India and also among the less affluent. Internet is also becoming highly popular among the children. According to the report, schoolchildren make more than a fifth of the users and more than one in 10 hails from the lowest socio-economic groups. Moreover, the massive popularity of Internet has expanded markets for online businesses, retailers and consumers.

The report further highlights that emails, social networking, chatting are some of the most popular online activities among the urban users. “The usage pattern differs among rural users. In the survey conducted in seven states, 46% of the users were using internet for accessing music, videos and images, 38% for email and communication activities, 29% for general information and 27% were using internet to access content related to education,”