AppleTV has a rich history of getting hacked for the sake of adding extra utility. Contained within its small confines is a reasonably powerful computer that's capable of running Mac OS X (albeit slowly). The problem is that despite this power, the system software is tied to iTunes and its sister store for movies, music, and TV shows. This hinders it from competing with devices like mini-PCs and game machines that offer a huge variety of media playback, including DVDs and Blu-ray movies.
On Tuesday night StumbleUpon is changing the way users interact with the service, ditching the need for a software-based browser toolbar in place of a small frame that loads on top of the Web site you're on. Users with the toolbar installed will still be getting the same experience, but the idea is that anyone can begin stumbling without having to install anything.
To get the Web toolbar to show up in the first place, users must now begin their stumbling experience from the StumbleUpon home page. The site is now broken up into categories. Once you've clicked on a link the experience begins, with the persistent toolbar following you from site to site and keeping track of your ratings to provide you with new stumbles.
Earlier this week, StumbleUpon founder Garrett Camp told me this was an idea that had been kicked around the office for years--six in fact, and the only reason it hadn't happened sooner is that Camp and others felt it would diminish the number of people who were populating the service with rated content. That number is still staggering, with more than 35,000 new URLs submitted every day by 6 million registered users. Camp hopes this new install and registration-free solution will make those numbers even larger, and improve some of the uptake as people get to try the service without that first hurdle.
In addition to its exploratory angle, StumbleUpon is introducing a new partner program. Sites that have StumbleUpon installed will be able to offer their users a new "Stumble This" button with a counter on it. When a user clicks this it adds to the number, which can help promote it for other StumbleUpon members. It's also got an option right underneath the counter that lets users jump to another piece of related content, something Camp says should drive traffic to other existing posts. It's worth noting this is different from the previously existing StumbleThru feature, which would do this randomly.
The partner program is launching on four sites Tuesday night, including political blogging network The Huffington Post, HowStuffWorks, Rolling Stone online, and National Geographic. Of the four, Rolling Stone and National Geographic are the most interesting, as users will be able to explore the photo archives with the service's recommendation engine. Like service Photoree, which we checked out back in August, this can be a fun and engaging experience.
Camp says there are 10 other partnerships in the works, including several for video and music content. Eventually the system will be open for anyone to place it on their blog, although Camp says the system needs to be fine-tuned before it's ready for that.The future of StumbleUpon
When I asked Camp for comment on the rumored sale of StumbleUpon from parent company eBay, he said he "couldn't talk about any rumors." However, what's interesting is that this new system could be ported over to eBay, or any other product site, which is something many were expecting when the company was acquired last year. "This does open us up," he said. "We're a lot more media focused, and this would allow us to do product discovery."
Presumably with such a system in place you could jump around the site and discover new products while rating them at the same time--something the auction site does not currently provide. Camp says StumbleUpon might one day provide that, but for now he says that realm has already been covered pretty well by search. "(We're) more interested in doing media stuff. There's a greater need for discovery than products right now."
The new StumbleUpon.com should be available right now. Camp says user profiles, reviews, and friends lists will get updated to match the new style in the coming weeks.… Read more
AOL on Monday quietly released a brand-new version of its instant-messenger application for Mac users. Called "AIM for Mac beta 1," it's a replacement for version 4.7, which has remained untouched since February 2004.
Back then gas was a little over $1.50 a gallon.
Unlike the changes in oil prices, those four years have amounted to little more than what was offered in previous iterations of the program, or Apple's iChat application which comes pre-installed in every Mac computer. In the new version users can change emoticon sets and tweak background chat wallpapers--all things … Read more
Each computer gets to keep its own monitor, which gives you more visual real estate while slashing hardware clutter. Here's another bonus: you don't have to physically switch between systems anymore, you … Read more
One of the very best Firefox extensions, the All-in-One Sidebar add-on creates an active, collapsible sidebar that forces the default add-on window, your history, Web development tools, and what can seem like an endless amount of content to open in it.
By making all this extra content available via the same sidebar window, it takes one click on the sidebar's menu to switch among them, minimizing the clutter multiple Firefox extensions can unfortunately create. By default, the sidebar appears as a narrow panel of icons on the left of the screen, but even that can be set to automatically … Read more
I was on the bus yesterday during my commute home and I decided to check out one of my latest iPhone apps to see if it worked as advertised. There was a loud-talking person yammering away on his cell phone (why must people do this?) and to get away from the racket, I stuck in my ear buds and launched WhiteNoise.
WhiteNoise offers several neutral sounds that are perfect for blocking out annoying sounds and also can be quite relaxing. The interface offers eight buttons of soothing sounds you can start up immediately with a timer if you'd like … Read more
The open-source firmware for portable music players, Rockbox, just updated to version 3.0. Along with the upgrade, three years in the making, comes the RockboxUtility. This makes it even easier than before to install the firmware on your MP3 player, and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The first time I looked at Rockbox, its appeal was obvious--especially to iPod users who were less than impressed with Apple's laissez-faire approach to iPod firmware improvements. Who wouldn't like the capability to customize their space-age MP3 player with an old skool retro cassette skin, the capability to enlarge … Read more
Available from the Swedish torrent Web site The Pirate Bay, the Cocoa-based client has been expected since 2006 when BitTorrent bought uTorrent and promised to develop a Mac version. There was little said since then, until this past August when uTorrent developer Greg Hazel announced that a Mac version would be ready ''in a few weeks,'' according to the torrent news Web site TorrentFreak.
The Lightning add-on for the open-source e-mail client Thunderbird (for Windows and Mac) updates officially to Version 0.9, and Mozilla promises that it will be the last one before it's rolled into Thunderbird 3.0.
This update doesn't introduce quite as many new features as the last one did, but there are still plenty of major changes. Interface enhancements include a visual indicator for events that span multiple days, an overhaul of both the "minimonth" calendar in the upper left and the main day/week/multiweek/month calendar views, a progress indicator for when remote … Read more
If Comcast's October 1 start date for their bandwidth cap has you rushing to fire up your torrent client, take a listen to today's CNET's Real Deal podcast. CNET TV Editor Tom Merritt, Webware Editor Rafe Needleman, and I discuss what the bandwidth cap means (hint: it's not a hat), why it's happening now, and what you can do to keep track of your data usage.
If you're interested in the programs we talk about, they can be found in this blog post from last month.