Thursday, January 31, 2013

Firefox is slow? Try these fixes

Firefox is slow? Try these fixes:
I have to admit that while I do not agree with every decision Mozilla makes in regards to Firefox, I can’t really complain about the web browser’s performance on my system. It is as stable as it gets, does not use too much memory or cpu, and is a pleasure to work with. While I do my best o ensure that, for instance by running it without plugins and with NoScript, it is the complete package that makes the difference.
This was not always the case, especially during the Firefox 4 days when the browser started to eat memory like crazy. If you are running Firefox currently and notice it slowing down considerable over time or right away, I suggest you try the following fixes to resolve the issue.

Speed up Firefox

1. Update
This may sound like the most obvious thing and it is. Mozilla spend engineering time on optimizations and they began to show recently resulting in a leaner, slimmer and faster browser. If you are still running an older version of Firefox, try upgrading to the latest version by downloading it from Mozilla or using the internal updater.
If you notice slow downs after an upgrade, consider down grading, or switching to another release channel. If you are running the stable version of Firefox, chance is you will receive a fix in six weeks. If you run a beta, aurora or nightly version, you will receive the fix much faster as these versions are updated more frequently.
2. Plugins
Load about:addons, switch to plugins and disable all plugins you do not need. While you may need Shockwave Flash, Silverlight or Java, you – very likely – won’t need the rest listed here.
When you have disabled the plugins you do not need, head over to Mozilla’s plugincheck website and see if updates are available for the plugins you use.
You can alternatively enable click to play in the browser. Do the following to enable click to play

  • Enter about:config in the browser’s address bar

  • Confirm you will be careful if you see the warning screen.

  • Search for plugins.click_to_play

  • Double-click to set it to true to enable it.

firefox plugins clicktoplay screenshot
3. Add-ons and Themes
If you have many add-ons and themes installed, it may be because of some of them that Firefox is slower than it should be. I’d suggest you go through the list of installed add-ons and themes to see if there are some that you do not really need anymore to uninstall them from the browser.
You can load about:addons again to browse the add-ons under Extensions and themes under Appearance on the page. One suggestion would be to disable all addons and themes for a short while to see if this resolves your issues with Firefox. You can either do that manually by disabling all add-ons and themes or with a click on Firefox > Help > Restart with Add-ons disabled.

Pro Tip: Hold down the Shift-key while starting Firefox to display the Safe Mode window.

4. Userscripts
If you have installed Greasemonkey or Scriptish in the browser and make use of userscripts, they may also be the culprit depending on what they do. Try disabling them to see if it resolves your issue. If it does, try and find alternatives for the scripts either in form of other userscripts or extensions.
5. Slow on load
If Firefox is slow when it is loading you may want to consider the following configuration changes. Click on Firefox > Options, switch to Tabs there and make sure “Don’t load tabs until selected” is enabled. This loads the tabs when you click on them and not on the start of the browser.
dont load tabs until selected
If you happen to open lots of tabs during a browsing session consider installing the Unload Tab add-on for Firefox. It unloads tabs after a certain amount of inactivity to free up resources.
6. Clear temporary data
Firefox saves previously visited web pages to the cache from where they are loaded. While this speeds up future web browsing, it sometimes may result in errors, for instance when a cached page is loaded that is either out of date or corrupt. You may want to clear the browsing data regularly because of that. Data that is saved by Firefox is also increasing the size of the databases the browser has to load.
The easiest way to clear the history is to press Ctrl-Shift-Del and delete the cache as well as the browsing data and download history.
clear firefox history screenshot
If you notice slow downs on a particular site, you can remove information that Firefox has stored about that site only. To do so press Ctrl-Shift-H to open the History window, right-click a history entry and select Forget About This Site.
7. Modified Preferences
Sometimes a preference may be responsible for Firefox being slower than it should be. You can load the about:support page when the browser is open to get a list of all preferences that have been modified (that are not in their original state). While most may not have an effect on the browser’s performance, some like browser.cache or network parameters may have.
firefox modified preferences screenshot
8. Hardware
Firefox makes use of hardware acceleration to render some contents faster. It is advised to update the video card driver regularly because of this. You may also want to make sure that hardware acceleration is enabled.
For Flash, right-click on any Flash contents and select Settings from the context menu.
hardware acceleration screenshot
To check if Firefox is using hardware acceleration, click on Firefox > Options, switch to the Advanced > General tab and see if “Use hardware acceleration when available” is enabled.
9. New Profile
To find out if the slowness is linked to the profile you are currently using, try creating a new profile and use it for a while to see if it is faster than the current one.
To do so start Firefox with the parameter –profilemanager and use the window that opens up to create a new profile. Click on the create profile button to do so.
firefox profile manager screenshot
10. Reset Firefox
If a new profile helped you, you may want to consider resetting Firefox. This resets Firefox to its default state while part of the data that you have saved to it remains accessible. Firefox will save bookmarks, browsing history, passwords, cookies and web form information for you, but not extensions, themes or advanced configuration changes. While the old profile gets saved to the desktop in the process, you will spend some time recovering add-ons and settings that you do not want to live without.
To reset Firefox hold down Shift while you start it and select the reset option on the loading screen. You can alternatively select Firefox > Help > Troubleshooting Information and there Reset Firefox to do so.
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Tinuous is a versatile Image Batch Converter for Windows

Tinuous is a versatile Image Batch Converter for Windows:
When it comes to converting images in bulk, Windows users have lots of choices. We already reviewed programs like Photo Magician, Image Converter Plus or Fotosizer in the past that allow you to convert images in bulk.
Tinuous is another program for that task. It is a versatile image editor that enables you to convert all the images that you add to it in one go. The program displays a folder browser on the left that you use to pick a directory that contains images that you want to convert. You can click on the individual tab afterwards to preview all images that are stored in that directory. Here you can furthermore uncheck individual images and use extension filters on the right to filter the selection this way.
tinunous bulk image converter
You can then use the general, advanced and options tabs to configure the desired output. Here is what you you can use each tab for:
  • General: This tab enables you to select the output format and the format’s quality settings. You can furthermore select a maximum file size, modify the output file name using prefixes and suffixes, configure transofmration options like rotating the images or shrinking them, and whether you want the input files to be deleted or moved to the Recycle Bin.
  • Advanced: Here you configure file format specific corrections. This includes brightness, contrast, saturation and hue, the bit depth, transparency if supported and other format specific modifications.
  • Options: This tab lists setup specific configurations. You can add a send to menu entry for the program, define whether you want the program to automatically pick specific folders with images on start, and whether you want information to be echoed to you during the conversion.
A click on preview at the bottom of the interface opens the currently selected image in its converted form in an image editor so that you can verify the changes that you are about to make before you actually make them. Here you can also click on check names to verify that the names are set correctly for the output.


The program leaves little to be desired in terms of converting images that reside in a folder on a connected storage device. An option to add images from multiple locations would have been useful, but does not appear to be available in this version of the program. Other than that it is all there what you expect an image convert to offer to you. The preview feature is especially useful as it enables you to quickly preview images based on the configuration changes you have made so far so that you can easily adjust the settings if the need arises.
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IE10 Automatic Update blocker released for Windows 7

IE10 Automatic Update blocker released for Windows 7:
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10 final is currently only available for the company’s latest operating system Windows 8. It is available as a preview version for Windows 7 as well, the only other operating system by the company that it will be released for. While Microsoft has not revealed any information about the final release date of IE10 for Windows 7, it is very likely that it will be released in the near future.
What we do know is that Internet Explorer 10 will be delivered to users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 as an important update via the operating system’s automatic update feature. What this means, basically, is that it will be installed on most Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 systems automatically without user interaction.
The Toolkit to disable automatic delivery of Internet Explorer 10 has been created by Microsoft to give individuals and businesses the means to block IE10 from being automatically installed on computer systems it is installed on. The Blocker Toolkit prevents the installation of Internet Explorer 10 via Windows Update and Microsoft Updates sites, but not the manual installation of the web browser, for instance by downloading it from Microsoft’s Download Center or external media.
Microsoft notes that it is necessary to run the program on systems where IE8 or IE9 Blocker Toolkits are already deployed on to prevent the installation of Internet Explorer 10, as different Registry keys are used to block those installations.
Simply run the program after you have downloaded it from Microsoft’s download site. You will be presented with the end user agreement first which you need to accept to continue.
Internet Explorer 10 blocker toolkit screenshot
You are then asked to pick a location to extract files to. Once done, open an elevated command prompt with a click on Start, typing cmd, right-clicking cmd.exe and selecting run as administrator from the context menu.
Here you need to navigate to the path you extracted the files to using the cd (change directory) command followed by the full path information, e.g. cd c:\users\martin\downloads\
Run the command ie10_blocker.cmd /B and hit enter to set the blocker on the machine. This creates the new Registry key value DoNotAllowIE10 and sets its value to 1 under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Setup\10.0.
To deploy Internet Explorer 10 at a later time on a system it has been initially blocked on, delete the key.
Additional information about the process can be found on Technet.
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Where are Softonic downloaded programs saved to?

Where are Softonic downloaded programs saved to?:
Softonic is one of the larger software repositories on the Internet that is offering hundreds of thousands of programs on its site. Like Cnet and others, it is making use of a downloader application that bundles all downloads on sites with adware that they use to earn additional revenue. While you find direct program links on the download pages as well – scroll down to find those as they are more or less hidden at the bottom of the page – these do not work all the time, for instance if the original homepage of the program is no longer available.
So, when you have to use the Softonic downloader you are stuck with a process that is not as transparent as it should be. When you click on the big free download page on the site you are redirected to another page where the download starts automatically. Downloaded file names always start with SoftonicDownloader_for and then the file name of the program. If you are not using the English language interface, you may get a localized word for “for” instead like the Spanish “para”.
This is just the downloader to download the program you want from Softonic. It is basically an installer to distribute unrelated programs to users to increase the revenue of the site. You need to click on no thanks in the interface to block these programs from being installed on your system.
softonic download
The download itself is happening in the background and you get no say in where the files are saved to. Softonic does not reveal where they are saved to either which can be problematic as they are executed automatically after they have been downloaded. Portable software for instance does not get installed on the system and to run it again, you need to know where it has been saved to.
To save you the hunt for the download folder. The folder all applications downloaded from Softonic to is the desktop folder. All program downloads are listed here so that you can run, install or remove them from your system easily.
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First Mega search engine online, won’t be the last

First Mega search engine online, won’t be the last:
Mega, the new Megaupload file hosting site, has received a lot of attention from the press in the recent year ever since Megaupload was taken down by the authorities. At its core, it is a file hosting site like many others with the main difference that files get encrypted and decrypted on the local system so that Mega does not know what is hosted on its servers.
Most file hosting sites do not offer file search capabilities that let users search all publicly shared files on their servers, and even if Mega wanted, it could not offer that feature because of the encryption. This leaves third party sites for that and one of the first has just been been released.
Mega Search displays a list of files right on its start page. Each file is listed with its name, size, hits, ratio, date it has been added to the search engine’s database and up and down votes. The database seems to contain more than 7800 files right now which is not a lot considering that search engines for other file hosting sites offer hundreds of thousands of links to files hosted on these sites.
mega search engine screenshot
Still, for a relatively new service it is definitely a large enough number. When you look at the files offered on the start page, you will notice that many seem to be of questionable origin. From popular TV show episodes to music and applications, it is all listed here. Category listings on the left allow you to filter results by type. This includes videos, music, applications or disk images.
A click on a file opens the Mega website from where the file can be downloaded to the local system or imported into another Mega account.
The search engine furthermore offers capabilities to add links to it and to report infringement. If you’d go by that, a lot of files would probably have to be taken down immediately.
How long will the search engine be up? That depends on a number of factors, including the country it is hosted in and the legal system of that country. Some file search engines have been online for a long time and since they only link to contents but do not host any directly, it is possible that there are no legal grounds to get the site removed from the Internet.
It could be more problematic for Mega on the other hand as it could provide rights owners with evidence that the site is being used to trade copyrighted files.
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What is the Firefox Marketplace again?

What is the Firefox Marketplace again?:
If you are a Firefox user you may have heard about the Firefox Marketplace before. While I read about it I never really bothered to check it out to see what it is all about, as I assumed that it is the place to get mobile apps for the mobile version of Firefox.
Since I had some spare time today I decided to take a closer look at the marketplace to find out what it is all about. To check out what the marketplace is offering, point your web browser – desktop or mobile is just fine – to the following address.
According to Mozilla, it is a marketplace for HTML5 apps designed for mobile versions of Firefox. Before I lose all desktop users I’d like to point out that apps can be installed just like extensions in desktop versions of the browser. Mozilla has implemented the functionality mainly for developers but it is not limited to them or any other account type.
firefox marketplace screenshot
The marketplace lists four top apps at the top and the available categories below that. You can use the search to find particular apps, for specific websites or services for instance, or browse the categories instead.
While you won’t find thousands of apps listed yet, it provides you with apps for popular websites, online services and programs.
If you are running a desktop version of Firefox you install them like extensions. They are however listed in the program manager, at least on Windows so that you can start the applications independently from the browser. These apps run without any user interface other than a small menu on top.
firefox marketplace application screenshot
While that may appeal to some users, it does not really offer any advantages on the desktop besides that as you can open most services or apps in a tab in the browser as well. And if you like the fullscreen approach you can get that to with a tap on the F11 key.
The marketplace is currently only supporting Firefox on Android when it comes to mobile devices. Keep in mind that this is likely going to change when first Firefox powered mobile phones are available as they too will be supporting the marketplace.
The post What is the Firefox Marketplace again? appeared first on gHacks Technology News | Latest Tech News, Software And Tutorials.


Opera 12.13 final has been released

Opera 12.13 final has been released:
The last month was a quite one in terms of news from Opera Software. The company released Opera 12.12 on December 17 and turned silent afterwards until it released a first snapshot of the upcoming Opera 12.13 exactly a month later. Today, Opera 12.13 final has been released by Opera Software, an update to the stable version of the browser that the company classifies as a security and stability update.
Existing Opera users can check for the update with a click on Opera > Help > Check for updates. The new version of the Internet browser is already picked up the update checker so that it can be installed right from within the browser. New users find the latest version on the Opera website where it can be downloaded for all supported operating systems.
opera 12.13
As far as updates go, the changelog lists the following security fixes in the new version of Opera:
  • Fixed an issue where DOM events manipulation might be used to execute arbitrary code.
  • Fixed an issue where use of SVG clipPaths could allow execution of arbitrary code.
  • Fixed a low severity security issue.
  • Fixed an issue where CORS requests could omit the preflight request.
Several stability improvements have been made to the version as well:
  • Fixed an issue on Facebook where Opera got internal communication errors on the site.
  • Fixed that no websites were loaded on start up if Opera was disconnected from the Internet
  • Fixed an issue on and other sites that use the HTML5 history API. On those sites, images would not load anymore if the back navigation was used.
Opera Software in addition has integrated a new stand-alone update checker on Linux and Windows that is part of an upgrade to the software’s auto-update system. The new program seems to have been added to the updatechecker directory of the Opera installation.
Windows users benefit from a new search hijacking protection that Opera included in the new version of the browser. This is however only effective if the default search engine is used in the browser.
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Discover what people post on Vine

Discover what people post on Vine:
Twitter launched the short video publishing service Vine a couple of days ago and while I’m not that fond of the idea, it seems to have struck a nerve with the mobile and social crowd judging from the amount of videos that get posted using the service’s app each second.
How to find out what people post on Vine? There are several services out there that can help you discover that. Vinepeek is one. It rotates through random fresh videos posted to Vine every six seconds, which makes it more or less an endless stream of short videos that you can watch.
The site not only displays the video, but also the description the author added to it before it was uploaded and published on the site.
You can click on the links to be taken to Twitter or Vine if you have found a video that is particularly interesting. Chance is though that this won’t be the case. What you get most of the time are videos about animals, people or streets that may be interesting to the person who created the video, but to no one else. Then again, the absurdity of it may be what’s guaranteeing Vine’s success.
The site sometimes repeats videos in an endless loop. If that is the case simply reload the page to continue watching people eat, animals and babies look cute or some stop-motion like videos that try to squeeze in more content into the six second video.
The second service is VineRoulette, named after the popular ChatRoulette. It offers a search that you can use to find topics of interest so that you can control what videos you will see on the site. Note that it requires Microsoft Silverlight to display the videos. It features a random option as well that works similar to what Vinepeek has to offer.
vine roulette
What’s your impression of Vine so far? Have you published videos using the service?
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OpenGL ES 3.0 examples available on

OpenGL ES 3.0 examples available on
The website now also hosts OpenGL ES 3.0 examples. After porting GLUS to OpenGL ES 3.0, there are now 14 OpenGL ES 3.0 examples available. Currently, the examples only run under Windows, but a Linux port is also planned.


New project called Tao Classic revives the abandoned Tao Framework with OpenGL 4.3 support

New project called Tao Classic revives the abandoned Tao Framework with OpenGL 4.3 support:
For years Tao Framework was the most popular .NET binding for OpenGL and many other multimedia-related libraries, but unfortunately the project became abandoned some time around 2008, leaving its last release supporting OpenGL 2.1 only. In 2012, based on the same design philosophy and the latest source code of Tao Framework, development was picked up once again by a different staff but with the same goal - to provide 1:1 bindings to OpenGL for .NET and Mono. The currently supported OpenGL version in Tao Classic is 4.3.


Drishti-2.2 released

Drishti-2.2 released:
Drishti (version 2.2) Windows, MacOSX and Linux binaries are now available for download at the google code site. This volume exploration and presentation tool runs on GPUs having OpenGL 2.0 or higher capability. Drishti-2.2 includes bug fixes and many newer additions such as 16-bit volume handling, access to itk filters via plugins and much more. A complete list of changes is available at the google code site. Drishti allows scientists to visualize, explore and present volumetric datasets. Help videos are available on our youtube channel. More help videos will be added in coming days. Join the Drishti User Group.


Parallel Computing Training Dates from AccelerEyes

Parallel Computing Training Dates from AccelerEyes:
AccelerEyes has released dates for their upcoming CUDA and OpenCL training courses.



More information can be found on the courses’ webpages.


Tumblr app now 17+, Honda to offer Siri Eyes Free, evasi0n iOS 6.x jailbreak coming

Tumblr app now 17+, Honda to offer Siri Eyes Free, evasi0n iOS 6.x jailbreak coming:
Apple has been cracking down on applications that have the potential to show porn. Tumblr has now announced that it has made its app recommended for users 17 years old and over due to the possibility of viewing pornographic images.

Honda has announced that it will be offering optional technology for some 2013 Honda and Acura Vehicles Enabling Siri Eyes Free. The option will be a dealer installed accessory and will allow drivers to use Eyes Free functionality.
A new iOS 6.x jailbreak called evasi0n has been announced and is scheduled to launch next week. The jailbreak was tipped via a tweet from the developers and could launch before next week.


500px is back on the app store, Starfish smartwatch coming soon, Samsung didn’t willfully infringe Apple patents

500px is back on the app store, Starfish smartwatch coming soon, Samsung didn’t willfully infringe Apple patents:
Apple pulled a popular photo sharing app called 500px from the app store because users were uploading pornographic images. The app is now been added back to the app store after developers added new features aimed at targeting inappropriate content including a report button and mature content warning.

Starfish Technologies is teasing a new smartwatch that it plans to launch at MacWorld that interfaces with the iPhone. The watch will be able to run its own apps and is designed to mirror content from your iPhone screen.
The legal battle between Apple and Samsung over patent infringement continues to rage. Samsung is has won of the skirmishes in the war with Judge Lucy Koh ruling that Samsung did not willfully infringe on Apple patents, which means Samsung won’t be hit with any more than the $1 billion fine levied against it in the original ruling.


Capability in the Team

Capability in the Team:
I was talking with Claude, a supervisor, about his team. “Those two over there, are the new guys, one has been here a month, the other just got out of orientation last week. They are learning, but it will take them a while to catch on to how we do things around here.”
“How often do you have to check up on them?” I asked.
“In the morning, we go over the work orders from the production schedules. A little huddle meeting. I check back in about 15 minutes to make sure they are moving in the right direction. Then, they’re good for a couple of hours. Right now, I am not as worried about their production output as much as doing the work correctly.”
“And the rest of your team?”
“The rest of the crew has been here at least a year, some, four or five years. They know what to do. For them, our morning huddle is as much social as it is to look at production for the day. I walk the floor a couple of times, morning and afternoon, just to see if they have questions, admire some of their handiwork.”
“When they run into a problem, how do they solve it?” I pressed.
“There are some things they can try, but if they can’t figure it out pretty quickly, they either come to Tony, or me?” Claude replied.
“Tony is the team leader. Sharp kid. Only been here two years, great technician, twenty-eight years old.”
“So, how does Tony solve problems?” I was curious.
“Same as the other guys, but he is quick. If one solution doesn’t work, he has something else to try. If that doesn’t work, he tries something else. Boom, boom, boom, problem is usually solved. When I have to be out of the office, or on vacation, Tony is my assistant. I can leave him in charge, and not worry. But Tony won’t be with us much longer.”
“Why’s that?”
“I was talking with my manager. She has had her eye on Tony since the beginning, thinks he ready for supervisor training?”


Orientation for our online program Hiring Talent kicks off tomorrow. Registration is now open. Follow this link for more information. Hiring Talent – 2013.


Success Tips For A New Job

Success Tips For A New Job: New beginnings are often scary and exciting at the same time. If you are about to start a new job, here are some tips on how to have a Successful Start To A New Job...
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Exploring the Grand Canyon on Google Maps

Exploring the Grand Canyon on Google Maps: Whether you’re planning an upcoming hike, or want to learn more about the Earth’s geological history, Google Maps can help. Today, we’re releasing panoramic imagery of one of the world’s most spectacular national monuments: the Grand Canyon. These beautiful, interactive images cover more than 75 miles of trails and surrounding roads, making our map of this area even more comprehensive, accurate and easy to use than ever before.

A breathtaking 360-degree view from the famous Bright Angel Trail

Take a walk down the narrow trails and exposed paths of the Grand Canyon: hike down the famous Bright Angel Trail, gaze out at the mighty Colorado River, and explore scenic overlooks in full 360-degrees. You’ll be happy you’re virtually hiking once you get to the steep inclines of the South Kaibab Trail. And rather than drive a couple hours to see the nearby Meteor Crater, a click of your mouse or tap of your finger will transport you to the rim of this otherworldly site.

The Colorado River, one of the many impressive scenes in the Grand Canyon

This breathtaking imagery collection was made possible with the Trekker. Our team strapped on the Android-operated 40-pound backpacks carrying the 15-lens camera system and wound along the rocky terrain on foot, enduring temperature swings and a few muscle cramps along the way. Together, more than 9,500 panoramas of this masterpiece of nature are now available on Google Maps.

The Google Maps team crossing the Grand Canyon

So no matter where you are, you don’t have to travel far or wait for warmer weather to explore Grand Canyon National Park. Check out some of our favorite views on our World Wonders site where you can find more information, facts and figures about the Grand Canyon, or in the updated Street View gallery, and happy (virtual) hiking!

Posted by Ryan Falor, Product Manager, Google Maps


Mapping creates jobs and drives global economic growth

Mapping creates jobs and drives global economic growth: Twenty years ago, we used paper maps and printed guides to help us navigate the world. Today, the most advanced digital mapping technologies—satellite imagery, GPS devices, location data and of course Google Maps—are much more accessible. This sea change in mapping technology is improving our lives and helping businesses realize untold efficiencies.

The transformation of the maps we use everyday is driven by a growing industry that creates jobs and economic growth globally. To present a clearer picture of the importance of the geo services industry, we commissioned studies from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Oxera. What we found is that maps make a big economic splash around the world.

In summary, the global geo services industry is valued at up to $270 billion per year and pays out $90 billion in wages. In the U.S., it employs more than 500,000 people and is worth $73 billion. The infographic below illustrates some examples of the many benefits of maps, whether it’s improving agriculture irrigation systems or helping emergency response teams save lives.

Click the image for a larger version

1.1 billion hours of travel time saved each year? That’s a lot of time. Also, consider UPS, which uses map technology to optimize delivery routes—saving 5.3 million miles and more than 650,000 gallons of fuel in 2011. And every eight seconds, a user hails a taxi with Hailo, which used maps and GPS to deliver more than 1 million journeys in London alone last year. Finally, Zipcar uses maps to connect more than 760,000 customers to a growing fleet of cars in locations around the world.

Because maps are such an integral part of how we live and do business, the list of examples goes on and on. That’s why it’s important we all understand the need to invest in the geo services industry so it continues to grow and drive the global economy. Investments can come from the public and private sectors in many forms—product innovation, support of open data policies, more geography education programs in schools and more.

We’re proud of the contributions that Google Maps and Earth, the Google Maps APIs and our Enterprise solutions have made to the geo services industry and to making maps more widely available, but there’s a long way to go. To learn more about the impact of the maps industry, see the full reports.

Posted by Brian McClendon, VP Google Geo


Google’s approach to government requests for user data

Google’s approach to government requests for user data: Today, January 28, is Data Privacy Day, when the world recognizes the importance of preserving your online privacy and security.

If it’s like most other days, Google—like many companies that provide online services to users—will receive dozens of letters, faxes and emails from government agencies and courts around the world requesting access to our users’ private account information. Typically this happens in connection with government investigations.

It’s important for law enforcement agencies to pursue illegal activity and keep the public safe. We’re a law-abiding company, and we don’t want our services to be used in harmful ways. But it’s just as important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.

To strike this balance, we’re focused on three initiatives that I’d like to share, so you know what Google is doing to protect your privacy and security.

First, for several years we have advocated for updating laws like the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act, so the same protections that apply to your personal documents that you keep in your home also apply to your email and online documents. We’ll continue this effort strongly in 2013 through our membership in the Digital Due Process coalition and other initiatives.

Second, we’ll continue our long-standing strict process for handling these kinds of requests. When government agencies ask for our users’ personal information—like what you provide when you sign up for a Google Account, or the contents of an email—our team does several things:

  • We scrutinize the request carefully to make sure it satisfies the law and our policies. For us to consider complying, it generally must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.
  • We evaluate the scope of the request. If it’s overly broad, we may refuse to provide the information or seek to narrow the request. We do this frequently.
  • We notify users about legal demands when appropriate so that they can contact the entity requesting it or consult a lawyer. Sometimes we can’t, either because we’re legally prohibited (in which case we sometimes seek to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants) or we don’t have their verified contact information.
  • We require that government agencies conducting criminal investigations use a search warrant to compel us to provide a user’s search query information and private content stored in a Google Account—such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos. We believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and overrides conflicting provisions in ECPA.
And third, we work hard to provide you with information about government requests. Today, for example, we’ve added a new section to our Transparency Report that answers many questions you might have. And last week we released data showing that government requests continue to rise, along with additional details on the U.S. legal processes—such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants—that governments use to compel us to provide this information.

We’re proud of our approach, and we believe it’s the right way to make sure governments can pursue legitimate investigations while we do our best to protect your privacy and security.

Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer


Fireside Hangouts: Join Vice President Biden in a discussion about gun violence

Fireside Hangouts: Join Vice President Biden in a discussion about gun violence: As President Obama and his cabinet begin their second term in the White House, they’re renewing a series of conversations on Google+ with top administration officials. These “Fireside Hangouts," a 21st-century spin on FDR’s famous radio addresses, bring top Administration officials to Google+ to discuss the most important issues in the country, face-to-face-to-face with fellow citizens in a hangout. The next hangout will take place Thursday, January 24 at 1:45 pm ET with Vice President Joe Biden on a topic that’s on everyone’s mind: reducing gun violence.

During his 30-minute hangout, Vice President Biden will discuss the White House policy recommendations on reducing gun violence with participants including Guy Kawasaki, Phil DeFranco and moderator Hari Sreenivasan from PBS NewsHour. If you'd like to suggest a question, just follow the participants on Google+, and look for posts about tomorrow's Hangout. To view the broadcast live, just tune in to the White House's Google+ page or YouTube channel on Thursday afternoon.

The White House will continue to host Hangouts with key members of the President’s cabinet on a range of second term priorities. Follow the White House on Google+ for more information about how you can join the conversation... or an upcoming Hangout.

Posted by Ramya Raghavan, Google+ Politics


Transparency Report: What it takes for governments to access personal information

Transparency Report: What it takes for governments to access personal information: Today we’re releasing new data for the Transparency Report, showing that the steady increase in government requests for our users’ data continued in the second half of 2012, as usage of our services continued to grow. We’ve shared figures like this since 2010 because it’s important for people to understand how government actions affect them.

We’re always looking for ways to make the report even more informative. So for the first time we’re now including a breakdown of the kinds of legal process that government entities in the U.S. use when compelling communications and technology companies to hand over user data. From July through December 2012:

  • 68 percent of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.
  • 22 percent were through ECPA search warrants. These are, generally speaking, orders issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of “probable cause” to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.
  • The remaining 10 percent were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize.

User data requests of all kinds have increased by more than 70 percent since 2009, as you can see in our new visualizations of overall trends. In total, we received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users from July through December 2012.

We’ll keep looking for more ways to inform you about government requests and how we handle them. We hope more companies and governments themselves join us in this effort by releasing similar kinds of data.

One last thing: You may have noticed that the latest Transparency Report doesn’t include new data on content removals. That’s because we’ve decided to release those numbers separately going forward. Stay tuned for that data.

Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security


FAQ: Three questions on Hyper-V 3.0 features in Windows Server 2012

FAQ: Three questions on Hyper-V 3.0 features in Windows Server 2012: Administrators can improve VM automation, storage performance and data protection by using the new Hyper-V 3.0 features in Windows Server 2012.

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Skulls of the Shogun now available in the Windows Store

Skulls of the Shogun now available in the Windows Store:
I have been hearing a lot about this new game called Skulls of the Shogun from 17-BIT. Skulls of the Shogun is a turn-based strategy game that “was thrown in a blender with classic 80's and 90's arcade brawlers” where players meet and join forces with vibrant ghost-samurai warriors, magical animal-monks, and mustachioed samurai generals on the way to capture the “Skulls of the Shogun” in a 10-15-hour single-player campaign. Skulls of the Shogun features up to 4-player local and online multiplayer battles which can be played across ALL of Microsoft’s platforms including Xbox LIVE Arcade, Windows 8 and Windows RT, and Windows Phone.
UPDATE: Also check out this blog post from Windows Phone with an really cool video showcasing the game!
I wanted to know a little bit more about the game so I sent along some questions over to Jake Kazdal from 17-BIT. Jake is 17-BIT’s Founder and CEO!
Brandon LeBlanc: So where did the idea of Skulls of the Shogun come from?
Jake Kazdal: I lived in Japan for about 5 years, and used to hike in the country side as much as I could. I always really enjoyed finding forgotten little temples in the woods, and all the ghost stories in the neighborhoods surrounding old battlefields. When I decided I wanted to make a turn-based strategy game, I thought it would be a perfect theme to explore, and taking place in the afterlife, we could get away with all kinds of weird magic and otherworldly characters!
Brandon LeBlanc: What was it about Microsoft’s platforms that enticed you to build a game that spans Xbox LIVE Arcade, Windows 8 and Windows Phone?
Jake Kazdal: It is a very flexible game – it offers the best of each platform. It's an amazing kick back on the couch and play through single-player or particularly local multiplayer. This game was designed by dudes sitting on couches beating each other up, and we had a *very* good time making it!  It works great on PC with Windows 8, where you can play with mouse and keyboard, touchscreen, OR plug in an Xbox controller! 3 distinct control schemes, all totally applicable in Skulls of the Shogun! And the fact that you can play anywhere you go on the super slick Windows Phone is incredible.
Also, for the first time ever, players will be able to challenge their friends, fight their way through online multiplayer battles, and even take their single-player campaign on the road asynchronously — whether they’re playing on Xbox 360, Windows 8 or Windows Phone. Called Skulls Anywhere, this cross-platform gameplay has never been done before on Microsoft platforms and will be available at launch on all four launch platforms!
Brandon LeBlanc: I understand this started as an Xbox LIVE Arcade game. Curious if you were able to reuse any of your code to facilitate extending the game to Windows 8 and Windows Phone?
Jake Kazdal: Make no mistake, this is exactly the same game across all platforms! Yes, the game code is the same across all the platforms (in C#), minus some user interface adjustments per platform. For our low level engine we use XNA on Xbox 360 and Windows Phone. On Windows 8 we use an open source XNA-like engine called MonoGame.
Brandon LeBlanc: What are some of the unique Windows 8 features you integrated into the game? What scenarios really light up on Windows 8?
Jake Kazdal: Multi controller; you can play it on a range of devices; it works with touch, mouse and keyboard and you can even plug your controller into your Windows 8 device. Surface offers the mobility of a tablet, but stands on its own as a full blown gaming device. This is in our opinion unbeatable. The flexibility of having up to 30 (!) Skulls Anywhere asynchronous games at any time means you can be playing against your friends anywhere you go, just amazing!
Brandon LeBlanc: I hear you guys are running a special promotion?
Jake Kazdal: Skulls of the Shogun will be available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian. It will be discounted for a limited time on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The Windows 8 version will launch at $9.99 (normally $14.99) in the Windows Store, and the Windows Phone version will launch at $4.99 (normally $6.99) in the Windows Phone Store. The Xbox LIVE version is available for 1200 Microsoft Points in the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
Brandon LeBlanc: Thanks Jake for taking the time to answer some questions!
Take advantage of their limited time promotion and purchase Skulls of the Shogun from the Windows Store now for just $9.99 (U.S.).
And if you have a Windows Phone, grab it from the Windows Phone Store for just $4.99 (U.S.).
Also, check out this Microsoft News Center feature for commentary from Microsoft’s Senior Game Designer and Producer on Skulls of the Shogun.


Tech Tuesday Live Twitter Chat with Office #Winchat

Tech Tuesday Live Twitter Chat with Office #Winchat:
Office has some exciting news today! You may have seen some of it via their hashtag #Timeto365 but we are going to dive in a little bit deeper during today’s Tech Tuesday Live Twitter Chat.
Today, Office is announcing that they are making Office available to everyone through a subscription service. The service is flexible and uses the cloud to keep your information close and to help remember what you were doing, where you left off and your preferences. For instant access to your content, you can even stream full Office apps to any Internet-connected Windows PC or x86 tablet using Office on Demand, available at
This service will be available in 162 markets and 21 languages in the Office Home Premium version. The Office 365 University version is available to college students, faculty and staff in 52 markets and 21 languages. And next month, Office 365 will be available for businesses of all sizes and worldwide starting Feb 27.
The team is also announcing new features and services that will be made in the cloud. This means that Office will be constantly improving and eliminating the hassle of upgrading. Finally, they are crowd sourcing people to share tips, tricks and ideas on
We will talk about all this and more during the chat and giveaway a Windows PC with Office for one lucky participant. For questions in the meantime, check out
Office launch  012913-andrewkelly-microsoft126 012913-andrewkelly-microsoft078 012913-andrewkelly-microsoft190
To participate in the Tech Tuesday Live Twitter Chat:
  1. Join us from 12-1 PT (3-4 ET) on Twitter
  2. Follow the hashtag #winchat
  3. Follow @windows, @office, @clintpatterson @kristinalibby, @thebjohare, @daniellaycock, and @windowsblogto make sure you get the whole picture.
  4. For full legal terms and conditions, click here.