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Posts Tagged ‘Web Apps’

WordPress.com Drops Support for IE6

19 May

WordPress Dashboard

As the Internet Explorer 6 Deathwatch continues, another web service — WordPress.com — has announced that it is ending support of the nearly decade-old web browser.

Citing “increasingly complex code trickery to make the WordPress dashboard work,” the company announced an end to IE6 support.

The dashboard will still load for IE6 users, it just won’t function very well. IE6 users will be alerted that their browser is outdated and given direct links to browser updates or to download an alternative browser via the Browse Happy website.

In addition to dropping IE6 support, WordPress.com has also rolled out some new features, including a revamped and redesigned dashboard and a new distraction-free writing mode.

These features — as well as the end-of-life for IE6 support — will make their way to self-hosted WordPress installs with WordPress 3.2. The beta version of WordPress 3.2 is available for download now and the final version is expected to land sometime in June.

WordPress.com, which hosts millions of websites, joins a long list of providers that have officially decided that enough is enough in regards to IE6. In March, Microsoft launched its own global campaign calling for the end of the browser.

More About: IE6, internet explorer, WordPress.com

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U.S. Government Open-Sources IT Dashboard to Help Cut Tech Costs

31 Mar


The United States government has made its IT Dashboard, a cost-cutting tool for federal transparency, freely available for anyone, especially other governments, to use and customize.

The IT Dashboard gives citizens important information on how the government uses tax money for technology initiatives across various agencies. Citizens can see how government investments are paying off, and they can compare types of IT spending over time by accessing easy-to-reach charts and graphs.

But this clarity of and access to vital information isn’t just good for citizens; it’s also used by the Federal Government, including Congress, to make important decisions about IT budgets and spending. Open-sourcing this cost-saving tool is part of the government’s larger plan to save on IT by eliminating redundant efforts. In other words, the IT Dashboard already exists and has been paid for, and the government isn’t going to hide that light under a bushel.

Here’s a video demonstrating some of the features of the federal IT Dashboard:

The government is working with Code for America for this release. In am announcement, CfA said, “The IT Dashboard was a major component of the process the Federal Government employed to save over $3 billion in just its first two years of deployment.”

In addition to the Dashboard, the government is also open-sourcing the complementary TechStat Toolkit, a set of tools and processes for reviewing any yellow or red flags that might pop up while using the Dashboard.

In this video, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra talks about the results the government has seen by using the IT Dashboard and how those results were achieved:


But open-sourcing something like this isn’t a cakewalk. The government worked with FOSS and government experts, Code for America and CfA’s Civic Commons project to get the job done.

Project lead Karl Fogel wrote on the Civic Commons blog, “We knew from the beginning that a high-profile project can’t be open sourced casually. It’s not enough to just put an open license on the code, move development out to a publicly visible repository, and call it done.”

He continued to note that for the Dashboard, Civic Commons had to ensure that all the code and documentation was safe for public use (i.e., not classified or a government secret) and audit the code; reduce dependencies on proprietary libraries; write documentation; ceate non-sensitive, non-classified sample data; work with the Drupal community; and much more.

Interested parties can download the Dashboard code now at SourceForge. While the Dashboard is intended to help governments cut costs and manage IT budgets, we can see such tools coming in handy at just about any large company, tech or otherwise.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, GottfriedEdelman

More About: code for america, it dashboard, open source, U.S. government

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23 Free, Web-Based Tools SMBs Are Asking for Now

18 Dec

Small Business Image

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

In an informal Twitter poll, we asked our friends working at or running small and medium-sized businesses not what they could do for the Internet, but what the Internet could do for them.

We heard responses that ranged widely, running the gamut from social media marketing tools to internal team communications. Here’s a list of great resources for SMBs that meet some of the most pressing needs you experience as a business owner or entrepreneur.

Best of all, every single one of these tools can be used free of charge (some have paid options for larger businesses or for those that need more features). And all of them are web-based; that means you won’t have to install software, worry about cross-platform compatibility, take up any of your own system’s resources or have to leave work when you leave your own PC.

If you have other tools you love using that you think other SMBs could benefit from, please let us know about them in the comments.


2 Internal Chat Tools


When you want to get your employees or clients together to brainstorm, make decisions or simply run your business, instant messaging can be a huge time-saver — especially if you’re working with a distributed team or out-of-town clients and vendors. While we love programs like Skype for business chat and conference calls, it may not be installed on every machine you have to use. These web-based group chat programs solve that problem.

Zoho’s web-based chat client allows you to create and chat with groups. You can easily share your desktop with co-workers, and you can integrate your calendar for quick appointment or meeting scheduling. Best of all, Zoho’s IM service also supports all kinds of IM clients, including Yahoo and AIM.

Another good online group chat service is Gixaw. With this service, you can create a unique URL for chatting with your group. You can share files, create multiple “rooms” for different projects or departments, and even search through chat history.


2 Task Management Tools


As your business and number of employees grow, you may need a central place for delegating tasks, monitoring progress and ensuring everything gets done correctly and on time.

HiTask is a free, web-based task management tool perfect for SMBs. It has a user-friendly, easy interface for your to-do lists and for team or project management. With HiTask, you can work on recurring events, make assignments, sort tasks based on priority and more, all within a simple drag-and-drop UI.

Another great task management tool is RememberTheMilk. Don’t be fooled by its homemaker-ish name. This web app has been widely acclaimed over the past several years, and it works for individuals as well as small teams. RTM integrates with Gmail and Outlook, and the service has mobile apps for Windows, Android, iPhone and BlackBerry.


8 Social Media Marketing and Monitoring Tools


One of the categories SMBs ask for the most help with is social media. You need to quickly and easily keep an eye on what people are saying about you; more importantly, you need to participate in the social media conversation yourself, without drowning hours upon endless hours bouncing around various websites.

There are three great tools we’d recommend for pushing out updates to a variety of sites at once. All three have free, web-based services, and they’re great for working with teams, too. Depending on your specific needs and tastes, you could try out Hootsuite, Seesmic and TweetDeck.

If you want to see what people are saying about your company, your product, your location or your vertical in real time, try searching for relevant terms on Collecta or SocialMention.

You also have options for network-specific monitoring tools. To see how your tweets are performing, try CrowdBooster. And remember, Twitter’s official analytics product is coming soon, too. For Facebook, use that social network’s Insights dashboard for your business’s Facebook Page.


3 Bookkeeping Tools


When it comes to keeping your finances straight, there are also several free, online tools just right for SMBs.

You can try Numia.biz, accounting software made just for recording and processing small business transactions, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank balances and more. It also gives you forms for invoicing, purchases and bank reconciliation and allows you to set up customers and vendors.

The desktop version of QuickBooks is a standard feature of many SMBs. This web-based version of QuickBooks is free and perfect for the new or smaller business. You can use QuickBooks Online to create invoices, pay bills, track expenses and more.

Finally, MoneyTrackin’ is a free web app for simply and quickly tracking your revenue and expenses. You can also share budgets and collaborate with many people together on the same account. MoneyTrackin’ lets you control as many accounts as you need to and tag your transactions; the service is also available as a handy mobile web app.


5 Cloud-Based File Hosting Tools


For sharing and storing large files, Google Docs will allow you to share a wide range of files — including PDFs, spreadsheets, images and much more — free of charge for the first 1024 MB. And believe us, it can take quite a while to get to 1024 MB of content. Google Docs files are easy to keep private and easy to share with others, including clients and team members. Plus, you’ll have a relatively stable company on your side, which isn’t necessarily the case when the startup hosting your files gets bought by Facebook and shuts its doors, for example.

However, if you’d rather go the small-web-company route, there are lots of options for moving large files around the Internet.

If you just need to e-mail a large file to another person, try YouSendIt, which lets you e-mail a link for downloading files up to 2 GB. If you’d like to permanently or semi-permanently store rather than just e-mail your files, you could try Esploded, which lets you create a free account, upload your files and create groups for sharing files. There’s also Dropbox, FilesAnywhere and Box.net, all of which offer free and paid memberships, just depending on your business’s size and needs.


3 Hiring and Applicant-Tracking Tools


Last of all, as you grow, finding and hiring great new staff members becomes increasingly important and requires more of your attention — and likely greater organization.

Zoho Recruit is free for one person to use. It lets you schedule interviews, add and manage candidates, store resumes and publish job openings from within a simple but robust dashboard.

SmartRecruiters is hiring software that helps users create job ads and post them all over the web, including major job boards and social networks. You can consolidate all your applicants in one place, prescreen them online, share the best candidates with your co-workers or executives, schedule interviews and even rate the candidates all from within the app.

iKrut is an interesting free recruitment system. You can build your own recruitment microsite quickly; from there, you can list all your current job openings on this new career portal. Candidates visit the microsite to upload their résumés and cover letters for you to review. This all also allows for interview scheduling and organizing references. Microsites can be branded to match your own website, and the system has built-in messaging.


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Ways Business Leaders Can Turn Ideas Into Execution
- 7 Tips for Building a Better Branded App
- 9 Web Tools to Keep Your Business Running Smoothly During the Holidays
- 5 iPhone Apps For Avoiding International Business Faux Pas
- 7 Tips for Succeeding as a Social Media Strategist

Images courtesy of Flickr, in order of appearance, by danox, inlinguamanchester, esther17, tsevis, nhankamer, takashi, socialisbetter.


Reviews: Android, Box.net, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Docs, HootSuite, Internet, Seesmic, Skype, TweetDeck, Twitter, Windows, aim, gmail

More About: applicant manager, bookkeeping, business, Business Lists, chat, cloud database, free online tools, hiring, List, Lists, online tools, small business, smb, social media marketing, social monitoring tools, task management

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10 Free Online Resources for Science Teachers

16 Dec


One of the greatest ways technology can empower teachers is by helping them demonstrate concepts and by making it easier for students to learn through their own exploration and experimentation.

Because science teachers are often called upon to teach topics that are too large, too small, happen too fast, happen too slowly, require equipment that is too expensive, or has the potential to blow up a laboratory, the Internet can be particularly helpful in assisting them convey a concept.

Universities, non-profit organizations and scientists with free time have put an overwhelming number of resources for teaching science on the web. These are nine of our favorites.


1. The Periodic Table of Videos


A group of scientists based at the University of Nottingham added some character to the static periodic table of elements by creating a short video for each one.

Hydrogen, for instance, seems much more exciting after you’ve seen what happens when you hold a match to a balloon that is filled with it, and it’s easier to remember the name Darmstadtium after you have seen Darmstadt.

The group also puts out a non-YouTube version of the site for schools that have blocked the site.


2. Teach the Earth


SERC

The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has compiled just about every fathomable resource for geoscience educators. By serving as the portal to helpful web pages from dozens of independent project websites, the site provides visuals, classroom activities and course descriptions for everything from oceanography to “red tide and harmful algal blooms.”


3. Stellarium


Stellatarium

Stellarium is a planetarium for your computer. Just input your location and explore the sky outside or the view from any other location. The program offers up information on stars, nebulae, planets and constellations according to 12 different cultures.

In addition to being ideal for classroom astronomy lessons, Stellarium’s open source software is also used to light up the screens of a number of real planetariums.

Even though Google Sky won’t give you a view from a specific location, it will direct you to specific galaxies, planets and stars or to a map of the moon that notes where each of the six Apollo missions landed.


4. YouTube


“What happens when you put Cesium in water?” is a question that in some cases is best answered by YouTube. YouTube’s archive of demonstrations have the advantage of being safe, clean and unlikely to catch on fire.

You’ll find experiments for most concepts just by using the search bar. But if you’re in a browsing mood, check out this list of the 100 coolest science experiments on YouTube.

Most schools that block YouTube allow access to educational alternatives like TeacherTube and School Tube.


5. NASA Education


NASA

NASA has lesson plans, videos and classroom activities for science subjects ranging from Kindergarten to university levels. The best part of this resource gold mine is that it’s easy to search by keyword or to browse by grade level, type of material or subject.

Check out the Be a Martian Game, the interactive timeline and the NASA Space Place for some smart fun.


6. Learn.Genetics


Learn.Genetics

These resources for learning about genetics by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center include interactive visualizations, 3D animations and activities. Student activities include taking a “tour” of DNA, a chromosome or a protein, building a DNA molecule, or exploring the inside of a cell.

The university is also building a sister site, Teach.Genetics, with print-and-go lesson plans and supplemental materials for some channels on the Learn.Genetics site.


7. The Concord Consortium


Concord

The Concord Consortium is a non-profit organization that helps develop technologies for math, science and engineering education. Their free, open source software is available for teachers to download to use in their classes. They include visualizations and models for a broad range of topics.

Some examples include: The Molecular Workbench, a free tool that creates interactive simulations for everything from cellular respiration to chemical bonding. Geniquest introduces students to cutting-edge genetics using dragons as their model organisms; Evolution Readiness is a project designed to teach fourth graders about evolution concepts using simulations; and The ITSI-SU Project provides lab-based activities involving probes, models and simulations.

To search for classroom activities across all projects, teachers can use the site’s Activity Finder to browse by subject, grade level or keyword.


8. The ChemCollective


ChemCollective

The ChemCollective, a project that is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to design and carry out their own experiments in a virtual laboratory and provides virtual lab problems, real-world scenarios, concept tests, simulations, tutorials and course modules for learning basic chemistry.

The project recently won a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from Science Magazine.


9. Scitable


Scitable

Scitable is both the Nature Publishing Group’s free science library and a social network. Teachers can create a “classroom” with a customized reading list, threaded discussions, news feeds and research tools. There’s also an option to use the material on the site to create a customized e-book for free that can include any of the more than 500 videos, podcasts or articles on the site.

Topic rooms combine articles, discussions and groups related to one key concept in science and make it easy to find material that is relevant to your class and connect with people who are also passionate about the subject.

What resources did you find most helpful, or what great science tools did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.


10. Impact: Earth!


Impact

Want to see how a particular projectile from space would affect the Earth? With this tool that was developed for Purdue University, your students can enter the projectile parameters, angle and velocity to calculate what would happen if the object were to actually hit Earth. You can also get the details on the projectiles that caused famous craters.


More Education Resources from Mashable:


- 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers
- How Online Classrooms Are Helping Haiti Rebuild Its Education System
- 5 Innovative Classroom Management Tools for Teachers

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rrocio


Reviews: Internet, YouTube, iStockphoto

More About: education, education resources, Kids, List, Lists, resources, school, Science, social media, teachers, tech, visualizations, youtube

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Google Explores the Human Body With HTML5

16 Dec


Google has just soft-launched its latest browser experiment, the Google Body Browser, which is basically Google Earth for the human body.

Think of it as a three-dimensional, multi-layered browser version of those Visible Man/Woman model kits. Or a virtualized version of Slim Goodbody, if you will.

Google showed off the app at the WebGL Camp. WebGL is a cross-platform low-level 3D graphics API that is designed to bring plugin-free 3D to the web. It uses the HTML5 Canvas element and does not require Flash, Java or other graphical plugins to run.

If you visit bodybrowser.googlelabs.com in a supported web browser, you’ll get a three-dimensional layered model of the human anatomy that you can zoom in on, rotate and search.

WebGL support hasn’t hit mainstream browsers, but the beta versions of Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox all support it.

Once you’ve got a compatible browser, visiting the Body Browser home page shows off the human body. You can adjust the various layers of skin, muscles, tissues and the skeletal system.

What’s really cool is that if you type in an organ or bone or ventricle system, you are taken directly to that area in the anatomy, zoomed in. You can turn labels on or off and the app supports multitouch so users of trackpads (Magic or otherwise) or multi-touch mice can zoom in with ease.

This is a pretty cool display of new web technologies. Presumably the use case is for the healthcare industry, but educators and students can benefit from this kind of demonstration too.

[via PeriVisioN]


Reviews: Firefox, Google, Google Chrome, Safari

More About: google body browser, HTML5, webgl

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Cortex for Chrome Makes Sharing Faster, Prettier & More Fun Than Ever [EXCLUSIVE]

08 Dec


We’re having a blast tonight playing with Cortex, an insanely fast, beautifully built extension for Google Chrome. It’s lightweight as all get-out, and it lets you share content all over the web literally faster than you can say, “Hey, look at this.”

Here’s the gist of it: Install the extension, find content you want to share, then click and hold. When you do, your mouse will be surrounded by a wheel of options. Flick your mouse in the correct direction, release your finger and voilà, your content is shared to Twitter, to Tumblr, to a specific Facebook friend’s wall — wherever you desire — accompanied by a charming “whoosh” sound.

The entire process takes about two seconds, and it’s as good-looking as it is fast.

The Cortex interface is incredibly unique. We’re generally big fans of apps that get out of your way when you don’t need them; we love it when features are unobtrusive and recede gracefully.

In that sense alone, Cortex is the perfect antidote to the array of hideous sharing mechanisms that populate the web today — those obnoxious bars, frames and buttons that clutter up the visual space and make your eyes long for rest. From a design perspective, Cortex is a breath of entirely fresh air.

In terms of user experience, the extension also makes sharing incredibly easy for users. It chooses header text and shortens URLs; it even lets users share just an image or specific selected text. Cortex also lets you track your history of shares. The only thing we wish worked a tad better is image sharing; right now, Cortex sends a link to Twitter and Facebook when we try to share images.

Right now, you can share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instapaper. More options will be coming soon.

Here’s a brief demo video that shows how Cortex works:

Cortex was just launched along with the all-new Chrome Web Store. It comes from the brain of Google intern-turned-entrepreneur Joey Primiani, who said in an e-mail, “Learning from building successful products at Google, I love focusing on things people use on a daily basis. It’s a technology that I think is really focused, very simple and useful.”

Expect to see tablet and mobile features for Cortex soon. In the meantime, give it a shot and let us know in the comments what you think.

Demo video courtesy of Good Morning Geek.


Reviews: Facebook, Google, Tumblr, Twitter, instapaper

More About: chrome, chrome extension, cortex, Google, joey primiani, trending

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5 of the Best New User Experiences of 2010

28 Nov

Mashable Awards Image

As part of the ongoing Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Website User Experience.” Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas!

When it comes to user experience, designers and developers must do much more than present their users with a “pretty face” web page.

The user experience (UX) of a site or app involves much more than looks; the UX is something that lingers on after the user has left your site. It lies in ease of use, perceived value, whether desired goals were achieved and so much more. The user interface (UI) is only part of that larger experience, but it can contribute much to a user’s impression of the app.

In writing about the best web designs of 2010, form and function each played a large role in determining our choices. But when we think about user experience, function takes absolute precedence.

What sites and apps were the most interesting, the most useful, the most innovative of the past year? In this post, we examine five groundbreaking new UX/UIs from 2010 and discuss how each one expands our expectations of the user experience.


1. Quora


One of the earlier launches this year, Quora was a buzz-heavy private beta service in 2009. As a product of some of the best design minds at Facebook, the site was almost guaranteed to have an excellent UX from the start.

We love Quora’s elegant interactions. It looks simple; it prompts instant and easy engagement; and it takes the hide-and-seek elements of a Q&A site away, leaving the user with a trove of relevant information at his or her fingertips.

We’re not the only ones who love Quora’s design. For a bit of meta navel-gazing, read this Quora Q&A on why people like Quora’s design.

Initially, another thing that made Quora’s UX so excellent was the quality of its membership. Have a question about Facebook? A Facebooker would likely answer it. Questions about venture capital? Here are some actual investors to talk to you. Marketing? Ad execs were on the site, too.


2. Hipmunk


One thing we loved about Hipmunk from the start is that it took a traditionally bad user experience — airline flight search — and made it into a good one.

This startup reimagined the most important element of online flight search: how results are displayed. It took a convoluted, multi-entry/multi-exit process and made it simple to behold and linear to walk through, creating a user experience that is far from the stress-inducing nightmare flight search once was.

The company has also hinted it will be turning its eyes toward other types of travel services soon, possibly hotel search. We can’t wait.

To get the big picture, check out the video above, and the excellent interview blogger Robert Scoble conducted with Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman.


3. Seesmic Desktop 2


Seesmic launched a new iteration of its popular desktop app just a couple months ago. Dubbed Seesmic Desktop 2, the application also included an entire marketplace of plugins, making SD2 an all-in-one social media access point — a great set of features for run-of-the-mill social media narcissists, as well as businesses that need more control and monitoring tools for their web efforts.

Seesmic’s Silverlight-built, Mac- and Windows-compatible product also came wrapped in a gorgeous and functional UI with elegant and subtle details, making it a joy to behold as well as a pleasure to use.

During some turbulent times for third-party applications, Seesmic founder Loic LeMeur proved his very salient point: If you make a great product, build in great functionality, and give users a great experience, you can still build a business on someone else’s platform.


4. Flipboard


Flipboard launched this year as one of the first iPad apps that sought to reimagine social media for a new form factor.

The tablet gave designers and developers a chance to think about lean-back, glossy, high-end design experiences. Of course, magazines had a heyday; their content is already almost a perfect fit for the iPad. But when you think about social media content — those messy, spaghetti-like, intertwining and overlapping feeds of drama, irrelevance and the occasional gem — you begin to see what a challenge the makers of Flipboard had on their hands. Could social media be both beautiful and functional on a tablet?

Flipboard integrates personalized Twitter and Facebook feeds to build a social magazine for each user. In an initial review we called it “gorgeous and a pleasure to use,” and the app has continued to rack up the platitudes from social media junkies around the web. Its core value proposition is more than just its beautiful, mag-like design; it makes the experience of reading social feeds simpler, faster and better.


5. Roku


Without a doubt, 2010 has been the first big year for Internet-connected living room devices. We’ve seen cool things in the past from PlayStation, Xbox and Boxee; however, 2010 brought something new: affordability and ease of entry.

Roku’s set-top boxes start at just $60; already priced to win. Each model also comes with built-in WiFi and they are easy to install — they practically set themselves up. They connect to some of the most popular Internet content providers, including Netflix, MLB.tv and now Hulu, as well.

The Roku UI is simple, clean, bright and intuitive; it reminds us of the more user-friendly gaming interfaces, like that of Nintendo’s Wii. It’s a design language that says, “I’m not technical; I’m fun.” Very quickly, the design itself fades into the background and the content becomes all the user notices.

In a word, Roku’s UX is amazing because it makes something that was supposed to be complicated and scary (bringing Internet content to the living room) inexpensive, easy and a pleasure to use.


What Are Your Picks?


Those are five of our favorite user experiences from 2010; we’d love to know what impressed you this year. In the comments, tell us about the apps, devices and websites that you’ve loved using throughout 2010 or nominate them for a Mashable Award.


The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)


In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)

Sponsorships are available. Please contact spo[email protected] for more information.

Register for Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage (Las Vegas - 2011 International CES convention) [Ticketed Event] in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

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Mashable Awards Gala Partner:

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Mashable Awards Online Partner:

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Mashable Awards Partner:

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Mashable Awards Category Sponsor:

Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.


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The unique Aro experience is powered by advanced web services: next generation natural language processing and semantic data analytics services. Aro gives you the power to see through the clutter and focus your mobile life.


Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.

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Influxis specializes in the deployment of creative streaming solutions. Services include large scale deployment, mobile streaming, turn-key applications, and enterprise support with custom network options. With the unique combination of a worldwide network, knowledgeable developer support and nearly a decade of streaming media experience, Influxis is an essential partner to businesses, advertisers, developers, educators, and others who seek expertise in innovative streaming.

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Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.


Reviews: Boxee, Facebook, Foursquare, Hulu, Internet, Mashable, Seesmic, Twitter, Windows

More About: best user experience, best ux, Flipboard, hipmunk, ix, mashable awards, mashable awards 2010, quora, UI, user experience, ux/ui

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Create Automated Website Tests with Ease

12 Oct


This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Fake

Quick Pitch: Fake is a new browser for Mac OS X that makes web automation and testing simple.

Genius Idea: Inspired by Apple’s Automator, Fake is a tool that lets web designers and developers create graphical workflows that can be run again and again, without human interaction. These workflows can be saved, shared and edited at ease.

Fake is the creation of Todd Ditchendorf’s Celestial Teapot Software. Ditchendorf is the guy responsible for Fluid, one of our favorite single-site browsers.

Whereas Fluid is a great tool that can appeal to a wide array of users, Fake’s target audience consists of developers, web designers or people that have to perform the same automated tasks repeatedly. That is to say, if you aren’t doing a lot of website testing, unit tests or debugging, Fake might not be for you.

However, if you are a web designer or developer, Fake is just awesome. I’ve been using this app for the last month or so and I have to say, the ability to create workflows to perform rudimentary tasks like capturing a screenshot or filling out a form or clicking on a link is just really remarkable.

A common workflow I utilize is taking screenshots. Oftentimes when I’m writing a post, I’ll need a screenshot from lots of different sources. Rather than taking each screenshot individually, I can just enter in each URL into Fake and have it repeat the “capture screenshot” action for each site. That way, while I’m writing in the background, my screenshots are being captured and saved to a folder of my choice.

For testing purposes especially, the fact that Fake has assertions, assertion failure handlers and error handlers makes it really powerful. It’s often hard to get a real sense of how a site or web app is going to perform under certain conditions. User testing is great, but it can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you need to test various alternating aspects of a site.

The great thing about saving workflows is that you can modify or rerun the workflow against other content. So for people doing A/B testing, you can set up the same set of “fake” interactions for each version and compare results.

Fake is $29.95, but you can download a free trial to see how you like the app. The trial doesn’t let you save workflows and limits you to eight actions at a time, but it’s a great way to determine whether you need this kind of app.

Check out this video to see Fake in action:

Designers and developers — what types of tools do you use for unit or automated testing? Let us know.


Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark


BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.


Reviews: fluid

More About: automator, fake, fluid, mac apps, single-site browser, software, unit testing

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Google Just Lost a Potential Ally in its Legal Tussle with Oracle

12 Oct


The battle between Oracle and Google over Android’s use of Java just got a lot more interesting. That’s because IBM has announced that it will be collaborating with Oracle to work on the OpenJDK project.

This means that IBM will no longer be part of the Apache Software Foundation’s Project Harmony, the project that provides Android with the components it needs to run Java code. With IBM leaving the project, Harmony is basically dead in the water.

Although Android wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, this is all interrelated to the Oracle lawsuit. Google responded to the lawsuit last week, claiming that Oracle, which got Java out of its purchase of Sun Microsystems, was acting in bad faith.

For the non-Java savvy out there, here’s an abbreviated rundown of how and why all of this stuff matters:

Apache Harmony is an open source implementation of Java. The goal in creating the project was to unite all of the various free software Java implementations together under one banner.

The project had a lot of early support, the only problem was that Sun (and then Oracle) never offered the project with a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK). The TCK is needed to prove that Harmony is compatible with the Java specification and can be seen as a certified Java independent version of Java. When Sun first open sourced aspects of Java in 2007, it said it would provide the Apache Foundation with the necessary TCK for certification.

Sun never made good on those assurances and when Oracle took over Sun, the new company wasn’t interested in sharing the TCKs, instead wanting to focus all of its efforts on the officially sanctioned open source Java implementation, OpenJDK.

IBM’s Bob Sutor discussed the decision on his blog, writing:

“We think this is the pragmatic choice. It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK. Our involvement will not be casual as we plan to hold leadership positions and, with the other members of the community, fully expect to have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which technical direction it goes.”

This is a big blow to the Harmony project and by extension, to the libraries and classes that Android implements from Harmony in Android. Without big backing like IBM behind the project, it’s not likely to survive.

For now, the Harmony implementation of Java is fine. The problem will be when future versions of Java are released and Harmony can’t keep up in terms of features.

In Java, staying compatible is key. Interestingly, InfoWorld notes that Google has more developers working on OpenJDK than Oracle. So why choose Harmony for Android?

We think it’s because Google wanted to do an end-run around Sun’s licensing requirements. In essence, getting to take advantage of Java SE on mobile devices (something that Sun explicitly forbade without a license), but not having to pay for it.

Long before Sun’s sale to Oracle, others pointed out the potential licensing and IP quagmire that Google was entering with Android. The reality was, Sun didn’t have the power, the funds or the industry clout to really do anything about it.

Oracle does. In fact, Oracle’s clout and power is underscored by IBM’s decision to join up. IBM may be making its decisions for pragmatic reasons, but in the decision shows that IBM is not willing to side with Google in this elongated fight.

At this point, Google’s only real recourse is to sensibly settle and pay Oracle, or countersue and drag the fight out even longer. By fighting back, Google risks alienating its Java-base of developers.

While we question how important having a strong base of Java developers really is to Android’s success in the long term, it doesn’t mean it’s worth risking the future developments of the platform on a legal gamble.

Oracle is out for blood and IBM just provided the syringe.


Reviews: Android, Google

More About: android, apache foundation, Google, harmony, IBM, java, lawsuits, legal, oracle

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Change Any Web Page’s Design Instantly with Chrome Extension Stylebot

21 Sep


One of our favorite web browsers just got a cool new tool in the form of Stylebot, a new Chrome extension that allows you to access and modify the CSS for any web page from within the browser.

That’s right — users get a completely customized design experience for any page they choose. The changes they make can be saved for later use and synced across multiple devices.

This is great news for you design enthusiasts as well as for end users with specific needs and wants for their browsing experience. For example, the extension makes web pages with small fonts more accessible by allowing users to increase the font size, and it can make browsing the web less commercial by removing ads.

Stylebot generates a sidebar full of basic and advanced CSS options that allow the end user to manipulate how content is displayed. This tool is simple enough to be used by a moderately competent consumer, but it also has options better suited for those with web design skills. Stylebot can be used to change font attributes, remove advertising, move page elements, change colors, write one’s own CSS selectors and quite a bit more.

Googler Rachel Shearer wrote the following today on the company’s blog:

“For example, a Stylebot user with special reading needs might change a webpage by removing images, picking new text and background colors, and even moving blocks of text around. And Stylebot saves the custom style they create, so the next time they access that page the changes will still be there. Even better, they can sync their saved styles across computers so that webpage will always appear with their preferred style.”

Check out this brief demo video to see Stylebot in action:

Stylebot was created as a Google Summer of Code project by Ankit Ahuja, a computer science student in New Delhi, India. Stylebot is open source and forkable; interested parties can check out Ahuja’s source on GitHub. He said he used elements of other open-source projects, such as Aristo and Firebug, in his work.

What do you think of Stylebot so far? Would you use it to prettify the ugliness that is Craigslist, for example, or to simplify content viewing on a news site?


Reviews: Craigslist

More About: accessibility, chrome, chrome extension, Chromium, CSS, design, designers, Google, google chrome, stylebot, web design

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