DigitalOutbox Episode 69

DigitalOutbox Episode 69
In this episode the team discuss Net Neutrality Threat, Don’t Joke on Twitter, Facebook Messaging and Kinect.

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0:59 – Google Rewards and Punishes
– Gives all employees $1000 extra bonus
– Also increases all salaries from 1st Jan by 10%
– And…
– “We’ve heard from your feedback on Googlegeist and other surveys that salary is more important to you than any other component of pay (i.e., bonus and equity),” the memo reads.
– “To address that, we’re moving a portion of your bonus into your base salary, so now it’s income you can count on, every time you get your paycheck… Thank you for all that you do, and for making Google a place where magic happens.”
– But they weren’t happy that the actual memo got leaked so….
– Within hours, Google notified its staff that it had terminated the leaker, several sources told CNNMoney. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the issue, or on the memo.
– Offer engineer $3.5 million to not join Facebook
– We’ve confirmed today that a staff engineer at Google being heavily romanced by Facebook was offered a jaw dropping $3.5 million in restricted stock by Google (this means Google is handing over stock worth $3.5 million based on its value today, and that stock will vest over time). He quite wisely accepted Google’s counter offer. Facebook lost this one.
– Also up to 30% increase for top execs
– Stories that Google may be planning “G-Town” – A town for Google employees to live, work and play! OMG. We said that Google had the cash of a small country… now they might have the infrastructure.
5:24 – End of Net Neutrality?
– Culture minister Ed Vaizey has backed a “two-speed” internet, letting service providers charge content makers and customers for “fast lane” access.
– It paves the way for an end to “net neutrality” – with heavy bandwidth users like Google and the BBC likely to face a bill for the pipes they use.
– Ditching net neutrality could lead to websites paying ISPs to ensure their content gets priority.
– Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are supposed to treat all web traffic equally – serving only as a one-size-fits-all pipe for whatever data is passing from content providers to end users.
– But some traffic management, where traffic from one source is favoured over another, is likely to be allowed, with a ruling due next year, Mr Vaizey suggests.
– In his speech, he argues that the continued quality of internet services in the UK is under threat due to the rapid expansion of mobile and wireless networks and the “massive investment” it needed.
– As a result, ISPs had to be free to experiment with new ways of raising revenue – provided customers were clear about what they were buying.
10:52 – Stop the Broadband Con
– Why are services advertised as up to 20 or 24mb when average speed is just 6.5Mb – The average download speed received for ‘up to’ 20/24Mb DSL packages was 6.5Mb according to Ofcom’s 2010 UK broadband speeds report
– Virgin Media is already delivering the fastest broadband in the UK and it’s prepared to be open about the exact broadband speeds it delivers. It’s the first ISP in the UK to publish the typical real world speeds its customers receive each month.
– They want other ISP’s to sign up to this campaign
– Virgins typical speeds for October –
13:47 – HM Government EMail
– Response to petition regards not disconnecting file-sharers.
“It is clear that online copyright infringement inflicts considerable damage on the UK’s creative economy including music, TV and film, games, sports and software. Industry estimates place this harm at £400m pa.
– The Digital Economy Act includes a number of measures to tackle the problem and we expect these to be successful in significantly reducing online copyright infringement. However this is an area of rapid technological change and developing consumer behaviour. The Act therefore includes a reserve power to introduce further “technical” measures if the initial measures do not succeed. These technical measures would limit or restrict an infringers’ access to the internet. They do not include disconnection.”
– Loving the subject of another email this week – from Adobe
– “Why explore new Acrobat X? It’s magic.”
16:34 – Facebook Messaging
– “This is not an email killer. This is a messaging experience that includes email as one part of it,” Zuckerberg said. It’s all about making communication simpler. “This is the way that the future should work,” he continued.
– To do that, Facebook has created three key things: Seamless messaging, conversation history, and a social inbox. Essentially, they’ve created a way to communicate no matter what format you want to use: email, chat, SMS — they’re all included. “People should share however they want to share,” engineer Andrew Bosworth said.
– All of this messaging is kept in a single social inbox. And all of your conversation history with people is kept.
– Alongside the product on, this is going to work on their mobile applications as well. An updated iPhone app is launching shortly. It’s important that you can keep messages going while you’re on the go, Bosworth noted.
– But you don’t need an app. It’s important to note that this can work with SMS too.
– And yes, everyone can get an email address if they want. But they don’t need to get one — you can use any email address. And yes, IMAP support is coming soon too (but not just yet)
– This messaging system will be rolling out pretty slowly over the period over the next few months, Zuckerberg said.
– He said that 15 engineers have worked on this product — remarkably, this is the most that have ever worked on a single Facebook project.
– Also be able to view office attachments without leaving Facebook using MS Office Web apps
23:09 – Twitter joke trial: Paul Chambers loses appeal against conviction
– The man convicted of “menace” for threatening to blow up an airport in a Twitter joke has lost his appeal.
– Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant whose online courtship with another user of the microblogging site led to the “foolish prank”, had hoped that a crown court would dismiss his conviction and £1,000 fine without a full hearing
– But Judge Jacqueline Davies instead handed down a devastating finding at Doncaster which dismissed Chambers’s appeal on every count. After reading out his comment from the site – “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” – she found that it contained menace and Chambers must have known that it might be taken seriously.
– He was also saddled with a legal bill three times higher than his original £384 with £600 costs, as the court ordered him to pay a further £2,000 legal bill for the latest proceedings.
– Stephen Fry offers to pay for fine
– Twitter campaign to raise funds for appeal
– I Am Spartacus
– Twitter users angered by the conviction of a man who threatened to blow up an airport in a Twitter joke showed support for him in their thousands today, thumbing their noses at the law by republishing the words that landed him in trouble.
– Under the hashtag #IAmSpartacus – a reference to the film in which Spartacus’s fellow gladiators show their solidarity with him by each proclaiming “I am Spartacus” – thousands of people have copied Chambers’s original message.
– As a result of the show of support for him, #IAmSpartacus was the most popular worldwide subject being referred to on Twitter at the time of writing.
– Even Daily Mail think it’s absurb –
– But as Paul said this morning – “Support from The Daily Mail is like kissing your sister. Essentially it’s the same, but it just doesn’t feel right.”
27:29 – Tory councillor arrested over Alibhai-Brown Stoning Tweet
– Police in Birmingham today arrested a Conservative city councillor who sent a Twitter message saying that the newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown should be stoned to death.
– Alibhai-Brown said last night she would report Gareth Compton, a councillor for the Erdington district, to police following the tweet
– The Conservative party said Compton had been suspended indefinitely over the alleged tweet.
– The message – now apparently deleted – said: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.”
– Alibhai-Brown, who writes columns for the Independent and the London Evening Standard, said last night she regarded his comments as incitement to murder. She told the Guardian: “It’s really upsetting. My teenage daughter is really upset too. It’s really scared us.
– “You just don’t do this. I have a lot of threats on my life. It’s incitement. I’m going to the police – I want them to know that a law’s been broken.” She added that she regarded Compton’s remarks as racially motivated because he mentioned stoning.
30:13 – Twitter and Ping
– Like a track in iTunes Ping and it will auto tweet for you
– Set it up and it defaults to tweeting everything you like (can be changed)
– Click on link on Twitter and in side panel track is listed and can be previewed – click again to buy in iTunes
– Awful – nothing about social, like, and all about commerce
– Noise in my twitter stream
– Don’t cross the streams!!!
32:13 – Google TV Being Blocked
– Fox has finally made a decision, following the other major networks, Hulu and several cable channels by opting to block streaming video on its website from Google TV devices
– Blocking by Flash ID is the order of the day and takes simple browser workarounds out of play, so unless users want to go the PlayOn route, there’s large swaths of legitimate video on the web that’s now inaccessible. This same type of blocking is likely to affect other devices like the Boxee Box
– It’s the old empire logic again. Even though you can view the content online, because this is being delivered on a TV, it MUST BE STOPPED…. we’ll see more of this as the lines blur between tech.
35:06 – Beatles on iTunes
– Finally Beatles available on iTunes
– Great, just….
– In some cases double the price of cd’s that can be bought online and shipped to you by couriers – physical media!!!
– or that Apple grossly over hyped the event as contractually they probably had too
– “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget. Check back here tomorrow for an exciting announcement from iTunes.”
– Ringo Starr added: “I’m particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes.”
– They do have exclusive digital rights that extends into 2011…and they’ve made some adverts for it so they think it’s a big deal
– Steve thinks he’s the fifth Beatle
38:11 – Google Voice App Finally hits App Store
– US only and it only took a year or so
– This is Apple saying sorry for all the Beatles shit.
39:13 – Gingerbread will have NFC
– Near Field Communication will be in next Android release
– New Android phones will have a chip that let you tap your phone against special sensors to complete an action
– Payments – hook up credit card to phone
– Location – sign in
– This was a rumoured feature of next iPhone – Google look to be beating Apple
– Coming…within a few weeks
– Also, Schmidt Schmidt has finally made it clear what differentiates Google’s Android OS from the soon-to-be-released Chrome OS: keyboards.
– That’s a rather simplified expression of the bigger picture, but ultimately, Google sees Chrome OS as the operating system for traditional computers, such as PCs, netbooks and laptops, which may include touch interfaces but always include keyboards; and the company sees Android as an operating system best suited to mobile devices, which may include keyboards but almost always include touch interfaces.
– Chrome OS – next few months for release (rumoured to be November)
43:33 – Edit Google Docs on your Mobile Device
– Google now rolling out editing of docs on your iOS (version 3.0+) and Android with Froyo (version 2.2) devices over next few days
– Great for iPad users
– Works for docs and spreadsheets
44:23 – GT5 Release Date
– Finally announced – Wed November 24th
– Will have…1000 cars
– Lots of tracks and modes
– 800 “standard” cars and 200 “premium” cars (premium cars have deformation, standard, just get scratched)
46:57 – COD Black Ops Breaks Records
– $360 million revenue in…..24 HOURS
– Avatar – $232 million in its opening weekend
– UK – £58 million day one sales ($93.5 million) – 1.4 million units
– $650 million in five days – first patch now out

– I weakened like Ian at an Apple store.
– For all the jibing it has solicited, I love it.
– Of course early days. Honeymoon period, but this turns an xbox into something else. I know it’s not for all, but it’s like getting a new console. The games even come in a purple box rather than green.
– Played multiplayer yesterday, and it’s all good.
– Technology is impressive. It works. It does track behind, but this doesn’t really affect as the games don’t require pixel perfect precision.
– It does indeed need a lot of room. For 2 player, the start of the play area is about 6ft and the back of the play area is about 12ft. Need 6ft sideways as well.
– It costs. Sure. But it will come down in price. I also have confidence that it will have its killer game next year some point.
– Already 1m units sold. I am not alone.

Boxcar for iPhone
– Notification app for iOS
– Instant push notifications for your social networks, email accounts, RSS feeds and more.
– Receive super fast notifications when someone comments, updates or messages you.
– Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, RSS, Growl
– Track when someone else tweets


Some of our recent picks have been for online services that make use of bookmarklets. Google Reader, Boxee, ZooTools, Readability and Instapaper all make use of bookmarklets. This is all well and good but my browser bar is struggling under the weight of so many links. Thats where Quix step’s in.

Quix is an extensible bookmarklet. What’s that? It’s a bookmarklet (another one!) that allows you quick access to common internet commands and also allows you to extend it, adding in commands that you use often. So using Quix i remove many of the bookmarklets that I use day to day and access them via keyboard shortcuts. So how does it work.

At the most simple level, visit the Quix website, drag the Quix bookmarklet to your browser bar and your good to go. Want to do a google search for IMAX glasgow. Launch Quix and type:

g imax glasgow

Boom. A google search for IMAX and Glasgow will be run. I see that Avatar is on. To get some info Quix can help again

imdb Avatar

I now have the IMDB page for Avatar. This time I ran the search with a space in front of the command. This opened the search in a new tab in Safari. I want to save that page for reading later. Open Quix and type


The current page is saved into Evernote. The list of commands on the Quix site shows a full list of all the sites and services supported. It’s extensive and ever growing. One awkward step is launching the Quix bookmarklet. Having to select it with a mouse and then typing feels a bit sluggish. On Safari, there is a keyboard shortcut to launch shortcuts on the bookmark bar, so clicking CMD+1 will launch Quix if it’s the first bookmark in the bar. Very nice. Chrome and Firefox via an extension allow for shortcuts to launch Quix as well – see the Quix website on how to setup each browser.

So far so good. It’s easy to see what a time and space saver Quix can be. The feature I like the most though is the ability to add your own commands. The syntax page details how to add your commands but basically you create a text file that is hosted somewhere – Dropbox, MobileMe or your own webspace for example. You then add commands in the format “shortcut executable description”. The executable can make use of the following replacement tokens:

%s Replaced by any search terms that were entered after the command and / or any text that was selected when the command was issued. There’s a special case of this: %s_, this does the same except that it replaces spaces with underscores ( _ ) instead of plus signs, this is used in the Wikipedia command in the example file.
%r Replaced by the URL you were on when the command was issued.%rsReplaced by a shortened version of the URL you were on when the command was issued.
%d Replaced by the domain you were on when the command was issued.
%t Replaced by the title of the page you were on when the command was issued.

So its very easy to add commands. Before you can use the commands you need to create a new bookmarklet that calls your custom file – visit the extend page to create the new bookmarklet. That’s it – your good to go. One issue I did have is that it can take a while for the bookmarklet to pick up new commands added to your custom file. To get around this open Quix and type ‘debug’ which clears the cache and reloads the custom file.

If your interested in my custom command, it can be found on Github. This is a fork of Merlin Mann’s original file which contained some very useful commands.

Hopefully you’ll read this an install Quix as it is incredibly useful especially when you start to customise what it can do. if your still in doubt, watch the screencast below demoing Quix from the developer himself.

An introduction to Quix from Joost de Valk on Vimeo.


I read much of my web content in Google reader. However for an interesting or longer article I still prefer to click through to the articles website and read it in situ, mostly to read through any associated comments or make my own. More and more sites though are cluttered with links to other articles, tag clouds and adverts. Especially adverts that flash, move and distract from the actual article content. Step forward Readability. A summarised on their website:

Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you are reading.

To setup Readability, visit the website and select a Style, Size and Margin. Then drag the bookmarklet to your browser bar. When your on a website and the clutter is distracting click on Readability. Take this TUAW article for example.

Small text, distractions in the right hand column. One click with Readability and it’s clutter be gone.

I now have a clear distraction free article with images preserved. Much easier to read. The buttons to the left hand side allow me to swap back to the true website view of the article, and taking advantage of the cleaner page, I can print the article or e-mail the article on to friends and colleagues without the normal distracting content being e-mailed at the same time.

Another use of Readability is when it comes to note taking. I capture a lot of web content in Evernote for future reference. By default the snippet tool can capture a whole page or selected text. I prefer to use a bookmarklet that first sets up a Readability view of a web page and then invokes the Evernote web clipper to capture the article and sync it to my Evernote account. The result is a far cleaner set of notes.

If you want a bookmarklet to do both then take a look at this Evernote forum post. I hope you find Readability as useful as I do – certainly makes for a more readable web.

Google Public DNS

Google made a big splash last week when it announced Google Public DNS. By changing your DNS settings on your Mac, PC or router you can take advantage of Google’s DNS service and speed up your internet experience. That’s the theory but does it work? First off, what is DNS?

DNS takes the meaningful domain names that you type in your browser and turns that into a numerical identifier that computers understand. An analogy that is often made is DNS is the phone book for the internet. Wikipedia has more if you want to delve deeper. With that out the way onto some testing. My current ISP is O2 but I actually use OpenDNS for DNS lookups. They’ve proven to be faster than my previous two ISP’s but I was interested in comparing O2, OpenDNS and Google Public DNS. To do that I followed the advice on TechSutra and ran the following code:

for i in "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" ""
for j in "" "" ""
echo $j $i `dig @$j $i | grep Query | awk -F ":" '{print $2}'`

This basically compared the lookup time for the three DNS providers for a variety of sites that I used daily. The results of the test can be seen in the table below:

Domain O2 Google OpenDNS 111ms 69ms 29ms 179ms 36ms 27ms 28ms 36ms 27ms 28ms 55ms 29ms 28ms 34ms 27ms 28ms 35ms 27ms 160ms 38ms 28ms 28ms 35ms 30ms 29ms 35ms 28ms

As can be seen OpenDNS provided by far the best speeds out of the three I tested. I ran the test a few times and took average times to rule out any issues but the results were fairly consistent. Another method of testing is to try Namebench. This is a Google 20% app for Mac, PC and Linux. It compares a list of known DNS providers against your current DNS provider and provides a set of graphs and charts allowing you to benchmark any potential gains. It’s very slick.

My findings which seem to be backed up by others is that OpenDNS, for UK users, is a better option for speed than Google Public DNS. Do remember though that OpenDNS does redirect certain sites to protect from malware and domain misspellings, serving up adverts at the same time. In comparison Google offers no redirects at all which many people prefer.

The speed differences you do see may look small but remember that every little bit helps to improve your browsing experience and switching to a fast and reliable DNS provider can make a noticeable difference in your day to day usage.

So did you change your DNS after testing? We’d love to hear who you switched to and your findings – leave a comment below.

Spotify Launches Offline Mode

Spotify launched a new feature today to it’s desktop client – Offline Mode. Premium users selecting a playlist will now have the ability to click an ‘Available offline’ button which will download the tracks locally for playback when not connected to the internet. I tried the service this afternoon and the results can be seen in the video below.

Spotify are really stepping up and offering something different to the current digital music stores. Stream for free in lower quality with ad’s or pay for great quality music that you can access from anywhere, offline or online. Not only that but with the addition this week of PayPal as a payment option they are making it easier than ever to subscribe to their service. Couple that to 4 million tracks available via search and many great playlists available online and you’ve got a very compelling service. It’s enough to keep me subscribing for another month after the launch of their iPhone app a few weeks ago. Over to you Apple?


One of my peeves when travelling is paperwork – keeping tabs on flights, hotel reservations, car hires. Rotten. A site that I’ve grown to love is which makes travelling that little bit easier. Once you create an account on the site you can then create your travel plans making sure all your details are stored on Tripit. Then either visiting the website or using the free iPhone application you can easily access your travel plans – goodbye paper.


What makes life even easier is that Tripit can automatically scan your confirmation e-mails for details of flight times, confirmation numbers etc. All you need to do is forward your e-mail to and the details will be automatically added to your trip. I had my doubts about how reliable this would be but it’s been fantastic – reliable and makes the whole trip entry painless. You can edit the imported trip if there’s an error and you can flag the error to Tripit so they can improve their import algorithms.

I’ve already mentioned the iPhone app but you can also share out your trip’s vis RSS, iCal feed, blog badge and also by adding friends. Yes, Tripit also has it’s own social network. See where your colleagues and friends are at any time. There’s also a league table to see who’s been doing the most travelling, something I don’t want to be winning. Tripit has a pro option costing $69 a year which will track various travel point and loyalty schemes, send you alerts if your flight times change and includes an inner circle feature which will give automatic access to your trips to everyone in your circle.

Finally, Tripit is supported by many other applications and websites which make it easier to create and share your Trips. Overall it’s hard to find Tripit – a free and useful service for the frequent traveller.

Dropbox – online storage

dropbox logo

Dropbox is a brilliant and extremely useful online storage service. Online storage services aren’t anything new and what makes Dropbox special is it’s ease of use, speed and how it seamlessly integrates with your host operating system.

Basic account registration is free and you get an instant 2GB storage. Invite your friends and every friend that joins earns you (and your friend) an extra 250MB up to a maximum of 3GB in addition to your initial 2GB.

Pro 50 account provides 50GB storage and costs $9.99 per month or $99 annually. Pro 100 account provides 100GB storage at a cost of $19.99 monthly or $199 annually.

The service can be used as a simple online storage tool via a web browser, to upload files from one computer and then access those files via a browser from another computer. But Dropbox is much more than that – it can be used to share files/folders with other people, keep your data synchronised between multiple computers and easily create online photo albums.

The best way to use it is to install it on your computer, where it seamlessly integrates with Finder/Explorer. Once installed, it can be used just like a regular folder and you can add sub-folders and files to it. When a file is added, it instantly starts to synchronise with the online service, freeing the user to carry on working on other tasks. This is a brilliant tool for users with multiple computers, who want to keep certain data files synched. Store such files in your Dropbox folder and you don’t have to concern yourself with uploading files from one computer and then downloading to another. It all happens automatically without any user intervention.

Files added to the special Public sub-folder can be shared with others – just right-click on the file, copy the public URL and send the link to whoever you want to share the file with.

If you’re working on a project, create a shared folder for storing documents and invite collaborators to share this folder. Uploaded changes are instantly visible to other project members. As soon as one collaborator modifies the contents of the shared folder, the changes are automatically pushed to other collaborators’ Dropbox folders instantly, brilliant! Accidentally deleted files can be easily recovered.

Another really nice feature is that any images added to the special Photos folder are automatically created in to simple photo albums, with public URLs available for sending to friends and families.

Have a look at the tour for full details and explanation of the service. There is also a screencast available which clearly shows all the major features.


One site that I always recommend to friends and family is OpenDNS. With a few simple changes to your router or computer you can move from using your ISP’s DNS server to the service provided by OpenDNS which I’ve found to be fast and reliable, certainly more so than the ISP’s I’ve used recently. So what is DNS and what does OpenDNS do?

DNS requests are made every day from your home connection. E-mails, web surfing, online gaming etc all make use of DNS. DNS turns real addresses ( into an IP address for the physical computer you want to connect to. It makes it easier to surf and also means an address can stay fixed while the computer changes in the background (to a different IP address). Usually you make use of your own ISP’s DNS server which in general works OK but from time to time can have issues. Speed, lack of redundancy and update issues are ones I’ve seen over the years.

OpenDNS provides a free DNS service that promises to resolve addresses quickly and also a few unique services that I certainly don’t get from my current ISP. Firstly there are anti-phishing features in place so that you will be warned and the phishing site intercepted should you be lead to one. There’s also spelling correction where OpenDNS will look at the URL you’ve typed and if it detects a typo it will redirect you to the correct site. Finally if you look up a site that cannot be resolved OpenDNS will display a page with alternatives.


What’s great about OpenDNS is that it’s simple to set-up and has helpful configuration page’s for a wide range of routers and computers. These take you through each step of logging in to the router, making the changes required and then checking that OpenDNS is set-up for your internet connection. There’s also other features like shortcut’s which you can take advantage off. Enter a shortcut name and the page that should be looked up if typed. For example, type blog to visit your blog without typing in the address, news to visit BBC News – the possibilities are endless. The nice thing about shortcuts is they apply across all your network so aren’t set up on a per machine basis.

The OpenNDS website also provides some stats about the number of requests, top domains and gives you the ability to block domains if you want finer control of the content that can be accessed on your network.

Although better performance can’t be guaranteed and in some cases will be very small I’ve always made a point of checking every few months to make sure that OpenDNS is a better option than my current ISP. With both O2 and Virgin Media, swapping to OpenDNS made quite a difference and in the case of my neighbours just over a week ago the difference to their OneTel connection was remarkable. Give it a try – nothing to lose and possibly a nice speed bump with enhanced security to gain.