Jan 12, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Yahoo To Announce Sale of Zimbra Today

Two years after acquiring Zimbra Open source email unit for $350 million, it is rumored that Yahoo has sold off the property to VMWare. The announcement is expected to be made today. This follows the strategy the company has taken since Carol Bartz took over as head of the company – that of selling or shutting down properties that do not make strategic sense.

All Things Digital point out the sale price of the transaction to be over $100 million but less than the $350 million that was paid for the initial acquisition in 2007.

As always, the spokesperson for Yahoo has declined to comment on the impending annoucement saying they do not comment on rumors and speculations.

[via All Things Digital]

Jan 12, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Lenovo Develops “Kill” Technology To Protect Security On Stolen Laptops

What do you do when your laptop is stolen? How do you protect all the sensitive information stored in the laptop? Lenovo has just developed a technology that will enable the rightful owners to not only disable their laptops but can also get a list of all information that was accessed prior to the disabling so that one might know what all information was compromised.

In a recently filed patent, the inventors at Lenovo write

“Portable computers may be provided with a mechanism to disable the computer if the rightful owner has lost the computer or suspects it of being stolen, to prevent access to potentially sensitive information on the computer.

A method includes receiving a disable command at a computer and in response to the disable command, transmitting information indicating accessed data. After transmission of the information, the computer disables itself.”

The inventors also go a step further to let users set a specific benchmark time. So, if this time is set to 1 hour, all information that was accessed in the earlier one hour shall be gathered and transmitted before the system goes on disable mode. The technology is believed to work using GPS.

Jan 11, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Qualcomm’s Removable Module To Support Location Based Features

Location-sharing has now become the in-thing. Just in the past few weeks, we saw companies like Palm, Apple and the likes file patents to develop technologies that can help in users sharing their location information with their friends.

Now what if the location sharing feature was available as a plug-in to your phone rather than an in-built feature? Apparently, Qualcomm is working on just this. In a patent recently published by the company at the US Patent and Trademark Office, the inventors have sought the rights for a technology that will help in supporting location-based services with the help of a removable module.

The inventors write

“The removable module may store subscription information, personal information, and/or other information for a user and may be inserted into a terminal, e.g., a cellular phone. The removable module may include LBS applications that may utilize location information to perform various actions. The location information may comprise a location estimate, speed, orientation, etc., of the terminal.”

The technology described here can be much more powerful than patents published by individual companies.  Most location sharing features have been made available only within users of a single manufacturer. Now since Qualcomm chips are used by more than one manufacturer, a location sharing service developed by Qualcomm can be much more useful and popular among users than other similar features provided cellphone manufacturers.

What do you think?

Jan 11, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Yahoo Devises Site-Sequence Algorithm To Improve Behavioral Targeting

Ad networks have all along tried to understand user behavior in order to be able to deliver the most relevant ad to the visitor. However, one big problem is that most users who agree to be behaviorally targeted are the more tech-savvy ones; consumers who use a lot of internet. This means that their behavior cannot be generically applied to the rest of the users – those who use internet minimally.

In order to counter this, Yahoo has devised what is known as a Site-sequence value. In a patent published by Yahoo, the company has elaborated on what they mean by site-sequencing and how it will help them in targeting ads better.  The inventors write

“the site-sequence values indicate a sequence from a first site to a second site for at least one user identified with a corresponding engagement level;determining cumulative site-sequence values from the site-sequence values for combinations of pairs of sites and distinct engagement levels;determining likelihood values from the cumulative site-sequence values, wherein the likelihood values characterize probabilities for sequences between sites at distinct engagement levels”

To tell it in simple words, Yahoo studies visits from Site A to Site B from a variety of users to study the general engagement level. It also studies visits from Site B to Site C to see the engagement level. Doing so will let Yahoo know whether or not visitors to Site A be interesting in advertisements related to Site C.

Looks like an interesting concept. What do you think?

Jan 11, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Samsung Working On Creating Composite Pics From Multiple Camera

Samsung has been working on technology that seeks to create composite pictures from multiple camera sources. In a patent published recently at the US Patents and Trademark Office, the inventors write that presently composite pics are possible only from a single camera source. They seek to extend it to multiple camera. The patent apparently looks to introduce this to their cameraphones.

The inventors write

“[Presently,] To use the multi-photo framing feature, these pictures have to be taken by the same mobile terminal, and, if the pictures are related to persons, the persons may have to be present at the same place and time.”

“An aspect of the present invention is to address the above-mentioned problems and/or disadvantages and to provide at least the advantages described blow. Accordingly, an aspect of the present invention is to provide a mobile terminal and a composite photographing method that enable multiple mobile terminals to jointly produce a composite photograph.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a mobile terminal and a composite photographing method that reduce communication costs by utilizing short-range wireless communication to transmit a picture for composite photography.

So, if I understand it correctly, with this new technology, two users may connect themselves via Bluetooth or Wifi and pick the “host” device. Once done, pictures taken via the second device can automatically be stored in the first device to enable development of composite photography.

Jan 9, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

RIM Brings GPS-Based Security Settings For Blackberry

How many of you religiously switch your mobile phones to ‘silence’ mode when you approach your office and take it off ‘silence’ after work? If a recently published patent is to be believed, RIM could be automatically doing it for you.

In the patent, the inventors distinctly talk about security settings; mainly setting shorter timer for mobile locking and requiring you to type longer passwords in less secure areas and slacking off in more secure areas.

“determining a security setting associated with the determined location, wherein the security setting is a home security setting when the mobile electronic device is within a predetermined proximity of a user’s home as determined by a predetermined home location, a work security setting when the mobile electronic device is within a predetermined proximity of a user’s work as determined by a predetermined work location, and an other location security setting when the mobile electronic device is not within a predetermined proximity of the home location or the work location; and automatically applying the determined security setting on the mobile electronic device.”

Though this patent is mainly about security features, it is however likely that this technology is also extended to other profile level functions like changing the ringtones. What do you think?

Jan 9, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Bing Uses Collaborative Search Behavior To Rank Results

If you think the results that you click on Bing search engine is not actually watched by anyone, you  might be wrong. Big Bing actually makes use of your click behavior while delivering search results for other users.

In a patent published recently by Microsoft, the company has sought rights for a technology which will study click patterns of search engine visitors to understand which links are relevant in order to give these results a higher weighing factor for future search queries (of a similar nature).

The inventors of the patent write

“[T]he method may include receiving a search criteria from a user, identifying one or more agents who have performed a search using the search criteria, the agents and the user belonging to the computing network, identifying one or more search results that the agents have previously selected as being relevant to the search criteria, ranking the search results, and displaying the search results according to the ranking.”

While this does sound interesting, there are two questions here:

1. Will privacy advocates cry foul at Microsoft’s attempt to track user behavior?

2. How detrimental can this be to real time search considering a lot of clicks at one point in time might not be relevant later on?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Jan 9, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Skype To Make Creating and Sharing Media Presentations Easier

Skype is apparently working on technology to help users create media presentations from the Skype window itself. In a patent recently published by eBay, the company explains the problems in the current form of creating media presentations. The inventors write

“a user must typically purchase conventional media presentation software, which may be expensive, create a media presentation with the conventional media presentation software, which is often time consuming, upload the file for the media presentation, and then post a link to a file for online access to the created media presentation, which may require security features.”

To make creation and distribution of media presentations easy, the inventors are working on an interface that will help them create media presentations from the Skype window itself. They write

“a system for publishing and/or sharing media presentations over a network comprises a service component adapted to interface with a user over the network and one or more distribution channels over the network, a collect module adapted to gather media resources based on user input, a create module adapted to create a media presentation with the media resources based on user input, and a publish module adapted to distribute the media presentation to the one or more distribution channels via the network.”

The inventors say that users may be able to notify the recipients as the documents are published by emailing them or by offering them a distinct URL to view the document or even distribute it by embedding a source code.

How do you think this technology will improve Skype? Please tell us in the comments.

Jan 8, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Video CAPTCHA Codes Coming, Thanks To Yahoo

In order to make it much more difficult for spammers and bots to decipher CAPTCHA codes, Yahoo is working on a technology that will replace the current CAPTCHA with a technique whereby characters are superimposed on streaming videos or animations. These codes shall also come with a timer in order to validate the presence of a human.

In a patent published at the US Patent and Trademark Office, Yahoo has revealed a technology that will do just this. The inventor of the patent, Scott Preece writes

“A server may compose a streaming captcha by superimposing a captcha character string on a video. A timer may be set and the streaming captcha may be streamed to the client device. The streaming captcha may be displayed on the client device, and a character string input by a user may be received in response to display of the streaming captcha.”

“For instance, a streaming captcha may be composed by superimposing a captcha character string on a video stream so that the character string appears in the foreground part of the video stream. In an embodiment, the background part of the video stream may vary. Moreover, a character may change progressively into the next character in the sequence of characters in the captcha character string. Or an animation may be generated to display the sequence of characters from the captcha character string.”

It is an interesting technique that can possibly reduce the spam count at least for sometime to come; until the spammers find a way out of this again. But one concern is with countries where high bandwidth broadband is yet to take root. In such places, video streaming CAPTCHAs can highly bring down user experience. What do you think?

Jan 8, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Palm To Introduce Location Sharing Among Users

Location sharing is one of the buzzwords of late and companies are realizing the opportunity in this field. One of the leading developers of smartphones, Palm could soon be launching their own location sharing feature among users.

In a patent published recently by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Palm has sought to introduce a feature that will push notifications to the users’ mobile phones whenever one of their friends too happen to be in the same location. In the patent, the inventors write

“A mobile computing device comprises a user input device, an output device, a memory configured to store data and a processing circuit. The processing circuit is configured to receive user input from the user input device indicative of a request to associate the stored data with a second mobile computing device, to receive an indication that the second mobile computing device is proximate to the mobile computing device, and to provide a notification to the user via the output device based on the indication.

This sounds very much like Google Latitude. What do you think of this new upcoming feature? Do you see interest in the device picking up because of this? Tell us in the comments.