Toronto and Montreal: the VB Mobile Roadshow is coming

montreal


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First we took L.A., which doesn’t sound quite as significant as taking Manhattan. (And in fact, we didn’t even really take it … we just visited. And spoke.) Then we drove up the I-5 to Seattle (we didn’t actually drive), and we finally popped up into Canada,
just a little farther north, in Vancouver.

Now it’s Toronto’s turn. And Montreal.

torontoI’m talking about the VB Mobile Roadshow, which lands in Toronto tomorrow and Montreal on Thursday.

The TL;DR version is this:

  • We’ve started doing research at VB (real, hardcore, significant research).
  • About 2,000 mobile developers with over a billion monthly active users (MAU) have told us what works and what doesn’t in four
    key areas of mobile.
  • We’re coming to tell you what we learned.

We’ll hit two topics in depth: mobile user acquisition and mobile monetization. Along the way, we’ll throw in a few of the juiced bits of our mobile app analytics and mobile marketing automation studies. It’ll be a busy 45 minutes, and we guarantee insights — or your money back.

(Except, of course, you don’t have to pay anything. The VB Mobile Roadshow is entirely free
thanks to a sponsor.)

Before we talk, we’ll eat and drink. And after we talk, we’ll also eat and drink.

A few spots are still available. Now would be a really good time to grab one of them (in Toronto and Montreal).


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Firefox 37 arrives with improved YouTube HTML5 playback on Windows, faster downloads on Android

firefox_logo_new


Mozilla today launched Firefox 37 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Notable additions to the browser include HTML5 playback improvements on YouTube for Windows computers, and improved download performance for Android devices.

Firefox 37 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play.

Mozilla doesn’t break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say “half a billion people around the world” use
the browser. In other words, it’s a major platform that web developers target — even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.

In Turkey, Firefox is getting a big change. Like in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Yandex is now the default search provider for the Turkish locale.

Desktop

Firefox for Windows is gaining improved support for HTML5 playback on YouTube. While Firefox users see the HTML5 video player by default for most videos, the browser doesn’t support all the features that YouTube requires.

Here is what Firefox used to support,
according to YouTube’s HTML5 page:

firefox_old_html5

Here is what Firefox 37 supports:

firefox_37_html5

In other words, Media Source Extensions (MSE) has been added. This W3C specification allows JavaScript to send byte streams to media codecs, allowing for client-side prefetching and buffering code for streaming media entirely in JavaScript.

Here’s the full Firefox 37 changelog:

  • New: Heartbeat user rating system – your feedback about Firefox.
  • New: Yandex set as default search provider for the Turkish locale.
  • New: Bing search now uses HTTPS for secure searching
  • New: Improved protection against site impersonation via OneCRL centralized certificate revocation.
  • New: Opportunistically encrypt HTTP traffic where the server supports HTTP/2 AltSvc.
  • Changed: Disabled insecure TLS version fallback for site security.
  • Changed: Extended SSL error reporting for reporting non-certificate errors.
  • Changed: TLS False Start optimization now requires a cipher suite using AEAD construction.
  • Changed: Improved certificate and
    TLS communication security by removing support for DSA.
  • Changed: Improved performance of WebGL rendering on Windows.
  • HTML5: Implemented a subset of the Media Source Extensions (MSE) API to allow native HTML5 playback on YouTube (Windows only).
  • HTML5: Added support for CSS display:contents.
  • HTML5: IndexedDB now accessible from worker threads.
  • HTML5: New SDP/JSEP implementation in WebRTC.
  • Developer: Debug tabs opened in Chrome Desktop, Chrome for Android, and Safari for iOS.
  • Developer: New Inspector animations panel to control
    element animations.
  • Developer: New Security Panel included in Network Panel.
  • Developer: Debugger panel support for chrome:// and about:// URIs.
  • Developer: Added logging of weak ciphers to the web console.

If you’re a Web developer, you may want to get more details at the Firefox 37 for developers page.

Android

Firefox 37 for Android isn’t a huge release by any stretch. The biggest improvement is probably a new back-end for the download manager, which Mozilla says should result in improved download performance.

Here’s the full Firefox 37 for Android changelog:

  • New: Locales added: Albanian
    [sq], Burmese [my], Lower Sorbian [dsb], Songhai [son], Upper Sorbian [hsb], Uzbek [uz].
  • New: Yandex set as default search provider for the Turkish locale.
  • New: Improved download performance with new download manager back-end.
  • New: Improved protection against site impersonation via OneCRL centralized certificate revocation.
  • New: Opportunistically encrypt HTTP traffic where the server supports HTTP/2 AltSvc.
  • Changed: URL bar now displays page address instead of page title by default.
  • Changed: Disabled insecure TLS version fallback for site security.
  • Changed: Extended SSL error reporting for reporting non-certificate errors.
  • Changed: TLS False Start optimization now requires a cipher suite using AEAD construction.
  • Changed: Improved certificate and TLS communication security by removing support for DSA.
  • Changed: Android home screen shortcut now opens existing tab instead of new tab.
  • HTML5: Added support for CSS display:contents.
  • HTML5: IndexedDB now accessible from worker threads.
  • HTML5: OpenH264 support added to WebRTC for Android.
  • HTML5: New SDP/JSEP implementation in WebRTC.

Firefox 37 was supposed to arrive faster than usual (“by the end of March”), and indeed it has made it in the nick of time. Mozilla typically releases new Firefox versions every six weeks, and we thus expect Firefox 38 to arrive in mid-May.

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GSN’s acquisition of Idle Gaming shows the state of soc

Idle Games' Fresh Deck Poker.


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Sony’s GSN Games casual gaming division announced yesterday that it had acquired Idle Gaming, the creator of the social game Fresh Deck Poker. Terms of the deal weren’t announced, but Adam Krejcik of Eilers Research estimated
the value of the deal was about $10 million.

That’s not a great outcome for Idle Gaming, which raised $19 million to date. But it suggests that the larger social casino game business isn’t quite what it used to be. It’s still a $2.7 billion market, according to market analyst firm App Annie. But 52 percent of the market share is now in the hands of the top five companies, including Caesars Interactive, IGT, Zynga, Sony, and Churchill Downs.

That doesn’t leave much room for the 100 or so startups that raised money in the past couple of years. San Francisco-based Idle Gaming had a successful game in Fresh Deck Poker, but it was ranked No. 6 behind market leaders like Zynga in social poker apps worldwide, Eilers said.

Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a board member at Zynga, said in an interview
that social casino games have entered a different stage. Players want to focus on innovations, and that’s what game companies have to deliver, he said.

Idle Gaming started out as Idle Games. It made a wonderfully creative social game, Idle Worship, that was on Facebook. But the game didn’t take off, and in 2012 the company pivoted to making Fresh Deck Poker under the motto, “We make social casino games that don’t suck.” Investors including Signia Venture Partners, whose founder Rick Thompson served as the chairman of Idle Gaming.

“It’s unlikely that Signia recouped its full investment into Idle Gaming, based on our deal analysis,” said Adam Krejcik, analyst at Eilers Research.

He estimated that Idle Gaming generated gross revenues of about $1 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 and $4 million for the full
calendar year. Fresh Desk Poker accounted for at least 80 percent of those revenues, as two other titles — Slots of Fun and Video Poker Tour — never gained traction.

“The acquisition of Idle Gaming aligns perfectly with our strategy of leveraging first-rate teams and leading edge technology to create outstanding game experiences for our players,” said Steve Brunell, the chief operating officer of GSN, in a statement yesterday. “We are pleased to welcome the top-notch talent of Idle Gaming to GSN Games, and look forward to utilizing our shared talent and technologies to take mobile gaming to the next level.”

Eilers estimates that most social casino deals have been done at two to three times trailing 12 month revenues, suggesting Idle Games would be valued at about $8 million to $12 million.

Krejcik said the acquisition of Idle Gaming provides GSN Games with a “first-rate team and technology as well as exposure to the
social poker market.” GSN was already the No. 4 publisher worldwide (under Sony) in 2014. Idle Gaming provides diversification. GSN previously paid $165 million to acquire Bash Gaming, maker of Bingo Bash.”

In the ultra-competitive environment, it’s easy to think that social casino game companies would pour all of their budgets into user acquisition. That would mean running up huge ads — something that would have been difficult for a player like Idle Gaming. But user acquisition isn’t the only way to get gamers. Sometimes, you have to invest in getting the existing players to come back.

In early March, I interviewed Steve Meretzky, the vice president of creative at GSN Games, about a presentation he made at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. He noted that it’s still possible to come up with fresh takes in social casino games. High 5 Games created Shake the Sky Casino, a slots game with Asian themes. Since casino
gambling does well with that demographic, the title made sense. Netherfire has also taken a social casino game from China that combined slots and farming.

“There are the same market leaders in 2014 as you had in 2013,” Meretzky said. “With hits, it’s a matter of everything going right, with a bunch of luck.”

Meretzky recently redesigned a meta game for GSN Grand Casino on Android. It was a suite of mini-casino games, wrapped in a larger meta game with achievements and rewards that motivate people to come back to the game. If that meta game is successful, it keeps customers coming back, and it makes it harder for people to switch casually from one company’s casino game to another’s, Meretzky said.

“You want to design casino games that give the player a reason to come back,” Meretzky said.

Steve Meretzky of GSN Games

Above: Steve Meretzky of GSN Games

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi



ITbits: Bushel Helps Small Companies Manage Apple Devices

Julio Ojeda-Zapata tries Bushel, a new JAMF Software service aimed at small businesses needing to manage Apple devices. It has promise for modest-sized, tech-challenged companies.

 

Read the full article at TidBITS, the oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet. To get a full-text RSS feed, help support our work and become a TidBITS member! Members also enjoy an ad-free version of our Web site, email delivery of individual articles, the ability to make long comments with live links, and discounts on Take Control orders and other Apple-related products.

Time for the Prize: Aging in Place

Aging in Place is a growing issue facing the world. As the population begins to live longer, healthier lives we need to continue developing assistive technologies that will facilitate independence and safe living long into our twilight years. That is the topic of this week’s Time for the Prize. Enter your idea for Aging in Place by starting a project on Hackaday.io and tagging it 2015HackadayPrize. Do this by next Monday and you’re in the running for this week’s awesome prizes.

What is Aging in Place?

I use the “define:” search term on Google all the time and for Aging in Place it turns up the Center for Disease Control’s definition:

“the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

I love this definition. How easy is it to get behind the concept of better quality of life for all as we age? Still not getting the thought process flowing? After listing the prizes I’ll illustrate a couple of projects that will give you a good idea of what people are working on.

This Week’s Prizes

aging-in-place-prizes

We’ll be picking three of the best ideas based on their potential to help alleviate a wide-ranging problem, the innovation shown by the concept, and its feasibility. First place will receive a RE:load Pro programmable constant current load. Second place will receive a Sparkfun Microview. Third place will receive a Hackaday CRT-android head tee.

 Hacks that Help

pill-reminderrx-timer-capsThe easiest examples I can think of relate to medicine. A lot of the time people can be independent and high-functioning as long as they take the right medicine at the right time. The simplest way to ensure this is to use technology that helps track medication schedules. Pill reminders can monitor a pill case, sending reminders to you if you miss your schedule, and alertimg family or caretakers if you don’t respond to the reminder.

We’ve also seen technology built right into the cap of the prescription bottle. These caps have a timer that resets to zero every time the bottle is opened. But anyone who has taken several medicines on different time schedules can tell you that this can still be very confusing. We wonder if anyone can prototype a system that would use computer vision to verify and log the pills each time you take them?

Of course the prescription reminders are just one of a multitude of low-hanging fruit. Safety is another aspect. Here’s an entry that seeks to give peace of mind that the stove is off for those dealing with Alzheimer’s or memory issues.

Now you see what we’re getting at. What ideas do you have that can move the goal of Aging in Place forward?

Filed under: contests, Featured, The Hackaday Prize

The Best Environment-related Prize Projects

Last week we challenged you to post your idea on environment-related solutions for the 2015 Hackaday Prize. We’ve gone through every entry and have chosen this week’s winners. What a tough process, there are so many interesting ideas to consider that we’ve done a round-up of some that held our attention.

Bosch Haber Process
Bosch Haber Process

Energy Saving

Conservation was at the center of these projects and [Peter Walsh] is thinking large scale to improve the Bosch-Haber process. This process is used as a source of nitrogen for fertilizers and consumes 1% of all energy worldwide. Even small efficiency advances could have a huge effect.

From profound to whimsical, [TomaCzar] has an alarming solution to leaving the lights on. We enjoy his preamble about his family moving to Earth from a planet with unlimited energy (hence their habit of leaving the lights on). He plans to add an audible alarm to any light that is switched on for more than 10 minutes.

Energy Production

Those huge solar farms that use arrays of mirrors to focus the sun’s light on a central tower leverage a techique called Concentrated Solar Power. Traditionally they store heat in a pool of liquid salt for generating power around the clock. [PUNiSH3R] has a plan to build his own on a micro-scale. The Portable Micro-CHP will use similar concepts (less the molten salt) in a package small enough to be transported by a single human.

Undeveloped parts of the planet have huge problems when it comes to bootstrapping an electrical grid. [hickss] thinks blimps might be one way to alleviate the problem. The DayBreaker project will tether blimps to the ground, with a hydrogen feed supplied through electrolysis which keeps them afloat. While high in the air they can catch higher winds using a turbine and transfer the electricity back to the ground using the same tether.

Rounding out energy producing examples is the Domestic Geothermal Stirling Power Unit. We’ve seen geothermal systems that use heat exchangers to heat or cool your home. [Shrad] ponders the idea of also using the loops of circulating fluid to feed a Stirling engine that could help supply power to the home.

Way Out There Ideas

Is this parking lot a power plant waiting to happen?
Is this parking lot a power plant waiting to happen?

There were a number of interesting concepts that we think are well worth considering and debating. It’s hard to say if these are all feasible, but tossing the ideas around is just the kind of interaction that could lead to a big breakthrough. For instance, the image seen here is a freshly paved and painted asphalt parking lot. Asphalt Heat Harvesting imagines the Peltier effect being used on a large scale by embedding metal networks between layers of the pavement. A heat differential between the surface and the base layer could produce electricity.

We’re at a loss for understanding how the Open Source Modular Absorption Refrigeration Unit actually works. It seeks to supply refrigeration using a heat source instead of electricity. The diagram looks promising and we think OSMARU is a solid acronym!

Remember The Hunt for Red October? If so, you certainly remember the caterpillar drive which made the submarine virtually silent. [N-Monkeys] wants to use that and ocean water as a generator rather than a locomotive device. Check out Project InchWorm.

This Week’s Winners

time-for-the-prize-environment

First place this week goes to Improve the Bosch-Haber process and will receive the SmartMatrix 32×32 RGB LED matrix along with a Teensy 3.1 to drive it.

Second place this week goes to DayBreaker and will receive a Bus Pirate and probe cable.

Third place this week goes to Domestic Geothermal Stirling Power Unit and will receive a Hackaday Robot Head Tee.

Congratulations to all three! We think it’s important to mention we are judging the idea on its ability to solve something affecting a wide range of people, its level of innovation, and the feasibility of the concept. There is no requirement at this point to have built anything or completed the documentation. Don’t be afraid to write down your own brainstorm… it might just win you a prize!

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas collection of entries may have inspired.

This week’s theme is Aging in Place. Check out the announcement post for details.

Coming up with that killer concept is a matter to thinking in different ways and interacting with other Hackers, Designers, and Engineers to help make the mental leap to greatness!


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Filed under: contests, roundup, The Hackaday Prize

Measure as Little as You Want with openQCM

The clever folks over at [Novaetech SRL] have unveiled openQCM, their open-source quartz crystal microbalance. A QCM measures very minute amounts of mass or mass variation using the piezoelectric properties of quartz crystal. When an object is placed on the surface of this sensor, the changes in the crystal’s resonant frequency can be detected and used to determine its mass in a variety of experimental conditions (air, vacuum, liquid). However, most QCM technology is proprietary and pricey – at least US$3000 for the microbalance itself. Any consumables, such as additional crystals, cost several hundred dollars more.

The openQCM has a sensitivity of 700 picograms. At its core is an Arduino Micro with a custom PCB. The board contains a 10K thermistor for temperature offset readings and the driver for a Pierce oscillator circuit. The quartz crystal frequency is determined by hacking the timer interrupts of the Arduino’s ATmega32u4. An external library called FreqCount uses the clock to count the number of pulses of the TTL signal in a 1 second time frame. This yields quartz crystal frequency resolution of 1Hz. The user interface is built in Java so that data can be read, plotted, and stored on your computer. The entire casing is 3D-printed, and it appears that the sensors are standard oscillator crystals without
their cases.

Simplistic design makes assembly and maintenance a breeze. It only weighs 55 grams. Replacing the quartz crystal requires no special tools due to the clip system. The openQCM can be used as a single unit, or in multiples to form a network for all of your precise measurement needs. While they have kits available that will set you back US$500, all of the files and schematics for 3D-printing, assembly, and the PCB are available on the openQCM site for free.

[Special Thanks to Augustineas for sending us this tip!]

 

 

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, chemistry hacks

Google brings DRM and ‘previewing without sign-in

google_drive_logo


Today Google announced a handful of updates rolling out to Drive users, including DRM management and new file sharing options.

Primarily, these updates were designed for businesses. In total, Google’s giving Drive for Work users more sophisticated file sharing settings; the ability to prevent files from being downloaded, copied, or printed; and custom admin alerts.

Only two of the features above — DRM and the ability to share files with non-Drive users — will roll out to all users. The rest, Google tells us, will be limited to Google Drive for Work and Google Apps for Work customers.


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Inside ESPN’s first redesign since 2009 — it fi

ESPN.com, circa 2015


ESPN is rolling out a completely redesigned site in time for its 20th anniversary.

For a website with up to 2.3 million visits per hour, this is a big deal.

The former site, in web years, is vintage at six years old. The new one is responsive (it looks good on your phone or tablet), friendlier, socially adept, and otherwise not old as hell. Here’s how the redesigned site looks on an iPad.

ESPN.com on the iPad

Above: The new
ESPN.com, iPad view

So long, old ESPN.com

Before we proceed, I should give the former ESPN.com its due. The site’s actually aged well despite our jabs (sorry to our buddies at ESPN). In fact, ESPN broke traffic records this January with ESPN.com Classic.

The old ESPN.com has apparently done so well that there’s “nothing that says we need to redesign the site,” the company’s product SVP Ryan Spoon told us yesterday. But ESPN believes a new focus on mobile, video, and shareable Material Design-esque content cards will push it over the edge.

As a final hurrah, here’s ESPN’s old site:

The former ESPN.com

Above: The former ESPN.com

A safe, smart redesign

We recently explored the ins and outs of another major media company’s redesign: Bloomberg Business. But where Bloomberg’s new design is beautifully bizarre, led by the company’s jarring design sense, ESPN’s new site is a product of UX tests, data, and modern convention.

Spoon’s team conducted thousands of on-site tests over the past year before arriving at the following results.

ESPN.com on the iPhone ESPN.com on a Mac ESPN.com on the iPad ESPN.com, circa 2015 The new ESPN.com

Playing it safe wasn’t a bad call. Sure, I’d get a kick out of a riskier redesign, but for a site of ESPN’s size and success, tweaking a single button could weaken an exec’s knees — let alone remaking an entire site. For this, we’ll give ESPN a full pass. The redesign is bold enough. Fans are finally getting a fresh site that is far easier to use on any device.

Great work, ESPN. Please do pass Go and collect $200.



Unicorns killed the IPO this quarter

Unicorn


Coming off a big year for IPOs in 2014 and a strong economy, many observers expected that the first three months of 2015 would see the momentum for public stock offerings continue.

Nope.

According to the Q1 stats released today by Renaissance Capital, the U.S. IPO market fell to its slowest pace in two years, despite healthy economic fundamentals. Renaissance said the drop-off for tech-related IPOs was likely due to the growing volume of late-stage capital being pumped into companies like Uber, which has spawned a growing number of private companies with valuations over $1 billion.

In other words: Blame the unicorns.

“Technology IPO issuance was likely
dampened by the widespread availability of private funding at very high valuations, which produced little urgency for companies to seek IPO capital,” said the report from Renaissance.

According to Renaissance, there were 34 IPOs in the U.S. that raised $5.4 billion in the first quarter. That was down from 64 in the same quarter a year ago, and it was the fewest since the first quarter of 2013.

The amount raised was down from $10.6 billion raised in the same period a year ago, and the smallest amount raised in a quarter since Q3 2011.

And within those diminished numbers, biotech and health care accounted for about half the IPOs. Things get uglier when you just look at tech, where there were only 4 IPOs that raised $1.2 billion in the quarter. That includes Box, which got off to a strong start early in the year.

Still, Renaissance said the few tech companies that went public may not have inspired a ton of confidence.

“Because recent
high-profile tech deals like Box, Hortonworks and New Relic came public at valuations below their most recent private financing rounds, some pending VC-backed technology companies may have chosen to delay their IPOs,” the report said.

What’s more, the road ahead is not looking much brighter for IPOs.

“Only 47 companies submitted initial filings in the 1Q 2015, down from 98 in the 1Q 2014,” Renaissance said. “The total IPO pipeline now contains 122 IPOs looking to raise $22 billion, about the same number of deals as one year ago but 33 percent lower in terms of proceeds.”

In the tech sector, Renaissance noted, “There are just five up-to-date technology filers and three consumer deals, indicating the dry spell for these sectors could carry on through April.”