Thursday, May 27, 2010

Amid Backfire, Facebook CEO Overhauls Privacy Settings

Palo Alto, California -- Amid escalating criticism from users, privacy advocates and lawmakers alike -- that the world's largest social-networking site Facebook lacks competent privacy controls, CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday overhauled its privacy controls to fend off dissatisfied users that it is betraying the trust that has made it the world's biggest social network. Now, keeping your personal information underwraps on Facebook just got simpler.

In a news conference at its headquarters, Facebook's 26-year-old founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg addressed the attendees with: “Quite a lot of users are upset with us,” while he took the stock of recent blunders that caused growing pains said as he announced simplified privacy controls.
“It has been a pretty intense few weeks for us, listening to all the feedback coming in from all the changes we have made.” “One of the big lessons we learned from this is: Do not mess with the privacy stuff for a really long time.”

He said that -- “Our engineers and designers are holed up in a conference room in their Palo Alto offices cranking for the last couple of weeks on new privacy settings.”

As Facebook has vehemently expanded into a global behemoth of nearly 500 million users, a boisterous segment of them have taken resentment at new features that make their personal information widely available on the face of the Internet. Many were also discomfited with a dizzying array of more than 100 privacy-setting options, which Facebook has acknowledged can be overwhelming.

Zuckerberg admitted during the press conference that executives at the remarkably successful social networking firm have made mistakes and have communicated badly with users about their privacy concerns.

“We do not pretend that we are perfect,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “We believe in privacy. We believe in giving people control. We try to create new things, hear feedback and respond with changes to that feedback all the time.”

“But more and more, people desirous of sharing the information. As long as they have good control over that, I think that is where the world is going,” said Zuckerberg.

At the conference, Zuckerberg released a revamped privacy settings controls that offers a new one-click options to help subscribers protect their privacy, and “significantly reduce” the amount of information that is always visible to everyone, responding to a hordes of complaints that it had become far too hard to determine and control levels of protection.

Screen shot of Facebook's new privacy controls rolling out over the next few weeks, taken from the social networking site's privacy guide.

The changes, which will be introduced gradually over the next few weeks, mean that one click can block any third-party sites from tapping into Facebook's treasure chest of data on a user. A similar one-click option will allow a user to stop applications on Facebook from digging into user information unless otherwise authorized.

“This is a pretty big redevelopment to the system we already have,” Zuckerberg said while describing the changes during a press briefing at the social network's headquarters in the California city of Palo Alto.

“This alteration certainly indicates that Facebook has put a lot of thought into privacy issues. Their new privacy controls show that they now 'get it' and understand user concerns,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “What I especially like is how they are giving users a way to control what, if anything, is available to third-party Web sites and applications.”

Olds remarked that he is glad that Facebook not only included simplified controls but kept the more complicated, granular controls for users who want to really dive into the experience.

Still, privacy will stand in a way as an issue for Facebook, which was established as a private gathering place for college students but is now in the midst of tremendous expansion as an open computing platform, say privacy experts.

“I view [Facebook] battling between the communities of open communication and those who value privacy,” says Murray Jennex, a professor at San Diego State University.

Tour Facebook's new privacy settings ; Courtesy: Cnet

Yahoo Makes Content Deal With “Farmville” Developers Zynga For Social Gaming

Sunnyvale, California -- Internet pioneer Yahoo seems to be on a tear has agreed to a deal with Zynga, makers of the monumentaly popular Farvmville and Mafia Wars games on Facebook, the alliance will see Yahoo integrating Zynga games across Yahoo's broad range of sites and service offerings, that includes Yahoo's home page, Yahoo Mail, and Yahoo Messenger, which is a significant indication that Zynga will not need Facebook alone to thrive.

Zynga has just announced a new partnership with Yahoo, a major victory for both companies. A representative for Yahoo quoted by WebProNews, “The partnership integrates Zynga's most popular social games across Yahoo!, empowering users to easily play games and access updates across some of its most popular properties including the Homepage, Yahoo! Games, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger and others. The incorporation is part of Yahoo!'s commitment to provide personally relevant experiences to people, from across the Web.”

“Hold your breathe for some exciting and engaging new titles coming to Yahoo that you can easily play with your friends, family, and fellow gamers and share with your networks across Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga,” wrote Yahoo senior director of developer network and social platforms Cody Simms.

“In addition to the recently endorsed Facebook and Twitter integrations, this relationship is a key part of advancing Yahoo!'s social experience that lets people share updates across Yahoo! and other social platforms,” the rep says. “This will motivate deeper user engagement, and create new opportunities for developers as an extension of Zynga's current platforms.”

“Yahoo is concentrating on delivering compelling, personally relevant experiences and social games are core to this experience,” said Yahoo Americas executive VP Hilary Schneider, in a statement. “Zynga will bring top notch social game experiences to Yahoo, including through our open platforms such as Yahoo Application Platform and Yahoo Updates.”

Zynga is popularly known for versions of its hot social games currently available on Facebook. Their titles are also accessible on MySpace and the iPhone.

Yahoo, though battling a lot in recent years, has one of the biggest audiences -- an estimated 600 million users on the planet. Zynga too, is also a Goliath in its own right, claiming to have over 230 million active users play its titles every month, so this partnership may end up benefiting both companies greatly.

This partnership is amongst the latest in a series of alliances and acquisitions the company has been making to strengthen its social and mobile offerings: Yahoo just days back announced a partnership with Nokia, over mapping and messaging software, just bought the Indonesian mobile social network Koprol, and recently announced partnerships with Twitter and Facebook to bring more of its users online social lives into the Yahoo framework.

Zynga games are expected to roll out across the Yahoo network in the coming months. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Google Announces Chrome Stable For Linux, Mac

Mountain View, California -- Google has moved the latest version of Chrome 5 for Windows out of beta and also announced stable versions of Chrome for Mac and Linux, and upgraded the browser for the first time withmany new features and speed, since launching the Web browser's fifth revision in less than two years.

The latest Windows version operates JavaScript 30% to 35% faster than the earlier version, according to Google. The new stable release for Mac and Linux empowers users to synchronize bookmarks and browser preferences across multiple computers and platforms so consumers can feel at home no matter which machine they work on. Preferences include color themes, homepage, startup settings, Web content settings and page zoom settings.
According to, the release also resolves “at least two 'high risk' vulnerabilities and several security-related denial-of-service crashes.”

“Our stable release also combines HTML5 features such as Geolocation APIs, App Cache, web sockets, and file drag-and-drop,” wrote Google on its Chrome blog on May 25.

The browser also offers several HTML5-based features, gains lots of attention recently as the centerpiece of an ongoing dispute between Apple and Adobe, which includes geolocation APIs, App Cache, Web sockets, and attachment drag-and-drop in Gmail. Although Adobe's Flash player was integrated into the development versions of Chrome 5, it has been touch-and-go in the beta versions and has not yet made it to the stable release of Chrome 5. The developer's version is now on version 6.

Apple has refused to support Flash on the iPhone or iPad.

“For a taste of HTML5's powerful features, try browsing through websites developed in HTML5 such as, dragging and dropping attachments in Gmail, or by enabling the geolocation functionality in Google Maps. We have also given Chrome's bookmark manager a facelift with HTML5.”

According to data released by NetMarketShare in April, Chrome had a market share of around 6.73 percent, while rival browsers IE (59.95%) Firefox (24.59%), Safari (4.72%) and Opera (2.30%) joined Chrome in the list of top five most used browsers. The latest release is now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Chrome v5.0.375.55 includes support for extensions and themes, improved bookmark management and synchronization, browser preferences syncing, and the most recent stable updates to Chrome's trailblazing JavaScript engine, V8.

Google allows Street View car inspection

giant Google is to allow German data protection officers to examine one of its controversial Street View cars, which collect data for its online mapping service, the company announced Thursday.

Earlier this month, German officials were highly critical of a data protection gaffe which enabled the Google's vehicles to collect snippets of private data on unencrypted wifi networks as they trawled the streets gathering information to appear on Street View.
The decision came after Hamburg data protection officer Johannes Caspar asked to inspect a Street View vehicle, when Google admitted the error earlier this month.

"Since we announced two weeks ago that we wrongly recorded wifi user data, we are globally working hard to address the associated concerns of data protection authorities," Google wrote in a statement.

The US company also agreed in principle for Caspar to see an original hard drive
from a Street View vehicle, but said they first had to resolve legal issues over the private data contained on such a hard drive.

"We hope that a solution for this difficult situation will be found soon," Google said.

Hamburg-based prosecutors have launched an initial investigation into the data collection gaffe.

Facebook overhauls privacy settings

San Francisco : Social networking site Facebook introduced a new set of privacy controls Wednesday in an attempt to quell criticism that it was lax about protecting users' personal information.

The new controls are featured in a streamlined privacy panel that allows users much easier management of who can access their information.

"We believe in privacy. We believe in giving people control," Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg said at a press conference to announce the overhaul.
"But more and more, people want to share information. As long as they have good control over that, I think that's where the world is going".

The new settings feature a single control that limits who can see the content posted by a Facebook user, and allow users to control who sees their list of friends and their personal pages - information that was previously available to all Facebook users.

"We've heard that people want a simple way to take control of their information," Zuckerberg said. "We looked at a video someone posted about how many steps it took to stop sharing their information, and we thought, 'Yeah, that's too much.'"

Facebook is making it easier for users to opt out of instant participation on Facebook's partner sites. Zuckerberg said users can quickly and easily choose a setting that won't allow their information to be shared with third-party websites. The sharing of content will also apply to Facebook products launched in the future, he said.

Criticism of Facebook has been building since December, when the company introduced new settings that automatically shared more user information unless users took convoluted steps to opt out. In addition to the company's official policies, several security snafus allowed friends to snoop on users' Facebook chats and see which partner websites they had been surfing.

Apple's iPad hits Japan in international launch

TOKYO,  Apple Inc's iPad made its overseas debut on Friday, with buyers storming Japanese and Australian shops to be among the first outside the United States to snap up the long-awaited tablet PC. The device, which has a 9.7-inch color touchscreen for surfing the Web, watching movies, playing games and reading e-books, also goes on sale in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, the UK and Canada later on Friday. At Apple's flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district, about 1,200 people lined up before the store opened at 8 a.m.
    ''I wanted to touch it as soon as possible. I felt a true excitement when it was finally in my hands,'' said Takechiyo Yamanaka, a 19-year-old who camped out in front of the Ginza store from Wednesday evening to be the first in line. Apple has sold a million iPads in the U.S. since its April 3 debut, exceeding even the most bullish pre-launch estimates. Demand was so heavy the company had to delay the international roll-out by a month. Enthusiasm for the iPad in Japan, the world's second-largest economy, is good news for Apple as international sales are increasingly important for the maker of the Macintosh computer and  iPhone. An iPad model with 16 gigabytes of memory and WiFi-capability is selling for 48,800 yen ($537) in Japan, compared with $499 in the

    Apple gets almost three-fifths of its revenue from overseas now, and is seeing stunning growth in Europe and Asia. On Wednesday, Apple shot past Microsoft Corp as the world's biggest technology company based on market value, the latest milestone in the resurgence of the maker of the iPhone, which
nearly went out of business in the 1990s.

    Analysts said the iPad was sure to match the success seen in the U.S. in overseas markets, helped by a large base of Apple fans who already own the iPod or iPhone. RBC Capital Markets estimates iPad's total shipments will reach 8.13 million units worldwide by the end of this year. Apple does not provide iPad sales forecasts. But analysts also warned Apple may struggle to supply enough of the device and noted competition from faces a spate of competitors set to significantly expand the number of rival offerings in the tablet market this year. ''It's a little bit hard to say because there's still going to be supply constraint, but I'm expecting them to sell every single thing they can ship,'' Andy Hargreaves, a U.S.-based analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said ahead of the overseas launch.

    On Tuesday, Dell unveiled its Streak tablet computer that can double as a mobile phone and will have a front-facing camera for videoconferencing. Sony Corp said on Thursday it would launch an e-reader in Japan by year-end. Application providers and telecoms firms in Japan are losely watching the arrival of iPad for business opportunities. In Japan, where 476,000 iPads are expected to be shipped this year, according to RBC, Apple suspended taking pre-orders
of the device after only three days due to a supply shortage. Dentsu Inc, Japan's top advertising firm, which operates an online book store to distribute magazines such as Newsweek Japan to smart phones including the iPhone, plans to distribute content to the iPad. NTT Docomo, Japan's biggest mobile phone operator, will sell wireless LAN routers for the iPad's Wi-Fi connection next month to rival No.3 operator Softbank, which exclusively provides 3G networks for iPad.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to Get Notified When Someone Hacks Your Facebook

Facebook just announced a tool that notifies you by e-mail or SMS text message when someone logs into your Facebook profile from an unknown computer.

The idea is to help you recognize when a hacker has broken into your account so you can respond quickly by either changing your password (if that’s still possible) or contacting Facebook.

Once you enable the notifications, you’ll be required to identify each computer you use to log in when you first use it and choose whether or not it’s a private or public machine. You’ll be able to see a history of registrations from machines potentially used by hackers, and of course those hackers will be forced to type something into the identification field to get in, so you should be able to tell whether it was just a login that you forgot or not.

Here’s a quick guide to turning this feature on and using it.

Step 1: Go to Account Settings and Enable Notifications

When you’re logged into Facebook, you’ll see the word “Account” in the top right corner of the browser window. Click there to get a drop-down menu of options, then click on “Account Settings,” as pictured below.

You’ll end up looking at a page that lists ways you can customize your account, including “Name,” “Password,” “Linked Accounts” and “more.” As long as you don’t navigate away from the “Settings” tab, you’ll see “Account Security” close to the bottom of the list. Click “change” on the right to show the following option:

Check “Yes” when you see the prompt, “Would you like to receive notifications for logins from new devices?” Then click “Save.” The feature is turned on. Now we’ll show you how to use it.

Step 2: Log In and Register Your Computer

The settings won’t be customizable until you register the computer you’re logged in with, so you’ll have to first log out and then log back in. You can do this from the “Accounts” button in the top-right corner, as we mentioned before. When you log in again, you’ll see a screen titled “Register this computer.”

Type the name of the computer in (it can be anything you want as long as it’s something you’ll recognize and remember), and choose whether you want Facebook to remember this computer or not.

Facebook suggests a good rule of thumb: If the computer is a public one (like one you’d use at a library, a shared work computer or a machine in your school’s computer lab), leave the box unchecked so it will have to be registered each time a new login occurs, leading to an e-mail or text notification.

If it’s a machine you use every day, then go ahead and check the box; you probably don’t want to receive an email every time you log into Facebook from a safe place!

Now that your computer is registered, you can see more options when you revisit the “Account Settings” page where you first enabled the notifications. You’ll see a history of registrations; it won’t record every time you log into a computer that’s already registered, but it will record every new registration, which should include at least the first time any hacker logs in.

You can check or uncheck the option to have the immediate notifications sent to your cell phone via text message in addition to the basic email option.

TweetDeck Heading to Mobile Web Browsers

Popular Twitter client TweetDeck  announced today its plans to make TweetDeck into a browser-based mobile application that can run on a variety of devices. By focusing on building an application for the mobile browser — rather than native platforms — TweetDeck hopes it can get on more devices and increase efficiency in the process.

TweetDeck (TweetDeck) already has apps for the iPhone (iPhone) and iPad, with plans for an Android (Android) app also in the works. However, for the hundreds of millions of smartphones out there that aren’t iPhone or Android models, the development process is more complicated, and thus a web app is a better alternative.

By creating a web app, TweetDeck will be able to support Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian and webOS handsets. The mobile web app strategy has other benefits too, including improved battery life and overall performance.

Right now, it looks like TweetDeck is building a basic mobile website that will provide custom hooks for JavaScript and CSS for different platforms. That way the Palm Pre, which has a more advanced browser than, say, a BlackBerry Curve 8320, can offer its users a more interactive and robust experience. The BlackBerry user can still enjoy the app, but it will be tailored to the device’s screen size and browser capabilities.
Fits with TweetDeck’s Overall Vision

Tweekdeck’s plan for a mobile web app aligns well the company’s desktop application strategy. Built using Adobe Air (adobe AIR), TweetDeck is designed to be cross-platform — it can run on Macs as well as PCs running Windows (Windows) or Linux (Linux). However, just as TweetDeck plans to make concessions and adjustments for mobile platforms, the company has also made tweaks with its desktop product to improve performance in different environments (like in Mac OS X).

There are pros and cons to doing cross-platform development on a shared codebase, but for development teams with more limited resources, the approach is attractive because it lets developers focus more on making iterative improvements to the software rather than creating and maintaining separate programs for each platform.

If anything, this strategy works even better in the mobile browsing space, not just because of the way that different platforms and rendering engines can be targeted, but also because of the additional level of overhead involved with mobile app creation. Each application has its own platform, its own app store, its own rules and procedures for issuing updates, and its own set of supported operating systems. It’s much easier to build an application targeted for mobile browsers and then add or omit features based on what type of device is accessing the page.

If you’re interested in beta testing TweetDeck for mobile browsers, you can throw your hat in the ring by replying to this support ticket.

We’re not sure how TweetDeck for the mobile web will measure up against native mobile apps, but it will certainly make the application available on many more devices.

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

There’s only one person who Twitter loves more than Justin Bieber, and that’s Mom. Her special day came in at number one on this week’s top trends list.

Even after the results of the UK’s general election were in, the new coalition government remained on the minds of many tweeters this week. Sports (sports), music and movies took home the rest of the list, which you can view below, courtesy of our friends at What The Trend. Because this is a topical list, hashtag memes and games have been omitted from the chart.

You can check past Twitter trends in our Top Twitter Topics section as well as read more about this past week’s trends on What The Trend.

Top Twitter Trends This Week: 5/8 – 5/14

Top Index This Week
Previous Peak Index
Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was celebrated on Sunday May 9, 2010 (in Canada, USA, Australia (), Italy, Venezuela, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa & The Netherlands).
Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber & Charice appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show May 11th.
In the UK, the Conservative Party has joined forces with the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government.
Super Junior

BONAMANA is new single from Korean Boyband Super Junior. Their fans E.L.F (everlasting friends) are celebrating their comeback.

Cruzeiro lost to São Paulo. Chelsea FC played Wigan, and countries are announcing their FIFA World Cup lineup.
Fans tweeting about the NBA playoffs. LeBron James trended highest because of his sub par performance in the game against the Celtics.
Iron Man 2 (Movie ())
Iron Man 2, the sequel to the incredibly popular 2008 original, was released on May 7th in North America in both regular format and IMAX 3D formats.

People are thanking Jesus Christ.
Betty White

On 5/08/10, 88-year-old Betty White hosted SNL thanks to a campaign started on Facebook.
Robert Pattinson

It’s Robert Pattinson’s birthday. The English actor, best known for his role in the file "Twilight ()," turned 24.

Twitter Improves Trending Topic Algorithm: Bye Bye, Bieber!

Twitter has updated the algorithm behind its popular Trending Topics feature, changing the focus from the most discussed items to what is “most breaking” and “immediately popular.”

Twitter confirmed to Mashable that on Wednesday it made updates to improve the relevancy of trending topics. In the past, trending topics were dominated by consistently popular items (e.g. Justin Bieber) with little regard as to what was “hot” at any given moment.

Here’s how Twitter explained the new changes in an update to the Help section:

    “The new algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world. (We had previously built in this ‘emergent’ algorithm for all local trends, described below.) We think that trending topics which capture the hottest emerging trends and topics of discussion on Twitter are the most interesting.”

Twitter quickly goes on to say that the algorithm is a “work in progress” — a.k.a. it’s not going to weed out every random trending topic or catch all breaking news. The company also makes it clear that the algorithm doesn’t block any topics from trending. This is essentially a response to the countless Justin Bieber fans complaining that Bieber is no longer a trending topic.

The move is a good one, but one the company should have made long ago. The value of trending topics has dropped for many over the last few years. Perhaps this change will make them relevant again.

New Entry-Level MacBook Leaked

A Vietnamese website — the same one that got hold of another Apple 4G iPhone last week — has posted a video and details about the new entry-level MacBook 7.1.

The machine’s CPU was upgraded to a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, increased from 2.26GHz in the previous generation, and graphics were given a shot in the arm with a NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU. These updates will be the first for the MacBook since October 2009, when the notebook got a longer battery life and overall design reworking.

Apple’s recent round of laptop refreshes has thus far included upgrades to the MacBook Pro, including a standard 4GB of RAM and a choice between Intel’s i5 and i7 processors on larger models. Similar CPU and graphics changes appear to be trickling down to standard MacBooks, as well. Upgrades to the MacBook Air were also rumored but have yet to surface as fact.

Here’s a video of the alleged new MacBook being unboxed and its specs discussed:

And here are the pics that put the proof in the alleged pudding:

Happy 50th birthday to the laser

It was dismissed by some scientists as "a solution looking for a problem."

But when the first working laser was rolled out 50 years ago this week -- developed at California's Hughes Research Laboratory -- it didn't take long for the hyperfocused beams of light to find work.

Having fascinated science-fiction fans since the origins of ray guns in the late 1800s, lasers (literally "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation") have become common in modern life.

From talking on the telephone to listening to a CD, laser technology makes a lot of what we do happen.

"Everyone has some sort of connection every single day to lasers -- even if most people have no idea what that connection is," said Mark Bronski, manager of laser production at German-based TRUMPF Inc., the largest manufacturer of industrial lasers in North America.

Regret that bad tattoo from the '80s? Want to watch a DVD or listen to a compact disc? Tired of your eyeglasses or contacts?

A laser can help.

And, remember those Pink Floyd concerts with mind-altering laser light shows?

In basic terms, a laser is any device that creates a narrow, intense beam of light, then amplifies that beam.

The atoms of a physical substance, usually a crystal, are charged up while mirrors at both ends of the laser reflect the energy back and forth to strengthen it.

The "ruby laser," so-called because physicist Theodore Maiman used a ruby rod to make it, was first used on May 16, 1960.

Maiman's first scientific article about the discovery was turned down. While the second was awaiting publication, the laboratory went to the press with the news, prompting scientists who hadn't seen his complete findings to initially dismiss the discovery as insignificant.

There's no way to list everything lasers do. (Although, we do suggest another look at the world's largest laser, currently working to save -- not destroy -- the Earth).

But here's a rundown of just a few applications for lasers, and a nod to where laser technology might go next.

Laser surgery

From a high-tech update to the old nip-tuck to eye treatment that can eliminate the need for glasses or contacts, lasers are often used in surgery.

Carbon-dioxide lasers and others are used to remove unwanted tissue -- from tumors, warts and tattooed skin -- and create incisions that are less intrusive, less painful and leave less scarring than traditional surgery.


At planetarium domes everywhere, starry-eyed fans have enjoyed laser light displays for decades. The shows combine beam effects -- which sweep through the air -- and screen effects, which create images, patterns and shapes on a wall or other fixed object.

At Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, near Atlanta, Georgia, more than 20 million people have watched a laser show projected onto the massive granite mound.

Billed as the world's longest-running laser show, it offers a "dazzling display of neon laser lights featuring characters, stories, graphics and fireworks choreographed to popular musical scores," according to spokeswoman Jeanine Jones.

For the more active set, there's laser tag.

Adopted by the U.S. Army in the late '70s for training, laser tag was offered in crude form in toys around the same time. In 1984, two recreational laser tag centers were opened in Texas.

At most laser-tag venues, teams with laser guns scramble around an indoor course, shooting at each other in the near-dark. Technology varies somewhat, but, generally, laser tag uses infrared signaling to track lasers and determine whether they've hit their target -- usually a vest worn by the player.


Most of us probably don't think of lasers being involved in our telephone conversations or internet use. But they are.

Fiber optics -- the ultrathin, glass cables used to carry digital information for phones, computers and cable TV -- use laser-generated pulses of light to carry that data at incredibly high speeds.

For computer users, communications companies claim that fiber-optic connections can download music, videos and other files to computers 25 times faster than traditional cable -- at least in the places where it's available.

The fervor over the upcoming Google Fiber project shows that lots of folks are eager to give laser-powered, in-home fiber a try.

CDs and DVDs

Tiny lasers are at work any time you turn on a disc player.

Whether audio or video, these players focus a laser beam on a series of bumps on the disc. The way the different bumps reflect that light determines the sound and images.

And when your CD skips? That's because the laser can't read data through a dirty or scratched outer layer -- although it's probably not the laser's fault that the disc is dirty or scratched in the first place.

So, what's next?

Scientists in all sorts of fields are experimenting with more uses for lasers.

The U.S. Air Force is pondering an airborne laser defense system, albeit one with a high-flying price tag.

Lasers are also being used in technologies such as holographs, new energy sources and space exploration.

And like personal computers, says Bronski, lasers are shrinking.

"Lasers that used to fill up a small-sized room are now the size of a desk," he said. "We'll see that trend continue in the future -- things getting smaller while maintaining their outputs or increasing their outputs."

So, does that mean that handheld lasers could be around the corner? You know -- the kind Han Solo says always trump hokey religions and ancient weapons?

"Those technologies might not be so far off," Bronski said. "At some point, it might be possible to make a much smaller package for these laser devices ... like little phasers or whatever."

Some quitting Facebook as privacy concerns escalate

Concerns over Facebook's new privacy policy and the online social network's recent efforts to spread its information across the Web have led some of the site's faithful to delete their accounts -- or at least to try to.

On Wednesday's episode of a podcast called This Week in Technology, host Leo Laporte, a well-known tech pundit, said he had to search wikiHow, a how-to site, to figure out how to delete his Facebook account permanently.

After finding the delete button, which he said is hidden deep within the site's menus, Laporte proceeded to delete his account during the online broadcast.

"That's it. It's gone," he said during the show. "And I think that's the right thing to do."

It's unclear how many people have chosen to delete their Facebook accounts in recent weeks. The popular social network doesn't publish statistics on how many people quit the site.

But there has been much uproar online about Facebook's alleged lack of concern for the privacy of its users' personal information, and its clear that some people have become so upset that they're leaving the networking site, which has more than 400 million members.

Still, the account deletions likely aren't numerous enough to affect the site's overall size. Facebook spokeswoman Annie Ta said in an e-mail that Facebook has grown by more than 10 million active users since late April.

iReport: Are you done with Facebook?

In recent weeks, the site has been hit with several privacy bugs and scares that, among other things, made private chat conversations briefly visible to Facebook friends. And on April 21, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new Facebook feature called the "Open Graph," which essentially brings Facebook-like functionality to a number of websites. is one of several dozen sites that partner with Facebook to display and share users' interests.

Some Facebook users, including Sam Schreiber, say they are bothered by the fact that their online preferences are showing up all over the internet now, instead of just on

Schreiber, a 24-year-old who considers herself social-media savvy, says she may delete her account soon because she doesn't understand Facebook's privacy settings well enough to know that her information is being kept safe.

"People already use them like it's crack, so I don't see what the next step is aside from world domination," she said. "So I just think it's too much."

She was particularly concerned when one of her Facebook friends saw on the music site Pandora that she likes the band "New Found Glory."

"I was like, that's really creepy. I haven't logged in. I didn't give it permission. I didn't do anything," she said.

Schreiber said she tried to change her Facebook privacy settings to keep that from happening again, but had to turn to news articles for information about how to do so, which she thought was unreasonable.

Facebook: Read the site's privacy policy

Facebook appears to be rattled a bit by these changes. The blog All Facebook reports that the site's executives called an "all hands" meeting Thursday to discuss its privacy policy in light of recent criticism.

And there are rumors that the site may amend its policies, as CNET reports.

The site has had its detractors before. Each time Facebook makes changes to its privacy policy, thousands of users tend to complain.

But interest in deleting Facebook accounts appears to be rising.

If you type in the phrase "How do I" on Google, one of the first suggested searches that comes up is "How do I delete my Facebook account," a factoid discovered by Danny Sullivan, a blogger at Search Engine Land.

Sullivan looked at similar searches over time and published a graph that shows searches about deleting Facebook accounts have been on the rise sharply since 2009.

"Yes, there's definitely a rising trend," he writes in a blog post on the matter. "Over time, more and more searches at Google have involved [deleting Facebook accounts], it appears. In fact, if you go back to Google and start typing in 'del,' you get 'delete facebook account' as the top suggestion."

A number of tech pundits, including Laporte, have also written recently about deleting or deactivating their accounts.

The blog Silicon Alley Insider posted a list of these on Friday with a headline that says, "Suddenly, everyone is quitting Facebook!"

The blog lists Peter Rojas of the blog GDGT and Matt Cutts from Google as among those who have deleted or deactivated their accounts.

That blog also posted a list of 10 reasons most people will not be able to part with their Facebook accounts, an apparent nod to the fact that, as Facebook continues to grow and to spread into other websites, it may become necessary to have an active Facebook account to make full use of the Web.

The New York Times also reports that people who once made a career promoting Facebook now may cancel their accounts. The newspaper says Deanna Zandt, author of a book called "Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking," may delete hers.

"It's getting harder and harder for me to say, yes it's worth it, you're giving up your privacy to get these services, and I have to put my money where my mouth is," she told the paper.

Tech blogs have asked whether a "Great Facebook Deactivation Wave" is about to take off, and have listed reasons people should ditch the popular site.

Meanwhile, there is a second set of concerns about how difficult it is to delete your Facebook account if and when you decide that's what you'd like to do.

Facebook says on its website that you can "deactivate" your account by following these steps:

"To deactivate your account, navigate to the 'Settings' tab on the Account Settings page," the site says. "Deactivation will remove your profile and content associated with your account from Facebook. In addition, users will not be able to search for you or view any of your information."

But the social network will hold onto your photos and posts if you only "deactivate" your account.

If you want to completely "delete" your account -- meaning that all of your information will be deleted from view, although some of it may remain on Facebook's servers for a bit -- you can follow these instructions from wikiHow.

The user-edited site lists several methods for deleting a Facebook account. One of them is a seven-step process.

In his podcast, Laporte said one of the main reasons he felt he needed to delete his Facebook account is that having one gives his friends and family members an incentive to join, too.

And, because many people don't understand that everything on Facebook can be public, Laporte doesn't think it's responsible to have an account. By having a Facebook page, he said, "I'm coercing people I'm in relationships with to do something bad.

Facebook launches new security feature

(CNN) -- Facebook has announced a new security feature that aims to keep hackers from tapping into users' personal information.

The change comes amid rising concerns about privacy and security on the online social network, which has 400 million members worldwide.

The new feature, announced Thursday, makes Facebook a bit more like an online banking site. Users can identify certain "approved" computers and mobile phones that are allowed to access their Facebook accounts. If an unauthorized device tries to log in, the user will be notified of that activity by e-mail or text message, allowing them, in theory, to shut down an attack before any information is stolen.

In order to access a Facebook account from a new computer, or from a friend's phone, for example, users may have to answer a security question.

Facebook says the feature is unique in the social networking world.

"We're confident that these new tools and systems will do a lot to prevent unauthorized logins and the nuisance they can cause," Lev Popov, a Facebook software engineer, writes in a company blog post. "As always, though, the first line of defense is you. We need you to help by practicing safe behavior on Facebook and wherever you go online."

Facebook users must choose to activate this change. To do so, log in to Facebook and click the "Account" button at the top right of the screen. From that menu, select "Account Settings." Scroll down to "Account Security" at the bottom of the page and click the link that says "change."

The site asks: "Would you like to receive notifications for logins from new devices?" If you would like to receive such updates, then click the button by "yes."

Facebook has come under fire in recent weeks for changes to its privacy policy and its announcement of the "open graph," which essentially extends Facebook's social features onto a number of other websites, including

Some users have complained they are uneasy about their personal preferences showing up on sites other than Recently, an unknown number of people, including some notable tech pundits, have deleted or deactivated their Facebook accounts in response to privacy concerns.

Last month, a group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Facebook asking the company, which was started in a Harvard dorm room and is now valued at billions of dollars, to give users more control of their private information.

The new security features do not address the issues most users have been complaining about, such as whether Facebook will keep their information private. Instead, the latest feature aims to protect Facebook users from external hackers. It does not change company policy.

The online media this week jumped on news, confirmed by CNN content partner CNET, that Facebook called an "all-hands" meeting in response to the swell of concern over privacy issues. Facebook makes no mention of this meeting in its blog post, and it remains unclear whether Thursday's changes were a result of that meeting.

Thursday's changes are drawing some skepticism online.

Dan Nosowitz, a blogger at Fast Company, questioned whether Facebook should have made its new privacy setting active by default.

"Oddly, this system is 'opt-in,' meaning by default it's not enabled. You have to dig through Facebook's labyrinthine privacy settings to turn it on," he writes. "This might be a mistake, given how complex and intimidating Facebook's privacy settings already are."

On PC World's website, JR Raphael writes that the changes may not do much to ameliorate the concerns of angry Facebook users: "Facebook has just unveiled a new set of user controls, but it isn't likely to do much in the way of calming anger about the social network's privacy policies."

Let us know what you think of the changes in the comments below. What do you think of Facebook's efforts to integrate into other websites? Do you feel secure when using the site?

I Can't Quit You - Facebook

You see, I use you, Facebook, as part of my job. I'm a journalist and Web producer, and as soon as this blog goes live, I'll be posting a link to it on my professional Facebook page as well as the personal page, not to mention Twitter and Google Buzz, etc., etc.

So unlike the hoards of people that are dropping off Facebook like flies off a hot windowsill (and here are 10 good reasons to do it), I'll still be on site, buzzing around, hoping I don't get burned.

But Facebook, I'm not afraid of you. I know that a lot of my personal information is already out there on the Internet. Just Google my name. And when I surf the Net, I see ads come up for items that I've recently explored on shopping sites. Like those refrigerators. (Listen, I'm buying it at a local scratch-n-dent store, okay? So quit showing me the LG Stainless Steel French Door refrigerator in the right margin. I've got it covered.)

And I'm also used to having to "opt out" of choices, as opposed to opting in. Just this morning, I bought a magazine subscription for my roommate as a birthday present and I was told in small print that by making the purchase, which was just a 1-year subscription, that I was agreeing to renew the subscription annually and authorizing them to charge my credit card indefinitely or until the end of time, whichever came first.

So I'm not shocked by your behavior. You're pushing the limits, and I suspect that in a couple of years, no one will care. Sure everyone is all up in arms today because it's new and people feel threatened. But you're betting on the future, aren't you Facebook? We'll all become complacent drones in a society where all of our demands are met by us just existing. Bring on the Soma.

Nonetheless, I'm taking precautions, Facebook. And it's not that difficult, despite some of what I've already read suggesting that I have to spend hours and hours digging through menu choices and [GASP!] clicking on links. WHEW! I'm out of breath just thinking about it.

But here's what I did.

  1. I didn't download any apps. I don't play your damn Farmville or Mafia Wars games.  
  2. I took Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a writer at PC World, advice and went to my profile page where I edited down the basic information that shows up under my photo. 
  3. Next, I went to Account > Privacy Settings > Personal Information and Posts and chose "Only Friends" or "Only Me" for the items. I clicked on photos and chose the same.
  4. I made similar choices in Contact Information and Friends, Tags and Connections.
  5. I noticed under Privacy Settings > Search that the most private choice in the pull down offerings was "Only Friends," for who can see my search results on Facebook. I'm unable to chose "Only Me." Why is that, Facebook? I think I know [dataCOUGHmining].
  6. And thanks to this scary story from Dan Tinan, a writer at ITWorld, I paid special attention to the line item controlling what my friends can share about me.
  7. Lastly, I followed Vaughan-Nichols' advice regarding your Instant Personalization Pilot Program and decided to not "Allow select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites." You tried to stop me when I unchecked the box. Don't act like you didn't. I saw the pop-up box with it's warning, and my heart skipped a beat thinking that I might be missing out on something REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. But I'm better that, Facebook. I'm stronger than you.
I know that these efforts might not be good enough. One day I may regret not walking away. But know this: I got my eye on you Facebook. I got my eye on you.