Some Of The Many Things We Are Interested In:

The Private Life of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson will be interviewed on Sunday night’s episode of 60 Minutes.

The interview will air on Oct. 23, the night before Isaacson’s Steve Jobs: A Biography hits bookshelves. Isaacson was given unprecedented access to Jobs and those who knew him. Jobs, who died earlier this month, reportedly told Isaacson that “nothing is off limits” when it came to chronicling his life.

In a special essay for Time subscribers, Isaacson shed some light on why the notoriously private Jobs was finally willing to open up about his life. “I wanted my kids to know me,” Jobs reportedly told Isaacson.

CBS announced the interview segment on its Facebook page. We expect the clip will be available in the official 60 Minutes iPad app shortly after it airs on TV.


Isaacson Discusses Jobs’s Decision to Put Off Surgery

CBS News released a preview of its upcoming Segment on Thursday. The clip includes Isaacson discussing Jobs’s decision to put-off surgery after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The surgery could have saved Jobs’s life. Isaacson says that despite the urgings of his wife and surgeons, Jobs opted to try alternative treatments first. It was a decision he would later regret.


The Sunscreen Pill?

Coral could hold key to sunscreen pill

By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News

Scientists hope to harness coral’s natural defence against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays to make a sunscreen pill for humans.

The King’s College London team visited Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to uncover the genetic and biochemical processes behind coral’s innate gift.

By studying a few samples of the endangered Acropora coral they believe they can synthetically replicate in the lab the key compounds responsible.

Tests on human skin could begin soon.

Before creating a tablet version, the team, led by Dr Paul Long, plan to test a lotion containing the same compounds as those found in coral.

To do this, they will copy the genetic code the coral uses to make the compounds and put it into bacteria in the lab that can rapidly replicate to produce large quantities of it.

Continue reading the main story

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Once we recreate the compounds we can put them into a lotion and test them on skin discarded after cosmetic surgery tummy tucks”

Lead researcher Dr Paul Long

Dr Long said: “We couldn’t and wouldn’t want to use the coral itself as it is an endangered species.”

He said scientists had known for some time that coral and some algae could protect themselves from the harsh UV rays in tropical climates by producing their own sunscreens but, until now, they didn’t know how.

“What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.

“Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection, so it is clearly passed up the food chain.”

Acropora coral sample The reef samples provide clues to how the coral protects itself from the sun

This could ultimately mean that people might be able to get inbuilt sun protection for their skin and eyes by taking a tablet containing the compounds. But for now, Dr Long’s team are focusing their efforts on a lotion.

“Once we recreate the compounds we can put them into a lotion and test them on skin discarded after cosmetic surgery tummy tucks.

“We will not know how much protection against the sun it might give until we begin testing.

“But there is a need for better sunscreens.”

Another long-term goal of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council-funded study is to look at whether the processes could also be used for developing sustainable agriculture in the Third World.

The natural sunscreen compounds found in coral could be used to produce UV-tolerant crop plants capable of withstanding harsh tropical UV light.

 

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Space Junk and Collisions in Orbit

Space debris: Time to clean up the sky

 Fortunately, there have been very few collisions in orbit so far

The US National Research Council’s report on space debris is not the first of its kind.

A wide range of space agencies and intergovernmental organisations has taken a bite out of this issue down the years.

The opinion expressed is always the same: the problem is inescapable and it’s getting worse. It’s also true the tone of concern is being ratcheted up.

There is now a wild jungle of debris overhead – everything from old rocket stages that continue to loop around the Earth decades after they were launched, to the flecks of paint that have lifted off once shiny space vehicles and floated off into the distance.

It is the legacy of more than half a century of space activity. Today, it is said there are more than 22,000 pieces of debris actively being tracked.

These are just the big, easy-to-see items, however. Moving around unseen are an estimated 500,000 particles ranging in size between 1-10cm across, and perhaps tens of millions of other particles smaller than 1cm.

All of this stuff is travelling at several kilometres per second – sufficient velocity for even the smallest fragment to become a damaging projectile if it strikes an operational space mission.

Gravity ensures that everything that goes up will eventually come back down, but the bath is currently being filled faster than the plug hole and the overflow pipe can empty it.

Orbital objects

Man and nature are also conspiring in unexpected ways to make the situation worse. The extra CO2 pumped into the atmosphere down the years has cooled some of its highest reaches – the thermosphere.

This, combined with low levels of solar activity, have shrunk the atmosphere, limiting the amount of drag on orbital objects that ordinarily helps to pull debris from the sky. In other words, the junk is also staying up longer.

DLR DEOS conceptual artwork The German space agency’s DEOS spacecraft could capture rogue satellites

Leaving aside the growth in debris from collisions for a moment, the number of satellites being sent into space is also increasing rapidly.

The satellite industry launched an average of 76 satellites per year over the past 10 years. In the coming decade, this activity is expected to grow by 50%.

The most recent Euroconsult analysis suggested some 1,145 satellites would be built for launch between 2011 and 2020.

A good part of this will be the deployment of communications constellations – broadband relays and sat phone systems.

These constellations, in the case of the second-generation Iridium network, can number more than 60 spacecraft.

By and large, everyone operating in orbit now follows international mitigation guidelines. Or tries to.

These include ensuring there is enough propellant at the end of a satellite’s life so that it can be pushed into a graveyard orbit and the venting of fuel tanks on spent rocket stages so that they cannot explode (a major source of the debris now up there).

Space junk

The goal is to make sure all low-orbiting material is removed within 25 years of launch.

I say “by and large” because there has been some crass behaviour in the recent past. What the Chinese were thinking when they deliberately destroyed one of their polar orbiting satellites in 2007 with a missile is anyone’s guess. It certainly defied all logic for a nation that professes to have major ambitions in space.

The destruction created more than 3,000 trackable objects and an estimated 150,000 debris particles larger than 1cm.

It was without question the biggest single debris-generating event in the space age. It was estimated to have increased the known existing orbital debris population at that time by more than 15%.

A couple of years later, of course, we saw the accidental collision of the Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 satellites. Taken together, the two events essentially negated all the mitigation gains that had been made over the previous 20 years to reduce junk production from spent rocket explosions.

There are lots of ideas out there to clean up space. Many of them, I have to say, look far-fetched and utterly impractical.

Uncertain futureIdeas such as deploying large nets to catch debris or firing harpoons into old satellites to drag them back to Earth are non-starters. If nothing else, some of these devices risk creating more debris than they would remove.

It has been calculated that just taking away a few key spent rocket stages or broken satellites would substantially reduce the potential for collision and cap the growth in space debris over coming decades. And in the next few years we’re likely to see a number of robotic spacecraft demonstrate the rendezvous and capture technologies that would be needed in these selective culls.

The German space agency, for example, is working on such a mission called DEOS that is likely to fly in 2015.

Dr Robert Massey, Royal Astronomical Society: “It is a serious issue”

These approaches are quite complex, however, and therefore expensive. Reliable low-tech solutions will also be needed.

There is a lot of research currently going into deployable sails. These large-area structures would be carried by satellites and rocket stages and unfurled at the end of their missions. The sails would increase the drag on the spacecraft, pulling them out of the sky faster. Somehow attaching these sails to objects already in space is one solution that is sure to be tried.

“There are a number of technologies being talked about to address the debris issue – both from past space activity and from future missions,” says Dr Hugh Lewis, a lecturer in aerospace engineering at Southampton University, UK.

“I think we are a long way off from having something which is reliable, relatively risk-free and relatively low cost.

“There are number of outstanding and fundamental issues that we still have to resolve. Which are the objects we have to target and how many do we remove? Who’s going to pay?

“It is also worth remembering there are a lot of uncertainties in our future predictions. Reports that you read typically present average results; we tend to do ensembles in our simulations and some outcomes are worse than others. So, many issues still need to be addressed, but that dialogue is taking place.

“This report paints quite an alarming picture but I think we can be a bit more upbeat, certainly if we are contemplating removing objects.

“Fortunately, space is big and collisions are still very rare. After all, we’ve only had four known collisions and only one involving two intact objects. It’s still not a catastrophic situation, and we need to be careful about using phrases like ‘tipping point’ and ‘exponential growth’.”

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Linux, Where They Stand Today

At 20, Linux is invisible, ubiquitous

Mark Milian, CNN

San Francisco (CNN) — Ross Turk would be happy to explain the tattoo on his arm.

By now, he’s used to the penguin being met with bewildered stares. It represents, as he’d tell you, the Linux computing software, not the slightly less obscure character from 1950s cartoons.

“A lot of people see it and they think it’s Chilly Willy or something,” the West Hollywood, California, man lamented in a recent interview. “The Linux logo is still kind of grass-roots.”

When the then-21-year-old Turk got the logo etched into his left bicep in 2000, the penguin seemed poised to become mainstream, then appearing frequently in magazines and on the walls in computer stores. But the software market tumbled with the dot-com bust, and so too did the Linux brand, choked by investors’ swift rejection then of the open-source software movement.

Thursday marks 20 years since Linus Torvalds announced on a Web bulletin board that he’d begun working on a free computer operating system. In that message, Torvalds described Linux as “just a hobby, won’t be big and professional.”

Now, two decades later, that market breakthrough doesn’t seem any more attainable. And yet while the Linux name and its penguin mascot failed to go big, the software they embody is more pervasive today than ever.

Linux’s skeleton and spirit live on inside another familiar, adorable mascot: the green robot that represents Google’s Android operating system. That software, which powers 43% of smartphones worldwide, many tablets and the Google TV set-top boxes, was developed with Linux at its core. Google’s Chrome OS for laptops is also based on Linux.

Another mobile system, webOS, sprouted from Linux. Hewlett-Packard says webOS, not the hardware that runs it, is a key asset from its acquisition last year of Palm. This month, HP took steps to discontinue its gadget production arm, but it will keep webOS. HP has discussed licensing the software to other vendors in order to expand webOS’s reach, perhaps into computing platforms on appliances and in cars.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds at the LinuxCon 2011 event earlier this month.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds at the LinuxCon 2011 event earlier this month.

Linux is already commonly installed on refrigerators with built-in TVs, car navigation systems, in-flight entertainment systems, public transit displays, ATMs and countless other machines. The Smart TV from Samsung Electronics, which competes with the Google TV, is also based on Linux. Sony previously allowed tinkerers to install versions of Linux onto their PlayStation consoles.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, Linux is practically everywhere.

“The fact that you don’t have to call it Linux is what makes Linux work,” said Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation. His nonprofit organization was formed to promote Linux development to the industry and sponsors Torvalds’ ongoing work on the platform.

14 million lines of code

Linux can exist in so many places because, rather than being owned by one company, thousands of engineers contribute code to the kernel. (The kernel is the brains and sinew of the software, and Torvalds said in an e-mail that it’s the aspect of his work that he finds most interesting and that he spends most of his time developing.)

No one can claim ownership of Linux, and everyone is free to use it. The software contains 14 million lines of code and is protected by more than 520,000 patents, according to a Linux Foundation report. Governments like the system’s flexibility and decentralized nature.

Technology companies, even giants like Intel and AMD that typically don’t publish schematics for their other products, encourage staff to contribute to and implement code from Linux. Google has carried this philosophy into many parts of its business, though not the ones that make the most money. The company did not respond to a request to make an executive available.

Torvalds initially conceived of Linux as a free alternative to Windows. But the collaborative-development, peace-loving ideologies of Linux were no match for the freewheeling, business-savvy, marketing power of Microsoft.

Linux, as a PC platform in the home, showed promise during the boom a decade ago. But it never came to fruition there, even as Apple’s Mac has emerged as a more serious player.

Instead, Linux became the bastion of geek morality, the king of the fast-growing server industry where Microsoft and Apple also compete with limited success, and the choice platform for supercomputers in laboratories.

In Microsoft’s annual report filed last week to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the software giant revised its statement on competition to declare the war with Linux over. Microsoft no longer perceives Linux as credible competition to Windows, the change suggests, as ZDNet notes.

A ‘sticky’ environment

However, Torvalds isn’t ready to forfeit the PC.

“I’m definitely not indifferent to the desktop market,” Torvalds wrote in an e-mail. “The desktop is a very ‘sticky’ environment: Users really get attached to their environment.”

Several Linux players are still tackling that market, but their efforts amount to only about 1% of desktop usage worldwide. Microsoft controls the lion’s share. Microsoft has been very adept at ensuring that Windows comes as the default operating system installed on most new computers.

“Usage isn’t what matters; mindshare is what matters,” said Jono Bacon, a community manager for Ubuntu, the most popular general-purpose version of Linux. “The biggest challenge we face right now is getting preinstalled on hardware.”

You can’t even fly on an airplane … you can’t use Facebook, you can’t buy a book from Amazon, without running into Linux.
–Alan Clark

OpenSUSE, which makes another Linux desktop platform, and others have been choked by Microsoft’s “strong monopoly on the desktop,” said Alan Clark, an openSUSE director.

“It’s played out differently than I expected, to be honest,” Clark said. “We made some progress, but nothing like anybody envisioned.”

Yet, openSUSE has a comfortable presence in the server market, Clark said.

“Linux is very much pervasive. It’s everywhere. You can’t even fly on an airplane; … you can’t use Facebook; you can’t buy a book from Amazon,” Clark said, “without running into Linux.”

The cult of Linux

Familiarity with Linux became a crucial skill for budding software engineers and server caretakers as far back as the mid-1990s.

When David Bohnett sought a partner in his new Web venture called GeoCities, resulting in one of the largest Internet business deals ever when it went public and then was acquired by Yahoo for $3.6 billion in 1999, his main criteria was an adeptness with Linux programming, Bohnett said in an interview. John Rezner fit the description and shared in the pair’s eventual fortune.

Torvalds, the brain behind Linux, never seemed very interested in fortunes, according to people who know him. The reclusive programming wizard declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed by phone, though he talked openly through e-mail and appeared on stage last week at LinuxCon in Vancouver, Canada.

There, Torvalds was treated like a celebrity. A lover of reclusive scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, he described the general reactions from Linux fans as “just odd.” He wrote: “Sometimes it does get to be a bit overwhelming.”

Clark, from openSUSE, described a memorable meeting with Torvalds.

“The first time he came to Japan, seriously, it was like a rock star arrived, and I could kind of tell it was really overwhelming for him,” Clark said. “He took it in stride.”

The Linux faithful are predominantly male, often nerdy, with strong principles about collaborative development that translate to a belief in a less hierarchal, more cooperative society, according to interviews. For example, Ubuntu’s Bacon has an Android phone, which uses Google’s open-source software, because “the ethical side of me feels like it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s not just a product. It’s an ethos.”

Apple has tried to define its principles in advertising: artistic, noncorporate and able to “think different.” Its brand has been adopted by millions of people.

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Technology has Changed the Creative Team

Redefining the Creative Team

Mike Tittel Mike Tittel,

It’s time to burn the berets.

The sanctity of the ad agency creative department used to be the exclusive domain of very special people. Super creatives dwelled there, using secret handshakes, runic noodling with pencils and cryptic eye movements and gestures to create advertising that was often overtly conceptual.

You had to be a genius to understand it.

Comprehension of the super concept came easy for a few, hard for most and firmly put advertising into two camps: creative that won awards and all the other stuff.

Then came technology. The playing field was leveled. It was no longer only about the world we knew: print, radio and broadcast.  It was about technology being bent, shaped and formed almost daily into new ways to relate to brands, products and advertising. Suddenly instead of the super league of creative geniuses telling the world what messaging and concepts they could see, people began telling brands what they wanted to see and how they wanted to feel.

The berets have been burned. And from the ashes of all that pretense is rising the most exciting creative team ever known. The creative department is now all-inclusive. Advertising and brand engagement has become about creating experiences that are useful.

The creative apartheid has ended. Now we invite technologists, planners, curators, clients, inventors, screenwriters to come inside and explore. And this, in and of itself, has enabled the most exciting time for agencies and brands to collaborate and create something relevant.

The new creative team has taken shape.

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Your Feet as a Power Source? We Are Just Steps Away

Walking could power your next cell phone, researchers say

By Doug Gross, CNN

(CNN) — Will you be able to charge your next mobile phone simply by walking around?

A group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hope so.

In an article this week in the journal Nature Communications, they unveiled a technology that would harness part of the energy people generate when they walk and push it to a phone or other mobile device.

“Humans, generally speaking, are very powerful energy-producing machines,” Tom Krupenkin, a UW-Madison professor of mechanical engineering, said in a news release from the school. “While sprinting, a person can produce as much as a kilowatt of power.”

He said harvesting even a small fraction of that power is enough to power a cell phone, laptop, flashlight or other electronics.

Under the system, an “energy harvester” that would be installed in a person’s shoe would capture some of the mechanical energy that typically burns away as heat and convert it to up to 20 watts of electrical power for a personal device.

The harvester would act as an intermediate transceiver, or Wi-Fi hot spot, to serve as a “middle man” between a mobile device and a wireless network, thereby reducing the amount of energy the phone needs to send and receive signals.

Researchers call the process “reverse electrowetting,” transferring the energy via nano-tubes containing thousands of liquid “micro-droplets.”

(We’re pretty sure that’s a good description, at any rate. Read the report, by Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor, for yourself here.)

The researchers say making their technology widely available would have a positive environmental impact, reducing society’s need for batteries and the pollution that ensues when they are disposed of improperly.

It would also have an impact in poor and developing countries, where charging electronics is often either impossible or expensive, and could benefit soldiers and police officers needing to power things like communications equipment and night-vision goggles, they say.

But what about everyday smartphone users who are tempted to yank their hair out after a few hours of using their phone without a charger handy?

Krupenkin said “reverse electrowetting” would conserve enough energy to make a typical cell phone battery last 10 times longer.

“You cut the power requirements of your cell phone dramatically by doing this,” he said.

The technology was developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Now Krupenkin and Taylor hope to make some money with it through a company they’ve created, InStep NanoPower.

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Hurricane Wind and Water Surges, Tech that can Help You Prepare

Tech to keep you safe from hurricanes

By Doug Gross, CNN

(CNN) — For East Coast residents keeping a worried eye on Hurricane Irene, there’s a host of mobile apps, Twitter feeds and other digital tools available to help.

Here are a few of them, including suggestions for how to stay plugged in if weather knocks out power in your area.

HurricaneHD ($3.99 in Apple Store)

HurricaneHD provides exclusive video, blog posts from weather experts and other tools for folks watching Irene and other future storms.

It has a tracking map that can display multiple storms at the same time, sends active storm bulletins and contains an archive of information about past hurricanes.

It can also use GPS to tell you how far away you are from various points of a nearing storm.

Weather Channel (free for Apple and Android devices)

Both the Android and Apple versions feature animated radar, video, local forecasts and the ability to upload photos and videos of local weather.

Weather Channel Max, free for the iPad, adds full-screen, customizable weather maps, in-motion radar and real-time Twitter feeds from Weather Channel meteorologists.

Hurricane Hound ($1.99, Android)

Based on Google Maps, Hurricane Hound tracks storms in the Atlantic and east Pacific, as well as passing along National Weather Service advisories and warnings.

StormPulse

StormPulse is a website that uses date from the National Hurricane Center, cloud imagery from the NERC Satellite Station and basic imagery from NASA.

Users can click back and forth to show radar, cloud cover, watches and warnings and other features on a real-time map.

Twitter Feeds

In the face of emergency situations, the fast-paced, minute-by-minute updates you can get from Twitter are handy. Whether you’re a Twitter user or not, you can pull up and read individual feeds as long as you have Web access.

The ocean service from NOAA, the federal government’s science agency for oceans and coasts, has a Twitter feed to follow.

NOAA also runs @stormprediction — a feed specifically tailored toward sharing severe weather alerts. And FEMA has a feed to share preparation tips and news about emergency response efforts.

Of course, we’re also inclined to suggest you follow CNN’s huge team of folks following the storm. Here is a curated list of Twitter accounts for the CNN team dedicated to Irene.

Staying Powered

Assuming mobile networks are up and running, folks in areas hit by a storm like Irene could be affected anyway by persisting power outages.

To stay plugged-in, it will be important to have a power source to recharge your mobile devices that doesn’t depend on plugging into the wall or desktop.

The gadget reviewers at CNET are fans of the Solio Universal and CPS Cellboost chargers. Battery companies like Energizer offer multiple chargers, and the store where you bought your phone (or tablet) very likely sells batter-powered or solar chargers from the phone-maker or a third party.

The Axis is a multi-purpose device sanctioned by the American Red Cross. In addition to a USB charger for mobile phones and other devices, the $70, hand-crank-powered device has an AM/FM/NOAA radio and flashlight.

Think of it as the techie Swiss Army Knife for power-out disasters.

A couple of things to keep in mind: solar chargers will need sunlight, so will probably be more useful in the aftermath of a storm than during the heart of it.

And, obviously, battery-powered models are most handy with a backup supply of dry batteries.

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New CEO for Apple

Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple

Says that the “day has come” when he can no longer meet his “duties and expectations.”

By Josh Voorhees

Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple’s chief executive officer, the company’s board of directors announced Wednesday.

Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, will take over atop the company, according to Apple. As part of the move, Jobs was named chairman of the board, effective immediately.

“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech, said in a statement on behalf of Apple’s board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”

Here’s the background on Cook, via the press release:

As COO, Cook was previously responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.

Here’s the resignation letter Jobs sent to Apple’s board (via Business Insider):

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Read More…


Free iPad Video Apps

The 11 Best Free iPad Video Apps: Showyou, ABC Player And More

The Huffington Post  

The ever-popular Apple iPad, with its wide, high-resolution screen, is a great device for watching video (better than the tiny iPhone, anyway); and yet the options for video discovery are surprisingly limited, given how tailor-made the iPad seems to be for media consumption of all kinds.

Sure, you’ve got YouTube for your standard viral video-viewing pleasure, iTunes for individual purchases and rentals, and Netflix and Hulu Plus for those with subscriptions. But what about for us freeloaders?

Here are eleven zero-dollar apps we found that can be quite useful both for finding new videos online and for watching them full-screen on your iPad, or hooked up to your wide-screen television at home. Just be sure you plan ahead: you’ll need an Internet connection to stream the clips, as the free apps don’t allow for downloads.

ABC wins the award for best iPad app among the television networks, mainly because it is the only one of the Big 4 networks that allows you to watch full episodes on your Apple tablet.

Sure, you have to wait through ads, but the fact that ABC is willing to let users stream full episodes of Secret Millionaire, Primetime and (personal favorite braindead show) Wipeout onto your iPad is a huge plus for the network and a good way to make fans.

Of course PBS has free shows! Joining ABC, PBS has an iPad app streaming full episodes of Masterpiece Theater, Austin City Limits and worldwide dad-favorite Antiques Roadshow.

Sure, you can only watch previews of PBS’s incredibly popular children shows (oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to watch The Electric Company on my tablet), but if you’re an adult looking for some stimulating video content for your iPad, the PBS iPad app is an excellent place to turn.

The TED series–”riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”–are also free to you on your iPad with an attractive interface on a white background, videos are searchable by category and length of time, and can also be saved to watch offline.

Watch some TEDTalks for free and maybe, just maybe, learn something or be inspired to change the world. Not a bad deal at a zero dollar price tag.

Showyou is a well-designed and well-conceived video app that utilizes all the best features of the iPad in its interface. Showyou gives you a user-friendly sliding grid of videos against a black background and the clips are sorted either by publisher (featuring collections by Reddit, The Colbert Report, CollegeHumor and a few dozen others) or by what your friends are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networks.

In the “All” view, the “Publisher” and “Social Network” options are combined with the videos that are currently the most shared on the Internet. Your subscriptions are pushed to the top-left corner for easy, swipe-based scanning.

You can also search all videos on Showyou and the results are displayed in the app’s standard grid view.

Sony owns Crackle, a video streaming site, and the company recently built a Crackle iPad app that showcases Sony’s content. Though it’s a little buggy (as we found when tried out the app and as numerous other reviewers have noted), Crackle users can expect a nice selection of ad-supported television and movies from Sony Studios. Be forewarned, however, that most of the content is fairly old. While you won’t be getting, say, Breaking Bad, you do get some episodes News Radio, Seinfeld and The Tick, as well as movies like Pineapple Express, Beverly Hills Ninja and Stand by Me, among other 80s and 90s favorites.

If you don’t mind ads or a small selection that skews older, Crackle is a nice choice for free, professional content for the iPad.

Similar to Showyou, Squrl is a video aggregation app that offers collections of videos from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Vimeo sorted by topic. Think of it as an endlessly iterating selection of playlists on different themes: Movie trailers, politics, sports highlights, music videos, and everything else you would expect across the major video streaming platforms.

Though it does not have the beautiful interface of Showyou, Squrl does a nice job of cataloging your different options so you navigate to a particular category with just a few taps. Its search function can be a bit less intimidating than the image-only Showyou search as well.

Fanhattan is a fun way to find new on-demand and free content for the iPad. Split into “movies and “TV shows,” Fanhattan features an attractive sliding line of titles that gives price points on Netflix, Hulu and iTunes, and links up to Rotten Tomatoes reviews, cast information, recommendations and more.

Fanhattan is a good choice for those who are willing to shell out some cash to watch on their iPads, but so far its ability to find (or even search for) free content is somewhere between limited and non-existent. Hopefully the people behind Fanhattan will add the capability to showcase free movies and television when they next update the app, as it is sorely lacking as of now.

Plizy is another video aggregator, one that sorts videos by channels on a user-curated front page. You start out with a few pre-determined Plizy categories (all of which can be deleted) including “Plizy Buzz” (the most popular videos on Plizy), Google News, TED Talks, Vimeo Staff Picks, Bloomberg, NPR Music and the videos shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter; from there you can add channels from about a dozen different categories including Animation, Comedy, Culture, Politics and more.

The interface is a little clunky, and the fact that there is no list view for videos is puzzling (once you click on a category, it auto-plays, rather than letting you scan through your options), but overall it’s a helpful app for finding and watching videos that you care about.

“Brought to you by Goldman Sachs” is probably not what you want to hear about a free video app, but guess what? The Goldman Sachs-sponsored video app SnagFilms is a really good app for viewing free documentaries on the iPad!

No, you won’t be able to watch “Inside Job,” but you are able to view several dozen both short and full-length documentaries full-screen on SnagFilms, including critical hits like “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man,” “Winnebago Man,” and “Buena Vista Social Club.”

And while “The views and opinions expressed in these films do not necessarily reflect those of Goldman Sachs,” perhaps that’s a good thing: The documentaries on offer, though currently a bit light, are well-varied and interesting.

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Twitter’s New Open-Source Tools

Twitter launches Bootstrap, open-source tools for making web apps

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Twitter on Friday released Bootstrap, an online toolkit for developers looking to build new web apps, or even clean up some of the code they already have.

Bootstrap is an open source set of files written in CSS (or Cascading Style Sheets, a programming language used to dictate how a website or web app looks and works) that covers some of the building blocks of most web apps, such as buttons, tables and forms, page templates, app navigation and even stylistic matters such as typography and color gradients.

The simple and small tools (at about only six kilobytes in size) released by Twitter, on the popular code sharing site GitHub, are the same basic tools used by Twitter developers for the social network’s own webpages and apps, Mark Otto, a designer at Twitter, said in a blog post.

Earlier on at Twitter, programmers were more focused on building the social network to meet users’ needs than building it with coding consistency, Otto said.

“Inconsistencies among the individual applications made it difficult to scale and maintain them,” he said. “Bootstrap began as an answer to these challenges.”

Now, the same tools Twitter users are open to the Web and anyone who wants to use them or make them better, or “fork” the tools and modify them to build something else, Otto said.

“Bootstrap works by providing a clean and uniform solution to the most common, everyday interface tasks developers come across,” he said. “We want to keep working on slimming down Bootstrap’s already tiny footprint while also increasing the breadth of what it covers. As always, we’d love your feedback and hope you find it useful. If you’d like to help make Bootstrap better, feel free to fork it, file issues and watch its progress over on GitHub.”

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