TechCrunch’s Laura Boychenko Infiltrates Google Ventures

We’re never happy when a TechCruncher leaves, but it’s always nice when they end up somewhere awesome and can feed us lots of confidential information. Ben Meyer at Facebook and Daniel Levine at Accel Partners, for example, send us weekly confidential updates from their companies.

Laura Boychenko, who has been with us since 2008, is working her last day at TechCrunch. On Monday she starts a new job at Google Ventures. And what Google doesn’t know is that we’re keeping Laura on our payroll, too, and we expect lots of inside information to be coming our way.

It’s the TechCrunch way.

Oh, just kidding. Everybody chill out.

But seriously, we’re all going to miss Laura. She’s the one we sent out to do irresponsible things like tear the wrapping off a Google Android statue to get first pictures, and Google security almost had her arrested for it. Luckily we still have MG to do that sort of thing, but still, she’ll be sorely missed.

Good luck at Google Ventures, Laura. They’re lucky to have you.

With 80 Million Users, Pandora Files To Go Public

Music streaming service Pandora has filed to go public. It could end up raising as much as $100 million. Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan are co-managing the deal. The filing puts them on track for a mid-2011 IPO, as we reported earlier.

Some financial stats from the SEC filing: For the first nine months of 2010 it lost $328,000 on revenues of $90 million. (Michael Robertson’s $100 million revenue estimate we published earlier this tear was pretty damn close). Pandora’s fiscal year ends on January 31 (weird), but in the prior full year ended on January 31, 2010, it lost $16.7 million on revenues of $55 million. So you can see how much it got its fiscal house in order since then, adding $35 million in revenues and practically eliminating its loss. (Click financial table below to enlarge)

About 86 percent of Pandora’s revenues ($78 million) comes from advertising, the rest ($12 million)comes form subscriptions. Pandora grew revenues 187 percent in the first nine months of 2010 (through October 31), a growth rate that slightly exceeds the 185 percent revenue growth in fiscal 2010 (which was really 2009, plus January). As of October 31, 2010, it still had $41 million in cash.

According to the filing, Pandora has 80 million registered users and 800,000 songs from 80,000 artists. Regsitered users grew from 46 million a year ago, and 22 million in 2009. The hours of music listened to on the service similarly doubled from 1 billion hours in fiscal 2009 to 2.1 billion in fiscal 2010.

As the dominant free Internet music service on the Web, Pandora wants to expand to mobile, automobiles, and other devices. Last year, founder Tim Westergren explained to Charlie Rose how the iPhone doubled Pandora’s growth rate, and below is a more recent TCTV interview Sarah Lacy did a month ago with CTO Tom Conrad on Pandora’s auto ambitions:

Information provided by CrunchBase

Mubarak Shut Down The Internet, And The Internet Paid Him In Kind

Yesterday, after 17 days of protests, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave a speech to the Egyptian government that made it seem like he would not be stepping down. This led to many people on the ground in Egypt and elsewhere feeling depressed, a series of humorous jokes being bandied back and forth on Facebook and Twitter and one Twitter employee commenting to me,“Well, we can only do so much.”

It has become fashionable amongst Western media and armchair foreign policy experts (hi Malcolm) to dismiss the idea that what happened in Egypt was a digital revolution mainly because most people associate Facebook and Twitter with the mundane over-sharing of what you ate for breakfast. That and the fact that its been pretty damn hard to pin down what exactly causes revolutions. This belief  isn’t helped by the truth that a ton of social media noise did not actually lead to a regime change in Iran during #IranElection.

But the many who said that social media was no match for Mubarak’s stubbornness and the fact that his dictatorship had been there for thirty years overlooked one key thing. #Egypt wasn’t just about Facebook and Twitter, it was about the Internet as a whole.

I started writing about Egypt because I was moved by an email we received on January 27th, with only a subject line, “Re: URGENT: Egypt blocks text messaging as well” and no body. It was from a Canada-based Egyptian, Mohamed El-Zohairy who was trying to get the word out about what would eventually be a complete Internet blackout in Egypt on that day. El-Zohairy’s email led to the following post, “Egypt Situation Gets Worse, People Reporting Internet And SMS Shutdown” and countless others on my part.

Over the next couple of days El-Zohairy would ping me with updates, eventually deciding that he would fly back to Egypt — Sending me a quick email along the lines of “This will be our last communication.” The Internet was still being blocked so I called him immediately and expressed my concern. After Mubarak announced that he would not seek another term in office and the country’s connectivity returned on February 2nd, I received this:

Hi Alexia,

I have been in Egypt since Feb 2nd, and as you can imagine things have been moving really fast. This is the first chance I have to write you an email. I have been going to Tahrir Square every day since I arrived, and thankfully I have been safe and in one piece so far. The government has used every violent trick at their disposal, short of using the army, to kill this revolution. Recently they decided to switch strategies, they are using government controlled TV and press to win the public opinion and turn the people against each other. They are instilling fear into the average Egyptians, fear from foreign invasion by spreading rumors of infiltrators and people with foreign agendas leading the revolution. The truth is that the revolution is lead by the educated middle and upper-middle class Egyptian youth.

Right now, we are using social media to win back most of the public opinion, one friend at a time. It is a tough job, because only 5 million ppl are on facebook and Egypt is a country of 80 million. However, we believe we can educate the people on social media and eventually they will help in educating the rest of the population. The gov’t is making it easy for us though, by using rumors that are REALLY easy to debunk (i.e. The foreign threats are coming from: The US, Iran, Israel, Qatar, Europe. So the whole world has decided to unite in a conspiracy to topple the Egyptian regime)


This email, from an immigrant who flew to Egypt to take part in protests that culminated successfully today, is micro-proof that this was indeed an Internet revolution. And Zohairy says there were hundreds of activists like him, which was one of the main reasons his cause succeeded.

Pulling a country of 82 million people, around 17 million Internet users, 60 million cellphone subscribers, 7 million home phones, and 5 million Facebook users offline essentially created the largest flashmob ever, with around 8 million protesters in the streets across Egypt today according to reports. Says Zohairy, “Shutting down the Internet was the most stupid move this regime has taken. It gave the revolution huge media attention that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

From posting videos on YouTube, to using PhotoShop to create symbolic logos for the opposition, to using Facebook to organize protests, the events of the past 18 days undoubtedly played out online.

Aside from the more highly publicized manifestations like Khaled Said’s Facebook page, the Al Jazeera YouTube livestream, Speak2Tweet and of course #Jan25, #Mubarak and #Egypt, I have seen webpage memorials built in testament to the protesters, a group texting service centered around #Egypt, a person who took it upon themselves to become their own news network and a forum created to discuss wireless solutions in case an Egypt-style Internet takedown happened again. There are many others.

To those that think that social media functioned merely as an Evite service to Tahrir square: I have heard that the protesters used Google Realtime Search to view tweets when the Egyptian government shut down Twitter, because government officials did not know that Google functionality existed. In addition, activists Googled things like “How to deal with tear gas” and wrote anti-Government propaganda notes on Facebook, tagging all their friends. When the Egyptian government tried to convince its constituents that the protesters were being paid $50 and a bucket of KFC to sit at Tahrir, this image immediately went viral, countering the lies.

Today opposition leader and Googler (need any more proof of my headline?) Wael Ghonim publicly thanked Zuckerberg for Facebook’s role in supporting the protest. This might be the first time in recent history that Google and Facebook have come together on anything. And then there’s this

Do I think the Internet is partially responsible for Mubarak’s resignation? Yes, I do as naive as that might seem to some. But hey don’t ask me, ask the people who organized the movement to take him down.

Wael Ghonim@Ghonim
Wael Ghonim

Wait for my book soon: Revolution 2.0 #jan25

February 11, 2011 9:19 am via Twitter for BlackBerry®RetweetReply

And in case you need those answers asap, you can find Mohamad Zohairy on Twitter at @elmasry.

Image source

“I Love The Petting Zoo Guy”: The Curious Characters Sarah Lacy Met While Writing Her New Book [TCTV]

For the past few days, it seems the whole world has been reviewing Sarah Lacy’s new book, Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos .

Fortune’s Dan Primack described it as “an outstanding piece of journalism”, Jon Swartz at USA Today called it “a fascinating new gem of a book,” Vivek Wadhwa in Business Week describes how it “vividly illustrates how the American Dream has become America’s most significant cultural export”  and even Michael Arrington – possibly the world’s most persistent Silicon Valley flag-waiver – jumped in, saying “Sarah’s book opened my eyes… to the untenable constraints that people around the world have to work with.” My own – thoroughly biased review can be found here.

But, yeah yeah, blah blah – I get it – it’s a brilliant piece of business journalism. For me, though, the best thing about the book is its cast of characters. The Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky entrepreneurs. The Chinese driving school guy who has his own petting zoo, the Israeli movie mogul, the Brazilian slum-kid-turned-genius-entrepreneur and – of course – Jean de Dieu Kagabo. So while everyone else continues to rave about the important business lessons and geopolitical implications of Sarah’s book, I bullied her into the TCTV studio to chat about some of her favourite people she met while writing it.

The individual parts – one for each country – are below, or you can watch the full thing here.






Funny Or Die Explains The AOL-HuffPo Deal: “Bringing The Future Back To 1996?

Ever since AOL announced its $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post, pundits have been asking what does it mean? Well, look no further. Funny or Die created the faux infommercial above that looks like it was shot 15 years ago. The tagline is, “AOL and the Huffington Post: Bringing the future back to 1996.”

Basically, what you get with AOL-HuffPo are Alec Baldwin editorials and cybersex chatrooms filled with midwestern housewives. Oh, and you can also download your favorite Wav files of Arianna Huffington quotes, which you can listen to every time you get a new email: “Master the Internet.” I am downloading some right now at AOL HQ, from where I’m writing this post.

(For a more sinister video parody, check this one out).

Internet: 13,483,282 Newspaper: 0

A lot of people like to bitch and moan about how in the age of realtime information, the stream moves too quickly and as a result, there’s a decent chance of inaccurate news being spread. There’s no question it’s an issue, but with the situation in Egypt, we’re once again seeing the overwhelming upside of this realtime data spread that makes services like Twitter so powerful. And just look at the flip side.

The above image shows the frontpage of a newspaper that was delivered this morning. There are hundreds more like it around the country. Many, many people still get their news this way. They woke up this morning, opened the paper and got information that is so old that it’s now totally inaccurate. It’s ridiculous.

This has actually always been an issue — “In related news, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!,” quips Twitter’s Mark Trammell — but if radio hit the newspaper format over the head, the live, 24/7 television news channels drove a stake in its heart. And now the realtime web has pounded that stake deeper. With a sledgehammer. And then stuck a grenade in the mouth of the corpse.

I’m sorry, but there’s simply no role for the newspaper anymore. That’s not saying there’s no role for newspaper journalism, just the physical product itself. It’s a waste of paper, ink, and time. R.I.P.

Sarah Lane@sarahlane
Sarah Lane

Today's wine country news: printed on paper, delivered via overhand throw from moving bicycle at 5 am.

February 11, 2011 9:44 am via InstagramRetweetReply


@sarahlane In related news, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!

February 11, 2011 10:29 am via webRetweetReply

[image via @sarahlane – yes, my girlfriend, yadda, yadda]

Information provided by CrunchBase

Fiat Has Big Hopes for its Tiny Car

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To know the Fiat 500 is to know its numbers.

Fifty-four years ago, Italy’s Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino produced a car the size of a large coffee table. It was three meters long, powered by a 479-cc engine and about as quick off the line as a riding lawnmower. It produced 13 horsepower, or roughly as much as a modern portable electric generator. America laughed — you could cram a 500 into the trunk of a ‘57 Cadillac, and crashing one was certain death — but the rest of the world just went ahead and bought the silly thing. Three-and-a-half million times.

Thirty-six years ago, that car was discontinued. Almost three decades ago, Fiat left America because it couldn’t suss what Americans wanted in a car. Six years ago, the firm revived the 500’s name and profile for a new model, a 3.5-meter-long subcompact. And four months ago, Fiat unveiled the U.S. version of that car, the first Fiat to be sold in America in 28 years.

There has since been a lot of pushback. Small cars don’t work in America, people say, but Fiat reps point to the Mini Cooper, an example of which lives on every street from Pasadena to Pittsburgh. Fiat stands for Fix It Again Tony, pundits cackle, but Fiat employees roll their eyes and wearily point to the fact that their current lineup doesn’t fall apart or regularly catch fire. (Buy a ’70s Spider, though, and even devotees will admit all bets are off.) The paranoids scream about small cars being unsafe, which prompts Fiat to trumpet the 500’s five-star European NCAP safety rating.

In short, America isn’t the place it once was, and Fiat isn’t the company it once was.

Similarly, the 500 isn’t the car it once was. When the 2400-pound hatchback arrives at the dealers’ next month, it will come in three forms: Pop ($16,000), Sport ($18,000) and Lounge ($20,000). Each gets a 101-hp version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder (30/38 mpg city/highway) and a standard five-speed manual transmission. The three levels are separated by small differences like bumper trim, wheel size and suspension tuning, but they’re essentially the same car. Creature comforts like air conditioning and cruise control are standard, and a six-speed Aisin automatic is available across the line.

Looks aside, our 500 isn’t Europe’s 500. Everything from interior layout to crash structure has been tweaked in the interest of appealing to stateside needs. Because we’re a nation of fatties, the front seats have been widened, the center console narrowed. The back of the rear seat is now carpeted, not painted metal, because we supposedly like that sort of thing. Steering and suspension tuning have been modified. And there’s a glove box and driver’s armrest where Europe had none, because Europeans apparently don’t wear gloves, or perhaps have no arms at all. (The mind boggles. Maybe it’s a trend.)

The biggest change, however, is the engine. The 1.4-liter, 98 lb-ft four that lives under the 500’s hood is not offered in Europe, where the car makes do with a variety of smaller, hamster-on-a-wheel mills. This engine is a technological marvel; it’s tiny (note the iPhone placed on the intake manifold for scale), efficient and boasts Fiat’s MultiAir variable valve-timing technology, which does away with an intake camshaft and uses oil pressure to vary valve lift and timing. The MultiAir name comes from the system’s clever ability to open the valves multiple times in one intake stroke, promoting charge turbulence and aiding combustion.

The end result is a car that feels almost, but not completely, European. Like Europe’s 500, ours is impossibly nimble and slow as molasses: 60 mph arrives in an estimated 9.5 seconds.

Dell Streak Strikes Out

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Make no mistake: Dell will not be sitting out the Tablet Wars the way it did during the Struggle Against Smartphones. No, Dell is fighting, and by that I mean it is intent on pouring money into what is obviously a hole of futility.

Its latest volley in the skirmish is the Dell Streak 7, an overgrown version of the 5-inch tablet it kinda-sorta released last year. And in most ways the Streak 7 is a typical Dell affair: foolishly overdesigned in an attempt to stand out, and coming up short all around.

The size (7 inches diagonal) and operating system (dusty old Android 2.2) pit the Streak 7 squarely against the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Sadly, that is a battle that the Streak loses on virtually every front. Are looks important to you? The weird slopes and baffling button placement of the Streak 7 make it less comfortable to hold and far less pretty than the Tab. Or perhaps you’d like a something with a really nice display? The Streak 7 is an utter disaster on this front. It’s bad enough that the 800 x 480 display looks visibly chunky, but the viewing angle is so poor that moving your head even a few degrees from dead center creates a screen-door effect so bad that it borders on nauseating. It’s not just the worst tablet display I’ve ever seen, it’s the worst display of any kind I’ve seen since the dawn of the LCD screen.

Other drawbacks are palpable but pale next to the screen debacle: The Streak 7 can’t charge at all via USB — not even trickle charge. It needs wall power, and it gets incredibly hot to the touch after a few hours of use. Well, after an hour of use: We thought we were in for an easy “Tired” when we read reports that the Streak 7 could only muster five hours of battery life vs. seven or more for its competition. We were aghast when it turned out that the tablet crapped out after a mere two hours (and three minutes!) of video watching on the device (tested with radios on).

There is but one bright spot with the Streak 7, and that is performance: Equipped with the hype-fueled Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, the tablet absolutely rips at web page rendering, app loading, running Flash, and just about everything else. If we could actually make out the display, and the battery alert wasn’t constantly threatening to shut the thing down, it’d be totally awesome.

WIRED: Fast. Cheap.

TIRED: Mattel Football had a better screen. Dismal battery life. Crashed twice — once going dark for an hour — in the first day of testing.

Photos: Jonathan Snyder/Wired

The iPhone Is Now a Phone. Who’da Thunk?

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After years as an iPhone customer on AT&T, I forgot what it was like to have a reliable, working phone.

But over the weekend, when I called buddies with both an AT&T iPhone 4 and subsequently a Verizon iPhone 4, we could immediately tell the difference.

“Holy crap, you sound so much better,” a friend said after I switched to the Verizon handset while walking through downtown San Francisco. “That’s amazing. I can actually hear you.”

Now I really know what “network congestion” means. Switching from an AT&T iPhone to a Verizon iPhone is like finally being able to breathe clearly after years of battling allergies. People can hear you better, and you can hear them better. It’s that simple. That’s the key reason so many people have clung to Verizon while resisting the shiny allure of the iPhone.

As we all suspected would be the case, the iPhone is a better phone on Verizon than it is on AT&T. It is not, however, a superior media-consumption device.

That’s simply because Verizon’s 3G-transfer rates are slower than AT&T’s. For the few days I’ve had the Verizon iPhone, I’ve been riding my motorcycle all around San Francisco to test its performance against the AT&T iPhone. The AT&T handset on average scored significantly better in speed tests: 62 percent faster for downloads and 38 percent faster for uploads. (If you’re curious about test procedures, check out our explainer and our interactive map on Gadget Lab.)

In real-world use cases, the Verizon iPhone’s slower transfer rates are noticeable. Netflix streaming is smooth on both devices, but on the Verizon iPhone, compression artifacts are more apparent: The video stream is adapting to the slower transfer rate (compare the screenshots in the gallery at the top, or see them here: AT&T, Verizon). Loading websites in Safari was faster on the AT&T iPhone, and so was installing apps.

However, the AT&T iPhone completely failed multiple tests when it could not connect to the network, whereas the Verizon iPhone was able to successfully get a connection in every location and complete every test. That’s important.

Notably, there were two persistent AT&T dead zones in San Francisco where the AT&T iPhone repeatedly failed to place a call or transfer any data — Gestalt bar in the Mission District and Velo Rouge cafe in the Inner Richmond district — while the Verizon iPhone was able to make calls and perform our bandwidth tests at each location with zero problems.

This all corroborates results of earlier independent studies comparing 3G networks: AT&T has a faster network, but Verizon has more coverage and therefore a more-reliable network.

The question remains whether the iPhone will inundate Verizon’s CDMA network as it did AT&T’s GSM network. That could ultimately degrade the service quality and make it a crappy phone all over again. But there are already a ton of Android customers on Verizon’s CDMA network, and the upcoming Android phones will be compatible with the next-generation 4G network, so I’m guessing the Verizon iPhone will remain a superior phone in terms of reliability and call quality.

And so far, the Verizon iPhone is pretty damn reliable. It has a hot-spot feature to turn the handset into a Wi-Fi connection to share with multiple devices. I used the hot spot to do work on my laptop for six hours without getting disconnected. (It was plugged in — no iPhone’s battery would have lasted that long on its own.)

However, earlier in the morning when I received a phone call on the Verizon iPhone, I was booted off the hot-spot network. This is a limitation of Verizon’s CDMA network: It does not support simultaneous voice and data transmissions, which may be a big minus for some customers, especially business-oriented “power users.”

Otherwise, the Verizon iPhone is the same smartphone we’ve all grown familiar with since the iPhone 4’s debut in summer of 2010. It’s got the same glass body, a 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing camera for FaceTime, which all work the same as its AT&T counterpart.

However, I did notice one odd difference when holding the Verizon iPhone next to multiple AT&T iPhones. The AT&T iPhone’s screen is a little bluer, and the Verizon iPhone’s is a little whiter. Both look great, but personally I prefer the whiter Verizon iPhone display. This is only a minor difference, though.

If you have the liberty to choose between AT&T and Verizon to buy an iPhone, your best choice depends on what you value. If you enjoy making phone calls, the Verizon iPhone is the obvious winner. Or if you’re an AT&T iPhone customer and your reception is just pathetic wherever you live, then by all means, pay the price and jump ship to Verizon.

With all that said, if you use your iPhone more often as a general computing device rather than a phone, then the AT&T iPhone’s faster transfer rates should serve your needs.

WIRED It’s a better phone, period. More likely to pull a signal, even indoors — this could change the way we converse at bars. Hot-spotting is well-integrated and very easy to use. Has a whiter, slightly better-looking display.

TIRED Slow data transfers compared to the AT&T iPhone. Sluggish app installs take away from the App Store’s instant gratification. Video streams are compressed more heavily, so Netflix and YouTube are uglier. No simultaneous voice and data transmissions thanks to the limitations of CDMA.

Photos by Jonathan Snyder/

The Daily: The Newspaper as a Magazine

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In its first editorial, The Daily bills itself as “the newspaper of the 21st Century.” In truth, News Corp.’s stab at a daily news publication produced solely for tablets looks a lot like a re-imagined digital magazine that is updated every day.

Wednesday’s launch event announced that The Daily will be free for the first two weeks, thanks to a sponsorship from Verizon, making it well worth a peek. Thereafter it’s $1 for a week, or $40 for a year — and it’s the first publication Apple will permit to sell subscriptions within the app, not through the iTunes store.

Time will tell if that’s a good model for newspapers, magazines and readers. But at first blush, The Daily looks like it may be onto something editorially, even if the economics are a challenge.

After a splash screen — accompanied by unnecessary audio — the reader is taken to a starting window that is both a dashboard and a home page. Right away, The Daily seems to have solved a Big Problem faced by publishers in print, on the web and in apps: How do you convey the totality of your content without overwhelming the reader and blurring everything?

The Daily uses the cover-flow paradigm popularized by Apple in iTunes. Lateral swipes move you swiftly through the page thumbnails, all rendered large enough for you to quickly glean what they contain. They are always in view.

Cover flow is The Daily’s front page. The flow also rolls on its own, page by page, every few seconds, which may or may not be a good thing. And there is a button which allows you to page quickly and stop at will, just in case swiping is too tedious.

But just as Apple discovered that cover flow worked great for thumbing through your music collection, this Apple-supported news publication is letting the reader thumb through its pages. It doesn’t run terribly smoothly — it’s not nearly as responsive as it should be — and the thumbs are oddly pixelized. Both of these issues are, presumably, addressable in app updates.

The real front page isn’t a newspaper page at all, but more like a magazine: A huge picture, large but not tabloid-shouting font, and a logo in the upper-left-hand corner. The Economist, anyone?

Content will make or break this app, and it’s too early to judge the quality of The Daily’s journalism — though nothing we read in the inaugural edition disqualifies it. But there’s a lot of content, thanks to the roughly 50 journalists News Corp. hired to write and edit this iPad-only publication. Maybe even enough for people to spend a buck a week, or less than that for a full-year subscription to a “real” newspaper.

That’s the rub: The Daily genuinely defies description in traditional terms. Is it a newspaper, in the sense that it updates in real time — or at least once a day? Is it a magazine, in the sense that page elements and layout are at least as important as editorial content? Today, it’s both, with a lead story about the uprising in Egypt, and a feature headlined “Woof, There It Is!” about a New York disco that caters to canines.

There’s plenty of video, of course, including a brief overview read by … a news anchor? At first, we wanted to hate this. But it is brief, calls out blessedly few articles, and the video lets you jump to the story being featured at any time. In a mix of navigation and internal-discovery metaphors, this one works just fine, too.

Pages are very readable, with plenty of negative space. But each page doesn’t contain a single story, which creates at least two problems: There is only one comment stream per page, even if there’s more than one story, so it’s not clear how or where to weigh in, if you want to leave a comment.

It’s the same with “saving” within the app to read later: Save a page with multiple stories and it saves the page, not the one clip you wanted, because there is no way to clip just one story on a multistory page.

And there is nothing one can do with a saved page. It can’t be shared, and there is no provision to print it. It doesn’t link back to the “live” page, which presumably expires at some point. You could take a screen grab with the iPad, and manipulate that copy, but who wants to do that?

But this multiple-story-per-page problem becomes really serious when it comes to sharing. The Daily says it will not be an island, living in an app universe largely isolated from the web world. So that’s one of the first things we put to the test.

The Daily may not be cut off from the web, but the bridge to and from is pretty narrow.

The first head-scratcher: There are no hyperlinks in stories. The map of related content on the greater web, at least so far, is invisible.

When you send an article to Twitter, what the app generates is this: “Check out this article from The Daily: [bit/ly shortened URL here].” No headline. And no way to insert the headline, or copy it. So if you want to customize that message, you do so off the top of your head.

With all the time and effort it took to develop this app, one of the most basic, self-promoting features should be there on Day One. This point should be enough for News Corp. to feel embarrassed about the lame Twitter integration: With the now ancient Financial Times app, it is even possible to chose and order elements to include or exclude from a tweet. There, I said it.

The good news is that The Daily URL tweet takes you to a screen grab on, where there are more sharing options. But there is no navigation to any other story — truly a way of limiting the web component to share with people who don’t subscribe. If you are a Daily subscriber, but discover a story from another reader on Twitter, there is nothing to take you to that item in your app.

There may be some ways to sort through these mind-bending paradoxes, but for now this is but a small step in the right direction.

There is at least one nod to the outside world in “What We’re Reading,” which is a list of links to articles on websites, displayed in an in-app browser.

WIRED: This a serious effort to figure out how to create a for-profit news experience on an very new medium from a publisher with deep pockets who sees magazines as the future of newspapers. Who can argue with that?

TIRED: Long download, lots of crashes, somewhat clunky animation. Articles tend to the short side — neither brief, nor long form. Shades of USA Today?

Delay Pedals Help Guitarists Find Those Tasty, Trippy Tones

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MXR Carbon Copy, Intro

Musicians are always looking for that secret sauce to give their songs some extra character, and some of the greats — The Edge, Robert Fripp, Lee Perry, everyone in Pink Floyd — found their most treasured sounds wrapped in layers of delay.

Delay is one of the most common types of guitar effects. It’s essentially an echo effect — it takes the note or chord that you play and then spits it back out again (and again) at a constant interval.

Think of U2’s guitar sounds, like the intro for “Where The Streets Have No Name”: The Edge is playing a relatively simple guitar part, but it’s being repeated over and over again at a certain speed so it keeps piling on top of itself. As he continues to play new notes, those are also delayed. The end result is layers and layers of shimmering guitar.

Back in the heyday of classic rock, most delay pedals were still made with analog technology. But beginners love delay pedals — they immediately make every note more interesting and expressive — so demand has risen for cheaper takes on the technology. As a result, delay has gone largely digital, and computer chips have mostly replaced the rotating magnetic drums, tape loops and other kinds of echo box voodoo favored by the greats of yesteryear.

Digital has its advantages. It’s low cost, durable, and the time between echoes can stretch out to 12 seconds or longer. Some high-end digital delay boxes are truly exemplary — we review one of them here, the Eventide Time Factor — but purists tend to favor the old-school mojo of a purely analog signal.

One old bit of analog tech that’s still around is bucket-brigade circuitry. Having first arrived in the late 1960s, bucket-brigade circuits rely on thousands of capacitors lined up, one after another. The signal is passed from one capacitor to the next, like firefighters passing buckets of water down a line. As the signal moves, it modulates and changes shape, painting everything in a hazy psychedelic wash. Bucket brigade devices (BBDs) have some limitations compared to digital chips when it comes to how much sound they can carry, but their old-school charm has kept them in demand.

If you want a pedal with guts of pure analog gold, be prepared to shell out some serious coin. Top-shelf BBD pedals not cheap. But you could pick up an MXR Carbon Copy (pictured above) or an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man for half the cash of something like the Moogerfooger or Diamond Memory Lane 2, both of which we review here, and be totally satisfied.

Some manufacturers are taking the mojo of analog circuits and marrying it to the versatility of digital chips by creating hybrid pedals that house both old-school and new-school technology. One such beast, the Pigtronix Echolution, is reviewed here.

So if you’re serious about delay, open up one of these Pandora’s Boxes and let the illness leak all over your tone. You’ll be sick with joy.

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All photos: Jim Merithew/

This Foldable Tool Is a Shovel and a Weapon

Photo: Christian Stoll

That full-size shovel in your toolshed is too big for a tactical backpack and too unwieldy for hand-to-hand combat: For those who spend time planting surveillance hardware, burying their secrets, or digging up someone else’s, a foldable entrenching tool is a must-have. Gerber’s new E-Tool With Pick boasts a powder-coated steel blade with serrated edge for cutting through roots or … um… limbs and a sharp spike for piercing ice, walls, and attackers’ skulls. A compact 9.3 x 6 inches when folded, it opens to nearly 2 feet long in seconds. And the fiberglass-filled nylon handle and aluminum shaft leave almost all of its 2-pound, 3-ounce heft at the business end, where it belongs.


Bike Locks for the Theft Averse

Photo: Jens Mortensen

Bike commuting means bike theft. You need a good lock. We used a hammer, bolt cutters, and a Dremel rotary saw on these (way beyond what most thieves would deploy) to see how they’d hold up.

1. Kryptonite New York Legend 1590

The 15-mm-thick hardened-steel links on this 10-pound beast slide uncooperatively when you try to violate them. Bust the plastic off the dead bolt and it reveals a scarier-looking steel shackle. The Dremel took a battery-killing 15 minutes to get through one link, and we still needed a second cut to slide the neighboring link out. Your bike is safe.

WIRED Cylinder has a drill-resistant protection system. $4,500 antitheft protection.

TIRED Literally heavier than some bikes.


Rating: 9 out of 10

2. Blackburn San Quentin

Like any U-lock, this presented a tantalizingly long expanse to work with, but the hexagonal profile of the 18-mm-thick alloy steel makes it hard to find a good angle. The saw got through in about eight minutes, but we’d have needed a second cut to remove the thing: It locks on both sides. And by that point we didn’t have the juice to go full-power for another eight minutes.

WIRED Smooth locking mechanism. $4,000 antitheft guarantee.

TIRED Liner on inner surface only; not really paint-job friendly.


Rating: 7 out of 10

3. Trek U-Lock LS

Our bolt cutters and hammer got nowhere against Trek’s 13-mm hardened-steel shackle. But the big 11.5-inch-long U, which makes for hassle-free hitching, offers plenty of room for sawing. In four and a half minutes, we were clean through with the Dremel and sliding off the opposing piece; unlike the Blackburn, this locks on only one side.

WIRED Light and intuitive. Spare design makes it the best-looking of the group.

TIRED Antitheft protection runs to only $1,500.


Rating: 5 out of 10

4. Kryptonite HardWire 1518

Cables are deterrents, not defenders. Even Kryptonite gives the HardWire a 5 on its 12-point security scale. The lock can withstand a hammer attack, but so what: A pair of 24-inch bolt cutters (far from the biggest available) got through the 15-mm braided-steel key cable in two minutes. The Dremel took 30 seconds.

WIRED Light, flexible, and portable. Six-foot length reaches both wheels.

TIRED For friendly areas only. It’s about as daunting as a licorice whip.


Rating: 4 out of 10

5. OnGuard 5023L Rottweiler

While OnGuard makes some of the best chain locks, this armored cable is more practical in terms of weight, even at 7 feet long. It’s a 30-mm twisted-steel cable inside a length of steel vertebrae wrapped in a vinyl cover. But cut through the coating and you see the Achilles’ heel: gaps in the vertebrae that expose the cable. The Dremel took it out in less than three minutes.

WIRED Built-in light on one of the keys. Recessed ball lock resists crowbar attacks.

TIRED Price. Theft.


Rating: 4 out of 10

6. Master Lock Street Cuff 8200D

The clever pivot point in the middle makes it hard to get any leverage with a tool. Unfortunately, the steel closures (which are small enough to limit your anchoring options) aren’t very thick. They resisted our saw for all of two minutes. Worse, it took only a couple of hard whacks with the hammer to bust open the locking mechanisms.

WIRED Light and compact. $3,500 antitheft guarantee. Might actually work as handcuffs.

TIRED Looks tougher than it is.


Rating: 3 out of 10

Your Guide to Knockoffs and Fakes

Photo: Jens Mortensen

In the age of Pirate Bay, physical knockoffs seem almost quaint. But they’re still plentiful and plenty cheap. And they’re still inferior to the real thing.

1. Beats by Dr. Dre Tour Earbuds (NOT!)

While knockoffs of Monster’s Beats headphones are reportedly common in Hong Kong, it took craigslist and a street-corner meeting to snag a pair in New York. The packaging, smaller and shoddier than the genuine article, was a clear indication these were fake, but the phones themselves looked so much like the originals that we had to mark them to tell them apart. As long as we limited the music to low-bitrate MP3s and tinny pop (i.e., when sound doesn’t matter), the quality was tolerable though hollow. But on anything with rich mids or bass, the fakes overcooked it into a distorted mess.

WIRED Good gift for music … likers.

TIRED Less depth and nuance than Glenn Beck.

$45 (vs. $190)

Rating: 5 out of 10

2. Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer (NOT!)

Bogus designer shades are a staple in New York’s Chinatown, where we got these. The Wayfarer styles are generally more convincing than the Louis Vuitton and D&G knockoffs, but they’re still way janky. The brittle plastic feels dependable only if you’re comparing it with the flimsy hinges. They’re lighter than true Wayfarers, which actually made them more comfortable. But don’t leave them alone with your keys; the lenses might as well come prescratched.

WIRED Three for $12! Great for your Risky Business costume.

TIRED Performance optics? We couldn’t wear these retina-manglers for five minutes without getting a headache.

$4 (vs. $195)

Rating: 4 out of 10

3. Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Chrono (NOT!)

We got the sidewalk vendor down $5 to $70, but that’s still $6,030 less than the asking price for the real thing. The fake retains the original’s self-winding internals and deep-sea-diver design. But the rubber strap is flimsy, there’s no date window, and the bezel and numbers were already faded from the sun. Only the time-adjustment knob works the same way as the one on the original; the helium-escape valve on the fake is purely cosmetic.

WIRED Survived 12 hours in a pot of water. (Authentic Seamaster is water resistant to 600 meters.)

TIRED No luminescent hands. Strap feels like it wouldn’t make it through a vigorous handshake.

$70 (vs. $6,100)

Rating: 3 out of 10

4. iPhone 4 (NOT!)

They must have spent dozens of minutes thinking up the name of the HiPhone 4, and about as much time building it. This one came from a Texas-based eBay seller and arrived direct from Beijing in a week. That was the only positive experience. The touchscreen is the least responsive we’ve experienced, and several of the app icons are purely decorative. It has two SIM card slots and boasts GSM compatibility, but we couldn’t get cell or data service despite trying multiple carriers.

WIRED What antenna-gate? It has a pullout for FM radio!

TIRED Reception indicator shows four full bars before you’ve even inserted a card. Sync with iTunes? Yeah, right.

$124 (vs. $699 for 32-GB, no-contract iPhone)

Rating: 1 out of 10

Dell’s Big, Brawny Windows Phone Means Business

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Smartphone designers generally follow the same credo as ballerinas and runway models — you can never be too thin.

But Dell has taken a different approach with its newest Windows 7 Phone, the Venue Pro. Even though it’s both agile and beautiful, the Pro is quite the fatty.

At 6.8 ounces, it’s heavier than the iPhone 4, Motorola Droid and even the HTC EVO. The primary culprit for this heft is the Venue Pro’s useful slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

A likely second is the Pro’s delightfully large and chromatically rich 4.1-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED touchscreen. Everything else on the handset is efficient and understated — from the flush volume rocker to the succinct Back, Home and Search capacitive buttons.

Though the weight and dimensions temper some of that new gadget razzle-dazzle, it’s ultimately a worthwhile trade-off. In a sense, the Pro seems less like a slate-y smartphone and more like the feature-rich, productivity-minded pocket PCs of yesteryear.

Though this style of mobile productivity has fallen out of vogue (or at least changed shape), injecting bits of that DNA into an inexpensive and streamlined smartphone was smart on Dell’s part. Maybe it’s the minimalist chrome accents, but this form factor just feels more capable — if not a little self-serious.

Fortunately, this air of superiority is largely deserving. Though packing a strangely generic “1 GHz processor,” the Pro deftly whipped through Microsoft’s animation-heavy Windows Phone 7 OS with hardly any problems. Sifting and swiping through the busy menus was buttery smooth, and we hardly experienced any stutters or lag when it came to launching apps.

It’s also worth noting that the Pro’s large display is especially well-suited for these tasks. We’re not necessarily fans of the multiscreen asymmetry of Windows Phone 7’s menus, but we can’t deny that the Pro presents them well.

Overall, productivity and play were probably the biggest highlights for us. No mobile OS has truly mastered the elegant simplicity needed for mobile document editing, but the Pro brings some interesting things to the table. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard makes a solid bedfellow for Microsoft’s spartan Word app, and the Pro’s extra screen real estate makes tinkering with Excel bearable.

Gaming proved to be a delight, thanks to baked-in Xbox Live support and a decent helping of pro-level titles, courtesy of the service’s long established software library. A D-pad akin to the Motorola Droid and a better battery could’ve been ante-uppers for the overall gaming experience, but we’re happy enough with the Pro’s general competency to overlook it.

Despite all these high points, the Pro is decidedly mediocre as a basic phone. Though voice quality was good, the phone had a puzzling habit of jumping between T-Mobile’s 2G and 3G networks in the middle of tasks — or just dropping down to no signal at all.

Our experience using the speakerphone was similar: workable, with light distortion at very high volumes, but ultimately nothing to write home about. Paired with its lacking battery, it’s hard for us to endorse the Pro for power chatters or hardcore road warriors.

We’re the first to recognize that Dell has had a bumpy start when it comes to next-gen phones. But even with its shortcomings, the Pro’s marriage of business, pleasure and solid design makes it an attractive contender — especially at its sub-$200 price point.

WIRED One of the most well-appointed WinMo phones to date. Tough Gorilla Glass screen takes all kinds of abuse. Comfortable, idiot-simple QWERTY keypad. Snappy boot time.

TIRED Not exactly pocket-friendly. Craptastic camera performance in low-light settings. Hand-offs between apps and the web are still jarring. Slightly curved display is a smudge magnet. Trickle of WinMo apps limits potential.

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