Microsoft’s Photosynth: Hard Work, Cool Results

By  |  Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 3:43 pm

You know it’s a quiet day in tech when the big news involves Jerry Seinfeld. I’ve already covered that, um, bombshell–so let’s move onto other developments, starting with a surprisingly inventive Microsoft Web app.

Microsoft Unleashes Photosynth
I was blown away by Microsoft’s preview of Photosynth at the Web 2.0 conference nearly two years ago, and the company has finally released a version that goes beyond a basic demo. Photosynth stitches dozens or hundreds of photos together into a somewhat abstract but cool 3D recreation of the place they were taken. The Photosynth site lets you navigate your way around various world landmarks that have been Photosynthed by other people; you can also use your own photos to create 3D environments. (I haven’t tried yet–it’s a remarkably foggy day here in my neck of the Bay Area woods, and it looks like taking photos that will work well is painstaking work.) I’m more taken with the possibilities of what Photosynth and Photosynth-like technologies may do in the future than with the current version, but it’s still pretty neat. Sadly, viewing and creating Photosynths both require that you run Windows.

The Best New (and Old) Firefox Extensions
The single best thing about Firefox isn’t the browser itself–it’s the array of free extensions that let Firefox do just about anything a browser can do, and some things no browser has ever done. Mozilla holds an annual contest to encourage the development of outstanding new extensions (and upgrades to existing ones), and it’s just announced the winners. The best new extensions include a diagramming tool and a couple of bookmark tagging utilities; the best update is one to an extension with the pretty self-explanatory name of Read It Later. Congrats to the winners–and to all the Firefox users who get to use their creations.
Read more at: Extend Firefox

Score One for Fair Use
Stephanie Lenz uploaded video of her kids singing to a Prince song to YouTube. Universal, which owned the song, sent her a letter demanding that she take it down under the terms of the Digital Millinnium Copyright Act. With the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she fought back in court, saying that her video was covered by fair use. Universal maintains that it doesn’t need to verify that the DMCA applies before using it as leverage to threaten folks like Lenz. A California court has refused to throw Lenz’s case out. Sounds good to me, since the DMCA is onerous enough without it being used to quash uses of content that it doesn’t actually prohibit.
Read more at: Ars Technica

Tethering For Cheap?
Sprint has knocked the monthly price of tethering–using a phone as a wireless modem for a notebook–from $50 to $15. Unfortunately, it’s also introduced a bunch of new limitations about which phones and plans qualify. I’m still heartened, though, since I’d love to see tethering go from exotic and pricey to commonplace and affordable on every carrier, and the trend has to start somewhere. AT&T expressly forbids tethering, which is apparently why the iPhone tethering app was pulled from Apple’s App Store. As I’ve said before, I’d happily pay AT&T each month to tether my iPhone 3G–if only it was willing to take my money.

Please Spam Me
Just how dumb are Internet users? Techdirt has a hard-to-believe-but-may-still-be-true item about a new survey that says that 30 percent of people surveyed admit to buying products they learned about in spam. The online shoppers bought “sexual enhancement pills, adult entertainment, software and luxury items including watches, jewelry and clothing.” By rewarding spammers, they ensured that the spam will just keep on coming to all of. I hereby declare my hope that their enhancement pills these goofballs purchase don’t work; the adult entertainment proves unentertaining; the software crashes their computers; the watches keep lousy time; the jewelry falls apart; and the clothing shrinks in the washer.
Read more at: Techdirt, CRN UK

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