Exploring the Web: Beyond Facebook


Recently, I’ve been talking with quite a few friends who, whilst not very tech-savvy, are heavy users of the social networking giant, Facebook. The response I seem to be getting from some of them is that, “Facebook is getting boring.” A similar thing happened a while ago (a little before the “Facebook phenomenon”) when the South African mobile messaging service, MXit, became “boring” to many of my friends (and I can safely include myself in that list — I’m logging onto MXit very infrequently nowadays).

Whilst this post isn’t to fathom the reasons why these services are getting “boring”, I can perhaps point to the fact that maybe these users are logging onto the site too often, and we all know that excessive frequency in doing something can become monotonous — after all, it’s human nature.

However, to get back to topic, I find that many people’s experience with Web 2.0 begins and abruptly stops at Facebook (I’m picking on Facebook here because it’s so damn popular ;) — please bear with me). In other words, they don’t get to experience the hundreds of other great modern websites, maybe because they don’t know of them yet.

So, my plan is to go about changing this. I want to campaign for Web 2.0, and tell people about the many great sites out there that can add a touch of colour to their lives, and perhaps even help out in some situations. And I’m going to do this today, in this very post: below, you’ll find some cool links to sites that I deem to be interesting, of use, or just plain fun to visit.

I think I’m getting addicted to this site! Twitter, the “microblogging” craze, has taken the world by storm. Basically, you post short (140 character) messages about what you’re doing right now, as well as follow others who are doing the same. You can also chat to — and connect with — many like-minded people, and stay up-to-date with current issues around the world. (You can follow me on Twitter here.)

It’s already won quite a few awards, and has been featured on TechCrunch already. Gyminee is basically a health and fitness website. Through this site, you can set fitness goals for yourself, design workout programs, connect with “GymBuddies” who aim to motivate you to reach your goals, and you can also design and get information on nutrition. The site is really well-laid out, and loaded with numerous useful features. I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to stick to that New Year’s resolution of “eating healthy, getting fit”.

Whilst this isn’t so much a “network”-like site (like Facebook, for example), Lifehacker is a really interesting site. On it, you can find “tips and downloads for getting things done”.

And lastly, ZenHabits
This is a favourite of mine: ZenHabbits is a brilliant blog with the main idea of providing the reader with ways to become more productive, and live a fuller life. On it you can find tips for meditation, good work habits, and a host of tips for GTD (getting things done).

Check them out, and who knows, maybe the next time you find yourself saying, “Hmm… Facebook’s getting boring”, you’ll know that there is something else out there to pique your interest and offer you great fun online. Here’s to enjoying the awesomeness of Web 2.0!

If you have a link to a site that you think is interesting, and that wasn’t mentioned above, please feel free to drop a line in the comments section.

Why Twitter is So Popular


Recently, I've become very attached to Twitter, the microblogging phenomenon that's taken the world by storm (or is that "tweets"?) In fact, I find myself itching to log onto Twibble and start tweeting from wherever I am at the moment. When I'm at my laptop, my cursor yearns to load up Nambu and start firing off tweets. Of course, I cannot tweet very frequently - this stems the flow of conversation for each tweet on my profile, something that can be a great (and useful) tool on Twitter. So I've learnt to exercise self-control when going about my tweeting.

However, this just bears testament to the fact that Twitter is exceptionally successful: to make its users want to constantly come back to the service has a lot to say about the quality and substance of what's being offered. Recent reports show that Twitter is taking the world by storm. This can probably be attributed to the number of celebrity users on Twitter (in fact, Ashton Kutcher has officially beaten CNN Breaking News to becoming the first Twitter user to have over a million followers). In turn, this high influx of users adds to the online economy and to cyber-citizenship, as more people are becoming aware and involved in Web 2.0 applications.

I think this is great - the more users of online services, the better the services will get. This is because there is going to be more at stake for the owners of these online ventures as competition is heightened, and they will strive to provide the "best" service. It's quite simple, really. However, what makes Twitter - or any Web 2.0 venture, really - so popular and thus successful, is not only its "celebrity" pull (which, as I mentioned above, inadvertently pushes the site to improve and become better), but it's approach to the specific service it aims to offer.

In the case of Twitter, the creators took the simple concept of blogging, and added an interesting twist to it: limiting users to only 160 characters max. This forces messages to be short, concise, and it can result in some very interesting and informative thoughts. Similarly, the inital concept and portrayal of a Web 2.0 service makes for great first impressions. Again, in the case of Twitter, the user is presented with a very clean, stylish landing page that explains (very well, in my opinion) what the service is about. Web 2.0 also has signature styles - e.g. minamalistic approaches, bright, simple colours, and glossy image effects.

So, let's just hope that other Web 2.0 services, and aspiring ones too, will take heed of how Twitter did it, and thus make us as users of the next generation of the World Wide Web revel in powerful, successful and stylish websites that can really be worth talking about. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. ;)

How To: Download Video from YouTube


YouTube is an incredibly powerful site: you can watch some of the most amazing videos produced by people all around the world on it. Recently, it has become a great tool for education too, and thus has become exceptionally resourceful for students across the world.

There is, however, one feature that greatly lacks in YouTube: a means of downloading videos to your computer’s hard drive to watch later whilst not having to connect to the Internet. If you visit the site (www.youtube.com), no matter how hard you look, you will not find any means for doing this.

That’s because video on YouTube isn’t really meant to be downloaded, unless you employ the help of a few third-party resources which also just happen to be free, and in this blog post I’m going to show you how to do just that.

The methods below are for users of PCs and Macs; since I don’t use Linux, I don’t know of a method for that operating system unfortunately. However, if you happen to use Linux and know of any method, please feel free to drop a line or two in the comments section ;)

Method for PC Users:
Downloading video from YouTube onto a PC requires one easy-to-use program, aptly named YouTube Downloader. Once you’ve downloaded this app, follow the steps below to get the video onto your hard drive:

1. Go to www.youtube.com, and open the video you want to download (either by searching in the top-right search box, or choosing one of the videos on the home page).

2. You don’t have to wait for the entire video to load (this will just waste your bandwidth!) So just copy the address of the page (from your browser’s Address Bar) or copy the text inside the text box labelled “Embed Video” (it’s situated on the right of the video, just underneath the publisher’s description).

3. Open YouTube Downloader, and paste the code into the URL text box. Then, click “Download”, and wait while the video gets downloaded.

4. Once the video is downloaded, you’ll notice that you can’t play it on your computer: the file format (.flv) isn’t recognised by Windows. So, you’ll need to convert it. This can be done using YouTube Downloader. Open the app, and select the option for converting video. Then, open your downloaded video file, and choose a conversion template (you have the option for converting the video into iPod, iPhone, PSP… etc. formats).

5. Once the video has finished converting, you can play it on your PC, and even send it to your iPod or iPhone using the correct software (i.e. iTunes).

Method for Mac Users:
Getting video onto your Mac is very similar to the PC method. But instead of YouTube Downloader, you'll need a neat little app called TubeTV. Once you've downloaded and installed the app, open it and follow the prompts on-screen.

So there you have it! The simple way to download video off YouTube to your desktop. And with the conversion software, you can take it with you wherever you go.

If you’ve got another method of downloading video off YouTube, please drop a line in the comments! Thanks, and hope this helps.

13-year-Old Wins Apple's AppStore Contest


Apple has announced that 13-year-old Connor Mulcahey of Weston, CT was the billionth downloader of the application Bump by Bump Technologies.

Apple's AppStore reached the milestone of one billion apps being downloaded in nine months recently.

Connor will be winning $13 000 worth of merchandise from the Cuppertino computer giant. Amongst the prizes, he wins a new MacBook Pro, TimeCapsule and iPod touch.

Here's a direct link to the press release from Apple.

The Zune HD: Multi-touch, HDMI


imageMicrosoft Corporation, famous for having created the “iPod clone” known as the strangely named Zune, is set to launch the music player’s updated version very soon.

Interestingly, it has been found that the Zune HD (touted as being a direct competitor to the iPod touch) will support multi-touch gestures on its larger, 3.6” OLED glass-looking screen.

It will also support HD (high definition) video, as is becoming the industry norm nowadays. HDMI is also on the cards, and this means that it’ll be possible to hook your Zune HD to your HD television and watch HD movies in all of HD’s glory. (Whew, that’s a lot of HD! ;)

Already, the Zune supports games created with Microsoft’s free XNA game creation kit, and, coupled with its slick compatibility with the most popular (if not the most unliked) operating system, it still remains to be seen whether the Zune can steal the iPod’s thunder.

The iPod is the world’s most favorite music player, selling well over a million and pushing the boundaries in the world of personal, portable media. The iPod touch has notably been enjoying quite a bit of success, becoming the “darling” of Apple, along with its phone-capable sibling, the iPhone. Apple’s tremendous success with its AppStore concept, which has been raking in millions of dollars for the California-based computer empire and the many developers around the world who are part of the development program for iPhone OS (the same operating system that powers the iPod touch) has yet to see a viable threat from opposition companies.

Come September, when both the Zune and the iPod line are expected to see a refresh, we’ll come to know whether the AppStore, the current drawback to Zune dominance, will meet its match from the crafty hands in Redmond.

iPhone “3” mockups


In the excitement build-up to the June WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) event where it is largely rumored that Apple will be launching the new iPhone, I’ve decided to post some “mockups” of what people around the web think the new iPhone is going to look like.

Rumor or not, what we can be sure of if the new iPhone releases, is that it will be packed with a lot more tech than is predecessors and thus allow you to do even more than before.

Without further ado, here are some of the mockups I’ve found:


This looks really promising: iPhone that has the design traits of Apple’s recently re-designed computers (MacBook and iMac).


A bit far-fetched, don’t you think? But it would seriously rock to answer a call in front of your friends and watch their expressions when you brandish this phone ;)


This looks scarily real… and video iChat would be really cool on iPhone too! Only problem with this design, though: I don’t see any visible iSight camera on the front for two-way video calling…

Twibble: Twitter Updates on Your Mobile!


Today I joined millions of other microbloggers when I finally signed up for Twitter. I've found it to be an amazing way of expressing myself quickly and concisely, and its quite fun to follow others and see what everyone is up to in their part of the world.

The Twitter site is very nice and intuitive, but I can't always be in front of my computer when I want to be tweeting; Twitter is meant for writing mini blogs wherever you are. So I did a quick search on the net and found a neat little Java-based app for mobile phones called Twibble.

Twibble is a fairly easy-to-use application and it's getting me hooked on the Twitter revolution. When you first launch the app, it asks you for your Twitter login details, and you can also set the theme of the app to your liking (I'm using the "Grey" theme - looks nice).

Thereafter, you can Tweet away, and also set it for updating automatically to show you the latest Tweets from people you're following.

If you're running a recent mobile phone, you'll be able to minimize Twiddle to the background, and it'll update automatically for you. However, one little gripe that I have with the updating is that it constantly asks me whether "I want to continue with the operation" (or something similar). This, though, I think is a problem with my specific mobile (Nokia N73).

I believe that Twiddle is also available for the desktop (as an Adobe Air application - which means that it's cross-platform), however I am yet to try that version out.

All in all, Twiddle is a great little app for your phone to keep you up-to-date with your tweets and followers; it has a great looking interface that's customizable with a few built-in-themes, and apart from the little annoying confirmation message each time it automatically updates, it's a great app. I highly recommend it for you - give it a try, and drop a line in the comments with what you think about it.

What the iPhone needs to dominate business



The iPhone has long been seen as a smartphone worthy of business executives; its intuitive features make it easy for professionals to manage their schedule, keep in sync with emails using Microsoft Exchange, and it undeniable style makes for excellent first impressions –something that’s highly important in the business world.

And with iPhone OS 3.0 set to release very shortly, the iPhone is set to really pack in some worthwhile features.

However, there is one thing, I feel, that it lacks – and what could possibly be its Achilles’ Heal: an “Office mobile” solution similar to the ones found on Windows Mobile-based smartphones. Sure, you can download a similar app from the AppStore I hear you say; but why must someone do that when, across the border the Windows Mobile folks get it for FREE with their phone?

I say that Apple should at least offer, standard and pre-installed on every iPhone, a mobile productivity solution similar to the Pocket Office series. Here’s an idea: why not make an iWork for Mobile version, and have that pre-installed? I think that’d be great! Well, we can only hope for this… and hopefully it’ll be here in the rumored iPhone update in June.

Internet Explorer 8 being “forced” by Microsoft


In a bid perhaps to promote the latest version of their web browser, Redmond software giant Microsoft is said to be “forcing” Internet Explorer 8 in Automatic Updates, the updating system for Microsoft Windows.

This is said to commence starting “the third week of April”, according to officials from MS.

Internet Explorer has long been the No.1 used web browser, owing partly to its default inclusion on Windows, which dominates a large portion of the operating system marketshare. Whilst not the best browser due to its sluggishness and non-compliance with web standards, the browser from Redmond has been “challenged for the throne” in recent years by feisty alternatives from Mozilla (Firefox) and Apple (Safari), especially when the latter made its way onto Windows a few years ago.

Internet Explorer 8 can be downloaded from the Microsoft website.

New Direction for Need for Speed


image EA’s flagship racing series, Need for Speed, is set to take on a new dimension in its next release.

Currently, the series is based on “arcade-style” video game racing. However, in order to do justice to the current generation of gaming consoles’ power and innovative gameplay, EA has decided to split the franchise into two distinct product lines, one emphasizing simulation-style racing, and the other a traditional arcade racer.

These two lines are called Shift and Nitro, and they’re the names of the next installment in the ever-popular racing series.

Need forimage Speed: Shift will be a simulation-style racing game that will be available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Nitro, of course, will be for the Nintendo platforms (Wii and DS). According to EA, Nitro will be developed by EA Montreal, as they have had successful experience with the Nintendo platform.

Nitro is also being targeted at casual gamers (hence its target towards the Wii and DS), and I’m hoping that it’ll do justice to the Nintendo platform as it will be developed specifically for it and not just ported to it (as was the case with Undercover).

image Shift will be targeted at hardcore fans of the series, and because its being developed for the “higher-end” platforms, it comes as no surprise that its graphics will be superb.

Currently there isn’t much else known about the games (eg. storylines, car lists, soundtrack etc.) as it’s still too early in the development cycle. However, Byte Lounge will be tracking this game and updates will be posted as they happen.

MXit Skin Builder available - finally


It took them nearly 3 years, but MXit Lifestyle, the company that develops the popular (and rather controversial) mobile instant messaging application MXit, has finally released a Skin Builder that allows you to create your own skins to use on your MXit client.

Basically, you design the skin on your PC, then save it and send it via the Internet to your mobile phone using an intuitive wizard. Your skin appears in the Gallery in MXit the next time you log in.

But there is a catch, though: in order to send skins to your phone, you'll need to be a Freestyler (it costs a few Moola).

Read the release message from the MXit team at their forum: http://forum.mxit.com/viewtopic.php?t=18044

And download the Skin Builder for Windows here:

PC running slow? CClean it!


If you find that your PC is running slow, its most likely because the Windows Registry is a bit messed up. This usually happens when some programs that you uninstall don’t remove themselves properly, but it can also be caused due to some other more complex technical issues.

The point is, in order to have a smooth, quick machine, you need to make sure that your Registry is correctly set up. Doing this manually is virtually impossible, and so that’s why there are some tools to help you out!

Probably the best in the business right now is Registry Mechanic; however, this application isn’t free.

image There is an alternative that does the job well enough, though: it’s called CCleaner, and its free (of course!)

With CCleaner, you can clean your Registry of unnecessary problems (the first time I ran it, over a thousand problems were found!!), and you can also remove unused files from your system to free up disk space and thus run a more efficient system.

I strongly suggest you get this app, as it greatly improves performance and stability of your PC.

What Exactly is Web 2.0?


web 2.0 The latest buzzword around the Internet today is Web 2.0. You've most likely seen it bandied about on one site or another, in magazine articles and in current affairs. And rightfully so, as Web 2.0 is the term used to describe not only the next generation of the World Wide Web, but also a revolution in popular culture.

Basically, industry experts have described the "first generation" of the Web as being only for accessing information created by others. In other words, you were not abele create content yourself. Websites in this first generation were "static", meaning that only the owners of the site created and published content, and visitors to the site were just that: visitors; they consumed content.

However, as technology developed, websites started offering visitors the ability to interact with them. Now, instead of visitors merely consuming content, they began to create content for the sites. These websites became driven by the users, and it has lead to a major step forward in the way we create, connect and become influenced by popular culture. In fact, whole businesses have sprouted around the world that make their profits by offering online services that adhere to Web 2.0.

You've definitely already experienced Web 2.0 - the social revolution - through your online surfing. Here’s a few “Web 2.0” sites that are popular and leading the revolution:
  • Blogger (the platform which Byte Lounge runs on)
  • Facebook (social networking)
  • Bebo (social networking)
  • Twitter (microblogging)
  • and of course, YouTube (video sharing)
That list is just an example of a few of the hundreds of Web 2.0 sites currently online. If you haven’t already signed up to a social networking, content sharing or similar “Web 2.0” site, I suggest you do so soon, as the revolution is hear and its ready to evolve our lives, influencing our opinions, views and attitudes towards our digital lifestyle.

Get Ready for the New Byte Lounge!


Hi there, Rahul Dowlath here. Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that there's hardly been any activity on Byte Lounge. Don't worry: we haven't closed down! No, rather, on the contrary, I have been hard at work on developing a "new" Byte Lounge.
Byte Lounge will be getting a refresh soon, and you'll be able to see this refresh on Monday, April 6th 2009.

So, what's going to be in this new refresh?

Firstly, Byte Lounge will be widening its scope: until now, only articles pertaining to technology were posted. However, come April 6th, Byte Lounge will also be posting about films and games! We want to let more people enjoy our articles about the digital lifestyle, and so we really hope you too will enjoy a wider scope on articles.

Then, along with the new scope, I've taken a look at the way articles have been catagorized here, and decided to come up with a more concise way of doing so. Therefore, the refresh to Byte Lounge will also see new catagories that make it easier to navigate around the site.

So, look out for a fresher, cooler Byte Lounge coming this Monday, April 6th!

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