Idee does visual search, iPhone-style

Jevon has already beaten me to it with a post at Startup North, but I wanted to mention Idee Inc.’s new iPhone app, which I got a sneak peek at earlier tonight — it is seriously cool. It doesn’t take a lot to explain it: you take a photo of a CD cover (or record album cover, if you still have any of those) with your phone, and then click a single button to submit it to TinEye, the image-recognition engine that Idee recently released into the wild. Within seconds, you are taken to the listing for that album at iTunes, where you can listen to and/or buy tracks. Pretty slick.

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Canadian political blogosphere FTW!

Came across a good column by Jonathan Kay at the National Post (yes, I read the competition) about the string of victories — depending on how you define the term — involving political blogs and the current federal election campaign. As Jonathan describes, there have been half a dozen cases just in the past month or so in which bloggers have pointed to behaviour or commentary by candidates and other party staff that raised questions about their judgment: a Winnipeg blog called The Black Rod broke the news that a Liberal party candidate believed in 9/11 conspiracy theories; Big City Lib wrote about a Conservative candidate’s inflammatory comments on the Greyhound killing and gay activists; and bloggers turned up anti-Semitic comments from a Green Party candidate.

Jonathan notes that some people believe these kinds of events make the blogosphere more important than the mainstream media, but he doesn’t think that’s the case (and I agree). As he puts it:

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Real vs. the MPAA: Dumb and dumberer

When reports first came out about a month ago that Real Networks was launching a DVD-ripping software application called RealDVD, a number of people — including yours truly — wondered what on earth the geniuses at Real were smoking. How could such a product not get sued? Even though the software uses its own digital-rights management controls to prevent sharing, burning, etc., it seemed obvious that the movie industry would have a conniption when they got wind of RealDVD. And guess what? They’ve gone ahead and launched a lawsuit against the company.

Real’s lawyers tried to get the jump on Hollywood (or rather, the Motion Picture Association of America) by filing a lawsuit against the organization first, asking the courts to rule that RealDVD complies with licensing agreements, but that’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass at best. But if Real is dumb for ever thinking it could launch such a product, the MPAA is even dumber for opposing it. If the app includes DRM controls that prevent users from sharing and burning, then why not let DVD buyers make copies that they can watch on their computers? Seeing any kind of copying as a crime hasn’t done the industry any favours so far.

Zoho quietly builds Google competitor

I often think that Zoho doesn’t get enough credit for the work it has done building a Web-based, Office-style suite of apps. As TechCrunch is reporting (and others have mentioned in the past), the company has launched an application marketplace where developers can host apps that they create with Zoho Creator, an Ajax-driven platform that makes it easy to put together small Web applications. The launch is just the latest in a steady series of releases from Zoho over the past year or so.

Developers who sell applications through the marketplace get 100 per cent of the revenue from anything they sell, which is a nice change from many similar Web stores, and hosting apps on Zoho’s database service will be free for small applications (those that draw a larger crowd will pay a fee, the company says). “We are trying to be the IT department for small and medium-sized businesses,” a Zoho evangelist told InformationWeek. The marketplace joins the Zoho family of Web services, which includes a mail application, word processor, spreadsheets, a presentation creator, a CRM app, a chat service and several other services.

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Hey hey, you you — get off of my cloud

Let’s be clear about one thing: Richard Stallman is a legend in the programming world, and his opinion is worth listening to. He was one of the brains behind the Free Software Foundation and other initiatives, and has been a force for freedom and open source and all of those other good things for many years. He also has a real guru/holy man kind of hair and beard thing going on, which clearly works for him, and I admire that. That said, however, I think his Chicken Little routine with regard to “cloud computing” is a little over-done. I know RMS would rather that we all program our own operating systems and use software that we whipped up with vi and a programmable calculator, but that just isn’t going to happen.

The fact is that people want their computers and software and so on to be convenient, and to let them work faster and easier. Yes, it matters that things are free and open and that monopolies are resisted, etc. But at the same time, reality means that lots of people use Windows and so they are already trapped to a certain extent. From that point of view, moving to a “cloud” model — even if it does involve storing all their files and mail and photos with The Great Google in the Sky — is actually a good thing. Is it any better to have your email trapped in a .pst file that can only be read by a very expensive version of Microsoft Office? No.

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