Facebook Gears to Topple Google

They call it Project Titan.

Some say it might topple Google’s stake as the top dog of email.

And who’s the one who’s trying to take them down? It’s Facebook.

Facebook revealed that they would now feature a “social messaging” email service, giving users the access to a Facebook-themed email account. All users would get an email address such as user@facebook.com.

The email service would be added to the current messaging service that users can access now. It would feature two sections – or inboxes – one for messages inside of Facebook (similar to the current system used) and one for messages outside of Facebook. A user would be able to check their friends’ statuses and email their bosses, all on the same site.

Before the super secret Project Titan was unveiled, rumors surfaced about the new plan of the social network giant.

Rumors are still running rampant about the nature of the project, including the report that this is meant to take down Gmail as one of the most used email providers. It seems to many observers that Facebook is gearing to take Google down as the ruler of the Internet, like an online Napoleon.

Google is the top dog of the Internet, and updates it's logo for special occasions. Logo copyright Google Inc.

But according to Mark Zuckerburg, head of Facebook Inc, his new service isn’t going to replace email as a primary form of communication.

“I think Gmail’s a really good product…we just think that this simpler kind of message is how people will shift their communication,” he said of what Project Titan actually means for users.

Zuckerberg has also downplayed the claim that his site was attempting to take over  email, stating that email is still important to many people and will be in the future, but he admitted that more and more people would gravitate towards Facebook mail over time.

“What?” said Lauren Ali, “I don’t see myself using that. I’d much rather just wait until my friends go online.”

“I don’t think I’d use it,” said another student.

Facebook based email wouldn’t just contend with Gmail, either. It would also come up against providers like Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Thunderbird (an offshoot of Firefox) and Apple Mail. According to comscore, Microsoft’s Hotmail has 361 million global users, followed by Yahoo Mail’s 273 million users and Gmail’s 193 million users, and a Facebook email could drastically change these dynamics.

Yahoo, too, is trying to get ahead of the game, recently launching an updated version of Yahoo Mail, where users can update their Twitter and Facebook statuses from Yahoo.

The service would have a “social inbox” along with a regular email inbox, so users can separate their friends from other, outside email messages.

Facebook is one of the world's biggest social networks. Logo copyright Facebook Inc.

“We can do some really good filtering for you because we know who your friends are,” said Zuckerberg.

This announcement came out after the “ladybug” incident, where thousands of women had their accounts deactivated by a bug from a program that looks for fake Facebook accounts, and then were sent emails telling them that they had to present their photo ID over email, or other government documents, to validate their identity.

Facebook has reportedly reactivated those accounts affected, but the stain on it’s reputation remains, and some are asking the question: “If we can’t trust them with our accounts, how are we supposed to trust them with our email?”

But the numbers of people willing to trust Facebook are far more than the people who don’t wish to share their information with the site.

The numbers can no longer be counted in the hundreds and thousands, but millions and billions.

Facebook came on the scene in February 2004, and since then has accumulated over 400 million active users.

The numbers get more and more impressive. Fifty percent of these 400 million log on to the site every day and there are more than 2 billion photographs uploaded to the site every month, with about 60 million statuses are updated every day. The average user has about 130 friends, and the page with the most fans is Texas Hold’em Poker (an online game).

The fifth Page with the most fans? Vin Diesel.

Yahoo is one of the world's top email providers. Image courtesy Yahoo Inc.

Facebook has long defeated Myspace in the social network game. In 2009, Facebook had a registered 112 million United States users, while Myspace had only 57 million users.

The website has yet to state when the new plan will go into effect. No matter what happens, this is a step forward for the site – and who knows what effect it will have in the overall picture or how it will change the email and private messaging game.

by Gabrielle Bauman

Don’t Mess With Social Networking Say Many Students

It’s easier than ever to get to know someone – even in a matter of seconds.

The popular social networking site Facebook announced on Dec. 5 that new profile pages would be available starting the same day. According to Blogs.Forbes.com, the company said “it will gradually update everyone’s profile by early next year,” however this new profile is available now.

There are mixed feelings about the new profile changes among Penn Manor Facebook users.

“I wish they wouldn’t have made changes when I was just starting to get comfortable with how to use the old layout,” said Penn Manor senior Jeff Bitts.

Bitts has yet to change his layout, and doesn’t plan on it.

In an interview on 60 Minutes’ “Facebook” creator Mark Zuckerberg said the updated profiles “look to put your life’s story front and center in words and images.”

It can be good, because it can make things more easily accessible, however it takes the fun out of actually getting to know someone. Oh, and Facebook creeping.

Using this screen capture of Zuckerberg’s profile page, you can see the changes that have been made.

Facebook launches new Profile layout. Photo from Blogs.Forbes.com

The first noticeable change can be seen right under Zuckerberg’s name. There is a “Wikipedia-like mini-biography of his life,” including where he lives, what he is studying and at what school, and when and where he was born.

This information was previously entered in his profile page before the update and Facebook’s new profile layout automatically used the information to create the mini-biography.

Seems like a good idea, especially for those who are trying to find something out about a user right away.

The second noticeable change is the move of the navigation menu. It’s been moved from the top center to a space below your profile picture in the left column.

So many changes with the navigation, so little approval.

“I’m not sure how I feel about the new navigation changes because it’s still so new. But I don’t think I am going to like it. It seems more complicated to use, but maybe in the long run it will be easier to use. But I think they shouldn’t have changed it. It was fine just the way it was,” said tenth grader Sophia Forte.

A greater emphasis has been given to users’ pictures; the picture page cleans up well and has added an “infinite scroll” to show all pictures that other users have been tagged in, as seen in the screen shot below.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg updated his Profile to the new layout. Photo from Blogs.Forbes.com

If users want to see who your friends are they don’t have to deal with pop up windows anymore, because another update displays the user’s friends in a grid like fashion. Finding friends is also more accessible with an easier search bar located at the top of the “friends” section.

In addition users’ groups and friendships are more promoted. Users can select one of their groups to be displayed on the left hand column below the menu, in Zuckerberg’s he set it as his family.

The best has been saved for the last. The infamous “poke” wars have been given more prominence as it has been moved to the upper-right hand corner of the profile page next to the “message” function.

“The new layout makes it seem like you’re visiting your own personal page, it’s kind of weird; I’m not a fan.  And did they really need to make the poke function more accessible? Let the poke wars begin,” commented Katie O’Connor, a senior.

Also, users can list more specific information about themselves in fields that are already filled out. For example, specific classes or project that the users completed can be added and other users can be tagged if they worked in collaboration.

Some people are resistant to change, and for some Penn Manor students Facebook’s format is something that should not be changed.

By Whitney Reno

Gas Could be Gone 100 Years Before We Have a Solution

Gas could soon be gone so the demand is higher, as are the prices. Photo courtesy of http://www.blog.newsok.com/

Imagine no way to get to school, how are you gonna mow your lawn? And imagine a cold winter night with no heat.

Picture a world without gasoline, and a 100 year gap in between no gas and the solution for it.

That’s what the world is looking at in the year 2041, about 30 years from now.

Recently researchers from the University of California at Davis did research on current share prices of oil and alternative energy companies. Their goal was to predict when replacement fuels will be ready to replace the ever quickly disappearing oil.

Based on what the researchers found, their was no good news to tell.

If in 2008 the world use of oil reserves was 1.332 trillion barrels per year, oil could be depleted by 2041, says the study published online by Environmental Science and Technology.

Through research, UC- Davis researchers found that the depleted oil solution wont be solved until the middle of the next century. The researchers looked over the share prices of nearly 25 oil companies world wide.

Along with filling up our tanks, oil is also used to remove tar, and start fires, while Polybrominated Biphenyls could be used as a fire retarder.

Student’s at Penn Manor had different opinions on the matter.

“I find it highly unlikely,” Said Kevin Kann. Like many others he seems to think that saying we’ll run out of gas is just a trend.

“When I was your age in high school, I was told gas would run out in 2000, that was back in the sixties. Highly unlikely,” said James Yearsley. “We’re smart enough to find a solution. The Germans had a solution called synthetic gas during the World War (WWII), they weren’t smarter than us.”

Although the University of California thinks we won’t have a solution for a decade, Senior Jaquan Presbery thinks otherwise. “By the time we run out of gas we will have hoover cars, so it doesn’t matter.”

By Brian Dunne

Video Game Fever Sweeps Penn Manor

An epidemic has swept some of Penn Manor’s students: 12:01 disease.

Call of Duty features many lifelike war scenes.

Common symptoms of this terrible affliction? Coming down with a sudden illness at 12:01 a.m. – just the time when a new video game comes out. In most cases, the student will be advised to stay home from school the next day – and, in some severe cases, the student in question won’t be seen for the next week.

What could possibly be the cause of this terrible disease? Call of Duty: Black Ops, that’s what. The newest in the Call of Duty (or COD, as it’s commonly called by the players) series from the developer, Treyarch. The preceding game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, broke all records for the first 24 hours of its release.

According to MaximumPC, Modern Warfare 2 sold 4.7 million units in the first 24 hours in stores, the biggest release in video games ever – stealing the title from Grand Theft Auto IV. And those numbers are just in the U.S.- raking in $310 million just in that first day.

Black Ops is another record breaking game. A statement from Activision said that Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 5.6 million units and $360 million in that first day.

Many stores that sell video games had midnight release parties, where the line started early in the night and stretched out of the stores.

Penn Manor is home to students who were some of those lined up late on Monday night at video game retailers like Game Stop at the Park City mall in Lancaster.

“I’ve been awake for 27, no, 36 hours,” said one Penn Manor sophomore, “The game is awesome.”

Call of Duty's Black Ops game has realistic battle scenes. Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Star

Call of Duty is a First Person Shooter – or FPS – where players go through various historical scenarios. Call of Duty has been commended for its attention to historical accuracy and twisting plot. The only part of Black Ops that isn’t historically accurate is you.

Another part of the COD experience is a game called Zombies – or Nazi Zombies, as it is known in its previous title. It is a survival game where two people playing alone or up to four people online try to defend an area from the raging horde of zombies shuffling their way toward the building. The goal is survival, but all players must fall in the end to the walking dead as more and more zombies come at them, faster and faster. Players get points for zombie kills, and can spend the points on better weapons and barricades on the doors and windows. But Black Ops puts a new twist on the playable characters.

*SPOILER ALERT* Before, the player was a nameless soldier in a lonely shack, but now the action gets a whole lot weirder.  The playable characters now include John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, and Robert McNamara, who are fighting zombies at the Pentagon. As the players kill zombies, the characters will spew sound bites from famous interviews and speeches.

“That is so cool!” exclaimed one student.

Several changes have been made concerning game play in Black Ops – like the elimination of Deathstreaks and the dreaded Nuke – whenever a player gets 25 kills in a row in Modern Warfare 2, they can get the use of a tactical missile to wreak havoc upon their enemies. Another perk for kill streaks is a remote controlled car, which players can pilot near enemies and pull a trigger, detonating the car.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is set in the Cold War era, and spans many different locales.

Other, smaller changes include the moving of shotguns from a secondary weapon to a primary weapon.

Another new area is Combat Training, where new players can practice their skills against computer controlled enemies in a format similar to online gameplay, to ease newbies into the online experience.

Before, new players would be forced to run headlong into online games, where they would be shellacked by the older, more experienced players.

“I’m so excited for this game. I would get it, but I just got the new Fable, and I’ll be too busy playing it for the next month to play COD,” said another student.

Nerds and geeks alike will rejoice, for Black Ops also contains a hidden Easter egg that not all players could spot. Following the instructions in the main menu found here: Wired.com, players can turn the main menu into an old text based computer. Type in the command “DOA”, and the screen turns into a top down zombie shooter. Type in “Zork”, and the computer turns into the text based adventure game Zork, a classic choose your own adventure game. You’ll also receive the achievement “Eaten by a Grue”, which will only make sense after you’ve played the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops has made a splash in the pool of Penn Manor’s gamers, but the best is yet to come. Modern Warfare 3 is slated to arrive in 2011, and who knows what that will bring.

By Gabrielle Bauman

Congress Proposes Bill to Censor Internet

A new bill in Congress could change the face of the Web.

Senator Patrick Leahy announced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, proposed Sept. 20, which would allow Congress to blacklist the domain name of any website it deems that is “primarily designed, has no demonstrable, commercially significant purpose or use other than, or is marketed by its operator, or by a person acting in concert with the operator…to sell or distribute goods, services, or materials bearing a counterfeit mark.”

Many students today use the Internet on a daily basis but some sites may go away under a proposed bill.

Uh oh kids, some of those sites you visit, like p2pnet and Rapidshare, could be in danger with this bill.

The main types of websites that will be in jeopardy if this legislation passes are hosting sites such as Dropbox and MediaFire, mp3 mashup sites like SoundCloud and Hype Machine, and any site that makes the case for piracy.

Five years ago, Youtube would have been one of those sites in danger. But given the amount of users and Youtube’s recent victory over Viacom, the likelihood of Youtube actually being taken down seems very small. However, any website similar to Youtube that contains copyrighted work? If this bill passes, they might just be taken down.

“This is wrong,” said Mark Hutchins, a sophomore, “The websites should at least be notified and taken to court before being shut down. They (Congress) could use this to take down anything that disagrees with them, like China does.”

This bill has caused an uproar in certain internet free speech organizations, including The Huffington Post (which has an online petition against the bill) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.The EFF has an open letter on their web site to congress from 96 people that helped pioneer the web. The link to the letter: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/09/open-letter

“…If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation…” said the letter. Among the names who signed the letter were Jim Warren, who worked on the ARPAnet (one of the precursors to the internet), Bill Jennings, who was VP of engineering at Cisco for ten years, and Brian Pinkerton, founder of the first search engine, Webcrawler.

Locally, Penn Manor’s tech guru is troubled by the proposed legislation.

“It appears to be a knee-jerk, shotgun blast reaction that could potentially inflict considerable collateral damage on legitimate sites and content,” said Charlie Reisinger, Penn Manor’s Technology Director, “Clearly, the passing of this bill could have significant impact on teachers and students seeking legitimate content under the terms of fair-use. It would erode the fundamental, open architecture of the internet.”

Around the same time that the bill was announced, President Obama gave remarks at the United Nations General Assembly extolling an Internet without censorship, “We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security,” he said.  “We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds.”

Those remarks were given between a call for civil rights and a comment on the enduring power of democracy.

The bill would work like this: Congress or a committee is alerted to the presence of a website that contains copyrighted content. This could include image sharing websites and hosting sites. Then the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is contacted, and the ISP blocks the domain.

Any user of that website would see their favorite page simply disappear, or could see the infamous “404 Not Found” message.

“No!” exclaimed sophomore Will Frank, “That would be horrible!”

“While I agree that the evolving nature of digital media and the Internet creates considerable pressures on legitimate copyright claims, I’m not supportive of COICA…I question the ability of the Attorney General to make determinations regarding the legitimacy of web content without due process,” added Reisinger.

This legislation is especially in direct confrontation to organizations like the Pirate Party, who work toward copyright law reform, government transparency and the User’s right to privacy.

“I don’t want this to happen,” said another student.

The Internet has had a close call.

The bill was delayed in Congress on September 30 for revisions, and many of the web’s civil rights organizations breathed a sigh of relief. According to Politico, Senator Leahy won’t try to push the bill through until after the midterm elections.

“Hopefully, it will not move forward at all,” said Reisinger.

“This is a real victory!” said an article on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website, “Make no mistake, though: this bill will be back soon enough.”

And so it will. Like a zombie rising from the grave, this bill will return.

by Gabrielle Bauman

Penn Manor Tech Upgrades Come with a Price

Penn Manor students have gotten a technology upgrade in many facets of their school lives – from the lunchroom to the classroom.

Penn Manor’s students recognize the PolyVision Boards that have infiltrated  classrooms, or the finger scanners at lunch or even the laptops teachers use.

The Mac Mini
A new Mac Mini, and one of the many the school has purchase

But are all of the new upgrades for our school worth the cost?

“They (the PolyVision Boards) are, one hundred percent, an enormous tool for educators,” said science teacher Sally Muenkel of the classroom technology.

Last year, the computer labs in the school library replaced the old computers (which ran the Windows XP operating system) with brand new Mac Minis. The other school writing labs also got the Macs, so the school computers now run faster and more efficiently.

According to Apple, the Mac Mini is the world’s most energy efficient computer (and it’s small, too, at only three pounds), saving the school utility costs.

Every day,  the Penn Manor library computer lab is booked for all four blocks. With two classes of twenty occupying the space every block.  The library has over 160 students traversing it most days- and this doesn’t count the students using it before and after school.

“The bottom line is that the modern workplace is info rich and requires that our students are proficient with multiple forms of technology,” said Penn Manor technology director Charlie Reisinger.  “To not provide these services for our students would rob them of the skills necessary to be competitive in the global economy.”

Brendon Woods uses one of the Mac Minis.

Although one Mac Mini costs up to $699.00 retail Dr. Michael G. Leichliter, the district superintendent of Penn Manor said most of the new technology was paid for using the Classrooms For the Future grant money.

According to Leichliter, the district received about $600,000 to upgrade Penn Manor High School’s classrooms.

But before the technology could go in, the support for it had to put into the building itself.

Penn Manor High School was built in the 1960s, before wireless networking- or even the internet, so the school wasn’t built for the new network. The school spent nearly the same amount as the grant just to get the building ready for the technology.

The Mac Minis in the library and in certain computer labs were purchased with the technology director’s budget. Every year Reisinger has a set budget for replacement technology and new technology, said Leichliter.

The district is trying to be judicious, he said, in making upgrades from that budget.

The monitors on those computers were never replaced, even though they’re at least 10 to 15 years old.

The laptop carts alone cost around $35,000 each (including the laptops, of course).

“The library computers are checked out almost all the time. I would say 90 percent of the time,” said Susan Hostetter, Penn Manor’s high school librarian, as she surveyed the students working at the Mac Minis.

And then there’s the finger scanners, a entirely different technology.

In early 2009, Penn Manor implemented the M2SYS biometric systems so they could “increase the efficiency and security of the serving line transactions,” said administrators.

Every student (except the students who chose to opt out of the program) had their fingers scanned and entered into the school database in order to make lunch purchases quicker and more efficient.

“For a number of years, the Penn Manor School Board had been considering the finger scanners, and it was only recently that the action went through,” said Chris Johnston, the business manager for Penn Manor. “In some cases the finger scanners do make it faster to move through (the line), but when a student isn’t in the system or has trouble being registered, then it will cause a backup in the line.”

Almost every student chose to participate in the program.

But do the finger scanners – which are meant to save time and energy for both the cafeteria staff and the student – really save time?

“The finger scanners are really fast when they work.” said senior Lyndsay Funk, “But it’s really slow when there are difficulties – which is like once a week.”

She grimaces as she remembers  past lunch periods gone by. “It seems like half the time I scan my finger it denies me. Some kids it seems every day they have to scan like a billion times before the system finds them,” said Funk.

The finger scanners lose accuracy when a student with “greasy or sweaty hands uses them,” according to cafeteria personnel.  Then a film of dirt covers the scanner, and every student after that person begins to have difficulty scanning.

Technology advances lightening fast, and there’s only so much Penn Manor can do to keep up with it.

By Gabrielle Bauman