For those of you who don't mind walking on the beta side of software, there's a new version of Skype available, version 5.0 Beta 2. Among the handful of changes, Skype 5.0 beefs up its group video calling feature with support for up to 10 people. For it to work, however, everyone in the group needs to be running the latest beta release.
The new version also comes with a revamped UI that Skype says is "sleeker, neater, and crisper than before." Skype Home has been added, where you can keep tabs on your contacts' mood messages, set your own mood message, select a profile picture and receive account notifications.
Otherwise, most of the changes are internal. Skype says it managed to improve call quality when making group calls and squashed a number of bugs that mucked with stability.
Developers anxious to see how the webOS platform will evolve under the new leadership of Hewlett Packard (HP) can catch an early glimpse. Members of Palm's Early Access program can now download the first beta release of webOS 2.0, the next-gen version of Palm's mobile operating system.
There are a bunch of new features in the new release developers can use to code new apps, starting with much improved multi-tasking. Building on Palm's card metaphor, webOS 2.0 ups the ante by grouping related cards in stacks, making it easier to move between tasks.
The latest release brings a better implementation of Universal Search renamed "Just Type." One of the new features of Just Type is Quick Actions, which allows users to start an email, create a message, update a social status, and search favorite websites without ever launching an app.
We don't mean to laugh at your suffering, Final Fantasy XIV fans, but we have to admit that we find this whole situation pretty amusing. See, Square's slammed the brakes on its FFXIV open beta test, which was scheduled to begin on August 31.
“FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test, which is scheduled to begin at 19:00 (PDT) on Aug. 31, 2010, will be postponed due to a confirmation of critical bugs. New schedule will be released at a later date,” the developer wrote on FFXIV's official site.
So then, why are we conjuring up our hardest Gigglaga at your expense? Well, here's the thing: aren't beta tests all about sniffing out and squashing the daylights out of “critical bugs”? If we were to yank the phony costume mustache off this “beta test” guy, we're pretty sure we'd find our old buddy “glorified free promotional demo” underneath -- as we have with countless other recent "open betas." Can we just start calling these things by their real names already?
The UI changes are the most noticeable to users. The color scheme has been made more metallic, and less blue. The stop/refresh button has been removed from the end of the address bar, and given its own spot at the left of the interface. The options have been condensed to one button as well. These changes make more space for extension icons.
One of our favorite Chrome features is finally making its way into Firefox 4, automatic updates. This might not sound like a huge breakthrough, but the little discussed feature is responsible for 97 percent of Chrome users running the most up-to date version of the browser within three weeks of its release. The concept is to simply download updates silently in the background when bandwidth is not being otherwise used, and then apply the patch automatically when the browser is started. Users who never restart their browsers will be given a gentle reminder after a few weeks.
In an age where zero day security vulnerabilities are the norm, and major releases drop every six weeks, it’s easy to understand why users would grow fatigued with giving the thumbs up for every update. Unlike Chrome however, Mozilla claims they will allow Firefox users to turn off the automatic updating feature, or to have it prompt only on major updates. This is a concession for those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of software automatically installing itself in the background, or for those that just like to always know what’s going on.
The auto-update feature will make its debut in the beta build of Firefox 4 soon, with the Mac and Linux versions getting the same treatment sometime before final release.
Google recently vowed to make more frequent the end-user's trysts with a new version of its Chrome browser. But for some, stable browser builds are rather vapid and the prospect of one every six weeks even more so. Google has now released the highly unstable Chrome Canary Build for such denizens of the bleeding edge.
“We plan to update the Canary Build more frequently than the Dev channel, with riskier changes, and usually without a human being ever verifying that it works, so the Canary Build is only for users who want to help test Google Chrome and are comfortable using a highly unstable browser that will often break entirely,” Henry Bridge, a Google product manager, said in a blog post.
It is possible to install the experimental Canary Build alongside a more stable version of the browser, which can be either a Dev, Beta or a Stable channel release. If you are a Mac or Linux user, the Canary Build is not for you.
“If you like to live on the bleeding edge, give the Google Chrome Canary Build a shot and let us know what you think. The early feedback on crashes, performance regressions, broken features and other problems is incredibly valuable to us, so thanks!”
Hell, it's about time. Wait, wrong game. Still though, Battlefield 2 came out before Twitter or Facebook hit it big, the iPhone became the tech toy everyone loves to hate but still owns anyway, and even before this snazzy, updated-on-a-regular-basis version of MPC.com came to be. So, for obvious reasons, it feels like we've torn an eternity's worth of pages from our media-centric calendars while waiting to catch a glimpse of DICE's next non-spinoff Battlefield sequel. Fortunately, the finish line's finally in sight.
Via an announcement about Medal of Honor's Limited Edition, EA gave its first official confirmation of Battlefield 3 – and with it, the Battlefield 3 beta. So, how does one nab a spot in the highly anticipated test? Yes – you, in the back. With the shirt that has “Captain Obvious” written all over it. Buy the Medal of Honor Limited Edition, you say? Why yes, you are correct!
Oddly, the Limited Edition will make the same attack on your warchest – $60 – that the standard edition will, and as a result, seems to be the only version listed by many retailers. Aside from the Battlefield 3 beta key, it also packs a little extra heat in the form of a few bonus weapons.
Really though, if a slightly shinier virtual pistol is a deal-breaker for you over Battlefield 3 beta access, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror, because you do not exist.
Have an awesome idea for a Skype app? Well get to it! The good news for software developers for both Windows and Mac platforms is that Skype has opened up its SDK to anyone who requests it.
"We are taking Skype into new directions by empowering consumer electronic and desktop software innovators to embed Skype into their products through the availability of our new software development kit (SDK) called SkypeKit," Skype wrote in a blog post when first announcing SkypeKit in June. "We believe that every connected device can become a communication device, with the addition of SkypeKit. Likewise, desktop applications everywhere can now include Skype."
You have to act quick, however, as SkypeKit is a limited, invite-only beta release. It's unclear how many invites Skype intends to hand out or how long the beta will last.
If Microsoft has to make up for the “generation we missed with Windows Mobile,” it will have to ensure that Windows Phone 7 proves too hard to ignore for developers, vendors and carriers. The company has been working on acquainting developers with its upcoming smartphone platform since March, when it unveiled the Windows Phone Developer Tools package as a community technology preview (CTP). The developer tools package now sports the beta tag.
The beta tag means that the package includes an almost finished version of everything needed for app and game development, including Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Silverlight for Windows Phone and XNA Game Studio 4.0 Beta. MS has also begun shipping pre-production preview devices to developers just as it promised, with the first devices "awarded last week to a pair of pretty amazing high-school students who won the Windows Phone “Rockstar” contest as part of the Imagine Cup.”
Just one of the many announcements coming out of Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) on Monday, the software Goliath talked up new features and wider availability of its Windows Intune beta, a cloud-based management and security platform.
"On April 19, Brandon LeBlanc announced the first public beta of Windows Intune, available to more than 1,000 customers and IT partners in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. We saw a lot of excitement from partners and customers and the beta filled up very quickly," Alex Heaton, Group Project Manager for Windows Intune at Microsoft, said in a blog post.
"Now we want to give more of you an opportunity to try Windows Intune. Today we are expanding the scope of the beta to 10,000 accounts and increasing the regions to the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, UK, and Italy."
Not for the casual observer, Heaton says only those who are able to test the platform on up to five PCs should sign up for the beta, as Microsoft is trying to gather feedback "to ensure a quality final release."
As for pricing, Heaton said Windows Intune will include the cloud management service with integrated anti-malware (AV and anti-spyware) plus Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights bundled together in a single subscription for $11 per PC, per month.