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Phone as Beacon

The idea that your cellphone may become a beacon of your availability took one small step closer yesterday, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing amid all the post-turkey bloat. The theory is this. Cellphones have gotten smarter, but they still miss one vital ingredient that computer users have had for years: presence. Anyone using an instant messenger, from ICQ to Skype, will know that they can indicate to their buddies, colleagues and family whether they’re at their computer, in a meeting, dead, or whatever. I’m not available. Leave a message This is useful information: It’s a bit like knowing whether someone is at homeContinue readingPhone as Beacon

The Message Behind Instant Messaging

Be careful what you wish for. For nearly a decade I, and a lot of people like me, have been dreaming of the day when we could send an instant message to someone who wasn’t on the network as us. An instant messaging program is one that sits on your computer and allows you to send short text messages to other Internet users in real time — if they are online they see the message as soon as you’ve sent it. it’s faster than email because they get it straightaway, and it has the added bonus of letting you know whether the other person isContinue readingThe Message Behind Instant Messaging

At Last, Some IM Interoperability

InformationWeek quotes AP as saying that Microsoft and Yahoo “Reach Instant Messaging Deal”:   Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc have agreed to make their two instant-messaging programs work together, a partnership that could threaten market leader America Online, people familiar with the situation said. The deal was expected to be announced early Wednesday, these people told The Associated Press. One of them works closely with Microsoft. The other was briefed on the deal. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details. A Yahoo-Microsoft partnership, allowing users of the competing services to exchange messages seamlessly, would give the two companiesContinue readingAt Last, Some IM Interoperability

The Phisher Commuter

My colleague Lee Gomes writes in WSJ.com in his  Portals column (a few days old, this, sorry; but it is free) about phishers, and what they’re really like, quoting a guy called Christopher Abad, a researcher for Cloudmark: Mr. Abad himself is just 23 years old, but he has spent much of the past 10 years hanging out in IRC chat rooms, encountering all manner of hackers and other colorful characters. One thing that’s different about phishers, he says, is how little they like to gab. “Real hackers will engage in conversation,” he says. “With phishers, it’s a job.” Readers may remember my piece a yearContinue readingThe Phisher Commuter

Skype vs ICQ?

Skype is big — today it said its software has been downloaded by 100 million users, and 2.7 million people are online as I type this —- and it’s widely seen as a challenge to the old telephone companies. But could it also topple ICQ and other instant messaging programs? After all, the folk at Skype seem to spend as much time adding features to the text chat part of the software as they do adding features to the VoIP bit. No real way of telling, I guess, except this graph offers an interesting peek: Using Alexa’s Traffic History Graph service to show how traffic toContinue readingSkype vs ICQ?

The Ugly Instant Messenger

I’m a big fan of Trillian, the IM aggregator, but I had to download and install AIM, AOL’s Instant Messenger last night for an abortive video conference. Sheesh, what a monster it is (AIM, not the conference). Do AOL and the other biggies still not get it? For sure, Trillian is something of a parasite. It piggybacks other free instant chat services and makes money off them. But it does it very, very well: The Trillian interface, whatever the skin you put on it, is a masterpiece of simplicity, understatement and intuitiveness. Compare it with AIM or ICQ (both owned by AOL) which are behemoths,Continue readingThe Ugly Instant Messenger

Is SPIM Another Non-Problem?

No. It is a real problem, if only because there’s still plenty of sleazy people figuring out new ways to ruin your day. There’s some skepticism out there about this new spam threat: SPIM, in case you didn’t know, is spam that’s delivered, not to your inbox, but to your instant messaging chat program, like ICQ. Some folk say it’s a problem.  Yankee Group, according to a recent report, estimates that currently five to eight percent of all instant messages are spam generated by automated bots. Others are more skeptical. Greg Cher on thespamweblog points out that he’s “been on all three of the major IM’sContinue readingIs SPIM Another Non-Problem?

Can We Trust Anti-Spy Software?

Who watches over the watchers? In software, it seems, it’s often the same folk.   Reading a press release for X-Cleaner, “a privacy tool suite that detects and removes installed spyware and adware components”, it sounded interesting enough for a mention. After all, it “includes tools to securely delete files, edit the registry, disable startup programs”, as well as “IE home page protection, cookie, cache and history cleaning, built-in password generator and more”. What’s more, there’s a free version with some features disabled. Not a bad tool for those folk worried about keylogging phisher trojans and whatnot.   But when I tried to find out whoContinue readingCan We Trust Anti-Spy Software?

Sending SMS From A Computer

Here’s a list of some of the available ‘PC to SMS’ services, courtesy of Russell Beattie. My own offerings: Both Yahoo and ICQ chat offer some kind of SMS service, but I’ve found them to be somewhat unreliable. This is less to do with them and more to do with the end provider, but in the end if you don’t know your SMS has arrived, the service is pointless. The Asian experience, at least, has shown that free services don’t last, and people would rather pay a bit and know their SMSes have arrived, than try the lottery of a service that may or mayContinue readingSending SMS From A Computer

News: Where Online Chat Is Going

 It’s now pretty clear where this Instant Messaging thing is going, and why Yahoo and Microsoft have suddenly started blocking third parties from piggybacking their services. Microsoft have announced a hook-up with news agency and financial data transporter Reuters allowing users of the Messenger network to chat with the 50,000 members of Reuters own internal network (used mainly by traders).   The idea, of course, is that the (alleged; probably much smaller) 100 million MSN users can go straight to their broker through a secure chat window. Or, as ENTnews puts it: “In theory, the combination could allow logged, real-time communications among traders and theirContinue readingNews: Where Online Chat Is Going

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