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TopCoder's interesting twist on community-based development

An old friend from the open-source world, Ira Heffan, called me today about his company, TopCoder. Ira is a smart guy so I figured anything with which he was involved must be good.

And it is. At its most basic, TopCoder stages programming competitions, both for itself (that is, its direct consulting clients) and for third parties like Google. Companies hire TopCoder to stage competitions to build functionality for them (as well as to scout for new talent). TopCoder also provides consulting services and uses competitions to create the requested applications, and heavily reuses its portfolio of applications and components to drive down development costs.

As an example, TopCoder has its premier competition in Las Vegas next week at the 2008 TopCoder Open (May 12 through 15), hosting 120 finalists from 30 countries. $260,000 in prize money is on the line.

Ira told me that one developer made over $500,000 last year in TopCoder prize money. Not too shabby. This, coupled with recruiting interest from top companies means that developers may be winning themselves a new job, as well as a competition.

However, it's actually a lower-profile component of TopCoder's business that I find the most fascinating: Bug Races.… Read more

Patches for Firefox and Flock

The past 24 hours have seen Mozilla Firefox (download from CNET Download.com for Windows and Mac) getting another security hole plugged, while its social-networking derivative Flock (also at CNET Download.com for Windows and Mac) earns a minor behavioral bug fix.

Firefox's most recent safety snafu is another JavaScript engine security problem that was causing the browser to crash during JavaScript garbage collection. Although there was no indication that this error was exploitable, says Mozilla, other similar errors in the past were. Not to mention the benefit of not having your browser randomly going kablooey.

Flock's fixRead more

Adobe releases debugged Lightroom 1.4.1

Correction, 5:30 p.m. PDT: This blog initially misstated the day Adobe released Photoshop Lightroom 1.4.1. It is Thursday.

After a debugging session to fix problems with the flawed 1.4.0, Adobe Systems on Thursday released Photoshop Lightroom 1.4.1.

Raw images from higher-end digital cameras have more flexibility and quality than JPEGs, but also require processing in a computer to convert to more useful formats. Lightroom handles that task, along with cataloging and other chores. Adobe also released the corresponding version 4.4.1 of Adobe Camera Raw, the raw-image converter plug-in for regular … Read more

Weather Channel Desktop gets better maps

When it comes to your weather-knowing needs, The Weather Channel Desktop 6, which moved out of beta this past week, contains a wealth of meteorological and atmospheric information that goes far beyond three-day forecasts. Of course, it does that, too. The app can predict weather for as short a period as the next 12 hours or as extended a span as the next 12 days. There's a storm watch and pollen count for your physical well-being and reports on cloud behavior over local golf courses, lakes, and amusement parks to help plan your day.

The Weather Channel Desktop also … Read more

Bug Labs sold out until May

Bug Labs is on to something.

We certainly thought so when we gave the Bug Labs platform a Best of CES award in the Emerging Technologies category. It turns out the "Lego of gadgets" had broad enough appeal to sell out of its first manufacturing run. Visitors to the Bug Labs online store are now greeted with a promise that the company will begin to fulfill orders "by the end of May." Fortunately, the lauded early adopter pricing remains in effect.

In an interview with Silicon Alley Insider, Bug Labs founder Peter Semmelhack noted that many … Read more

Buzz Out Loud 690: Your stupidity saves dogs

EPISODE_690

Happily ever after for Comcast, BitTorrent? http://www.news.com/newsblog/8301-10784_3-9904448-7.html?tag=nefd.lede

Safari 3.1 for Windows violates its EULA, vulnerable to hacks http://apple.slashdot.org/apple/08/03/27/129236.shtml

YouTube to provide more viewership information http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gWUpmd32wRBFgmwTZO5S1sCRYEZgD8VLRIMO1

Will plug-in hybrids crash the grid? Duke Energy says no. http://www.news.com/8301-11128_3-9904484-54.html?tag=nefd.blgs

Adobe opens shop on Web-based Photoshop Express http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9903446-7.html?tag=nefd.top

Apple settles the amazing multicolor lawsuit http://www.news.com/8301-13579_3-9903602-37.html

iPO Reports - … Read more

Bugs force Adobe to pull Lightroom update

Adobe has pulled from its Web site an update to Photoshop Lightroom after discovering the new version can cause at least three errors.

In a posting on its Web site, Adobe says that users should not move to version 1.4 and those who have are advised to go back to the older version.

"Those Lightroom users who have installed Lightroom 1.4 should uninstall the update and install Lightroom 1.3.1 until a further update can be provided," Adobe said. Among the errors are a time stamp bug as well as an error in the way … Read more

Bug yourself with fancy phone notes

Sure, the iPhone and all those whiz-bang Nokia crowd-pleasers have users in their thrall, but that doesn't mean you should feel bad with the something else you've got. While searching for cool software for a Palm Treo 650, I discovered a productivity oldie that has yet to crumble into the dust of antiquity.

For Palm, and Windows Mobile 5 and 2003, BugMe Notepad is a handy, feature-rich note-taking app that comes with a companion for annotating screenshots pretty much how you like. For some, that means typing text in various colors. For others, importing a photo and scrawling … Read more

New computer, old software

New computers come with old software, a situation that, considering the recent slew of critical bug fixes, can be quite dangerous.

To illustrate just how old some of the software is, consider a new Windows XP machine that I got yesterday. The computer, a ThinkCentre A61 tower, was ordered from Lenovo on January 6, 2008. It was delivered to someone on January 16th, exactly who I'll never know. As I wrote about last month, UPS lost my computer. But that's another story.

I've got my new computer routine down pat at this point. First, I run a … Read more

Bug fixes! Patches! Updates! Come and get it

Bug is a dirty word in the software world. After all, it means "mistake" and no one wants to admit they made a mistake. Instead of calling the fix for a mistake by its rightful name, a bug fix, software companies refer to "patches" or "updates". Soft words. Happy words.

The bug itself is called a "hole" or a "vulnerability". Initially, bugs were called "issues" but eventually people caught on. Did you happen to notice that Mitt Romney recently "suspended" his campaign (a soft word), as … Read more