Use your browser for cross-platform instant messaging

Instant messaging may not be the communications dynamo it was a few years ago, but it's still and fast and easy way to connect with friends, family members, and coworkers.

Indeed, I've relied on it for ages to chat with busy editors, and I especially love being able to review message histories to recall what was discussed and when. It's also a great way to reach the tech-support guy who handles my Web hosting -- no waiting indefinitely for an email reply (which is especially important when email is not working).

Just one problem: Different people use … Read more

What's next for

Microsoft's strategy around its portal is continuing along a long and winding path.

This week, Microsoft cut some unspecified number of its freelancers and contractors. The cuts reportedly are not affecting full-time employees -- the number of which is expected to grow -- according to a statement Microsoft provided to The Seattle Times. The cuts are seemingly a result of budget-tightening, post-reorg.

(Microsoft isn't commenting on the job cuts beyond what company representatives told The Seattle Times, a spokesperson said.)

The cuts follow a recent Business Insider story that claimed … Read more

RIP, WebTV: Microsoft to shut down MSN TV on Sept. 30

Microsoft is pulling the plug on MSN TV, a service formerly known as WebTV, as Apple ramps up its set-top box efforts.

The pioneering service, one of the first to offer Internet access via television sets, will shut down September 30, Microsoft revealed in an e-mail to subscribers and in an FAQ posted to its Web site. WebTV, which was founded by Web entrepreneur Steve Perlman in 1996, was acquired by Microsoft for $425 million in 1997.

WebTV offered television-based e-mail and Web browsing via wireless keyboards but struggled to gain traction with consumers. Microsoft rebranded the service as MSN … Read more

Mozilla Firefox's Social API just added more friends

Mozilla Firefox maintains its position among the top browsers, while continuing to boast its signature full-featured and open browsing experience. Though it might not have been the pioneer of such concepts like tabbed browsing, it was a catalyst for bringing the concept to mainstream audiences. These features are complemented by an impressive library of over 10,000 extensions that add even more functionality and value to users, thanks to its robust browser. The more recent releases have brought significant improvements to managing memory usage, and Firefox's private-browsing features have gotten more advanced, as well.

Firefox has also ramped up … Read more

Chat, message, and manage contacts on all your social sites with Trillian for Mac

Trillian for Mac is an instant messaging app with quite a few extras added. Trillian for Mac is available from the App Store as well as many download sites. It installs easily. The main Trillian for Mac client is free, and there is a Pro version that removes ads and allows for cloud storage, although most people will opt for the free app.

The main purpose of Trillian for Mac is an IM platform that connects to all the popular messaging and social networking platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, GTalk, Yahoo, Windows Live, and many more. Of course, you have to … Read more

Play webcam and video files in your video chat sessions

Video2Webcam lets you share video clips with others during online sessions, even when you don't have a webcam attached. If you do have a webcam, you can switch between the live feed and file playback easily. Video2Webcam installs quickly.

The Video2Webcam interface is simple to use. A small dialog shows video clips in a folder you choose, and lets you play them, pause, loop, and stop playback from a small control panel; a small preview window underneath lets you see what the video file looks like (and position playback, if necessary). There are also controls for your webcam to … Read more

Skype recorder works, but not worth the money or hassle

Skype Recorder is, as you would expect, an audio recording application that can record and play back any Skype call. Despite the name, Skype Recorder can also work with most other VoIP based apps such as AIM, ICQ, MSN, and so on. Skype Recorder installs without a hitch, but .NET Framework needs to be in place.

The Skype Recorder interface is pretty basic (and not very attractive). There are three buttons to record, pause and stop recording. There's a section of the interface for setting the function hot key for these capabilities, as well. Finally, you have three options … Read more

Microsoft revamping its MSN portal for Win8, IE10 users

Microsoft plans to make a touch-optimized version of its MSN portal available to users running Windows 8/Windows RT and Internet Explorer 10 as of October 26.

Microsoft officials are showing off a near-final preview of that portal in New York during Advertising Week, which kicks off this week on October 1. They also will be showing off new touch-centric Windows 8/Windows RT ads that will be available on MSN and on select Windows Store apps during this week's advertising confab.

The updated MSN portal will be available only to Windows 8/Windows RT and IE 10 users, … Read more

Iran curtails use of foreign e-mail providers

Iran is cracking down on the use of foreign e-mail addresses.

The country's telecommunications ministry is now barring local banks, insurance companies, and phone operators from communicating with their clients using foreign e-mail providers, according to the AFP news service.

Based on information from Iranian news service Asr Ertebatat, the new order requires such industries to use addresses ending in the Iranian domain .ir, effectively preventing them from using such foreign providers as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or MSN.

Customers of such companies are also included in the ban, requiring them to use local e-mail addresses in order to do … Read more

Microsoft's new msnNOW tracks latest Web buzz

Trying to tap into the national conversation, Microsoft is launching a new service today, msnNOW, that algorithmically curates the most shared content on the Web and presents it to users on a new Web site, a Facebook reader and on mobile phone browsers.

The new service uses algorithms created by Microsoft to scour Facebook, Twitter, Bing, and to cull the most-shared articles among users in real time. About 20 editors will monitor the data, typing up blurbs, in 100 words or less, describing the stories and posting the links.

"We're taking the hottest, socially trending conversations … Read more