Here’s one instance when man triumphs over the visually-impaired machine. The online game Phylo lets gamers solve the multiple sequence alignment (MSA) problem by finding the best possible DNA sequence match between up to eight species at a time — and, amazingly, beating out a computer, according to a study reported in the journal PLoS One.

“We have shown that humans’ game-playing visual talents can do some things better than a computer algorithm,” the study’s lead author Jérôme Waldispühl, a computational biologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said in

If a player’s score beats the MULTIZ, a computer alignment program hosted by the University of California, Santa Cruz, their scores will be displayed in the game’s hall of fame. To play, gamers shift the sequences one block at a time to find alignments before time runs out. Players who align similar sequences before their time is up, get their sequences entered into Phylo’s database.

So far, Phylo has 12,252 registered users and almost 3,000 regular players. But it does take some biology know-how to play the game. So far, gamers have come up with about “350,000 solutions to various MSA problems, beating the accuracy of alignments from MULTIZ in roughly 70% of the sequences they manipulated,” notes the article.

There are many fascinating innovations for decoding and studying DNA. Just last month scientists unveiled a biological computer that could extract DNA from a chip. The biological computer acts like computer software to extract images.

What was once a subject only scientists and academics were concerned with, the idea of DNA and what unraveling it means for humans, is becoming an increasingly known and tangible concept.

This isn’t the first time gamers have played a role in helping scientists find answers and solutions to complex problems. Last year online gamers helped to discover an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had been a mystery for years.

Have you, by chance, played Phylo or any other biology-based games? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alengo

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No one is sure what Google has up its sleeve, but it could be something you’ll have at home in years to come.

Google applied for a Federal Communications Commission experimental license to test an unnamed prototype entertainment device in its employees’ homes. The company says the device will connect to home electronics through wireless Internet and Bluetooth.

The main reason for the testing is to see if the device works properly and to “reveal real world engineering issues and reliability of networks,” the company said in its application. Google says the device is still in early stages of development and will be modified after reviewing test results from the 252 devices Google would like to place into employee homes in New York; Cambridge, Mass.; Los Angeles and Mountain View, Calif.

Google asked to test the devices from Jan. 17 to July 17.

SEE ALSO: FCC Grants Google Access To “Super Wi-Fi” Broadband Spectrum

“From this testing we hope to modify the design in order to maximize product robustness and user experience,” the application — submitted by Richard Whitt, Google’s director and managing counsel for Telecom and Media — says. “Utilizing the requested number of units will allow testing of real world network performance and its impact on applications running on the device, so that any problems can be discovered and addressed promptly.”

Little has been disclosed about the what the device actually is, but GigaOM and tech bloggers are wondering if it could be related to Android@Home — Google’s technology to control light switches, alarm clocks and other home appliances through Android devices — or wearable Google Goggles.

Watch the video to learn more. What do you think Google is testing?

More About: android, Entertainment, Google, technology, Video

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Mashable has named Chris Taylor its new Deputy Editor and is enhancing its tech coverage with two new team members.

Taylor joined Mashable in January as San Francisco Bureau Chief and has proven himself as an insightful editor and leader. He will now oversee the development of reporters, while working closely with Mashable’s editor-in-chief to select, develop and coordinate news coverage across the site. Taylor, who goes by the Twitter handle @FutureBoy, will continue to contribute a wide range of original reporting on technology, gadgets, social media tools and companies and more.

An award-winning journalist, Taylor’s impressive resume includes, Fortune Small Business, Business 2.0, CNN Money and Time Magazine, where he served as San Francisco bureau chief and covered the early days of Google, the iPod, the Xbox and Netflix.

In his new role, Taylor, will continue to expand our coverage of technology and gadgets, as well as the platforms, people and companies that drive innovation in this space.

Mashable is also enhancing its tech news coverage team with the addition of Tech Reporter Samantha Murphy and Tech Analyst and Contributor Pete Pachal.

Murphy comes to Mashable from Tech News Daily where, as senior staff writer, she reported on technology for Laptop Magazine and LiveScience.

Pachal’s an industry vet who served as Editor of SyFy’s and, most recently, was’s news director. An experienced tech journalist, Pachal has covered a wide range of tech, digital, social, science, space and gadget topics. Mashable is thrilled to bring his expertise and wit to our audience.

Mashable is growing our team. We have openings in San Francisco and New York:

New York Community Intern (Winter/Spring 2012)
Location: New York

New York Editorial Intern (Winter/Spring 2012)
Location: New York, NY

San Francisco Editorial Intern (Winter/Spring 2012)
Location: San Francisco, CA

Tech Reporter (San Francisco)
Location: San Francisco, CA

Billing Analyst
Location: New York, NY

Sales Marketing Manager
Location: New York, NY

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Google will discontinue news-reading tool Fast Flip, to shift resources to its more widely used products. It will be removed from Google News and Labs in the coming days, though its approach to web content display will be integrated into other tools, Google announced on its blog.

Fast Flip, which celebrates its second birthday this month, is at the top of the list when sorting Google Labs projects by popularity. The tool aims to replicate the print-reading experience online by allowing users to browse stories more quickly. It came at a time when more news organizations were willing to experiment with web content distribution and boasted it had an impressive list of launch partners, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fast Company. These media companies share ad revenue generated through Fast Flip with Google.

Though the product didn’t show much promise from the start, it may have seen success if it had been reworked as a tablet app. As evidenced by CNN’s acquisition of Zite and AOL’s release of Editions, news organizations are shifting focus to optimize mobile reader experiences in a big way.

News aggregation apps Flipboard and Pulse are seeing growing audiences as tablets continue to prove themselves as great content consumption devices. Google may have been better off creating a feature to simplify browsing news on a tablet rather than the conventional web.

Fast Flip is one of nine in a batch of products to be discontinued from Google Labs. The company announced it would shutter Labs experiments shortly after releasing its second-quarter earnings results in mid-July.

Other Labs products Google will shut down:

  • Aardvark: Social search product that helps people answer each others’ questions.
  • Desktop: Gives instant access to data while online or offline.
  • Fast Flip: Provides a faster, richer news content browsing and reading experience.
  • Google Maps API for Flash: Allows ActionScript developers to integrate Google Maps into their applications.
  • Google Pack: Makes it easy to download and install a package of Google and third-party applications.
  • Google Web Security: Protects against web malware attacks.
  • Image Labeler: Helps people explore and label images on the web.
  • Notebook: Helps people combine clipped URLs from the web and free-form notes into documents they can share and publish.
  • Sidewiki: A browser sidebar that lets people contribute and read information alongside any web page.
  • Subscribed Links: Enables developers to create specialized search results that were added to the normal Google search results on relevant queries for subscribed users.

Would you have used Google Fast Flip on a tablet? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: google fast flip, google labs

The body of WebOS is still warm, one day after Hewlett-Packard announced it would cease developing the platform — indeed, HP may yet find a buyer who can bring it back to life. But Microsoft is wasting no time in luring the mourners away with free gifts and offers of support.

Microsoft’s chief Windows Phone evangelist, Brandon Watson, tweeted this afternoon: “To Any Published WebOS Devs: We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, phones, dev tools, and training, etc.”

The latest version of Windows Phone 7, codename Mango, has reached the release stage and will be officially launched this fall — so it’s prime time for Redmond to try wooing developers. Mango adds features such as multitasking and cloud integration to what has so far been a fairly moribund platform.

And it looks as if Watson has had a smattering of interest. He spent the afternoon tweeting the same reply to inquiries: “Send me an email, tell me where you are located, and we connect you to one of our mobile champs for some personal attention.” (Watson’s email, for those interested, is thephone@microsoft dot com.)

Windows Phone may be among the least popular smartphone platforms at the moment, but analysts expect that to change in short order. A recent prediction from Gartner says WP7 will double its market share in 2012 to 10%, and hit 20% by 2015. If those numbers are for real, app developers who get in early could be looking at a gold rush as new users pour in. And Microsoft, flush with cash and desperate for attention in the mobile space, is hardly likely to abandon the platform any time soon. That will come as a comfort to anyone currently feeling burned by HP.

Will Microsoft’s tactics work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: HP, microsoft, webOS, windows phone 7

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On this day in 1974, Clyde Dawson made history as the first consumer to buy a product that had been scanned into a till by its Universal Product Code. The product was a $0.67 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum purchased at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The UPC went on to become more commonly known as a “bar code.”

Now ubiquitous in the U.S., UK, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, the bar code has not changed visibly in the past three decades — a boring monotone patch around which packaging designers must maneuver. Many don’t realize, however, that as long as a bar code is still scannable, you can have tons of fun with creative designs. Although popular in Japan, custom bar codes for product packaging haven’t gone significantly mainstream in the west, except for a few notable examples, such as Amazon’s Kindle packaging.

We’d like to see more bar code creativity, so to celebrate the UPC’s birthday, we’re taking a look at 10 brilliant designs from experts in the designer bar code field — Japanese company Design Barcode and New Jersey-based branding and packaging design agency Miller Creative‘s Vanity Barcodes.

1. Beer Pouring

In this design, we especially love the numbers pouring out of the bottle.

2. Piano


This would make a great graphic for photography product packaging.

5. Sneakers

This gorgeous design imagines the bars as rain.

7. Surfer

The iconic tape cassette becomes a music-themed bar code.

9. Cup


Mac, iPhone and iPad

There’s no easy way to find out or explain the size of the web.

After all, though there are a few governing bodies and consortia, there’s no real central control system for the Internet. No one really knows with 100% certainty exactly how many websites exist, for example, or how many new websites are set up each day.

However, a few organizations do make it their business to keep an eye on the domain names that make up the Internet as the web continues its rapid sprawl throughout the infinite expanses of cyberspace. Although their data isn’t infallible, it does give us a pretty good idea of the size and growth of the web.

We’ve gathered information from a few of these sources and created some handy graphics below to help put it all in perspective.

How Old Is the Web?

The oldest currently registered URL is, which was registered March 15, 1985. Other notable domains in the first 10 registered URLs include,, and, all registered in 1985. [source:]

Who Registers the Web’s Domains?

GoDaddy is the largest ICANN registrar of domain names, controlling almost a third of the total market and almost half of domains from the top ten registrars. Enom, Tucows, and Network Solutions are next in line, with 5-9% each. [source:]

How Many TLDs Exist?

A top-level domain (TLD) is the part of the URL that comes after the dot. There are currently 324 TLDs. 291 of these are country codes. Only 5 TLDs (.com, .net, .biz, .info and .org) are unrestricted and unreserved for specific types of sites. [source: IANA]

How Fast Is the Web Growing?

Just how fast is the web growing? In 2009, around 3.7 million new domains were registered each month. As of June 2011, it’s not uncommon for 150,000 new domains to be registered with generic TLDs alone in a single day. [sources: VeriSign and]

How Big Is the Web?

How many websites are there? That’s a difficult question to answer, because there’s no central control system for the Internet. Here are some tidbits we do know:

[graphic source: Netcraft]

Top image based on a photograph from iStockphoto user Petrovich9.

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templates image

Over time, every web developer gathers a collection of tools — useful libraries, code snippets, reference materials and images that get re-used over and over. They make life easier by shortening development time and handling common, often mundane tasks. This frees up time and brain power for more complex tasks.

In this post, we’ll take a look at a small collection of boilerplates, templates and resets that you can incorporate into your workflow. They simplify the process of setting up a new project by providing a clean slate and often useful utilities.

1. HTML5 Boilerplate

Arguably the most popular HTML5 “starter templates” out there, HTML5 Boilerplate aims to provide a cross-platform, future-proof HTML/CSS and JavaScript base template for web development.

In addition to cross-browser normalization and graceful degradation, Boilerplate also includes more advanced options for caching, JavaScript profiling, unit testing and handling of AJAX events.

2. Boilerplate Mobile

If you’re doing mobile app development, you may also want to check out HTML5 Boilerplate Mobile; a specialized version of the main boilerplate with additional features and functionality specifically for mobile web development.

Boilerplate Mobile includes additional code to assist with viewport optimization, improved font rendering, quickly adding home screen icons and cross-platform support across a number of mobile devices.

3. HTML5 Reset

HTML5 Reset is a more lightweight base template that gives developers a clean slate to work with while setting and taking care of some cross-browser issues, such as CSS inconsistencies and IE-specific CSS rules.

The HTML5 Reset developers also provide a blank WordPress theme using their system, which can be uses in building custom WordPress templates from the ground up. Both flavors of the reset provide clean, semantic code and tons of flexibility.

4. YUI2 CSS Reset

Yahoo’s YUI2 CSS Reset is a set of drop-in stylesheets to begin your next project. The reset eliminates cross-browser inconsistencies in element rendering so that you can explicitly declare your own rules for these elements.

A useful tool in ensuring cross-browser design consistency, the reset is fully documented with lots of great examples and large community backing.

5. Eric Meyer’s CSS Reset

An oldie but a goodie, Eric Meyer’s CSS Reset was one of the first templates to make the rounds and gain popularity. This popular reset has now been updated for HTML5.

Designed to be generic in nature, this stylesheet gives you the bare minimum, but in some ways also provides the most flexibility. It removes default rules set by the browser, eliminating inconsistency and leaving you with a completely clean slate to work with. All browsers are on even footing.

6. Starkers

Starkers is a “completely naked,” bare-bones WordPress HTML5 starter theme. The theme gives you a blank canvas to build upon, removing unnecessary code and providing clean, semantic markup for WordPress as well as support for menus, dynamic components, custom sidebar widgets and more.

Starkers also implements the YUI2 CSS Reset mentioned earlier, so all of the setup is done for you. All you have to do is start building.

7. Roots

Roots is another WordPress starter theme that takes things just a bit further. Built upon Starkers, HTML5 Boilerplate and the Blueprint CSS framework, Roots gives you a robust set of tools for rapid theme development while incorporating tried and true technologies for ensuring cross-browser support for CSS and HTML 5.

Other Roots features include some bundled jQuery plug-ins (Cycle, Fancybox, etc.), an SEO-optimized robots.txt file and support for easy integration of social media content from Facebook and Twitter. Roots has a larger footprint than some other “blank slate” WordPress themes but if you’re interested in quickly building large, robust, and full-featured WordPress sites, it’s definitely worth a look.

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Jonathan Deutsch and Ryan Nielsen left Apple late last year to join Y Combinator’s accelerator program and help designers build animations in HTML5 as opposed to Flash. Friday, the two-man team is releasing Hype, the first product of their startup Tumult, on the Mac App Store.

Hype, which sells for $29.99, uses WebKit to render pages and has been crafted so that anyone comfortable with using Keynote or PowerPoint can start building animations in HTML5, no code required.

“It’s pretty clear that HTML5 is the future of the web,” says Deutsch. “It will, of course, run not only on desktop machines but also runs really well on any modern smartphone or tablet like the iPad. The problem is that there are no good designer apps for creating animated HTML5 like there are for Flash.”

Hype presents the user with a blank canvas with a timeline at the bottom. The user can then drag in images, video and text, arrange those elements and use keyframe-based animations to define where those pieces of content go.

“This is a very designer-friendly process,” Deutsch explains. “We we even made an intuitive recording interface, so you don’t have laboriously layout each individual keyframe. You can just hit record, move your objects and go. It’s really easy to make some powerful, beautiful animations.”

The animations, at least based on these samples, are impressive and present web designers with a viable Flash alternative for carrying their creative work over onto mobile devices. The tool is also intended to be developer-friendly and allows the user to edit raw HTML or Javascript.

As a bonus, Deutsch and Nielsen have built Dropbox integration into Hype, meaning users can publish their animations to Dropbox, as opposed to an FTP site, to solicit feedback from co-workers or clients.

Hype is targeting three primary markets: designers looking to add animations to their websites, Flash developers who need to deploy their content on the iPhone or iPad, and existing users of HTML5.

“There’s a huge wide opportunity with HTML5,” says Nielsen. “We can be the tool that everyone turns to to produce awesome and animated interactive content using the latest standards.”

Both Deutsch and Nielsen speak of a desire to push the HTML5 standard forward and will continue to iterate on the Hype product with more interactive and animation features. The pair is looking at how to weave WebGL, a technology for creating 3D content on the web, into the Hype experience.

Tumult has so far only taken Y Combinator and Start Fund financing. Deutsch and Nielsen hope to finance operations through Mac application sales.

More About: animations, design, HTML5, hype, mac apps, Tumult, y combinator

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Paula Hunter is the executive director of the Outercurve Foundation. With over two decades of open source experience, she has served in leadership roles at organizations such as Open Source Development Labs and United Linux. Follow her on Twitter @huntermkt.

Free and open source software (FOSS) is at the root of the most innovative products, technologies and services of our time. The Social Network may have taken some Hollywood liberties, but there’s still a big story to tell about today’s colleges as the hotbeds of innovation, much of it driven by FOSS.

Today’s top entrepreneurs are using FOSS as the building blocks for innovation. Instead of writing an entire solution from scratch, developers can assemble large parts of their solutions from liberally licensed FOSS projects, and focus their creative energies.

FOSS also serves as a training ground for new developers. Good developers have always known that the way to improve is by reading well-written programs. Good FOSS projects in dynamic communities provide a wealth of examples for students to read, understand, and work on.

Free and open source software isn’t just a good way to program — it’s giving students a leg up in their education and job prospects. Here’s how.


Working within a FOSS project community brings new benefits. First, there’s the real-world experience of participating in a distributed team. More and more of the world’s software projects are developed in highly connected developer communities around the globe, regardless of whether they are public and liberally licensed or closed and proprietary. The communications and social skills learned from an experience like this will be essential.

Development skills will also be honed. This is achieved through constructive feedback and the experience of working within a mature, well-run FOSS project team. This experience provides version control, configuration management tools, regular automated builds, and testing and packaging issues. These are essential professional software development skills that are seldom well-taught in formal school settings.

Experience and Networking

Job and career success often come through one’s professional connections. The broader network inherent in larger FOSS projects can yield big opportunities.

Companies want to know what job candidates can do. Participation in FOSS projects can generate a very public portfolio of practical work. This beats a resume any day. It also makes it easier to show your previous work to a potential employer. If you’ve coded for other companies, the work may be locked behind proprietary protections. But FOSS projects are free and easy for anyone to view.

For college student Eric Schultz, FOSS was a way of adding experience to his resume. Even though he said he didn’t know how to program complex projects, working with a team has helped him pick up skills and add samples to his portfolio. “It’s also a really great networking opportunity,” Schultz said. “I think that it’s helpful because you meet people who already are in bigger businesses — people who are at the top of their field — and all of a sudden, you’re on their radar. So purely from a networking standpoint, it’s really helpful.”

A number of universities are discovering the benefits students are gleaning from FOSS work. Rensselaer and Oregon State University have open source centers of expertise for students. UC Berkeley teaches a web-based course.

Employers aren’t ignorant of the relationship between students, FOSS projects and employment opportunities. Several years ago, Google set up the “Summer of Code” program, wherein FOSS project leaders propose summer work, and students bid for the positions, with Google paying $5,000 to each accepted student. Google continues to invest heavily in the program.

University students who actively participate in FOSS projects and communities can create their own job opportunities, whether it’s a summer internship, full time employment, or lining up a job for graduation next year. Companies hungry for new talent have much to gain by engaging with students that have participated in these endeavors.

Interested in more Dev & Design resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, track5

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