06 November, 2011



Lost interview with Steve Jobs to air at Landmark Theaters on November 16

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 01:20 PM PDT

The untimely passing of Apple’s iconic co-founder and CEO has prompted the rushed release of the Steve Jobs biography, a PBS documentary and now a theatrical showing of never-seen-before footage from a 1995 interview between technology personality Robert Cringely and Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview will debut at select Landmark Theaters on November 16 and feature nearly 70 minutes of unedited dialogue between Cringley and Jobs first captured in 1995 for the PBS miniseries Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires.

The three-part documentary series was focused around the founding of the personal computing industry, and included bits and pieces of a colorful interview with Steve Jobs in which he lambasted Microsoft and its products.

“That candid, controversial, and funny interview with an old associate … was by far the best TV interview Jobs ever gave,” according to promotional materials shared with VentureBeat. “Yet less than 10 minutes were used in the series and the other 59 minutes were lost forever when the master tapes disappeared in shipping.”

The tapes were said to be recently recovered in London. Cringley then connected with Mark Cuban, co-owner of Wagner/Cuban Companies and operator of Landmark Theaters, to bring the footage to audiences.

The unrated program will air at Landmark Theaters across the the U.S. on November 16 and 17, with 7:15 and 9:00 p.m. showtimes at most theaters. Would-be viewers can catch a screening of the program in New York, Lost Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto, Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta and Milwaukee.

[Image via IMDB]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Bellstrike offers free, sexy websites for nonprofits

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 12:16 PM PDT

“I’m around nonprofits a fair amount and saw that most of them were small and really struggling with just getting up a simple website,” said Dodd Caldwell.

Caldwell recently got in touch with VentureBeat to tell us about Bellstrike, his solution for tech-challenged nonprofit organizations.

“Many of them didn’t have websites,” he continued. “Of the ones that didn’t many of them just weren’t that great and didn’t accept online donations. I love trying to start things, fixing problems, and helping nonprofits. So, starting Bellstrike seemed like a pretty good idea.”

Bellstrike uses beautiful fonts, eye-catching colors, social media options and modern themes to create websites that help nonprofits communicate their missions and raise the funds they need to keep operating.

The websites integrate features that let organizations instantly accept online donations. Nonprofits can even choose to create a gift catalog so visitors can "shop" for donations. Bellstrike even sends automatic receipts to online donors via email.

Bellstrike makes its money by taking 6 percent of online donations, capping fees at $80 per month.

Caldwell said the service first outfits each nonprofit’s main navigation menu with home, about, programs and donation pages, as well as a blog and one custom page. “We’re working on allowing them to customize these somewhat after the fact, but they don’t have to worry about what their site’s architecture will be,” he said.

“If they don’t have a logo, we take their name, use a cool typeface with Typekit, and throw some effects on it to make it look good.”

Then, depending on the theme the organization chooses to use, Bellstrike automatically sets up complimentary typefaces, colors and layouts.

“I’ve been around too many nonprofits that go to post a blog post and then spend two hours trying to format it, determining whether to wrap text to the right or left around a photo, how large to make the font, what color to make it, etc. When they upload a photo with Bellstrike or write text, we put it where it’s supposed to go,” he said.

Altogether, the website-creation process is, as Bellstrike puts it, “as fast as a round of Candyland and as easy as making a sandwich.”

Check out this quick demo, and if you know of a nonprofit that’s struggling with the web, pass along the info:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Kid studies Java as a second language; should more do so?

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 10:26 AM PDT

At the Park School just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, 8th grader Chance Williams was having a lot of trouble in Spanish.

At one point, Chance’s father, Jeff, found himself sitting in the principal’s office with the Spanish teacher when a wild idea struck him.

“I thought, he loves computers, why not let him pursue that instead? Why not let him take Java as a foreign language.”

In a conversation with VentureBeat, Williams, who runs a web security company, told us that he expected a negative response to the idea, but the educators were actually open to it. The school didn’t offer a Java class, so the father and son organized an independent study course, complete with a syllabus and textbook.

“It turned out to be a really wonderful choice,” said Williams.

Chance dove into the project, going through the work at a much faster pace than was expected, and was very self-directed in his studies.

“He liked it, he really latched onto the puzzle,” said Williams. “In one semester, he worked through the book. Over the summer, he did some independent projects. He wanted to write apps for his Android phone.”

Already, 500 people have downloaded Chance’s first app, Droidbox — quite a vote of confidence for a kid who was just picking up programming. Williams hopes Chance will get his Java certification by the end of 9th grade.

“Tech has always been an option, but it’s not part of the mainstream curriculum,” Williams told us.

“It’s good for our country… We’ve staked a lot of our future on our ability to be innovators, so it’s a national priority. There are good effects in building tech literacy in kids today, because if you don’t start early, you end up falling behind.”

And falling behind we are.

In 2003, the Program for International Student Assessment, an international test, showed that 15-year-old students in the U.S. lagged behind students in other nations when it came to math and science. In 2006, the National Academies publicly raised concerns about a marked decline in U.S. students' knowledge of science, technology, math and engineering. Currently, American students rank low for math and science skills, coming in 25th in math and 21st in science compared to students in 30 industrialized countries.

Williams said when he was his son’s age, he was put through several years of French instruction, which didn’t come naturally to him and required a lot of extra mental effort. “But the discipline of learning computer languages, learning to think that way, brings critical thinking skills you can only learn that way.”

While Williams noted that programming isn’t the right choice for every student, “For those who do fall in that bucket and have skill in this area, it just makes sense to develop them early on, to get them into programming.”

Williams also thinks that having programming as a more regular part of the curriculum early on could have beneficial effects on the gender balance in the tech industry.

“I dont know why more girls don’t get into technology. It could be cultural, it could be gender bias in how classes are offered. But it is really important to encourage girls to get into technology; plenty of them have skills in this area. It is unfortunate that we’re steering so few into the top of the funnel.”

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Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

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The week in review: Jobs’ last words, Siri’s rough week & Google+’s last stand

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 09:59 AM PDT

Welcome to the weekend, dear reader!

Lest you wander into your usual melange of fancy soirees and intellectual salons as uninformed as a wee little baby, we present this week’s VB Weekly video, full of interesting tidbits and talking points for your technological conversations.

This week, we chat a bit about Steve Jobs’ last words (and the general fact that technologists seem uncomfortable with the possibility of an afterlife), the up-and-down adventures of Siri, and Google’s assertion that Google+ is more than a social network.

As always, feel free to share your own opinions in respectful and lively discourse in the comments section below.

Filed under: VentureBeat, video

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