Take Five: Of tumblelogs and splashdowns

Tumblr goes down
The short form blogging site Tumblr came crashing down this week after routine maintenance turned into a crisis situation.

The site—which gets about a half a billion page views a month—was down for almost 24 hours. In that time angry Tumblr users turned to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

The downtime, reminiscent of Twitter’s fail whale era, is indicative of the rapid speed with which Tumblr has been growing. The company says it has quadrupled its engineering staff in the last month.

Not many South Africans have been bitten by the Tumblr bug yet but it’s one fad that’s sure to make its way south soon.
The site provides an intermediate format for blogging—it’s not as brief as 140 character Twitter but neither is it a fully-fledged blogging platform like Blogger.

Tumblr bills itself as “the easiest way to blog” and provides users with a low maintenance blog that’s easy to update—whether by text, email, phonecall or on the web. It gets an average of 2-million posts and 15 000 new users each day.

Google launches eBookstore
Google sure does get around. This week it launched its eBookstore and some are calling it revolutionary.

It offers almost 3-million public domain books as well as thousands of recent titles. You’re e-book library is cloud-based so you can use just about any device—- computer, cellphone or e-book reader—to access it. But it’s not without its problems. Oddly, one of the complaints about the eBookstore is that it’s incredibly hard to search for book titles.

In a seeming knee-jerk reaction, Amazon has announced that it will also be releasing a web-based version of its Kindle app in the next few months, a curious decision given that there are already a host of Kindle apps available for just about any mobile device.

When hacktivists attack

Politically motivated activists—or “hacktivists”—have mobilized attacks against anti-Wikileaks websites in an illegal campaign known as Operation: Payback.

This week the hackers launched distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, causing downtime on the sites and interrupting services to customers. The companies have withdrawn services to Wikileaks and are no longer processing donations made to the whistleblower site, which last month leaked 250 000 confidential diplomatic cables to the public. It’s been alleged that the United States State Department put pressure on the companies to sever ties with Wikileaks.
The hackers responsible for the attacks say they’re winding down the DDoS attacks in favour of a more focused support campaign. DDoS are illegal in most countries.
Between the McCarthyesque US government approach and free-Internet brigrade, onlookers are watching the unfolding saga with great interest.
New iPad on the way

Apple is notorious for releasing a new model of its flagship product each year. We’re used to getting tinier iterations of the iPod on an annual basis. Now it seems it’s the iPad’s turn.

The Telegraph reports that the wildly popular tablet PC—which has sold over 7.5-million units in the last eight months—will get a makeover in April next year.

The so-called “iPad 2” is expected to respond to much of the criticism of the original model. It’s rumoured to feature an eye-poppingly clear retina display and a camera to enable video calls.

Prototype space ferry splashes down
The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has successfully launched commercial spacecraft into orbit. The Dragon spacecraft spent over three hours in low altitude orbit around the Earth before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, where it was picked up by a retrieval team.

According to Wired magazine, it is the first privately developed and launched spacecraft to be put into low Earth orbit and return to earth for a successful recovery.

Nasa has invested over $200-million in the venture as part of a strategy to develop commercial space ferries. It’s hoped commercial capsules like the Dragon can be used to ferry cargo and later astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Following its successful test flight this week, SpaceX stands to win a $1,6-billion cargo-ferrying contract from Nasa.

The launching of spacecraft has always been the domain of countries or international space agencies. But there’s been a growing realisation that costs can be cut by outsourcing development. Independent companies like SpaceX can develop spacecraft more quickly and at much lower cost than organisations like Nasa, which is known for its deep layers of bureaucracy.

Faranaaz’s interests span science, technology and development. Read her weekly wrap every weekend on M&G Online and follow her on Twitter here

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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