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Synthasite raises $20 million

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Vinny Lingham just announced to the the world that he has raised $20 million for Synthasite, a simple online website building tool.

After Twitter, this investment is probably the 2nd largest VC deal since LehmanBrothers hit the fan.

TechCrunch has more details, but seems skeptical and questions whether SynthaSite would be able to grow in the “current economic climate”. I think this is a silly question. Services such as SynthaSite are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the situation.

There may be an economic crisis afoot, but TechCrunch is mistaken if it thinks it means every economically active  person is going to go into hiding after being laid-off. There will be many small businesses founded by laid-off workers in the next year. These businesses will need websites, quick!

With SynthaSite you can set up a brand new website, choose a professional looking template, add some basic info about your business and even create an online store that automatically integrates with your PayPal account. You can then publish to a synthasite.com subdomain or simply pay $15 to buy a custom domain through SynthaSite. You can literally do all of this within 10 minutes.

The other question TechCrunch raises is the Me-Too players in the market. Geez, do they even deserve mentioning? Synthasite has been growing 34% month on month (see compete.com) over the last year, and there’s a simple reason for this: Small Town South African born Vinny Lingham is smarter and faster than all the sheltered Stanford kiddies in Silicon Valley combined. Good luck to them though…

Disclaimer: Vinny is an investor in Skyrove WiFi Hotspots.

Wi-Fi in the Developing World

Joy Tang recently sent me a bunch of interesting links anyone involved with Wi-Fi in the developing world should check out:

Wireless Networking in the Developing World (This is a brilliant practical guide everybody should read – h.)
http://wndw.net/

Wireless Africa wiki
http://www.fmfi.org.za/wiki/index.php/Wireless_Africa_Workshop

Wireless Africa Outcome Mapping Workshop at Winneba Open Digital Village, OVF Ghana

Winneba Open Digital Village wireless mesh set up

Last year (2007) through my role as the VP in a Taiwan OEM fornetworking equipment, I faciliated the process of making open meshrouters based on open source SW: 
http://drupal.airjaldi.com/

I am currently part  of a force to intiaite Open Hardware. The 2nd conference will be held in Taiwan in March time frame.
http://wiki.openpattern.org/index.php/OpenTechSummitTaiwan2008

oneVillage’s Open Digital Village network key points:
http://www.opendigitalvillage.net/index.php?title=Main_Page

Paintbrush 2.0: MS Paint Clone for Mac OS X

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I often need to take a screenshot, crop it and save it to a web-friendly format.

In Windows this is a quick and easy process using MS Paint. However, there’s nothing bundled with Mac OS that can perform this basic function. (Which is odd, considering they do bundle software that assumes I will start a garage band…)

Enter Paintbrush 2.0 by Soggy Waffles Software.

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Paintbrush does all the basic things you need:

Paintbrush can open and save to most major image formats, includingBMP, PNG, JPEG, TIFF, and GIF. Full support for transparency isavailable for image formats which support an alpha channel (currentlyPNGs and GIFs). You can also paste images copied from many common Macapplications, including Microsoft Office and Apple iWork.

Best of all, it’s entirely free. (Free as in beer, and free as in open: the full source is distributed under the GPL.)

Gmail Now Offers Offline Access

Gmail has just become perfect by offering offline access using Google Gears.

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No longer do you have to download your mails using a separate application for those times you’re running around without internet. Best of all, almost all the functionality you could want is there: read it, write it, label it or star it. Once you’re connected to to the internet again, Gmail will send all mails in your outbox.

I think this makes Gmail qualify as the first fully fledged browser-based email application.

I’ve criticized Google (and others) in the past for overlooking developing countries, but this will be a huge boon to anyone familiar with Flaky Internet Connections in Africa and will further help Google in establishing a global base. Let’s hope that 37 Signals and Salesforce.com will also wake up and smell the roses.

Demo Video Below (link):

Google Calendar Goes Offline with Gears

Finally, I’m able to access my Google Calendar even when offline, as long as you are using Google Apps. The bad news is that for the time being it’s Read-Only access, so you cannot update or edit any of your entries and have them synchronise later.

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TheGrid – Worst. Demo. Video. Ever.

Firstly, watch the demo video below (link):

UPDATE: Arbitrary User informed me that Google Latitude is already available in SA. Just point your Mobile Browser towards http://www.google.com/latitude

Google Latitude Tells Mates Where You Are

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Google just launched Google Latitude, a nifty little mobile phone app that will show your friends, wife and boss exactly where you are! (And hopefully lets you know where they are as well…)

Of course, my first thought was to put it on my somewhat pricy Nokia E71 as a simple security tool, provided it would automatically send its coordinates. However, it looks similar to Vodacom’s TheGrid in the sense that it will only give away your location when you manually send an update.

Either way, as with Google Book Search, Google did not think any African country was important enough to provide this service to.

UPDATE: Jonathan Endersby just informed me that Google Latitude is available in South Africa, but you can only download it by going to www.google.com/latitude using your mobile phone’s browser. 

Of course, South Africa has for sometime now had a local offering in the form of TheGrid, but I’ve steered away from TheGrid mostly because of privacy concerns. TheGrid pretends to be a funky young startup, but in actual fact is owned by Vodacom and I feel almost as if they are trying to hide this fact.

 In the meantime i’ll stick with PhoneLocator. In addition to displaying your location on google maps, you can also choose to show your location on Openstreetmap.org, which has significantly better street info for South African cities.

Google Latitude Intro Video below (link):

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Smarten Up iPhone!

Simon Dingle wrote a great article about perfecting the iPhone that I wish some folks in the Apple Ivory Tower would read. He points out the lack of core features such as being able to send vCards or forward SMS messages.

He then goes on to point some of the things he doesn’t miss, and specifically sets his sights on MMS: “Get over it kids, you don’t need MMS”.

Simon is not the first person to say this to me. And every time it happens, I feel as if I just got told by my grandmother that I “just don’t need the internet”. If she never needed it, why should I?

Speaking of grandmothers: Nothing comes close to being be able to MMS family photos to PC illiterate grandmothers! (And don’t even try to teach them to use something called an “application” on their phone)

MMS is a natural progression from SMS and I think it was Just Plain Dumb for Apple not to implement this.

If the argument is that multimedia could be sent by email, why then bother with SMS if you could simply force everyone to use iChat?

Or go a step further and take out the GSM chip and only allow you to make VoIP calls over WiFi networks?

Maybe the iPhone should smarten up a bit before calling itself a ‘smartphone’.