Move over, Celine Dion: Custom themes for your iGoogle homepage!

So maybe Google’s trying to cheer everyone up after it had a tough week with the confirmation of Google layoffs and the discontinuation or “indefinite hiatus” of six of its products. Here’s a bright and shiny new offering, according to the official Google blog: You can now personalize your iGoogle homepage by creating custom themes, an ability previously bestowed only upon artists like glass sculptor Dale Chihuly (a favorite of Google VP Marissa Mayer), Jeff Koons and Coldplay. Yes, that means you can ditch the Celine Dion homepage theme and make one dedicated to your cat, like the example below:

Will the Wiimote finally bring a good YouTube living room experience?

YouTube is one of the largest success stories of the “web 2.0″ era (at least in terms of viewers, not in terms of making money). But to be considered fully mainstream, the service needs to get into the living room, where people still do most of their content viewing. And YouTube is taking another step in that direction today by launching a beta version of the service for the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3 gaming consoles.

Girl Ambition launches community site for girls

Girl Ambition is launching a community web site for girls ages 7 to 13 today. While there are many sites that target this group, the three moms who founded Girl Ambition say they’re focusing on creating a fun place where girls can communicate with each other in an environment that promotes both online safety and self-esteem.

Google finally confirms real, actual layoffs (sort of)

A Google regulatory filing obtained by The Associate Press last week was rather odd because we knew that Google was letting go of at least some of its contractors (as they put it, not renewing their contracts), but the filing seemed to go to great lengths to skirt around the actual numbers of just how many were being let go. Today, Google has clarified those numbers a bit more, and more importantly, has confirmed actual layoffs for the first time. Well, kind of.

Omidyar working on Ginx, a Twitter app for sharing links

Ginx is a stealthy startup that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is working on. The company is designing a service to let Twitter users share and discuss links from around the web. It’s not clear how the service works as it’s in “private, pre-alpha.” What’s known is that the company has raised $2 million from Omidyar, Ginx cofounder Randall Ching and Michael Mohr, according to a regulatory filing we learned of last night.

SimplyBox lets users organize info, images snagged from the web

Web app SimplyBox has jumped on the bandwagon of companies looking to change the way internet users save and share information they find on the web. Once downloaded, the service lets users take screenshots of content on any web site and put them in categorized boxes via a toolbar at the bottom of the window. For example, someone looking for Paris vacation ideas could take screenshots of hotel rates, airfares and tourist destinations across an array of web sites, and drop them all in a box labeled “Paris Trip” to view later. VentureBeat has just learned that the Campbell, Calif. company has landed $1 million in seed funding to further develop its product and boost marketing efforts.

The cost of a "complex" Jobs health issue: About $6 billion (so far)

It should come as no shock that Apple’s stock is tanking following chief executive Steve Jobs’ announcement that he was taking a medical leave of absence until June to get to the bottom of his “complex” health issue. But just how much money is being shaved off of the company’s market cap because of the announcement is pretty staggering: Roughly $6 billion.

OS X Snow Leopard going for all the "marbles"?

Ever since it was partially unveiled for the first time at the Worldwide Developers Conference last year, Apple’s new operating system, OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” has been billed as more of a smaller update focused on speed and refining the OS X experience. But new reports suggest it could have an entirely new look as well.

Get closer to "Inbox Zero" with Gmail

Every morning my email inbox is an absolute disaster zone. The problem is that most of my new messages are things I want to read once and then not see again. Thanks to Gmail’s “Archive” button, which moves messages out of your main inbox but doesn’t delete them, I’m able to get everything at least somewhat manageable, but it still takes quite a bit of time. Two Gmail features (one more of a tip) promise to cut down on some of that time.

Did you correctly predict Hubdub's round of funding?

Predictions are all the rage right now. Obviously, since it’s the beginning of a new year, everyone wants to forecast the year ahead, but also with a weakened global economy, everyone is looking for answers for when things will turn around. Hubdub, a site that attempts to harness those predictions, and turn them into a game of sorts, has just closed its first round of funding.

Huffington Post, in need of laughs, buys comedy site

23/6, a political comedy site that boasts “the sluttiest news team on the internet,” will soon have a new home — it’s just been bought by progressive news site Huffington Post, which took $25 million in funding last month. The standalone site launched in November 2007 as a joint venture between HuffPo, as it is commonly called, and Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. Now 23/6, acquired as a “vertical” site, is going to be blended into HuffPo as a new comedy section, according to the official memo on Jossip.

Luxury sample sale sites Gilt Groupe and RueLaLa pick up traffic

Luxury spending may be down, but that doesn’t mean fashionistas aren’t clamoring for deals. Sample sales, which have been around for years, are often a way for designers to get rid of overstocked pieces and clothes that didn’t sell well in stores — at a steep discount. Shoppers in the know can get onto mailing lists to attend boutique and warehouse sales. But now it looks as if that exclusive trend is progressively moving online, with unique visitors to online sample sale sites increasing over the past year — and among them — according to a recent report from Compete.

A new force has entered Yahoo: Carol Bartz, CEO

Carol Bartz, former chief executive at software services company Autodesk, has accepted the chief executive job at Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal and BoomTown are reporting. Bartz has years of experience leading Autodesk and serving on the boards other technology giants like Cisco and Intel. Although her experience is in tech-heavy companies, not Yahoo’s core business of consumer web services and advertising, she’s one of the more respected executives in the Valley.

Palm Pre: Possibly as low as $149?

Now that everyone has seen Palm’s new phone, the Pre, and wants one, the biggest question is pricing. Initially, it seemed that Palm planned to charge more than the $199 (and $299) that AT&T and Apple charge for the iPhone, since Palm’s chief executive Ed Colligan indicated it was a better device that could command a higher price tag. This was seemingly confirmed by a report a few days ago that the Pre may be $399 on Sprint’s network. But those numbers have since been clarified a bit further.

The first video recorded on the G1 — and it looks awful

Everyone knows that the iPhone doesn’t have video recording capabilities built in, but most people don’t realize that the T-Mobile’s G1 doesn’t either. Both require software solutions to keep the camera lens open and to decode video. Apple doesn’t currently allow for this software in the App Store, but the Android Marketplace lacks the same restrictions — it’s just taken awhile to come up with a solution. But now someone has — and it looks awful.

The U.S. Congress: The new stars of YouTube?

Move over, C-SPAN. The 111th Congress opens today with a virtual bang — YouTube is launching channels for The Senate and the House of Representatives to make it easier for average viewers to connect with their Senators and Representatives (we know you’ve been procrastinating on your letter writing campaigns). An explanation of the new service (delivered with obvious help from a teleprompter) can be seen here:

Sling Media's top execs sling out of the company

Much of the key management team at Sling Media is leaving the company, paidContent reports. Those on their way out include chief executive Blake Krikorian, senior vice president of business development Jason Krikorian, president Jason Hirschhorn, chief creative officer Ben White and vice president of sales Greg Wilkes.

Extra guac: Chipotle gets an iPhone app

One largely untapped but potentially big market for mobile applications is in remote ordering. Think about it. Who wants to make a call or wait in line at a crowded fast food place, when you can place your order from wherever you are, on your phone? The Mexican-food chain Chipotle is apparently thinking the same thing, with its new iPhone app.

With a big N-trig investment, Microsoft is racing Apple to multi-touch

The keyboard has been around since the 19th century. The mouse is 40 years old. Yet we still use both as our main points of interaction with computers, even as their technology grows by leaps and bounds each year. But a new $24 million investment, led by none other than Microsoft, in Israeli startup N-trig, points to a different future for input mechanisms.

Yodle lands $10M for local web advertising

Yodle, a company that helps small businesses buy online ads to market themselves locally, has raised $10 million in third-round funding to continue product development and expand sales nationally. An alternative to Yellow Pages, the New York-based company aims to turn click-throughs into direct-response phone calls and new customers for small, local businesses like salons and mechanics.

iPlurk brings a bland Plurk to the iPhone

In the micro-messaging space there is Twitter and then everyone else. But Plurk is one of those “everyone elses” that is somewhat interesting because it at least attempts to look different than a straight-up Twitter clone. Unfortunately, a new iPhone app for the service fails to take advantage of that differentiating factor.

Windows 7: 2009 or 2010?

It’s pretty clear that Microsoft would rather see its next operating system, Windows 7, sooner rather than later. But conflicting reports and opinions have it launching anywhere from mid-2009, to sometime in 2010.