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Mobile Technology News, January 3, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Best Buy offers 16GB iPhone 5s for $125, 16GB iPhone 5c free
    Best Buy, which began offering the 16GB iPhone 5c for free with a contract at its stores and website on December 29, has now upped the ante on the promotion with a discount on the 16GB model of the more advanced iPhone 5s, which is down to $125 (originally $200) through all major carriers until Sunday, January 5. The offer is available now online, with the in-store price dropping on Friday. Also ending Saturday is a $100 off promotion on all non-Retina MacBook Pros.


  • 12 Days of Gifts Day 9 – Kings of Leon Single from iTunes Festival

    Today is Day 9 of Apple’s 12 Days of Gifts and today’s gift is another from the iTunes Festival: London 2013 event from this summer.  Today’s gift is 2 songs and 2 videos from Kings of Leon from the event.
    If by chance you are not familiar with Kings of Leon, here is an excerpt from their iTunes […]

    The post 12 Days of Gifts Day 9 – Kings of Leon Single from iTunes Festival appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Cyber security firms agree $1bn deal
    Cyber security company FireEye acquires Mandiant, a firm known for emergency responses to network breaches, in a deal worth more than $1bn (£608m).
  • Briefly: iDevices' new grilling products, Soundfreaq's CES line up
    iDevices has announced its latest grilling tech products to be showcased at CES 2014 next week. The iGrill2 Bluetooth Smart Meat Thermometer, and the iLP Bluetooth Smart Liquid Propane Monitor, are app-connected products that aim to improve the user’s grilling efficiency.

  • Report: iPhone users more quick-witted than those on other platform
    While there have previously been studies that claimed that iPhone users were better-educated, more vain, more productive and generally richer than users on other platforms, a new study from UK betting agency Ladbrokes found that iPhone users did better overall when completing a test of seven mental exercises, with BlackBerry users doing the worst. Whether smarter people tend to pick iPhones, or iPhones make you smarter, remains an unanswered question.


  • Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 gets stealth silicon upgrade
    Tablet gets a quiet upgrade. Unannounced CPU upgrades are unannounced for a reason: newer CPUs tend to offer better performance.
  • Snapchat to update app after hack
    Snapchat will release an updated version of its app after hackers download usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts.
  • Briefly: Scanner Pro goes free, using iSight with Starbucks cards
    The first “App of the Week” on iTunes for 2014 is Readdle’s Scanner Pro, a normally $7 program that turns an iPhone or iPad camera into a scanner. The program combines plane mechanics and border detection to straighten documents, then saves them as PDF files on a variety of cloud services, including iCloud, Dropbox and Google Drive. With the purchase of in-app credits, users can also send the PDF scan as an outgoing fax which is delivered to conventional fax machines.


  • Facebook sued over message 'scan'
    Facebook is facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it monitors users’ private messages to profile the sender’s web activity.
  • VIDEO: Tyre pressure 'read as you drive'
    The road sensor that checks your vehicle’s tyres
  • VIDEO: Why is #oomf so popular online?
    Why is this acronym so popular online?
  • Benjamin Bratton to TED: 'More Copernicus, Less Tony Robbins' (VIDEO)
    Shortly before New Year’s, I was reading The Guardian when I happened upon a great editorial that intelligently criticized the popular TED conferences. It turns out that it was written by an old L.A. acquaintance, Benjamin Bratton, who currently teaches at UCSD’s visual arts program.

    The piece, “We need to talk about TED,” culled from Bratton’s TEDx San Diego talk (below), was interesting on so many levels. But, prima facie, it put a smile on my face because its premise — that TED’s dumbed-down, pop-intellectual, Gladwellian talks weren’t doing our already devolving culture any favors — struck a personal chord.

    Years back, I interviewed Bratton, who was then working on an interactive “living house” bio-architectural project, and when I found his language getting too oblique and heady, I prodded him to simplify his concepts so that a broader readership might enjoy the richness of his work. This is, on a small scale, like asking Stephen Hawking to make his discoveries more palatable for the mainstream (and those of us who got through a mere third of A Brief History of Time can attest to the fact that it doesn’t really work).

    According to Bratton, this doesn’t work for TED either. Ideas worth spreading? Perhaps. But can you build the future with ideas and what has come of TED’s attempts to do so? I can’t help but recall a conversation I had with a ne’er-do-well trust funder who spent his days at home steeped in thought. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. His response: “I like ideas. I like TED.”

    If that doesn’t sum it up, Bratton does by infusing his own TEDx talk with a strong dose of realism. To paraphrase in my words: He says we need to get down to brass tacks and address the difficult questions of our times rather than just oohing and ahhing over technological innovation without truly examining its perils. (For more on this, check out Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget.)

    “More Copernicus, less Tony Robbins,” Bratton commands. And with such pithy bumper-sticker slogans that take an intelligent swipe at TED’s newspeaky-intellectual culture, it turns out that I may have been wrong all those years back. Bratton has actually gotten pretty damn good at marrying heady intellectual ideas with pop-friendly sentiments — and he does it without sacrificing depth and complexity.

  • Yielding to Neural Temptation
    The personally tailored sponsored ads we receive daily on our computers are rather convenient. A delivery boy bringing the newspaper to our doorstep with all the relevant ads already circled could almost match the experience. In a Hitchcock-like movie, newspaper ads would slowly creep into your house. As you sit on the sofa, an ad would instantly place itself under the palm of your hand. On one unfortunate occasion, you take a peek at it, and now it is devotedly following you around. Internet advertising reality is not that far from having a newspaper ad for a stalker. A friend confessed to me a few days ago that she owns “more than one pair of shoes that chased me around until I couldn’t resist.” When the distance between the tips of our fingers to an ad is so small, do we really make a choice when responding to it? Brain research suggests the opposite: The ad chooses us.

    We feel uncomfortable learning that websites aggregate, profile, personalize and sell our information to third parties, but it takes us five minutes to get used to it. Mind reading has always been the most efficient way to communicate, and it feels just like it, when the shoes we were just thinking about appear in front of our eyes. Instead of us digging up information, information presents itself to us effortlessly. All we need is to choose, which we evidently do, or at least we believe we do.

    Neuroscience researchers have a fairly good idea of how the brain reacts to stimuli imbued with motivational salience (such as ads, gift wraps, trademarks, warning signs, lottery cards, etc.) that signify outcomes of high value (such as a prizes, food, money, threats, etc.). A group of deep structures in the brain — the basal ganglia — is responsible for translating the information that motivational stimuli convey into choice. The basal ganglia mediates this process by forming an emotion-motor interface where reactions to motivating stimuli could guide actions. In a typical laboratory experiment, a rat learns to press a lever in order to drop food pellets into the food cup. The rat also learns, in a separate session, that whenever a stimulus such as a red light appears, food will drop into the cup. The interesting thing happens when the red light is turned on while the rat is pressing the lever: The rat begins to press it more vigorously. This is not very efficient on the rat’s part. Each lever press delivers one food pellet, and pressing harder would not change the amount of food dropped into the cup, so why waste energy?

    A study by Talmi and colleagues showed that people behave in much the same way as rats in the presence of motivational stimuli. Their study participants squeezed a handgrip in order to obtain money, and did it with greater vigor in the presence of money-related stimuli. This tells us that certain stimuli can invigorate our goal-directed actions just because they signal the same goal. If you have several goals in mind but can perform only one action at a given moment, what determines the action that would ultimately be chosen? We would like to think it is our ability to prioritize, but it could be something mundane as the little shoe image that appeared briefly at the corner of the screen, invigorating the must-buy-shoe-now action. Had it been a different image, you would have planned your vacation at the Bahamas right now. Why might these efficient “reminders” for things we had on our mind anyway be problematic? The problem is that these salient stimuli do not only invigorate our actions; they also take control of the brain processing of our thoughts.

    In a study we performed in my lab, published recently in the journal Neuron, we examined the brain’s reaction to such motivational stimuli. Instead of performing a real action, though, we asked the participants just to imagine the action. This type of motor imagery, such as picturing yourself throwing a ball, activates not only imagery networks but also motor regions that mediate real actions. The participants earned money for their imagery, which we tracked by measuring their brain responses in real time. In a separate session they also learned that a certain visual stimulus (such as a checkered square) signified winning money. This allowed us to create a laboratory experience that mimics your sitting by the computer, thinking of things you need to do, buy, or plan, when an ad appears on the screen. Here, we asked the participants to imagine that they were doing an action that would result in earning money, while the money-related visual stimulus appeared on the screen. Two interesting things happened in their brains.

    First, we observed a boost in the neural responses of the motor imagery network. Second, the reward system of the brain, which encodes the value of the money-related stimuli, began working in coordination with the motor cortex. This neural synchronization between the “value” and “action” systems of the brain might be the gateway through which motivational stimuli act on our behavior. The motor cortex is the part of the brain that is in charge of commanding our body to perform actions. But here we engage it just by imagining an action we would have liked to perform. If the money-signaling stimulus appears while we imagine an action, the motor cortex receives a motivational cue from the reward system, and the two systems coordinate their function. This in turn could guide action selection, and determine which particular action we should execute.

    Fast-forward into the future. Picture yourself sitting by your computer. Ads are appearing on the screen, and your thoughts are running in different directions. I am standing behind you, holding a device that measures your brain activation. By observing the cascade of events that each ad triggers in your brain, I could tell which action you are going to perform before you actually perform it, maybe even before you are aware of it. Neuro-marketing companies would use the technology to identify the most effective ads, and which “teasers” they should plug in to stir your thoughts in a certain way. The more you obsess about something, the higher the chances of those ads causing the inevitable. Even if you try, just by exposing yourself to ads, you increase your chances of relapse.

    You believe you bought those shoes because you made up your mind, but given the neural chain of events, someone else probably made up your mind for you. The ads are there to tempt your neurons to fire in a certain way. They pave the path of your moment-to-moment decisions. This is how motivational stimuli, or advertising, works. We are surrounded by it every day. But when it is personally tailored to our brain, our free will shrinks more effectively, placing us in the path to zombiness.

    There is nothing much to do about it now except avoiding ads, clearing browsing data, and trying not to think. The technology is there, and we want to stay connected. But now that we know how it works in our brain, we have a choice. We can honestly say that we choose to be manipulated.

  • House To Consider Legislation To Make Obamacare Website More Secure
    WASHINGTON, Jan 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives plans to consider legislation to make data on the Obamacare website more secure when lawmakers return to Washington next week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Thursday.
    In a memo to his fellow House Republicans, Cantor said he would schedule floor action next week on proposals to make the healthcare website safer as well as notify consumers when their personal information has been compromised.
    Cantor noted that several bills on the topic of the website’s security had already been introduced by Republicans.
    The website HealthCare.gov allows consumers to shop for insurance plans under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010 and mandated that Americans have health insurance. It also created new marketplaces to buy insurance plans.
    The website collects personal data such as names, birth dates, email addresses and other information that criminals could use for a variety of scams.
    The portal was bedeviled by technical glitches after its Oct. 1 launch. But in recent weeks its performance has improved, and the administration announced on Tuesday that more than 2 million people already had enrolled in private health insurance plans offered under the law, which is popularly called Obamacare.
    Some technology experts warned Congress in November that the Obamacare website had so many security flaws that it was putting people’s data at risk and should be shut down until it is fixed.
    An administration spokesman responding to Cantor’s memo said Thursday that security on the website was a top priority and was protected by stringent standards as well as ongoing testing.
    “To date, there have been no successful security attacks on HealthCare.gov and no person or group has maliciously accessed personally identifiable information from the site,” Aaron Albright, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which was in charge of launching HealthCare.gov.
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Republicans appeared intent on undermining the Affordable Care Act – even if it meant “scaring their constituents from obtaining health coverage.”
    Cantor said that in the coming weeks the House of Representatives would also address other areas where he said greater transparency is needed on Obama’s healthcare program, “including the disclosure of reliable and complete enrollment data.” (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
  • Deltron 3030 Loop Joseph Gordon-Levitt Back To The Future
    The first voice we hear on “Deltron 3030: Event 2” is actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s, who declares, “Stardate 3040,” before framing the passing of a decade by telling us, “society continued to erode, as the people began to collapse under the weight of economic despair.”

    It’s a callback to Deltron 3030’s self-titled 2000 debut, where it was Damon Albarn recording his own, Shatner-esque captain’s log to introduce one of the most unexpectedly influential hip-hop albums ever. Del the Funky Homosapien was and is a beloved underground MC and he recruited the gifted producer Dan the Automator to help him flesh out his idea for a concept record set in the year 3030. Montreal DJ, Kid Koala (Eric San) was brought into the fold and, by evoking the future, the trio made history; the album remains a crucial touchstone for catchy, experimental hip-hop.

    While the début featured Sean Lennon, Money Mark, Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts,and Albarn (and even begat the Blur frontman’s supergroup Gorillaz; their fluke hit single “Clint Eastwood” features Del and the Automator), 2013’s “Event 2” is even more star-studded. Albarn returns and this time he’s joined by actors David Cross and Amber Tamblyn, chef David Chang, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha, the Lonely Island’s, Mike Patton, and more.

    But the biggest coup is the inclusion of Gordon-Levitt, who got involved after working with Kid Koala on a movie about time travel and, ironically, the future.

    “That’s how I actually met Joe, through Rian Johnson’s film “Looper”,” San recalls. “Rian asked me to be the DJ in the future in that movie so I made this future retro-blues for that one scene. I flew down to New Orleans and that’s where I met Joe.

    “He brought up 3030 and how he was a fan of that album and whether we were gonna do another one,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re almost finished it.’ So we reached out to see if he’d collaborate and he did a great job with his whole Captain Kirk-style log introduction to the whole thing. He really sets the tone.”

    The tone in question is often rather bleak. Despite the upbeat production, Del’s lyrics describe a society in decline, torn up by shoddy politicians, economic disparity, and interminable war. So, as the Automator suggests, not too different from where we’re at right now.

    “If we talk about all of the things that happen today, would it sound like the present is all that great? No, but I think a lot of us would admit to enjoying it and that the present is really cool. There’s just as much strife and war going on now, as there was in the ’70s or 1800s. The nature of man hasn’t changed in society ever. It’s always been this way. In some ways, the simple message of Deltron is that there is a nature to man that isn’t pretty but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a good life. That negativity in the space between the haves and have nots is what we as a society have always been up against.”

    Though fans have clamoured for a new Deltron 3030 album for 13 years, Del himself says he’s not sure a follow-up to “Event 2” will ever see the light of day.

    “Actually, this album wasn’t that fun to make,” he says over the phone, while riding his skateboard. “That’s something in the future, I’d think about. This is probably gonna be the last Deltron record I’m gonna make and the reason why I’m saying that is because the expectations would be so high, there’s no way to meet their demands. And even if I did, it still wouldn’t probably be good enough for people. People always want something bigger and better. I’ve already done it to the point where it was damn near impossible for me to even do this one. It took a lot of work for me to stuff it into this format. This is more to write a book with or make a movie or a comic book or something that allows you to have more space and time.”

    “When I invented Deltron, I didn’t really think that through,” he adds. “Like, ‘Can I sustain this over a period of time?’ After it got to Deltron 2, I started to realize, ‘Ok, this is unsustainable. It’s taking way too much work to do this and pretty soon what I get out of it might not be what I want or expect. I’m not too keen on sequels any way. That’s why I might move on. I’m not saying that me and Dan won’t work on something but the next project that I do, you can bet I’m a think it out and be like, ‘Ok, is this sustainable over a longer period of time.’”

    You can listen to this entire interview on the Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna podcast.

  • A Guide To Crafting The Perfect Online Dating Profile, For Single Ladies
    If you’re at all familiar with the online dating scene, you know that there are few things less fun than trying to craft a witty/desirable/humorous/quirky/relatable profile. Selling yourself is awkward, it always feels a little bit false and really, who has the time to put a whole lot of effort into the endeavor?

    Luckily, online dating site Zoosk has created a handy-dandy infographic to give us all guidelines for getting maximum messages in 2014. The site surveyed nearly 4,000 male and female subscribers about their profiles and preferences when receiving messages. (Of course, take all of the results with the appropriate grains of salt, given that no one on the HuffPost Women team who has online dated has ever used Zoosk, and that getting messaged more often does not guarantee getting messaged by people you find to be even remotely interesting or attractive.)

    Without further ado, here are six rules of online dating profile-making for women, according to Zoosk:

    1. Post a photo of your full body, not just your face. Apparently people are far more likely to reach out to both men and women who use full-body shots. So show yourself off, regardless of what body type you have. We all know that confidence is really what makes someone sexy.

    2. Selfies are great — but less so if they’re taken outdoors. Honestly confused about this one. Apparently would-be lovers prefer selfies ladies take in their living rooms to a badass self-portrait of a woman’s face with a backdrop of trees or the Eiffel Tower. On the flip side, people actually seem to prefer outdoor photos when messaging men.

    3. Don’t overshare. Don’t write about your recent breakup, your ex or your mental health issues. Save the deeper and darker things for in person, once you’ve actually made a connection with someone.

    4. Actually describe yourself. People actually want to hear about what you do with your life, your hobbies and the things you really love. Zoosk found that people responded more to positively-worded profiles, mentions of intellectual curiosity and reading, creative endeavors and healthy habits, like yoga or running

    5. Embrace a proper use of the English language. Grammar nerds everywhere, rejoice! This makes total sense to us. Who out there hasn’t rejected someone purely because he or she decided to start a message with “Ur profile…”

    6. Feel free to make the first move. When a woman was writing the first message, notes that had the words “dinner,” “drinks” or “lunch” got 73 percent more replies. We take this to mean that women should feel just as empowered as men to reach out and make plans with someone that they find intriguing.

    [H/T Business Insider]

  • Ever Wanted To Bike Across A Pool Of Non-Newtonian Fluid? (We Know The Answer Is Yes)
    Two hundred and seventy gallons of ooblek later, and Anthony Carboni and Tara Long are ready to roll.

    Carboni and Long are the hosts of Hard Science, an educational YouTube show where, according to Carboni, “we use just a little bit of knowledge about the world and use it to bend it to our whim.” A new episode shows them creating ooblek, a non-Newtonian fluid with some very interesting properties.

    Non-Newtonian fluids don’t behave entirely like liquids or solids, but like something in between. They respond differently depending on the amount of force applied to them, as demonstrated to comic effect in the video above.

    If ooblek physics is complicated, the recipe for the stuff is surprisingly simple. Just mix two parts cornstarch for every one part water.

    Happy experimenting!

  • Yelp Ready To Lobby Congress Over Libel Law, Patent Reform
    WASHINGTON — The review site Yelp plans to lobby Congress for patent reform and protections against abusive lawsuits for online reviewers, according to federal registration forms posted online over the Christmas holiday. Late last year, the company hired its first Washington lobbyist, Laurent Crenshaw.

    Prior to joining Yelp, Crenshaw was the legislative director for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the fiery chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Congressional records show that Crenshaw registered as a Yelp lobbyist the same day he joined the company, on Nov. 4.

    Yelp is just the latest social networking site to invest in Washington lobbying, a sign of the growing recognition among companies like Twitter and Facebook of how federal legislation can affect their bottom lines. Twitter registered its first lobbyist in July of last year. Facebook’s first lobbyist registered in 2009, and in the past year the company’s lobbying spending has soared.

    Crenshaw’s recent work with Issa should be an asset to Yelp’s patent reform efforts. A former entrepreneur who holds 37 patents for car alarm systems, Issa has been a leading voice for legal changes to help combat “patent trolling,” or the practice of buying up patents and then suing businesses for patent violations in the hopes of pressuring those businesses into quickly settling the lawsuits for significant money. Patent trolls are known to target companies that rely on digital technology, among others.

    According to the lobbying registration forms, the San Francisco-based Yelp and Crenshaw specifically plan to lobby on the Innovation Act, a patent reform bill that was passed by the House of Representatives in December.

    Crenshaw will also lobby for federal protections against libel and defamation lawsuits for people who speak out in public or, in Yelp’s case, write online reviews. Yelp users have posted millions of anonymous evaluations of restaurants and other businesses, some of them scathingly negative. In response, some business owners have sued the reviewers.

    Two other issues of interest were listed on Yelp’s lobbying forms: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law that set out some basic rules for copyright on the Internet, and a Communications Decency Act provision that protects website operators from liability for content posted by users.

  • Apple tops Christmas web traffic, cedes ground to Amazon, MS, Samsung
    Apple devices remained firmly in control of North American web traffic through Christmas, but the iPad lost some ground to devices from Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung, according to new Chitika analytics. The data was collected from “tens of millions” of devices between December 20th and the 29th, and used to gauge the growth or decline of various brands. Apple’s iPhone was the only smartphone to gain share, advancing 1.8 percent to 54.3 percent of the market.


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