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Mobile Technology News, January 16, 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.

  • Sharp goes big with 15.6-inch WQHD Windows 8.1 tablet
    Sharp’s tablet has a 16-inch-class display and laptop-grade Intel Core i5 processor.
  • Intel does ARM: Citi 'identifies' another possible customer
    Marvell is cited as a likely chip customer for Intel. If the analysis pans out, it would be Intel’s third ARM customer.
  • 4K TV Not Quite Ready for Prime Time
    Everywhere you went at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, you saw ultra-high-definition TVs (UHD). Also known as “4K,” these sets can display content at about four times the resolution as today’s top-of-the-line 1080p high-definition sets.

    As I walked around the show looking at the screens, I wondered three things: Will people be able to perceive and appreciate the difference between these and today’s sets? Will there be content available to watch at this higher resolution? Will people be willing to pay a premium for UHD sets?

    The price issue is the easiest to solve. Right now 4K sets are considerably more expensive than the 1080p high-definition sets many of us bought in the past few years, but that will get better over time. A better version of the set I bought for $1,800 five years ago now costs about $800. Ten years ago it would have cost $5,000

    The issue of perception and value is a tougher one. When I first saw an HD set playing HD content, I was blown away by how good it was compared to standard definition TVs. My question at the time wasn’t whether I wanted one but when they’d be affordable. But the difference between HDTV and UHD isn’t nearly as dramatic.

    Regarding content, it took until 2008 for the industry to standardize on a high-resolution format for DVD. It also took a while for broadcasters to start offering HDTV content.

    But once HD content became ubiquitous and the sets became affordable, the public flocked to HDTV, which was a boon for TV manufacturers. But now the TV industry has a problem. With market saturation, demand has tapered off just as lower prices are squeezing profits. For a while, the industry’s response was to push 3-D TVs, but that didn’t pan out. Consumers weren’t inclined to pay a premium for 3-D sets, and without big consumer demand, content companies weren’t inclined to invest in 3-D programming. Four years ago, 3-D was all the rage at CES; now hardly anyone is talking about it.

    Now that it’s clear that 3-D isn’t the industry’s savior, companies are pushing UHD, promising a far more immersive experience without really answering the question as to when enough programs will be available to convince customers that they really want to have one.

    As a tech journalist, it’s my job to be skeptical about bleeding-edge technology, and I have plenty of hesitation when it comes to recommending UHD. I don’t to want count it out, but I can’t buy into the hype just because the industry is heavily invested in it. However, if they can solve the content issue, there could very well be a demand for these sets.

    But solving the content issue won’t be easy. TV networks will have to make an enormous investment in cameras and control room technology, and cable and satellite providers will have to figure out how to upgrade their networks to carry the signals. For now, the best hope comes from delivering the content online. At the LG news conference at CES, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that his company will start streaming UHD content this year. Comcast and Samsung also announced a partnership to stream UHD programs to Samsung TVs.

    These partnerships are a good start, but there is one more issue. UHD takes up a lot more bandwidth than high-definition content, which will put a lot more strain on the Internet infrastructure required to deliver all the data necessary to watch these shows.

    Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai, which specializes in delivering high-speed Internet content, is working on the problem. In an interview, Akamai CEO Tom Leighton said that the Internet can support limited 4K today, but it “takes a lot more gigabytes to show a 4K video.” He said that the capacity at the local level — the “last mile,” so to speak — is less of a problem than at the data centers.

    Akamai’s solution is to bring the content closer to the consumer. “We want to get that video into the neighborhood once only, even if a thousand people are watching it,” he said. By way of an analogy, imagine if you were buying a potato grown in Idaho. The grower could dispatch a vehicle to deliver a single potato at great cost in time and resources, or the grower could send a truckload of potatoes to your local grocery store, which could get them quickly and cheaply to your house.

    And to stretch the analogy, you could buy a bag of potatoes and store them in your kitchen. To that end, Akamai has teamed up with Qualcomm to develop technology to store ultra-high-definition in your home. When possible, instead of streaming it live on demand, it can anticipate your interest in watching the show and stream it ahead of time — perhaps in the middle of the night — so it’s on your device when you want to watch it.

    This post previously appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and on LarrysWorld.com.

  • Ericsson CEO said to be candidate for Microsoft CEO
    Hans Vestberg is among several candidates under consideration to replace departing CEO Steve Ballmer, Bloomberg reports.
  • Yahoo chief operating officer leaves
    Yahoo chief operating officer Henrique de Castro unexpectedly departs just over a year after he was brought in to turn its advertising business around.
  • Thieves in Germany steal $95K in Apple gear from moving truck
    An unusual tale of a daring robbery of Apple equipment sounds like it came directly from an action thriller like the spy spoof Danger Diabolik. Thieves in Germany, copying similar thefts by a Romanian gang, apparently followed a moving truck full of Apple devices, broke open the lock on the rear of the truck and made off with about $95,000 (€70,000) worth of iPads, iPhones and other items — all while travelling at around 50 miles per hour.

        



  • Yahoo COO Henrique de Castro Leaving Company
    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is cutting loose her top lieutenant in a possible sign that the Internet company’s efforts to revive its long-slumping advertising sales aren’t paying off.

    Wednesday’s surprise announcement of the departure of Yahoo’s chief operating officer, Henrique de Castro, represents a setback for Mayer, who signed him to a $58 million deal just 15 months ago to help her lure more advertisers to a company that has been struggling to compete against Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. in the race for online marketing dollars. Yahoo Inc. declined to comment on the reasons for de Castro’s abrupt exit. Mayer didn’t name his replacement.

    It’s doubtful de Castro would be leaving if he were bringing in the revenue that Mayer envisioned, said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

    “This was one of her key hires and he is already gone,” Gillis said. “It doesn’t look good.”

    Mayer, who knew de Castro from the days when both executives worked at Google, will likely be questioned about what went wrong when she reviews Yahoo’s financial results for the fourth quarter, scheduled to come out Jan. 28. The Sunnyvale, California, company hasn’t warned that it missed its revenue forecast for the three-month period ending in December, an indication that Yahoo must have at least been reasonably close to hitting that financial target set by Mayer. Yahoo had projected fourth-quarter revenue of about $1.2 billion after paying commissions to its ad partners, unchanged from the previous year.

    De Castro, 48, will leave Yahoo with much of the money and stock that he got when Mayer lured him to California from a Google advertising job in Europe. His severance package includes $20 million of restricted stock that wasn’t scheduled to fully vest until late 2016. He also will receive $1.2 million to cover the next two years of his salary. His rights to another batch of restricted stock valued at $9 million also have vested.

    Although de Castro’s hiring turned out to be an expensive mistake, Mayer is unlikely to face a harsh backlash from Yahoo stockholders who have made a lot of money since she defected from Google in July 2012.

    Yahoo’s stock has nearly tripled in value since Mayer’s arrival, even though the company’s revenue hasn’t increased under her leadership. The company’s shares dipped 7 cents to close at $41.07, then slipped another 29 cents in Wednesday’s extended trading.

    Mayer has been benefiting from a $1 billion investment in Chinese Internet company Alibaba Holding Group that was engineered in 2005 by Terry Semel and Jerry Yang, two former Yahoo CEOs who stepped down as the company’s stock plunged.

    Yahoo reaped a $7.6 billion windfall by selling a portion of its Alibaba holdings shortly after Mayer took over and still retains a 24 percent stake in the Chinese company. Many investors have been buying Yahoo stock as a way to get a piece of privately held Alibaba, whose revenue and earnings are growing rapidly as it prepares to go public.

  • VIDEO: Hybrid tablet 'switches seamlessly'
    Taiwanese consumer electronics firm Asus is releasing an Intel-based computer which seamlessly switches between Android and Windows at the press of a button. Richard Taylor reports.
  • Web 3.0: What The Internet Could Look Like Without Net Neutrality
    What will the Web look like without net neutrality?

    Net neutrality is dead, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday, invalidating Federal Communications Commission rules requiring Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally.

    So-called net neutrality principles stipulate that telecoms can’t block, stifle or discriminate against traffic. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which sided with Verizon Communications Inc.’s challenge of the FCC rules, said the commission can’t regulate Internet service providers like it does phone companies. That means ISPs are now free to make deals with some services, like Netflix and Amazon, to provide faster service.

    The ruling, if it stands, may have consequences for everyone who uses the Internet. The FCC has said it may appeal.

    Here are some of the ways experts said the Internet may change without net neutrality. This is the Internet of the future — Web 3.0, you could say, the next evolution of the Internet from its founding and the interactive Web 2.0 of today.

    Be warned: It’s not pretty.

    1. Rich companies will pay big money to see their content delivered quickly. Poor companies will have a harder time accessing their customers.

    The most obvious effect of net neutrality’s demise will be that deep-pocketed online content providers (websites like Netflix and Amazon) will be able to pay ISPs for faster content delivery, said Derek Turner, a freelance journalist who is research director for the media advocacy group Free Press. But faster delivery for deep-pocketed sites means slower content delivery for poorer online presences. “The Internet is zero-sum,” said Turner. Faster delivery for Netflix will almost certainly mean slower delivery for other websites.

    Turner likened dismantling net neutrality to breaking a two-lane highway into a “dirt road” and a “clean, really well-maintained toll road.” Websites with deep pockets use the toll road for smooth traveling, while everyone else is relegated to the dirt road. Moreover, said Turner, ISPs have an incentive to “not maintain the dirt road” because they want companies to pay for the “toll road.”

    2. Rich customers and poor customers will see two very different Webs.

    The flip side of the “toll road,” said Todd O’Boyle, program director of the liberal advocacy organization Common Cause, is that ISPs may begin charging customers to see certain websites. Of course, this would be couched in the language of favoring certain big players — people could be offered “discount” broadband, where they’re only allowed access to a small number of curated sites, while content providers might be asked to pay extra for the privilege of having their content seen by even the ISP’s “discount” customers.

    O’Boyle said this is already being done in Africa. Facebook is subsidizing its content for subscribers who can’t afford the “real” internet. Access to Facebook is probably better than no Internet at all. But do we really want all websites segregated between rich and poor?

    3. The big companies of today will be the big companies of tomorrow. The net sans neutrality will smother innovation.

    With net neutrality gone, the Internet’s “level playing field” is gone, said Turner. In the future, it will be much easier for companies that already have a lot of money to buy better access to consumers, leaving their competitors in the lurch. With net neutrality gone, being an “Internet incumbent” becomes a huge advantage.

    Moreover, said Turner, ISPs can now favor content creators that give them a share of the profit by blocking traffic that may interfere with the creator’s revenue. Comcast in particular has a nasty history with this. In 2012, it imposed data caps that stifled all online video streaming — except from Comcast-owned content provider Xfinity. Comcast also attempted to block all types of peer-to-peer trafficking in 2007, a move that, without net neutrality, is now legal.

    4. ISPs will curate your Internet like cable does your TV channels.

    The obvious business model for ISPs without net neutrality is one much like cable television, said Turner. They’ll offer “bundles” that curate the sites you see. The cheapest, fastest bundles will probably include the sites that pay ISPs the most — most likely the big boys, including Amazon and Netflix. Another possibility is that ISPs could bundle popular sites with less-popular ones that are willing to pay. If you pay for a Netflix bundle, for example, you may be forced to use the Bing search engine.

    Nastier yet, said Turner, ISPs and big businesses may team up to offer “exclusive deals.” Netflix and Time Warner Cable, say, could strike a deal that makes Netflix only available to Time Warner Cable customers (or, more likely, only available to certain customers at its fastest speed). This kind of deal may make businesses a lot of money. The only people hurt are users.

    5. Information, organizational tools and activist networks will become luxuries for the rich.

    Many tools that have become crucial to American democracy may, in the future, be restricted to the rich. “Information shouldn’t become a luxury,” said O’Boyle. He said he worries that if ISPs begin offering “discount bundles” to poorer customers, they’ll include very few (or no) news sites in the mix. Access to unrestricted news will become a luxury reserved only for those who can pay more to their providers.

    That’s bad for users — and bad for alternative news sites, nonprofits, community organizers, activists and anything without big money behind it. Nonprofits and community websites that rely on the Internet to connect with members, said O’Boyle, “will be challenged to maintain a viable presence if they can’t afford a fast lane.”

    That said, Verizon v. FCC may not actually herald the Internet apocalypse; Kevin Werbach of The Atlantic points out that while the ruling was in many ways unfavorable to the FCC, it did establish that the FFC has legal authority to regulate broadband. Given this, Werbach said he doubts the FCC will allow ISPs to run amok.

  • The Hottest Cars At The 2014 Detroit Auto Show
    The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is in full swing. Until Jan. 26, the Cobo Center will be a haven for car enthusiasts and new car buyers in the midwest.

    Whether you plan on visiting vicariously through friends’ social media accounts or media coverage, or actually going to the show, these are the most interesting cars you can spot spinning on a turnstile at the 2014 Detroit auto show.

  • Working At The Detroit Auto Show Is Like 'Operating On Someone Who's Awake' (VIDEO)
    Dazzling displays, glowing screens, gorgeous models and, most importantly, cars of the future make Detroit’s North American International Auto Show one of the world’s most eye-catching events.

    But it takes the work of many months, not to mention thousands of hands, to transform a million square feet of empty exhibition space at Cobo Center for 5,000 journalists and almost 800,000 visitors from around the world. Those countless hours of toil flash by in this new timelapse video made by IBEW Local 58 electricians and the National Electrical Contractors Association.

    Check out an amazing birds-eye view of the auto show:

    Cobo Center uses enough electricity during the auto show to power a small city. Six hundred electricians were hired to install thousands of lights, giant video walls and literally miles of electrical cables. Building out the auto show hardly allows for any down time, as the frantic pace of this timelapse video demonstrates.

    “It’s kind of like operating on someone who’s awake,” Michael Richard, business manager IBEW Local 58, said in a release. “Adjustments and changes have to be made while the show is running and the world is watching.”

    Watch the full timelapse video below — we love watching the lights turn on just after the one-minute mark.

  • 'BeetleCopter' Soars Over Serengeti And Delivers Amazing Views (VIDEO)
    It took wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas a full five months to build and learn to fly his incredible “BeetleCopter,” but the work was well worth it.

    As evidenced by the fate of his previous creation, the ground-based “BeetleCam” that was dissected by a curious pride of lions, wildlife photography is not without risks. So Burrard-Lucas designed the remote-controlled “Beetles” to carry professional-grade cameras into hard-to-reach or dangerous-to-navigate locations.

    Better the emergency be mechanical than medical.

    “These things are much smaller and quieter than a full-blown helicopter so you can get really close to the wildlife without spooking them … I have really only scratched the surface,” Burrard-Lucas told The Telegraph.

    Thanks to the “BeetleCopter,” we now have new, stunning views of the Serengeti, an incredible ecosystem of “endless plains” shared between Tanzania and Kenya.

    The video’s subjects change from shot to shot — in one, a hyena determinedly drags a carcass through the grass, and in another, wildebeests kick up dust in their run away from the setting sun. All serve as a testament to the natural beauty of the Serengeti.

  • How to Win Back 1 Hour Per Day with 5 Easy Tips
    I always get asked how do you find the time in the day to do all that you do? Usually my answer is, “I do not have kids as of yet, so I am taking advantage of it.” Watching David Pogue discuss the 10 time-saving tech tips on TED got me thinking about what else we do with technology to win back the time technology took from us in the first place.

    2014-01-15-iStock_000023820537Medium.jpg
    Photo Credit: iStock

    In addition to David’s tips, and after some self-reflection below are five that I use that usually save me approximately an hour per day.

    1. Find content on your timetable, but share on the timetable of others.

    We have all seen it: people who share on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, on their company pages, community pages and other Twitter handles all day long. They share brilliant stuff, and it seems like, instead of working or spending time with their families, they are constantly sharing. Well, not so fast; I learned this from Guy Kawasaki.

    Use software to share for you; Guy uses, and I use an app called Buffer. I have no affiliation to the Buffer app. Buffer allows you to (a) connect all of your social accounts together, (b) send it content you want to share via the app, or via sending a simple email, (c) set up a timetable for sharing, and then (d) it auto-shares your content for you on each of your social channels, at the optimal time based on your following on each channel and your timetable.

    By using Buffer, instead of sharing all day, I spend about 10-15 minutes per night perusing articles and content I find interesting and want to share, and then load said articles up into Buffer, and viola, it shares for me. If I find interesting articles or content during the day, I simply load it into Buffer, and it gets added to the queue. This trick gives me back significant time in my day and shares for me in an optimized way, and on a follower-friendly timetable.

    2. Use Blind CC after key introductions to keep email volume down.

    Have you ever been introduced to someone over email, and you reply all, then the person replies all, but you want to pull the original introducer off the thread but can’t figure it out?

    This happens to me all the time and it usually requires some time to think about how to get out. Here is a simple way. When you get introduced, reply all but move the introducer to the BCC field. Then add to the top of your reply “John, I have added you to the BCC so you know we have connected, and will subsequently fall off the thread.” This saves you time from thinking about how to gracefully pull the introducer off the thread, and it saves the introducer time from having to read a flurry of reply all responses.

    3. Do not try to remember PIN for conference calls.

    When you are dialing into a conference call on your smartphone and cannot remember the PIN from the top of your head it wastes time. This happens to me twice per day. You dial the 800 number for the conference call, after attempting to memorize the PIN from an email. You quickly try to dial the PIN but the voice recording on the conference bridge starts talking to you, distracting you, and by the time it is PIN dial time, you have forgotten the PIN! So now you have to switch back to the email or calendar, re-memorize the PIN and by the time you switch back to the phone, the voice recording on the conference bridge starts scolding you for waiting too long to dial the PIN. This costs me five to 10 minutes per day, and lots of frustration.

    Here is the solution, figure out a way to dial the numbers the following way 999-999-9999,55555#. The 999-999-9999 is the conference bridge number, the comma is a two-second pause (you can add multiple commas for more pauses) and the 55555# is your PIN. Some phones (iPhone in my case) do not dial the “#” after the PIN, so you have to dial the “#” manually after the PIN is auto-entered.

    What I have done now, is in the invite of my meetings, I have trained myself to enter my conference bridge as 999-999-9999,,55555# (I used two commas for a four-second pause), and folks that are dialing into my bridge simply click on the link of the entire sequence of numbers to dial into the conference call with the PIN already embedded saving time in their day.

    4. Have 15 minute meetings.

    This is simple, I have a rule, if the meeting is less than three individuals, and it is not a show-and-tell meeting, I schedule it for 15 minutes. I usually leave the 15 minutes after in my calendar free anyway. Scheduling it for 15 minutes forces everyone to come in to make decisions, it removes the fluff from the conversation, and if it goes over you have the time allotted any way. If it does not, you get time back, and the others get time back in their day as well.

    5. Use the keyboard shortcuts on smartphones for capitalization and abbreviation.

    I can’t tell you how much time is wasted with the SHIFT key on smartphones, abbreviations and other cumbersome things to type. Use keyboard shortcuts. Below are some keyboard shortcuts I use on my iPhone.

    1. mycell 917.403.5555 (not my real cell number)
    2. myemail retwaru@gmail.com (my real email)
    3. funrec functional requirements
    4. myhuffpo http://www.hhhhhhhhhhpppp.com/xxxxx/
    5. myli www.llllllll.com/in/xxxxx/

    All of these save me tons of time in my day. None of these are perfect, and by no means are they the best ways to deal with some of the challenges.

    Let’s share more; giving the gift of time is awesome.

  • Microsoft: Windows XP anti-malware support to last into 2015
    Although the software giant will stop providing updates to the venerable OS this April, it will keep offering anti-malware updates until July 2015.
  • New York City Wants To Teach Kids How To Not Ruin Their Lives On Facebook
    The New York City Department of Education (DOE) wants to make sure teens know how to use social media responsibly.

    The DOE recently rolled out a nine-page social media guide for students 13 and older, in an effort to make sure students leave a “smart digital footprint.” The guidelines advise students on how to create a preferred digital image, respond to cyberbullying and adjust their social media privacy settings. They also warn students to be cautious of what they post online and to “pause before you post.”

    Jane Pook, the DOE’s executive director for digital communication policy and strategy, told The Huffington Post over the phone that demand for the guidelines came from students.

    “[Students were telling us] … we want to know what college admissions officers are looking at,” said Pook. “We realized it more than just addressing the children’s needs as a middle school student or high school student, this is setting them up for success for their post-high school career.”

    According to Pook, the guidelines will be supplemented with professional development training for teachers, parents and parent coordinators, informing them how to bring these standards into the classroom and home. Through this training, Pook hopes conversations about the proper way to behave on social media will happen organically in schools.

    According to DNAInfo, the guide is based on recommendations from parents, school administrators and students; its release comes after the DOE issued a similar set of instructions in 2012 for department of education employees to follow on social media. In the future, the department hopes to release guidelines for students under the age of 13, according to New York outlet WABC-TV.

    To act like social media doesn’t have a place in our classroom is ridiculous,” teacher Jennifer Gunn told WABC. “Our kids are using it so why not help them use it in a positive way.”

    Indeed, a Pew Internet study from May 2013 found eight in 10 online teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are on social media.

    The state of New Jersey is also taking steps to educate students about social media use. Earlier this month, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would require middle school students to take a course on how to use social media responsibly. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that if the bill becomes law, students will start taking the course during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated when social media guidelines were created for Department of Education staff.

  • In Defense of My iPhone
    If you asked me what my most important material possession was at the moment, I would have to truthfully answer, “My iPhone.” It reminds me of appointments (which I try very hard to be on time for), it helps me to keep up with the business I run single-handedly from home (read: no assistant, no intern, just me, myself and I) and is an all-around time saver and helpful tool in juggling the 70 billion things I feel like I have up in the air at any given moment. But lately, I’ve seen more and more mom bloggers talk about the dangers of paying too much attention to your phone when your kids are around, wagging their fingers and warning that if you scroll through your Facebook news feed one more time you could miss an entire childhood.

    I see articles titled things like, “How I Put Down the iPhone and Started Being a Mom,” or “Dear Mom on the iPhone,” designed as wake-up calls (pun intended) for moms who are tuned out from their kids and tuned in to their smartphones. I’ve read them all, I’ve seen the comments (usually along the lines of “I’m putting my phone down immediately!”) and the main gist of what I get out of it is, “You are a BAD MOM.” You are a bad mom for paying more attention to your phone, you are a bad mom for not paying attention to your kids, you are a bad mom for not even realizing you’re doing it. And you know what? No one needs that kind of judgment passing, no sir. The whole smart phone thing has just become the new arsenal in the mom-shaming game, and it’s got to stop, especially when it is paired with those anxiety-inducing phrases like “This time will pass by so fast” and “Play time at the park will be over before you know it.” Helpful, supportive? Not so much.

    A blogger commented recently that they “chose family over social media” over the holidays, and besides being totally self-righteous, also went further to allude that anyone else who chose to be on social media during the holiday (I believe it was around Christmas) was then in fact choosing social media over their own family. Does there really need to be a “choice” of one or the other? Not really. Should you spend hours on Facebook while your kids are enjoying the day? That would be no as well. But checking in on Facebook for a couple of moments here and there, maybe to share some special photos with friends and family in no way is taking away from your family experience. Making people feel as if they need to choose between being a good mom and being on social media will make everyone a loser. You lose for being judgmental, they lose for feeling like crap now because they posted a photo of their kids opening gifts so grandma and grandpa in Florida can see it. Me? I Instagrammed a bunch of photos from Christmas, much like I would take a bunch of photos with an actual camera; I just took the extra fifteen seconds or so to upload it to social media. I might have scanned through Facebook now and again in some down time as well to see photos of my own friends and family. What a horrible parent I am!

    Here are things I do with my smart phone when I’m with my kids:

    Take their photographs and/or record videos. Now, I’m the farthest thing from a photographer, but I have to say I really do get great pleasure from taking photographs of my kids, my dogs, our experiences, things I see/eat/like/am struck by for whatever reason. You know why? It helps me remember. It helps me hold onto that tiny moment in time and freeze it forever. I only wish I had such a great smart phone when my 7-year-old was a baby because I would have even more photographs. It is easier to take photos with my phone, I can just whip it out and snap a picture, I don’t need to set up a shot or grab a camera that would most likely be hidden out of reach of little ones lest it get smashed into a million pieces. I can’t tell you how many times I look back through my photos whether it be on Instagram or just in my phone’s albums and remember an incredibly priceless moment in time.

    Someone once chided me about taking photos while on vacation, “Put down your phone and enjoy it now.” But you know what? I was enjoying it, because I enjoy taking pictures. So there’s that. The other thing I like to do is stay in touch with family that is far away, and an easy way to do that is to snap a photo and share it. Doing so in the moment sometimes helps me feel closer to the other half of my immediate family that lives on the opposite side of the country. It takes two seconds, and it makes me feel connected, and that is a good thing.

    I also check on work stuff, and, because my work involves social media, that involves checking social media every so often. Being able to quickly go through email on my phone rather than open up my laptop is a major time save, and it goes without saying that it also frees me up to actually leave the house without my laptop or without worrying that I am missing any important work related correspondence. Should my kids feel slighted because I have a job to do that helps pay the bills and I sometimes have to do that job during the day when they are around? No. I have explained to my children that I have a job, one that helps me earn money to pay for stuff like ski school and American Girl doll clothes and little things like electricity and food, and they should be proud that I work hard, not feel bad about it.

    Here are things I don’t do with my smart phone when I’m around my kids:

    Play games on it. For the most part if I have the time to play a game with my kids and I don’t need to work, I’d rather hang out with them sans smart phone.

    Have unnecessary phone conversations or text conversations. This is more true for the phone conversations mainly because having a phone conversation with three kids in the background isn’t the most pleasant experience, but for the most part I try to turn my phone onto silent and just ignore any calls or texts if I’m doing something with the kids. That being said, I have definitely sat and had conversations with friends while at a playground, or watching them in the park, just like I would have a conversation with a friend who happened to actually be sitting there. I have also shooed them out of the room to be on a conference call when I need to, and they understand that.

    So, moms who write stuff like “Dear Mom on your iPhone” I ask you this, what about moms who work outside the home? Do you have a special “letter” to them detailing what they are missing out on while they not only aren’t watching the children who are twirling and swinging and playing on the playground, they aren’t even there in the first place? Do you suggest that kids who “know the phone is more important than they are” also think the same thing about the workplace, and should working mothers feel even more unnecessary guilt about that? Contrary to what your posts might suggest, you can be a good mom even if you aren’t around 100 percent of the time paying attention to all of their waking moments. And no matter how much you “put down the phone” you will miss stuff, and the years will pass by too quickly. Reminding oneself to slow down and appreciate the small moments is great, but insinuating that you will miss all the magical moments because you are staring at your iPhone isn’t exactly helpful.

    Regardless of whether I’m using the iPhone for work or not though, as moms aren’t we entitled to have some sort of social connection as well? If a friend is having a rough day and messages you on Facebook for some support, is it wrong to want to log on and have a quick chat? Maybe someone just had a baby and you want to see the Instagram photos, maybe there is an interesting news story that you’re following on Twitter, or maybe you just want to read the recap of the latest Downton Abbey episode. Whatever it is, would doing any of those things without your smartphone be wrong? No. So why is it so much worse because it’s on a phone? Are we not entitled to our own interests and friends and social connectedness? Yes we are. Does it make us selfish to have those interests, friends, hobbies? NO. Do not lose sight of the fact that you are your own person, and should not feel selfish or like a bad mom for needing an outlet once in a while, be it reading a book, reading something on your phone, or taking part in something that isn’t 100 percent focused on your kids.

    Kids, too, do not need to be eagle-eyed at all times of the day. If my 2-year-old is happily playing with his little choo choos on the floor and I have some other stuff I need to get to, am I being a disconnected parent? No, whether I’m folding laundry or checking my email, my children don’t have every second of their time around me devoted entirely to them. That’s just not the case. And my kids happen to be pretty normal, happy, well-adjusted kids. When they do need my focus, they have it, but they also respect the fact that mommy has work to do, be it “work work” or “house work,” and that when I’m off doing something else it doesn’t take away from the fact that I love them, care for them, and think they are the most important thing in the world. Believe it or not, when kids (and most adults) realize the universe does not revolve around them it can be a good thing.

    Now, all of that being said, if you are using your iPhone as a distraction, rather than feel crappy about it, maybe take some time to think about why you might be doing it. Putting your phone away isn’t going to make you feel more connected to your life as a parent if you have something else that is preventing that feeling. Adding “spending too much time on your iPhone” though is only going to make you feel like more a failure. Start with baby steps, carve out a little space of time where there are no distractions, find something you and the kids all want to do, and just do it. If that feels good, try it for longer times. If you want to take some photos or snag a few quick minutes, go for it. But most of all, do what YOU think you need to do, not what bloggers or other moms try to shame you into doing or not doing (bloggers including myself, although I don’t think I spread any shame personally). As for me, I’ve got about five texts to respond to and a new photo to upload to Instagram. Maybe I’ll bump into you the next time I check into the park on my iPhone.

  • No Sixth Sense? ESP Debunked In New Psychology Study
    Ever get the feeling you have extrasensory perception, or ESP — a “sixth sense” that gives you powers of perception that transcend the familiar five senses?

    Well, you’re wrong about that.

    A new study, published online Jan. 13 in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that there’s simply no such thing as a sixth sense.

    Didn’t see that coming, huh?

    “People are correct in believing that they have an ability to sense changes in their environment even when they cannot verbally identify what those changes are,” study co-author Dr. Piers Howe, a psychology professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia, told The Huffington Post in an email. “It is just that this ability is not a quasi-magical sixth sense. It can be explained in terms of known visual processes.”

    In the study, 10 men and women between the ages of 19 and 43 were given brief glimpses of “before” and “after” photos of the same woman. In some cases, the “after” photo was the same as the “before.” In others, one of the woman’s features was altered — for example, the color of her hair or lipstick.

    no sixth sense

    The men and women were asked whether the photos were the same or different. If they noticed a change, they were asked to identify the change from a list of options.

    How good were they at noticing changes? Not bad! They picked up on the altered photos around 73 percent of the time. But in some of these trials, even though they detected a change, they could not pinpoint the difference.

    “What people were doing was processing information that they couldn’t verbalize but were picking up on, often subconsciously,” Howe told The Guardian.

    And that explains the feeling of ESP — instead of having a “sixth sense,” our sense of vision may detect a change in our environment or someone’s appearance while we are not directly focusing our attention on it.

    “It’s a bit like an abstract painting,” Howe said. “It doesn’t depict anything you can label, such as a sea or mountain, but you can still get a lot of information on what’s going on.”

  • HP's Chromebook 11 is now available with LTE
    Hewlett-Packard’s Chromebook 11 with LTE appears at Best Buy — and is still pretty cheap at $379.
  • CES and Beyond: Who's Changing the Game in 2014?
    2014-01-14-shutterstock_124567426.jpg

    By Anneke Steenkamp

    The only way to stand out in the tech industry is to have a new product or two up your sleeve. Game changers within the competitive tech sphere race to introduce ground breaking and unique products to loyal fans. Companies such as Steam and Jolla are poised to boom this year, while other leading companies such as Sony, Garmin, LG, Vivofit and Fitbug have unveiled their latest developments at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. Tech lovers can expect a year of innovation for smartwatches, trackers, smartphones, enormous 4K televisions, consoles and cameras.

    Sony’s CES Surprises

    Sony is stirring the proverbial pot, introducing a range of technological innovation. At this year’s CES, Sony introduced a new line of 4K televisions, varying in size and features, an interesting collaboration with Netflix, a camera described as five action cameras in one, as well as the lightest Wi-Fi mirror-less camera. The mirror-less feature is the latest in camera technology allowing light to fall directly on the sensor, instead of first reflecting form the built in mirrors. Eliminating the mirrors has made an immense difference in the size of the camera and speed of the shot.

    Techies can look forward to Sony’s Ultra HD TV, including the XBR X950B series and their recent partnership with Netflix, focused on the 4K content, in streaming content over the Internet with your Sony television at the speed of 60 frames per second.

    The Sony HDR-AS100V video recorder is used optimally in combination with up to five of the same product, allowing filming from different angles to create the perfect action shot. The cameras are splash proof and can capture 1080p at 24 frames per second on video. The Sony HDR-AS100V can also capture slow and super slow motion, making it the amateur videographer’s dream.

    Another newcomer is Sony’s α5000, rumored to be the lightest mirror-less camera coming in at only eight ounces. The camera includes Sony’s BIONZ image-processing technology, has built in WiFi and can pair with your smartphone.

    Watch Wearable Technology

    A wide variety of wearable technology has entered the scene. These “life tracking” devices are focused on promoting a healthier, more active lifestyle for individuals.

    Fitbug — At this year’s CES event, this low cost fitness tracker unveiled a series of subscription plans to serve as a fitness and health coach for its users. KiK is a 12-week plan created by nutrition and fitness professionals that will help you lose that last few pounds, or train for your next 5k. Instead of trying to create the next best feature, Fitbug is solely focused on inspiring users to become more health conscious.

    Vivofit — The latest entry from Garmin is a device aimed at bettering the user’s habits in the field of fitness. The waterproof vivofit sets different daily goals for the user, and tracks the progress through a wristband that needs to be recharged every seven to 10 days. What makes this tracker great is that you rarely have to take it off, allowing you to have a constant fitness companion by your side.

    LG’s Lifeband Touch — LG announced more than just a fitness wristband, but a touch screen interface tracker that notifies you of incoming calls, allowing you to control music and can be used in a way similar than your touch screen tablet or smartphone. This product will appeal to parties looking for a combination of a smartwatch and fitness tracker.

    Steam OS

    Steam is a downloading service for MAC, PC and Linux that sells development software and games. The SteamOS operating system is seem as the newcomer that will drop some bombs in the console scene because of its “adaptability.” Based on the Linux Kernal, SteamOS is an operating system developed by Valve, and is used as the main operating system for the Steam Machine seen by many as the main competition for Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles.

    At the CES 2014, Digital Storm announced the hybrid Steam Machine, named Bolt II, that allows you to use both Windows and SteamOS. SteamOS will be compatible with your TV screen and allow PC gamers to have the “big screen” experience with their Steam games and have the option to use a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard. The Steam games are sold at a much cheaper price than console games.

    Jolla

    Last but not least is Jolla. The name might be rather fresh on the tech seen, but not for long. Soon enough Jolla will be joining the big guns like Samsung, Android, Apple and Nokia on the smartphone scene. Developed by an independent developer in Finland, Jolla is an open source smartphone running on its own operating system, Sailfish OS. The beauty of the platform is that it is open source and can be programmed to your specific needs, but for those wanting the normal Apps and functionality Jolla can operate Android applications as well. Jolla is the first from its kind to be open source and interchangeable making it a big newcomer in the tech scene.

    Jolla will soon be the favorite for developers looking to “play around” with the OS features. The website, JollaTides.com even shares some tutorials to get you started.

    It’s seems like 2014 will be another big year for design, tech and innovation. Unveiling and launching new products at the CES has allowed the these companies to create curiosity among the public and competitors to take charge at creating even better and more unique products. Which product are you looking forward to the most?

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