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Mobile Technology News, February 28, 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.

  • Windows 8.1 update said to arrive when XP ends
    Mark your calendars. Early April promises Windows updates as well as the end of support for Windows XP.
  • Lotus F1 Team looks to tech to win
    Lotus F1, technology, and the quest for trophies
  • VIDEO: Richard Stallman Discusses Freedom and Technology

    On Thursday, February 20th, HuffPost Code hosted Dr. Richard Stallman in collaboration with The New York Tech Meetup and Cooper Union. Stallman is the President of the Free Software Foundation and creator of The GNU operating system.

    The event began at 7:00 pm when Stallman took the stage, declining to wait for an introduction. His speech, entitled “A Free Digital Society”, detailed 10 threats to our freedom. The talk commenced with the topic of surveillance, which prompted Stallman to attack companies like Facebook and Google as well as the State. He cited Apples’ microphones which can be activated remotely, the US government’s vulnerable voting system and the video cameras in every New York Taxi that send images to the “Thug Department” as being particularly egregious examples. Stallman continued to denounce large tech companies and the government throughout his two-and-a-half hour speech.

    The talk was focused on Free Software. Stallman’s primary goal is to promote the use of Free Software to save democracy. In this context, Free refers to Liberty, not price. Stallman said, “The user controls the program or the program controls the user.” In the interest of freedom, Stallman encouraged the crowd to reject the use of mobile phones, run Free operating systems like GNU/Linux and refrain from accessing websites and media that require the use of proprietary software or may contain malware.

    Stallman suggested a few solutions to address the threats facing society. For instance, Free Software may alleviate individual threats to freedom, but how are those that contribute to Free Software compensated? Stallman proposed an anonymous cash “tipping” system to generate small payments to websites when they’re visited. However, this solution is far from viable because there is no truly anonymous cryptocurrency to enable these payments. Stallman placed minimal emphasis on his own solutions, citing his belief that the government is responsible for providing people with decent lives, especially since jobs are being eliminated.

    Throughout the talk, Stallman helped lighten the mood with a barrage of clever puns and amusing anecdotes. While explaining his feelings about Open Source Software, he lamented how he is often called the Father of Open Source even though he fundamentally disagrees with the movement. He said,

    “If I’m the Father of Open Source, it was conceived through artificial insemination using stolen sperm without my knowledge or consent.”

    There were over 700 people in attendance, and for many it was their first time hearing Stallman speak. The Meetup group had mixed reviews; there’s no denying Stallman’s contributions to technology, but it is challenging to sit through one of his speeches. He does not use any visual aids, he can be harsh when answering questions and he refuses to shorten his speech or stop for any reason, even if the crowd thins. He is unapologetically focused on delivering his message. Ryan VG, one of the attendees, posted his thoughts on the NY Tech Meetup page,

    “In a culture of overtly positive and inspirational talks, Stallman’s perspective was refreshingly absent of bravado and brought an extremely relevant and timely perspective on our rights in a digital society.”

    During the Q&A session, an audience member praised Stallman’s efforts and told him that he helped technology to evolve. Stallman quickly replied, “I’m trying to give people freedom and if I have any effect on the evolution of computing, that’s a byproduct.”

    HuffPost Code is committed to covering this continued dialogue. To register for updates on the next event, visit code.huffingtonpost.com.

  • VIDEO: Will we still use mobiles in 20 years?
    Industry experts at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona look forward to the phones of the future.
  • Nasty Rejection Letter Goes Viral
    (CNN) — When you’re a city’s “Communicator of the Year” and have hailed yourself as a “passionate advocate” for job-seekers, you probably ought not blast one of those job-seekers in a snide, dismissive e-mail.
  • IBM laying off up to 25 percent of 'hardware' division
    Big Blue confirms it’s commencing workforce cuts, but declines to put a number on the job losses. A source tells CNET the layoffs entail up to 25 percent in the Systems and Technology group.
  • Dartmouth Student Says She Was Sexually Assaulted After Website 'Rape Guide' Named Her
    A Dartmouth College freshman said she was sexually assaulted weeks after another student named her in an Internet message board “rape guide,” raising questions about the Ivy League school’s handling of the website.

    The post that students have labeled a “rape guide” appeared last month on the anonymous message board Bored@Baker, which is not affiliated with the college, but is restricted to those with a Dartmouth email address. The post named the woman, noted she lives in the Choates residence complex, and explained how to make her want to perform oral sex. “If not have her do it anyways,” the post said. Within weeks, there were more than three dozen references on the message board to “Choates Whore.”

    After the “rape guide” post, the woman was sexually assaulted at a fraternity party, she said.

    “For the first time in months, I started feeling safe,” the woman wrote later in a private group on Facebook. “I went out last week and got assaulted at the first and only house I went to. Then I got told it happens all the time. I hope that maybe someone reading this will do something, because I have no one to turn to.”

    The student who wrote the “rape guide” was removed from campus and faces judgement by the the college community standards process. The young woman said she did not report the assault to authorities, but is frustrated the college did not do something about Bored@Baker, especially since she was targeted by similar posts last fall that included her photo.

    “I was completely disgusted and afraid and I didn’t know how to react,” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told The Huffington Post.

    Dartmouth’s Greek leaders and college administrators issued statements condemning the message board post. Horrified alumni discussed it online and hundreds of students gathered on the Dartmouth Green one night this month in solidarity with sexual assault victims.

    Blocking the website for Dartmouth students isn’t realistic, said college spokesman John D. Cramer.

    “The college doesn’t control or support it, nor, given the nature of the Internet, do we have the capacity to block access,” Cramer said. Referring to the “rape guide” author, Cramer added that “the language and views expressed by this individual don’t reflect the Dartmouth community.”

    The website has caused problems at the Hanover, N.H., school in the past. In April 2013, posts disparaged protesters called “Real Talk Dartmouth” aiming to raise discussion of campus sexual assault. The vitriol and death threats posted online led the college to cancel classes for a “Day of Dialogue,” an unpopular move among students at the time.

    The student who was raped last month said she happened to be in the audience last April, when those Real Talk protesters disrupted an event for prospective students, shouting that the college had a sexual violence problem that was not being dealt with. “I felt like if they needed to go to that extent to make their voices heard, I did think maybe Dartmouth does have a problem,” the student said.

    No one was punished for the online threats against the Real Talk advocates, and the college refused requests to block Bored@Baker from the school’s WiFi, according to Nastassja Schmiedt, a protester who left the school after the spring 2013 term.

    The college is aware of the website’s impact. Theater professor Peter Hackett recalled administrators in 2011 trying to persuade against a performance he was planning because, in part, the performers would be attacked on the message board.

    The controversy over the message board comes as sexual violence is at the forefront of campus debate.

    Dartmouth is one of 41 colleges and universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for potential violations of Title IX, a federal law forbidding gender discrimination. The college also faces a Clery Act complaint filed by students and recent alumni, alleging violations of the campus security law through underreporting of sexual violence, hazing and bias incidents.

    Earlier this school year, five of the nine members of the Panhellenic Council — a student group overseeing sororities — announced they would not participate in sorority rush during the winter term, saying the school and the Greek system must do more to deal with sexual assault and harassment.

    Panhellenic Council Vice President Michelle Khare said she felt like the Greek system wasn’t a “safe place” for women.

    “Morally, the five of us don’t feel capable of putting more girls into a system like this,” Khare said. “We just can’t do that until the system is fixed and heals.”

    The Panhellenic Council women demanded reforms, , including the expulsion of students found guilty of rape “immediately with absolutely no exceptions,” and including past offenses in the adjudication process. The administration should include “a list of resources and pertinent phone numbers” on every class syllabus to combat “a lack of dissemination of information for members of campus who have been sexually assaulted or raped,” the women said.

    Documents provided by Dartmouth show that from 2010 to 2013, sexual violence cases accounted for 4 percent of 107 student “major misconduct” cases. In those sexual violence cases, two students were “separated or resigned” from the college, two students were suspended, two were placed on probation, and four were found “not responsible.”

    The college decided last month to incorporate language of “rape” or equivalent wording into the student handbook and to enforce a policy that students found responsible for non-consensual sexual penetration will be expelled.

    Dartmouth is arranging a conference this summer on sexual assault co-hosted by University of Massachusetts Boston professor David Lisak, an expert on campus rape, and Dartmouth president Phil Hanlon.

    The school announced a new sexual assault center on campus on Feb. 7, and is hosting a series of public meetings with Hanlon called “Moving Dartmouth Forward.” Among other topics, the meetings will discuss campus safety. It spent $1.1 million on initiatives devoted to sexual assault, high-risk drinking and campus climate in the last three years, according to spokesman Justin Anderson.

    “What we do here is not going to result in sexual assault being totally eradicated, that’s not a realistic goal,” Anderson said. “What is realistic is getting people to come forward.”

    Hanlon declined interview requests, but issued a statement promising to tackle these issues.

    “Student life is one of my top priorities as president, and I am committed to working with the Dean of the College, students, faculty and staff to foster a safe, productive and healthy environment for all students in all settings at Dartmouth,” Hanlon said in the statement.

  • 'Electric Eel' Condom Promises To Improve Your Sex Life
    An electric condom in early stages of development just might take safe sex from analog to digital.

    Last March, Bill and Melinda Gates challenged innovators worldwide to invent the “Next Generation Condom” — one that wouldn’t diminish the quality of sensations felt during sex. Notable entries included a condom made from collagen derived from beef tendon claiming to approximate human skin, and a condom that actually tightens during intercourse. But none of these really give the jolt some may be looking for.

    Last week, Georgia Tech students Firaz Peer and Andrew Quitmeyer introduced their “Electric Eel” condom on IndieGogo, which they describe as an “open-source digital condom prototype using electrodes and soft-circuitry.” In laymen’s terms, it supplies mild vibrations — a “digital” rather than “physical” enhancement to the standard condom, as the creators put it.

    While battery-operated devices can be a woman’s best friend, the words “voltage,” circuitry” and “electricity” are rather terrifying to anyone with a vulva. But for men, the threadlike electrodes running throughout the condom, concentrated in the underside of the shaft, provide the type of stimulation condom-less sex can’t.

    The condom is still in very early stages of development, and Quitmeyer and Peer are performing most tests on a cloth-sheath version, pictured above, which potential users can try out to get a feel for the sensations. The electric currents are manipulated by a microcontroller connected to the condom and operated by the user, or by “various Internet APIs” accessed from a mobile device. Start brainstorming ways to explain your CondomApp.

    Despite considerable anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the commonly-held assumption that sex without a condom is more pleasurable often prevents their use. But with STDs being an increasingly global concern, eschewing safe sex for perceived better sex is an alarming trend. Can a dubiously realized electric condom inspire a worldwide shift in attitudes about safe sex? Not necessarily. But the degree to which talented innovators have taken up the condom-improvement mantle is encouraging, and getting some latex in Silicon Valley could give safe sex an upgrade.

    We look forward to seeing which condom earns the Gates Foundation’s $1 million prize. If indeed it is the “Electric Eel,” may we recommend a lubricated version, “Electric Slide”?

    [h/t Refinery 29]

  • U.S. Moves One Step Closer To Offshore Drilling Along East Coast
    The oil and gas industry is one step closer toward drilling off the East Coast of the United States after a decades-long moratorium.

    On Thursday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released its final environmental impact review on the effects of geological and geophysical activities to explore energy resources along the Atlantic seaboard, including controversial seismic airgun testing. Energy companies could receive permits to hunt for oil and gas deposits off the East Coast — specifically from the coast of Delaware down to central Florida — “perhaps in the coming months,” according to a report from Breaking Energy.

    Seismic airguns use massive blasts of compressed air to map underground deposits of hydrocarbons. The blasts can be 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine, according to the advocacy group Oceana. The noise can be deadly for marine mammals, causing crippling hearing loss, disruption of feeding and beach strandings. Conservationists are particularly worried about the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which migrates off the East Coast twice a year and which numbers only about 500.

    Story continues below:

    The BOEM identifies a slew of mitigation strategies to combat adverse impacts on wildlife, including efforts to avoid collisions between animals and exploration vessels, temporary closure of areas during the migration of the North Atlantic right whale, and improved monitoring of marine mammals during seismic testing.

    But environmental groups still lambasted the report, calling it a “death sentence” for thousands of whales and dolphins.

    “Imagine dynamite going off in your neighborhood every 10 seconds for days, weeks, and months on end,” Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, wrote in a blog post. “Now imagine that you depend on your hearing to feed, mate, communicate, and do just about everything else necessary for survival. That’s the situation that endangered whales, commercial fish, and other marine wildlife are facing with today’s announcement.”

    It could be years before any oil is brought up due to the lack of infrastructure, but Southern politicians and the oil industry have been pushing for development as the White House prepares the country’s 2017-2022 ocean energy exploration plan. In 2010, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama administration effectively banned offshore drilling along the Atlantic seaboard until 2017. The move, just months after his administration had ended a 30-year ban on the practice, surprised both environmentalists and oil companies.

  • Google's So Helpful It Tells You Where To Buy Drugs
    A block in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., was identified as the borough’s “drug section” by Google Maps, the Village Voice reported Thursday.

    A Redditor found the apparent mistake and posted it to the site, asking others how it could have happened. People speculated that the “drug section” was most likely the creation of someone toying with Google’s MapMaker product — just one of the ways the powers that be at Google build out their complex maps database.

    drug brooklyn

    While the original map had “drug section” written along part of West 8th Street, that’s since been removed. (Gothamist has a screenshot.) However, as of Thursday afternoon, typing “drug section” into Google Maps for Brooklyn still pinpointed the corner of Bay Parkway and West 8th.

    When asked how he or she came across the apparent mistake, the Redditor who posted the map wrote, “I was getting directions to a Guatemalan restaurant on Ave O and it said ‘turn left at the drug section.'”

    Some on the Reddit thread sounded off on whether they thought the area really was the nexus of drug transactions in Brooklyn, saying it’s actually pretty “quiet,” while one person speculated the marker was put there by “an actual drug dealer who was looking to promote business.”

    Bensonhurst was, however, recently cited as one of the three South Brooklyn neighborhoods suffering from a heroin problem.

    When asked about the mistake, a Google spokesperson told Gothamist, “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We’re aware of the issue and are working to fix it.”

  • Everyone Will Have Self-Driving Car By 2026, Analyst Says
    Adam Jonas isn’t Nostradamus, but the Morgan Stanley analyst is predicting the road to complete vehicle autonomy will begin in 2026. What’s more, he says the technology will eventually reach 100 percent market penetration two decades later.

    If Jonas is to be believed, that means we’ll all be passengers in our cars pretty soon.

    In a report to analysts earlier this week, Jonas said his company sees “autonomous cars contributing $5.6 trillion in economic savings globally.”

    A chart from the report outlines the beginnings of an autonomous car “utopia,” wherein autonomous cars will overcome liability and infrastructure issues, in 2026. Prior to 2026, Morgan Stanley predicts our cars will be able to be driven autonomously, but the driver will need to remain attentive in the case of an emergency, as the infrastructure for autonomous cars will not be fully developed.

    Not every day you see a chart like this in a street research piece. $TSLA pic.twitter.com/P4wD5TtDUH

    — Conor Sen (@conorsen) February 25, 2014

    But Jonas isn’t the only individual predicting a promising future for autonomous cars: Two research studies in August 2013 revealed similar predictions.

    Navigant Research, a market research firm, wrote that “by 2035, sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75% of all light-duty vehicle sales.” Meanwhile, the research firm ABI Research believes half of all new cars will be autonomous by 2032.

    But not everyone sees complete vehicle autonomy entering the marketplace as quickly.

    In December, independent research organization Victoria Transport Policy Institute released a report that outlined the state of vehicle autonomy in the future, noting:

    The analysis indicates that some benefits, such as independent mobility for affluent non-drivers, may begin in the 2020s or 2030s, but most impacts, including reduced traffic and parking congestion (and therefore road and parking facility supply), independent mobility for low-income people (and therefore reduced need to subsidize public transport), increased safety, energy conservation and pollution reductions, will only be significant when autonomous vehicles become common and affordable, probably in the 2040s through 2060s, and some benefits may require prohibiting human-driven vehicles on certain roadways, which could take even longer.

    Then again, autonomous cars may come even earlier than any of these studies suggest; Nissan believes it will have an autonomous car on sale in 2020.

    Whatever year autonomous cars finally come to market, it seems very likely we’ll be able to let our cars do our driving in the very near future.

  • Supreme Court Session Purportedly Revealed In YouTube Video

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A protest group has posted what appears to be the first video of the Supreme Court taken inside the courtroom with the court in session.

    The Supreme Court forbids cameras and all other electronic devices, but members of the protest group 99Rise appear to have shot video on two separate occasions since October.

    The more recent footage captures a courtroom protest on Wednesday by a man the court identified as Noah Newkirk of Los Angeles. A 99Rise news release posted online says group co-founder Kai Newkirk was the person who called on the court to overturn its 2010 Citizens United decision. Police hustled him out of the courtroom and charged him with disturbing the proceedings.

    The protest was the first to disrupt an argument session in more than seven years, since the court heard an abortion dispute in late 2006.

    The first part of the video, which runs just over two minutes, seems to come from Oct. 8, when the court heard argument in McCutcheon v. FEC. That case about contribution limits has yet to be decided and is the court’s first major foray into campaign finance law since the Citizens United decision.

    “I rise on behalf of the vast majority of the American people, who believe that money is not speech, corporations are not people and our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder,” Newkirk said on the video. “Overturn Citizens United. Keep the cap in McCutcheon.”

    Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the court is reviewing the video and courtroom screening procedures.

    Spectators, lawyers and reporters must pass through a metal detector before entering the courtroom, and it sometimes is triggered by innocent items, including belts, shoes and watches.

  • Now You Can Catch All The 'Pokemon' On Netflix
    Gotta catch ’em all!

    Break out your badges and your trusty Pokedex, Pokemon is headed for Netflix!

    If you’ve missed watching Pokemon trainer Ash, and his uber cute sidekick Pikachu travel the road fighting and capturing other Pokemon (and you’ve already finished all of “House of Cards”) then let “Pokemon” be your next binge-watching adventure.

    Beginning March 1, Netflix subscribers can watch the first season of the “Pokemon” animated series (known as “Indigo League”) and also episodes from the season known as “Pokemon: Black & White.” Pokemon movies, “Pokemon the Movie: Black – Victini and Reshiram” and “Pokemon the Movie: White – Victini and Zekrom,” will also be available.

    Better start training your Squirtle now!

    If you need to be reminded the awesomeness of “Pokemon,” watch the inspiring theme song below:

    Now make sure you watch or you’ll make Pikachu all sad:

    tv show gifs

  • Christina Grimmie's Audition On 'The Voice' Will Wreck You In The Best Possible Way
    While many online may already be familiar with Christina Grimmie, a talented teenage singer who has made a name performing on YouTube, she’s now able to reach a national television audience on NBC’s “The Voice.” This past Tuesday, Grimmie and completely blew them (and us) away with her audition!

    Watch this video above, posted by The Voice, to see Grimmie perform Miley Cyrus’ hit single, “Wrecking Ball,” and win over the judges and audience within seconds of singing this incredible rendition of the song.

  • How Can We Balance the Risks and Rewards of New Technologies?

    The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies released its annual list of breakthrough technologies. The list highlights 10 trends in technological advancement that could offer innovative solutions to a range of pressing global challenges. As a member of the council that compiles the list each year, I’m excited to see technologies here that could be truly transformative. At the same time, realizing the benefits they offer will require a good dose of responsible innovation mixed in with the technologies each trend represents.

    Some of the trends — computers that can read and interpret brain signals, and screen-less displays that project images directly on to a person’s retina, for example — may seem straight out of a science-fiction movie. Others, such as nanostructured carbon composites and grid-scale energy storage, have been evolving for a while. However, each trend represents breakthroughs that are poised to underpin significant economic, social and environmental impact soon.

    That said, in today’s complex and interconnected world, their sustainable development and use also hinges on understanding how they might harm people and the environment, and how people’s perceptions and assumptions might affect their development trajectories. This is where an increasingly sophisticated understanding of sustainable innovation is needed. While scientists and engineers are masters at demonstrating what is technologically possible, it is society that ultimately decides which technologies succeed and which do not.

    The World Economic Forum Top 10 technology trends push us far beyond the realms of what we are used to — this is why they are so exciting and inspiring. To be sustainable though, the complex engineering they represent must be integrated with an understanding of how to develop and use them safely and effectively.

    Take for example advances in human microbiome therapeutics, which involve modifying or even re-engineering bacteria naturally found in humans to prevent or treat health conditions. Using our own bacteria to cure ailments and protect against disease may sound better than pumping our bodies with medications. But unless we get a good handle on the potential downsides of messing around with the bacteria that are part and parcel of how our bodies work, it’s going to be tough to get effective microbiome therapies off the ground.

    Not all of these trends are so esoteric or seemingly inaccessible to consumers. For instance, consumer technologies such as relatively inexpensive screen-less displays are just around the corner. The Glyph, for example, is a screen-less display that is poised to transform personal video displays. This is a tremendously exciting technology that could potentially revolutionize how we receive and work with visual information. Its potential extends far beyond videos and gaming to changing how we visually interact with complex data. But its long-term success — like the success of other technologies on the top 10-list — will depend on getting the social as well as the technological and economic calculus right. Achieve this, and the power exists to transform good ideas into agents of change in a world that is hungry for technologies that help to solve problems and make lives better.

    This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2014 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 22-25). The Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils consists of more than 80 select groups of experts, each focused on key topics in the global arena, that collectively serve as an advisory board to the Forum and other interested parties, such as governments and international organizations. Read all the posts in this series forecasting global trends for 2014 here.

  • UNC Class Gets Screwed By Duke Fan, Entire Google Doc Of Notes Replaced With Meme Image
    The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill beat rival Duke University in men’s basketball last week, prompting students to celebrate by running through the streets going crazy. But the following week, when students got back to work, the undergrads in one history class discovered someone messed with their notes.

    On Tuesday, a UNC student posted on the Facebook page “Overheard at UNC”: “Someone deleted all the information in the History 107 midterm google doc and posted this instead..”

    duke unc

    Obviously, the UNC students believe it was a Duke student. Although some theorized it could be a capybara.

    UNC students reported being able to rectify the loss of the notes, though it’s unclear whether they used revision history or had simply backed up offline.

    Of course, UNC students can rest easy on having the win in the actual basketball game, but the two schools have a long history of pranking each other. In 2012, the UNC student government attempted to mock Duke on Twitter, only to have their grammar mistake called out. Last year, UNC fans stole the Blue Devil mascot’s head and placed Chapel Hill’s fight song in the Duke hymnals.

    [h/t TotalFratMove]

  • Watch This Man Age Over The Course Of Nearly 25 Years
    We wish we had the ability to focus on a single project for as long as this guy has.

    Artist Karl Baden, who teaches photography at Boston College, has taken a photo of himself every single day since Feb. 23, 1987.

    The video above shows him aging over the course of nearly 25 years. (The clip features photos taken through Nov. 3, 2011.)

    “I actually first had the idea for the project as a student in 1975,” Baden, 61, told HuffPost on Thursday. “I began the project when I was 34.”

    Those interested can see all 9,534 photographs — those taken through April 1, 2013, anyway — in chronological order on his blog. (Baden admits he’s fallen a few months behind on the project, as “life has a tendency to intervene.”)

    The video above doesn’t include every photo over the 24 year, 8 month time period, Baden points out. But although he did a little editing for the sake of brevity, the video “probably contains 2,000-2,500 stills,” he said.

    Bravo, sir.

    (hat tip Storyful)

  • Man Charged With Hacking The Federal Reserve
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – A British man has been charged with hacking into computer servers belonging to the U.S. Federal Reserve, and then widely disclosing personal information of people who use them.

    Thursday’s charges against Lauri Love were announced four months after he was arrested in England, and accused by U.S. and British authorities of hacking into various U.S. government computer systems, including those run by the military.

    According to the latest indictment, Love, who is in his late-20s, worked with other hackers from October 2012 to February 2013 to infiltrate the Federal Reserve’s system.

    The Suffolk resident allegedly used a hacking method called a “sequel injection” to access names, email addresses and phone numbers, and then post the stolen information to a website he controlled after a prior hacking.

    Prosecutors said Love boasted about his activity in a chatroom under names such as “peace” and “Smedley Butler,” once saying he planned to “drop another little federal reserve bomb,” meaning he would disclose confidential information.

    “Lauri Love is a sophisticated hacker,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York said in a statement. “We place a high priority on the investigation and prosecution of hackers who intrude into our infrastructure and threaten the personal security of our citizens.”

    The extent of the theft was not immediately clear.

    Last February, the Fed said one of its internal websites had been breached briefly, after a claim that hackers linked to the group Anonymous stole and published personal information on more than 4,000 U.S. bank executives.

    Thursday’s grand jury indictment charges Love with one count each of computer hacking and aggravated identity theft.

    He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the hacking charge and another two years on the identity theft charge, if convicted.

    A lawyer for Love could not immediately be reached. Jim Strader, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia, declined to elaborate on the new charges. The U.K. Serious Frauds Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    In the earlier case, investigators said Love and three unnamed co-conspirators, including two in Australia and one in Sweden, infiltrated thousands of systems, including those of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, the space agency NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Criminal charges in that case were filed with the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Love has not entered a plea.

    The New York case is U.S. v. Love, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00126. The Virginia case is U.S. v. Love, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, No. 13-mj-00657.

    (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by James Dalgleish and Gunna Dickson)

  • Laurie Kilmartin Is Live Tweeting Her Father's Last Days… And It Is Heartbreakingly Funny
    “Jokes can be noble. Laughs are exactly as honorable as tears. Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward — and since I can start thinking and striving again that much sooner.”

    Kurt Vonnegut, St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, April 19, 1980

    Comedian and “Conan” writer Laurie Kilmartin is, at the time of this posting, watching her father pass away. She and her mother and sister are doing all of the things that families often do when a loved one is in their last days: they’re helping him to the bathroom, organizing visits with grandchildren, professing their love again and again, reassuring him it’s ok to go, watching and waiting, waiting, waiting.

    And the one other thing they’re doing is laughing.

    The reason we know what Kilmartin is going through is because she has been live tweeting the entire experience. And before you tsk-tsk the whole thing as another sad emblem of “the way the world is now,” you should go back and look at the posts. If you’ve ever lost a parent, you will most likely relate. If you have yet to, you may find something that will one day help you cope with your own loss.

    Among the myriad tweets are wry observations of the day-to-day business of dealing with a sick parent…

    Every day, I set a new goal of not seeing Dad’s genitals when I help him off the toilet.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 26, 2014

    …bittersweet revelations about the promises one makes…

    just promised Dad I’d be nice to Mom. Damnit.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 26, 2014

    …realizations that your political differences will become fond memories…

    How I check that I’ve put Dad’s hearing aids in correctly. Whisper “testing, testing, Obama is a Muslim,” then look for the thumbs up.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 26, 2014

    …and painful truths…

    Hard to leave Dad’s side. I am drawn to him like a moth to a flame (that’s about to go out)

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 26, 2014

    To scroll back through Kilmartin’s feed is to be drawn into one of the most poignant moments in a person’s life and find yourself awestruck by the complexity of emotions at such a time. It is also a master class in how humor heals, how it can shepherd a person, even a whole family, from a life with a father/husband to a life without one.

    Hospice says to reassure the loved one that they can go, that we will be ok. So me sobbing “Dad, don’t fucking leave me!” was frowned upon.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 27, 2014

    Ultimately, every tweet Kilmartin sends out seems to be, at its heart, just another way of saying, “I love you, Dad” as loudly as she can, the echo of which has struck a chord with many:

    Everyone, head back over to @anylaurie16‘s feed. Death and hilarity. Wow.

    — Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 27, 2014

    @pattonoswalt @anylaurie16 Pure perfect humanity.

    — Kelly Carlin (@kelly_carlin) February 27, 2014

    Laughing and crying at the same time reading the past few days of @anylaurie16 timeline. ๐Ÿ™‚ and ๐Ÿ™

    — Nina L. Diamond (@ninatypewriter) February 27, 2014

    Other comedians have found similarly, if not as immediately, poignant ways of dealing with the loss of a parent. In her book of autobiographical essays Lizz Free Or Die, Lizz Winstead writes about a posthumous joke her father played on her and her four siblings. In his 2010 special, You Should Have Told Me, Paul F. Tompkins talks about the death of his mother and the worst thing you can say to someone offering you their condolences at a funeral. And in her recent show, You’re Doing Great! A Bold-Faced Lie, New York comedian Sharon Spell recounts the death of both of her parents, just 18 days apart.

    But the rawness of Kilmartin’s moment-by-moment account puts our perception of comedy to the ultimate test. Certainly, many will feel it inappropriate. But when facing the loss of a parent, the concept of appropriateness is probably the first thing to go out the window.

    Me? Not much, just watching someone breathe.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 27, 2014

    You can follow Laurie Kilmartin on twitter at anylaurie16. But be warned:

    Heads up, new followers. After my Dad passes on, I’m going on a dick joke cleanse.

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 27, 2014

    Finally, here’s a photo of Kilmartin’s parents she tweeted several days ago:

    55 years pic.twitter.com/ZcaPVtzGd0

    — Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) February 23, 2014

    That thing you’re now experiencing is all of the feelings… just go with it.

Mobile Technology News, February 27, 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.

  • Briefly: Apple updates iOS deployment tools, details Touch ID tech
    Ahead of the release of iOS 7.1, expected in the middle of next month, Apple has proceeded with an overhaul of its existing Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms for educational, enterprise and institutional clients. It launched a new Volume Services web site earlier this month, and has now activated a number of features on that site, kicking off a big push for large-scale iOS deployments.


  • VIDEO: Our early impressions of the web
    On 12 March 2014 the world wide web turns 25, and the Pew Research Center has collected data on how Americans have reacted to it through its brief history.
  • 'Gigafactory' Will Allow Tesla To Provide Batteries For 500,000 Vehicles By 2020
    PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla Motors said Wednesday it’s considering sites in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for a massive battery factory that would employ around 6,500 people.

    The company didn’t immediately name the locations it’s considering in those states. Tesla plans to start construction this year and complete the factory — which it dubs its “Gigafactory” — in 2017. Tesla’s share rose nearly 3 percent to $259.90 in after-hours trading.

    The factory would supply lithium-ion batteries to Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., assembly plant.

    Palo Alto-based Tesla says it will invest $2 billion in the 10 million square foot factory, which will cost between $4 billion and $5 billion. Its partners will invest the rest. The company didn’t identify those partners Wednesday, but its current battery supplier, Japan’s Panasonic Corp., is expected to be among the investors.

    Panasonic signed a deal last fall to supply Tesla with 2 billion battery cells over the next four years. But Tesla has fretted that current battery supplies won’t meet its future demands.

    The new factory will provide enough batteries to supply 500,000 vehicles by 2020, Tesla said. Tesla expects to produce 35,000 vehicles this year.

    Tesla currently sells just one vehicle, the Model S sedan, which starts around $70,000. But it plans to begin making a crossover, the Model X, later this year, and wants to bring a lower cost, mass market vehicle to market in 2017. Tesla said the factory would help lower its battery costs by around 30 percent.

    Tesla also announced Wednesday it plans to raise $1.6 billion in a debt offering. The proceeds would help finance the new factory and the lower cost vehicle.

  • Korean FTC ignores Apple complaint, says Samsung can litigate SEPs
    In a judgement that has bewildered international patent and legal analysts, the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has rejected Apple’s complaint against Samsung that the latter was using FRAND-pledged standards-essential patents (SEPs) for bargaining leverage and as threat of litigation in order to strike unjust licensing deals. The Korean FTC has essentially said that suing or seeking product injunctions over SEPs is perfectly okay — if your company is based in South Korea.


  • Why Facebook Is Here to Stay
    Facebook has dominated the headlines in the past week due to its bold $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. This news buried another conversation that had previously been getting a moderate amount of attention: Some were beginning to question whether Facebook has a place in the world 10 or 20 years from now — or even fewer, as a post titled “Facebook will disappear in the next 5 years” indicates.

    One of the early instigators of the conversation, back in April 2012, was Geoffrey James of Inc. magazine, who made the basic and pretty unfounded argument that Facebook is no longer “cool,” whatever the term may mean to you. Further, James claimed that Facebook is “a company trying to be all things to all people.” Setting aside that Facebook’s user base is, in fact, growing, and that it is the largest social media site in the world, this seems to be a very superficial analysis of Facebook’s strategy.

    Facebook isn’t trying to do everything — it is constantly experimenting by doing. The social media giant recently launched a division called Creative Labs, solely dedicated to building new ways of being social online. This new venture produced Paper, an app that integrates Facebook with the information graph by making it part of a wider stream fed by news outlets and blogs. This is just one of many signs of Facebook’s commitment to continuously building and experimenting with new features and apps. Facebook makes $2.6 billion per quarter. It seems only logical that, like Google and Apple, a large part of this cash goes back into developing its core product, as well as exploring new avenues for growth in the world of social.

    James goes as far as to say that Facebook’s buying Instagram “smacks of desperation.” I understand the need to dish out solid punch lines, but a 10-year-old company making more than $10 billion a year is not desperate, it’s 10 steps ahead.

    An unlikely influencer, 13-year-old Ruby Karp from New York, reignited the conversation in August 2013. She eloquently explained her and her peers’ dislike of Facebook, explaining that “teens are followers” and voicing the same privacy concerns that many other Facebook users have: “If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead.”

    Although I agree with everything Ruby says, we must remember that Facebook wasn’t created for 13-year-olds. Ruby is not the core Facebook consumer. Facebook was created with college kids in mind, who have a completely different social structure than 13-year-olds, one that is more suitable to the site. Think Greek life and club sports. How many Rubys need to organize a party? Thirteen-year-olds aren’t trying to get tactical about their social networking.

    Facebook was able to win over college students when it had no money and was called Thefacebook (yes, all one word). I am confident it will keep doing so in the future.

    Following Ruby’s op-ed, Adam Wexler, on the Huffington Post, wrote about “Why Twitter and LinkedIn will outlast Facebook,” calling out a specific line of Ruby’s piece: “Facebook was just this thing all our parents seemed to have.” True, the Facebook population is aging, as a natural result of early adopters getting older. However, while at 13 everyone above 18 feels like an alien, once you’ve reached college, that barrier to entry is far less relevant. Furthermore, a 20-year-old is more likely to be able to navigate the, I will admit, annoyingly nuanced privacy settings on Facebook and make sure Mom is not privy to incriminating content.

    Facebook is here to stay, and here is why: It is a great platform for anyone 18 and older to stay in contact with peers, near and far, and build and manage friend groups. Facebook isn’t out to win you over when you are 13.

    Further, it has an enormous amount of cash to spend on R & D, meaning that no one, probably not even founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has any idea where Facebook is going to be in 10 years. This is the core power of its founder. Zuckerberg is both a visionary and a maker, and that combo is unbeatable

  • Google, Microsoft agree: Cloud is now safe enough to use
    The two Internet powerhouses agree that it’s time to stop fearing cloud security and embrace the future at the annual RSA Conference.
  • Energy firm cyber-defence 'too weak'
    Power companies are being refused insurance cover for cyber-attacks due to inadequate defences, the BBC learns.
  • Report: iOS 7.0.6 hits 26 percent penetration in first four days [U]
    [Updated with more recent statistics from Chitika] One of Apple’s biggest advantages over other mobile platforms is its ability to update its OS quickly, and more crucially — particularly in the case of the rare security issue — to deploy the update across all compatible devices rapidly, rather than have to wait weeks or months for carriers and partners to incorporate their own apps and other processes and “skins” into the fix. Updted stats from mobile ad analysts Chitika show that more than 25.9 percent of all North American iDevices were already running the latest version within four days


  • Future Mobile Wonders Not All at Mobile World Congress

    As a result of series of unfortunate events and poor timing, I’m home instead of engorging myself in the sites and sounds of Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology exhibition, currently crowding Barcelona.

    But based on news reports from the show, other than not spending some time in such an exotic locale with my wife who is working the show for IBM, it doesn’t appear I missed much.

    The usual superphone suspects did introduce some new geegaws:

    But collectively, to me, these new devices feel incremental rather than breakthrough. We’ve seen fingerprint scanners, waterproofing and 20-plus MP cameras before. And we now have smartphones at nearly every incremental screen size between 3.5 and 7 inches.

    MWC isn’t alone in its dearth of mobile hardware excitement. There weren’t many smartphone breakthroughs at CES, either. In fact, even with its fingerprint-scanning home button, last fall’s Apple iPhone 5S was only slight more cool than the 5.

    So, has the smartphone reached the end of its wonder years?

    It’s the infrastructure, stupid

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that smartphone technology has stagnated. Batteries will continue to supply more juice, there’ll be more waterproofing/resistance, cameras will continue to improve (and not just more megapixels but better focusing, optical zooming and better low-light results), etc.

    But in just seven short years, since the original iPhone went on sale in June 2007, the mobile phone has achieved shocking technological and mainstream maturity. In 2013, revenues from smartphone and tablet sales totaled more than all other consumer electronics combined, and according to Cisco, there are now more mobile devices then there are people in the world.

    But instead of mobile devices, future mobile wonders will come instead from largely unfamiliar supporting technologies and applications.

    For instance, for me, the biggest news out of MWC was made by Boingo, which announced the availability of Passpoint Wi-Fi in 21 U.S. airports.

    What’s Passpoint? Passpoint is automatic and secure Wi-Fi connectivity. Passpoint will make connecting to speedy Wi-Fi as brainlessly easy — you’ll need to do nothing, just like connecting to cellular. Your phone will simply connect to Wi-Fi all by itself. You can read my more expansive Passpoint explanation here.

    With these 21 airports as a starting point, I can only hope Boingo spreads Passpoint (and hopefully so-called gigabit 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with its 1.3 gigabit per second speeds) to its other 700,000 global hotspots more rapidly than the rest of the industry plans.

    Then there’s the IBM’s Watson Mobile Developers Challenge, just announced by IBM CEO Ginni Rommety in her MWC keynote. Full disclosure: my wife is the lead PR contact for the challenge. But Watson, which trounced two human Jeopardy! champions a couple of years ago, is arguably the world’s most intuitive computer (although Amazon’s system gives Watson a run for its petaflops).

    Drawing on Watson’s cloud-based cognitive computing capabilties, future mobile apps could prove as wondrous as any piece of hardware, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

    Other wireless wonders

    Three other wireless technologies will radically change how we interact with the world through our mobile device:

    Here’s my more expansive examination of the impact and implications of these and other wireless and infrastructure technologies that promise to change our mobile lives far more radically than any shiny MWC hardware.

    Now how much would you pay?

    Perhaps the source for the most mobile future wonder will come not from technology at all, but how much we pay for mobile technology and service.

    Over the last year or so, T-Mobile, led by peripatetic CEO John Legere, has unleashed a staggered, multi-step “un-carrier” campaign. This un-carrier campaign includes the end of contracts, more simplified plans, no data capping, fewer limitations for hardware upgrades, drastically reduced international roaming fees and re-imbursement of early termination fees (ETF).

    T-Mobile’s in-your-face efforts to re-make the cellphone business have forced its competitors to try and keep up, sometimes comically reversing course or resorting to out-right bribery.

    As T-Mobile builds out is speedy LTE network and attracts more switchers, I suspect Verizon, AT&T and Sprint to defensively counter (it’s kind of fun to watch these behemoths awkwardly react to T-Mobile’s shenanigans), resulting in ever-lower cellular service pricing — which may be the most wondrous mobile development yet.

  • The Dalai Lama On How Technology Influences Our Daily Lives (VIDEO)
    With more than 8 million Twitter followers, the outside observer may assume that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama knows a thing or two about (mindfully) employing technology. But even though he called the existence of digital devices “wonderful,” he warned that they can also stand in our way — if we let them.

    “I think technology really increases human ability. It [made] a lot of things much easier,” he told HuffPost Live host Willow Bay. “But technology cannot produce compassion.”

    The Dalai Lama also explained that even though our phones and computers are so integrated into our lives, it’s important not to let them control how we’re living.

    “After all, we are the controllers of the technology and if we become slaves of technology, that’s not good,” he said.

    Check out the clip above for more on the usefulness of our digital devices and watch the full interview with the Dalai Lama over on HuffPost Live.

    For more on the Third Metric, click here.

    Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a 3-city tour: NY, DC & LA. Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.

  • Sony to shutter 20 stores in US, implement staff cuts
    Sony is shutting down US stores and going ahead with staff cuts, in the wake of the expected sale of its PC business.
  • New Livescribe 3 Makes Apple Devices More Delicious
    Odds and ends — you know, everything we commonly refer to as “stuff” because we aren’t sure how to classify them. We’ve been receiving many items recently that fall into that category, or into categories we’ve covered so recently that it’s not time for them to be reviewed. So, with that in mind, here’s one of our favorite items that has crept to the top of our “stuff” pile.

    The folks at Livescribe hope to win over iPad and iPhone users with the Livescribe 3 smartpen ($149 and $199 depending on which model you want).

    We’ve been Livescribe fans for a long time and were anxious to put this new pen through its paces, but, truthfully, were a bit annoyed when we discovered it will only work with Apple devices. After contacting the company’s marketing people, we were assured that an Android version was “in the works” and should hit the market sometime this year.

    Apparently there’s a compatibility problem with the version of Bluetooth (Bluetooth Smart 4.0) used by the pen that wasn’t resolved until the recent Android upgrade to version 4.3.

    Also missing is the recording capability we’ve become addicted to that was included with older versions of the Livescribe pens. But there’s a good reason for this: The Livescribe 3 uses the recording capabilities built into the Apple devices. So it’s not “gone,” just replaced.

    On the plus side, this new smartpen is sleeker and more stylish than its predecessors. Plus the power button is gone. Instead there’s a metal ring in the middle of the pen that turns it on or off and an LED light that tells you it’s on.

    Aside from that, the pen does a great job of performing all of the functions we’ve come to expect from a Livescribe product:

    • It has a high-speed infrared camera that records every keystroke made with the pen.
    • The ability to work with any of the Livescribe paper products.
    • The ability to share files with Evernote.

    New features include:

    • It connects to the iPhone 4S and newer, third generation iPads and newer, and the fifth generation iPod Touch and newer.
    • You don’t need USB cables (except to charge the pen) or a WiFi connection.
    • Up to 14 hours of use on one charge of the battery.
    • 2GB of internal memory.
    • The Livescribe+ Mobile App converts everything from the pen to the device. It’s no longer compatible with Livescribe Desktop.
    • The Livescribe Starter Notebook and Livescribe Journal contain new paper controls that allow you to tag your notes while you write.

    Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman’s Jocgeek fan page at www.facebook.com/jocgeek, or follow him on Twitter @jocgeek. You can also contact him via email at jocgeek@earthlink.net or through his website at www.jocgeek.com.

    Disclaimer: I have no financial ties to this company.

  • The Ongoing Battle Against Breaches
    I’ve seen some interesting security trends develop over the course of 2013 and in to 2014 — BYOD security management and the increased scrutiny on cloud security to name a couple.

    One of the trends that I have found most interesting is the practice of businesses monitoring for employee and customer login credentials, and company devices that have already been compromised. On the surface, this may seem a bit bizarre, but when you look at some recent statistics, the practice begins to make sense. Think about this:

    When someone uses the same login credentials across multiple websites, an email or password compromised from one company’s data breach can open up vulnerabilities on a multitude of completely unrelated websites. Or consider malware. Antivirus programs are important, but they can’t keep up with the rate that malware is evolving (see the 300,000 viruses per day stat, above). We’ve seen the emergence among businesses of two practices that focus on searching for compromised credentials and devices: monitoring the black market and finding compromised IP addresses.

    Monitoring The Identity Black Market:

    When a breach occurs, the stolen information is often posted on a site, like PasteBin, that is considered public domain. Some businesses are monitoring these sites for employee and customer credentials. When a compromised credential is found, the business then asks the customer or employee to update his/her password. After the news of Adobe’s November breach broke, I received an email request from Eventbrite asking me to change my password.

    Proactive monitoring is done in real-time, which means a business can learn that an employee email address or password has been compromised the instant it is posted on a chat room, website or message board. This gives businesses the opportunity to react to the compromised information and subsequently mitigate the impact and risk of that stolen credential. However, the problem extends a bit further if the device the customer or employee is using has, in fact, been compromised. Changing account details and passwords for that matter will not fix the problem, allowing fraudsters to simply re-steal the updated credential.

    Identifying Compromised IP Addresses:

    In order to adapt to the ever-changing fraud market, the second and newer trend I’ve seen with business security is identifying company devices with compromised IP addresses. Most compromised credentials are stolen via malware, which is growing at an alarming rate. Most malware does two things: collects information from the compromised device and sends out spam to infect additional computers. Businesses can track and collect different malware strains. Once these malware strains have been collected, they are scanned and analyzed to identify any locations they are communicating with, either sending stolen data back to or receiving additional instructions. In order to identify compromised devices and types of data extracted from those devices, businesses can match up the IP address communicating with the databases the malware is sending stolen information to. It sounds complicated, but it is an automated process that can quickly tell a business if a computer has been infected by malware.

    Our software identifies an average of eight million compromised IP addresses every 14 days. The increase of these infected devices has led to the rising availability of malicious underground services. These services, in particular, target legitimate organizations of all sizes in order to disrupt or disable their direct competitors. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, spam campaigns and other underground acts are now more affordable than ever, which poses an even greater risk to businesses and their employees.

    I expect to see these two monitoring trends become more prevalent in 2014. Businesses, no mater how large or how much money they invest in system security, cannot keep up with the rate malware is evolving or contend with consumers’ bad password habits. Monitoring for compromised credentials and IP addresses are an easy way to identify a potential breach point before extensive damage can be done.

  • Kate Mara Hasn't Finished Watching 'House Of Cards'
    You may have spent all of Valentine’s Day binge-watching Season 2 of “House Of Cards,” but almost two weeks later Kate Mara hasn’t even finished it.

    “I’m not done yet. I haven’t seen the whole season,” Mara told In Touch. “I thought I was going to binge on the first two days, but on Valentine’s Day, I was so tired I only got to Episode 5, so now I’m on Episode 7.”

    WARNING: Major Season 2 spoilers ahead!

    Mara went on to say that the show is hard to watch because her character, Zoe Barnes, was pushed in front of a train in the season’s first episode. In an interview on “LIVE with Kelly and Michael,” Mara said keeping such a big secret was tough, especially because she knew about it for two years.

    “My family members didn’t even know,” she said. “I just had to be really creative with people asking how things are going on the show.”

    Check out her full “LIVE” interview below:

    Season 2 of “House Of Cards” hits Netflix on February 14.

  • The 1 Email Successful People Never Send
    Want to get ahead? Emulate the super-successful and never send a long email.

    Steve Jobs was a well-known sender of short emails. The Apple co-founder’s email address was public for much of his time as Apple’s CEO, and he often responded to emails from customers. He was always blunt.

    Story continues after these wonderful examples.

    short emails

    short emails

    Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos is known at his company for sending unnervingly short emails. Bezos’s email address is public, and he receives many emails from customers, which he forwards to the relevant people with one single addition: a question mark. “When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark e-mail, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb,” Brad Stone writes in his biography of Bezos.

    “For various reasons, short emails are more associated with people at the top of the food chain. If you also send short emails it puts you in the company of the decision-makers,” said Will Schwalbe, co-author with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better. Short emails, he said, are “much more respectful of everyone’s time.”

    Plus, the way we’ve dealt with emails has changed, so the style in which we write them should, too. “We started using email entirely on desktop computers, and we now use emails mainly on handheld,” Schwalbe says. “A long email is harder to read on handheld, because it involves endless scrolling.”

    There’s even a movement to limit emails to five sentences or fewer. “Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response,” says the Five Sentences website. “Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.” If you’re interested in joining the Five Sentences movement you’re encouraged to include the following in your email signature: “Q: Why is this email five sentences or less? A: http://five.sentenc.es.” For the bold, there are also movements that encourage you to keep emails to four sentences, three sentences or (gulp) two sentences.

    “A few years ago I found myself getting very far behind on email, and I began to look at the reasons why,” designer Mike Davidson, founder of the Five Sentences movement, told HuffPost. “The one thing I discovered about email is that there is an uneven amount of email required.” It only takes someone a second to compose an email asking an open-ended question, but that question often requires a much longer, more complicated response. Phone conversations, text messages and even Twitter require equal amounts of participation from all parties.

    Davidson wanted to keep his email interactions short, but didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. “If you just have a universal policy, then there’s nothing to get offended by,” he says. Then he set up the website. The site, which Davidson started in 2007, still gets 15,000 to 20,000 unique visits a month, and Davidson estimates that “at least tens of thousands of people” subscribe to the Five Sentences rule and have it in their email signature. Davidson even gets emails from people he doesn’t know, who don’t realize he created the Five Sentences rule, with the Five Sentences email signature.

    “If your email is longer than a paragraph or two, people will often put off reading it and it will probably take you longer to get a response,” online-learning expert Mattan Griffel writes in his post explaining how to get busy people to read your emails. “Nothing drives people crazier than an email where someone sends over a lot of information but doesn’t say what they’d like you to do.”

    So, to close out this long article about a short topic: Get to the point.

    Here are a few tips:

    1. People don’t need as much background information as you think they do. It might seem essential to you, but it actually seems superfluous to the email recipient. They’d rather you get to the information and request more quickly, and then they can ask you to fill in any holes in their knowledge later.

    2. Don’t waste your subject line. In many email services, including Gmail, just the subject line and first line or two is visible in the recipient’s inbox. Why make the subject “Hi” when it could be “Dinner on Thursday?” Give the recipient an idea of what the email contains and a good reason to click on it.

    3. Just because your email is short, that doesn’t mean it has to be rude. “No matter how short your emails, there is a way to inject a friendly, cheery note, and don’t forget to do that. Short doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go around barking orders,” Schwalbe says.

    The ability to write a short email is a skill in itself. “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea,” director David Belasco is credited as saying. Writing short emails shows confidence in what you have to say.

  • One Nation Under Surveillance. 5 Ways You Give The Government Control
    It’s been 12 years since the horrifying tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, and Americans are just now learning the extent to which our government has tightened its grip on our privacy and communications.

    With the recent disclosure of wide-sweeping domestic surveillance programs, such as Prism and XKeyscore, and the most recent revelations about the NSA’s practice of analyzing the telephone and Internet communications of millions of Americans, it’s become increasingly clear that innocent citizens are becoming ensnared in the search for international terrorists. To some, this is a necessary evil; to others, it’s a gross invasion of civil liberties.

    No matter what a person’s standpoint is on these matters, it’s no longer possible to deny that U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the populace in huge numbers — and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get out from beneath their lens.

    We’re All Bugging Ourselves

    Today, most people in the United States carry a mobile phone that accompanies them wherever they go. We use them for everything: to make phone calls, send emails, take photos, get directions, store information, surf the Web, and play games. This essentially makes them perfect tracking and bugging devices. We now know that the NSA and other government agencies are obtaining data pertaining to Americans’ communications and activities from wireless providers, and they’re doing so under the legal umbrella of the Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts.

    Not only do intelligence agencies gather information via mobile companies, but there are reports that your phone can be hacked using spyware. Even if your phone is turned off, it can be remotely accessed to record conversations and take photographs — and the information is available to any government agency trolling for information. With the increasing public interest in wearable technology, such as smartwatches, vital statistics will be the next thing available for collection.

    Essentially, there are five primary sources that intelligence agencies use to gather information on American citizens:

    • GPS: Whether you’re using a GPS-enabled smartphone or have it built into your car, GPS is a governmentally funded project that can provide real-time tracking of your movements.

    • Public cameras: As the years go by, more and more cameras are popping up in cities, in neighborhoods, and along highways. This is another measure that we’re told has been implemented for our safety, but we don’t know if they’re actually effective to that end.

    • Phones: As we’ve already noted, your phone is essentially a comprehensive personal information-gathering device. Through interviews with governmental sources conducted by CNET security reporter Declan McCullagh, we’ve learned that the FBI is putting pressure on companies like AT&T and Verizon to equip their customers’ phones with “port reader” software that would provide intelligence agencies with the ability to intercept communication in real time. While the companies are reportedly resistant, the FBI is claiming the legality of the project under the Patriot Act.

    • The Internet: Today, people share pretty much everything about their personal lives online. From emails to social media, there’s a lot of information available on the Internet about an individual’s day-to-day life. And what better organization to understand the intricacies of the Internet than the original developer of the wired network than the government, as it was originally launched as a military communication network called ARPANET.

    • Mail: Most people wouldn’t consider it in the Digital Age, but old-fashioned snail mail provides intelligence agencies with a “treasure trove of information,” according to a former member of the FBI’s Mail Isolation Control and Tracking system.

    Getting Off the Grid

    When it comes down to it, completely escaping potential surveillance and reclaiming total privacy is practically impossible. You would have to completely stop using any form of electronic device, and in effect, withdraw from society.

    There are, nevertheless, a variety of encryption and cryptology services that can increase a person’s privacy. For example, AT&T offers encrypted mobile voice for a monthly fee of $24.99. Other companies provide encrypted email services, which are popular among activists, journalists, and diplomats. However, such companies are under threat as of late, with services such as Silent Circle and Lavabit (which has become famous for attempting to protect the privacy of its most notorious customer, whistleblower Edward Snowden) terminating their services, rather than succumbing to government pressure to provide data on their users.

    Realistically, achieving total communication encryption or wiping oneself off the grid is not something with which the majority of Americans should be worried. Unless a person is attempting to communicate highly sensitive material, the concern over an individual’s right to privacy from his government is more of a moral issue. Let’s face it — most of us aren’t up to anything the various intelligence agencies are interested in.

    But while questions involving governmental communications monitoring may seem a bit academic, these issues potentially have significance when it comes to the future of our civil liberties. The real question we need to be asking is: If we’ve allowed our right to privacy to be encroached upon as far as we already have, how much further are we willing to let it go in exchange for security?

    Kenneth Coats is the founder of eKnowID, a new consumer background-checking solution, and CEO of KENTECH Consulting, Inc., a global background check technology and private detective agency that caters to both private and public organizations across the United States.

  • NASA Could Have Prevented Near-Drowning Of Astronaut Luca Parmitano, Panel Says
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA could have prevented last summer’s near-drowning of a spacewalking astronaut at the International Space Station, an investigation panel concluded Wednesday.

    Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet filled with water during his second spacewalk on July 16. He barely made it back inside alive. But according to the panel’s report, his helmet also had leaked one week earlier at the end of his first spacewalk. The panel said the space station team misdiagnosed the first failure and should have delayed the second spacewalk until the problem was understood.

    “This event was not properly investigated,” said Chris Hansen, NASA’s chief space station engineer and chairman of the investigation board created by the space agency after the close call.

    “There was a lack of understanding in the severity of the event,” Hansen said during a news conference.

    Space station officials presumed the leak was from a water drink bag in the suit when, in fact, that was not the culprit, he noted.

    Investigators said Parmitano’s “calm demeanor” during the incident quite possibly saved his life. Now 37, Parmitano is a former test pilot and an officer in the Italian Air Force who was making his first space mission. He returned to Earth in November.

    The precise cause of the water leakage is still under review.

    Contamination clogged several small holes in a pump mechanism inside Parmitano’s spacesuit, part of its cooling system, and water ended up in the helmet, Hansen noted. Engineers do not yet know the source of the aluminum silicate contamination.

    NASA almost ended up with another disaster following Parmitano’s close call. The day after his near drowning, the astronauts used a vacuum cleaner to dry the spacesuit and accidentally sucked oxygen out of a tank. “The hazardous mix of electricity and pure O2” could have sparked a fire, the report stated.

    Mission Control had aborted the spacewalk once the water began to rise to alarming levels in Parmitano’s helmet; the spacewalk by Parmitano and American astronaut Chris Cassidy lasted 1½ hours, versus the anticipated six hours.

    So much water filled Parmitano’s helmet — an estimated 1½ liters — that he could barely see and could not hear or speak. He said he made his way back into the space station by relying on the position of his safety tether.

    NASA was contrite following the release of the report, saying it could and would do better.

    “We’re taking it very seriously,” said space station program manager Mike Suffredini.

    He said he hopes the engineering investigation wraps up by year’s end.

    Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s human exploration and operations mission, said the spacewalk probably should have ended quicker on July 16.

    “We can all improve and do better,” Gerstenmaier said.

    U.S. spacewalks were put on hold after the incident. An exception was made right before Christmas so two U.S. astronauts could repair a crippled cooling system at the orbiting outpost. As a precaution, they had snorkels in their suits and water-absorbent pads in their helmets, but there were no problems.

    Six men currently reside on the space station: three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese.



    NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

  • Mobile Health Tools Make Big Impact
    On both sides of the Atlantic this week, two events are taking place that are shining a dazzlingly bright light on the direction we are headed as global, mobile consumers. The keynote speeches, panel discussions, and hallway conversations unmistakably indicate how growing reliance on mobile connectivity is driving innovation in ways that are shifting paradigms.

    In Barcelona, the 2014 Mobile World Congress is well underway. “Creating What’s Next” is the theme this year and with it comes an enthusiastic focus on the ways mobile innovators are stepping outside the box to connect all manner of devices to the wireless Internet. Across the pond, another passionate group of game changers is assembled in Orlando at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference to discuss mobile health solutions, an energetic driver of growth in medical IT.

    Not surprisingly, the melodies at HIMSS are harmonizing with those at Barcelona: wireless is a game-changer that is transforming our mobile future – how we work, live and play. And nowhere is mobile innovation more evident than in the rapid adoption of wireless technologies designed to improve health outcomes. Mobile Future and Infield Health’s new infographic “Mobile Health Tools, Just What the Doctor Ordered” visually captures just how profound an impact the adoption of wireless medical technologies is having on health and wellness.

    Health care providers are adopting wirelessly connected devices and applications in record numbers – from the first interaction with a patient, to administering treatment with tools tapped into wireless networks, to managing follow up care remotely. And those mobile health tools are having big impacts. When mobile health solutions send text messages to patients released from hospitals, for example, medication adherence is up 10%. Those same reminders more than double the quit rate for smokers and save $812 per diabetes patient.

    The breathtaking growth and innovative uses of mobile digital health technology is astounding:

    • 247 million Americans have downloaded a health app
    • In 2013, 95 million Americans are using mobile phones as health tools
    • 77% of U.S. seniors own a cell phone and their smartphone ownership has increased 55% in the past year
    • 42% of U.S. hospitals are using digital health technology to treat patients
    • Mobile remote patient monitoring will save the U.S. $36 billion in health care costs by 2018
    • Wireless pill bottles helped increase medication compliance to over 95%
    • Mobile health is a $1.3 billion industry and by 2018 is expected to reach $20 billion

    I wrote last month, recapping CES, that wearable devices are just the beginning when it comes to mobile medical tools. The cutting edge of digital health includes wireless sensors we implant and insulin monitors that report back to our doctors wirelessly. These innovative technologies, talking to each other over wireless and forming an “Internet of You,” are making substantial and meaningful impacts on the mobile future of medicine.


    Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter, a technology executive and former senior federal government national security official, leads a coalition of technology companies/stakeholders dedicated to increasing investment and innovation in the burgeoning U.S. wireless sector.

  • NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Finds Hundreds Of New Exoplanets

    A huge new haul of planets has joined the tally of alien worlds discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, scientists announced today. All of the new planets are members of multiplanet systems—stars with more than one orbiting satellite. Researchers used a new method for weeding out false signals from among the candidate planets found by Kepler, allowing them to add hundreds of “validated” planets to the count of Kepler’s finds. “We studied just over 1,200 systems, and from there we were able to validate 719 planets,” says Jason Rowe of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., who led the research. “This is the biggest haul ever.”
    Kepler launched in 2009 and stopped taking data last year after two of its stabilizing reaction wheels failed. Its relatively short lifetime, however, has already offered up a wealth of discovery, including more than 3,500 planetary candidates as well as 246 worlds confirmed by follow-up observations. The new harvest brings its tally of true planets to over 1,000.
    Kepler searches for planets by measuring stellar brightness dips caused when a planet passes in front of a star, briefly dimming the star’s light. This technique, called the transiting method, is more than 90 percent accurate, but sometimes a nonplanet can fool the telescope. One of the most common reasons for a “false positive” is an eclipsing binary—a pair of orbiting stars that sometimes cross in front of one another from our perspective—lying along the same line of sight as the foreground star Kepler is studying. Eclipsing binaries dim when one star passes in front of the other, mimicking the dimming effect a planet would have.
    Stars with a single planet can be hard to distinguish from eclipsing binaries. But multiplanet systems are far less likely to be frauds. “It happens, but it’s unlikely that you have two eclipsing binaries in the background of the same star,” says Francois Fressin of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who was not involved in the study. “That simple fact tremendously increases the odds that they are bona fide planets.” It is also possible to have an eclipsing binary and a star with a planet lying right on top of one another, albeit extremely unlikely. “Based on that argument we started to get into the statistics to see if we can quantify that and see how many we can pull out and say with very good confidence they are validated planets,” Rowe says.
    About 20 percent of the candidate planets Kepler finds inhabit systems with multiple worlds. Among this group, Rowe and his colleagues tried to weed out the small number that were likely to be false signals by examining the light signature of the candidate planets. The light from a single planetary system would be centered on one point, the parent star. An eclipsing binary in the background, however, would probably not lie exactly behind the main star, but would be offset by a small distance. When this binary blinks out as one star crosses the other, the center of the light in the field of view should shift over to the side, creating a signature called a moving centroid. “The moving centroids are the ones where we’re fairly sure they are false positives, and then we have a subset, the majority of them, that we are very confident are planetary systems and show no sign of blends,” Rowe says.
    The idea that multiplanet systems are easier to validate is not new, and researchers have previously studied how to winnow out the small number of false positives. “I made this argument [in 2011] but now it has been worked out in careful detail,” says David Latham of the CfA. “Jason has done a really nice job.”
    The new cache of planets is extremely unlikely to harbor imposters, but they are not “confirmed planets,” in the traditional sense. That requires measuring the parent star’s motion to determine how much the planets’ gravitational tugging causes it to wobble, revealing the planets’ mass. “Even though we can be very confident that these objects are real planets, the only information we have right now on their physical properties is their size (radius) and expected equilibrium temperature (which depends on the distance to their parent star, which is known),” says Guillermo Torres of the CfA.
    Among the new trove of planets: a small, potentially rocky world; an odd binary star system where each star has planets of its own; and cramped systems where the multiple planets are each gravitationally tugging one another around. “Of course we have every type of planetary system in our validated set that people can think of, except the perfect Earth analogue,” Rowe says. For now, that remains Kepler’s holy grail.

Mobile Technology News, February 26, 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.

  • Gaming (As We Know It) Is On the Way Out
    Gaming is heading to the cloud. And that’s a big deal.

    Think about it: Gamers aren’t chained to their Xbox or Playstation consoles anymore. They can play anywhere, on any device — smartphone, tablet, smart TV, you name it. And online games are able to continually evolve over time. They aren’t limited to the code they had at release.


    The cloud provides instant, constant access for gamers and for game developers. Instead of releasing expansion pack-like updates in large chunks, developers are able to iteratively and seamlessly weave new changes into their games.

    With the pervasive availability of stats and analytics about how gamers are engaging with a particular title online, games in the cloud are much smarter. They react to your moves and to the moves of the folks you’re storming a castle with or fighting on some battlefield or competing against to build the strongest city. These games are in constant motion and are evolving based on the actions of the millions of other players who inhabit the same world.

    As a result, developers are taking nuanced approaches to the kinds of titles are being released. Without the console tether, casual gamers have become a huge market, and they aren’t particularly interested in the shoot-em-up games hardcore gamers have been playing online for years. They’re playing Candy Crush and Flappy Bird. Are these are simple games? Absolutely. They are digital parlor games. But I’m convinced that they’ll usher plenty of folks into more sophisticated, networked games. They demonstrate something all gamers know: how steeping yourself in an alternate universe can become very addictive.

    From a practical perspective, the cloud is lowering the barriers to entry for new games. Not only are publishers able to release new titles without waiting for printing and physical distribution, but they’re even starting to release games before they’re even release-ready. Take DayZ for example: The game is buggy, incomplete … and immensely popular. Powered by cloud resources, these types of games can scale up and down to handle real-time demand, whether it be a thousand users or ten million.

    The rise and fall of online games depends on split-second reaction speeds and dependability, so cloud providers are up against a pretty significant challenge. Performance, reliability and latency have to be rock solid, and as developers find ways to push the limits of current technologies, we need to be releasing the next generation of cloud technologies to stay one step ahead.

    The market for online gaming is expected to hit $111 billion next year, and if current momentum is any indication, that figure is just the tip of the iceberg.


  • No Nirvana? Is Asus rethinking Android-Windows 8.1 device?
    Asus is slated to bring out a dual Windows 8.1-Android hybrid in second quarter of this year. But things may not be going swimmingly for the device.
  • Hawaii May Require Warning Labels On All Cell Phones
    Do you love the sleek, simplistic design of your phone? If so, you might want to shop for your next upgrade somewhere other than the Aloha state, where a bill is threatening to require a relatively large warning label be displayed on all cell phones.

    If Senate Bill 2571 SD1 is passed, all new and refurbished cell phones sold for profit in Hawaii would require a non-removable label on their backsides, covering at least 30 percent of the phones’ surfaces. In bold letters, the label would read, “To reduce exposure to radiation that may be hazardous to your health, please follow the enclosed safety guidelines.”

    State Senator Josh Green, chair of the Hawaii Senate Health Committee, hopes that the conspicuous label will help people think more about electromagnetic radiation and change their cell phone habits, according to a report from KITV.

    The original measure called for even more detailed language on the label — “This device emits electromagnetic radiation, exposure to which may cause brain cancer. Users, especially children and pregnant women, should keep this device away from the head and body” — but it has since been amended.

    This is the first generation to have kids from age ten up to adulthood with cell phones right next to their heads and brains,” Green told KITV. “Brains are developing up to age 22 to 25, so I think we have to be safe.”

    The label would direct users to a warning that most cell phone manufacturers already provide. Both the iPhone and Android user manuals contain health and safety sections that provide information on radiofrequency (RF) energy and recommendations to reduce exposure.

    But Green worries that manuals alone will go unread. “If you don’t have a sticker that this is a potential health hazard then no one will ever know,” he said.

    While cell phones do emit RF energy that can be absorbed by tissues closest to where the phone is held, current studies have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck.

    Health risks aside, Communities Digital News recently pointed out why this legislation is aesthetically and economically “problematic”:

    “For phones that do not have removable backs, Hawaii users will either cover them with fashion cases or resort to ordering their cell phones from out-of-state. … Economically, the mandate of non-removable, giant labels on cell phones means manufacturers and distributers will have a higher compliance cost for Hawaii phones. As if shipping phones to the islands wasn’t already a cost factor, now there is the production complexity of adding labels to the phones. The end result? Hawaii phones will be more expensive.”

    Read the full CDN story here.

    The bill, which was recently passed with amendments by the Hawaii Senate committees on Health and Technology and the Arts, has to be cleared by one more committee before advancing to the House.

  • White House Weighs Four Options For Revamping NSA Phone Surveillance
    Administration lawyers have presented the White House with four options for restructuring the National Security Agency’s phone-surveillance program, from ditching the controversial collection altogether to running it through the telephone companies, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
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    Are new tech products just unnecessary fashion?
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    Five of the strangest online communities
  • Briefly: Loop remixing app for iPad, PDFpen now requires iOS 7
    IK Multimedia has announced the release of its mobile loop based music-making app, GrooveMaker 2. Designed for iPad, the app offers users the ability to create professional quality grooves, beats and songs in real time. Its library features over 3,600 available loops and over 60 collections of music genres, including House, DubStep, Hip Hop, Techno, Reggae and more. GrooveMaker 2 can be utilized as a live DJ performance tool as well as a mobile composition app. Users can set the length of individual loops and grooves down to 1/4 of a bar, providing flexibility when building and layering a trac


  • My Digital Detox Experience
    As the founder of a company built on the concept that social media is the predominant — and most significant — communication medium in the world, the experience I had last weekend seems antithetical to everything I believe:

    I unplugged myself from technology. I didn’t look at Facebook, I didn’t Tweet, I didn’t check-in anywhere or share a photo to Instagram. And on Monday, as I drove into the office, I could hardly believe what I was feeling. I was different. I was relaxed and calm. And, perhaps owing to my business as a communicator, I needed to share my revelation with everyone.

    Perhaps it’s not a shocking discovery. Arianna Huffington, who started the website you’re reading, learned much the same thing and offered her thoughts in the book Thrive. The extraordinarily talented and influential Tiffany Shlain made a fantastic short film about taking a “technological Shabbat.”

    All I know is that for the last few months, I’ve been exhausted, physically and especially mentally. My eyes hurt from doing nothing but staring at screen after screen all day — from my laptop to my desktop screen to my iPhone and my iPad, TV screens, movie screens, I realized I was always staring at something other than the world. I’ve been attached to a device that brings in hundreds of other people’s emotions, desires, and demands everyday… From the time I woke up to the time I went to bed — unwillingly setting my phone aside — I was connected to everything and everyone but actual life and the people around me. I had become dependent on one thing: knowing if I was missing something.

    But here’s what I learned from breaking away from all those screens for one full day, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday: If someone really needs to reach me, they’ll know how. And if I really, desperately need to connect with someone, for 24 hours I can make it the real, live person next to me, not the virtual person who’s also furiously tapping on a little glass screen.

    That doesn’t mean I’m turning into a technophobe or a neo-Luddite. Quite the opposite: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and on Monday I was curious to know what people had been up to over the weekend, to see who had tried to get in touch with me, and I had more headspace to actually connect with them in return. I now have a new value to add to the equation. The value I place on me.

  • The Internet Is Fucked | The Verge
    Here’s a simple truth: the internet has radically changed the world.
  • Enormous Solar Flare Is Sun's Biggest Of 2014 (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
    Great balls of fire! A ginormous sunspot is acting up again, and this time the region has produced the largest solar flare recorded so far in 2014.

    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft registered the massive solar flare on Feb. 24, and the activity peaked around 7:49 p.m. EST. The space agency categorized the solar flare as X4.9-class, meaning it was four times more intense than an X1-class flare — and X-class flares are the most powerful.

    Video and still images of the eruption show it bursting from the surface of the sun and out into space, creating a vivid flash.

    (Story continues below.)
    solar flare
    The X-class solar flare seen in a composite image captured at 7:45 p.m. EST. It shows the sun in ultraviolet light. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

    solar flare
    The first moments of the solar flare are seen in a series of images showing the eruption at different wavelengths of light. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

    Though this solar flare did not erupt in Earth’s direction, it was powerful enough to produce a radio blackout for a short time Monday night, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center reported.

    The flare followed several smaller coronal mass ejections earlier this month. As Universe Today noted, solar activity has picked up recently, most likely because the sun is in the midst of its period of peak activity for the current solar cycle.

    Solar physicists track the sun’s 11-year cycles by monitoring sunspots and solar flares. For half the cycle, dubbed the solar minimum, sunspots are relatively rare. But during the solar maximum, the sun is in high gear.

  • VIDEO: Bitcoin: MtGox exchange goes offline
    Bitcoin, a virtual currency which only exists on the internet, has become increasingly attractive as it does not involve exchanging currencies.
  • LinkedIn: The Productive Social Network?
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    I like LinkedIn.

    I like that is mostly about Business. I like that there are people working there; getting things done. I like that there are so many entrepreneurs there striving to build something special for their customers, their employees and their families; putting food on their tables. Sure, many of them will fail–repeatedly, only to try, try again. But the ones that succeed, oh my!


    Yes, I like LinkedIn (LI) for all these reasons but I also like it because of the facts I don’t really like Facebook and Twitter for the converse reason: there’s nothing evident being accomplished in those social networks.

    Now whether you’re a full-on Capitalist, Socialist or outright Communist; an anti-Globalization operative or Occupy anarchist, let’s agree on one thing right here, right now: Business allows people to do things, use products and services; and make money to live. No business equals no society, no families and no happy human beings. It’s that simple.

    So if you’re like me, you are absolutely devoted to the pure idea of Business & Entrepreneurship and recognize that generally speaking, for everything you sincerely put into entrepreneurship, something good comes out–like Newton’s Laws of Motion.


    In the Tech Sector, the concept of the ‘first-mover advantage’ is worshiped and lionized. When everyone was so busy posting, ‘liking’ and Tweeting mindlessly, LinkedIn and its founder were head-down, busily building a first-mover in Social Networking for Business. They own this niche.

    I also strongly believe that, as the old Sicilian proverb so accurately states, “The fish stinks from the head down.” To me this means that any terrible organization, necessarily has a terrible founder/leader. And, visa versa that any great business has a great leader: Edison at GE; Watson at IBM; Ford at Ford Motor Car and so on.

    And so, it is in that context that we look at the progenitor of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. I like Hoffman a lot. Hoffman saw the opportunity to do something completely different in the social network space.

    Superbly well-educated, thoroughly experienced and always looking for the next big thing, Hoffman is no slouch.


    Growing up in the Bay Area, Hoffman studied at Stanford where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science (are those specific enough topics for you?). He won numerous awards and scholarships at Stanford, then moved on to study and obtain his MA in Philosophy at Oxford University. Then, Hoffman might philosophically ponder symbolic systems.

    “When I graduated from Stanford my plan was to become a professor and public intellectual,” Hoffman has said. “That is not about quoting Kant. It’s about holding up a lens to society and asking ‘who are we?’ and ‘who should we be, as individuals and a society?’ But I realized academics write books that 50 or 60 people read and I wanted more impact.”

    Wisely I think, Hoffman chose the business path before him and in 1984 started at Apple. It would be a momentous first job.

    Working on eWorld, Apple’s early online social network attempt, Hoffman found himself right in the thick of things between Apple, Steve Case and the early beginnings of AOL. Funny how the two “walled gardens,” the highly-proprietary, ‘closed platform’ organizations of Apple and AOL were so closely intertwined. But it must have been a frantic, frenetic and opportune time for Hoffman, who apparently even then was soaking up as much as he possibly could from the masters about this ‘social network thing.’


    After eWorld was acquired by AOL in 1996, Reid had a short stint at Fujitsu and then took the plunge. He started SocialNet.com, his first company which ‘tech-stars’ such as Peter Thiel have said was way “ahead of its time.”

    Quietly acquired in early 2001, SocialNet was not such a stunning financial success but brought Hoffman the serious opportunity he must have craved: he was asked to become a “founding board-member” of PayPal. Combined with Apple, SocialNet and now his studying at the board-level knees’ of the “PayPal Mafia” tech icons and billionaires, Theil, Elon Musk and Max Levchin, gave Hoffman an unquestionably priceless education in the nascent Internet and how to build a better network for people.

    Though Hoffman has moved on; he’s currently a Partner at Greylock Partners and presumably more involved in investing in tech companies than building them, Hoffman still sits on the board of directors of his LinkedIn as “Executive Chairman.”

    There’s an important business value proposition to LinkedIn that it first brought to the forefront: helping LI’ users get jobs. This activity, above all other activities, will determine the success or failure of LI over the long-term. If LinkedIn can improve upon the performance and then disintermediate the services of Monster.com and Yahoo! HotJobs out of existence–and I think they’re ready to go–then LI can also begin to eliminate Facebook. But it won’t be easy.


    Facebook (FB) has seemingly ignored the necessity for them to figure out a way to turn their participants, productive. Until FB does this, it will continue to exist at the pleasure and whims of the fickle youth market. What LinkedIn apparently understands very well–that people no matter what age, above 18, need gainful employment instead of false ‘friends,’ ‘likes,’ and utterly unproductive gibberish.

    LinkedIn has the upper-hand here. But it must execute swiftly and efficiently. It’s done a fairly good job of offering career services thus far, but in order to really reign supreme and put the others out of the ‘jobs’ business entirely, it will have to be perceived as the reason people get jobs that without LI, they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. LinkedIn needs to help people get jobs directly and while inside LI; right now, I’m afraid that LI only stimulates people getting jobs which result from them hearing about them on LI but then, getting them very much outside of LinkedIn’s environment.

    So though LinkedIn has gone public and met a lot of its promised financial metrics, the jury’s still out on its long-term success. Only time will tell now that Hoffman’s not running the show. If LI continues to be a career-path enhancer and eliminates the traditional, early-days Internet job services, then it will be an enduring success.

    Fail … and it will drop off the radar screen into the ‘Internet black-hole of obscurity’ along with Webvan, Myspace and increasingly, Yahoo!

    Even Clark Kent is on LinkedIn

  • Obamacare Enrollment Reaches 4 Million
    WASHINGTON — Approximately 4 million individuals have now signed up for health care plans under the newly created Obamacare insurance exchanges, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

    The numbers mean that roughly 700,000 people have signed up for health care plans since the end of January. And with five weeks before the enrollment period deadline at the end of March, they put the administration on pace to come close to the Congressional Budget Office’s initial projection that 7 million individuals would sign up for insurance coverage during the period.

    “With individuals and families enrolling in coverage every day, we continue to see strong demand nationwide from consumers who want access to quality, affordable coverage,” reads a statement from the administration, passed in advance to The Huffington Post. “Consumers are shopping and enrolling in plans on HealthCare.gov every day; system error rates are low and response times are consistently less than half a second. Our call center has handled more than 12 million calls so far and is open 24/7 to assist consumers in English, Spanish and more than 150 languages.”

    But with the good news remain some questions. The number of people who have signed up for plans and paid their first month’s premium remains unknown, though insurers have suggested about 20 percent of individuals have not paid. Moreover, it is unclear how many of those individuals who signed up in February were young and healthy — the population demographic that the administration needs to ensure that the exchanges have a stable balance of healthy and sick consumers. A senior administration official said that a more detailed report about the enrollees would be released in mid-March.

    Nevertheless, supporters of the law will cheer the news that 4 million people have now signed up for the Affordable Care Act, after having watched the botched launch in October in horror. Back then, it was unclear if the enrollment period would have to be delayed in order to accommodate the slow start. There is little such talk today.

    The new enrollment number does not include the millions of individuals who have signed up for Medicaid, though it’s not known how many of those individuals renewed their prior coverage or how many are new Medicaid recipients.

    The news seems likely to get better for supporters of the law in the next month as well. With a looming enrollment deadline, the administration anticipates a rapid increase in people signing up for coverage. They also expect the number of young enrollees to rise rapidly. That was what happened when the state of Massachusetts implemented similar reform in 2007.

    According to Bloomberg News: “By November of that year, the last month to sign up to avoid a penalty, the portion of enrollees age 35 or younger had more than doubled to 36 percent from February, one analysis showed.”

    UPDATE: 6:28 p.m. — This article has been updated to note that the enrollment number does not include people who have signed up for Medicaid.

  • Ed Dept To Schools: Protect Student Data Online
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Education Department on Tuesday encouraged school districts to use more scrutiny to protect student privacy when using online educational services.

    Online companies provide services such as the collection of school lunch money, portals for homework assignments and sites to watch video demonstrations. Concerns have been raised that private information collected by the companies could be shared publicly or used to market products and services to students or their families. Districts often have contracts with companies, but online services also can be provided without a district’s direct knowledge. For example, a teacher could direct students to a website to retrieve homework assignments without notifying school administrators.

    A patchwork of laws spells out how students’ data can be used, but the laws can be difficult for districts to interpret. Some privacy advocates say laws haven’t kept up with evolving technology, and there’s been a flurry of activity at the state and federal level to address the issue.

    In guidance issued Tuesday, the Education Department encouraged districts to look closely at what online services are already in use within their schools. The guidelines suggest that districts develop procedures to evaluate and approve educational services and, when possible, use a written contract or legal agreement. They also spell out applicable federal laws.

    Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, said the new guidance doesn’t go far enough in providing applicable advice to districts. He said districts are dealing with complex questions, such as whether to take advantage of free educational programs available online and deciding what programs should be downloaded on tablets and other devices increasingly used in schools.

    “I think if you are a district it is easy to be confused about what your obligations are,” Levin said.

    James Steyer, the chief officer of the advocacy group Common Sense Media, praised the recommendations and said they come at an important time as schools look for ways to expand learning using technology.

    “It’s still the wild, wild west out there, but it can be fixed,” Steyer said.

    The guidance comes one day after Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at a student privacy data conference and encouraged technology companies to do more to ensure student data is secure.

    “There’s plenty of energy, in this room and around the country, for stronger regulation of your work. Let me say this clearly: It is in your interest to police yourselves before other do,” Duncan said.



    Education Department: http://www.ed.gov


    Follow Kimberly Hefling on Twitter at http://twitter.com/khefling

  • Hey, Mr Gates…How about Some Technology 4 the Rest of Us

    “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.” Albert Einstein

    Ah, progress. Technology races ahead, rapidly improving systems – systems outdated before understood how they work when they were still dated – while attempting to make life a bit better. But are those with brains, much larger than I could lift even before the arthritis kicked in, applying their facilities where aging humankind would benefit the most?

    I don’t think so. There is much more the great minds have ignored. Perhaps a new perspective, not of what the best and brightest think we need, but of what the everyday individual can genuinely use to have a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Mr. Gates, Mr. Zuckerberg, Ms. Grandin, I hope you’re reading this, because the following is what you and your fellow geniuses need to consider to make tomorrow’s world survivable for us of the smaller and senior brain species.

    The needs are in no particular order…

    Anti-Lethologica Chip – A personal implant for anyone over 50 so they are able to replace the simple word we can’t think of though I can’t recall what that word is right now. In addition, there should be another chip to remember “what’s his name.”

    Warning Leg – Cars now have a system that warns a driver of a car stopping short ahead of the car in front of the driver. It’s about time that coffee table legs are manufactured with a sensor that picks up on rapidly oncoming toes. As an alternative, please supply inanimate objects the ability to hear so they can recognize just how angry we are at them.

    Autocorrect Autocorrect – Social media and all related texting communications should have a process by which any autocorrect that corrects a word incorrectly is immediately and correctly autocorrected. #cameltoetea

    Emotional Reply Delay – A time lapse system that postpones delivering the nasty words coming out of your mouth or the vicious message you’re sending in an e-mail but allows you to see ALL the repercussions you will be triggering by opening your mouth or pushing send.

    Telemarketing Redirect dial – Phone device that instantly forwards telemarketers’ calls to the telemarketer’s homes.

    Project Completer – There’s a plethora of half-finished novels, screenplays, porches, college degrees and any one of a gazillion activities that people start and never finish. The reasons for not finishing are far more than the amount of projects left undone so there needs to be an uncomplicated excuse-removing utility synced up with a perseverance-app that allows for project completion. (In the old days this was called a “plan”)

    If the app is unaffordable or unfeasible, design a recycle device where these bits and pieces of dashed hopes and dreams can be dumped to create fertilizer or something that in the least makes room for those boxes you have yet to unpack from your last move.

    Tangled Intolerance – Wires, cords and Christmas lights have a natural inclination to uncontrollably wrap around each other, most often while the family sleeps. The result is a twisted cluster of assorted knots that are impossible to untangle, leaving you exasperated and ready to unplug from the power grid altogether. The solution is a simple case of harnessing the power of prejudice. Developing an imperceptible coating surrounding the wires that creates a bias against cords of different species will dissuade them from wanting to mingle with cables not of their own kind. (Not available in Arizona)

    Anti-Stain Rays -For as long as there has been food and men to consume it, traces of sustenance have found their way onto their clothes. Since it’s been scientifically proven that no amount of careful can protect a man from incidents of splatter the only answer is laser-beam encrusted clothing that reacts to incoming sauces and oil by blasting them into harmless dust molecules that never reach the intended target. Either that or develop a bib.

    Interactive Avatars – “You never call.” Which, of course, is one of the main reasons not to call. Please, come up with androids capable of replicating an adult child’s voice along with appropriate appeasing phrases like, “I know,” “tsk,” and “I think I’ll be able to come over next week.”

    Sandler Correct – An operating system that sends a searing warning siren throughout Hollywood whenever Adam Sandler thinks about producing a film with him or any of his friends appearing in it, automatically cutting off power to all existing film, video and audio equipment.

    Steve Young is an award-winning television writer and author of “Great Failures of the Extremely Successful.” (greatfailure.com)

  • Facebook Rolls the Dice with a Long Play
    As the World noticed last week, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $16 billion, of which $4 billion is in cash, while $12 billion is in Facebook stock. The totals of this purchase are shocking, as less than two years ago, Facebook acquired Instagram for a measly $1 billion! There are several questions to be explored here, as a $16 billion commitment is neither an impulse buy, nor something to sneeze at:

    What is WhatsApp? WhatsApp is a mobile text-messaging service app, currently downloadable for free on iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids, Windows Phones, and several others. WhatsApp is quite popular overseas, often downloaded by Americans going abroad, and allows for both individual as well as organized group texts. WhatsApp’s true selling point is that it doesn’t cost users a dime for first download, the connectivity can work across multiple phones and operating systems, and the product is functionally very easy to use. The system currently hosts approximately 450 million users, well over 33 percent more than either of it’s primary competitors – WeChat and Line. While many in the US don’t use it due to existing free text message packages, the app is wildly popular overseas, especially in India. According to OnDevice Research, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app for smartphones.

    If WhatsApp is free, how will Facebook make money? Yes, WhatsApp is free…at first. WhatsApp is free for use for the first year, then cost 99 cents per year following, quite a bargain compared to traditional text messaging packages. So, doing the math, at a dollar a download following the first year, multiplied by 450 million users, that equals…$450 million, a fraction of what Facebook paid. Now, Mark Zuckerberg did mention in an announcement yesterday that WhatsApp is anticipated to surpass one billion users, but that still does quite recoup what Facebook paid for the platform.

    That means…

    Facebook is in it for the long play. Shocker! Zuckerberg and team made this deal for the same reason they acquired Instagram, it’s all about growth. On a call with investors, Zuckerberg mentioned that he isn’t looking to drive significant revenue from WhatsApp, but looking to gain access to the parts of the world still not using Facebook (yes, they exist). According to a recent Mashable article, “Zuckerberg said buying WhatsApp helps Facebook’s Internet.org project — its mission to provide Internet access to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected. Since most of that growth is expected in the developing markets where WhatsApp is popular, WhatsApp appears to have been suddenly elevated to a key component of that strategy.” As the mobile market in emerging parts of the world grow, Zuckerberg is doubling down and assuming Facebook will be a large part of that growth assisted by leveraging its position with WhatsApp. Facebook has cornered the market on photo sharing and international free text messaging, two assets it didn’t have under management only two years ago.

    What’s Next? Anything is possible. Facebook has seen fantastic growth within their company and recently watch their stock price skyrocket. They are constantly flirting with new technologies, and seem poised to continue with one major acquisition per every year or two. They recently received negative press due to the falling rate of middle and high school demographics joining the platform, in fact, many are leaving it, but otherwise — what can stop the ‘Book? Well, this is technology. Things can change very, very quickly. It should not be a given that WhatsApp will continue to grow at its rapid pace, in fact, Zuckerberg should know better than anyone how another technology can swoop in out of nowhere, disrupt the status quo, and reduce the existing platforms to second or third tier. Just ask MySpace.

    Ronn Torossian is an ongoing contributor for technology related topics.

  • VIDEO: A mobile app that creates 3D images
    The BBC’s Mark Gregory tries out Seene, an app that can create 3D images without the need for a special camera.
  • This Unfortunate Statue Is How Apple Will Remember Steve Jobs Forever
    The statue you see below is not a joke.

    Dragan Radenovic, a famed Serbian sculptor, beat out over 10,000 other artists in a competition to design a statue of the late Steve Jobs to be placed in front of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. It was revealed for the first time on Netokracija, a news site for Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian tech geeks.

    Anyone who’s ever owned an iPhone or Mac, or who’s even just seen those things, knows that Steve Jobs was into sleek lines and bold colors, when it comes to design. Radenovic’s winning statue is none of those things:

    steve jobs statue

    steve jobs statue

    steve jobs statue

    steve jobs statue

    This miniature statue — the real thing should be 10 – 16 feet tall — was shown off on Monday on what would have been Jobs’ 59th birthday. Radenovic seems to be a well-regarded contemporary artist, according to this Serbian-language biography. And to be sure, great artists are not without critics.

    But still.

    Let’s try to explain this thing the best we can. The bust at the top is of Jobs’ head, obviously. Those protuberances you can’t read are the Latin letter “A,” the old Serbian equivalent for “E” and the Cyrillic letters “Ш,” according to a translation done for Mac Rumors. The other two characters you can read are a “0” and a “1,” because computers, even though any good computer nerd knows Jobs never really did much coding for Apple.

    These letters and numbers are stuck to the column because it is serving as a sort of “magnet,” according to the creator. During his lifetime, colleagues described Jobs as having a “reality-distortion field” that swayed coworkers and audiences to his way of thinking. That’s the best explanation we could come up with for the magnet.

    But we’ll credit Apple with this. Apparently, the Apple executives who signed off on the Radenovic’s statue liked “the imperfections of his work.” (Famed Apple designer Jony Ive even called Radenovic to say he was “very interested” in his work.) As most people have (hopefully) learned since his death, Steve Jobs was not a perfect man.

  • White House Removes Petition Asking Obama To 'Tell Uganda To Go F*ck Themselves'
    Uganda’s anti-gay laws have received harsh criticism from plenty of Americans. But comedian Eugene Mirman wants President Obama to stop beating around the bush and tell the country in no uncertain terms what he thinks of its policies.

    And thanks to We the People, the White House website’s civilian petition system, he attempted to pressure Obama to do just that. On Tuesday, Mirman started a petition encouraging Obama to “tell Uganda to go fuck themselves.” Within hours, the petition was removed because “it is in violation of our Terms of Participation.”

    Here’s what the petition looked like:


    The text read:

    “I would like Barack Obama to go on television and tell Uganda that their new anti-gay law is an outrageous crime against mankind and that they should go fuck themselves. I want him to keep saying “fuck you Uganda” until it is clear he is tired. Them I want him to say it one more time.”

    Ever since the White House instituted a petition system on its website that allows citizens to directly bring attention to pet issues, some less-than-serious topics have received White House attention. Just last month, the White House was forced to address a call to deport Justin Bieber to Canada, which was the site’s second-most popular petition of all time.

    Mirman, a stand-up comedian best known for voicing Gene on the Fox comedy “Bob’s Burgers” and throwing his own annual comedy festival in Brooklyn, was surprised that the petition was approved in the first place.

    I’m somewhat surprised my petition to have Barack Obama tell Uganda to go fuck themselves was approved https://t.co/kSYKlAETlr

    — Eugene Mirman (@EugeneMirman) February 25, 2014

    Uganda’s new anti-gay laws, which would institute extremely harsh punishments on individuals who take part in homosexual acts, have been widely slammed across the world.

    (h/t Splitsider)

Mobile Technology News, February 25, 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.

  • Bitcoin exchange MtGox goes offline
    One of the world’s biggest Bitcoin Exchanges, MtGox, goes offline amid ongoing technical problems.
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    If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I’m a big advocate for MyFitnessPal.  The app and service allows you to easily track your diet along with your weight and other measurements to help you live a healthy(ier) lifestyle.  Now if you really have been following me a while then you know that […]

    The post MyFitnessPal App Goes Universal appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • LinkedIn tests Chinese language site
    Professional networking service LinkedIn launches a beta – or test version – of its Chinese language site as it eyes further expansion in the country.
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    Just two days after announcing the new Galaxy Gear smartwatches will incorporate heart rate sensors, Samsung revealed their next revision of their flagship Galaxy S smartphone will prominently feature health tracking along with its brand-new companion fitness bracelet, the Gear Fit. The Gear Fit incorporates a heart rate sensor and a curved, touchscreen AMOLED display that would differentiate itself from nearly every other current fitness tracker on the market, such as Fitbit and Jawbone. While last year’s Galaxy S4 introduced […]
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    Samsung is to launch its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, in April this year.
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  • How to Get a Busy Person to Respond to Your Email
    5 Rules for Good Email Etiquette:

    Some days I get hundreds of emails a day. It really sucks.

    The worst part is that most of the emails are important and I physically can’t respond to all of them.

    They might be emails from students of One Month Rails who are frustrated – I want to help them out. Other times they’re from people who have read my posts and want to meet up. Or they’re just from friends.

    My personal policy is to read every single email I get. That means every day I have to set aside at least an hour to go through all my email and decide what urgently needs to be responded to and what doesn’t.

    In an effort to help people cut through the noise with their emails, and hopefully free up a little bit of my time, I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve found are helpful when writing to people who are inundated with email.

    1) Keep it short

    If you can keep an email to less than 2 or 3 sentences, it’s much easier to read it right then. If your email is longer than a paragraph or two, people will often put off reading it and it will probably take you longer to get a response.

    Here’s a really long email I got recently (you don’t have to read all of it, just skim it):

    Hi Mattan,

    My name is (redacted), I am recent graduate originally from California but am currently living in (redacted) and am looking for work. I have a Bachelors Degree in Accounting, but am not having much luck finding work in that field and to be honest with you I am struggling with the idea of being an accountant as a career. I sort of always had that thought in the back of my mind while in school but stuck with it because I think it is a skill set that is often overlooked by young entrepreneurs, which is more of what I see myself as.

    Today on the news here they ran a segment stating that multiple companies within the city of (redacted) are looking for coders. I have always been interested in the idea of coding but have very limited experience. The extent of my experience in coding comes from creating some macros in the visual basic editor in Microsoft Excel, which I found to be quite enjoyable.

    I checked out the website that was advertised and I think this may be something I want to pursue. I was wondering if you could offer me some advice on where to begin. Here is the website in case you want to check it out: (redacted)

    After looking through the minimum requirements I see that I am lacking the following:

    – development experience
    – familiar with an at least one imperative (C/C++, Java, Javascript, C#, Python, Ruby, etc.) or functional language (Haskell, Scala, F#, Clojure, etc)
    – Understand basic control structures and elements of programs like loops, variables, functions, and potentially objects and classes.

    First thing that I did after seeing the requirements was type in “how to code” on YouTube and that is how I came across you and your talk “How to Teach Yourself Code”. What I am wondering is if the advice from the video still applies today and if Rails is still the way to go or where you would start if you were in my situation. One extra thing to consider is that my PC is in California and at the moment all I have access to is my chromebook. Will this be sufficient to get started or will I need something with a traditional OS?

    Sorry for such a long introductory email, but I hope you get a chance to read this and respond.

    Thank-you for the video and talk, I will be diving into more of the details you discussed in the coming days.

    Hopefully some of that snow in NY is starting to melt!

    Whoa – this is way too much work to read. You could take all the info above and boil it down into three simple sentences:

    Hi Mattan,

    I just saw your “How to Teach Yourself to Code” talk from Internet Week but noticed it was recorded almost two years ago. Does your advice in the video still apply?

    If so, can I use a Chromebook or will I need something with a more traditional OS?

    That’s better. I know that a lot of the background info is missing, but people tend to think that they need to provide way more info than the reader actually needs.

    2) Format for readability and clarity

    It’s easier to read emails that are broken down into one or two sentences per paragraph than long paragraphs.

    Here’s an example of an unformatted email I got recently:

    Hi Mattan,

    I took your April skillshare omrails class. It was a great intro class. Currently I’m following your advise by doing the Hartl tutorial. I have a question if you can give me some suggestions. Is there an equivalent to Hartl’s Rails tutorial for iPhone app development? My personal goal is to create a Rails website for my wife’s jewelry business, then an iPhone app to go along with the website idea. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Do you see how it’s really hard to read? You can’t skim it and have to do a lot more work to figure out what he or she is actually saying. Here’s one that would have worked way better:

    Hi Mattan,

    Thanks for the One Month Rails class! I’m following your advice by doing the Michael Hartl Ruby on Rails Tutorial.

    Quick question: Do you know of any classes like the Hartl Tutorial but for iPhone apps?

    The second is way easier to read and figure out what exactly the person is asking you. Break your paragraphs down into shorter sentences, separate your call to action, and use bold/italics for emphasis and to draw the readers attention to the important parts.

    3) Make it clear what you want me to do

    Nothing drives people crazier than an email where someone sends over a lot of information but doesn’t say what they’d like you to do. I often respond to those immediately by asking: What do you want me to do?

    Do you want me introduce you to someone? Do you want me read your blog post and give you feedback? Do you want me to respond with whether I’ll be able to attend an event? Be clear and say it explicitly up front.

    Here’s a really unclear email I got recently:

    I just got done watching your presentation on computer programming I’m 14 and wanted to learn it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Couldyou please help me in any way possible I really want you to respond.

    The call to action here is just “help me,” but I really have no idea what that means and how to respond to it. Compare the email above to something more concrete:

    Hi Mattan,

    I’m 14 and want to learn about programming. What’s the #1 resource you’d recommend?

    If you must send a long email with a lot of information, put the call to action up at the top. Something like: “I’m sending this email to see if you can attend the event below. Just respond with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.”

    This also helps the reader decide if they should forward the email to someone else, which they do often if they’re used to delegating tasks.

    4) Be reasonable with your request

    It’s so easy these days to send off an email in 30 seconds that would take someone over an hour to respond to.

    Please don’t tell me to go to your startup’s website and give you feedback. To actually give your product or website a thorough review and analyze it in a way that is useful actually takes a lot of work.

    If I can respond to something in less than two minutes, I’ll do it immediately. What do you want feedback on? The business model? The color of your button? The text? Be specific and reasonable.

    Here’s an example of one of the bigger tasks people often ask me to do for them:

    Hi Mattan,

    (redacted) here. You don’t know me, but your post on getting accepted to YC fired me up just now.

    Having just submitted a late application to YC myself (as a single non-technical founder) I was curious if you might give me some feedback on my application. It hasn’t been rejected yet. And my company’s been featured in Popular Mechanics (attached), Fox Business (video link) and has 300+ paying customers…so I’d like to believe I have a shot. But getting a YC alum’s opinion would be really eye-opening.

    (Then they attached their 1,000+ word application)

    If you want someone’s feedback on something, be concrete and ask a specific question that can be answered in a few minutes.

    Please don’t expect the reader to do the work to figure out what you want them to do. I consider that lazy. Don’t ask “What do you think we could do to get more customers?”

    On the same note, don’t email someone asking to pick their brain about something.

    I was wondering if my cofounder and I could take you to dinner/lunch, we’d love to tell you what we’re working on and pick your brain.

    “Brain picking” meetings are extremely exhausting because they don’t have a concrete goal and you spend most of the time trying to figure it out. Usually they’re a sign that the person emailing isn’t really sure what they want, they just want to meet in person.

    Here’s my typical response to both of the emails above:

    Sorry —  I can’t meet up in-person – but I’m happy to help. So email me any question anytime. I’m not good with big general, “Here’s my entire situation – what do you think of it?” kinds of questions, but pretty good with specific questions.

    In order of priority and amount of work involved, here’s what I usually agree to:

    i) Giving short response – ”Thank you ☺” or “That means a lot”
    ii) Answering a specific question – if I can do it in less than 2 minutes
    iii) Getting on a quick Skype / Google hangout / phone call – usually 15 minutes or so
    iv) Grabbing a coffee in person – usually 45 minutes

    This means that if you ask to meet up for coffee but I think we could do it over Skype, I’ll push for that instead.

    5) Show me why I should take the time to help you

    Honestly, this sounds harsh but it’s important.

    In the past, I tried to meet up with everyone who emailed me.

    I agreed to coffees and lunches, listened to a lot of stories and gave a good deal of advice about what I thought they should be doing. Then I’d inevitably be frustrated when people didn’t listen to any of my advice. Or they’d argue with me about why I’m wrong.

    Sometimes they’d come back to me a month or two later and just ask me the same questions. It felt like Groundhog Day.

    These days I try to prioritize the people who I think I’m going to be able to help out the most.

    The best way to figure that out is to see whether you’ve done something awesome in the past, something that indicates that you’ll be doing awesome things in the future.

    I often check people’s LinkedIn profiles through Rapportive when they email me — I’ll see where they’re working, where they went to school, and what their deal is.

    For example, I’ve learned that people who are currently working in finance but thinking about “starting their own startup” are almost always a red flag. (No offense to finance itself, I studied finance.)

    Going to a good school is a plus. Working at a startup I’ve heard of is a plus. Being a consultant or running a small company is usually a minus.

    If you don’t have anything yet in terms of experience, then put together a good looking website (not a deck) that makes it look like you put some real thought into what you’re trying to do.

    These are just a few of my thoughts about good email etiquette. What kind of tricks do you use for getting people to respond? What do you hate about when people email you? Post them in the comments.

    Mattan Griffel is founder & CEO at One Month, creators of the #1 bestselling Ruby on Rails online training program One Month Rails for first-time web app developers. Learn more at mattangriffel.com.

  • Facebook quietly ends email service
    Facebook shutters its three-year-old email system that gave users “@facebook.com” email addresses, after acknowledging few used the service.
  • Guy Smashes Finger With Mallet To Demonstrate iPhone Case Material
    Step right up! Watch this guy bash his finger with a mallet! Because what else have you got going on?

    In order to show off his company’s Impact Brand iPhone 5S Case at the Mobile World Congress, Tech 21’s Faron Sagebiel wrapped his finger in the company’s DO3 impact material and started smashing.

    Tech 21 calls the material “an intelligent combination of enhanced chemistry, engineering and design which together creates an advanced polymer formula that offers soft, low profile, flexible protection.”

    While this may not be the safest way to demonstrate that your product works, no one can argue that it isn’t entertaining. Using just the DO3 material and a solid-looking mallet, Sagebiel gives his index finger seven solid thumps. It’s worth noting that the video doesn’t show the aftermath of the test, but odds are good it went well, as it didn’t include any cries of horrible, horrible pain.

    WARNING: Don’t try this at home.

  • Rulers Who Use the Social Media They Ban
    by Cyrus Rassool
    Program Associate, Internet Freedom

    Iran’s rulers have actively used social media for international diplomacy and even for messages aimed primarily at a domestic audience. The latter is surprising, given that the government officially blocks access to such online platforms for its citizens. Jack Dorsey, founder and chairman of Twitter, publicly called out President Hassan Rouhani for using the popular microblogging service despite the fact that it is banned inside Iran.

    @HassanRouhani Good evening, President. Are citizens of Iran able to read your tweets?

    — Jack Dorsey (@jack) October 1, 2013

    Evening, @Jack. As I told @camanpour, my efforts geared 2 ensure my ppl’ll comfortably b able 2 access all info globally as is their #right.

    — Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) October 1, 2013/>

    However, Iran isn’t the only country that has drawn criticism for such hypocrisy. Here are five other countries–rated Partly Free or Not Free in Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom on the Net report–whose leaders contradict their own policies and practices on restricting social media.

    Cuba—Not Free

    @yoanisanchez Tu enfoque de tolerancia reproduce los viejos mecanismos de poder. Para mejorar tus “servicios” necesitas estudiar

    — Mariela Castro Espin (@CastroEspinM) November 8, 2011

    Since coming to power in 2008, President Raúl Castro has continued his brother Fidel’s record of restricting freedom of expression. Social media applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, are largely inaccessible for everyday internet users in Cuba due to keyword filtering and blocking. However, Raul Castro, his daughter Mariela, and the government of Cuba have all made use of Twitter to promote the authorities’ interests. Mariela has even engaged in Twitter arguments with Cuban dissidents such as Yoani Sánchez, a well-known blogger and outspoken critic of the Castro regime.

    United Arab Emirates—Not Free

    Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the Emirates’ prime minister and vice president, is an active Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube user. The freedom to use social media, however, does not extend to all Emiratis. Under a 2012 cybercrime law that features vaguely defined offenses and harsh penalties, 29-year-old U.S. citizen Shezanne Cassim and a group of his friends were arrested last year and sent to a maximum-security prison for creating and posting a mockumentary video about wealthy Dubai teenagers trying to adopt gangster personas. Cassim and his friends were sentenced for endangering national security and defaming the country’s image abroad. Cassim eventually was allowed to return to the United States after serving nine months in prison and paying a fine of approximately $2,700.
    Azerbaijan—Partly Free

    The Armenian lobby is our main enemy and we are the main enemy for them.

    — Ilham Aliyev (@presidentaz) November 20, 2012

    President Ilham Aliyev has actively used Twitter to rant against neighboring Armenia. “Our main enemy is the Armenian lobby … Armenia as a country is of no value. It is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani lands,” Aliyev wrote in a series of tweets. Yet the Azerbaijani government, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring, has grown skeptical of its citizens’ use of social media. Officials instituted a campaign to dissuade Azerbaijanis from using such services by linking them to mental illness and treason. At the same time, the government has coerced students into “liking” government policies on Facebook, and has not so subtly urged them to cease support for antigovernment movements online.

    India—Partly Free

    Photo Credit: http://shunalishroff.com

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an active Twitter user, but in India, the largest democracy in the world, speaking out on social media can lead to imprisonment. The country’s Information Technology Act, originally passed in 2000, was amended in 2008 to include Section 66A, which allows punitive measures to be taken against anyone who posts “offensive” messages on online communication services. At least a dozen people have been charged under the statute, including 21-year-old Shaheen Dhada, who used Facebook in 2012 to criticize a municipal shutdown marking the death of a controversial politician, and her friend Rinu Srinivasan, who was arrested simply for “liking” Shaheen’s status update. Charges against the two young women were eventually dropped following a public outcry.

    Turkey—Partly Free

    Photo Credit: http://www.aktifhaber.com/ilk-tableti-basbakan-verecek-556558h.htm

    Despite his active presence on Twitter, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a driving force behind the parliament’s efforts to silence opposition voices on the internet. This past month, lawmakers passed a bill allowing Turkey’s telecommunication authority to block any website without a court order. According to Google’s 2013 transparency report, the Turkish government made the most takedown requests of any country, with over 1,673 requests for the removal of over 12,000 items. Erdoğan has expressed his displeasure with social media, calling Twitter a “menace” and blaming it and other online platforms for stoking antigovernment protests. The Turkish authorities not only censor the internet, but have also punished those who express themselves online. Last April, a court sentenced Fazıl Say, an outspoken atheist and world-renowned pianist, to a suspended 10-month jail term for insulting Islam on Twitter. And earlier this month, Mahir Zeynalov, an Azerbaijani correspondent and blogger for Today’s Zaman in Turkey, was deported for tweets that were deemed critical of the government.

    As internet penetration rates continue to grow around the world, so too do the misgivings of political leaders who would prefer to do all the talking and force citizens to do all the listening. Social media are important tools for democratization because they allow ordinary people and civil society to talk back. The international community cannot allow hypocritical bans on these platforms to continue. Business leaders in particular must take a stand on the issue. Facebook, Google, and other web-based services working in countries where free expression is under threat should follow Jack Dorsey’s lead in pressing governments to respect their citizens’ fundamental freedoms online.

    This piece originally appeared on Freedom House’s blog, Freedom at Issue. Read the original here.

  • New Law Would Force Companies Like Target To Report Hacks Quickly
    Following criticism that Target and other retailers have been slow to publicly report attacks, Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday pressed for a new federal law that forces companies to quickly disclose when they get hacked.

    Holder called on Congress to pass a nationwide standard that forces businesses that suffer cyber attacks to notify customers when their data falls into the hands of cyber criminals.

    “This would empower the American people to protect themselves if they are at risk of identity theft,” Holder said in his weekly address. “It would enable law enforcement to better investigate these crimes — and hold compromised entities accountable when they fail to keep sensitive information safe.”

    Target has come under fire after taking six days to admit publicly that hackers accessed more than 70 million customers’ personal information in December. Neiman Marcus waited nine days after learning that it also had been hacked in January.

    Consumer Watchdog, a consumer group, has claimed the retailers may have delayed reporting the breaches to not disrupt sales during the holiday shopping season.

    Both retailers denied such claims and said they waited because they were still investigating the breaches and closing security gaps.

    But the attacks were first revealed not by the companies themselves but by a cyber-security blogger, highlighting how businesses are often slow to acknowledge cyber attacks to customers — if they do so at all.

    Companies stay quiet about getting hacked for many reasons. They have stock prices and reputations to protect, and their lawyers advise them to remain silent in the face of potential lawsuits.

    Target said that sales dropped significantly after the company disclosed the breach, and its stock has recently traded at 52-week lows.

    Waiting to admit cyber attacks deprives customers of valuable time they could spend taking steps to protect themselves from fraud, experts say.

    “When you are a victim of a hack attack, time is of the essence in terms of how you react,” said Tom Kellermann, the managing director of cyber protection at Alvarez & Marsal, a professional services firm.

    “There have been many instances where corporations have waited months to report that a breach occurred, and during that time, identity theft cases have dramatically grown in number,” Kellermann said.

    While Target and Neiman Marcus initially waited days before going public, many companies take longer or never admit getting hacked. At least six other retailers have also been attacked with the same piece of malicious software used in the Target attack, but have not disclosed the breaches publicly, according to IntelCrawler, a cyber-security firm.

    Nearly every state has a law mandating that companies tell customers when their personal data has been compromised. But the laws give companies significant leeway, allowing them to take several weeks to investigate before disclosing a data breach. Laws in Wisconsin, Vermont and Florida give companies 45 days from when they first learn about a cyber attack to notify customers.

    In the wake of the Target breach, a group of Democratic senators last month re-introduced legislation that would create a nationwide standard for companies to quickly notify consumers if their personal data was stolen. But similar bills have failed to pass in the last two sessions of Congress.

    In addition, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said last year that guidelines issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission that called on publicly traded companies to disclose cyber attacks to investors have been “insufficient.”

    Companies are often not just slow to admit cyber attacks to customers and investors. They are also reticent to notify law enforcement, frustrating many federal prosecutors.

    “Corporations may wait days or even weeks and months, or never disclose the attacks at all, for fear of exposing proprietary information,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in a 2012 New York Times op-ed. “But doing so makes it much harder to identify the perpetrator and prevent future economic injury.”

    In an interview with The Huffington Post last August, Bharara said that silence from hacking victims “is still an issue.”

    “It’s not just a law enforcement problem; it’s a corporate culture problem also,” he said.

  • VIDEO: Hands-on with '$25 smartphone'
    Mozilla has unveiled a prototype model of what it hopes will become a $25 (£15) smartphone for the developing world.
  • Dad Builds His Kids The Coolest NASA-Themed Desk Of All Time
    We totally wish our desks looked like this.

    Feeling rather inspired after a visit to the Kennedy Space Center with his sons, Jeff Highsmith built his boys a desk reminiscent of a NASA mission control center, the dad wrote in a recent MAKE Magazine article.

    The results are not only incredibly cool, but they also reflect a serious amount of talent on Highsmith’s part:

    cool desk

    best desk

    However, Highsmith wants to make sure the boys have their priorities straight: He wrote that his sons aren’t allowed to open the desk –- which comes equipped with light-up buttons, rocket noises and an iPad that displays space-related images -– until they’ve finished their homework.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t Highsmith’s first rodeo when it comes to creating cool gadgets for the enjoyment of his kids. In September, he created an in-house tooth transport for the tooth fairy.

    We can’t decide which project is cooler.

    Visit MAKE to read more about Highsmith’s NASA-themed desk.

  • Watch A Snowflake Come To Life In This Mesmerizing Time-Lapse Video
    Ever seen a snowflake up close? It’s absolutely stunning.

    But how did it get that way? A new time-lapse video provides the surprisingly complex answer to that question. Posted by prolific Vimeo poster Vyacheslav Ivanov, it shows a series of flakes unfolding into the beautiful six-sided ice crystals we’ve all come to recognize.

    Snowflakes owe their gorgeous geometry to the fact that water expands when it freezes. First, a water droplet freezes around a dust particle in the atmosphere. As more water molecules land on the crystal, arms project outward in six directions. The flake’s unique shape is determined by the ambient temperature and humidity.

    Got it? Now the next time you catch a snowflake on your tongue, you’ll know exactly what you’ve just destroyed.

    (h/t io9)

  • Samsung Galaxy S5: First impressions
    Reaction from the web to Samsung’s new smartphone

Mobile Technology News, February 24, 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.

  • Why There Will Be Another Major Data Breach (And Another, And Another)
    The storm of consumer-focused data breaches started off as intermittent downpours — Choicepoint, TJ Maxx, SONY, LinkedIn, Twitter, Adobe Systems — and is now a torrent: Target, Neiman Marcus, Kickstarter, White Lodging, the Sands Casino, and now everyone who’s attended or worked at the University of Maryland since 1998. In each case, hackers weren’t after the company’s intellectual property or trade secrets: they were after your information, because it’s the key to your money.

    In fact, though it’s been widely reported that the Target breach cost $240 million so far, that amount doesn’t take into account the fraudulent charges individuals had to fight and is itself split among the many financial institutions whose customers were affected by the breach. Meanwhile, Target said in January that it expected to lose only 2-6% of sales over last year, and only in the first quarter.

    That is why these breaches are just going to keep happening: in the absence of laws or regulations forcing all companies to protect your data (and your money) better, companies simply aren’t going to lose enough money in a data breach to “justify” the costs of better security.

    Meanwhile, all of us will end up paying more to offset the costs of these breaches, in terms of higher account fees, lower service levels and the like. But better laws requiring companies to protect the customer data they use, collect and store do not appear to be coming your way any time soon.

    Deep in the midst of this current and ongoing cyberinsecurity epidemic, the White House issued its long-awaited “guidelines” for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure last week. In the document, its authors wrote:

    Similar to financial and reputational risk, cyber security risk affects a company’s bottom line. It can drive up costs and impact revenue. It can harm an organization’s ability to innovate and to gain and maintain customers.

    Why might a document laying out guidelines and best practices have to remind its readers and target audience that there are serious costs to bad cybersecurity practices? Because the guidelines have no force of law and no incentives to encourage companies to comply — and the Administration says it has no plans to track if or how anyone even bothers to comply with the framework, anyway.

    It’s not like these companies don’t know what best data security practices are – reports indicate that at least one Target employee raised alarms before Black Friday last year — and it’s not like there aren’t a plethora of other companies who would help them if they don’t have the internal resources. But updating systems, doing regular information security checks and focusing on employee training can be time-consuming and expensive.

    But when the costs of any one data breach are shared by so many companies and individuals, the cost of rigorous data security to any one company might well be more than what it stands to lose in a given breach. We see this with the slow roll-out of more secure chip-and-pin cards, which are broadly used elsewhere in the world but won’t be widely available in the U.S. until after 2015: it’s an (increasingly) expensive system to implement, and no one entity pays enough because of the fraud the old system encourages to bother going first.

    Cybersecurity is fast becoming a classic market failure: the costs of protection thus far outweigh the potential costs of a breach. But unlike most other classic examples of market failures — education and environmental protection, to name two — the government seemingly has no appetite to step in and resolve the market problem with laws, regulations or even tax incentives. Instead, they’re stuck reminding companies how costly a breach could eventually be.

    So the next time you hear about a data breach — and with recent history as a guide, that’ll be fairly soon — and you wonder why this keeps happening, just remember that it all comes down to money: yours (that the criminals want), and the cold hard cash that some corporations and institutions haven’t spent to keep your information secure.

  • First of 64-bit Windows 8.1 tablets arrives, this one from HP
    Hewlett-Packard’s latest tablet is described as the new “64-bit ElitePad” — a sign that Windows 8.1 tablets running on Intel’s Bay Trail chip will begin to go 64-bit.
  • Apple's 'Gotofail' Security Mess Extends To Mail, Twitter, iMessage, Facetime And More – Forbes
    First, Apple revealed a critical bug in its implementation of  encryption in iOS, requiring an emergency patch. Then researchers found the same bug is also included in Apple’s desktop OSX operating system, a gaping Web security hole that leaves users of Safari at risk of having their traffic hijacked. Now one researcher has found evidence that the bug extends beyond Apple’s browser to other applications including Mail, Twitter, Facetime, iMessage and even Apple’s software update mechanism.
  • Netflix signs Comcast streaming deal
    Netflix agrees a deal with Comcast, the biggest internet service provider in the US, that will see its videos streamed faster and more smoothly.
  • Estonia: From Skype to scooters
    Estonia start-ups scooting to success
  • Huawei launches 'hybrid' smartband
    Chinese electronics giant Huawei unveiled five new products at Mobile World Congress, including what it called the “world’s first hybrid smart band”.
  • VIDEO: 'More beautiful' selfies feature
    Huawei’s latest smartphone promises better selfies – the BBC’s Mark Gregory tried it out.
  • These Picture-Perfect Couples Found Love On Instagram
    By Kristen Klein for Bridal Guide

    Finding love online certainly isn’t a new concept; dating websites are a dime a dozen these days. But you can also find love where you least expect it — like on your favorite social networking site. Because Instagram is a photo-driven medium, it’s easy to feel like you know someone before you even meet them.

    “Despite the geographical distance between us, meeting Matt on Instagram felt very similar to meeting someone in, say, a bookstore or at a party,” said Robin, who met her husband through a comment he left on one of her photos. “We were following an overlapping group of people with similar interests and a similar aesthetic. Meeting each other felt very organic in that respect.”

    An added benefit: “Our year-long long-distance relationship was of course very difficult… [but] people from all over the world were cheering us on, and they still are. Rough days are so much easier when you feel that sort of positive energy, even from strangers,” she said. “We give people hope, I think, that their perfect partner is out there, and they, in turn, give us hope, with their kind words and thousands of likes.”

    These five love stories prove that a picture really does say a thousand words.

    Beulah & Alex: Fell in Love Through an Instagram Contest

    When Beulah submitted a few of her images to an Instagram photo competition, she never expected to win — or to find the love of her life through the contest! After being named the winner, Beulah gained 200 new followers — one of them being Alex. A comment he left caught her eye, and after taking a look at his account, she learned that he’s a photographer as well. She emailed him to ask about his work and shoots, which turned into an endless email chain that led to talking over FaceTime and, eventually, Alex traveled from Alberta, Canada to meet Beulah in Melbourne, Florida, where she lived. “It was the best week of our lives!” she said. “Head over heels in love. It was comfortable, it was honest, it was right. I couldn’t put it into words if I tried, honestly.”

    Naturally, the two documented their first meeting on Instagram:

    “I still have a photo posted that was taken on my way to pick Alex up from the airport for the first time. Little did I know I was going to pick up my future husband. I’m so thankful for having it all documented.”

    The two embarked on a long-distance relationship, visiting each other as often as they could. In December, Alex proposed to Beulah while she was visiting him in Calgary. After riding a gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain to take in the magical sunset, he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. The happy couple is planning a November 2014 wedding in Florida, and they’re working on building a photography business together.

    Jorge & Corinth: Found Each Other Through a Hashtag

    Jorge’s passion on Instagram is sharing photos of the sky. He started using the hashtag #sky on his pictures, and while browsing through others on the hashtag one day, he came across a stunning photo taken by Corinth.

    He clicked over to her profile and was intrigued by her unique name and beautiful photos. He noticed that she’d listed her Kik messaging username on her Instagram profile page, so he decided to send her a message. Because of their age and geographical differences (he was 19 living in Maryland, and she was 22 living in Whitehorse, Canada), he just intended to strike up a friendship. But Corinth’s first thought was, “Wow, what a cute stalker!”

    They soon began talking every day, making a point to always say good morning and good night to each other. After months of this routine, they both realized they were falling in love. One day, Corinth said “I love you,” and Jorge quickly responded the same. “I really loved her, and it was crazy because we had never met in person, but I felt like I knew her so well. She was my best friend!” he recalled.

    After they officially started dating in March, they started their own hashtag #chasingmiamor (chasing my love) to document their relationship. Six months later, they met in person for the first time. “Best day ever!” recalled Corinth. “I was so nervous, and he noticed it. But my gosh, that moment when we first hugged was one of the most memorable moments in my life.”

    They’re still going strong a year later, even though they’ve only spent a total of 25 days together in person. “We don’t always see each other because we are 3,590 miles from each other, so during those days we were actually together, we made lots of memories by capturing them through photos and videos,” said Corinth. “And we’ll always be sharing our stories on Instagram, the app that brought us together.”

    Robin & Matthew: Met Through a Random Comment

    After joining Instagram in 2011, Robin began browsing around to find interesting people to follow. One of Matt’s cycling photos caught her eye, and she left a comment. He then commented on one of her photos of the snow, mentioning how much he missed the snowy Christmas weather he’d grown up with in Wisconsin before moving to California. After some more back and forth, he asked her to email him. She sent him a one-line note: “What’s up?” He responded with an eight-paragraph email all about himself, his childhood, and his trouble adjusting to life in California.

    “He was just so endearing and sincere. I could feel the warmth in his words,” Robin said. “I’d long been struggling to find my place on this earth, and despite the differences in our individual circumstances, I could relate to every single word. I didn’t hesitate to write back.”

    After a year of being email pen pals, Matt gave Robin his number. They immediately hit it off; one of their Skype chats lasted over 13 hours! A few months later, they met in person for the first time.

    “I couldn’t even make eye contact with him. I’m not exaggerating,” Robin said. “For at least an hour, I couldn’t look him in the eyes for more than a second or two. I was a flustered, giddy mess.”

    Luckily, she got over her nerves, and a year later, the couple was married. They even used Instagram to help plan the wedding -— they found their photographer and videographer on Instagram. They now live together in California.

    Brooke & Carter: Planned the Proposal Through Instagram

    Brooke and Carter met in a coffee shop while attending a mutual friend’s show. They hit it off, and when Carter moved from Colorado to Kansas for a job, the couple took advantage of Instagram to keep each other involved in their day-to-day lives. After dating for two years, Carter planned to propose during a trip to Portland. But since he’d never been there before, he relied on a few friends he met on Instagram to help him find the perfect location.

    The new friends even offered the pair a place to stay, paid for their rental car, and surprised them with an engagement party after the proposal! The happy couple tied the knot in December and lives in Colorado Springs, CO.

    CARTER AND BROOKE // THE ENGAGEMENT from Colin Cabalka on Vimeo.

    Jenna & Neil: Popped the Question on Instagram

    Jenna and Neil met through mutual friends at Coachella in 2012 and connected instantly. Since they lived on opposite sides of country, they friended each other on Facebook and followed each other on Instagram to stay in touch, and their friendship quickly turned romantic.

    They started exchanging messages about moving in together when Jenna moved from NYC to Los Angeles (where Neil lived), getting married, and even their future kids’ names.

    After nearly two years together, Neil decided to propose — and since their love story unfolded on social media, Neil knew he wanted to use the medium to propose. He created a new Instagram account, The Story of Jenna and Neil, where he uploaded photos and videos of them together, screen shots from their Facebook conversations, and more to document their love story.

    The final photo:

    She, of course, said yes! They’re planning a November wedding in Palm Springs.

    Tell us: How did you meet your future spouse?

    More from Bridal Guide:
    The Most Heartwarming Proposal Stories
    Avoid the Seven Deadly Bridal Sins
    75+ Gorgeous Ideas for Your Centerpieces
    The Hottest Wedding Trends for 2014
    20 Sexy Wedding-Night Secrets

    Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Weddings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  • VIDEO: First look at Huawei's Talkband
    The BBC’s Mark Gregory has a look at Huawei’s new smartband, unveiled for the first time at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
  • '$25 smartphone' coming from Mozilla
    A prototype smartphone that costs $25 and is designed to appeal to people in developing countries is shown off by Mozilla at the Mobile World Congress.
  • Comcast And Netflix Make A Deal To End Traffic Jam
    (Reuters) – Comcast Corp customers are about to get improved streaming service from Netflix after the two companies announced on Sunday an agreement to give Netflix a direct connection to the broadband provider.
    This agreement means that Netflix will deliver its movies and TV programs to Comcast’s broadband network as opposed through third party providers, giving viewers faster streaming speeds for watching movies and TV programs.
    The deal could also mean that other broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T will have to strike a similar arrangements, known in the industry as interconnect agreements.
    The companies said in a joint statement that they have been “working collaboratively over many months” to strike a multi-year agreement. The terms were not disclosed and Netflix will not receive preferential network treatment, the companies said.
    With more than 44 million subscribers throughout the world, Netflix has been making an effort to connect directly with broadband Internet providers. It has struck similar deals with Cablevision and Cox.
    The announcement comes as Comcast prepares to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, a deal that will draw the scrutiny of U.S. antitrust enforcers.
    The combined company would have a near 30 percent share of the U.S. pay television market, as well as be the major provider of broadband Internet access.
    At the same time, Federal regulators are wrestling with an issue known as “Net neutrality” concerning broadband providers and whether they can slow down traffic to some particular websites or applications, potentially forcing content providers to pay for faster Web service.
    The Federal Communications Commission said last week it plans to rewrite the rules after a U.S. court struck down the commission’s previous version.
    (Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
  • Google Will Soon Know You Better Than Your Spouse Does, Top Exec Says
    Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, believes that the tech behemoth will soon know you even better than your spouse does.

    Kurzweil, who Bill Gates has reportedly called “the best person [he knows] at predicting the future of artificial intelligence,” told the Observer in a recent interview that he is working with Google to create a computer system that will be able to intimately understand human beings.

    (Read Kurzweil’s full interview with the Observer here.)

    “I have a one-sentence spec which is to help bring natural language understanding to Google,” the 66-year-old tech whiz told the news outlet of his job. “My project is ultimately to base search on really understanding what the language means.”

    “When you write an article, you’re not creating an interesting collection of words,” he continued. “You have something to say and Google is devoted to intelligently organizing and processing the world’s information. The message in your article is information, and the computers are not picking up on that. So we would want them to read everything on the web and every page of every book, then be able to engage in intelligent dialogue with the user to be able to answer their questions.”

    In short, the Observer writes, Kurzweil believes that Google will soon “know the answer to your question before you have asked it. It will have read every email you’ve ever written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.”

    As creepy as this may sound to some, Kurzweil — who has long contended that computers will outsmart us by 2029 — believes that the improvement of artificial intelligence is merely the next step in our evolution.

    “[Artificial intelligence] is not an intelligent invasion from Mars,” he told the Montecito Journal in 2012, per a post on his website. “These are brain extenders that we have created to expand our own mental reach. They are part of our civilization. They are part of who we are. So over the next few decades our human-machine civilization will become increasingly dominated by its non-biological component.”

  • FCC Can Free the Cities
    The FCC’s seeming willingness to challenge laws in 20 states that restrict city governments from offering broadband Internet services represents a huge potential opportunity.

    FCC Chairman Wheeler knows well that the established players — mostly the cable and Telco’s — have joined forces to routinely block any attempt any by a city to provide municipal Internet services. State legislators and other politicians have also told them the telecommunications business belongs to the private sector.

    Most cities, therefore, already subsidized in some small way by a cable franchise or largesse of the local telephone monopoly — are afraid to act or simply unaware of the stakes. This new thinking on the part of the FCC could free the cities.

    In every study of importance, broadband Internet services are mentioned prominently. The argument that such infrastructures are the thing most of the nation’s innovation today urgently need is something that all the studies seem to agree on.

    Given the realignment of power in the world — from nations to cities to individuals–what the city does or does not do can determine their community’s success and survival, or its demise; and as such, will determine the nation’s success or failure.

    Some more progressive cities are already working with other nearby cities or their county to do joint governmental planning and development, and provide not only police, fire and safety services but land use, transportation and telecommunications systems as well.

    This clearly makes sense since people already live in one jurisdiction, work in other, and play or dine in a third. More importantly, the new creative economy demands consolidation to save money, and a repositioning of the larger region itself to succeed in the new global economy.

    Broadband, or high speed Internet service is a ripe for such joint planning, and as important as waterways, railways and highways were in an earlier era. Building a regional information infrastructure is vital.

    According to the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., “the top 100 metropolitan areas covers about two thirds of the nation’s population and an even larger share of the nation’s gross domestic product.” It is these “regional economies” that foster quality places, vibrant downtowns, attractive town centers and historic, older suburbs that feed the development and acquisition of human capital, financial capital and contribute to resource efficient, sustainable growth.

    Not merging municipalities or at least jointly providing basic services, starting with broadband, puts the prowess of a region at risk. Cities are more important than ever in our nation’s history as we enter headlong into a new age of creativity and innovation.

    The city is and has been the crucible of civilization; the center of commerce, and in this new age, can and must be the incubator of creativity; the place where people and cultures and ideas wash against one another producing the inventions and innovations the world needs and wants, and the finance and marketing plans to support them.

    The city, of all our geopolitical institutions, needs to reinvent itself for this new global age.

  • Netflix Makes A Deal With Comcast To End Traffic Jam
    (Reuters) – Comcast Corp customers are about to get improved streaming service from Netflix after the two companies announced on Sunday an agreement to give Netflix a direct connection to the broadband provider.
    This agreement means that Netflix will deliver its movies and TV programs to Comcast’s broadband network as opposed through third party providers, giving viewers faster streaming speeds for watching movies and TV programs.
    The deal could also mean that other broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T will have to strike a similar arrangements, known in the industry as interconnect agreements.
    The companies said in a joint statement that they have been “working collaboratively over many months” to strike a multi-year agreement. The terms were not disclosed and Netflix will not receive preferential network treatment, the companies said.
    With more than 44 million subscribers throughout the world, Netflix has been making an effort to connect directly with broadband Internet providers. It has struck similar deals with Cablevision and Cox.
    The announcement comes as Comcast prepares to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, a deal that will draw the scrutiny of U.S. antitrust enforcers.
    The combined company would have a near 30 percent share of the U.S. pay television market, as well as be the major provider of broadband Internet access.
    At the same time, Federal regulators are wrestling with an issue known as “Net neutrality” concerning broadband providers and whether they can slow down traffic to some particular websites or applications, potentially forcing content providers to pay for faster Web service.
    The Federal Communications Commission said last week it plans to rewrite the rules after a U.S. court struck down the commission’s previous version.
    (Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
  • Samsung tries again with new watches
    Samsung has shown off the Gear 2, its second attempt at releasing a smartwatch that has mass appeal with consumers.
  • Microsoft's OK with Nokia using Android. Kind of
    Microsoft expressed its support for Nokia’s efforts, although noting it was “less excited” about some projects than others.
  • Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' Answers All Your Questions About Bow Ties (VIDEO)
    What would Bill Nye be without his signature bow tie?

    You’re probably familiar with the “Science Guy” and his trademark fashion accessory — but there’s a lot about Bill Nye’s bow ties you don’t know. Who does he think wears the tie best? And perhaps most importantly, how many of them does he actually own?

    Check out the new YouTube video above from PBS/NOVA’s “The Secret Life of Scientists” to find out.

    And just so you’re not disappointed, there is one answer you won’t get. What’s the weirdest thing Nye has done in a bow tie? “I can’t tell you,” he says in the video, with a smirk.

  • WhatsApp 'sorry' for system crash
    WhatsApp has apologised to users and blamed “server issues” after its system went down for more than two hours.
  • Windows 8.1 update coming in spring, to improve controls, allow lower end hardware
    Microsoft is hoping to address some of the big issues with Windows 8 and improve the customer experience.

Mobile Technology News, February 23, 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.

  • Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch will check your pulse, wearable heart rate sensor goes mainstream
    Samsung will probably be making the most mass produced wearable heart rate sensor of our time. At World Congress today, Samsung announced they will be adding a heart rate sensor in their new Gear 2 smartwatch.  The original Galaxy Gear was launched just 6 months ago to mostly negative reviews due to poor battery life, a slow user interface, and overall poor functionality.  While the new Gear 2 addresses many of these features, the big change with the Gear 2 […]
  • Fitbit issues recall of popular fitness tracker Force, cites concern about rash, suspends sales
    At iMedicalApps we’ve been covering the issues related to the Fitbit Force causing a rash for a few weeks now. When we published a review comparing the Jawbone UP24 to the Fitbit Force, it was met with several comments from readers stating how they were starting to develop a rash from the Force. We followed it up with an article focusing on the rash, and we wrote how we felt the Fitbit Force’s rash problem was more widespread than people […]
  • Apple, Samsung mediation talks fail, but both sides to keep talking
    Ahead of the second patent trial between Apple and Samsung scheduled for March 31 — which covers a completely different set of patents and is not an appeal of the first trial, which Apple won last year — the two companies are said to be making efforts at settling their differences rather than going to trial. Thus far — as before, ahead of the first trial — the negotiations have not resulted in an agreement, but in a court filing, both companies said they were willing to keep talking.


  • The movie magic behind the scenes
    Behind the scenes at the special effects firms revolutionising film
  • On the Timing of iOS's SSL Vulnerability and Apple's ‘Addition' to the NSA's PRISM Program
    Sure would be interesting to know who added that spurious line of code to the file. Conspiratorially, one could suppose the NSA planted the bug, through an employee mole, perhaps.
  • UH-OH: WhatsApp, Facebook's New $19 Billion App, Is Down (Update: It's Back)
    This is probably not the best way to start off life under Facebook.

    WhatsApp, the simple messaging app that Facebook bought for an incredible $19 billion on Wednesday, is currently down due to server errors.

    sorry we currently experiencing server issues. we hope to be back up and recovered shortly.

    — WhatsApp Status (@wa_status) February 22, 2014

    When editors at HuffPost tried to get on the service, the app fails to connect:


    The app, which has gained 450 million monthly users by casting itself as a cheap alternative to costly SMS text messaging plans, hasn’t allowed messages to go through since approximately 2 p.m. ET. Based on Twitter chatter and articles in India and Israel, the outage appears to global.

    We reached out to WhatsApp for more details and will update if we get a respond.

    UPDATE: After a few hours down, WhatsApp is working again:

    WhatsApp service has been restored. We are so sorry for the downtime…

    — WhatsApp Status (@wa_status) February 22, 2014

  • Where do Apple rumors come from? Digitimes explains
    Digitimes Research sheds some light on the the Apple supply chain — the source of many a rumor — before the release of the product.
  • Air Force Plans To Launch 'Neighborhood Watch' Spy Satellite Program
    By Irene Klotz
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – The United States plans to launch a pair of satellites to keep tabs on spacecraft from other countries orbiting 22,300 miles above the planet, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said.
    The previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking thousands of pieces of debris so orbital collisions can be avoided, General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday.
    He called it a “neighborhood watch program” that will provide a more detailed perspective on space activities. He said the satellites, scheduled to be launched this year, also will be used to ferret out potential threats from other spacecraft.
    The program “will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes,” Shelton said in the speech, which also was posted on the Air Force Association’s website.
    The two-satellite network, built by Orbital Sciences Corp will drift around the orbital corridor housing much of the world’s communications satellites and other spacecraft.
    The Air Force currently tracks about 23,000 pieces of orbiting debris bigger than about 4 inches. These range from old rocket bodies to the remains of an exploded Chinese satellite.
    The Air Force released a fact sheet emphasizing the program’s debris-monitoring abilities. Brian Weeden, technical advisor with the Washington-based Secure World Foundation, said the U.S. military already has a satellite in a better position to do that job.
    “I think the (Obama) Administration is being more honest when it says that it declassified this program to try and deter attacks on U.S. satellites,” in geostationary, or GEO, orbits located about 23,000 miles above Earth, Weeden wrote in an email to Reuters.
    “The U.S. has a lot of very specialized and important national security satellites in the GEO region and it is very concerned about protecting those satellites … so by telling other countries that it has some ability to closely monitor objects near GEO and their behavior, the U.S. hopes that will deter other countries from attacking its important satellites,” Weedon said.
    The new satellites also will give the U.S. military greater insight into what other countries have in orbit.
    “There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is exactly the sort of thing the U.S. is worried other countries will do to it,” Weedon added.
    Costs and technical details of the program were not released.
    The satellites are scheduled for launch aboard an unmanned Delta 4 rocket, build by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during the last quarter of 2014.
    Shelton said two replacement satellites are targeted for launch in 2016.
    (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by David Gregorio)
  • 'Neknominate' Is a Stupid and Potentially Deadly Online Dare Game

    Frame from a YouTube video on ‘neknomination’

    The Irish Mirror calls it “sickening online drinking craze,” and that’s factually correct. “Nekominate,” also known as neck and nominate, is a game that’s growing in popularity in Australia, the UK and parts of Europe where someone posts a video of themselves doing something stupid or dangerous and then “nominates” another person to stick his or her neck out and do likewise. I’m actually taking liberties with the the term. On Facebook it’s defined as “neck your drink, nominate another.” I’m hearing that the game is starting to take up residence in the United States.

    I’ve also seen derivations on the theme with added dangerous or stupid behaviors such as guzzling a beer in a university lecture hall or a crowded intersection while naked.

    Health dangers

    My concern here is not-so-much the exhibitionism but the severe health dangers associated with guzzling alcohol.

    The Mirror, a British tabloid reported about a 29 year-old who died as a result of quickly downing a pint of Vodka. The Mirror isn’t the most credible newspaper in the world, but this is likely a true story. It’s well known in medical circles that guzzling alcohol is dangerous as is binge drinking which is associated with guzzling. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a case that I’m personally familiar with where a college freshman died while drinking large amounts of blackberry brandy during a fraternity ceremony at Chico State University.

    New twist on a very old theme

    Young people often crave social acceptance and inclusion and sometimes accept dares as a way to “fit in.” When I was a kid, I was dared to walk across the railing over a bridge where — if I slipped — I would likely fall to my death. I never did it, but friends of mine did and I always felt uncomfortable every time I had to “chicken out” and decline the dare. Beer pong, which has been around for a long-time, can also be dangerous.


    For adults, it’s sometimes hard to know how to convince kids to avoid what we consider dangerous behaviors but — when it comes to something this dangerous — we do need to speak out. Despite popular belief, kids do listen to adults, especially their parents. And while they may roll their eyes when you bring it up, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening. BUT — and this is an important but. Don’t make it a lecture. Start by asking your kids if they’ve heard about Neknomination and what they think about it. Chances are if they have, they’ll volunteer that it’s stupid but even if they don’t, it gives you an opportunity to calmly explain the risks.

    “Just say know”

    Dr. Irene Lazarus, a Chapel Hill, NC-based marriage and family therapist recommends “finding a non-threatening way to bring it up so that the kids can think about it before they’re presented with the opportunity.” She added, “Kids who are shy in social relationships may be more vulnerable to taking a dare like that. Peer pressure is strong but if you can have discussions, kids can have time to think through their stance is before they are faced with the situation.”

    Dr. Lazarus recommends the book Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. One chapter title of that book says it all, “Just say know.” As the book points out, “phrases like ‘just say no’ are not sufficient to satisfy many young people.”


    Facebook page for ‘Random Acts of Kindness’

    There is an antidote being promoted on Facebook called RAKNomination with “RAK,” standing for “Random Acts of Kindness.” The page’s tagline is “record yourself carrying out a RAK and nominate your friends to do the same in 24 hours.” The page, which has been “Liked” by 13,690 people as of today, contains stories of great things people are doing for others.

    For more on both Nek and RAK nominations as well as how you can “unnominate” yourself, see Choosing stupidity or kindness: ‘Neknominate’ or ‘RAKnominate’? by Anne Collier, my ConnectSafely.org co-director.

  • Microsoft said to slash Windows 8.1 price on low-cost devices
    Microsoft is cutting the price of Windows 8.1 for devices under $250 in order to be more competitive with low-cost devices that run on rival operating systems.
  • 'Space Elevators' Could Provide Safe & Efficient Cosmic Travel, Researchers Say

    Is it time to push the “up” button on the space elevator?

    A space elevator consisting of an Earth-anchored tether that extends 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) into space could eventually provide routine, safe, inexpensive and quiet access to orbit, some researchers say.

    A new assessment of the concept has been pulled together titled “Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward.” The study was conducted by a diverse collection of experts from around the world under the auspices of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). [Quiz: Sci-Fi vs. Real Technology]

    The study’s final judgment is twofold: A space elevator appears possible, with the understanding that risks must be mitigated through technological progress…and a space elevator infrastructure could indeed be built via a major international effort.

    The tether serving as a space elevator would be used to economically place payloads and eventually people into space using electric vehicles called climbers that drive up and down the tether at train-like speeds. The rotation of the Earth would keep the tether taut and capable of supporting the climbers.

    Rooted in history

    The notion of a beanstalk-like space elevator is rooted in history.

    Many point to the ahead-of-its-time “thought experiment” published in 1895 by Russian space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He suggested creation of a free-standing tower reaching from the surface of Earth to the height of geostationary orbit (GEO; 22,236 miles, or 35,786 km).

    space elevator parts
    Reach for the sky. Image depicts key elements of a space elevator, from top to bottom.

    Over the last century or so, writers, scientists, engineers and others have helped finesse the practicality of the space elevator. And the new study marks a major development in the evolution of the idea, says IAA president Gopalan Madhavan Nair. [10 Sci-Fi Predictions That Came True]

    “No doubt all the space agencies of the world will welcome such a definitive study that investigates new ways of transportation with major changes associated with inexpensive routine access to GEO and beyond,” Nair writes in the new study’s preface.

    “There is no doubt that the Academy, due to this study, will contribute to advancing international consensus and awareness on the need to search and develop new ways of transportation in conducting space exploration while preserving our universe in the same way we are now trying to preserve our planet Earth,” Nair adds.

    Elevator operator

    While it’s always tricky to predict the future study lead editor Peter Swan told Space.com that space elevators are more than just a science-fiction fantasy. “The results of our study are encouraging,” he said.

    Swan’s view is fortified by the late science fact/fiction soothsayer, Arthur C. Clarke, who stated in 2003: “The space elevator will be built ten years after they stop laughing…and they have stopped laughing!”

    Swan is chief engineer at SouthWest Analytic Network, Inc. in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and is focused on developing and teaching innovative approaches to “new space” development. He’s also head elevator operator of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), which has organizational members in the United States, Europe and Japan and individual members from around the world.

    ISEC’s goal is nothing short of getting a lengthy space elevator built.

    “The question is when, of course,” Swan said. “But the point is that the technologies are progressing in a positive manner, such that we who work in it believe that there will be space elevators.”

    Pacing technologies

    Swan said the giggle factor regarding space elevators is “down significantly” given work carried out over the last decade by a global network of individuals and groups. “Still, there are many, many issues and I certainly would not want to say that it’s not a challenging project.”

    The IAA appraisal delves into a number of issues, such as: Why build a space elevator? Can it be done? How would all the elements fit together to create a system of systems? And what are the technical feasibilities of each major space elevator element?

    space elevator climber
    Climber ascends space elevator, heading spaceward from its aeroshell.

    Two technologies are pacing the development of the space elevator, Swan said.

    Producing an ultra-strong space tether and other space elevator components, Swan said, has been advanced by the invention of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that are 1,000 times better in strength-to-weight ratio than steel. The good news, he said, is that CNTs are being developed with billions of dollars by nanotechnology, electronics, optics, and materials specialists.

    Similarly, lightweight solar cells “are coming along nicely,” Swan said. “That’s an industry that the space elevator people are watching, too. We’re not going to drive it, but we can certainly watch it and appreciate the advances.”

    Money, motivation and desire

    Regarding who would erect a space elevator, Swan said the study dives into details. A primarily commercial effort with some government support is possible, as is a public-private enterprise, or an entirely governmental project.

    “All three are viable. Any one of them could work. It’s a matter of money, motivation and the desire to do it,” Swan said, though the study centers on commercial development of the space elevator. “It’s conceivable all three could be going on at the same time.”

    The study team was encouraged by the future, though Swan and others acknowledge there are many questions left to be studied. Indeed, another evaluation of the space elevator idea 10 years hence would be worthwhile, Swan said.

    Erasing the rocket equation

    space elevator 3
    Space elevator makes use of an ocean platform to connect Earth with space.

    Are there any technical, political or policy “showstoppers” that could prevent the space elevator from becoming a reality?

    “You’re asking the wrong guy,” Swan responded. “I am an optimist. I have always had the attitude that good people, motivated by good rationale working hard will make it work. My guess is that space elevators are going to work, whether it’s by 2035, 2060 or even 2100.”

    Swan said the rationale is moving beyond the “rocket equation,” which involves tossing away 94 percent of a rocket’s mass sitting on the launch pad.

    “And it still costs a lot of stinking money to get up there,” he said.

    The space elevator opens everything up, Swan said. It’s a soft ride, a week to GEO. There are no restrictions on the size or shape of payloads.

    “People will laugh and ask why did we ever do space rockets…it’s a dumb idea,” Swan said. “Space elevators are the answer if we can make them work. Why would you do anything else?”

    A copy of “Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward” is available through Virginia Edition Publishing Company at: www.virginiaedition.com/sciencedeck

    Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin’s new book “Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration” published by National Geographic. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

    Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ]]>

  • These 20 Pokemon Prove Nintendo Is Out Of Ideas
    The release of Pokemon X and Y in October 2013 introduced 70 new Pokemon, bringing the known total of Pokemon in the Pokedex to 719. That’s a lot of cuddly monsters to create.

    Nintendo designers, you work hard. But, we gotta say, it sometimes feels like you phone in your ideas. Sure, you’ve created some beautiful, fearsome Pokemon. (Ninetales? Rapidash? These are gorgeous creatures. And we certainly wouldn’t want to run into Zekrom in a dark alley.) But some of these pocket monsters seem like you randomly decided a bunch of inanimate objects should be alive and have amazing powers.

    We’ve rounded up 20 examples of Pokemon that just don’t seem on par with the rest of their fellow creatures.

    If you’re not familiar with Pokemon, here are a few things to keep in mind as you scroll through the list: Pokemon are captured and trained by characters Ash, Misty, Brock and other humans in the Pokemon universe who fight one another in an attempt to become Pokemon Master. Also, Pokemon can evolve as they train and grow, so Pokemon with similar names (Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, for instance) are evolutions of one another.

    Without further ado, here are the 20 weirdest, most random Pokemon:

  • Telecom Giants Paid Millions To 'Honor' Minority Lawmakers Before The Merger
    WASHINGTON — Comcast and Time Warner Cable are heading into the lobbying stage of their proposed merger with a strong hand. They boast large teams of lobbyists, a history of massive campaign contributions to members of both political parties and close ties to the White House.

    Over the last several years, the two telecom giants have also contributed millions of dollars to “honor” members of Congress and congressional caucuses. The biggest recipients of this money have been nonprofits linked to minority lawmakers, traditionally some of the most progressive members of Congress.

    Disclosure of so-called honorary contributions — ostensibly philanthropic gifts that go to organizations tied to congressional lawmakers or events designed to honor politicians — became mandatory starting in 2008. In the years since, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have directed more than $3.7 million to celebrate lawmakers. Nonprofits affiliated with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have benefited the most.

    Now Congress is jumping into the debate over the planned Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. The Senate Commerce Committee and both Antitrust Subcommittees have said they’ll hold hearings. Public interest watchdogs worry that lawmakers’ oversight could be influenced by all the past largesse.

    “You see their presence is major — the presence of these major corporations,” Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director at the communications public interest group Free Press, said. “It always makes me worried about the influence of all this money and the access that this affords them to lawmakers.”

    The caucus-affiliated nonprofits, however, deny that donors receive any unusual access to members of Congress. They insist they focus on using those contributions to provide scholarships, fellowships and other opportunities to members of the African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American communities.

    “The mission of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. is to develop leaders, inform policy, and educate the public,” spokeswoman Shrita Sterlin-Hernandez said in an email. “We have been fortunate over the years to earn the support of an array of sponsors who believe in our mission and have partnered with us to achieve it. Any suggestion that our partners seek special access denigrates their contributions — and is patently false.”

    Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute spokesman Scott Gunderson Rosa said that its donors “have as much access as anybody else.” He added, “Our message, in any form, is really just about our students.”

    The Comcast executive in charge of its lobbying office in Washington said that the company has a 20-year history of making contributions to invest in communities where its employees live and called any “cynical” accusation that its donations are in the service of influence-peddling “insulting” and “inaccurate.”

    “We can be criticized for a lot of things,” Comcast’s David Cohen said, “but criticized for investing in quality internship programs and criticized for investing in quality mentoring programs, criticized for investing in programs doing cancer research in a rural state, criticized for investing in programs and getting behind them that are increasing tolerance between African-American and Jewish teenagers — you got to shake your head and say, ‘Why would anyone criticize those types of investments?'”

    Comcast and Time Warner Cable have earmarked past donations to go to internship programs and scholarships. But much of the money given to these caucus-affiliated nonprofits actually ends up paying for lavish conferences and galas that bring together the corporate and political worlds.

    Since 2008, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have contributed more than $990,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, more than $180,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, nearly $800,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, $135,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Policy and Leadership Institute, and $281,000 to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

    Lobbyists and executives for Comcast and Time Warner Cable also occupy seats on the boards and corporate advisory councils of these organizations.

    Juan Otero, a top Comcast lobbyist, sits on the boards of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.

    Another Comcast lobbyist, Earl Jones, has a seat on the corporate advisory council at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, as does Gray Global Advisors’ Justin Gray, an outside lobbyist hired by Comcast. Jones is also a “platinum member” of the Congressional Black Caucus Policy and Leadership Institute’s 21st Century Council, while Comcast’s Rudy Brioche and Time Warner Cable’s Howie Hodges both sit on the council’s executive committee.

    Comcast’s Susan Jin Davis chairs the board at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

    Torres at Free Press suggests that all these corporate connections and contributions from Comcast and Time Warner Cable have encouraged members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus to adopt pro-industry positions, which now could undermine vigorous oversight of the merger.

    “The CBC and CHC have not been the greatest champions on making sure these companies are not getting bigger and in securing the future of an open Internet,” Torres said.

    It’s true that many African-American and Hispanic lawmakers have taken pro-industry stands in the past, siding with more conservative members of the Democratic Party.

    In 2009, 72 House Democrats sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to tone down its efforts on net neutrality. Of the lawmakers signing the letter, 26 were members of either the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with the rest coming from the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

    Back in 2004, when Congress discussed the possibility of a la carte pricing for cable subscribers, Congressional Black Caucus members wrote a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that echoed industry talking points opposing the practice, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

    A 2013 report on policy prescriptions produced by the Congressional Black Caucus Policy and Leadership Institute’s 21st Century Council supports numerous pro-industry positions. In particular, it touted a Comcast program providing low-cost Internet to families with children who receive subsidized school lunches. Others, including the Roosevelt Institute and the New America Foundation, have criticized the program as designed less to provide Internet access to the underserved and more to expand the company’s consumer base.

    “Given the dynamic and complex nature of our business, we value our teams around the country who help us work constructively with policymakers at all levels of government,” said Time Warner Cable spokesman Eric Mangan. “Our partnerships also enable us to create internship programs, and support technology centers around the country where people get free access to computers and the Internet, and partake in activities like citizenship classes.”

    Torres argues, however, that lawmakers’ support for big telecom works to the detriment of low-income minority communities, who face difficulty in affording the high cost of cable and broadband Internet services. Torres said these communities would be better served if their representatives focused on increased competition to lower costs and supported net neutrality rules to ensure that people can communicate online without worrying that providers will limit their reach.

    Beyond the major donations to nonprofits linked to the minority congressional caucuses, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have also honored specific minority lawmakers with their contributions.

    Time Warner Cable gave $20,000 in September to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to honor Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and $25,000 in June to the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications for an event that honored Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Comcast NBCUniversal. Comcast has donated $170,000 to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials to honor Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (D-Fla.), among others.

    The two companies have also contributed money to nonprofits founded by members of Congress. These include $165,000 to the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, which is tied to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and $40,000 to the James E. Clyburn Research & Scholarship Foundation, which is affiliated with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

    Cummings, the ranking Democratic member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, voted in favor of net neutrality in 2011, but was also one of the Congressional Black Caucus members signing the anti-net neutrality letter to the FCC in 2010. He told The Huffington Post that he only serves as an honorary board member of the youth nonprofit and that “there is no connection between the organization” and his congressional office.

    “My role as a Member of Congress is to serve my constituents and, more broadly, the American people, and I can say unequivocally that their best interests are my only consideration with every vote I take,” Cummings said in a statement.

    Cohen, the Comcast executive, said that the company’s funding for the youth program was sparked by his personal interest based on his prior work with a similar initiative in Philadelphia and was not driven by the connection to Cummings.

  • The Way We Used To Travel: 12 Ways Travel Has Changed In The Digital Age
    Once upon a time, smartphones and tablets didn’t exist. And travel (well, life, in general) was very different. Technology has revolutionized the way we travel, in ways both good and bad.

    We’re feeling kind of nostalgic for the travel days of yore, so let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember the relics of pre-Digital Age travel…

    1. International Calling Cards were a must when traveling abroad. How else would you stay in touch with your friends and family back home?
    Now, you don’t even need to use a phone to get in touch with your family back home. Skyping over WiFi is way easier.

    2. You didn’t pay baggage fees, which is good because your carry-on was packed with all the books on your vacation “to read” list…
    stack of books
    Imagine packing those in your luggage… E-books make your bag a whole lot lighter.

    3. And all those CDs and your Discman and your Gameboy and your travel journal and your datebook took up some space, too.
    walkman cds
    Tablets for the win.

    4. When you arrived at your destination, you relied on physical maps… not a map app that helps you when you get lost.
    travel map

    5. You had to call your airline to check flights. No internet updates, no emails, no texts. Just phone calls.
    phone call landline

    6. You had to read guidebooks or chat up locals to find out the best places to eat, drink and explore.
    travel guide books
    Yelp, and the Internet in general, makes that a very different experience.

    7. Traveler’s checks. Those things don’t even exist these days.
    travelers check

    8. You lugged around a camera (or a bunch of disposables), rather than snapping thousands of pics on your smartphone.
    kodak disposable

    9. And when you got home, you developed all those rolls of film and were so excited to see your prints!
    old camera film

    10. There was an element of surprise. You didn’t know exactly what your hotel or destination would look like or the menus of the restaurants you’d eat at before you go there.
    surprise traveler

    11. You became pen pals with people you met along the way.
    writing a letter
    Now you just friend new buddies on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

    12. You never had to worry about updating your social media constantly. You didn’t need to worry about unplugging. Traveling meant freedom.

  • Opinion: How will Apple maintain usability on a larger iPhone?
    If the rumor mill is to be given any credence, Apple will be releasing an iPhone with a larger display, possibly between 4.5 and 4.8-inches, along with a larger 5.5-inch or 6-inch ‘phablet’ later this year. Although Apple has been content to run its own race historically, the rise in popularity of large Android smartphones, and the expectations of Wall Street, almost demands that Apple offers an iPhone that appeals to users who prefer larger displays. In fact, it would be more of surprise come the unveiling of the ‘iPhone 6’ if Apple were to release only another 4-inch device. Until now, Apple


Mobile Technology News, February 22, 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.

  • The Disappointing Contradictions Of WhatsApp Being Acquired By Facebook
    It’s rare to find a company in Silicon Valley that refuses to turn its users’ information into advertising revenue.

    Google, Microsoft, and Twitter all do it – the last few years have been an arms race to see who can delve deeper into your life to get you to part with your money. But the founders of WhatsApp, a smartphone messaging service that is wildly popular around the world, proudly declared they would never make their users the product. They built their brand off of this guiding philosophy and used it to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

    It appears these deep moral convictions were short-lived though. WhatsApp has just sold for a massive sum to Facebook, the company that has aggressively turned your social interactions into a revenue source. Whatever promises of autonomy the founders are giving to users right now mean little – the 450 million+ WhatsApp users are now part of the Facebook empire. The same entrepreneur who once said that ads are “insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought” is now on the board of a company that has built one of the most invasive advertising platforms in history.

    There have been some early assurances that we won’t be seeing ads on WhatsApp. However, there are also ominous warnings of a coming monetization once growth reaches a certain level.

    But ads are just one aspect of not making the user the product – it’s far more complex than what you see on your screen. Like Google, Facebook is becoming a collection of apps and services instead of a single website. Just as Google has used the Google+ social network as a tool for consolidating personal information, Facebook has been singularly focused on becoming your online identity. What you say and do in one place is sure to be analyzed for use in another – and there have been no specific promises made about collecting, sharing, and analyzing the content of messages, relationships, and financial information that WhatsApp holds.

    It’s no surprise that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would act shrewdly in the interest of his company or that a business would try to make the most amount of money it possibly can. The story behind WhatsApp is a remarkable tale of hardship, vision, and perseverance. But once the celebrating and armchair analysis are over, what is left is a cautionary tale for consumers. In the rough, fast-moving world of technology, start-ups simply don’t have the credibility anymore to tell you how your information will be used down the line. So as users, you must act accordingly.

    WhatsApp is hardly alone; throughout the industry there is a focus on short-term gain over long-term impact. Few entrepreneurs want to build brands that last anymore. Silicon Valley looks down upon those who are not trying to sell out to a corporate giant as soon as possible. Just look at the criticism that SnapChat founder Evan Spiegel received for having the “audacity” to turn down an acquisition offer from Facebook. This gets to a greater contradiction at the heart of start-up culture today: the rhetoric is all about being different while the reality is starting to resemble corporate business as usual.

    In a company blog post, WhatsApp has made one final promise: “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.” Whether that is actually true or just more marketing and spin is up for the users to decide. All they need to do is look at what happened yesterday to see what lies ahead.

    This article originally appeared on Forbes – Disruption and Democracy. Check out my upcoming book, Identified: How They Are Getting To Know Everything About Us

  • VIDEO: Recreating zero gravity on film
    Gravity’s director Alfonso Cuaron and effects house Framestore on the painstaking process of creating the film’s award-winning special effects.
  • Ukraine Protester Olesya Zhukovska Tweeted After Being Shot In Neck
    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — “I am dying,” Olesya Zhukovska, a 21-year-old volunteer medic, wrote on Twitter, minutes after she got shot in the neck by a sniper’s bullet as deadly clashes broke out in the center of the Ukrainian capital between protesters and police.

    The tweet, accompanied by a photo of her clutching her bleeding neck and being led away under fire, went viral, as social media users around the world presumed she had died and shared their grief and anger. But Zhukovska survived.

    She has become a symbol of the three-month protest of President Viktor Yanukovych’s government and a movement for closer ties with the West and human rights.

    “We stand for freedom, for our rights, for social independence, for democracy, for freedom of speech, for everything, for a normal life,” she told The Associated Press from her hospital bed in Kiev.

    Zhukovska was injured Thursday morning, when government snipers began firing at protesters on Independence Square, known as Maidan, a bastion of the demonstrations that began in November to protest Yanukovych’s decision to freeze ties with the European Union and seek financial aid from Russia.

    Scores were killed and hundreds injured in clashes this week in the deadliest violence Ukraine has seen in modern history. In the course of the protests, police have deliberately targeted journalists wearing press identification and medics labeled with white crosses, prompting an international outcry.

    Zhukovska, from a small town in western Ukraine, is a jolly paramedic with wavy dark hair and a birth mark on her right cheek. She has been volunteering as a nurse in the opposition’s sprawling tent camp on the Maidan for nearly three months, sleeping in tents, in dormitories set up in several administrative buildings seized by protesters, and in the homes of sympathetic Kiev residents.

    “I am apolitical, I am not member of any party. I am simply with the people,” a weak and pale-looking Zhukovska, her neck bandaged, told the AP. “I couldn’t watch this on TV. I had to be with the people.”

    She said she was shot as she walked around the camp with several friends. She became disoriented and thought that a grenade had exploded near her.

    “And then they told me: ‘Sweetheart, a sniper has shot you,'” Zhukovska recalled. “Then I looked at my hands and they were covered in blood, and I said, that’s it, I am dying.”

    One photo making the rounds on social media shows Zhukovska looking shocked, her eyes closed, clutching her bleeding neck and being led away by activists. As soon as she was taken to an ambulance, she said, she grabbed her phone and with fingers covered with blood, she tapped out “I am dying,” on her Vkontakte account, the local equivalent of Facebook. It is also linked to her Twitter page. Then, a doctor in the ambulance took the phone away.

    Soon, Twitter exploded with expressions of sorrow and rage, as many users feared she was dead. As of Friday night, Zhukovska’s post has generated more than 6,200 retweets. After hours of agonized waiting Thursday night, Oleh Musiy, a top medic for the protesters, told AP that Zhukovska had survived. Mykola Dyomin, head doctor at Hospital No. 17, where Zhukovska was admitted, said she has undergone surgery and should be discharged in about a week.

    “I am alive! Thank you to all those who are praying and supporting me,” she tweeted Friday. “I am in the hospital; my condition is stable for now!”

    Health Minister Raisa Bohatyryova, a top Yanukovych ally, visited the hospital where Zhukovska and scores of other injured activists were being treated Friday. She condemned violence against Zhukovska and said the government was not to blame.

    “Everything should be investigated,” she told reporters. “But if today, we as society, start assigning grades to everyone or passing personal judgments, it would be wrong, it wouldn’t be safe.”

    Bohatyryova’s words fell flat with one protester at the hospital, who shouted at her with his voice trembling with rage: “If only you knew, bitch, what I have lived through! I will never forgive you for what you did.”

    Zhukovska’s spirit was unwavering.

    “As soon as I get better, of course, I will go to the Maidan,” she said.

  • 'We Are All Barbie Girls' Illustrations By Colleen Clark Show What It Would Look Like If Dolls Represented All Women
    How great would it be if Barbie came in all dress sizes, body shapes and ethnicities?

    That’s what student and illustrator Colleen Clark thought when she was approached by Marie Claire South Africa to illustrate what a “feminist” Barbie might look like. For Clark, that meant an inclusive line-up of dolls that could represent every woman.

    “I was very inspired by the idea that feminism is as simple as accepting others and yourself unconditionally,” Clark told The Huffington Post in an email. “I wanted to make the point that ‘Feminist Barbie’ wouldn’t have just one look, style, or culture to her, because feminism should include everyone.”

    Though Barbie is in some ways a good role model for children — as Charlotte Alter at TIME pointed out, she’s had around 150 different careers — the doll’s ridiculous proportions are potentially harmful to girls’ body image.

    “I think that our continuous discussion of Barbie’s influence on girls has made her more diverse than ever, and hopefully it will only get better from here,” Clark told HuffPost.

    Check out her amazing illustrations below.

    barbie girls
    barbie girls
    barbie girls
    barbie girls

  • Mixed ruling for illegal downloaders
    A Canadian court orders a web firm to name customers accused of illegal downloads, but imposes conditions on the movie company that brought the case.
  • Most Air Travelers Support Ban Of Cell Phone Calls On Planes
    WASHINGTON (AP) — It looks like the government is more conflicted about cellphones on planes than most travelers. Even as one federal agency considers allowing the calls, another now wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    Passengers — particularly those who fly often — oppose allowing calls in flight, polls show. In line with that sentiment, the Department of Transportation signaled in a 22-page notice posted online Friday that it wants to retain a ban on the calls. But the notice comes just two months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to pursue lifting the ban. Transportation regulates aviation consumer issues. The FCC has responsibility over whether the use of cellphones in flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.

    Congress is also getting into the act. Lawmakers are pushing legislation to require transportation regulators to implement a ban on the calls.

    Echoing some travelers’ concerns, the Transportation Department said in its notice on Friday that it believes allowing passengers to make cellphone calls “may be harmful or injurious” to other passengers.

    This is because “people tend to talk louder on cellphones than when they’re having face-to-face conversations,” the department said. “They are also likely to talk more and further increase the noise on a flight, as passengers would not be simply talking to the persons sitting next to them but can call whomever they like.”

    Some planes already have seat-back phones in place, but they are rarely used, it said.

    The “concern is not about individual calls, but rather the cumulative impact of allowing in-flight calls in close quarters,” the department said.

    In an Associated Press-GfK poll three months ago, 48 percent of those surveyed opposed letting cellphones be used for voice calls while planes are in flight, while 19 percent were in favor and 30 percent were neutral. Among those who’d flown four or more times in the previous year, the rate of opposition soared to 78 percent.

    Delta Air Lines told the government last year that 64 percent of its passengers indicated that the ability to make phone calls in flight would have a negative impact on their onboard experience.

    Among the most ardent opponents of lifting the current ban are flight attendants, who worry that phone conversation will spark arguments between passengers and even acts of violence.

    “Allowing passengers to use cellphones during commercial flights will add unacceptable risks to aviation security, compromise a flight attendant’s ability to maintain order in an emergency, increase cabin noise and tension among passengers and interfere with crewmembers in the performance of their duties as first responders in the cabin,” said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents nearly 60,000 flight attendants at 19 carriers.

    The current FCC ban was adopted in 1991 based on concern the calls planes might interfere with cellular networks on the ground, but technological advances have resolved those worries. In 2005, the FCC cleared the way for airlines to begin offering Wi-Fi in flight.

    Last October, the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates safety, dropped its ban on the use of personal electronic devices such as tablets, music players and smartphones to send email, to text or to surf the Internet during takeoffs and landings. The agency said it is no longer worried the devices will interfere with cockpit electronics. However, phone calls during takeoffs and landings are still prohibited.


    Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

  • Non-Profits and Social Media: 3 Steps to Defining Your Audience


    I recently wrote about how non-profits and NGOs need a plan to guide their social media efforts. One of the first steps in that plan is determining exactly who you’re trying to reach. An understanding of your audience should drive your entire social strategy. It will help you determine your goals, messaging and tone, and help give a better understanding of social analytics.

    Step One: Determine a Social Media Target Audience

    (Hint: your social media may not always target the same audiences as your website or other marketing channels)

    Choose a group of three to six audience types and create a journey map. Really get into it. Think of the people who make up each type: who they are, what they like to do and what they may want from an organization. From there, define why they’re the target:

    • Why are they important to your social strategy?
    • What actions do you want them to take?

    Step Two: Find Out How the Target Audience Uses Social Media

    Research, research, research… and more research. The information is out there; Pew Research studies, blogs and SlideShares are all good places to start. Questions to keep in mind:

    • What actions do your audiences take?
    • What are they looking for online?
    • What are they talking about?
    • What social platforms do they use the most?
    • What are they engaging with?
    • What time of day are they most active?

    Step Three: Do Some Internal Digging

    Find out more about your current fans and followers. You may be reaching an audience that you hadn’t planned for and that can factor into your strategy. Start by determining who your influential followers are and what they have in common with followers of your peers/competitors. From there you can figure out what content they are engaging with the most. Some great tools to get a better grasp of audience demographics are:
    Twiangulate — to help find connections/overlap in followers with peers and competitors
    FollowerWonk — allows for search of Twitter bios and other graphs and demographic information
    Facebook Insights — it’s vital to keep and eye on insights as well as specific fans of your organization’s page to get an understanding of who is already in the audience
    Statigram — shows most active Instagram followers and posts

    Now What?

    Brainstorm! Consider this research as a significant piece of the overall social media strategy puzzle. Use the information you gather to inform your content strategy — if researchers are looking for facts, incorporate more infographics and stats into your tweets. If donors are seeking a behind the scenes look at your organization or results from fundraisers, make sure to include photos of your next big event or stats about how much was raised on your Facebook page.

    Non-profits and NGOs need to stop thinking like an organization and begin thinking like their constituents. In turn, these social good organizations can enhance the online experience of their constituents and more importantly their lives.

  • An Urban Librarian's Manifesto to SXSW Interactive
    2014-02-20-VectorSilhouette_Cowboy.jpg Hello from the quiet profession. Hello to all you beautiful dreamers, you benders of time and space, you visionaries of the bright technological future. We love your leaps forward, we love the things you have made possible and we love you for the barriers you will lift away in the days to come.

    We welcome you to our journey, the great shift of information and entertainment to people, every people, all the people, everywhere, for free. You create games, design communications interfaces, make work go faster and smarter. You find ways to parse data for the next generation. You make information and entertainment accessible for people.

    Librarians have been doing these same tasks for years. We give people knowledge, entertainment, skills, inspiration. We are both outlet and portal. We are the human interface on the great sum total of (wo)mankind’s knowledge and sometimes we can offer that little bit of knowledge that will save your life. If not your life than that of someone you know or someone they know or somebody nobody knows but they still found their way through our doors.

    While our image may often be dusty and bespectacled there is an innate trust in our brand. If a librarian told it to you then it is probably true. That trust can extend to your idea if you convince us that it works. Everyone can access us and most everyone trusts us. It is an amazing network to use to get the word out, your word, any word whatever word that may be.

    Libraries have always been tech friendly. We created MARC and OPAC and we did it 50 years ago. In the new paradigm, libraries are increasingly active in knowledge acquisition using direct training and resources to grow job readiness, small business growth, and personal development. We don’t just sit there and wait for people to come and pull down the knowledge to their best abilities. No, in the modern library we take an active part in training and the intellectual development of our users.

    Find a librarian at SXSW Interactive — there are going to be a lot us there. Your perceptions and expectations of the profession will be challenged. There is a good chance that the librarian you meet will be much cooler than you expect. Think about how you are going to deal with that. Open your perceptions. Show us your library card and impress us with just how wonderfully beautifully fantastically brilliant you are then let’s use that to make something and to impact our communities for the better.

    This post was originally featured on urbanlibrariansunite.org.

    Urban Librarians Unite will be presenting at SXSW. They will also be out on the streets doing mobile reference and adult storytime, find us, ask us questions, talk to us. You may be surprised by what modern librarianship is like.

  • Fitbit issues recall of popular fitness tracker Force, cites concern about rash, suspends sales
    At iMedicalApps we’ve been covering the issues related to the Fitbit Force causing a rash for a few weeks now. When we published a review comparing the Jawbone UP24 to the Fitbit Force, it was met with several comments from readers stating how they were starting to develop a rash from the Force. We followed it up with an article focusing on the rash, and we wrote how we felt the Fitbit Force’s rash problem was more widespread than people […]
  • The Real Reason Facebook Bought WhatsApp
    Like a line from The Social Network, Facebook is acquiring WhatsApp for $16 billion or so (you wanna know what’s cool?). You may have seen the news bit.

    Let’s put it in some perspective. I’ve analyzed M&A since 1994, every major Internet deal, IPO and more. Some are guppy and some are whale. When whales mate there’s an unmistakeable bumping sound that even the Kazakhstan Navy picks up, a slap of thunder.

    Remember Woodstock? Well, maybe not because most of us were not born or were wee toddlers back then. But you know what it is, right? If not here’s the history: It was the 3-day love fest in upper New York state where throngs gathered to see each other naked while listening to Jimi Hendrix experiment with guitar and chemistry (that’s my edited Wikipedia version of it anyway).

    Well, think of Facebook as the place, the farm near Woodstock. A place. Why go there?


    WhatsApp is a band, like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

    Because Facebook’s biggest hole, biggest weakness (even for a company generating billions in revenue) is a reason to use it.

    Imagine Woodstock without the music. No naked bodies and no dreams of peace and love. Just an echo of farm animals (animal farm?).

    This will continue to be Facebook’s weakness. Why use it? It’s one reason with my new stealth mode venture HAPN (sign up for beta hapn.info) we focus 100% on the “why use it” factor. The core center value proposition has to be there.

    Connecting friends is great but not enough. That idea played well in 2005-2010 or so.

    So Facebook is smart to branch out via these acquisitions, acquire diversity of experience. Especially with its stock trading high, the currency is there to knock down these deals.

    And yes, we’ve seen these movies before. Yahoo made many mistakes along the way but NOT acquiring companies when it traded in the $150 BILLION market capitalization range. Facebook is not making that mistake. So far.

    In terms of valuation, Facebook is paying what looks like 30x revenue for WhatsApp, more like 15x two years out. Three years out looks even better, maybe 8x or so. Everyone laughed when Google bought YouTube in what was then an “absurd” price. But now YouTube is the place where most teens go for video, music, TV and more.

    So Zuckerberg is smart. First Instagram and now WhatsApp. What’s next? I bet more. Lots of acts (small and large) must fill the stage called Facebook for it to be a success longer term. Peace, love, web and roll.

  • 10 Surprisingly Sturdy Items For Your Home Even You Can't Break (PHOTOS)
    We’ve all been there. You’re hosting a dinner party and the gorgeous glass pitcher crashes to the ground. Or your kids bumped into your favorite lamp while playing in the house (which you’ve told them not to do a million times).

    We feel your pain. That’s why we’ve rounded up these 10 items that look every bit the part of their higher-priced, more fragile friends but will survive a lot longer than the average thing you’d pick up as a replacement. Because everyday chaos happens — but that doesn’t mean you have to trade style for practicality.

    The Mushroom Lamp
    As demonstrated at the imm Cologne and Maison & Objet 2014 furniture and trade shows in Paris, the lamp gently rocks from side to side after being knocked over until it comes to rest in a standing position, where it puts “normal” light fixtures everywhere to shame.

    Menu Rubber Vase
    rubber vase

    Acrylic Stemless Wine Glass
    wine glass

    Acrylic Pitcher

    Polycarbonate Rocks Glass
    rocks glass

    Vivaldi Collins Glass

    Pedestal Bowl
    pedestal bowl

    Acrylic Dinnerware

    Outdoor Dish Sets
    more dinnerware

    And, of course, this chair

    Have something to say? Check out HuffPost Home on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.


    Do you have a home story idea or tip? Email us at homesubmissions@huffingtonpost.com. (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)

  • Fitbit Recalls Fitbit Force After Complaints Of Severe Rashes
    Fitbit has recalled its popular activity-tracking wristband, the Fitbit Force, after a number of customers complained of serious skin rashes, blisters and peeling skin after wearing the device.

    Fitbit announced on Friday that it has stopped selling the Force and is recalling all previously sold Fitbit Forces, which have been on the market for just four months. After The Huffington Post and others last month reported customer complaints of severe skin irritation, Fitbit hired independent labs and medical experts to test the devices. They found the device caused skin problems for 1.7 percent of wearers. Fitbit will refund Fitbit Force owners the full retail value of their devices.

    “On behalf of the entire Fitbit team, I want to apologize to anyone affected,” CEO James Park said in an open letter to customers.

    Fitbit has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the public’s growing appetite for “wearable” devices to monitor physical well-being. Startups like Fitbit and Jawbone, along with established players such as Nike and Samsung, have competed to sell wristbands and clip-on devices that can track such data as calories burned and hours slept.

    Fitbit leads the pack in wearable bands, selling more wristbands than any other company during the second half of 2013, according to analysts at Canalys.

    In an email, the company said that skin irritation was likely the result of an allergic reaction to “materials” in the device. After apologizing and offering a refund to affected customers last month, Fitbit said the rashes and peeling skin may have been caused by sensitivity to the device’s elastic band, to nickel in its stainless steel or to bacteria that may accumulate on the band.

  • Comcast, Time Warner Cable To Face 'Monopsony' Claims In Antitrust Case
    By David Ingram
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – If U.S. antitrust enforcers decide to challenge the proposed $45 billion merger of Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc, it may be because of an idea with a funny-sounding name that has been gaining currency in government offices.
    The idea is monopsony power, the mirror image of the better-known monopoly power but a concept that is just as old.
    A monopoly is one seller with many buyers, while a monopsony (pronounced muh-NOP-suh-nee) is one buyer with many sellers. A textbook example is a milk processor that is the only option for dairy farmers to sell to, and that then forces farmers to sell for less.
    The U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is all but certain to examine the potential monopsony power, or buying power, that a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have over media companies that provide TV programming, according to lawyers with expertise in antitrust law.
    The combined company would have a near 30 percent share of the U.S. pay television market, Comcast has said, as well as be a major provider of broadband Internet access.
    “It’s a potential concern,” said Maurice Stucke, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer who is now a University of Tennessee professor and of counsel at the law firm GeyerGorey.
    “It’s not as much in the limelight as monopoly, but monopsony has always been part of the antitrust laws,” he said.
    Monopsony concerns tend to have a lower profile because they may not directly affect consumers. The harm to the market comes if suppliers go out of business, which reduces society’s overall output, or if suppliers have less money to invest in new technology, equipment and expansion.
    Consumers may even benefit from monopsony if a company cuts its prices, although the savings are not always passed along. In the case of Comcast-Time Warner Cable, it could be argued that a more powerful pay TV operator may be able to lower fees if it can negotiate lower programming costs with the TV studios.
    “It’s a monopsony problem when it threatens to decrease output. If all it does is reduce cost, it’s a good thing,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a University of Iowa law professor.
    He added: “Monopsony is one of those things that is frequently claimed and rarely proven.”
    Princeton University economist Paul Krugman criticized the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in a February 15 post on his New York Times blog titled, “Monopsony Begets Monopoly, And Vice Versa.”
    Comcast “is able to extract far more favorable deals from content providers than smaller rivals,” Krugman wrote. “And if it’s allowed to acquire (Time Warner Cable), it will be even more advantaged.”
    Others say it is hard to see how a media conglomerate like Walt Disney Co, or even smaller content providers, would feel much pain from slightly lower payments or from one fewer way to distribute shows.
    “Given the rapidly increasing number of avenues for distributing content, I think that’s far-fetched,” said Jeffrey Eisenach, an economic consultant who has done work for Comcast in the past but is not working on the merger.
    Asked about the possibility of a monopsony challenge, a spokeswoman for Comcast pointed to a 2009 federal appeals court ruling that said there was “overwhelming evidence” that the communications marketplace was competitive. The ruling threw out a regulation designed to limit market share among companies such as Comcast to 30 percent.
    “Today there are even more types of video competition than when the court threw out the case,” Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice wrote in an email.
    She said TV networks can distribute their programs to consumers in many ways, such as DirecTV’s satellite service or Verizon’s FiOS video service. There are also video streaming sites, such as Netflix and Hulu.
    Antitrust experts said Comcast and Time Warner Cable may be able to address some government concerns by extending the terms of a settlement that Comcast signed with the Justice Department in 2011 to secure approval to buy NBC Universal. For instance, Comcast promised to make programming, such as cable news channel CNBC, available to competing pay-TV companies.
    Review of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal is expected to take several months. Either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission will examine it for antitrust compliance, while the Federal Communications Commission will rule on whether it is in the public interest.
    The antitrust standard is whether the deal would substantially lessen competition. If government lawyers believe it would, they could sue in federal court. Sometimes even the threat of a suit is enough to scuttle a deal.
    Monopsony has been getting more attention within the Justice Department. A senior staff economist, Gregory Werden, wrote a paper in 2007 arguing that the original U.S. antitrust law, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, was designed to protect sellers as well as end-user consumers.
    In 2010, the department drew attention to monopsony concerns when it released revised guidelines for corporations considering mergers. The guidelines replaced a document from 1997 and included an expanded discussion of monopsony.
    When suppliers do not have “numerous attractive outlets for their goods or services,” the two agencies “may conclude that the merger of competing buyers is likely to lessen competition in a manner harmful to sellers,” the guidelines said.
    Wal-Mart Stores Inc has routinely faced criticism that it has monopsony power because of its ability to drive down the prices it pays suppliers. But the retail giant’s defenders say there is little evidence that suppliers are hurt, and Wal-Mart’s low prices for customers also make it popular.
    Monopsony is most often an issue in agriculture.
    In 1999, the Justice Department feared that Cargill Inc’s plan to acquire part of Continental Grain Co would concentrate the market for buying corn, soybeans and wheat, and it approved the acquisition only after the global commodities trader agreed to sell off grain elevators.
    The Justice Department sued in 2008 to block the combination of two of the top four U.S. beef packers, JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co, saying it would have hurt both cattle suppliers and consumers. The companies abandoned the deal four months later.
    In the context of the pay TV market, a key question is how a channel would fare if it were not carried by a merged Comcast-Time Warner Cable.
    “If you’re told you can’t reach 30 percent of a potential market, how significant is that for a competitor who wants to produce? That’s a technical question,” said Peter Carstensen, a University of Wisconsin law professor.
    “You’ve got to put the data together. You’ve got to come up with a plausible story, with witnesses, with the econometrics, to make that case,” he said, “and whether that can be done convincingly, I don’t know.”
    (Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Howard Goller and Tiffany Wu)
  • Elders Try Flappy Bird With Hilarious Results (VIDEO)
    Flappy Bird is hard enough for millenials, but imagine if you didn’t grow up with computer games?

    In TheFineBros latest installment of their “Elders React” series, the comedy team sat a group of elders down in front of the latest gaming craze Flappy Bird.

    The game, which made waves for both its simplicity and its difficulty, has recently been taken down. Previously, it was available in Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google play store.

    Apparently, the people downloading the game onto their mobile devices weren’t much different than the elders playing it for TheFineBros — they also found it horribly frustrating.

    “This is torture, you know?” one woman said.

    “I hate this and I hate you guys!” another exclaimed.

    Watch the video to see more!

  • Forums: Larger iPads? Yea or nay?
    This week in the MacNN Forums, members debate the practicality of larger iPads in the thread titled “What would a larger iPad really be good for?” which was started by Mac Elite “PeterParker,” who wondered if iPads portability is actually its best feature. In the thread titled “iMessage black hole” Mac Elite “abbaZaba” was trying to figure out why it was that when people switched from an iPhone to a phone running Android, messages sent from iMessage would seem to get lost — and they wondered if fellow forum-goers had a similar experience.


  • Apps released after publication of 2013 ACC/AHA guidelines offer insights into future opportunities
    Here we look at the apps released around these major guidelines, searching for insights on how apps are being used to implement practice recommendations.
  • 5 Reasons Your Company's Mobile Recruitment Strategy Is Failing
    Mobile technology has completely changed the job search and hiring process. Whereas candidates once sat at a computer to job search, recruiters now have to deal with a slew of candidates who are passively job searching as they browse their iPad or check their smartphone throughout the day.

    Plenty of companies have developed mobile recruitment strategies to adapt to this change in candidate behavior. In fact, 33 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adapted their career sites for mobile devices.

    But optimizing a career site for mobile devices isn’t the only thing companies need to do to drive mobile recruitment. If your company has done this but still isn’t seeing an improvement in hiring volume or quality of candidates, it may be a sign your mobile recruitment strategy has holes.

    Here are five reasons your mobile recruitment strategy be failing, no matter the size of your organization:

    You aren’t focusing on passive candidates. Your mobile recruitment strategy doesn’t just mean optimizing your career site for mobile devices — it means attracting candidates who may not even be on the job search in the first place. Try inbound marketing techniques like adding regular blog content, social media updates and contests, mobile-optimized YouTube videos, or SEO landing pages to draw in potential candidates. These techniques offer a backwards approach to getting candidate eyes on your job openings.

    You haven’t checked the time. On average, people look at their mobile devices in the morning between the time they wake up and when they get to work or class — between 6:30 and 9:15am. They check their devices again during lunch, between 11:45am and 2:20pm, and finally, from 4:30 to 9:45pm. Think of it this way: people used to take smoke breaks during work — now, they take Facebook breaks. Your mobile recruitment strategy should anticipate job candidates will be searching during these times in order to respond to postings in a timely manner.

    You’re silent. Uncertainty can be expected in the job search process, but job candidates don’t like to be ignored — they want to be kept in the loop as to the status of their application or resume. If your mobile recruitment strategy doesn’t include live-manning social media or an online talent network to answer candidate questions, job seekers may come away with a negative perception of your company. Your team should be living in online and mobile channels during the times mentioned above and live-manning social media feeds, email accounts, or incoming messages.

    Your mobile sites are too messy. Perhaps your company has attempted to reach passive candidates with blog posts or webinars. This is a great strategy, but it won’t work if your content isn’t optimized for retargeting or easy bookmarking. Remember, you don’t have a candidate’s full attention on a mobile device — often, they’re checking these devices during a commute, on a bus, or while sitting in front of the TV. They may not have time to watch a webinar or read a lengthy blog post, so make it easy for them to come back to this content on the Web later.

    Your process lags. If your mobile recruitment process relies on asking candidates to complete the next steps of their job search away from your site, like checking LinkedIn for job openings or switching to a new webpage to apply, it’s too complicated and you’ll lose interest. Consider using software to ensure the process is seamless on their mobile devices. Look for social recruiting software that allows companies to mobilize their employees to help with referrals and curate talent networks via automation. Software like this can ensure your recruitment process doesn’t leave any holes.

    Creating a solid mobile recruitment strategy for your company means paying attention to minute details. Follow these tips for fine-tuning your process, and watch your new hires soar.

    Kes Thygesen is the co-founder and head of product at RolePoint, a complete social recruiting suite that provides unrivaled access and reach to quality job candidates. Connect with him and RolePoint on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • The Story Behind That Insane Shanghai Tower Climb

    The insane YouTube video of Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov swept across the interwebs this week, inducing vertigo everywhere. Not only was a stomach-dropping video produced, but some pretty jaw-dropping point of view photos as well. We corresponded with Vadim Makhorov, one half of Team ‘ontheroofs’.

    Hi Vadim, thanks for taking the time! The video of your climb is crazy, but it’s not the first you’ve ever done. What made you so interested in climbing these landmarks?

    Yes, we do have a lot of videos. We started shooting them ever since we climbed the Moscow Bridge in Kiev. We climbed to the pylon right by the cables that time. The video got more than 1.5 million views.

    We climb to the top of buildings to see the city from an unusual angle. But this is just a small part of what we do.

    Are you particularly proud of this one?

    No. How can you be proud of climbing somewhere high? I think only professional mountaineers can be proud of their ascents.

    What sparked your interest in photography?

    I started taking photos four years ago. It was completely random. I just took a few shots with a camera phone and I liked it, so I bought a camera and off we go.

    Is photography a hobby or a profession?

    There’s a saying that the best hobby is the one that also feeds you. That applies here.

    Do you plan out your climbs and shoots before you do them? What goes into planning it?

    Yes, we do plan them. Every time it’s different. It’s hard to say what goes into planning. We wouldn’t be too happy if other people followed in our footsteps. It’s extremely dangerous.

    What were you feeling during your first climb?

    Unsurprisingly, I felt complete delight. You could see the whole city, and the people below me looked like ants.

    Are you ever afraid of getting caught by the police?

    Nope, we are not afraid. ‘Hunting season’ is open on us. Not because we have broken the law, but because our actions had a public outcry. The police don’t like it when something goes against their rule book.

    What equipment do you take with you on your shoots?

    I’ve been shooting with Canon5D Mark III, Canon 70-200 4L, 17-40 4L. Vitaly shoots with exactly the same lenses, but Canon 6D camera instead.

    Do you do any other type of photography?

    Yes, we not only take photos from the roof tops, but also underground. We do take a lot of photos during our travels, but that’s mostly for ourselves. I also shoot a lot of industrial shoots – factories and such.

    How did you find out about 500px and what do you like about it?

    It was a while ago, when 500px was just getting started. I signed up for an account at the time when you needed a promo code to get access. I wasn’t active in the beginning because I thought that my photos were not worthy of being on the site.

    I like 500px because you can see really great photos there. The same cannot be said about other photo sharing sites, especially Russian ones.

    You guys are heroes now. What are your plans for the future?

    Plans for the future? I’d love to continue to travel, and don’t stop at the current progress. But apart from the travel plans we have lots of ideas. We are keeping them discreet, but you’ll find out about them in the due course.

    Owls. Yay or Nay?

    I wonder why this is a traditional question for you? I’m pretty neutral to owls.

    What are your thoughts on rooftopping? Daring or dangerous?

  • The Egonomics of Clout (Klout): Don't Let Ego Outrank Your Influence in Business
    Before we begin. Yes, I spelt Clout correctly!

    The dictionary definition of ‘clout’ reads: a heavy blow with the hand or a hard object or “a clout round the ear.”

    Else it refers to an influence or power, especially in politics or business such as “I knew she carried a lot of clout.”

    Clout v Klout

    Your initial grammatical skepticism is, however, understood and is symbiotic of the new social language of business and marketing in a digital age powered by social influence.

    Last week news broke that Lithium Technologies was to acquire ‘Klout’, a business that focuses on analyzing who is influential in social media, and a term more synonymous with digital savvy marketers — for a fee reported to be at least $100 million. It is no surprise that technology and vanity = money. Note: I like what Klout is doing, but more on that later.

    Both humans and brands in this day and age are largely vain and egotistical beings, spending considerable amounts of time improving our collective online appearance and worrying about what others think of us. The rampant rise of social media, proliferation of online personas and image crafting has no doubt only fueled these flames. But when does vanity become ego and ego become egotistical? When do brands cross a line? And are new media ‘ego-metrics’ of influence actually useful to your business? The answer, I believe, lies below:

    Vanity Marketing and Ego-metrics

    For years now marketers have used vanity as a brand-building tactic in comparison to traditional product marketing. The focus here was on the individual. Combine this with the aspirational qualities of said brand and this manifests into an altogether more enlightening, experiential brand appeal. You no longer owned a product, you became a brand.

    Nike is a great example of ego focused branding. The product actually comes second as marketing is focused around the user, a user who achieves great things, a user who is on a path to self-betterment and that just so happens to be using Nike products while doing so.

    With Nike, you don’t so much need the product to succeed. The consumer uses the product because they succeed. They “Just do it.”

    Photo courtesy of Nike

    Recently Nike’s vanity marketing came head-to-head with ego defined, a certain Kanye West, culminating in a newsworthy clash of egos. While on stage as part of his latest sellout tour, superstar rapper Kanye West led a six minute long rant about his failed celebrity endorsement with the brand.

    “Even though Nike wouldn’t take his call, other forward-thinking companies will.”

    Taking this well documented fall out between ego (aka Kanye West) and the [was] Nike relationship, it is clear to see how the lines between vanity marketing, influence and endorsement have blurred.

    The Ego v The Egotist

    The line between the ego and the egotist is a fine one. Whilst ego can be viewed as a philosophy of introspection, self-awareness and pride, egotism can be viewed as self centered, arrogant and result in narcissism. It is fine for any business, brand or individual to have ego. We are human and have feeling of pride and self worth. However the fine line between being viewed as ‘proud’ or as ‘boastful and arrogant’ is tight. It’s a well-trodden path, that arguably in recent times many brands have crossed.

    This battle of ego v’s egotist can act in a multitude of ways: both invoking support and developing affinity for a brand or distancing you entirely, whether purposefully or not.

    Grey Poupon’s recent brand overhaul plays on their once strong brand ego in a satirical sense. They purposefully pull no punches, if you don’t know enough about the product you simply don’t cut the mustard.


    Another example is shown by U.S. clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch. Their policy for actively only hiring good looking people (so it seems) and even making them stand around in their stores topless allows us to question this further.

    Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features

    Technology, Social and Ego-metrics

    This phenomenon may have been born out of this rise in marketers attempting to grade influence, joining the ever-increasing requirement for brands to define this. To develop and encourage the adoption of these ego-metrics to feed their own ego, and incite headlines that see them included in lists of “most influential brand” or “widest social reach”.

    Many social platforms themselves thrive on ego and vanity, the burning desire for individuals to tell people exactly what they’re doing at this exact moment in time, or posting pictures of their lunch. However when brands replicate this behavior wander too far past the line, it moves them away from proud or self-aware, to downright arrogant and narcissistic.

    This is no less why many ego based technology tools exist in the first place. Through developing a variety of influence-orientated metrics, this ultimately enables brands to position their influence [read: ego] against their competitors. They consider these ‘ego-metrics’ as part of their core marketing KPIs, utilizing vanity based figures to help them thrive on their ego and set them apart from others.

    The Black Market of Influence

    This focus on influence metrics has inevitably caused an increase in attempting to game them. Ego, it seems, also belongs to the stakeholders whose jobs are defined (and appraised) by these influence metrics. The currency of social influence can be seen through multiple companies offering Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube views at a cost, just Google ‘buy Facebook likes’ to see for yourself.

    Not long ago did stories orientated on ‘like’ or ‘click farming’ start hitting the headlines and, reminiscent of the old days of SEO, like ‘exchanges’ are also getting relatively widely discussed. This inevitably caused the major social networks to set out on a mission to protect their own ego, by attempting to uncover false or duplicate accounts and clamp down on this kind of activity. But the process of commoditizing influence had already started, and the demand was very real.

    Suffice to say, partaking in any of these activities ultimately means that you’re diluting your audience in a quest for quantitative, ego-driven influence metrics. You’re not an influencer; you’re a ego-driven fake. And what’s worse is you’re investing in your own ignorance. If there were ever an ROI (in this case Return on Ignorance) you’d be scoring highly indeed.

    Ego and Influence

    The key difference between ego by quantity and ego by quality is that the latter has a focus based on merit. This merit defines your clout, in the very true sense of the word.
    Don’t forget that, much like any form of genuine interaction with your consumers, there is no short cut, no get out of jail free card.

    We should not forget here that that social platforms themselves thrive on ego and vanity, the burning desire for individuals to tell people exactly what they’re doing at this exact moment in time, or posting pictures of their lunch. However when brands replicate this behavior, they wander too far past the line and it moves them away from proud or self-aware, to downright arrogant and narcissistic.

    Real influence has to be earned, and when you consider whether or not you are actively influencing your customer, then think of the end-user and focus on the recipient. If you’re struggling to envision this (because you bought your way to 100,000 Twitter followers) then your question already has an answer.

    This is less of a case of influence and more one of an over inflated ego. To paraphrase John Hall (Influence & Co), the focus should be on being meaningful vs. reaching an audience.

    Content Clout

    Real influence should be directly correlated to pure quality content and not by social votes that can be bought, exchanged or listed subjectively.

    Klout, now matter how imperfect some may say it is, does actually look at influence by value and quality influenced by merit. The future of real qualitative influence will go one step further using quality content as part of the new influencer equation.

    Quality content is a key catalyst in the formation of influence. Klout is now aiming to present content from others that can be shared. This new type of content curation ties into the user’s social graph giving them the ability to view and share content content that resonates/influences them.

    Don’t Let Ego Outrank Influence

    Ultimately the game hasn’t changed here and ego and vanity marketing is here to stay. There is a fine line to tread, but if you create great enough content, marketing then it will do more than just empty your shelves. It will develop your clout as a brand, captivating your customers’ imaginations. It will embody their aspirations and align them alongside you and your brand vision, defining your brand perception. Developing your ego with theirs. Utilizing their influence and social reach to leverage your return on influence.

    However, don’t succumb to the mistakes commonly made by many attempting to grade influence through volume-based, un-scientific and crude measurements such as follower counts. Influence does not equal follower count. Vanity metrics are not always the right metrics and are sometimes dangerously misleading. Use them at your peril.

    End Note

    There exists an entire generation now that are digitally enabled, comfortable and most importantly, vocal. Stay focused, humble, empathetic and understanding when your customers always in sight and earshot when you’re conducting your marketing activity. Focus on quality of content to avoid some of the misleading vanity metrics that people throw your way. Focus on genuine influence. Klout is actually heading in the right direction.

Mobile Technology News, February 21, 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.

  • Google Street View Captures Remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands For First Time
    Want to visit America’s largest conservation area? Tough luck: the massive Papahanaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which includes most of the northwestern Hawaiian islands, is closed to the public.

    But, as we all know, Google specializes in making private things public, and for once, we’re very grateful.

    Last July, lucky staffers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent a week in the conservation area with Google Street View Trekker equipment. The thousands of images they captured across five remote islands (Tern Island, East Island, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, and Pearl and Hermes Atoll), were recently made public, allowing folks like us to finally witness even a smidgen of the untouched sites’ beauty and wonder.

    Papahanaumokuākea (learn to pronounce it here) encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean — an area, Hawaii magazine points out, that is larger than all of the National Park Serivice’s sites combined.

    Its coral reefs are home to thousands of marine animals, including many endangered species, and the picturesque beaches see 22 different species of birds. The area was declared a cultural World Heritage Site as well as a natural one because of its significance in Hawaiian culture.

    The five newly mapped islands lie about 550 to 1200 miles northwest of Honolulu.

    Click each island name below to check them out for yourself:

    Tern Island
    tern island

    Pearl and Hermes Atoll
    pearl and hermes atoll

    Lisianski Island
    lisianski island

    East Island
    east island

    Laysan Island
    laysan island

    (h/t Hawaii Magazine)

  • Meg Whitman: Traditional PCs drive growth, not just tablets
    HP CEO says PC market contraction is slowing and customers need more than just a tablet for ‘real work.’
  • Google unveils 3D sensor smartphone
    Google unveils a prototype smartphone with “customised hardware and software” that enables it to create 3D maps of a user’s surroundings.
  • VIDEO: Xiaomi takes on smartphone rivals
    China’s Xiaomi is not yet a global name, but the smartphone maker is now hoping to expand beyond its native China. Puneet Pal Singh speaks to Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra.
  • WhatsApp CEO Is Against Whatever Facebook Is For
    Mark Zuckerberg may be Facebook friends with the guys whose company he just bought for $19 billion. But by all indications, Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s CEO and Facebook’s newest board member, just doesn’t like Facebook very much.

    Koum’s Facebook profile is sparse by comparison with most, with airtight privacy settings that keep strangers from viewing his friends, his photos and his interests. His Facebook profile picture is as blank as they come: It’s a plain, white square.

    When asked in a 2012 interview with The Recapp to name his favorite apps other than WhatsApp, Koum listed just three: “On my iPhone 3GS, I use Instagram, Twitter and Touch,” he said.

    Facebook, the company that just made Koum a billionaire several times over, is notably absent from that list.

    The portrait of Koum that emerges from his interviews and social media posts over the past several years is that of a company founder who jealously guards his privacy and staunchly rejects both data collection and mobile advertising — values that clash with the core principles on which Facebook is built.

    WhatsApp was created around the premise that it should collect as little information about the people using its service as possible. This commitment grew out of Koum’s personal experience with intrusive government surveillance during his childhood in the Ukraine, where he saw friends and dissidents punished for private speech. Though Facebook is certainly no totalitarian regime, the company does track each message that passes through its servers. Koum emphasized how different this model is from WhatsApp’s in an interview with Wired just before the acquisition.

    “I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on,” Koum said. “People need to differentiate us from companies like Yahoo! and Facebook that collect your data and have it sitting on their servers. We want to know as little about our users as possible. We don’t know your name, your gender… We designed our system to be as anonymous as possible.”

    Koum has stressed in previous interviews that he seeks to keep his personal life and his business affairs private, while Facebook prefers to have us make our lives an open book. Koum’s Facebook profile could almost pass for a spam account, though it’s the only “Jan Koum” who is friends with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, and the account is an administrator of the WhatsApp Facebook group. Koum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Koum has also been an outspoken critic of online advertising, arguing that it intrudes on what he considers the intimate space of a smartphone and is quickly forgotten. Facebook, of course, draws most of its revenue from brands that pay to reach its more than 1 billion members.

    “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need,” Koum tweeted in 2011, quoting a line from the movie Fight Club.

    Koum and Acton have said publicly that they oppose data tracking, another favorite practice of Facebook that undergirds its core business.

    “Everything is tied to our rejection of advertising,” Koum told El Pais in 2012. “We worked for a long time at Yahoo! and when we left we decided to create something that would have nothing to do with this model where the user is the product — something that would be a more conscious, private experience.”

    The difference between the values of Koum and those of Facebook is hardly bad news for the company. If anything, it may be to Facebook’s advantage — and its members’ — to have a strong advocate for privacy and anonymity in the upper echelons of the social network. And the timing is especially fortuitous for Facebook, which faces growing competition from apps like Snapchat that lets users, and their messages, disappear.

    Whether Koum’s principles will be made to disappear within Facebook, however, is another matter entirely.

  • How to Find Someone's Secret Hangups by Looking at Their Profile Photo

    Image by freeparking (Flickr), CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    You are judged by your appearance. Fully aware of this reality, you dress and style yourself accordingly (whether you care to admit this or not). What you might not realize is how often you are judged by your online appearance — namely your social media profile photos. Even if you have only the most rudimentary of online presences, your chosen avatars may get more views (and judgment) than your actual face.

    My interest in the revelatory nature of profile photos piqued after I kicked off ArtCorgi, a site that makes it easy to commission original, personalized art from up-and-coming artists. Many people commission social media profile images and avatars through our site as part of a concerted effort to take ownership of (and control) the way they come across online. The images they commission reflect their values, their interests and their best attributes.

    I found myself wondering if profile images are something that require more thought and careful presentation. And I realized that they do. Whether in the midst of email correspondence, Twitter and Facebook chatting, or online background checking, people are judging your online profile photos — and they might be saying more about you than you’d like.

    The Maslow’s Need Hierarchy of Profile Photos

    One way to look at online avatars is through the perspective of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that ranks human psychological needs from the most fundamental to the most refined and developed.

    By Factoryjoe, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Those who are barely functioning in society are stuck with needs at the bottom of the pyramid; those who are thriving pursue those at the top. People find it difficult to focus on more refined needs when their basic needs are not met (so even very successful and self-aware people can find themselves mentally plunked back to the bottom of the hierarchy when they feel they’re in danger or are incredibly hungry).

    Conveniently, Maslow’s needs can be seen pretty clearly in many individuals’ profile photos, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter cover photos, and pictorial updates. Let’s explore them.

    Physiological Needs

    The physiological needs associated with Maslow’s hierarchy have to do with basic everyday needs: air, food, water, sleep and sex.

    These needs shine through in those ever-popular profile and social media photos depicting subjects with hot girls/guys. They can also be seen in profile photos in which the subject is posing with food (or perhaps just showcasing the food alone).

    You may think that frequent online food photo posters might just really like food, but some psychologists suggest that the behavior may be associated with eating disorders (both associated with being overweight and underweight). Disorder or not, those touting sex and food in their social media profiles are communicating their strong desire to have physiological needs met.

    Safety Needs

    Per Maslow’s hierarchy, safety needs are associated with a desire for security, physical safety, employment, health, property and family.

    Profile photos particularly revelatory of these needs include those touting personal wealth (showing off big purchases, nice houses or expensive vacations) fancy jobs (tradeshows, important meetings, etc.) and fitness (running marathons, biking and showing off nice muscles). Those showing off their various forms of security may be revealing their heavy orientation around that particular need.


    The love/belonging needs associated with Maslow’s hierarchy address family, friendship and sexual intimacy.

    Surely you can name several friends whose profile photos feature not just themselves, but themselves ensconced alongside a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter or pet. Those who mostly post photos of themselves with the ones they love (or just the ones they love) may be quite likely to be caught up on this rung of the hierarchy.


    Maslow’s take on esteem relates to gaining others’ respect, achieving great things, being self-confident and getting along well with others.

    Nothing screams a need for esteem like a profile photo featuring the subject speaking on stage (surely you’ve seen the token TED Talk headshot floating around on more than a small handful of profiles). Other profile photos suggesting esteem needs include those depicting impressive feats (e.g. the subject climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or receiving an award) and being surrounded by smiling friends and colleagues. Esteem needs might also be reflected in the presentation of images other than oneself in a profile photo: the use of images touting causes, showcasing celebrities or depicting a favorite fictional character communicate an individual’s desire to be associated with a certain group or movement.


    Self-actualization involves reaching the pinnacle of one’s ability: accepting facts, abandoning prejudice, acting in a moral manner, solving problems and becoming creative and spontaneous.

    The profile photos of self-actualized people are amongst the most difficult to pin. The most common behavior amongst those considered to be self-actualized (successful leaders, CEOs, etc.) is to post straight-on headshots. This could have just as much to do with these people having professional headshots done for other purposes and designated teams managing their online appearances as it has to do with their supposed enlightenment. But if one is at peace with oneself and focused on higher goals, is a straightforward headshot not the most logical thing to use for an image that is supposed to depict… well… a straightforward headshot?

    Think Through Your Online Image

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is simply one of many psychological theories and by no means a universally-accepted means by which people’s psychological needs can be placed. That said, it doesn’t hurt to take time to consider what your profile photo says about your interests, needs and values, and Maslow’s hierarchy offers a simple structure to use.

    I encourage you to evaluate your present online avatars (and other social media photos) to determine if they line up with the identity you wish to project.

    When in doubt: get a nice headshot!

  • Domain shift sends cyber world dotty
    How new top-level web domain names will transform business
  • Amazon Prime Pricing: A Sensitive Subject
    Churn Data Belies Intent to Renew Memberships
    Loyalty Depends on Video, Other Factors

    Consumer Intelligence Research Partners released new survey analysis of member loyalty and price sensitivity of Amazon Prime members from Amazon, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). This analysis indicates that Prime membership is growing even as customers already cancel memberships at a higher-than-expected rate, and a price increase could dampen membership growth.

    Based on our survey analysis, we estimate that as of February 7, 2014 Amazon had approximately 26.9 million Amazon Prime members, an increase from our estimate of 16.7 million as of September 30, 2013. Amazon Prime members account for 45% of all Amazon customers (see chart). Among Amazon buyers, 32% are not and never have been Amazon Prime members, while 23% previously had a Prime membership that they did not renew.

    Amazon Customer Prime Membership Status


    Almost a quarter of Amazon buyers in the survey period had a Prime membership, but let it lapse. One way to look at this is that Amazon Prime is not for everyone, but trying out Amazon Prime is for almost everyone. About three-quarters of those that did not renew their membership did so because of cost.

    Among Amazon Prime members, almost all intend to renew their current membership at the current $79 price. 94% of survey subjects “definitely” or “probably” will renew their membership (see chart).

    Intent to Renew Amazon Prime


    CIRP also checked the renewal intent at the proposed $99 and $119 prices, and found dramatically different results. At $99, under half of subjects think will either definitely or probably renew. And at $119, 40% of subjects say they will definitely not renew their membership.

    Frequent use of Amazon Prime free Instant Video seems to be the most powerful lever to promote loyalty. Among frequent users of the Amazon Prime Free Streaming Video service, defined as those that use it at least once a week, 100% say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew their Amazon Prime membership, assuming the current price. At $99, 69% of frequent video users say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew, and at $119, 29% say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew.

    Amazon has created a set of loyal customers using both free shipping and free streaming video benefits of Amazon Prime. Yet it seems that even these dedicated customers have their limits, and a 50% price increase to $119 could push a significant portion of them away from Amazon Prime.

    CIRP based these findings on its survey of 300 subjects who made a purchase at Amazon.com in the three-month period ending February 7, 2014.

    For additional information, please contact CIRP.

  • Barclay's analyst downgrades AAPL on growth worries
    There is a tendency among analysts to think of Apple as only “the iPhone maker” and ignore its other products and services, feeling that the fortunes of its most popular and profitable product — the iPhone — is the key to the company’s overall health, at least in terms of its performance on Wall Street. Barclay’s analyst Ben Reitzes told investors in a memo on Thursday that he expects AAPL to stay within a narrow range for the next two years.


  • No Games, No Ads, No Gimmicks: Why WhatsApp Is The Startup Silicon Valley Deserved
    Two days ago, if I’d mentioned the name Jan Koum, you would’ve had no idea who I was talking about.

    Today, you might recognize him as the now billionaire CEO of WhatsApp, the messaging service that on Wednesday announced it was acquired by social networking juggernaut Facebook in the largest acquisition ever for a venture-backed company.

    The deal has understandably drawn a staggering amount of media attention. There are now profiles of Koum and his humble beginnings and statistics justifying the deal’s high price tag. The publicity has shed some light on this otherwise very understated company run by a couple of very private men.

    And the more I hear about Koum, the more I think Silicon Valley needs to be taking notes. In a land of pushy 20-something wunderkind CEOs and data leak scandals, he’s a 37-year-old black sheep who just wants to build a great product without media attention, without selling his customers’ data, without even worrying about advertising his product. No muss, no fuss. And, bigger than that, he’s just a nice guy about it — a quality that extends to his product and how he does business. (Apparently, it’s paid off.)

    So, Mark Zuckerberg, you spent $19 billion bringing WhatsApp into the Facebook fold. Want to get your money’s worth? Here are some lessons you can learn from your new Facebook board member:

    • Stick to Your Guns: In the beginning, Koum said there would be no advertisements. Five years later, WhatsApp still has no advertisements and has no intention of using them anytime soon. Koum repeatedly states that WhatsApp stores no data from its users; he says it doesn’t need to if it’s not making ads. There’s absolutely no money-grab aspect to WhatsApp. It’s just a great service for which you pay a small fee.
    • Make it Easy for the Consumer: One of the key elements of WhatsApp — what helps to make it work — is that it’s very easy for the consumer to use. It syncs with your address book. You don’t have to build a new friends list or remember a password or find a username that’s not embarrassing. You use the phone number and list of phone contacts you’ve been building for years.
    • Don’t Get Fancy: …if it sacrifices quality. In a market in which messaging services have become saturated with features like desktop versions or usernames, WhatsApp has been keepin’ it clean and simple. The result is an easy to use, consistent product that is never bogged down with unnecessary features and buttons. It doesn’t worry about how brands will use it to connect to consumers. It doesn’t worry about attracting teenagers. It does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to provide an easy, convenient messaging service for the consumer. Nothing more, nothing less. And more than 400 million monthly active users seem to like that.
    • Patience is a Virtue: If you make it, they will come… if it’s good. WhatsApp watched its service grow, slowly, throughout the course of several years with no marketing effort on its part. Focusing on organic growth, WhatsApp spread by word of mouth from user to user — a strategy that was so effective that even charging for services early on didn’t hinder the product’s growth.
    • No News is Good News: WhatsApp doesn’t really bother with a lot of media hype. Leave Apple and Google to their “look at me” product launches and rumor mills; WhatsApp has instead asked bloggers and journalists to stop spreading rumors. In an interview at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference last May, he politely asked bloggers to be more “responsible,” since addressing rumors distracts from what’s important: building a great product.
    • Stay Humble: It’s a mark of Koum’s “good-guy-edness” that his product has more active users than Twitter, and we’re only finding out about him now. He has routinely avoided the limelight, stayed out of the public eye and focused on his product first. In the same interview at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, he said he’s concerned he’s wasting time being interviewed when he should be answering customer service emails. Based on what I’ve read about him, it doesn’t seem likely that attitude will change now that he’s a multi-billionaire.

    So Silicon Valley, are you taking notes? Because you should be.

  • Can Your Phone Teach You a New Language?
    This post first appeared on The Linguisticlast, a blog dedicated to language learning and all things language. You can follow The Linguisticlast on Twitter at @linguisticlast. 

    Spoiler alert: No, your phone cannot teach you a new language. Your ability to accomplish that depends entirely on you and your motivation, but having a smartphone can certainly help. Here’s how:

    1) Live Your Digital Life in Your New Language.

    The very first thing I always do when trying to learn a language is change my phone — along with my email accounts, social media accounts, search browsers, etc — into that language. Do not underestimate the power of passive learning. Before you even crack open a phrasebook, you’ll know words like “send,” “delete,” “edit,” “message,” “cancel,” and all sorts of other vocabulary just from using your phone on a daily basis.

    2) Find A Flashcard App

    Hey — the ’90s called. They want your paper flashcards back. The cool kids now use flashcard apps on their phones. I love my flashcard app, Flashcards Deluxe. Why? With the app, you can create all of my own flashcards, with up to five sides, and upload them to your phone using either Google Drive or Dropbox. You can choose how you’d like to learn your flashcards, either through a standard sequence or by using a spaced repetition system (SRS). Spaced repetition knows when you’re likely to forget a piece of recently learned information because it tracks your performance and usage history. It then sequences your flashcards so that that information is constantly fresh in your mind. I would actually go so far as to say that flashcards comprise the lion share of my language learning method. And because I have them on my phone, they’re always there with me — on the metro, in the waiting room at my dentist’s office, before I turn out the light and go to sleep. My point, flashcards and I have a very intimate relationship.

    3) Your Phone As a Dictionary

    Finding a good dictionary on your phone can be tricky, but it’s crucial, especially while you’re in public. During my first few weeks in France, I often found myself glued to my phone in supermarket aisles trying to figure out what I was buying. After you start speaking and gaining some confidence, switch to a monolingual dictionary to challenge yourself.

    4) Change the Music You Listen To

    This is one is fairly self-explanatory. I love to look up the lyrics to foreign language songs and translate them line-by-line. The result is that no matter how rusty my Spanish gets, I think it’s likely I’ll always know all of the words to Bacilos’ “Caraluna.” It’s also worth mentioning that the language in which a song is sung can change the music itself. As William Weir writes on Slate, “English-only listening habits deprive us of the natural rhythm and melody of other languages — the nasal vowels of French, the alveolar trills of Portuguese, the consonant clusters of Czech.”

    5) Learn a Language Through… Your Texts?

    Yes — texts. You read that correctly. Texting with your native speaker friends will help you pick up on phrases you would otherwise miss in ordinary conversation. Write them down; look them up; ask your friends what they mean. Texts are little goldmines for finding slang words and colloquial expressions you’d otherwise miss in a classroom setting or while speaking.

    6) Podcasts

    Podcasts can help you learn everything from Portuguese to Pashto, and they’re a great way to spend a period of time during which you’d normally listen to music or the radio, like your walk to work.

    7) Duolingo

    Though I haven’t personally used the Duolingo app, Apple named it 2013’s “free iPhone App of the Year.” My friends who use it swear by it, and some have gone so far as to say it’s addicting. The app works like a game: You advance through different levels while learning your target language. In the process, however, you help to translate chunks of the Internet. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Duolingo’s founder, Luis von Ahn, also created reCAPTCHA, which does the same thing, except with those annoying CAPTCHAs you have to decode to prove you’re human. Pretty cool, huh?

     8) For iPhone Users: Bonjour Siri!

    Siri is now available in for use in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean. It just so happens that those are some of the most widely learned languages as well. How convenient! In my experience trying to use Siri in French and Spanish, I’ve had difficulty if my pronunciation is off, but I also have plenty of difficulty using Siri in English as well. I’ve found that Siri’s voice recognition ability has greatly improved with the introduction of iOS7.

  • HP's Q1 beats estimates as PC business surprises
    The PC business didn’t suck nearly as bad as feared, and Hewlett-Packard’s first quarter benefits. The company sees strong enterprise demand for PCs as Windows XP systems are tossed.
  • Let's Put an End to '30 Under 30 Lists' and Recognize What Is to Come in Your 30s As a Woman in Tech
    I read an article today about how the lists that the tech world put out like “30 under 30,” top blah blah blah under blah, etc. are really really wrong. We should stop doing them. The author of that post from The Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire, writes about some things that I want to think more about and talk about here.

    All these lists focus on one thing: how young you are and how wonderful you must be for doing something awesome like becoming a CEO at a certain age where most normal people don’t. There has always been this obsession with young people doing cool and awesome things, but now it is more than ever focused on tech blogs and media lists focusing on the success of young people in their career. These lists are making it hard for anyone over 40 to be seen as someone doing something great. Why can’t we just recognize greatness at any age? Age should not be part of a discussion in whether or not you are successful.

    I am turning 30 in a couple of months, and this article stuck out to me because soon, I will never ever be able to be on a list like this. I never made it on a list like that and for some reason, that makes me sad. What if those lists didn’t exist? Then, I wouldn’t be feeling like this. I bet I am not alone.

    I also start to think about what I have done later on in my career in my 20s. I have learned so much over the course of my 20s, and I think as I move into my 30s, I am more in a place than ever before where I should be celebrating my successes. If it took me longer to do it in my 20s, then fine. We need to stop putting so much pressure of people at certain ages as to what success should look like for them.

    Make success whatever it should be to YOU and have it be at whatever time in your life you want it to be. It should not be relative or contingent upon an age.

    In my 20s, I was and still am obsessed with doing my best. I actually don’t think that will change just because I am turning 30. I am already stressed out enough. I don’t need the media constantly comparing me to people. I compare myself to people already and don’t need them doing it to me as well. Playing devil’s advocate, I do think that it helps to keep 20-somethings motivated to do more and more with their time. When you see these lists, you start asking yourself questions… Are you good enough? Are you doing enough? All these thoughts start streaming through my mind when I see these kinds of lists… Why don’t I have my own company? Why am I not a CEO?

    I can tell you why… I AM NOT READY FOR THAT. What I am ready for is to learn as much as possible in my 20s to prepare me for my 30s. I am ready to learn as much as I possibly can in my role here at HubSpot. I need to learn how to be the best sales person ever and that is what I am doing right now. Learning. I want to take that knowledge and then in my 30s or 40s or 50s — who knows when? — take that knowledge and bring it to another company where I can make a huge difference. I don’t know if being a CEO or doing something so fantastic in my 20s would be a good thing for my long-term goals. Don’t let these lists and the media tell you what success is for your 20s — or any time in your life.

    Say I had been on one of those lists — one of those 30 under 30 lists — by now. That probably would have meant I had started a company. My 20s would have been way different than they were. I don’t know if they would have been better or worse. Would I have learned more? Would I be smarter now? Who knows? I don’t care, though, because I am secure in what I am doing with my 20s. I made a proactive decision to learn as much as I can here at the company I work for now in my 20s and moving into my 30s even. I want to take that knowledge and experience and do something with it in my 30s, 40s etc. when I am smarter, older and more knowledgeable than I am now. I hope that pays off for me.

    Your 20s and 30s are for figuring things out. Like I said, I don’t know everything and from what I have seen and even experienced for myself, the older I get, the more I learn and the wiser I become. I should keep figuring things out in my 20s and get really good at what I do so in my 30s or 40s, I can crush it with that knowledge and experience.

    Apparently, amazing things happen for people in their 30s. I look forward to it. Bring it on, 30.

    Since my 30th birthday is right around the corner, I keep having these weird moments where I am thinking to myself Holy cow, have I done enough? Am I doing what I should be doing? Am I on the right path? All those things that happen to people before a moment that the world has made seem like a big deal. They say your 30s are the time for breakthrough moments. Maybe my breakthrough moment will be in the next 10 years.

    Here’s my number one point: Later on in your life, you will know more, have experienced more and will likely do better at what you set your mind to doing.

    Hopefully, everything I am learning now will help me in my later years in my life. I hope that the things I have learned in my 20s in the business world will set me up for even more success than if I had been super-super-successful (in the eyes of the media) in my 20s. I personally think I have been successful in my 20s. Who is the media or blogs to tell someone what success is in their 20s?

    What do you think about not hitting what the tech blogs and tech media says is success in your 20s? Is that okay?

    This post originally appeared on Womenpreneurs.

  • Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp

    If you ever wonder what’s fueling America’s staggering inequality, ponder Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp .

    According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.

    That’s the highest price paid for a startup in history. It’s $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.

    (To be precise, $12 billion of the $19 billion will be in the form of shares in Facebook, $4 billion will be in cash, and $3 billion in restricted stock to WhatsApp staff, which will vest in four years.)

    Given that gargantuan amount, you might think WhatsApp is a big company. You’d be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

    Whatsapp’s value doesn’t come from making anything. It doesn’t need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.

    It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology — a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.

    The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it’s like Facebook — driven by connectivity.

    Whatsapp’s worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people — and it’s growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion).

    How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it’s already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world’s population.

    The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp’s fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.

    And the rest of us? We’re winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.

    But we’re not getting more jobs.

    In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).

    Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.

    Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line — or spread the gains more widely — our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.

    ROBERT B. REICH’s film “Inequality for All” is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix in late February. Watch the trailer below:

  • Kepler Space Telescope's Amazing Discoveries Highlighted In New 'Deep Astronomy' Video
    How much have we really learned about alien planets?

    Twenty years ago, we knew nothing about any other worlds outside of our solar system. Now, we’ve discovered the Milky Way is teeming with planets just like Earth.

    That’s thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which launched in 2009 to explore our galaxy’s interplanetary systems. A new video from the YouTube channel Deep Astronomy highlights some of the telescope’s amazing discoveries. Just check it out above.

    “The Kepler space telescope has opened up a new era of astronomy in our lifetimes,” Tony Darnell, video blogger and social media manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute, says in the video. “For the first time in our history when we look up at the night sky, thanks to Kepler, we know that there are more planets up there than there are stars.”

    So far, Kepler has looked at just a small slice of the Milky Way, discovering 3,538 potential worlds — 104 of them are in the so-called “habitable zone,” meaning their environment could potentially support life, and 10 are about the size of Earth, according to NASA.

    In fact, NASA data suggests that there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone. Wow.

  • iPhone leads to surge in China Mobile's high-speed data subscribers
    China Mobile added 14 million more high-speed data subscribers in January, a growth faster than at any other time in its history, according to data from Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White. The 7.4 percent increase is attributed mainly to the iPhone, which Mobile started selling on January 17th. In December, by contrast, Mobile’s high-speed base grew by less than 6 percent.


  • Google Wanted To Buy WhatsApp, Too
    Two separate sources have told me that’s how much Google (GOOG) offered to purchase WhatsApp.
  • What State Lasts The Longest (And Shortest) In Bed?
    If you’ve got some time, head to New Mexico.

    Fresh data from Spreadsheets, a sex-tracking App launched last August, may show how your state measures up — endurance-wise — to its neighbors.

    “We’re creating a sort of thermometer for sex,” co-creator Tyler Elick, 29, told The Huffington Post. In addition to how long you’re lasting, Spreadsheets can keep track of thrusts per minute, audio levels, and frequency of sex.

    “Our goal is to provide a product that … connects people on an intimate level,” he said. Elick and co-creator Danny Wax “saw a need in the market” when they realized that people were already tracking activities like their runs and sleep cycles.

    This week, Nerve.com compiled a state-by-state rundown of averaged sex times, which can be seen below. The data comes from approximately 5,000 users and 23,000 individual sex sessions in the U.S. (there are about 10,000 users worldwide). Here’s the list, from longest to shortest:

    1. New Mexico (7:01)

    2. West Virginia (5:38)

    3. Idaho (5:11)

    4. South Carolina (4:48)

    5. Missouri (4:22)

    6. Michigan (4:14)

    7. Utah (3:55)

    8. Oregon (3:51)

    9. Nebraska (3:47)

    10. Alabama (3:38)

    11. Delaware (3:33)

    12. Hawaii (3:28)

    13. Wisconsin (3:22)

    14. North Dakota (3:18)

    15. Arizona (3:17)

    16. Maryland (3:15)

    17. Mississippi (3:10)

    18. Rhode Island (3:09)

    19. Connecticut (3:07)

    20. Texas (3:06)

    21. New Hampshire (3:04)

    22. Wyoming (3:03)

    23. New York (3:01)

    24. Pennsylvania (2:58)

    25. Maine (2:58)

    26. Washington (2:51)

    27. Iowa (2:50)

    28. Illinois (2:49)

    29. North Carolina (2:47)

    30. Tennessee (2:46)

    31. Kansas (2:38)

    32. California (2:38)

    33. Massachusetts (2:31)

    34. Florida (2:29)

    35. New Jersey (2:28)

    36. Indiana (2:26)

    37. Virginia (2:23)

    38. Oklahoma (2:21)

    39. Colorado (2:21)

    40. Minnesota (2:19)

    41. Ohio (2:18)

    42. Louisiana (2:17)

    43. Kentucky (2:14)

    44. Arkansas (2:08)

    45. District of Columbia (2:08)

    46. Nevada (2:07)

    47. Georgia (2:07)

    48. Montana (2:03)

    49. Vermont (1:48)

    50. South Dakota (1:30)

    51. Alaska (1:21)

    But before you New Mexicans start swelling with pride, (or you Alaskans shrink in embarrassment), keep in mind that it’s tough to say what — if anything — these stats actually represent.

    According to the Nerve.com writeup, these times represent intercourse alone because “the app doesn’t cover foreplay,” but Elick told HuffPost that’s just not true.

    “Our app isn’t purely about penises entering vaginas,” he said. “Our app is more about tracking entire amounts of sexual activity. If that includes foreplay for people, we’re open to that.”

    While a user can set the phone on a mattress to monitor “movement,” the timing feature of the app can be used as a simple timer. One user may opt to start the timer before foreplay begins, while a different user could interrupt the mood completely to go fiddle with his phone prior to entering thrust-city.

    However, with the median at around two and a half minutes, we really hope people aren’t clocking in until the main event.

    Elick was quick (but not as quick as an Alaskan — hey-o!) to point out that some users may also be skewing the results low by pulling out the app to show a friend or partner, and running the clock for only a few seconds.

    Either way, though, Elick believes the stats are valuable because of the kinds of conversations they can spark.

    “Real data makes people more comfortable and ideally less highly sensitive … or over-sensationalist about physical intimacy,” he said.

    Elick also wants people to know that he and Wax don’t have access to data for individual users or sessions. Instead, they rely on Google analytics, which aggregates the duration and session count for particular regions. “We don’t want to be the sexual Big Brother here,” he said.

  • Poor UX Could Kill Your Start Up
    If you have a tech start up, the chances are you are trying to get to grips with product design, but you can’t afford to pay a full time UX designer to help develop your interface. Good user experience is essential if you are trying to scale your product, but money is always an issue for start ups. I know of many cases where start ups have ended up with poor UX as a result of trying to keep costs down by hiring a graphic designer to work on their product. This blog will hopefully help you navigate this journey better.

    In the pre software days, designers used to make things look pretty. The job description “UX designer” started in Silicon Valley in the 1990s. It has only become mainstream in the last decade. When a UX designer is doing their job well, using software is effortless, meaning that often they only get noticed when things went wrong. UX is the design behind the visual.

    Good UX people always have the mantra of “I am not the target audience” running through their heads. They can also predict ahead, i.e. if you do customer discovery, people will largely tell you what you want to hear. They also think they want different things to what actually works for them. An experienced UX designer will see through a lot of this and be able to predict what people will like.

    Remember graphic designers still do great work. They will make your website look slick and are essential for your branding and content marketing. But you need to know when to stop using a graphic designer and start using a UX designer if you are creating a product. This can be confusing; I have witnessed firsthand how graphic designers, keen to win business, may tell start ups they can do UX work. To try and avoid this, you need to know the following.

    1. What product and UX work they have done before — you don’t want them to be learning on your time. Make sure you have a look at this closely. Website design is totally different to designing a product.

    2. Is the person you are communicating with going to be doing the hands on UX work? If not, things can get lost in translation. Especially if they are off shoring the work which happens a lot in UK and Ireland.

    3. You expect them to be asking you a lot of questions, as a good UX designer will know that user experience is influenced by a multitude of things such as:

    • marketing copy
    • speed
    • functional performance
    • colour scheme
    • personality
    • customer support,
    • set expectations
    • financial approach.

    I recently attended a UX training course and the lecturer, Colman Walsh, who has worked in UX for the last 15 years in Silicon Valley and Europe explained

    “Because of the word ‘design’, UX often gets conflated with styling. But they’re not the same. UX is a problem solving discipline. Identifying problems, solving them and designing elegant solutions. Styling is often part of the solution, but doesn’t have to be.”

    Lets look at some practical examples. Survey monkey have built up a huge reputation around good UX. Having recently used the software (initially for free and then paying) the experience was a good one from start to finish. I have tried to break down why it was good and why I will use survey monkey again and recommend it. These second two benefits show that good UX is critical to the success of software.

    Survey monkey is clear about what it is offering you, it is helping you create and distribute a better survey without over loading you with advice. The process is streamlined from start to finish, and when you have completed the survey the analytics are good. You can take a number of months break from pre paying the monthly subscription and your data will still be there. All this and more means that survey monkey has totally nailed the UX without the graphics being anything special while you are working through the process.

    For those like survey monkey who have mastered UX, it is easy to see their money spent on this area is giving a great return on investment. For you and me it is sometimes harder to join the dots from good UX work to the bottom line of your business. However, good work is being done here by Elisabeth Hubert and others who are actively working towards mapping user experience activity to business value.

    Always remember that the ability to understand and communicate can be as, or more, important than graphic ability with a UX designer. It is also a much more iterative process than you might expect, so be patient!

Mobile Technology News, February 20, 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.

  • Canonical CEO claims Apple cornered market on sapphire screens
    Ubuntu developer Canonical has told investors and analysts in a conference call that part of the reason it had been unable to produce a planned 4.5-inch smartphone running the Linux-based OS was because (in addition to financial issues) Apple had “scooped up” the entire three-year supply” of sapphire screens the company had planned to use. While not a confirmation that Apple plans to create a 4.5-inch display in a future iPhone, the quote seems to reaffirm that Apple is planning to incorporate the practically-unscratchable material in its future products.


  • Facebook Buys WhatsApp and It Will Be Huge for Them

    The first headline that hit me today when I turned on my iPad was from the Wall Street Journal proclaiming Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19b.  It’s a big, big number but the acquisition could prove to be a pivotal point for Facebook and the landscape of social networking in general.  The deal is a […]

    The post Facebook Buys WhatsApp and It Will Be Huge for Them appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Signs point to first Microsoft Surface tablet with LTE
    Microsoft may be getting ready to add 4G/LTE to a Surface product. To date, Surface tablets have only come with Wi-Fi, putting them at a disadvantage when competing with rival products like the iPad.
  • Homeland Security Drops Plan To Collect License Tag Data
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department abruptly reversed course Wednesday and dropped plans to ask a private company to give the government access to a nationwide database of license plate tracking information.

    Secretary Jeh Johnson directed that a contract proposal issued last week be canceled. The proposal said Immigration and Customs Enforcement was planning to use the license plate data in pursuit of criminal immigrants and others sought by authorities.

    Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokeswoman, said the contract solicitation was posted “without the awareness of ICE leadership.”

    “While we continue to support a range of technologies to help meet our law enforcement mission, this solicitation will be reviewed to ensure the path forward appropriately meets our operational needs,” Christensen said.

    The department said Johnson has ordered a review of the proposal.

    The contract notice came amid growing concerns about government surveillance of U.S. citizens but didn’t address potential privacy consequences.

    Before the notice was canceled, Christensen said the database “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals.”

    Law enforcement has been using license plate readers for several years, but privacy advocates have raised concerns that the unchecked collection of such information could allow for the tracking of an average citizen’s every movement. Lawmakers around the country, meanwhile, have been wrestling with whether or how to control the collection and use of license plate data.

    At least 14 states are considering measures that would curb surveillance efforts, including the use of license plate readers.

    License plate readers — essentially cameras that snap rapid-fire pictures of license plates and vehicles as they pass — are in use in a host of locations, by private companies and law enforcement. But it’s not just the license plate number that gets recorded. The readers — whether they are mounted to police cars, traffic lights or toll booths — record the date, time and location of the vehicle when the picture was taken.

    According to the contract proposal, the government wanted “a close-up of the plate and a zoomed out image of the vehicle.”

    The Homeland Security Department also wanted instant and around-the-clock access to the records and is asking for whoever wins the contract to make the information available through a smartphone app. It is not clear from the contract notice how long individual records would be kept or what other government agencies may have access to the trove of records.

    Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the San Francisco-based civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said those unknowns represented serious privacy concerns.

    “The base level concern is that license plate data is location data, and location data is very revealing,” Lynch said. “It can tell you a lot about a person’s life: where they go, who they associate with, what kind of religion they practice, what doctors they visit.”

    In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the collection of license plate scanner data and warned that millions of records were being collected with little or no safeguards for people’s privacy.

    Catherine Crump, an ACLU lawyer, said Wednesday she was pleased to hear that the department has canceled the contract proposal but still worried about that it might be brought back to life at some point.

    “While we are heartened that it looks as though the plan is off the table for now; it is still unexplained why the proposal was put forward and why it has been withdrawn,” Crump said.

    The government’s contract proposal was published amid revelations of surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Privacy advocates have argued that NSA phone data collection programs and other surveillance programs are gobbling up massive amounts of information about U.S. citizens who have no ties to criminals or terrorists, which the government has said the programs are designed to target.

    Classified NSA documents, leaked to news organizations, showed the NSA was collecting telephone records, emails and video chats of millions of Americans who were not suspected of a crime.


    Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap

  • Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $19bn
    Facebook buys popular messaging app WhatsApp for $19bn (£11.4bn), in a deal Mark Zuckerberg describes as “incredibly valuable”.
  • University Of Maryland Reports Massive Data Breach
    COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The president of the University of Maryland says there has been a breach of a database that contains personal information about more than 300,000 faculty, staff, students, and others.

    Wallace Loh said in a statement posted Wednesday on the university’s website that the database contained records of those who have been issued a university ID since 1998.

    Loh said the database has information from the College Park and Shady Grove campuses. The records include names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers.

    The university is working to determine how the breach occurred. Loh said state and federal law enforcement officials are investigating.

    The University is offering one year of free credit monitoring to anyone affected by the breach.

  • Intel CEO talks Apple, water-cooled PCs, carbon nanotubes
    Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, in a wide-ranging Reddit AMA, addresses Moore’s Law, tablets, overclocking, and carbon nanotubes, among other topics.
  • WhatsApp and Facebook's Unite and Conquer Mission
    The news that Facebook will spend $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app with more than 450 million users, marks the latest phase in what has emerged as Facebook’s defining strategy: The unite and conquer approach to social networking.

    Facebook is no longer focused solely on building out Facebook, but is willing to meld itself into whatever shape, service or brand fits your socializing needs at a particular moment of your day. To expand its empire and place itself wherever we are, it’ll spend dearly to buy whatever diverse services we value.

    For several years now, Facebook has tried to position itself as the go-to messenger for every message we send, publicly or privately, baiting us with features like “chat heads” or the ability to send voice recordings. Buying WhatsApp, which processes 19 billion messages a day, clearly goes a long way toward fulfilling that mission. As soon as all the CEOs and lawyers sign on the doted line, nearly a half-billion people who were messaging off of Facebook will instantly begin routing their chats through Mark Zuckerberg’s domain.

    But beyond that, Facebook’s WhatsApp deal makes it clear that Facebook isn’t content to be Facebook. Facebook wants to be the hub for any social interaction you have over the Internet — alone or in groups, broadcast or whispered, permanent or self-destructing, written or photographed, under the Facebook logo or a different mascot. The WhatsApp acquisition, which follows on Facebook’s Instagram buy and its failed bid for Snapchat, suggest more than an effort to find the “next big thing” and cultivate it under Facebook’s wing. Facebook wants whatever is the new big thing. (Like Instagram, Facebook confirmed that it will continue to run WhatsApp as a standalone app.)

    “If you think about the overall space of sharing and communication, there’s not just one thing that people are doing. People want to have the ability to share any kind of content with any audience,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call last month. “There are going to be a lot of different apps that exist, and Facebook has always had the mission of helping people share any kind of content with any audience, but historically we’ve done that through a single app.”

    We’ve thought of Facebook’s growing ecosystem of services as revolving around and expanding the core Facebook experience. We’re thinking too small. Zuckerberg is dreaming of an even larger universe of services that aren’t tied to Facebooking, but communicating — full stop.

    This has obvious advantages for Facebook’s business. A broader suite of services means bringing on more users (WhatsApp is particularly popular outside the U.S.), claiming more of people’s time and sucking up more of their information, all of which helps Facebook woo advertisers.

    But what about for those of us who use the services? It feels harder and harder to escape Facebook’s reach while still being social online. While the WhatsApp acquisition will no doubt stoke privacy fears, there’s another, less-discussed consequence of this unite and conquer approach: The rapid spread of the Facebook ethos, which values true identities, oversharing and the vague goal of “connecting” above all. Instagram looks a great deal like it did before Facebook acquired the app. But even there, there are subtle changes, like the push to tag friends in photos.

    The principles and values that Facebook holds dear are becoming harder to escape as it exports them to whatever new satellite it brings into its orbit. Our online identities are part of the unite and conquer push: Whenever possible, Facebook prefers to combine our online activity to create one comprehensive, exhaustive persona.

  • WhatsApp's CEO Crashed Zuckerberg's Valentine's Dinner To Make A Deal
    On Wednesday, Facebook announced a huge, $19 billion deal to buy the messaging app WhatsApp.

    But that staggering sum wasn’t the only thing about the acquisition that’s shocking.

    After Mark Zuckerberg made him an offer on Feb. 9, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum apparently crashed the Valentine’s Day dinner of the recently married Facebook co-founder and his wife, Priscilla Chan, at their home to finalize the purchase.

    That’s not all.

    “The two men entered into negotiations, eating a plate of chocolate covered strawberries intended for Ms. Chan, the people briefed on the matter said,” The Times reports. Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson confirmed the strawberry swipe in his account, too.

    Not only did Koum get the money, he also got their strawberries. What likely started out as a romantic night for Zuckerberg and his wife ended up with Zuckerberg agreeing to hand over $19 billion.

    We’ll bet that Koum had the best Valentine’s Day of them all.

  • Trying To Meet A Guy Online? Apparently, You Shouldn't Call Yourself A 'Woman'
    When Britney Spears crooned “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman,” she probably didn’t know that the virtual dating landscape would favor the former. If we weren’t already bombarded with unsolicited prescriptions for how to behave online, now we’re supposed to consider whether calling ourselves “women” is worth the opportunity costs.

    Apparently, referring to yourself as a “girl” instead of a “woman” in your online dating profile will get you more male suitors.

    This helpful information comes from an infographics series published on Wired earlier this month, which focused on what words earn online daters the most attention. Researchers collected data across OKCupid and Match.com.


    According to the findings, females who refer to themselves as “girls” receive 16 percent more attention than those who refer to themselves as “women” in their profiles. Meanwhile, it is 28 percent better for men to refer to a member of the opposite sex as a “woman” than a “girl.” So it’s super sexy and evolved for men to call us women, but off-putting for a lady to refer to herself as such.

    What if grown-ass women went around saying they were looking for “boys”? They would be universally considered creepy, if not predatory. Perhaps men find self-professed “women” threatening? Sigh. We know they’ll catch up someday.

    As per usual, these statistics offer some interesting insight into how courtship is performed in the 21st century. But do we actually care about a 16-point potential loss for properly labeling ourselves? Not really. We’ll stick with Bey on this one.


    [h/t Slate]

  • Inspiring Our Children to Pursue STEM Through the Olympics
    The world’s top athletes are competing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Their talents and abilities are truly amazing. Their preparation and dedication to their sport and their country are inspiring. No doubt, millions of children watch these athletes with similar dreams of achieving athletic excellence. But as I previously wrote, the likelihood that any child will reach the pinnacle of sports is slim. However, there is great opportunity for our athletically passionate students to continue their love of sports through their careers. The fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have as much to do with athletics as the athletes themselves, and the Olympics show us just how much STEM goes into making our athletes, and the fields they compete on, ready for competition.

    From the half pipe to the ice rink and the snowboard to the speed skating suit, STEM experts make the 2014 Winter Games possible. Each Olympic season is better than the one before it — the events are safer, the Olympians are faster, and the techniques are more precise. Material scientists and chemical engineers are key to the innovations that allow our athletes to perform at the top of their game. They create the equipment our athletes use continues to get better, faster, stronger, more flexible and more durable. Material scientists and chemical engineers are the brains behind are skis and snowboards. They design them to withstand high speeds, vibration and torsion. Whether the athlete competes in the downhill or the slalom, the ski must be tailored to the particular sport. The skates used by speed skaters, figure skaters and hockey players are each different, and have evolved over time to allow the athletes to turn tight corners at full speed, perform a triple axel, or turn instantly in pursuit of a puck.

    The clothing worn by our athletes is just as intricately designed and manufactured. To go faster, Olympians must dawn revolutionary suits made of special materials invented and designed by top scientists and engineers. The suits worn by speed skaters, for example, must counteract drag and take factors like wind resistance and air flow into account. But for athletes like ski jumpers, their suits must capture air to keep them lifted for as long as possible.

    Engineers also play a vital role in the stadiums, arenas and venues in which our athletes perform. The half pipe in Sochi is taller, longer and larger in radius than any previous Olympic half pipe. The increased size lets the snowboarders get higher, turn faster and perform stunning tricks. Engineers considered the laws of gravity and used their knowledge of energy, velocity and momentum to create a half pipe that allows athletes to perform 1440 degree twists. What our students learn in high school physics class are the very principles at play here. The taller the pipe, the larger the walls and the more gravitational energy athletes experience, giving them the ability to lift higher. The larger the radius of the pipe, the easier the athlete can deal with the considerable force experienced from gravity and friction.

    Consider Shaun White and the half pipe. White experiences two to five times his own weight in G-forces from the friction of the snow on his board. He pushes back against those G-forces through his calculated performance, maintaining the perfect balance on his snowboard as he does so. As he moves up the pipe, he builds kinetic energy, and at the height, the kinetic energy is converted to potential energy, which allows him to move faster down the pipe and back up the other side. All of this energy creates momentum that allows him to perform the fascinating twists and tricks for which he’s known. Without engineers perfecting and continuously improving the venues and equipment, these new gravity-defying jumps and tricks would not be possible.

    But to perfectly execute those tricks, the athlete and his or her coaches and trainers must be knowledgeable in STEM as well. For example, to engineer the perfect jump, figure skaters must consider and routinely adapt to changes in angular velocity, height, speed and momentum. A triple axel toe loop looks effortless, but it’s not without careful planning, precision and STEM.

    STEM is the foundation of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Engineers and scientists are responsible for the innovative technologies that continually produce new and improved equipment. Computer programmers and digital electronic manufacturers must create precise timing devices that measure the one-thousandth of a second that may be the difference between an Olympic gold and disappointment. Doctors, trainers and scientists each have a role in the training, muscle recovery, injury prevention and healing that our athletes need to perform at the top of their games.

    Athletics are important in our culture and in teaching our children life lessons and skills. So we tell our children to pursue their passions, but we should also tell them about the exciting career possibilities created by studying the STEM disciplines — jobs that will allow them to continue being involved in their passions. And while they may never be the 1500-meter speed skating World Champion, they might be the next inventor of the fastest speed suit in the world.

    Project Lead The Way is the nation’s leading provider of STEM education programs for students in elementary, middle and high school. Through world-class curriculum, high-quality teacher professional development, and a network of business and educational leaders, PLTW is preparing students for the global economy.

  • IKEA Discontinues Beloved Shelf, Prompts Internet Fury
    IKEA thought it could discontinue a shelf popular with record collectors without causing much commotion. Now it has to face the music.

    IKEA plans to stop selling its iconic “EXPEDIT” shelf and replace it with a different wall unit, IKEA spokesperson Janice Simonsen told the Huffington Post.

    That news, first mentioned on IKEA Germany’s Facebook page, has set off an Internet cacophony, fueled mostly by vinyl record collectors, who say that the EXPEDIT has been the perfect shelf for storing records (among other things) for over a generation.

    “Enter the house of any record collector in the world and the chances are you’ll stumble upon an Expedit shelf,” wrote Vinyl Factory, a British music company.

    German vinyl-lovers have launched a Facebook campaign, “Rettet das Ikea Expedit Regal” (Save the IKEA Expedit bookshelf), which has already garnered more than 16,000 likes. An American version of the page launched on February 18th.

    IKEA will replace EXPEDIT with a similar shelf called the KALLAX, which Simonsen said “has the same internal sizes and uses the same internal fittings.” It will also have rounded edges to be more child-friendly.

    IKEA will sell EXPEDIT shelves until they’re all gone, it confirmed, and the KALLAX will hit stores on April 1st.

    “I think our customers may be worried that they won’t have the wonderful function and flexibility that they had with EXPEDIT, but this is not the case,” said Simonsen.

    On message boards and social media, fans are expressing worries that the KALLAX will be less sturdy and not available in some of the same sizes as EXPEDIT.

    Despite the fact that the KALLAX does seem awfully similar to the EXPEDIT, thousands of the distressed are still venting on Twitter. Most of the mourning tweets are in German and French, but here are some English-language highlights of The Great EXPEDIT Panic of 2014:

    I think I’m having a panic attack. MUST. GO. STOCK. UP. RT @core77 IKEA to Discontinue the Expedit

    — Edward M. Bujanowski (@edwardmichael) February 19, 2014

    Ikea discontinuing Expedit: estimates millions of relationships saved due to fewer assembly fights. http://t.co/tdzDXUxxnx

    — David Hicks (@ALL_CAPS) February 19, 2014

    Let’s pray to the IKEA gods that this Expedit wipe out doesn’t spread to the Americas. http://t.co/XD1fFrMqNQ via @cestuncoupdetat

    — Christine Varriale (@certaintragedy) February 19, 2014

    Vinyl nerds descend on Ikea to purchase all the endangered Expedit pieces. #hipsterapocalypse

    — Melissa Bernais (@melissabernais) February 19, 2014

    @The405: IKEA to discontinue Expedit shelves = worst. decision. ever. http://t.co/wJAYZGIXc7@jodapersoda aargh! Literal disaster

    — J.M.O. (@Johnwantstea) February 19, 2014

    Can’t wait for the 25th anniversary deluxe reissue of Ikea’s Expedit. #angryrecordstoreclerk

    — Jeff Conklin (@avantghettonyc) February 19, 2014

    Goodbye, @DesignByIKEA Expedit. I’ll never stop loving you.

    — Matt Gill (@hcmg) February 19, 2014

  • Just How Dangerous Is A Giant Comcast?
    It’s been more than 100 years since the U.S. Supreme Court determined that one of the biggest companies in the world, Standard Oil, was an illegal monopoly and would have to be broken apart.

    The size of the company didn’t automatically violate antitrust law, the court ruled. Rather, it was the way it wielded that size that was a problem. The oil behemoth forced railroads to slash prices and agree to preferential deals to ship its products, driving smaller competitors out of business. Standard Oil came to control 90 percent of U.S. oil production through these methods, and the court determined that this led to higher prices and less oil, harming the overall market.

    The antitrust laws the court used to decide the century-old case will be tested again in coming months, as regulators take a close look at Comcast’s $45 billion offer to acquire its smaller rival Time Warner Cable. The deal would make Comcast, the largest cable company in the country, even bigger. The new communications giant would also control broadcast and cable television networks, movie studios and theme parks that Comcast has swept up in past acquisitions.

    “It just creates this massive player — this one entity that sits at the crossroads of everything,” Michael Weinberg, a vice president at Public Knowledge, said in an interview last week. “They don’t just dabble in it. They dominate it.”

    Comcast is not Standard Oil — it isn’t accused of sending thugs to intimidate rivals, for example, as Standard Oil’s founder John D. Rockefeller is alleged to have done — but there are enough similarities between the companies to give consumer activists, and potentially regulators, cause for concern.

    Like Standard Oil, which began as a small Ohio concern, Comcast emerged from obscurity to dominate its industry. In 1990, Comcast was a Pennsylvania company with $657 million in annual revenue. In the years since, under the leadership of CEO Brian Roberts, the company has swallowed cable providers and TV networks, among other businesses, around the country, and revenue has swelled to more than $64 billion.

    In some of the markets in which it operates, Comcast is the only entity that offers cable and broadband service, to the great frustration of many customers who say this veritable monopoly starves them of choice, and leads to higher prices. The Time Warner Cable acquisition would further expand the company’s reach — Comcast would have about a third of broadband subscribers and 30 million pay TV subscribers in the U.S.

    A Comcast-Time Warner Cable behemoth could use its muscle — not unlike Standard Oil — to wield power over related industries, potentially starving competitors of resources, antitrust experts said.

    A stronger Comcast could charge higher rates to deliver streaming video from companies like Apple, Netflix, YouTube or Amazon, though it pledged to hold off on doing so until at least 2018 under its agreement to acquire NBCUniversal. TV networks may also be afraid to strike deals to sell their shows to online streaming services out of fear Comcast would retaliate by giving them unfavorable positions in Comcast’s TV channel lineup.

    Content creators just couldn’t afford not to do business with a company as powerful and far-reaching as a Comcast-Time Warner Cable giant, Weinberg said.

    Antitrust lawyers say the Comcast buyout poses a deep challenge for the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, the two federal agencies that enforce antitrust law and will decide if the deal can proceed.

    The Standard Oil case, by today’s standards, was cut and dry. In the early years of the 20th century, a muckraking journalist wrote an exposé on how the company used its massive clout to bully railroads and pipeline companies into lowering prices, then undercut competitors to such a degree they were forced to sell out, or go under. In one instance, Rockefeller used the threat of a secret alliance with railroads to intimidate more than 20 Cleveland refiners to sell out to Standard Oil at bargain prices, an event known as the “Cleveland massacre.”

    The Justice Department then launched an investigation under newfound authority granted by the Sherman Act, an antitrust law passed in 1890 to broad acclaim.

    Antitrust reviews have expanded over the years to include deals that would combine two or more existing companies, with the goal stopping monopolies before they happen. The measuring stick authorities use is whether the formation of the new company would “substantially lessen competition.”

    This is something of a soothsaying exercise, said antitrust experts.

    “They are trying to predict the likely effect of something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Spencer Waller, the head of the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies at Loyola University in Chicago.

    This task is made more difficult by the special circumstances posed by the Comcast deal. Unlike most mergers and buyouts, such as the proposed takeover of T-Mobile by Sprint that the Justice Department has signaled it will oppose, Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t compete head-to-head in any market.

    Comcast has also said that the combined company’s cable TV customers will represent 30 percent or less of the market. That is the maximum market share allowed under an older Federal Communications Commission rule, which is no longer in place. In 2009, it was struck down by an appeals court, which declared it “arbitrary and capricious.”

    Sena Fitzmaurice, a vice president of government affairs at Comcast, said that existing Time Warner Cable customers would benefit from Comcast’s innovations. As examples of past efforts, she cited the company’s robust video-on-demand service and said Comcast has increased broadband internet speed 12 times in as many years.

    “Additional consumers would get to benefit from these innovations as a result of the transaction,” she said in an email to The Huffington Post.

    A new megacompany would have powerful control over the cable grid and over content providers, Waller said. “This is very troubling,” he said — but also very difficult for federal authorities to evaluate.

    Comcast is certain to argue that its competitors encompass far more entities than traditional cable providers. As evidence of that, the company can point to the national trend of declining cable subscriber rates, which many attribute to increased competition from satellite providers like DirectTV, from streaming video companies and even from Internet portals like Google.

    This is boilerplate merger and acquisitions strategy, Waller said. Companies that seek to expand their holdings typically argue that they face competition from as wide array of entities as possible.

    But that argument is not airtight. The companies Comcast mentions as potential competitors do not yet offer near the breadth of services sold by the company, even in its present form. Sports coverage is a prime example. Comcast owns NBC, which paid $4.4 billion to broadcast the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and three subsequent Olympics. By way of comparison, that is a significantly greater sum than Netflix plans to allocate for its entire 2014 programming budget.

    It will be up to the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission to determine whether given these market realities, existing competitors offer services that are reasonable substitutes, said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust law professor at the University of Iowa. “Substitutes have to be sufficiently robust to keep services down near cost,” he said.

    In Comcast’s favor, as it makes its case, is an unbroken track record of success before regulators, most notably its 2009 acquisition of NBC Universal. “I think their experience with getting previous deals through, particularly the NBCU takeover, has to be helpful,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst David Kaut told the Wall Street Journal last week. “They know the ropes. And they seem to do a good job of getting out in front of some of the antitrust/regulatory objections by offering commitments that soften up the resistance.”

    Comcast, for its part, has cast the combination of the two companies as favoring consumers. “It will provide exciting consumer benefits” and “deliver better services and technology to Time Warner Cable’s subscribers,” the company said.

    Comcast CEO Brian Roberts even deemed the acquisition “pro-consumer,” “pro-competitive,” and “in the public’s interest.”

    But to many current subscribers, these claims are hard to swallow. The company charged roughly $156 per month per customer last year, and cable companies consistently rank at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys. The average cable TV bill — not including taxes, fees or promotions — has increased 97 percent over the past 14 years, according to SNL Kagan, a media research firm.

    High prices, ultimately, are what led to Standard Oil’s demise. The movement that led to the investigation was sparked by farmers, who were outraged by the huge cost they had to pay to get their crops to market.

    Antitrust experts said regulators will try to gauge whether a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would face enough competition to keep prices in check.

    Last week, in a conference call with reporters, Comcast Vice President David Cohen fielded a question about what the Time Warner Cable buyout might mean for cable and Internet bills. “The impact on customer bills is always hard to quantify,” he responded. “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly.”

  • This Is Why It Was So Insanely Cold Last Month
    That incredibly cold, it-hurts-to-be-outside weather that much of the U.S. experienced last month may come back to bite the country again next week.

    So what’s causing these temperature extremes?

    The polar vortex is a mass of winds that form over the Arctic each winter, and tend to move in a circular motion around the region, according to NASA. This year, however, a few factors caused the vortex to dip south, like the jet stream moving further south than usual and a low-pressure system forming over Canada, according to the video.

    As this animation progresses from early December 2013 to early January 2014, you can watch the polar vortex — represented by the purple colors — bend southward over time. It features data collected by NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Mission instrument, and shows temperatures at 3,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.

    As NASA points out on their website, this year’s cold wave set many temperature records. And that wasn’t all: flights were canceled, Canada experienced frost quakes and a jail escapee returned to prison because it was so cold.

  • Homeland Security Department Wants Access To License Plate Data
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department is proposing that a private company give it access to a nationwide database of license plate tracking information, according to a federal contract proposal.

    The department said the database would be used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help track down criminal immigrants or others wanted by authorities. The contract notice, published last week, comes amid growing concerns about government surveillance of U.S. citizens but doesn’t address potential privacy consequences. ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Wednesday the database “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals.”

    Law enforcement has been using license plate readers for several years, but privacy advocates have raised concerns that the unchecked collection of such information could allow for the tracking of an average citizen’s every movement. Lawmakers around the country, meanwhile, have been wrestling with whether or how to control the collection and use of license plate data.

    At least 14 states are considering measures that would curb surveillance efforts, including the use of license plate readers.

    License plate readers — essentially cameras that snap rapid-fire pictures of license plates and vehicles as they pass — are in use in a host of locations, by private companies and law enforcement. But it’s not just the license plate number that gets recorded. The readers — whether they are mounted to police cars, traffic lights or toll booths — record the date, time and location of the vehicle when the picture was taken.

    According to the contract proposal, the government wants “a close-up of the plate and a zoomed out image of the vehicle.”

    The Homeland Security Department also wants instant and around-the-clock access to the records and is asking for whoever wins the contract to make the information available through a smartphone app. It is not clear from the contract notice how long individual records would be kept or what other government agencies may have access to the trove of records.

    Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the San Francisco-based civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said those unknowns represent serious privacy concerns.

    “The base level concern is that license plate data is location data, and location data is very revealing,” Lynch said. “It can tell you a lot about a person’s life: where they go, who they associate with, what kind of religion they practice, what doctors they visit.”

    In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the collection of license plate scanner data and warned that millions of records were being collected with little or no safeguards for people’s privacy.

    Lynch said contract proposal is also so broad it’s worrisome because of the volume of records that could accessed by the government.

    “We’ve seen that some of these vendors have databases of millions, it not billions, of plates,” Lynch said.

    The government’s contract proposal comes amid revelations of surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Privacy advocates have argued that NSA phone data collection programs and other surveillance programs are gobbling up massive amounts of information about U.S. citizens who have no ties to criminals or terrorists, which the government has said the programs are designed to target.

    Classified NSA documents, leaked to news organizations, showed the NSA was collecting telephone records, emails and video chats of millions of Americans who were not suspected of a crime.


    Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap

  • Facebook To Buy WhatsApp For $19 Billion
    If Facebook can’t have Snapchat, it’ll reach deep into its pockets to buy the next best thing.

    Late Wednesday, Facebook announced that it will buy the popular instant-messaging app WhatsApp for a staggering $19 billion sum — $4 billion in cash and approximately $12 billion in stocks upfront, plus another $3 billion in restricted stock over the next four years.

    Facebook has shown a keen interest in developing or, with its $173 billion valuation, outright buying mobile messaging apps. Last year, Snapchat, a 2-year-old app that allows people to send disappearing photos and videos to one another, rebuffed a $3 billion offer from the social network.

    But the 5-year-old WhatsApp is far more established, and has fetched its owners a far greater sum. This month, it had 450 million monthly users, having added 100 million of them in the last four months of 2013 alone.

    WhatsApp is essentially a replacement to traditional text messaging. But unlike costly texts, which eat into cell phone owners’ data plans, WhatsApps messages are sent over the Internet if connected to WiFi

    “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “We do this by building services that help people share any type of content with any group of people they want.”

    “More than 1 million people sign up for WhatsApp every day and it is on its way to connecting one billion people,” he added.

    Zuckerberg promised that WhatsApp will operate independently within Facebook, similar to how the photo-sharing app Instagram has been kept separate from Facebook proper after it was acquired for $1 billion in 2012. The social network has its own well-used messaging app, called Facebook Messenger, that Facebook has pushed its members to download over the past year. Zuckerberg said that Messenger and WhatsApp will not be merged.

    Aside from Messenger, Facebook’s efforts to grow in messaging have fallen flat. Poke, a Snapchat clone that also lets people send disappearing messages, failed to gain traction when released at the end of 2012. Instagram Direct, a recently introduced and widely touted Instagram feature lets people privately share photos, also doesn’t seem to be well used.

    So far, WhatsApp has forgone ads and instead made money by charging 99 cents to cell owners after 12 months of use. The app is initially free to download and is popular among young people who want to send photos and texts to friends abroad without being hit with high international data fees. The subscription fee is new territory for Facebook, which over its decade-long existence has reiterated again and again on its homepage that it is “free and always will be.”

    In a blog post, co-founder and CEO Jan Koum, who founded WhatsApp with fellow former Yahoo executive Brian Acton in 2009, insisted that “nothing” will change for customers. That includes ads: “you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication,” he wrote. “There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles.”

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the day of the acquisition announcement.

  • Mothers' Voices Could Be The Extra Push Preemies Need To Feed (STUDY)

    NEW YORK Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:50am EST

    (Reuters Health) – A pacifier-activated recording of mother singing may improve a premature baby’s feeding, which in turn could lead to its leaving the hospital sooner, according to a new study.

    One reason premature babies sometimes have to stay in the hospital for a while is that they haven’t developed the strength and coordination to nurse properly. Babies who can’t feed yet stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and rely on a feeding tube.

    Doctors and nurses usually give those babies a pacifier whenever possible to help them practice sucking, which can speed up the learning process and shorten their hospital stay.

    From previous studies, researchers know that infants also respond well to certain types of music and that their mother’s voice can help increase heart and lung stability and growth and improve sleep.

    “People are finding out that the influence of parental voice in the NICU is important, so these results are not surprising,” said senior author Dr. Nathalie Maitre of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

    “This is yet another example that parents really do make a difference to their babies’ development,” she said.

    The researchers studied about 100 premature babies who had been born between 34 and 36 weeks of development and were relying primarily on a feeding tube (babies are considered full term if they are born between 39 and 41 weeks).

    All infants got what babies usually get in the NICU, including pacifiers, skin-to-skin contact whenever possible and gradual introduction to breastfeeding.

    Half of the infants also received five daily 15-minute sessions with a special pacifier device that senses when the baby is sucking and plays a recording of the baby’s mother singing “Hush Little Baby.”

    Infants in both groups gained about the same amount of weight during the five-day study, but those with the special pacifiers tended to eat faster when they could. They took in 2 milliliters of fortified breast milk per minute compared to less than 1 milliliter in the comparison group by the end of the study, the researchers reported Monday in Pediatrics.

    Infants in the recording group were also able to eat without a feeding tube more often – six and a half times per day versus four times in the comparison group – and ate almost twice as much when they did.

    In the pacifier recording group, infants spent an average of 31 days using a feeding tube, compared to 38 days in the non-recording group.

    Shorter hospital stays for preemies can have many benefits, said Jayne M. Standley, the inventor of the pacifier-activated music device, called the “PAL,” used in the study.

    “Premature infants thrive in the home with earlier discharge, parents are relieved to have their babies home from the hospital as soon as possible, and medical costs are greatly reduced,” Standley told Reuters Health in an email. “This study has implications to change NICU treatment for feeding problems of premature infants.”

    Standley, from Florida State University in Tallahassee, didn’t participate in the new research.

    “We know that newborn infants can recognize their mother’s voice because they can hear it in the womb and have ample opportunity to learn what it sounds like,” said Amy Needham, who studies infant development at Vanderbilt University.

    “Hearing their mother’s voice when they suck properly on the pacifier helps them develop proper sucking behavior because the mother’s voice acts as a ‘reinforcer,'” said Needham, who was not involved in the study.

    Maitre had theorized that certain types of carefully chosen music and a mother’s voice are both preferred for sucking, and that a tool that uses both might train babies to eat faster.

    “It goes back to Pavlov’s dog,” she said. “It’s not romantic, but you can take advantage of behavioral training.”

    The pacifier device she and her colleagues used measures the pressure and rhythm of sucking. It can’t be constructed and needs to be administered by a professional, Maitre said, but it is commercially available and not very expensive. The researchers also had a music therapist select the lullaby, whose melody had to stay within one octave and be very repetitive.

    Parents might ask if there is a therapist at the hospital who can help record their voice and play it to their baby, since most therapists can be trained to do this, she said.

    Meanwhile, parents should know that spending time talking and singing to their baby can help.

    “You can start by singing to your baby. During breastfeeding is a perfect time to do it,” Maitre said.

    SOURCE: bit.ly/NZ2FIT Pediatrics, online February 17, 2014.

    Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

  • Plane Windows Are SO Last Century; Video Screens Are Where It's At
    Windows are so passe.

    The Spike Aerospace S-512 will forgo the typical, tiny porthole windows and will sport giant displays that cover the supersonic jet’s interior walls.

    A spokesperson for Boston-based aerospace engineering and consulting firm Spike Aerospace informed The Huffington Post that the S-512 is expected to cost between $60 million and $80 million and that the jet is being designed to reach a cruising speed of Mach 1.6 (approximately 1,217 mph) and a max speed of Mach 1.8 (approximately 1,370 mph). The S-512 is slated for delivery to customers in December 2018.


    The company writes on its website that it expects initial purchasers of the plane to be businesses that can benefit from the jet’s shortened travel times, allowing employees to spend less time in the air and more time conducting business on the ground. Wired notes that the S-512’s speed will allow the plane to make the trip from New York to London in “less than four hours.”

    All the while, passengers will be able to view the environment surrounding the supersonic jet on giant screens playing a live feed from exterior-mounted cameras. Spike Aerospace told HuffPost that the screens can also display other media, such as movies.

    The company wrote in a blog post that it ditched windows on the S-512 due to the added weight, parts count and additional structural support required to integrate these relics of the past.


    Unbelievable, you say? Hardly.

    High-tech display “windows” are already available for sea cruises. Passengers staying in interior staterooms of Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas are now able to experience epic ocean views from the comfort of their rooms via an 80-inch wall-mounted screen that displays the feed from a bow- or stern-mounted camera.

    With Navigator of the Seas already sailing the open waters, and the Spike Aerospace S-512 set to be flying the clear blue skies before the end of the decade, it seems that people may be spending more time seeing the world through the lens of a camera.


  • Wireless System Could Offer A Private Fast Lane – NYTimes.com
    SAN FRANCISCO — In a spacious loft across the street from the Bay Bridge, Steve Perlman did something last week that would ordinarily bring a cellular network to its knees.

Mobile Technology News, February 19, 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.

  • Las Vegas Sands Corp: Hacking Went Further Than Email, Websites
    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. said Tuesday that hacking into their websites and internal systems last week went deeper than the company had previously known.

    All of the Las Vegas-based company’s sites were down for six days after hackers posted images apparently condemning comments CEO Sheldon Adelson made about using nuclear weapons on Iran. Sands said hackers crashed its email system and stole employees’ Social Security numbers.

    But a video posted online appears to catalog stolen information that goes much further.

    Sands spokesman Ron Reese said the company is reviewing the 11-minute video that appears to show dozens of administrator passwords, including passwords for slot machine systems and player information at Sands’ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania casino. It also shows employee files and a diagram of the company’s internal networks. He said the company did not know about the additional incursions until it started investigating the video.

    “We have now determined that the hackers reached at least some of the company’s internal drives in the US containing some office productivity information made up largely of documents and spreadsheets,” he said in a statement. “We are reviewing the video to determine what, if any, customer or employee data may have been accessed.”

    The FBI, Secret Service and Nevada Gaming Control Board are investigating the hacking. Neither of the federal agencies would comment on the matter, and Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett also declined to comment, saying he had not yet seen the video.

    A person using the name Zhao Anderson sent the video to The Associated Press on Monday by email, and it was also posted on YouTube by a person using the same name. The AP could not verify the person’s identity, or the information contained in the email.

    Reese declined to say whether Sands had changed its administrative passwords in response to the hacking.

    The hacking affected Sands’ corporate website, as well as the sites for casinos in Las Vegas, China, Singapore, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Sands restored the websites Monday afternoon, though not exactly as they were before the attack.

    Adelson is an outspoken supporter of Israel and a generous donor to U.S. Republican Party campaigns. He spoke in October about dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran, saying strength was the only thing the country understands.

    The hackers at one point referred to themselves as the “Anti WMD Team.” Cybersecurity experts say it could have taken several months for so-called “hacktivists” to complete an attack on Sands’ networks.

    Sands, which is the world’s largest casino company in terms of revenue, also owns the world’s largest casino, in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. The company’s net income was $2.31 billion last year.

    Sands has not said what effect the hacking attack has had on the company’s bottom line. Sands has said it has been able to continue booking visitors by telephone.

    Since the hacking became public last Tuesday, Sands stock has risen about 3.7 percent to $80.69.


    Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier

  • WSJ: iPhone jumps to seven percent share in China
    Apple is now the fifth-largest cellphone maker in China, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal based on numbers from analyst firm IDC. The iPhone maker leapt a full percentage point in the last quarter of 2013 on the strength of its iPhone 5s and 5c, and the report does not even include sales from China Mobile, with which Apple finally inked a deal in December. The surge in sales moved the iPhone into a seven percent share of the smartphone market.


  • Nude scanner mobile app ad banned
    A TV advert for a mobile phone app, which showed images of a naked woman, is banned after it was broadcast during Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
  • Apple's iPhones sales in Russia doubled in 2013
    While a hair over a million and a half iPhones sold sounds (and is) pretty bad for a company with the influence and presence of Apple, the 1.57 million units sold in Russia in 2013 represent something of a (small) triumph: not only does it double the number of iPhones sold in the country compared to 2012, the iPhone was unavailable on any Russia’s major carriers for the entire first half of the year.


  • VIDEO: LiFi: Internet by the power of light
    Professor Harald Haas shows Rory Cellan-Jones technology that beams an internet connection via a standard light fitting.
  • The internet through a light bulb
    Rory Cellan-Jones imagines internet connection through overhead lights.
  • Humans in Space: Finding a Shared Voice

    Art courtesy of Mark Maxwell

    Within a year or so we will begin to see the first commercial human spaceflight systems come online, and the first steps to opening space to the people of Earth will have been taken.

    After more than 25 years of political trench warfare, reeducation and demonstration by a hardened band of space revolutionaries that we know what we are doing, we are at last beginning to transition the government-run command economy in human spaceflight into one shared with the private sector — to the benefit of all.

    Those on the front lines, on both sides, know just how tough a battle it continues to be. Yet we are seeing it happen, in many small ways and some that are highly visible, such as the berthing of the first U.S. commercial spacecraft from SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to the space station while companies like NanoRacks and Bigelow are using it to develop their own businesses — while helping the agency do its job.

    In fact, I recently walked away from the battle between those pushing for what I call the “Senate Launch System” (Congress’ latest government megarocket) and those fighting to create a NewSpace commercial space transportation industry. After helping birth the baby of commercial spaceflight and then protecting it from those who felt threatened by its promise, the latter are now finding that it is not just beginning to stand on its own two feet but taking flight — literally.

    But this is (to steal a phrase) only one small step. To quote Robert Heinlein, “Once you get to Earth orbit, you are halfway to anywhere in the solar system.” Well, I hereby leave the orbit part to others. I am focused on the anywhere.

    For me the next job begins at that hundred-mile mark and includes banging some heads together in our own space community. As for right now, we are our own worst enemy. Be it those heading to the Moon, Mars or the space between worlds I call “free space,” each of us seems to think ours is the only worthwhile goal. And of course we also each have our own favorite spacecraft, our own perfect solutions and systems and approaches, and everyone else be damned, because my way is the space highway.

    We are like a group of maniacal subdivisions of a church — all true believers, yet each with our own definition of heaven, our own way of getting there, and armed with ammo belts full of facts and PowerPoints that we can unleash on anyone who has the temerity to assume he or she has a viable idea, approach or destination worth considering. It has to stop or we will all face failure.

    I know whereof I speak, as I have been guilty of doing just this (and if I may say so myself, I am pretty good at it). And while I am not suggesting some sort of awkward group geek hug, I am suggesting that right now is the time to find commonalities, areas of agreement, and, at least at the highest level, some sort of unity in what is, to me, clearly and easily the most important undertaking in the history of humanity — if not life itself.

    That may sound grandiose and overstated, but it isn’t. And anyone reading this who “gets it” knows what I mean. Whether you work on or support the government Orion or the private Dragon spacecraft, the international space station or Bigelow’s private space facilities, whether you spend your days in a Loral cleanroom or soldering a cubesat in your garage, whether you are a staffer in Washington or bring doughnuts for the local space society meeting, whether you are an astronaut or just nuts about astronomy, at some level you understand the import and possibility of what is out there — or you wouldn’t be doing what you are doing.

    So let’s for a moment put down our flags, quit stomping on each other’s footprints and work on a unified vision that will support all of our dreams yet allow all of us to do our own thing, do it in our own way and go to those places we each want to go.

    In the next year or two we have a huge opportunity, and we cannot blow it. Here’s why I say this:

    We are exactly between presidential elections, as close to a calm period as there might be in terms of politics.

    The first citizens are about to start flying into space — including many high-wealth, high-profile opinion makers.

    American companies are at last about to bring the flying of astronauts back home to the United States from Russia.

    The first credible humans-to-Mars plans are starting to weave together in public-private partnerships. In fact, I can say with some authority that this will also be the case in terms of the Moon and asteroids as well. As these megamissions and projects collide with budget realities, it is becoming clear that they must work together to achieve their own goals — be it science, profit or building a new society.

    Throw in pressures to respond to Chinese and Indian initiatives on the Moon and Mars and we have what is needed to do something important — that is, if we don’t blow it — as we have done so many times before.

    So what can we do to leverage these (and the many other opportunities I don’t have room to list here) in a way that will enable us all to do this important work and at the same time realize our own dreams?

    First, we must all agree that our goal is to explore and open the frontier of space to expand the domain of humanity and life. This, above all things, is the key to the next stage of opening space.

    Second, we must create a shared core agenda to make this happen as quickly as possible, and not only as cheaply as possible but in a way that best leverages our investments in capital and taxes in terms of the amount of knowledge and wealth we return to Earth, and the chance for participation available to everyone, in this country and the world.

    Then, we need to use the voices and volume once dedicated to pronouncing our own individual solutions to communicate this shared top-level set of goals and the basic agenda we agree upon to the rest of the world. We need to create a new conversation, not about where we go and how but about why it is important that we go at all, and how we all win if we do.

    Look, I may be many things, but I am, by this time, not naive. I am not suggesting that battles between proponents of various destinations and technologies will end by sprinkling magic space dust over everyone. (Could that be a market?) Heck, that’s what makes some of this fun. I am just suggesting that we agree to disagree on the details and destinations, base the winners on the merits, and focus on agreeing why we are doing this, and how we can all do it together so that everyone wins — then selling that to the world.

    So do we rise together or hang out there alone, under a canopy of stars we will never reach?

  • Can crowdsourced reviews be trusted?
    Can we trust the reviews?
  • Hacking Wicked Social Problems With Renaissance Thinkers and Gamers
    You can’t cure advanced cancer of the brain with a knife. Not often anyway. Or at least not without causing major damage. We have learned that simple chop-and-carve techniques doesn’t work when every cut against a tumor causes damage to neural pathways that control vital organs of the body. The brain, our legions of organs and their functions are connected in a system of intricate regulation of the numerous flows of fluids and electrical signals that drive and keep our bodies alive and healthy. Curing advanced cancer of the brain is a wicked problem.

    Likewise, you can’t fix wicked social problems with linear thinking and scalpel approaches. Wicked social problems are tumors in our social fabric, often deeply rooted in the command-and-control systems of our societies. Witness Obamacare. “Shock and awe” all over again: years of negotiation and design, stalemates and lawsuits, renegotiation and redesign, ripple effects as sequester hit our institutions. We felt the tremors into the farthest corners of our society. There’s no end in sight. And why would we expect there to be one in the first place? Does a perfect solution even exist? Wicked social problems are – by definition – protracted and complex. They are multi-dimensional in that they require the consultation of many stakeholder groups and the development of incentive systems that align them toward change. Social innovation, its governance and its impact toward more just, sustainable and healthy communities, is the defining challenge of the 21st century.

    Of course, we can’t afford to throw our hands in the air and walk away from the challenge. That is not the American spirit. We are the people that designed the Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods system, the New Deal and the Apollo program. We have proven that we can tackle wicked problems with persistence, conviction, ingenuity and lots of diverse innovation talent. We can do it again to achieve impact for wicked social problems.

    For starters, we need to change the way we think: In the post-WWII world, we have honed a western tradition of linear, short-term cause-and-effect thinking into an extreme craft. It is being taught in our business schools, practiced in our institutions and abused by our political officials during election times with promises of rapid resolution of wicked problems. This type of thinking serves one purpose: to reassure our anxious selves in 30-second “blitz-reflections” that we can cut in and cut through, make some progress, accept collateral damage, and move on. So we run in circles, cutting into organ after organ, institution after institution, patching up and growing new ones if we have to. We sleep better telling ourselves that doing something is better than doing nothing. But balance the system we do not. The next tumor grows. The next institution collapses. The next system collapse is around the corner.

    Instead, we need to tackle wicked social problems with multi-dimensional, inclusive solutions. Easier said than done, for sure. Here’s one approach:

    Business people need to create ecosystems in which diverse sets of talents are induced to think like DaVinci: across disciplines and stovepipes so we can gain new insights and synthesize new solutions. Luckily, some of this is already being done in pockets, but it’s still not the mainstream approach. This week, a thousand cross-disciplinary thinkers and doers from all over the world will converge on Silicon Valley to take part in the Global Innovation Summit to learn how to create effective innovation ecosystems.

    Really what we need is a new system of ecosystem entrepreneurs. Business people who orchestrate the Renaissance crowd toward solutions. They need to consult with biologists to borrow from nature’s ways of creating equilibria, anthropologists to gain justice wisdom from communities in far off places, psychologists to chart patterns of irrational behaviors, linguists to understand how language systems regulate emotions, thoughts and traditions, etc. etc. We need to put the best thinkers in those fields into one space with artificial intelligence researchers, design professionals, entrepreneurs, financiers and economic strategists to align interest and build the right teams to create systemic solutions for lasting impact.

    But most of all, we need hackers, gamers and producers. They will help us stitch the content from disparate disciplines together. They will use the collective wisdom and insights to design gaming engines that can optimize social, environmental and economics pay-offs. They understand motivation, achievement, rewards, good and bad addictions, crowds and multi-player interactions. And they know of the unintended consequences of complicated socio-technical systems in which culture, commerce, and community collide! They will make sure the Renaissance content “plays” well.

    Can’t mitigate climate change through a system in which everybody gains, including industry? Can’t design a social security system that is fair to current and future generations? Can’t figure out equitable water supply in the Middle East across political, ethnic and religious fault lines? The social system hackers and gamers will get you there, with a little help from their renaissance thinker friends.

    This post is part of a series produced in partnership by the Global Innovation Summit and The Huffington Post around impact, innovation, and technology. For more information on the Summit, click here.

  • 90,000 People Are Playing Pokemon Together, And It's Beautiful
    Remember that epic Pokémon livestream-turned-game called Twitch Plays Pokémon we told you about Friday? Well, while you were enjoying your “House of Cards” Valentine’s binge, those 10,000 players refused to rest in their quest to become a Pokémon master. And it seems like they invited a few of their friends to help.

    It’s been almost 6 straight days of Pokémon madness on Twitch, and more than 93,000 players are now participating in the game.

    (Story continues below.)
    Twitch Plays Pokemon -  a social experiment
    It looks a little something like this.

    Background (ICYMI): Twitch is a livestream site where viewers can watch another player’s game footage in real time and comment via a chatbox, similar to the chatrooms of yore. In this game of Pokémon, someone has modified the chatbox so that viewers can type commands to control the actual game, basically turning the chat feature into a controller that everyone can use at the same time.

    This was madness with 10,000 players. With 90,000 it’s just impossible.

    So now, the chatbox has been modified again. According to Joystiq, the stream’s creator turned the chat function into a sort of voting system. Players still input the actions they want to see, but instead of the onscreen character doing those actions, the typed commands become votes. These votes are tallied every couple seconds by the computer, and the action that the most viewers selected is the one the game character performs.

    Players can also vote to have an action completed a certain number of times. Let’s say you log into Twitch Plays Pokémon and want the character to go to the right three spaces. You input “right3.” Then 50,000 other viewers do the same. Since your action has received the most votes, the character moves to the right three spaces. If only 40,000 viewers had typed “right3” and 50,000 had typed “right2,” the character would move to the right two spaces. Majority wins.

    Make sense?

    Twitch plays Pokemon: HELP ME!!
    Relax, it’s gonna be OK.

    Well, it gets a teensy bit more complicated. As you may have guessed, not everyone is happy with the new voting system, and some have taken it upon themselves to try and sabotage the game. So, to make things confusing for everyone, a new layer of voting has been added.

    Players can now type in “democracy” to maintain the voting system, or if they just want to watch the world burn, they can type “anarchy” to go back to the old methods of playing, where every inputted action was completed by the character.

    Aaaaaaand anarchy ruins everything.

    Needless to say, that chatbox is complete mayhem.

    Twitch Plays Pokémon, while seemingly trivial, is proof of the power of the Internet. The game has grown exponentially in five days and has adapted and continued to thrive with each passing day. In-game progress continues, despite the best efforts by those trolls screaming “anarchy” in the chatbox.

    Joystiq reports that there are a Twitter account, subreddit and GoogleDoc to track the game’s progress and goals.

    All in all, Twitch Plays Pokémon has become something beautiful, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • The 30 Second Habit That Can Have a Big Impact On Your Life
    There are no quick fixes. I know this as a social science junkie, who’s read endless books and blogs on the subject, and tried out much of the advice – mostly to no avail. So I do not entitle this post lightly. And I write it only having become convinced, after several months of experimentation, that one of the simplest pieces of advice I’ve heard is also one of the best.

    It is not from a bestselling book – indeed no publisher would want it: even the most eloquent management thinker would struggle to spin a whole book around it. Nor is it born out of our world of digital excess and discontent. Instead, it was given by a man born in the 19th century, to his teenage grandson, today in his fifth decade.

    The man in question, an eminience grise of the business world, is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He has helped devise brands that are household names. These days, working only when he feels he has something to offer, he is parachuted in to solve stock price threatening corporate crises. Occasionally, when he’s sufficiently interested, he pens speeches for Fortune 500 CEOs and politicians, his words billed out out at six figures. He is exceptionally well read, and also writes prolifically. Novels. But just for fun: on completion, he destroys them. He does not see the point in being published, or of seeking publicity in general. Amongst his friends are some of the most powerful people on the planet – from business leaders, to politicians, actors and other luminaries of the arts. But Google him, and you will find barely a ripple on the cyber seas.

    I met him first over a coffee in his apartment, to discuss the strategy for a highly political non-profit working in Africa. Around his table sat an eclectic mix of very vocal people. Our host, making the coffee, said almost nothing. But on the few occasions he did interject, with a brief question or observation, it invariably clarified exactly what mattered– politely sweeping away the sludge of opinion that clogs such discussions. It was masterful: like watching a conductor of the London Philharmonic coaxing a small town student orchestra into shape.

    So when he shared some of the best advice he’d ever received, I was captivated.

    If you only do one thing, do this

    He was in his early teens, about to start senior school, when his grandfather took him aside and told him the following:

    Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds – no more, no less – to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.

    He did, and he was. In everything he has done since, with such accomplishment, and with enough room still to experience life so richly. He later inducted into the pact both his sons, who have excelled in their young careers.

    I’ve been trying it out for a few months. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

    1. It’s not note taking: Don’t think, just because you write down everything in a meeting, that you’re excused from the 30 second summation. Though brief, this exercise is entirely different from taking notes. It’s an act of interpretation, prioritisation and decision-making.
    2. It’s hard work: Deciding what’s most important is exhausting. It’s amazing how easy it is to tell yourself you’ve captured everything that matters, to find excuses to avoid this brief mental sprint – a kind of 100 metres for your brain.
    3. Detail is a trap: But precisely because we so often, ostensibly, capture everything – and thus avoid the hard work of deciding what something counts – that everything is worth less. So much of excellence is, of course, the art of elimination. And the 30 second review stops you using quantity as an excuse.
    4. You must act quickly: If you wait a few hours, you may recall the facts, but you lose the nuance. And this makes all the difference in deciding what matters. Whether it’s the tone in someone’s voice, or the way one seemingly simple suggestions sparks so many others, or the shadow of an idea in your mind triggered by a passing comment.
    5. You learn to listen better, and ask better questions: Once you get into the habit of the 30 second review, it starts to change the way you pay attention, whether listening to a talk or participating in a discussion. It’s like learning to detect a simple melody amidst a cacophony of sound. And as you listen with more focus, and ask better questions which prompt actionable answers, so your 30 second review becomes more useful.
    6. You’re able to help others more: Much of what makes the 30 second cut are observations about what matters to other people. Even if the purpose is to help better manage different interests in future conversations, it also helps you understand others needs, and so solve their problems. This does not surprise me: in months of interviewing people who make generous connections, I’ve been struck by how many have their own unconscious version of the 30 second review: focused on the question of how best they can help.
    7. It gets easier and more valuable: Each time you practice, it gets a little easier, a little more helpful and little more fun.
  • Here's How Much Tesla Owners LOVE Their Cars
    Move over, Vanilla the Volkswagen Beetle. There’s a new vehicle in town that’s getting all the loving from its owners: the Tesla Model S. According to a new study, the electric sedan scored highest among all vehicles for generating owner “love.”

    Global marketing company Strategic Vision’s study determined owner love toward a vehicle by asking owners to score their car based off ownership and dealership experience related to “commitment, overall satisfaction, total top emotional responses, proposed repurchase loyalty and actual repurchase loyalty.”

    Out of a possible 1,000 points, the Tesla scored 852.

    Strategic Vision’s report also listed the most-loved cars for a number of vehicle classes (small car, SUV, truck and so on), and the only other car that came close to being as loved as the Model S was Hyundai’s $61,250 Equus, which scored 821 points to earn the title of most-loved luxury car — that is, if you don’t consider the overall most-loved car, the Tesla Model S, a luxury car.

    Despite a handful of instances in which the vehicles caught fire, the Model S has also received lots of love from critics. Both Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine named the Model S its Car of the Year and Automobile of the Year in 2013. The car even managed to score a 5.4 in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s five-star safety rating system.

    No word from Edward Smith, the man who claims to have made love to 999 cars, on how good a lover the Tesla Model S makes.

    Be sure to check out the gallery (below) to see all the cars Strategic Vision found to be the most loved in their class.

  • Can Elon Musk Replace Steve Jobs? Tesla and Apple Innovation
    There’s been much talk this week about the secret meeting between Elon Musk and top Apple executives. Some speculate that there may be an Apple-Tesla merger this year, others say collaboration is almost inevitable. Bottom line: Apple needs some serious visionary power to keep its innovative reputation alive. Is Elon Musk the next Steve Jobs and would he want to be?

    Last year, I interviewed Elon Musk in one of his most revealing public appearances, and he exposed a complex character that is both deadly serious yet comedic at times; driven yet rather sensitive; single-minded, and yet eclectic in his desire to change the world in multiple ways.

    Musk told me the story of how he met Steve Jobs at a party in Silicon Valley. It did not go well. Even so, Musk says “Steve Jobs is way cooler than I am.”

    Let’s take a closer look at the two men and see what makes them tick.

    That sensitivity was apparent several times during our dialogue when his eyes welled up in response to my questions about the future of NASA, Neil Armstrong’s testimony, and candlelight vigils for the EV1 (at 28:35, 1:04:00 and 39:50 in the video). Steve Jobs was also known to weep.

    Musk has many traits in common with Jobs and yet in subtle ways their characters are distinct.

    Here are five revealing moments from our conversation that emphasize the common threads.

    1. Ability to Sell Great Ideas

    Jobs used his infamous “reality distortion field” to push his teams hard to achieve much more that they thought was possible. His oft-quoted phrase was “insanely great” and his product launches were passionate and brash.

    Musk is more pragmatic in his approach, he rarely uses buzzwords*, and although his product launches are often equally dazzling, his delivery is less assured, more halting.

    *Granted, he does talk about getting a “money shot” of his Greenhouse on Mars idea (at 30:00 in the video).

    “In the beginning there will be few people who believe in you or in what you’re doing but then over time… the evidence will build and more and more people will believe in what you’re doing. So, I think it’s a good idea when creating a company to … have a demonstration or to be able to sketch something so people can really envision what’s it’s about. Try to get to that point as soon as possible.” — Elon Musk

    This Word Art of our 90-minute conversation reveals no catchy buzzwords, though the word THINK stands out prominently.

    2. Obsessive Attention to Detail:

    Stories abound of Steve Jobs’ intense attention to detail. He notoriously spent months agonizing over the internal layout of the Mac computer’s circuit board.

    “I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.” — Steve Jobs

    When his team failed to deliver on his vision, Jobs often flew into terrible rages. Case in point: the first fanless computer.

    By contrast, Musk is known for his attention to detail and being a demanding boss, but he focuses his Vulcan rage at the media over issues like damning test drives, media coverage of Tesla car fires; and at foes such as auto dealerships.

    His rage also turns inward. For example, when he discovered the wrong type of screw used in the Model S sun visors. He reportedly said, “they felt like daggers in my eyes.”

    While doing pre-interviews with Musk’s colleagues, I heard a revealing story about his obsession with the Tesla Model S key fob. A colleague described how he agonized for weeks over the shape, the girth, the weight of the fob till it was just right. Take a peek at the end result and see if you think it was all worth it.

    When I visited the Tesla factory (on assignment for KQED), I heard a similar story from the mechanics working on the iconic Model S door handles. Responsive door handles that sit flush with car doors looked like mission impossible, yet Musk and his team eventually prevailed. The result is so highly prized that my tour guide, Gilbert Passin (VP for manufacturing at Tesla) forbade me to take close-up photos of the components.

    3. Ability to Think Differently Stems from Splendid Isolation

    When I asked Musk if he was a lonely kid, he replied:

    “I wasn’t all that much of a loner…at least not willingly. I was very very bookish.” — Elon Musk

    As a kid he was consumed by his own world, reading books like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and playing Dungeons and Dragons for hours. Musk found coding a piece of cake and created his own software at the tender age of 12. Thanks to his bookish childhood, his innovative ideas could flourish without being squashed by friends or family.

    Similarly, Jobs had an isolated childhood, and was bullied at school. He did no competitive school sports and was obsessed by electronics and gadgets.

    4. Deep Thinking

    Although Jobs was less techie, more visionary; and Musk is a geeky engineer who prides himself on innovation using scientific first principles, both are deep thinkers.

    Elon Musk explained how The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy inspired him while he was looking for the meaning of life as a teenager.

    “It highlighted an important point, which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. To the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask. Then whatever the question is that most approximates: what’s the meaning of life? That’s the question we can ultimately get closer to understanding. And so I thought to the degree that we can expand the scope and scale of consciousness and knowledge, then that would be a good thing.” — Elon Musk

    Walter Isaacson, the author of Jobs’ biography wrote that Jobs felt throughout his life that he was on a journey — and he often said, ‘The journey was the reward.’ But that journey involved resolving conflicts about his role in this world: why he was here and what it was all about. He had a lifelong interest in Zen Buddhism and they discussed whether or not he believed in an afterlife.

    “Sometimes I’m 50-50 on whether there’s a God. It’s the great mystery we never quite know. But I like to believe there’s an afterlife. I like to believe the accumulated wisdom doesn’t just disappear when you die, but somehow it endures.” — Steve Jobs

    5. Impact

    Although Musk isn’t yet the household name that Jobs has become, those who’re familiar with Musk’s work and genius compare him to Leonardo da Vinci and The Atlantic recently described him as one of the most ambitious innovators of this era. And what about Steve Jobs? He was described in the study as “a star of popular culture.”


    During our interview, Musk shared the story of his brief encounter with the great Steve Jobs. The two were introduced by Google’s Larry Page at a party and Musk describes Jobs as being “super rude” to him. Nevertheless, this didn’t dent his admiration for the Apple guru. Here’s our dialogue:

    Elon Musk: “The guy had a certain magic about him that was really inspiring. I think that’s really great.”

    Alison van Diggelen: “Is it that magic that you try to emulate?”

    Elon Musk: “No, I think Steve Jobs was way cooler than I am.”

    Although Apple fans will agree strongly with that assessment, feedback at YouTube loudly contradicts Musk. Here’s one of the more polite reactions: “Sounds just like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Except Elon Musk will probably end up being much more memorable than Steve Jobs :P”

    Musk is right, today Steve Jobs is still generally perceived as being “way cooler” than him. But that could change.

    What will the history books conclude, in 10 or 20 years from now?

    Steve Jobs certainly has big shoes to fill, and Elon Musk is already beginning to fill them, but on his own terms. Musk’s eyes are firmly focused on the electric car, space travel and solar. I don’t see him ceding control of Tesla to Apple, although collaboration makes sense.

    Musk’s legacy will depend on his ability to see his grand visions come to fruition. First, he must complete his “Secret Master Plan for Tesla,” which includes the creation of a popular mass market electric car; and second, his vision of making space rockets reusable just like modern day jets.

    One day, he may even achieve his life’s mission of dying on Mars, but as he describes it, “Just not on impact.”

    Now that would be insanely cool.

  • Dropbox's Hiring Practices Explain Its Disappointing​ Lack of Female Employees
    “If someone came in right now and announced that the zombie apocalypse had just started outside, what would you do in the next hour? What is something that you’re geeky about? What is a superpower you would give to your best friend?” These are the types of questions that you could be asked if you apply for a job at Dropbox. Business Insider culled these and other quirky interview questions from a career website, Glassdoor.

    Dropbox, which provides online storage, is clearly looking for creative people who can think outside the box and wants to make interviews more fun. It is not alone; many Silicon Valley companies ask such questions. The problem is that such questions are fun only for people who understand the jokes — and who can think like the young men doing the interviews.

    They don’t lead to better hiring outcomes as Google learned. Its senior vice president for people operations, Laszlo Bock, said last June in an interview with New York Times, “…we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

    Such hiring practices also disadvantage women. They hurt the employer by limiting the talent pool. They fortify the male dominated frat-boy culture that Silicon Valley is increasingly being criticized for.

    Telle Whitney, CEO of Anita Borg Institute, which is working on getting more women to study computer science and have more women fully engaged in creating technology, says its research shows questions such as these cause women to get screened out more often than men. As an example, the superhero concept is going to resonate much more with men, as demonstrated by the demographics of the superhero movie attendance. Whitney cites research which shows that a strong and pervasive stereotype of computer professionals as devoid of a social life alienates women. Subtle cues in the physical environment of companies such as Star Trek posters and video games lead to women being less interested in being a part of an organization when compared to a neutral office environment. This causes women to self-select out of technology jobs.

    Indeed, the trend is getting worse. In 1985, 37 percent of computer science undergraduate degree recipients were women. By 2011 this proportion had dropped to 18 percent. Most technology firms refuse to release gender and diversity numbers. Data collected on Github explains why. Dropbox, for example, had only 9 women in its 143 person engineering team as of October 2013. That’s 6.3 percent in an industry in which 18 percent of the hiring pool is women.

    Dropbox recently completed $250 million of funding at a valuation close to $10 billion according to the Wall Street Journal. It is rumored to be heading towards an IPO. The company has been expanding its hiring yet the number of women in management is declining. Kim Malone Scott, who headed operations and sales, left in April 2013; Anna Christina Douglas, who headed product marketing, left in August; and VP of Operations Ruchi Sanghvi left the company last October.

    Two former female employees and one current employee of Dropbox shared their concerns with me. They asked not to be named because they had signed non-disparagement agreements and feared negative consequences for their careers if they spoke critically of Dropbox. One wrote in an email, “When I interviewed for Dropbox, I was interviewed in a room called ‘The Break-up Room,’ by a male. It was right next to a room called the ‘Bromance Chamber.’ It felt weird I would be interviewed in such a strangely named conference room.” She said that “every time the company holds an all hands ‘goals’ meeting, the only people who talk are men. There are no females in leadership. The highest ranking is a team lead on the User Ops team.”

    She spoke up because she believes that “having more females in leadership positions results in more females; when they all leave those positions, it signals poorly to the rest of us.” Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, was invited in by Dropbox to talk about hidden bias research and how it may apply to startups. Her husband, Mitch Kapor, also came to the talk as someone who has been a successful entrepreneur and feels that the culture set at the outset of a company is critical. (Coincidentally they became shareholders in Dropbox when the company bought a startup in which they had invested.) Klein says that Dropbox executives, like other startup founders, honestly believe they are a meritocracy and are unaware as to how hidden bias operates. Employee referrals play a large role in their hiring as in most start-ups which further introduces bias and makes the culture exclusionary.

    Her advice to Dropbox? “Founders are looking for ‘objective’ measures such as school ranking, GPAs, SAT scores, but fail to recognize that these are biased. Dropbox and other start-ups should pioneer new ways to identify people who can succeed on the core set of job responsibilities. Perhaps a question on how Dropbox might be used to solve income inequality or the unaffordability of housing in San Francisco would reveal as much about someone’s creativity — and more about their character — than questions about superheroes.”


    Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke’s engineering school and distinguished scholar at Singularity and Emory universities. His past appointments include Harvard Law School and University of California Berkeley.

  • Receivers/Amplifiers from Pioneer and Harmon Kardon can Enhance any Surround Sound System
    Discrimination can be good or bad. For example, discriminating against people or things is a BAD thing, but having a so-called “discriminating ear” can be beneficial, especially when choosing a receiver/amplifier for your surround sound system.

    With that in mind, we put our ears to the test as we played with new receivers from Pioneer and Harmon Kardon. The differences between the two — other than price — were subtle, at best, with both performing flawlessly.

    The Pioneer Elite SC-71 ($1,000) is rated at 150 watts per channel for a 7.2 surround sound system (at six ohms) or 120 watts (at eight ohms). Truthfully this blows away my older $1,800 Yamaha receiver, which is rated at 75 watts per channel.

    Weighing in at a hefty 30 pounds (similar to the old Yamaha), the SC-71 boasts connections for every type of component including component and composite audio/video cables, HDMI cables and optical sound cables.

    Its most notable features include:

    • Eight HDMI input and two HDMI output connections.
    • Speaker terminals for eight speakers including two subwoofers plus two networked speakers.
    • An USB port for digital audio or to connect an Apple or Android device.
    • Apple AirPlay compatibility.
    • Internet radio compatibility.
    • Several Dolby enhanced audio presets, ranging from “concert hall” to “rock.”
    • Dolby True HD/Dolby Pro Logic IIz/Dolby Digital Plus audio for movies and TV.
    • 63 AM/FM presets.
    • Compatible with Windows 8.

    The Harmon Kardon AVR 1710 ($600) lacks the bevy of inputs found on the SC-71, but still boasts five HDMI inputs and one output and one composite and two analog connections.

    This doesn’t mean it sacrifices on pure, beautiful sound. The AV 1710 is a 7.2 channel surround sound amplifier rated at 100 watts per channel, which (again) is better than my older, more expensive receiver. It’s also a lot lighter, weighing less than 10 pounds. It also features:

    • An MHL/HDMI port to handle streaming HD video devices.
    • Speaker terminals for seven speakers including two subwoofers plus two networked speakers.
    • An USB port for digital audio or to connect an Apple or Android device.
    • Dolby True HD/Dolby Pro Logic IIz/Dolby Digital Plus audio for movies and TV.
    • Several Dolby enhanced audio presets, ranging from “concert hall” to “rock.”
    • Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth compatibility.
    • Speaker terminals for eight speakers including two subwoofers.

    Basically the choice boils down to the types of connections you need and the clarity of the sound (although there’s very little difference between what the “discriminating ear” can hear at 150 watts per channel or 100 watts).

    Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman’s Jocgeek fan page at www.facebook.com/jocgeek. You can also contact him via email at jocgeek@earthlink.net or through his website at www.jocgeek.com.

    The author has no financial ties to either of the companies discussed above.

  • On Zombies and Cyber Attacks
    During the winter of 2013-14, amidst the school delays and extreme weather conditions in much of the United States, the federal Emergency Alert System issued a warning, but perhaps not the one people expected: “Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. . . . Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies, as they are considered extremely dangerous.” Hackers had reportedly penetrated the system to issue a “bogus zombie alert” in yet another “disturbingly common” episode showcasing the myriad vulnerabilities buried in “critical systems throughout [U.S.] government . . . .” Aside from being fodder for bored hackers, such weaknesses can be exploited by cyber criminals, terrorists, and nation-states, which makes securing “critical infrastructure” a key test of effective cybersecurity policymaking. Thus far, though, it is a test that many nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and India, are failing. However, the release of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework could signal a new chapter in securing critical infrastructure not only in the United States, but also in the European Union and potentially around the world.

    Nations are taking varying approaches to enhancing critical infrastructure cybersecurity. What has emerged is a governance spectrum with the United States, United Kingdom, and India preferring a more voluntary approach, while other cyber powers, including China, are opting for a larger role for the state. The European Union so far seems to fall toward the middle of the spectrum, with calls for establishing “appropriate cybersecurity performance requirements” as well as mandatory reporting for cyber attacks having a “significant impact” on firms operating across a broad array of sectors.

    Time and experience will demonstrate whether a more voluntary or regulatory approach is more effective at securing critical infrastructure. The former, for example, holds the benefit of innovation through experimentation, but the lack of enforcement mechanisms can make the uptake of best practices haphazard. Consider the electric grid. The United States has more than 3,200 independent power utilities, unlike Germany, which has four major providers. Organizing the efforts of a handful of utilities is a far easier undertaking than ensuring the uptake of best practices across thousands of disparate actors.

    To help realize the promise of a largely voluntary approach of securing critical infrastructure, President Obama issued an executive order that tasked NIST with developing the Cybersecurity Framework in February 2013, which promises to be a “prioritized, flexible, repeatable, and cost-effective approach” to help “manage cybersecurity-related risk while protecting business confidentiality, individual privacy and civil liberties.” Many commentators have gauged this effort as falling short of what is required, but it could help shape a cybersecurity duty of care.

    Over time, the Framework could shape the cybersecurity reform efforts of other nations and regions, including India and the European Union, where it has already peaked the interest of E.U. policymakers. Evolving cybersecurity best practices could even be made enforceable through industry councils similar to the process by which norms from the nonprofit North American Electric Reliability Council became binding through Congressional action in the wake of the 2003 northeast blackout. One hopes that it will not take a major cyber attack, or a zombie invasion, to galvanize similar action to enhance security for critical infrastructure.


    For further information on this topic, see MANAGING CYBER ATTACKS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, BUSINESS AND RELATIONS: IN SEARCH OF CYBER PEACE (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014); Beyond the New ‘Digital Divide’: Analyzing the Evolving Role of Governments in Internet Governance and Enhancing Cybersecurity, STANFORD JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (2014).

  • 25 Documentaries Every Arts & Culture Lover Needs To Watch Right Now
    We’ve all sat in front of our Netflix accounts, tirelessly sifting through film and television genres like “Dark Biographical 20th Century Period Pieces” and “Quirky TV Shows Featuring a Strong Female Lead,” never quite finding that perfect piece of cinematography. Defeated by your own streaming service, you haplessly watch another beloved episode of “Twin Peaks” thinking this just can’t last much longer.

    While we won’t deny the overwhelming allure of David Lynch, we will give you a list of 25 documentaries every Arts & Culture lover needs to watch. From Dutch prostitution heroines to the man behind Pee-wee’s Playhouse to indie gaming to vintage gig posters, these are the historical gems you should be adding to your queue right now.

    1. Cutie and the Boxer(2013)

    A candid portrait of a 40-year marriage between Japanese “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Even if you’re not particularly fond of contemporary art, this doc shines a light on the anger, sacrifice and confrontation involved in an aging relationship. And you can’t help but fall in love with Noriko.

    2. Beautiful Darling(2010)

    “Beautiful Darling” tells the story of Andy Warhol muse, Candy Darling. Born James Slattery, Darling became a Factory film star, garnered the attention of Tennessee Williams and aspired to Hollywood, all before her untimely death from Lymphoma at 29.

    3. Paris is Burning (1990)

    This is your introduction to all things 1980s NYC drag, with a heavy emphasis on voguing and balls. “We’re not going to be shady, just fierce.”

    4. Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012)

    Need we explain more? Let the trailer above tell you all you need to know about the subcultural phenomenon.

    5. Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes (2011)

    Have you ever considered glass pipe-making a facet of American folk art? As the conversation around legalized marijuana continues to grow, maybe you should.

    6. Meet The Fokkens (2011)

    Louise and Martine Fokkens are identical twins who for over fifty years worked as prostitutes. Familiar to many who’ve frequented Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the women freed themselves from the oversight of pimps, ran their own brothel and set up the first informal trade union for prostitutes. This is their story.

    7. First Position (2011)

    Enter one of the world’s largest ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix. There are tiaras and tutus, along with intense global competition and unbelievable adolescent ambition. You do not, we repeat, DO NOT have to love dance to be fascinated by this documentary.

    8. Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

    This documentary outlines the life of Freda Kelly, the secretary and longtime friend of the Beatles. She was there all 10 years of the Fab Four’s career — actually, 11, since she was around before they hit it big and after they cruised to an end.

    9. The Rape of Europa (2006)

    Before George Clooney launched his own version of the “Monuments Men” story, “The Rape of Europa” illustrated the extent of Nazi art plundering and the efforts of Allied forces to minimize the damage.

    10. Inside Pixar (2013)

    From “the little studio that could” to the animated children’s movie behemoth that it has become, Pixar has done so growing up over the last few years. Art and tech nerds alike, this one is for you.

    11. A Band Called Death (2012)

    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, you’ve got to watch this rockumentary about the Black punk group that predated Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

    12. Beauty is Embarrassing (2012)

    Wayne White is the man behind “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” He’s an artist who’s done a Smashing Pumpkins video, visuals for Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time,” “Beakman’s World,” and “The Weird Al Show.” “Beauty is Embarrassing” covers all this and more.

    13. Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

    These are the “underdogs” of the gaming industry, who’ve created works like “Super Meat Boy,” the adventures of a skinless boy in search of his girlfriend, who is made of bandages. Yes.

    14. Helvetica (2007)

    Shout out to the typography lovers everywhere and all those individuals who fervently craft Word documents in a font lovingly known as Helvetica. These are its origins.

    15. Fame High (2012)

    “We always want to find that one special student,” says an ominous voice in the “Fame High” trailer. Yup, it’s that high school — the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), where future actors, singers, dancers, and musicians are made.

    16. Just Like Being There (2012)

    Thanks to MONDO and Gallery 1988, the world is becoming even more excited about the vintage gig poster, those stunning works of graphic design and illustration that pay homage to music’s greatest acts. Need to brush up on your gig poster history? Here’s your chance.

    17. The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 (2011)

    This is a portrait of the Black Power Movement in the United States, as captured by Swedish journalists and filmmakers. Beautiful cinematography and a stunning historical documentary of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

    18. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

    You’ve definitely heard about the Chinese artist and political dissident by now, but you might have procrastinated and not yet viewed Alison Klayman’s biographical doc. Well, it’s on Netflix and you have no excuse.

    19. Upside Down: The Creation Records Story (2010)

    Creation Records will go down in history as one of the world’s most successful independent music record labels, or “the ultimate fucked-up family.” Check out “Upside Down,” a definitive history of the label, and make your own assessment.

    20. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011)

    She launched Twiggy, hailed Barbara Streisand’s nose, advised Jackie Onassis, made waves at the Factory and Studio 64. This is an overview of the “Empress of Fashion”s 50-year reign.

    21. The Art of the Steal (2009)

    This is THE scandal of the art world, as the trailer declares. (It involves the Barnes Foundation, $25 billion and a bunch of conspiracy theories. Oh, art.)

    22. Greenwich Village: Music That Defined A Generation (2012)

    This is the Greenwich Village documentary you’ve been waiting for. “Greenwich Village is mostly a state of mind, but in the Village everyone is young inside.”

    23. The Antics Roadshow (2011)

    A Banksy-directed documentary that looks at the art pranks, acts of art vandalism and general activist antics that have rocked the world.

    24. Pina (2011)

    Everything you ever wanted to know about contemporary choreographer Pina Bausch. Or, for the unitiated, a beautiful, 3D documentary chock full of knowledge that will impress your cultured friends.

    25. I Think We’re Alone Now (2008)

    “I Think We’re Alone Now” introduced the world to Jeff and Kelly, two people who claim to be in love with the 80’s pop singer Tiffany. Happy viewing!

  • Despite Skepticism, Many People May Embrace Radical Transhumanist Technology in the Future
    As long as they’re earthbound, most people shrug off the idea of being anything other than a biological human. Some people are even repulsed or angered by the concept of scientifically tampering with the human body and brain too much. However, the time is coming when radical technology will allow us to expand and significantly improve the abilities of our minds and the forms of our bodies. A transhumanist age is nearly upon the human race — an age where cyborgs, sentient robots, virtual lives based in computers and dramatically altered human beings may become commonplace.

    Already, there are hundreds of universities, laboratories and companies around the world where transhumanist projects are underway. A transhumanist is a person who aims to move beyond the human being via science and technology. Some of the most eye-opening projects are military-oriented, such as the “Iron Man” armor suit being created for American soldiers. Trials runs of the suit are tentatively scheduled for this summer. Another well-known project is at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden where scientists are connecting robotic limbs to the human nervous system of amputees, essentially creating cyborg-like people. The first arm surgeries are scheduled to occur in less than 12 months. Of course, private companies like Google are also very much involved in the broad field of transhumanism. They are spending many millions of dollars on creating artificial intelligence, which one day may have its own sentience and be thousands of times smarter than humans. Renowned futurist, Ray Kurzweil, is one of Google’s top technologists working on the project.

    Even though some of these technologies seem frightening to the layperson, they should be here in a matter of years, not decades. One of the most exciting and controversial ideas of transhumanism is the complete integration of the human mind with a machine. Similar to the extraordinary technology featured in the movie The Matrix, humans may be able to download themselves into computers and live virtual existences.

    Lately, I have been speaking more frequently about mind uploading in conferences, interviews and in casual conversations with friends. I often get asked in a highly dubious way: Could you really just let yourself disappear into a machine, Zoltan?

    The study of how and why human beings and society accept technology and innovation is fascinating. Generally, people are wired to be wary and afraid of treading new paths and considering unknown ideas; we are engrained with a powerful “flight” mechanism, designed to preserve our safety and well-being. Yet, that has hardly stopped civilization from progress. The first time fire was seen by our homo erectus ancestors, it was likely treated as a great evil or a monster. Later, it became our species’ foundation for warmth, disease-free food and light. The history of anesthesia is similar. At first, some considered it too unnatural before realizing how useful it was for successful surgery and medicine. Even the automobile was considered too loud and problematic when it first came out. Nonetheless, like all great technologies, society did embrace it, even if skeptically at first.

    In time, many humans will also come to view mind uploading and virtual lives as just as important and real as biological human lives. Already on sites like Kickstarter, there are companies looking for funding that will create thought-capturing headsets and haptic feedback suits to bring us that much closer to complete virtual world immersion. Even virtual sex, considered bizarre by most, will likely come to be a popular way to enjoy intimacy with a partner. In an increasingly busy world where many travel for work and are away from loved ones for days at a time, such intimacy may be welcomed. Some may laugh at these concepts now, but the personal computer was laughed at by many too when it first came out.

    A concept I’ve defined in my philosophical writings as the “futurization of values” promotes the idea that people should try to live according to where they believe they are going in life, and not only where they actually are. With science and technology advancing so rapidly, it would be valuable to begin examining the perspective from our projected future selves. In this way, we might not be so skeptical or afraid of new technology that might be beneficial to our species. Rather than mock and shrug off such advances that will soon be a part of our lives, we might consider instead what their value is and how they might improve our lives and those of our loves ones.

  • There Are More People Playing 'Candy Crush' Than There Are People Living In Australia (MAP)
    King Digital Entertainment, the developer behind the immensely popular “Candy Crush Saga” mobile game, has announced plans to go public, and its F-1 form reveals quite a few interesting nuggets of information.

    The form, filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, contains facts and figures for potential investors, including the number of Daily Active Users (DAUs) for each of King’s five mobile games: “Candy Crush Saga,” “Pet Rescue Saga,” “Farm Heroes Saga,” “Papa Pear Saga” and “Bubble Witch Saga.” The most impressive of these games is hands down “Candy Crush Saga,” which has more than 93 million active users per day.

    To put that number into perspective, we checked the populations of a few places to see how their number of residents measured up against the “population” of “Candy Crush.” As it turns out, there are more people playing “Candy Crush Saga” every day than there are people living in France (65.7 million), the United Kingdom (63.2 million), Germany (81.9 million), Canada (34.8 million), or the entire continent of Australia (22.6 million). In fact, there are only 12 countries with populations greater than the 93 million players who swipe virtual sweets for points every day.

    That’s a heck of a lot of candy.

    Check out the map below to see which 12 countries still have “Candy Crush Saga” fans beat (orange) and how many countries are dwarfed by the game’s impressive user numbers (red).

    candy crush map

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