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Mobile Technology News, February 4, 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.

  • Forget Back-Seat Drivers, Now Your Car Will Yell At You To Stop
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Your car might see a deadly crash coming even if you don’t, the government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they’re plunging toward peril.

    The action, still some years off, has “game-changing potential” to cut collisions, deaths and injuries, federal transportation officials said at a news conference on Monday. A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle’s computer would alert its driver to an impending collision. Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver’s seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

    Your car would “see” when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

    If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.

    The technology is separate from automated safety features using sensors and radar that are already being built into some high-end vehicles today and which are seen as the basis for future self-driving cars. But government and industry officials see the two technologies as compatible. If continuous conversations between cars make driving safer, then self-driving cars will become safer as well.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with automakers on the technology for the past decade, estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

    Crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher accounted for nearly a third of the 33,500 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, according to the safety agency.

    The technology represents the start of a new era in automotive safety in which the focus is “to prevent crashes in the first place,” as compared with previous efforts to ensure accidents are survivable, said David Friedman, the head of the agency.

    No orders to automakers are imminent, officials said.

    After an agency report, the public and carmakers will have 90 days to comment, then regulators will begin drafting a proposal, and that process could take months to years. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it is his intention to issue the proposal before President Barack Obama leaves office.

    “It will change driving as we know it over time,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash.”

    Government officials declined to give an estimate for how much the technology would increase the price of a new car, but the transportation society estimates it would cost about $100 to $200 per vehicle.

    Automakers are enthusiastic about vehicle-to-vehicle technology but feel there are important technical, security and privacy questions that need to be worked out first, said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

    The technology “may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together,” she said.

    The technology the government is contemplating contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure the information exchanged between vehicles doesn’t identify them but merely contains basic safety data, officials said.

    The safety benefits can’t be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology. It takes many years to turn over the nation’s entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents before that.

    Safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.

    There may be another way to speed things up, according to a presentation last year by the communications technology company Qualcomm. About 45 percent of Americans use smartphones, and that share is growing. If smartphones, which already have GPS, came equipped with a radio chip they could be used to retrofit vehicles already on the road so they could talk to each other. That would help make it possible to achieve a 50 percent market penetration in less than five years, Qualcomm estimated.

    Using cellphones could also extend the safety benefits of connected-car technology to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, Belcher said. A driver could be alerted to a possible collision with a pedestrian carrying a smartphone sending out information, even if it was too dark to see the person. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.

    But there are significant technical and standardization hurdles to using cellphones to support connected-car technology. Cellphone battery life, for example, a need for antennas, questions about radio frequencies and concern that cellphone GPS functions might not be as precise as those in a vehicle manufactured with special technology.

    ___

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

    Online:

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration —http://icsw.nhtsa.gov/safercar/ConnectedVehicles/

  • VIDEO: Five questions from 10 years of Facebook
    The social media website Facebook is 10 years old. Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn answers five key questions about the company’s first past, present and future.
  • Microsoft gets mom to get nasty about Chromebooks
    Microsoft might want you to think it’s a forward-thinking company. But it’s acting toward Google as if it’s a cheating ex-spouse
  • Briefly: The Wolf Among Us Episode 2, InfoSonics' $150 tablet
    TellTale Games’ The Wolf Among Us is releasing its second instalment of The Wolf Among Us, an episodic adventure game for iOS, PC, Mac, PS3 and Xbox 360. Based on the comic book series Fables, players take on the role of Bigby Wolf, and affect the storyline of the game by their choices throughout the adventure. PC and Mac versions of The Wolf Among Us, Episode 2 will be released Tuesday, with the PS3 and Xbox versions available Wednesday (in the UK) and the iOS version is set for debut on Friday.

        



  • Why The Heck Is Everyone Playing 'Flappy Bird'?
    Start. Tap. Tap. Tap. Taptaptaptaptaptaptap. Tap. Tap. PING! Tap. Tap. Punch sound. Sad Whistle.

    Curse your slow fingers, shake off another small piece of dignity, then press Start again. Just one more time.

    If you’re not already tortured by the exercise in futility that is “Flappy Bird,” here’s what you need to know about the hottest new mobile game: It’s a seemingly effortless, highly addictive iPhone and Android game. Players have to get the bird through the green pipes by tapping on the screen and making him flap his wings.

    Oh, and, everyone you know is playing it. The app has reached the No. 1 spot on both the App Store and Google Play over the course of the last week.

    If you haven’t tinkered with it yet, give it a try. Just try not to pay heed to the hundreds of reviews warning you to turn back now before all hope is lost. Only some people’s lives turn into dark pits of despair and broken dreams. Odds are you’re going to be just fine. Just kidding. You’re going to hate yourself.

    flappy bird

    The game’s basic premise is quickly uprooted by its warped sense of physics. Pipes are closer than you think they are. The bird always falls or rises faster than you need it to. Your fingers can’t relax enough to easily make it through obstacles, and then, just when you’re settling into the rhythm of the game — BLAM! — there’s an ad that pops up on the bottom of the screen and totally breaks your focus.

    So how has this endlessly frustrating, seemingly glitchy game topped Snapchat and Facebook apps in downloads this week? Don’t ask the developer, Vietnamese indie developer Nguyen Ha Dong, who recently said he’s put absolutely no effort into marketing any of his three games, all of which are currently in the top 10 free apps on the App Store.

    It’s likely the natural “shareability” of the game has led to its enormous success.

    “Flappy Bird” is the Sisyphean bastard child of two different game genres: “masocore,” Mario’s goth cousin that glorifies highly challenging, trial-and-error gameplay usually broken into levels, and “endless runners,” the self-explanatory name of the genre that brought us the highly successful “Temple Run.”

    “Flappy Bird” is both, and neither, of these genres; it breaks both categories down to their barest elements to create a new style of game. And, if the 490K-plus ratings on the App Store are any indication, this new genre seems to be going over pretty well with consumers.

    So how has this contributed to the game’s virality? A few reasons:

    1. Infinite loops put you into a “just one more round” mentality. You know how your mind is entranced by infinitely looping GIFs? “Flappy Bird” works the same way. There’s no change in scenery or levels to work through; the only difference between the first pipe and the hundredth is the tiny number ticking off how many obstacles you’ve cleared. This makes it easy to start from the beginning once you’ve suffered a defeat.
    2. Each game is short and senseless. You’ll die in “Flappy Bird” in 30 seconds or less. Every time. That is, unless, you’re a pro, in which case we don’t care about your superhuman talents anyway. The game’s brevity makes it perfect for standing in line, riding on the subway, or waiting for the elevator. You know you won’t get caught in the middle of a round that you can’t pause and walk away from.
    3. It’s impossible to beat, but it doesn’t expect you to care about that. You can’t win “Flappy Bird;” there is no end. While the game seems to have proved that our collective tolerance for futility and frustration is very high, eventually, even the most determined players will give up and delete the app … but not before telling all their friends about the super hard game they’ve been playing.
    4. It’s really starting to remind you of something else you’ve played. Those green pipes? That music? The coin sound you hear when going through pipes? Gameplay style may be totally different, but this is starting to look a lot like Mario. And nothing works up the gamer nostalgia quite like a certain Italian plumber.
    5. It’s really easy to tell how badly you’re doing.. “Flappy” is having none of your convoluted, confusing scoring methods with multipliers and triple letter scores and whatnot. You don’t get 100 points for successfully navigating through a pipe. One pipe, one point. It’s easy to understand, and it’s oh-so-easy to brag to your friends when you nab a new high score.

    Basically, the game is so senselessly difficult that you need to tell everyone you know about it.

    So is “Flappy Bird” the new genre to watch? Probably not. Who knows what future updates will hold, or what the inevitable “Flappy Bird 2” will look like, should it ever arrive, but the success of the original seems to come down to a very specific and perfect formula, built for two things: senseless difficulty and virality. This perfect combination comes together in an easily shareable game that no one is very good at but everyone wants to talk about.

    But as the Atlantic points out, “Flappy Bird” continues, seemingly unaware of its own success or of the trauma it seems to be causing mobile gamers. “‘Flappy Bird’ is not amateurish nor sociopathic. Instead, it is something more unusual. It is earnest. It is exactly what it is, and it is unapologetic. Not even unapologetic—stoic, aloof. Impervious. Like a meteorite that crashed through a desert motel lobby, hot and small and unaware.”

    So gamers, keep plugging away at your high score, and developers, keep trying to mimic its success. Just don’t expect “Flappy” to care about your failures.

  • Andrea Cardosa, Educator, Charged With Sexual Abuse In YouTube Case
    RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A California educator who was confronted by a former student on a YouTube video seen hundreds of thousands of times was charged Monday with 16 counts of sexual abuse, prosecutors said.

    Andrea Cardosa, 40, was charged with five counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child and 11 other counts of abuse, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office said in a statement. Cardosa’s lawyer, Randy Collins, said he couldn’t immediately comment as he had not yet been advised by prosecutors of the charges.

    The case came to light after a now 28-year-old woman posted a video on YouTube last month showing her making a call to confront Cardosa about the abuse allegations that she said began when she was 12.

    The video also was sent to the Alhambra Unified School District, where Cardosa was working as an assistant principal. Officials referred the case to police, and Cardosa resigned.

    The video was viewed nearly 1 million times just days after it was posted on YouTube, and a second alleged victim later came forward.

    A $5 million warrant has been issued for Cardosa’s arrest, the district attorney’s office said. If Cardosa is convicted, the five aggravated sexual assault charges could carry a life sentence, the statement said.

    Fifteen of the counts stem from allegations of abuse against the woman who posted the YouTube video, and one stems from abuse allegations related to the second woman.

  • VIDEO: Warning over exploding batteries
    The average passenger aircraft now carries dozens if not hundreds of electronic gadgets on board – but there are warnings that the lithium batteries found inside them could pose a serious threat to aircraft safety.
  • VIDEO: The smart desk creating a stir
    We live increasingly sedentary lifestyles, with more and more workers doing desk-bound jobs. So it is ever more important that people move around – even just a little.
  • Democrats Introduce Bill To Restore Net Neutrality Rules
    WASHINGTON — A group of House and Senate Democrats introduced legislation Monday that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to restore federal net neutrality rules struck down by a federal appeals court last month.

    Under the Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014, the FCC could enforce net neutrality rules, which require telecom companies to treat all websites equally, until the agency comes up with a permanent solution to last month’s Supreme Court ruling.

    Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo, both of California, filed the bill in the House, while Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The House bill currently has seven additional cosponsors, all Democrats: Reps. Michael Capuano (Mass.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Mike Doyle (Penn.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Doris Matsui (Ariz.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.). Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Ind.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Tom Udall (N.M.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) have all signed on to Markey’s bill in the Senate.

    Democrats said they are hopeful they will shore up more support among their colleagues, although even some of the more progressive members of the party have aligned themselves with telecom companies in the past. The bill will also likely hit a roadblock with Republican lawmakers, who have tried multiple times to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

    House Republicans even weighed killing net neutrality in exchange for raising the debt ceiling last fall. Asked if the Waxman-Eshoo bill would even come up for a vote in the House, a GOP leadership aide simply responded, “No.” A Senate Democratic leadership aide hadn’t heard about the bill when reached for comment and was thus unable to indicate whether it would go anywhere.

    Internet rights and free speech advocates are nonetheless hopeful that the FCC will use its authority to restore net neutrality, and have embarked on a campaign with Free Press urging the agency to do so. Advocates collected more than 1 million signatures in support of federal protections for net neutrality, and more than 85 groups have backed the cause, including the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn, the Sierra Club, Reddit and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    “We’re calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband connections as ‘telecommunications services,’ a simple move that would allow it to pass robust net neutrality rules that would actually hold up in court,” Free Press said in a statement. “Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it could be a relic of the past.”

    The FCC passed net neutrality rules in 2010, but its authority was challenged by Verizon in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Last month, the court ruled in favor of vacating the FCC’s anti-discrimination and anti-blocking policies, arguing that the agency had overstepped its authority.

    President Barack Obama also weighed in on the issue during a live video chat Friday. Obama reiterated his support for net neutrality and expressed confidence that the FCC would take action to preserve the open Internet.

    “It’s something that I’ve cared deeply about ever since I ran for office, in part because my own campaign was empowered by a free and open Internet and the ability for citizens all across the country to engage and create and find new ways and new tools to mobilize themselves,” Obama said. “A lot of that couldn’t have been done if there were a lot of commercial barriers and roadblocks and so I’ve been a strong supporter of net neutrality.”

    The president added that while it was important to respect the Supreme Court’s decision initially, FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, is looking at all of the options at the agency’s disposal to evaluate and respond to the ruling.

    “The one good piece of news coming out of this court opinion was that the court did confirm that the FCC can regulate this space — they have authority,” Obama said. “And the question now is how do they use that authority. If the old systems and rulings that they had in place were not effective in preserving net neutrality, do they have other tools that would stand up to court scrutiny that accomplishes the same goals?”

    Read the full text of the bill below:
    Bill-Text-Waxman-Eshoo-Open-Internet-Preservation-Act-2014-1-24

    Ryan Grim contributed reporting.

  • Apple posts iPhone-shot movie celebrating Apple's mission [u]
    [Update: added “behind the scenes” video] It is hard to imagine anymore, but for a long time prior to the twin developments of the home computer and the modern Internet, technology that allowed creative professionals to thrive was rare, expensive and in the hands of a very few. As part of its ongoing celebration of the Mac’s 30th anniversary, Apple has now posted a 90-second movie shot entirely with iPhones, spanning five continents and illustrating the reach of creative and professional technology today.

        



  • The Super Bowl Stopped People From Binge Watching — But Not For Long
    The Super Bowl officially got boring after Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed.

    If you’re one of the 111.5 million people who watched the broadcast last night, then you probably knew that. But that’s also when a lot of people decided it was no longer worth their time to watch the big game, and went back to their usual Sunday evening activity: streaming Netflix.

    netflix super bowlThe dip just after 18:00 corresponds to the halftime show.

    According to data from Procera networks, a company that monitors Web activity, Netflix traffic fell a full 20 percent during the first half of the game. It reached its lowest point during the halftime show, but then began to climb again at 8:20 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, explained Cam Cullen, the vice president of global marketing at Procera. Cullen said the dip was consistent across the nine networks in the U.S. it monitored.

    If you recall, 8:20 p.m. was just before the game’s second half started, and just before Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, bringing the Seahawks to lead the Broncos 29-0. Then it was, well, game over.

    Netflix had no comment on the data, but Cullen said that a drop in Netflix activity is typical during the Super Bowl and it “wasn’t significantly different than what we’ve seen in past years.”

  • How The Beatles Rocked Technology

    ICYMI (he acronymed sarcastically), this week marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ landing in the U.S. and their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, upturning world culture and igniting what we now recognize as “The Sixties.”

    While The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, Sir Paul McCartney continues to rock stadiums and arenas worldwide. I’ve seen him six times since 1975, most recently at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center last summer; prior to that, it was Yankee Stadium in the summer of 2011, and before that at CitiField in 2009.

    First of all, wow.

    While beholding the wonder of a 68-/70-/71-year-old performing a vigorous two-and-a-half hour show without a break or even a drink of water with nary a crack in that famous tenor, I got to thinking about the technology that makes the modern music business possible — and the role The Beatles played in inspiring and/or instigating that technology.

    Off the Road Again

    Among the reasons The Beatles stopped touring in August 1966 was the lack of technology to re-create on stage the music they were constructing in the studio.

    Just consider the difficulties in playing tracks from Revolver, which had come out a few weeks before their last concert: were they going to schlep along a string octet just to perform “Eleanor Rigby” or a horn section just for “Got To Get You Into My Life”? How would they reproduce all the nautical sounds in “Yellow Submarine”? And how in tarnation would you even approach “playing” the double-tracking and swirling sound effects throughout “Tomorrow Never Knows”?

    How The Beatles created and tried to reproduce their increasingly sophisticated musical palette would forever change how music is made and how we hear it.

    Do You Hear Yourself?

    Check out the speaker array The Beatles used at the first-ever stadium rock show, their August 15, 1965 Shea Stadium concert, in this video of “Help.”

    Those 100-watt amplified VOX speakers behind them, as well as the tall, skinny yellow speakers ringing the field, supplemented the inadequate delay-plagued stadium PA system and constituted the entire awful sound system. No wonder John was pleading for aid.

    The Beatles’ need to hear themselves on stage inspired rock groups to adopt what was then a new idea — stage monitors, small speakers facing the performers to let them hear what they were playing.

    Three days later at their concert in Atlanta, a local audio company set up stage monitors for the band for the first time, alerting them to the potential of the innovation.

    Stage monitors — as well as the earphones you see many performers wear during live shows — have became de rigueur for performers on stage ever since, screaming girls or not.

    All You Need Is Ears

    Even though they were off the road, The Beatles were still technologically constrained in the studio. The state-of-the-art in the studio was four-track recording, barely a Model T compared to today’s Maserati-like studio gear.

    Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded on just such stone knives and bear skins four-track recording gear. The boys would record four tracks and mix them down to make one track, they would then record four more tracks and mix those to create another single track than combine those two four-into-one tracks to make another single track, and so on and so on.

    Beatles producer Sir George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick performed musical legerdemain to preserve if not enhance the fidelity through this laborious layering process necessary to make Sgt. Pepper the sonic and artistic masterpiece it is, and paved the way for every other band with pretensions to move beyond live-to-tape rock recording.

    Today’s home music makers using Apple’s Garage Band have geometrically more advanced technology than The Beatles did in 1966-67 at Abbey Road, Studio Two. Not coincidentally, the name of the software and the eponymous phenomena itself is a direct homage to the generation of kids who grabbed an instrument and secured themselves in their home’s carport dreaming of becoming rock ‘n’ roll stars themselves after seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

    And now that I think on it, The Beatles were a direct influence on the co-founder and the naming of the company behind Garage Band, the largest and most influential technology company in the world.

    From Studio to Stage

    One of the thrills of seeing Sir Paul play life is hearing songs The Beatles never performed live.

    It wasn’t until the 1980s, after the invention of the synthesizer by Robert Moog and, later, synthesized music systems by Ray Kurzweil, could songs from those post-1966 Beatles’ records be replicated live by their originator.

    Among the songs Sir Paul has performed of late is “A Day in the Life,” complete with the instrumental crescendos that both separate his “Woke up, got out of bed…” bridge from John’s “I read the news today…” lyric and close the song and the album.

    Without assembling a live orchestra, performing this song effectively live would be impossible without modern synthesizer technology. Paul “Wix” Wickens, Sir Paul’s keyboardist, uses a Yamaha Motif ES7 synthesizer, a Kurzweil controller and a rack of processors to recreate live what it took months at Abbey Road Studios to produce.

    So thanks to technology inspired, if not pioneered, by The Beatles, we can finally enjoy live performances of the seminal music of our time.

  • Rob Riggle Plays A Part In Ford Fusion's 'Historic' Super Bowl Commercial (VIDEO)
    Rob Riggle does it all.

    Whether he’s in a movie, performing stand-up comedy, or giving you tips on party fouls, Riggle seems to always be in front of a camera. Ford added a notch to his belt when he promoted the new Ford Fusion in a Super Bowl commercial.

    “Hi, I’m Rob Riggle, and this is no ordinary commercial,” the ad begins.

    Riggle, of course, was one of many stars who made their way into a Super Bowl commercial this year.

    CLICK HERE to see the rest of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials as well as all of the best, worst and most unforgettable from the past.

    As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks battled for the right to lift the Lombardi Trophy, Super Bowl advertisers competed for another prize: your attention. Each time that FOX cut away from Super Bowl XLVIII to pay the bills, another group of blockbuster commercials and movie trailers was unveiled (although many had been teased or released in advance). Were people at your Super Bowl paying closer attention during the game or the commercial breaks?

  • NRCC Says It Will Issue Refund After Donor Complains Of Being Misled By Campaign Website
    The National Republican Congressional Committee is doubling down on its use of websites that appear to be in support of Democratic House candidates but actually direct money to the Republican campaign effort. However, the NRCC said it would give refunds to donors who were confused or misled and contributed to the organization inadvertently.

    Websites for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have URLs that appear to be in support of the incumbent or candidate.

    kirkpatrick

    sinema

    “Democrats are clearly pitching stories on these effective websites because they are worried about voters learning the truth about their candidates’ disastrous records,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek told NBC News’ Michael O’Brien. “Anyone who reads the website understand these are negative attacks. Also as required our disclaimer is at the bottom.”

    The Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that Ray Bellamy, a doctor from Tallahassee, had asked for a refund from the NRCC for the $250 he donated through a website which he thought would help Democrat Alex Sink. He claimed that the NRCC had denied his request.

    “It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Bellamy told the newspaper.

    In addition to offering Bellamy a refund, Bozek told The Huffington Post that the NRCC would return money to people who felt misled by the sites for other candidates. She suggested that anyone who doesn’t notice the “defeat” word on the website is actually asking for a refund on behalf of the Democratic Party.

    “We will refund any other Democrat plants who are asked to donate,” she said.

  • Ten Tough Days for NASA
    As we close-to-NASA folk pause to reflect on yet another anniversary of perhaps the most difficult 10-calendar-day stretch for NASA — the Apollo 1 fire (Jan. 27, 1967), the Challenger disaster (Jan. 28, 1986), and the Columbia tragedy (Feb. 1, 2003) — I took some time to reflect on whether we as a nation learned anything from these tragedies. Of course NASA learned. We fixed the technical problems that plagued each of the programs and went on to fly triumphant missions. We brought humans safely back to Earth after living and working on the Moon. We flew a myriad of successful Shuttle missions — with three remaining orbiters serving as the workhorses that built the International Space Station — before abruptly ending the signature program (I think) prematurely.

    But did we, America, learn and truly understand? As I discussed in my previous Huffington Post blog post, “Never Give Up, Never Surrender,” some of us did, while others did not. Understand that these tragedies did not have to happen. But the lessons learned and the resultant technological growth would ultimately contribute to discoveries and opportunities benefiting all humankind. And that, I believe, should be the legacy of these brave men and women. We must continue to explore.

    2014-01-29-imagesEOOQ4RB9.jpg

    I thought it appropriate to reprint an article I wrote shortly after that tragic winter day in 2003. I previously posted this tribute, exploiting the wonderful capability of social media, but I am hoping that through the pages of The Huffington Post, I will reach an even wider and more diverse audience. While written for the crew of Columbia, a simple substitution for the names of the crew lends itself to general words applying to all of the spacefarers involved in that horrible stretch of 10-calendar days now tarnishing NASA’s brief and storied history.

    On Feb. 1, 2003, I experienced one of the most difficult days of my life. On that day at 0916 Eastern Standard Time, the Space Shuttle Columbia was scheduled to touch down on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She didn’t make it.

    I was there at the landing site that day, as an astronaut family escort. In that capacity, along with two other astronauts, I was responsible for providing support to all the family members of Columbia‘s crew. “Support” is a broad and general term — we were to give them whatever they needed: transportation, food, smiles, and assurances. We all (or at least I) thought it would be easy. Just get them to their designated spot near the runway on time for the joyous return of their spouses, then shuttle them off to the place where they would greet their favorite heroes with hugs, kisses, and cheers. How shortsighted I was.

    With a somber yet urgent look from a KSC Security Officer, our roles became instantly transformed, and I had to call on my faith in God in a way that I had never before imagined. Our astronaut and family escort job had now become “real,” with consequences that I had always understood but maybe never really fully comprehended. I can comprehend them now.

    I want everyone reading this to understand just how brave the STS-107 crew and their families truly are. Clearly knowing the risks, these seven pioneers moved forward with focused determination and joyful hearts; anticipating the wonders and discoveries they were going to experience in a place that so few ever come to know. With the courageous support of their loved ones, they ventured into their lifetime dream of flying into space.

    My personal dreams and aspirations have not changed. I still long for the opportunity to explore the heavens, and I hold firmly to the belief that what we (NASA) do benefit all those back on Earth. Our space program will continue. We will persevere. It will be better than before; it has to be or my friends will have died in vain.

    I ask that you continue to pray for the families and friends of Columbia‘s crew, and for the entire NASA family. Please know that Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Dave Brown, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon were my friends, my colleagues and my heroes.

    2014-01-29-Columbiacrew.png

    Now, 11 years later, I still feel the impact of that fateful day in February. I was their colleague and their friend. In 1967 the Apollo 1 fire was just a news story to me, then an 8-year old boy. In 1986 the impact was much harder — I was seated in a technical interchange meeting at the Johnson Space Center, a quiet meeting participant still trying to find his way as a young aerospace engineer. In 2003 it knocked me to the ground, as I was one of three astronauts responsible for the crew members and their families while serving as a family escort.

    2014-01-29-untitled1.png

    So have we learned as a nation that our space program is still worth our efforts? Can we all openly agree that flying in space is dangerous? Might we come to the realization that substantially reducing these risks — in order to reap the multitude of its benefits — costs taxpayer dollars? Do we understand astronauts are willing to give their lives in order to enable their nation to boast the world’s preeminent space program?

    I hope so. I certainly hope so.

  • Technology and Teens: The Newest Power Couple
    Technology is something that has become fully integrated in society with great speed. However, the use of it is still met with petty qualms on the daily. People argue that technology is ruining communication, that it’s undermining the art of an in person conversation, and I’m sure we’ve all heard an adult say something along the lines of “Back in my day…” followed by a negative statement about how technology is ruining America. It certainly doesn’t help that obesity rates seem to have increased alongside the use of technology, and that Internet addiction is now a real thing. It’s almost too easy to agree with the majority and think, “People are right, technology is destroying the human connection.” But I think just the opposite.

    Technology brings people together. Shocking, I know? It sounds like some crazy marketing ploy, and many commercials support that. But the fact is, it’s the truth.

    I can talk to one of my friends in California, Canada or Taiwan with the touch of a button. Technology has helped me forge lifelong connection with people I would have lost touch with ordinarily. I can say I talk to more people now, whether it be through Facebook, texting or tweeting, than I did three years ago. And for the argument that nothing compares to face-to-face conversation? I’d love to engage and be a part of that, but the fact of the matter is, without Skype or Google Hangouts, I wouldn’t be able talk to a large portion of my friends. I’m not trying to advocate for technology to replace all forms of in person conversation, I’m just trying to suggest the stigma attached to it isn’t necessarily just.

    One of the greatest arguments I have in favor of disproving stereotypes attached to technology is in my school, and within one class specifically. Having a jock, a punk rocker, a straight A student and a dancer all together in one room laughing, collaborating and creating sounds strangely similar to the plot of The Breakfast Club. But it’s just my video production class. There’s 12 other extremely different and diverse students in there with me, and to be honest, we don’t have very much in common. But that hasn’t stopped us from practically becoming a family. What is the common thread, uniting us? Funny you should ask. Technology. Working together with cameras and computers and all other sorts of gizmos and gadgets has linked us together in the best (and sometimes weirdest) way. Technology didn’t push apart, it brought us closer together.

    As I mentioned before, I’m not trying to suggest technology as a means to replace all personal communication. I’m merely proposing the idea that there’s more value to digital connections than most people think there is. So next time you’re on your phone and your parents roll their eyes and open their mouths, try to convince them of the benefit of that piece of plastic in your hands. And then make a date to see a friend in person.

  • WATCH: Moby, Prince and the Future of Music
    Remember that time Prince got all litigious about copyright infringement online? No, the recent time. No, the most recent time.

    Yes, the 80s icon, honored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with the Raspberry Beret Lifetime Aggrievement Award for his tireless takedowns, recently announced a new plan to defend his intellectual property: a $22 million lawsuit, which worked out to $1 million per defendant, including two people who managed Facebook fan pages and had allegedly posted some concert footage. That all lasted about a day and a half before he dropped the suit. Will it be the last we hear of Prince’s online copyright battles? (Spoiler: no.)

    Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Moby expanded on his BitTorrent Bundle music distribution plan and now hosts raw music files on Blend.io for fans to play with. Oh, and he’s cool with them making a profit at it, too. Record executives are super excited about that, as you can imagine.

    Is there a happy medium between suing your fans and giving them your music for free? Find out more in the latest episode of The Content Brief from Freshwire below.

    And you can catch up on last week’s episode about how Amazon wants to predict your next order here.

  • What The Boss Had To Say About GoDaddy's 'I Quit' Super Bowl Ad
    One very courageous woman used Super Bowl ad space to quit her job, and, as it turns out, her boss was a pretty good sport about the whole thing.

    “I quit,” 36-year-old Gwen Dean said while holding a blue puppet in GoDaddy’s commercial Sunday. “Ciao, baby.”

    After the ad aired, Dean emailed her boss — who had no idea about the plan — and put in her two weeks’ notice.

    How does she describe her boss’ reaction? “It was epic,” Dean told NBC’s “Today” Monday morning, adding that her boss texted her, “You’ve got to be kidding. Wow, great commercial.”

    Dean has worked as a machine engineer for 18 years, but her real passion has always been puppet-making, according to her website, PuppetsbyGwen.com, which was created using GoDaddy’s website-building service.

    She goes on to explain her life-changing move, writing:

    Yes, I may have manufactured a whopping 65 million gallons of chilled water over my 18-year career operating large tonnage refrigeration machinery.

    But…it’s puppets and their interaction with children that have been my real love since childhood. From the days of my father animating my favorite teddy bear to the fun-filled magic of my puppet shows today, infectious laughter and energetic conversations between children and puppets are pure passion for me.

  • Web Host Revolution: The Age of Service Is Finally Here
    Online businesses, get ready to breathe a long sigh of relief. Web hosting companies have hit a critical step in their evolution – an age of vastly improved services available at multiple tiers of service. Even the lowest tiers are lining up to offer new features and promises. Case in point: In early 2014, the famously cheap web host GoDaddy started offering new features that included expanding WordPress support and a new service called Get Found, designed to help small businesses to maintain their profile data from one central hub.

    The losers in this trend? Slow connections, dropped servers, hosts too slow to keep up, and cyber criminals. The winners? Everyone else.

    The web hosting world has spent years as a fractured market, with widely varying levels of service and different features associated with different tiers. But now, the stratification is reversing. As commerce has continued to grow, personal online branding has become a must, and hosting services have found better uses for the latest technologies.

    This means that managed server features and services are trickling down to dedicated hosting, and dedicated hosting advantages are trickling down to shared hosting. The market for hosts is growing more competitive, but it’s also growing a lot more attractive to bloggers, small businesses and new online companies who backed away from the top services before because of concerns about price.

    The Web Host Will See You Now

    Part of the reason services are seeing such rapid growth is the increased number of challenges in the industry. According to an early January report by Cisco, web hosting centers have grown into one of the most popular origins for online criminals seeking to attack companies and government bodies. Other groups, like the Cloud Security Alliance, have agreed on the danger and need for increased security options.

    Another powerful reason for the new age of service is simply the vast number of solutions now available through web hosting. Cloud hosting continues to reach additional customers across the world. Application-based hosting has changed the game for bloggers, content-focused companies and others who want a slice of the right services without any hosting headaches. Newer trends like green hosting and VPS hosting are giving businesses big ideas, too.

    The result is more buyer power – a market where web hosting companies have become troubleshooters, enablers, and sometimes even consultants to their clients. As for old problems like downed servers, they will grow from black marks to dealbreakers as customers at all levels get used to near-100% reliability no matter what they’re paying per month.

    Make no mistake, reliability is a service. According to Accenture, which conducted a late-2013 survey, 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers in 2013, creating what the company called a “switching economy” where clients are more willing than ever to seek out new providers if they are unsatisfied.

    One Service, Two Service, Red Service, Blue Service

    So what services will 2014 and the years beyond shower us with? In addition to reliability, high speeds will become a popular service for even the lowest tiers. If a client has to wait for a page on their site to load – any noticeable wait period at all – they’ll start thinking about switching hosts. And yes, this applies to shared hosting as well as dedicated hosting, and will be one of the primary investment opportunities for hosts in the coming year. Maximum speeds, however, will still belong to dedicated servers that can offer uplinks of 1Gbps and 25TB bandwidth for the largest companies.

    Security will also become big, as managed server security features will get passed down the tiers to even basic and shared hosting as the importance of advanced security and backup services continues to be underlined in the news.

    Then there are the other services, the optionals and extras that are quickly becoming anything but.
    These include:

    Mobile Web Server Support: As mobile changes from a luxury to a necessity, hosts will start offering more and more features directed specifically at the mobile side and mobile optimization, including development tools and mobile-specific data reports. If you think we have a lot of Web apps and smartphone apps now, just wait until the market starts to mature.

    Continued Cloud Innovation: Exchanging information between companies through the cloud is becoming standard practice for tech companies and the vast array of vendors across the web. The more that web hosts can support the latest uses for the cloud, the more attractive they’ll be.

    Hubs for Information: In the fast-paced Internet world, useful information equals value. Realizing this, web hosts will start offering more insights and advice for even their smallest clients. Already, companies are avoiding constant promotions in favor of publishing news, information, insights, infographics, trends and tips. Such approaches will grow more common in the future as companies work to establish themselves as trusted authorities within the industry.

    Reseller Experimentation: Reseller hosting and reseller support will allow more businesses than ever to purchase hosting features – and then offer them to other users.

    Conclusion

    As the competitiveness of the web hosting industry continues to rise, consumers will continue to benefit. More services will become standard and included at existing prices, enabling and accelerating the flood of blogs, business websites, and SaaS software. The age of service has finally arrived, and this is a boon for everyone.

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