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Mobile Technology News, February 13, 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.

  • Real or not, 'iPhone 6' photos are everywhere
    No telling if this it’s the real iPhone 6, but some design features are certainly plausible.
  • Google's Woodside said to be hired as Dropbox's new COO
    Shortly after Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the phone-maker’s CEO is reportedly stepping down to become the operating chief of Dropbox.
  • Federal Judge Blocks The Apothecary Shoppe From Selling Execution Drug To Missouri
    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge late Wednesday temporarily blocked an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy from selling a drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for use in an upcoming execution.

    The temporary restraining order was issued in a lawsuit filed a day earlier in U.S. District Court in Tulsa by Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys allege that the department contracts with The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa to provide the drug set to be used in Taylor’s Feb. 26 lethal injection. The lawsuit argued that several recent executions involving the drug, compounded pentobarbital, indicate it will likely cause Taylor “severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain.”

    The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug, and The Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.

    Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.

    A pharmacy spokeswoman did not return a telephone call seeking comment earlier Wednesday. Phone and email messages were also left with the Missouri Department of Corrections.

    One of Taylor’s attorneys, Matthew Hellman of the Washington, D.C., law firm Jenner & Block, said the lawsuit focuses attention on the drug used in Missouri’s lethal injections and the laws regarding compounding.

    “This is not an acceptable option,” Hellman said.

    Missouri corrections officials turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital after manufacturers of the drug refused to provide it for lethal injections, according to the lawsuit.

    In January 2012, a Danish company that had produced pentobarbital under the trade name Nembutal sold the exclusive rights to the drug to an American company, Akorn Inc., on the condition that Akorn not sell the drug for use in executions.

    “Those manufacturers do not want medication to be used for executions,” Hellman said.

    Taylor’s lawsuit questions whether the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital. It says the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the Food & Drug Administration and alleges it violates federal law each time it delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.

    Along with asking for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the pharmacy from delivering “this unidentified, unregulated, untested and unsafe pharmaceutical product.” Hellman declined to say whether The Apothecary Shoppe also sells compounded pentobarbital to states other than Missouri.

    Several recent executions that involved compounded pentobarbital indicate use of the drug will subject Taylor to “inhumane pain,” the lawsuit says.

    One such execution was that of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, 38. Within 20 seconds of receiving the lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Jan. 9 Wilson said: “I feel my whole body burning.” The lawsuit alleges the statement describes “a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated pentobarbital.”

    The lawsuit also sites an Oct. 15, 2012, execution in which South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert, 50, cleared his throat, gasped for air and then snored after receiving the lethal injection. His skin turned a purplish hue and his heart continued to beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing. It took 20 minutes for authorities to finally declare Robert dead.

    “These events are consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug,” the lawsuit says.

    Use of the same drug in Taylor’s execution could result in a similar reaction, Hellman said.

    “It is extremely disturbing,” he said.

    On Monday, Missouri Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a legislative panel that the agency pays for the drug to be independently tested to make sure it works and is sterile. He also said the agency had found no substantial issues in a background check of its current supplier.

    Lombardi did not release the name of the pharmacy that provides the drug, saying Missouri could not carry out lethal injections if that information were released. He said the state pays $8,000 in cash to the pharmacy for the drug.

  • Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable: Reports
    Comcast is set to buy Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal, CNBC’s David Faber reported Wednesday night.

    Faber shared the news on Twitter, announcing that the deal would be made on Thursday morning. The reported acquisition will be for about $159 a share.

    The New York Times notes that the expected deal will total more than $44 billion. The companies expect the merger to be completed by the end of the year CNN’S Brian Stelter reports, but will likely draw regulator scrutiny.

    Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable in all stock deal worth $159 per $TWC share- sources. Deal set for tomorrow morning. Ratio is 2.875 $CMCSA.

    DAVID FABER (@davidfaber) February 13, 2014

    Comcast will indicate willingness to divest 3m subs from combination with $TWC– sources.

    DAVID FABER (@davidfaber) February 13, 2014

    Comcast deal for $TWC does not face ownership cap restrictions, but sure to get tough review from FCC.$CMCSA wants to avoid consent decree.

    DAVID FABER (@davidfaber) February 13, 2014

    Bloomberg News corroborated the report, noting that the deal would combine the largest two U.S. cable companies. The resulting company would have over 33 million subscribers, making it by far the largest of any U.S. cable provider as noted by CNBC.

    According to Bloomberg, Charter Communications had also been vying for the cable carrier, offering around $132.50 a share to Time Warner Cable. Charter’s bid was rejected.

    CNN’S Brian Stelter noted on Twitter that “For Comcast, the crown jewel of [Time Warner Cable] is the New York City market. Soon [Comcast] will have its 30 Rock studios AND the cable pipes beneath.”

    MORE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast Corp. has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion in stock, or $158.82 per share, two people familiar with the matter said late Wednesday.

    The deal will combine the nation’s top two cable TV companies and make Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal, a dominant force in both creating and delivering entertainment to U.S. homes.

    The deal was approved by the boards of both companies and, pending regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the year, the people said.

    The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced formally. An announcement is set for Thursday morning, they said.

    The price is about 17 percent above Time Warner Cable shares’ Wednesday closing price of $135.31 and trumps a proposal by Charter Communications Inc. to buy Time Warner for about $132.50 per share, or $38 billion in cash and stock.

    Time Warner Cable shareholders will receive 2.57 Comcast shares for every Time Warner Cable share they own. Once the deal is final, they will end up owning about 23 percent of the combined company, one of the people said.

    Charter had pursued Time Warner Cable for months but Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus had consistently rejected what he called a lowball offer, saying he’d cut a deal for $160 per share in cash and stock.

    For a time, Comcast stayed in the background, waiting to purchase any chunk of subscribers that a combined Charter-Time Warner Cable would sell off. Charter had planned to finance its bid with $25 billion in new debt. As part of a plan to pay off the debt quickly, the company considered selling off some of its territories after a deal had closed. Time Warner Cable’s Marcus had also balked at the huge debt burden the Charter takeover represented.

    Instead, Comcast now plans to divest 3 million pay TV subscribers after the deal closes. With 22 million of its own pay TV customers and Time Warner Cable’s 11.2 million, the combined entity will end up with about 30 million subscribers when the deal is complete, a level believed not to trigger the concern of antitrust authorities. A formal cap was dissolved years ago by regulators, but divesting subscribers could help the deal get approved more quickly.

    Comcast is taking the position that because Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t serve overlapping markets, their combination won’t reduce competition for consumers, especially in the face of rivals AT&T and Verizon, which compete with the cable operators to provide both pay TV services and Internet hookups. Both AT&T and Verizon are growing quickly. They ended 2013 with 5.5 million and 5.3 million pay TV subscribers, respectively.

    Comcast and Time Warner Cable are expected to save $1.5 billion in annual costs over three years, with half of that realized in the first year, one of the people said.

    Comcast also plans to add an additional $10 billion in share buybacks at the close of the deal, on top of a recent plan to boost its share buyback authority to $7.5 billion from $1 billion, the person said.

    Conceding that it had lost the takeover battle, Charter issued a statement Wednesday saying, “Charter has always maintained that our greatest opportunity to create value for shareholders is by executing our current business plan, and that we will continue to be disciplined in this and any other (merger and acquisition) activity we pursue.”

    Even before the deal had been formally announced, it was being denounced. Public Knowledge, a Washington-based consumer rights group, said in a statement Wednesday that regulators must stop the deal, because it would give Comcast “unprecedented gatekeeper power in several important markets.”

    “An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard,” it said.

  • Lenovo net profit jumps 29 percent in 3Q on PC sales
    Chinese electronics giant reports $265 million in net profit in the third quarter on shipments of 15.3 million PCs.
  • Troubling Number Of Minority And Female Students Took This AP Exam In 2013
    The Advanced Placement Computer Science exam clearly has a problem when it comes to minority and female high school students.

    The College Board — the association responsible for creating and overseeing AP testing — on Tuesday released its annual report on AP exam participation and performance, noting that a vast majority of AP Computer Science test-takers in 2013 were white males. Of the more than 20,000 students to take the exam last year, 81 percent were male and 54 percent were white. Only 9 percent of the test-takers were Latino and 3 percent were African-American.

    The following graphs break it down:

    gender

    ap exam

    Senior research scientist Barbara Ericson of Georgia Tech University provided a separate analysis of the test data, painting an even bleaker picture of the situation in some parts of the country. Her analysis reveals no African-American students took the AP Computer Science exam in 11 states, and that not a single female, African-American or Hispanic student took the test in Montana or Mississippi.

    The numbers suggest that the world of technology, which is already dominated by white males, may continue being a white man’s club.

    Deborah Davis, the director of college readiness communications at The College Board, told The Huffington Post in an email that the organization recognizes these problems and has been taking steps to up the number of minority and female test-takers.

    “The College Board is deeply committed to increasing access to rigorous computing courses, particularly for underrepresented female and minority students. In order to address this issue, we have collaborated with national organizations, other nonprofits and the private sector to ensure expanded access,” wrote Davis.

    More than 1 million students took AP exams in 2013, according to The College Board report. Nine percent of these test-takers were African-American, and 19 percent were Hispanic.

  • Why isn't Siri like AI in movies?
    Why the next artificial intelligence apps won’t be as silly as Siri
  • First alleged shots of iPhone 6 casings posted on Twitter
    An anonymous tipster on Twitter has posted a series of images of what is allegedly Apple’s iPhone 6 casing. The tipster has posted a range of new photos to twitter that appear to contain the first shots of a new iPhone. The case components are similar to that of the iPod touch, but have both what appears to be a TouchID home button, as well as the larger flash opening as seen on the iPhone 5S.

        



  • The Reverse Facebook Detox: Why I Finally Joined
    You might call me a late adopter.

    At a time when many people are taking a break from social media, I have taken a decidedly contrarian view — after years of holding out I have finally joined Facebook.

    I am one of roughly 18 people in the free world who until now refused to establish a status on Facebook. And lest you think I am a recluse, let me assure you, I am not. I shop online, watch Mad Men on airplay, and listen to current music, sometimes on digital radio. Some might even say I am hip and cool. Well, I might say that.

    In any case, Facebook always seemed intrusive, not to mention self-indulgent: new mothers documenting their babies’ every bowel movement, Aunt Jane parading pictures of her eight cats, former schoolmates flaunting fabulous book deals. Did I really want to waste my time posting the trivialities of my life? Or, conversely, poring over the particulars of others’ lives and lamenting the missed opportunities of my own: parties I didn’t attend, vacations I passed up, endeavors I never undertook.

    For 10 years I avoided the siren call of the social networking giant, afraid to be sucked into this unique vortex of narcissism and voyeurism — the same one causing many to now leave the site. Recently, though, a few trends and incidents changed my mind.

    First, I finally realized that the preferred method for social interaction had become Facebook. Exclusively. “Hey are you going to the event at The Mansion Saturday night? Oh that’s right, you’re not on Facebook.” The pretext seems to be that by virtue of “not being on Facebook,” not only am I not privy to these activities, but I am not even invited.

    Second, I was no longer up to speed on important news: government shutdowns, huge fires raging downtown, celebrity breakups. Some studies suggest that 30 percent of people now receive their news through Facebook. Whether what they are reading can legitimately be termed news is up for debate. Nonetheless, individuals who have never picked up a newspaper or browsed a magazine in their life are telling me about current events. And I mean very current. By the time my morning paper arrives the print is old, offering information that is way past its expiration date on the Facebook feed.

    Speaking of expiration dates, apparently even obituaries have gone the way of Facebook. I recently learned of the passing of a friend’s dad through one of my friends, who heard it first… on Facebook.

    However, aside from these recent trends — old trends to you early adopters — it was a final incident over the holidays that sealed my decision. While skiing with my family before New Year’s, I received an interesting email. (Remember email?) It included a picture of the ski patrol at our resort attending to a fallen skier. It seems that a member of the fallen woman’s group caught her on film — I mean digital — and promptly posted the picture (of her lying prone on the stretcher) on Facebook. A close friend of mine discovered it on her Facebook wall and, knowing my technological limitations, emailed me the photo.

    Thankfully, the wounded skier sustained no major injuries. I can’t vouch for the photographer’s well-being, although despite my limited knowledge of Facebook, the term ‘unFriended’ rings a bell.

    Regardless, this paparazzi ski shot and its presumably unwilling subject opened my eyes to the final truth: Facebook is inescapable.

    At its root, my avoidance of Facebook — not to mention Twitter, Instagram and all other assorted social media — has been grounded in the need to shield myself, to remain disconnected, literally, from probing eyes and sharing fingers. What I’ve realized is this: any attempts to maintain privacy and control is futile. My absence doesn’t’ prevent me from being exposed — it just means I don’t know about it. As Joseph Heller pointed out, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

    Rest assured my life is hardly worth posting about, although my own slip ups could fill quite a few newsfeeds. Despite my reservations I have succumbed. I can no longer deny Facebook’s utility. It is the new landline, the newsfeed, the modern-day rolodex. Not to mention it’s the quickest link to all those Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me what career I am ideally suited for, or which 80s rocker I most resemble.

    With Facebook turning 10, some say I’m so late to the party it’s already over. Indeed, teens have already decided it is no longer cool. (The fact that it is no longer cool goes a long way toward explaining why I am finally joining; as a consequence of being a contrarian, the truth is I am terminally uncool.)

    The question I’ve been wondering is: will it make me happier? I will soon find out.

    What I can say with reasonable certainty is that I will refrain from posting accidents and incidents that befall my friends. If you notice me breaking this promise, feel free to get in touch. You know where to find me.

  • What Shows To Stream On Netflix If You're Single This Valentine's Day
    This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday. While for couples that probably means a romantic night out on the town, the single folks out there may need a little more help avoiding excessive Facebook stalking and 3 a.m. “why am I single?!” meltdowns.

    Luckily, we (and Netflix) are here to make your Valentine’s Day a lot more awesome. Here’s a guide to what TV shows to watch if you happen to be flying solo on Feb. 14.

    If you’re single and loving it …
    olivia pope
    “Scandal”
    Because nothing screams “independent woman” more than our favorite White House fixer Olivia Pope. When you’re that cool, important and have such great clothes, you don’t really have time for a relationship anyway. Get the hint, Fitz.

    “Orange Is The New Black”
    Prison may not be a walk in the park, but most of the “Orange Is The New Black” ladies are single and they manage to have a blast behind bars. Having great friends is just as good, if not better than having significant other … never mind that a few of them fall in love with each other.

    “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
    Because you’re so great at being by yourself that you don’t even need someone to hold your hand through those creepy rape and murder scenes!

    If you’re heartbroken …
    jess and nick new girl
    “New Girl”
    Not only has every “New Girl” character suffered from extreme heartbreak, but it seems like someone gets rejected or dumped every other episode. See? Everybody hurts, sometimes.

    “Arrested Development”
    Falling in love with your cousin is bad, and being married to a Never Nude is even worse. Love isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be! Plus, you know you need a good laugh.

    “The Walking Dead”
    Because it could always be worse.

    If you’re cynical about love …
    don draper
    “Mad Men”
    In case you need more proof that love doesn’t last, spend a few hours with Don Draper.

    “30 Rock”
    Liz Lemon has dated her fair share of losers (Dennis Duffy, anyone?), and is famous for choosing her couch and night cheese over a date. Can you blame her, cynics?

    “House Of Cards”
    Because Frank Underwood once said that he loved Claire “more than sharks love blood,” which is an interesting way of putting it.

    If you’re still crushing on that guy from high school …
    freaksandgeeks
    “Freaks And Geeks”
    No one knows the pain of unrequited love more than Lindsay and Sam Weir. As an added bonus, you get to watch James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel play high schoolers and fall in love all over again.

    “The O.C.”
    Because you know you’re still crushing on all those beautiful people, so why not spend a night staring at them instead of your crush’s high school yearbook photo?

    “One Tree Hill”
    Because Haley and Nathan met in high school, and they got married. So there’s definitely still hope.

    If you’re a true romantic …
    ted mosby
    “How I Met Your Mother”
    Because Ted really, really believes in love. And although his faith in love has gotten a little annoying over the past nine seasons, it’s still very heartwarming.

    “Parks And Recreation”
    Is there any question that Leslie and Ben are the cutest couple on TV these days? Well, at least in Pawnee …

    “The Office”
    We know, we know. The last few seasons of “The Office” got a little ridiculous. But was there anything more romantic than Jim and Pam pining after each other in Seasons 1 through 3? Nope.

    tv show gifs

  • No One Stays King Forever: What Apple Should Learn From Microsoft's Stumble

    John Gruber published a smart essay about Microsoft on his Daring Fireball blog last week, adding perspective to the appointment of Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. The gist of Gruber’s essay is that Microsoft’s redemption, if there is to be one, will involve its ability to become a leading provider of cloud services. That’s the next big thing, and that’s where Microsoft has advantages, in terms of technology and business experience, over everyone else.

    All fair points, but what Gruber overlooks — and this is ironic given the fact that his blog is mostly devoted to covering Apple — are the lessons that Apple should learn from Microsoft’s stumble.

    Lesson One: No one stays king forever.

    Lesson Two: Lock-in leads to disaster.

    Let’s look at Lesson One. It’s hard to imagine today, but in the 1990s Microsoft wasn’t just a dominant player in tech; it was downright terrifying. Everyone lived in fear. In 1997 I wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine about a little software company in Cambridge, Mass. called Firefly, whose CEO, Max Metral, said something about Microsoft that I will never forget:

    “The reality of the software business today is that if you find something that can make you ridiculously rich, then that’s something Microsoft is going to want to take from you. All we can do is meet with them and try to see what they’re going to do to us when they feel like doing it. If they want to kill you, they’ll kill you.”

    Ten months after that article was published, Firefly was acquired by Micrsosoft, and was never heard from again.

    Apple today doesn’t dominate mobile devices the way Microsoft did the PC market. Microsoft once controlled 95 percent of PCs. Apple’s share in smartphones is around 15 percent, and its share in tablets is around 34 percent.

    But market share figures don’t really paint the full picture. The fact is that Apple got in early and has done a better job than anyone else in this space, and therefore has staked out a strong position. Apple was even, for a time, the biggest company (by market valuation) in the world.

    Though its stock has fallen, Apple’s business remains one that any company would envy. Last quarter Apple generated $58 billion in revenue and kept $13 billion as net profit. That’s a 23 percent net profit margin, meaning out of every four dollars Apple takes in, one dollar goes to the bottom line. That is incredible.

    Nevertheless, history shows: Nobody stays on top. Before Microsoft’s reign of terror, IBM held an even stronger choke-hold on tech customers. Sony was once a powerhouse. So were Digital Equipment Corp. and Sun Microsystems. Sun “put the dot in dotcom” back in the first dotcom bubble, and seemed invincible. Does anyone remember DEC or Sun today?

    Things change. New technologies come along. Leaders fail to adapt, as Clayton Christensen pointed out 17 years ago in The Innovator’s Dilemma.

    That’s a lesson in that for Apple and its fans. But somehow, in their minds, Apple is different. Apple has some magic that prevents it from being susceptible to the same law of gravity that has pulled every other market leader back down to earth.

    Maybe so. We’ll see. But let’s look at Lesson Two.

    As Gruber points out, citing an essay by Brent Simmons, the Microsoft of old was all about creating services that only ran on Microsoft’s operating systems and required Microsoft’s developer tools. That’s changing now, as Microsoft’s cloud business, Azure, has a policy of working with everyone and everything.

    Nadella is the guy who ran that group. Last summer he shocked the tech world when he used a Mac onstage at a Microsoft event. Now he’s running the whole company.

    Smart! Gruber thinks it’s great. Openness is the way to go! It’s important to play well with others in this new post-PC world.

    So where is Apple on that front?

    Apple is all about creating its own little bubble world where it’s all Apple all the time. The advantage to this approach, according to Apple, is that you get a more beautiful, perfect, curated experience. Sure, it’s a trade-off. You’re living in a walled garden. But it’s such a nice garden! Who would want to leave?

    As Apple fans see it, Microsoft ran a closed system out of selfishness. But not Apple. Apple is different. Apple locks you in because it cares so much about its customers.

    The truth is, companies are open when they’re underdogs, because they have no choice. Then when they get on top they’re all about lock-in. This happens over and over again. This was the case with IBM. It was the case with Microsoft. It was the case with Sun and EMC during the dotcom boom, when they could (and did) bully their customers. It’s the case with Apple today.

    Why do companies do this? Because they can’t help themselves. Because “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as someone, either Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead or English historian Lord Acton, once said.

    Companies can’t resist the urge to squeeze as much money out of customers as they can. To put this in terms of one of the “laws” that the tech industry is so fond of: The openness of any company is inversely proportional to the square of its success. Or something like that.

    The problem is that when powerful companies start trying to lock in their customers, they are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

    Microsoft, humbled now, will embrace openness as it tries to claw share away from Amazon and become the dominant provider of cloud services. We’ll see a new Microsoft — a happy, friendly Microsoft. That old bully Microsoft? Oh, he’s long gone, replaced by a kinder, gentler, friendlier Microsoft.

    Of course, if and when Microsoft becomes king again, watch out. We’ll see the old Microsoft back in action. Not because the same cast of characters (Gates, Ballmer, et al) will still be in charge. This will happen no matter who’s in charge. Because it’s human nature.

    As for Apple? My sense is Apple is still rising, and still has big things to come. But Apple should learn from Microsoft what happens when you squeeze your customers too hard. Because someday, history tells us, Apple will be where Microsoft is today — trying to craft a comeback, and promising to play nice with others.

    Dan Lyons is a marketing fellow at HubSpot, a software company in Cambridge, Mass. He was previously the tech editor at Newsweek, a tech columnist at Forbes, and the creator of “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs,” written in the person of “Fake Steve Jobs.”

    This piece first appeared on HubSpot: blog.hubspot.com/opinion/2-lessons-apple-should-learn-from-microsoft

    Visit Dan Lyons’ website at www.realdanlyons.com.

  • Now running on a Chromebook near you: Windows
    Google inks a deal with VMWare to bring legacy Windows applications to its Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.
  • China's Moon Rover May Be Dead
    Poor rabbit.

    China’s lunar rover — known as the “Jade Rabbit” (or “Yutu” in Chinese) — is dead, state media reported Wednesday. The rover experienced mechanical problems late last month and never recovered.

    Though engineers worked to resolve the issues, the rover “could not be restored to full function,” Agence France-Presse reported. And low temperatures on the lunar surface may have had something to do with the rover’s early demise.

    As New Scientist reported, China’s Chang’e-3 lunar lander and the Jade Rabbit successfully “hibernated” for the first lunar night, which is equivalent to half a month on Earth, in order to escape the extreme cold. Surface temperatures on the moon range from extreme hot to bitter cold. Under the worst conditions, temperatures on the moon can plummet to minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit.

    But the rover reportedly failed to enter hibernation on Jan. 25 for the second lunar night. When rover operators attempted to communicate with the Jade Rabbit on Monday, they were unsuccessful. It seems the rover, which touched down on the moon in mid-December, is calling it quits early in the midst of its three-month mission.

    As China’s first lunar rover, the Jade Rabbit was a major asset for the country’s rapidly advancing space program. China is the third nation to send a rover to the moon. The U.S. and the former Soviet Union also achieved the feat.

    China’s space agency has yet to release a statement.

  • U.S. Relaxes Gag Order, Permitting Google, Facebook et al to Disclose Scope of NSA Access — But What if the Firms Don't Know?
    Ever since Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents about NSA surveillance, Google and other tech companies have wanted to reveal the extent of the NSA’s access — pursuant to orders of the secret FISA Court — to their customers’ accounts.

    They have wanted to disclose specifics on NSA access not just because they care about transparency, but because they expected the information to be reassuring: showing the actual incidence of court-sanctioned surveillance to be much lower than customers feared, based on news stories using NSA documents leaked by Snowden.

    Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook (among others) filed motions in the secret FISA Court-with the support, incidentally, of an amicus brief filed by my organization, the First Amendment Coalition-requesting modifications to gag orders that had barred them from virtually all public comment. In January the Justice Department acceded to some of the requests, agreeing to new censorship rules permitting disclosure, albeit on a delayed basis, of NSA requests that resulted in access to companies’ user data, including access to user content (e.g., emails).

    This week the companies made the newly okayed disclosures. They revealed, for the period January to June of 2013, that…

    Google provided content on somewhere between 9,000-9,999 accounts.
    Yahoo provided content on somewhere between 30,000-30,999 accounts.
    Microsoft provided content on somewhere between 15,000-15,999 accounts.
    Facebook provided content on somewhere between 5,000-5,999 accounts.

    The numbers are substantial — some 60,000 accounts for all four firms; half of that for Yahoo alone — but they are, of course, just a fraction of all the companies’ accounts. Facebook by itself has over 200 million users in the U.S., and more than one billion worldwide.

    Does this mean fears about out-of-control NSA surveillance are disconnected from reality? Not necessarily. The tech companies have disclosed information on NSA access for the cases that they know about. Call these the “front door” cases in which NSA, playing by the rules, knocks on the tech firms’ doors, announces itself, and presents its papers from the FISA Court.

    But what of NSA’s secret “back door” access to the companies’ user data and message contents? I’m referring to news accounts, first published in the Washington Post in November, about NSA’s copying of Google user data and content-secretly, without Google’s knowledge-by exploiting unprotected communications links in Europe. The news accounts were based on Snowden documents .

    If NSA does, in fact, have a secret backdoor channel into Google’s user data and communications, it hardly matters how scrupulous the agency is in adhering to applicable legal rules restricting access through Google’s front door.

    Google of course can’t be transparent about the government’s access to customer information when Google itself is aware of only part of that access. And Google’s customers, particularly its customers residing outside the US, will continue to doubt Google’s ability to protect their privacy.
    —-
    Peter Scheer, a lawyer, is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the FAC Board of Directors.

  • Twitter Is the 21st Century Newspaper
    Despite being everything from a behind-the-scenes celebrity perspective to a catalyst for world peace, Twitter has long suffered from an identity crisis. As detailed in Nick Bolton’s recent book, Hatching Twitter, even the founders could never fully agree on the purpose.

    In recent years, Twitter has appropriately referred to itself as an information network, a big separation from a social network like Facebook. Like I described in a prior piece, Twitter’s foundation of an interest graph is stronger than Facebook’s reliance on a social graph from a long term perspective.

    As outlined in the book, the original sign of Twitter as a real-time news source was the earliest users reporting (of all things) a San Francisco earthquake. Then again, the moment when Twitter was truly cemented in history occurred five years ago when US Airways Flight 1549 was forced to make an abrupt landing in the Hudson River, and the first news “reporting” came from Jānis Krūms, a rescuer who took a picture of the passengers standing on the wings of the plane and shared on Twitter as fellow rescuers were heading towards the plane. It’ll forever be an iconic image, and an iconic moment in time.

    2014-02-12-Hudson.jpg

    Photo by Jānis Krūms

    Yet, at the end of the day, what makes Twitter so amazing as a crowdsourced news source is its natural ability to become the ideal newspaper for each and every one of us. We choose our sources. They choose the content.

    One of the best parts of Twitter as the 21st Century newspaper is your news sources can be a wide variety of sources. Whereas traditional newspapers have delivered the news in a second-hand context, Twitter allows you to learn the story from a first-person point of view. Put in other words, rather than hearing about the game from a reporter, you can hear the real story from the athlete who actually played the game. Best of all, if you like both points of view weaved together, you can do just that.

    At the end of the day, we all have interests across multiple categories so the niche sources will often deliver the most appealing content. Following hashtags of interest has become a common practice, but while they may offer a great snapshot into the general sentiment towards a certain topic, they can also be extremely noisy with commentary from people you could care less to hear from.

    If you really want to make the most of Twitter, you should treat it like a typical newspaper: Each subject matter should be split up into a different section. While Twitter has offered the ability to curate Lists around specific topics for a long time, they have struggled to emphasize the best usage.

    While Twitter is currently tinkering with their design, they should strongly consider this notion: If Twitter can truly become our 21st Century newspaper, Twitter Lists are our 21st Century newspaper sections.

  • Unplug With Randi Zuckerberg
    2014-02-11-NDU2014RandiZuckerbergunplugphoto.jpg

    In celebration of the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging (NDU) — from sundown Friday, March 7 to sundown, Saturday, March 8 — the nonprofit Reboot is asking individuals and families to reconnect with each other by putting down their smartphones, tablets and computers for 24 hours.

    The topic of families unplugging is especially close to home for today’s NDU interviewee Randi Zuckerberg, who has joined Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging as an advocate for the annual digital detox.

    Today, she shares how she unplugs and what it means to her family.

    Randi Zuckerberg Talks Unplugging

    1. How did you get involved in unplugging?
    When I had my son almost three years ago, I became much more conscious of how often I was using my devices in his presence. Though he was just a baby, I realized he could tell when I wasn’t giving him my full attention.

    2. What do you do when you unplug?
    Unplugging is my way of becoming present and truly connecting with the people around me. On the weekends, my husband and I take our son out to the park or to dinner “alone” by leaving our phones at home.

    3. What is the most overrated piece of modern technology?
    I think some of the most common apps on smartphones are replacing our dependance on our own memories — maps, notes, calendars and reminders, to name a few. I personally use these tools all the time, but I’m trying to step back and appreciate the power of my own memory once in a while!

    4. Do you make unplugging a regular practice? If so, how?
    In a world where people are expected to be reachable 24/7, it is really hard to make unplugging a regular practice. I used to feel so guilty when I took more than a day or two to answer emails when others were depending on my quick response. But since creating Dot Complicated, I have become much more proactive about creating unplugged moments throughout the week.

    5. Any plans for the next NDU?
    I’ll be at South by Southwest this year during the National Day of Unplugging. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to connect with people in person. Though you’ll see some of the most connected techies and social media influencers at SXSW, it’s great to see how they still value the power of personal, one-on-one interaction.

    6. If you could unplug and spend time with one person for an hour, who would it be and what would you do?
    I would unplug and spend that hour at the park with my son, Asher. He loves trains, and there’s this cute little park near our home where he would ride the choo-choo train all day long if he could. Or Beyoncé — but don’t tell Asher!

    Zuckerberg, is CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, a tech savvy production company, and editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, a modern lifestyle community and blog. Zuckerberg was an early employee of Facebook where she pioneered live streaming initiatives and struck groundbreaking deals with ABC and CNN. She has been nominated for an Emmy and is ranked among the “50 Digital Power Players” by the Hollywood Reporter. Zuckerberg is the author of Dot., an illustrated children’s book about a spunky little girl obsessed with electronic devices. She lives with her husband, Brent, and son, Asher, in Silicon Valley.

    Join Zuckerberg and the NDU community in taking stock of our digital use. Share what you do when you are unplugged by snapping an “I UNPLUG TO ____” photo. Upload it to www.NationalDayofUnplugging.com or post it to Facebook or Twitter with #unplug.

  • PCs sales may suck, but people still are buying Nvidia GPUs
    The company reported better-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and revenue as graphics chip sales climbed.
  • Soledad O'Brien Teams Up With Google
    Soledad O’Brien’s production company is teaming up with Google as she prepares for her first speaking tour, the former CNN host told the Huffington Post Wednesday.

    Google will expand O’Brien’s Starfish Media Group using Google+’s Hangouts, Google Apps for Business and by creating a YouTube channel to allow the company to reach a broader audience. The search giant will also sponsor the “Soledad O’Brien Presents Black in America” speaking tour beginning February 17th, where she will travel to college campuses and art centers in five cities to engage a larger audience in conversations about social change.

    In an interview, O’Brien said that the partnership, which she stressed was “non-exclusive” —meaning that she is free to make deals with other companies—is part of her goal to make Starfish Media a “multi-platform” company.

    She also said she was looking forward to the speaking tour, explaining that, after years as a news anchor, she has no fears or nerves about taking her series in front of a real life audience.

    “The speaking tour is very different than doing a show, where, you can have momentary jitters about nailing a break, getting to commercial on time, or finishing the interview in four minutes,” she said. “I’m not nervous about anything…. I’m looking forward to things getting challenging.”

    O’Brien added that, compared to hosting a morning show where time is limited, the tour will give her “a lot of freedom” to “have someone’s full story told.”

    Even though she is expanding her profile away from the screen, O’Brien’s schedule is still full of television commitments. It has been nearly a year since O’Brien left as host of CNN’s morning show in February 2013, but she has maintained her ties to the network. As part of her partnership with CNN, O’Brien has been continuing her “In America” series. She has also been making content for other news organizations such as Al Jazeera America, where she is a contributor.

    O’Brien spoke optimistically about AJA, which launched in August 2013 as a channel for “real news,” but has since struggled to reach a strong audience.

    “Growing an audience takes time– I think what they’re doing has been to put high quality pieces on, and that’s the best strategy,” O’Brien said. “Some networks talk about a commitment to good journalism and just do entertainment. But the quality of their reporting has been tremendous.”

    Looking forward, O’Brien told HuffPost Media that she is preparing a number of documentaries to air on CNN and Al Jazeera America. She anticipated that the next installment of the ““Black in America” documentary series will air on CNN sometime this summer. O’Brien is also shooting a piece for HBO’s Real Sports and looking forward to finding new partners for her company.

  • White House Offers Help To Industry On Cyberattack
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Whited House on Wednesday offered to help U.S. businesses protect their computer systems from cyberattacks that President Barack Obama called “one the gravest national security dangers that the United States faces.”

    Administration officials warned during an event at the White House that an attack on critical sectors of the U.S. economy could put the entire country at risk. “It boils down to this — in cybersecurity, the more systems we secure, the more secure we all are,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “We are all connected online and a vulnerability in one place can cause a problem in many other places.”

    The administration released a 39-page guide urging vital industries like transportation, financial, health care and energy to assess their risk and take action to close gaps. The Homeland Security Department also launched a voluntary program for businesses to get help at no cost from its cybersecurity experts about ways to counter threats.

    The cyberthreat to the U.S. has been heavily debated since the 1990s, when much of American commerce shifted online and critical systems began to rely increasingly on networked computers. Security experts began to warn of looming disaster, including threats that terrorists could cut off a city’s water supply or shut down electricity.

    But what’s emerged in recent years, according to cyber experts, is the constant pilfering of America’s intellectual property. Administration officials say it’s difficult to put an estimate on the losses, especially since businesses don’t always know or tell the government if they’ve been attacked.

    The guidelines and voluntary program come on the one-year anniversary of Obama signing an executive order calling for their creation. Obama wants Congress to pass legislation that would give the government more power to secure networks and deter attacks, but lawmakers have disagreed over the need for legislation.

    AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who joined chief executives of electric utility Pepco and defense contractor Lockheed Martin on a panel at the White House event, said he opposed more government regulation and pointed to fear as “the best incentive that I have in this regard.”

    “That’s what motivates on this nonstop,” Stephenson said. “It just scares the living hell out of us.”

    Stephenson said companies must proselytize that fear to their suppliers as well as their employees. Workers need more training to prevent against attacks, he said, and suggested that staff who knowingly or inadvertently violate systems should face stronger penalties, maybe even “go home for a period of time.”

    “It can be fatal if you have an exposure in this area,” Stephenson said.

    Obama did not speak at the event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but instead issued a written statement. “America’s economic prosperity, national security, and our individual liberties depend on our commitment to securing cyberspace and maintaining an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet,” he said.

    ___

    Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nedrapickler

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