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Mobile Technology News, April 19, 2014

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

  • Apple vs. Samsung, day eight: Pushing the judge's boundaries
    The eighth full day of the Samsung-Apple patent trial went through another raft of witnesses as Samsung struggles to make its case inside its allotted limit of 25 hours — a problem that hounded the company in the last trial as well. Lead attorney for Samsung John Quinn was forced to read transcripts of declarations to save time, hustle through witnesses and plead with Judge Lucy Koh for more time. An expert that the Galaxy S5 maker paid $1,000 an hour for refuted a colleagues’ studies as “kind of biased.”



  • How the Touch Screen Became So Out of Touch
    The touch screen — interface of the future or gimmicky marketing headache?

    When the first touch screen interfaces came out (at least in a big consumer kind of way) it was in smartphones. Sure there have been other instances of touch screen interfaces (ATM machines, TV remotes, etc.) but no touch screen application has ever become so prolific, so fast, as did the smartphone touch screen. It seemed like overnight we began seeing every sort of tech device coming to us with a touch screen built into it, so much so that the usefulness became very hit or miss.

    In general, I attribute a touch screen to be an extension of my fingers. Tap, swipe, bump; whatever you can do with your fingers, a touch screen is readily available to turn into a function. But some applications of the technology are simply irritating to no end.

    Take the new crop of touch screen laptops. A touch screen — on a laptop… really?

    Now let’s harken back to the usefulness of the touch screen… useful for fingers, not hands, not feet. Functionality based on the mechanics of how our fingers work. If I’m leaning over a keyboard, am I really in the mood to be moving my arm around, to tap on a screen? Didn’t the industry learn from the flub that was the HP Touchsmart computer? Customers left and right complained about sore wrists, tired arms, and tennis elbow from having to hover their arms over the keyboard just to tap and swipe the screen. It was an ergonomics nightmare. Try holding your arm out straight for about 60 seconds, and you’ll get the gist of the problem.

    But leave it to marketing people to ignore history, just to try and make a dollar.

    It surprises me that more people aren’t complaining about their laptop touch screens. I curse mine every day (it’s a work computer — I would never buy one for myself) every time I go to point at something on the screen for a client, and have the screen minimize or a browser pop up out of nowhere!!!

    Now granted, I did buy a Microsoft Surface tablet, which is a tablet, not a laptop. Tablets are defined by their use of a touch screen. So by that definition, they are typically smaller than laptops, more portable and also provide a touch interface for a device that, like a smartphone, is typically handheld. So Windows 8 also has a touch interface in Metro, but if I’m lugging a 17″ laptop in my arms, can you imagine having to tap the screen and that bad boy? Neither can I. It’s just not intuitive, and in fact, it’s downright clumsy.

    Touch screens are most intuitive with devices scaled for ergonomics (read, hands). Touch screens on laptops are no more sensible than would be touch screen on a TV set or a refrigerator. Sure, there are large touch screen-enabled devices like cash registers, but when’s the last time you had to carry a cash register around with you?

    Touch screens are a cool technology. But like any technology, you have to consider the application to find success in both adoption and future use. Tech companies need to stop throwing new technologies into every device, to see what “sticks.” The last thing that end users want is to have to “deal” with a technology instead of benefit from it.

    Ultimately, the touch screen has a niche in smartphones for obvious reasons. Some devices benefit from them, while others suffer from them. The industry should take a hint from this.

    … because If I ever see a touch screen on a urinal or toilet, I’m going to be pissed.

  • Bryant University Begs Students Not To Take Selfies At Commencement
    BOSTON (AP) — Rhode Island’s Bryant University is asking students to resist the urge to take selfies with its president while receiving their diplomas.

    University President Ronald Machtley (MAYK’-lee) says students ask him to take selfies on the Smithfield campus all the time. But he says having more than 800 students snap photos with him as they get their degrees will slow down the already hours-long ceremony. He says he’d be happy to take some photos afterward.

    Students will be able to take photos until the start of the May 17 graduation and post them to a new website hosted by the university.

    Senior and Worcester (WUS’-tur), Massachusetts, native Ali Luthman says some students might be upset about the no selfies rule but “no one is crying about it.”

  • Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson
    Forty years ago Ted Nelson published a book called Computer Lib. In it he wrote:

    EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly.

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  • Private Spies Deserve More Scrutiny
    It turns out being the only imprisoned journalist in the United States doesn’t get you on CNN or MSNBC. If you’re Barrett Brown, a firebrand with an outlandish style, a penchant for insulting those very outlets and a history of working with hacktivist collectives, you can consider yourself lucky to get written up in Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

    The drama of Brown’s case and cancelled trial is all but over, but the media and the public has dropped the ball on what he was trying to expose. That’s the secretive world of private intelligence contractors — an estimated $56 billion-a-year industry consuming 70 percent of America’s intelligence budget.

    Edward Snowden’s leaks have shed a much-needed spotlight on the activities of the NSA and GCHQ — governmental surveillance, yet very little examination is now given to the corporations and companies who work closely with the state, while selling their capabilities on the open market. To them, dictatorships and authoritarian regimes are just another customer.

    The growing nexus of intelligence, defense contracting, and cybersecurity is massive. New enterprises appear every day in response to perceived threats and manufactured demand. What we’ve learned so far is disturbing and entails a virtual shopping mall for the technology needed to commit rights violations and neutralize dissent.

    Spyware created by Gamma International has been deployed against activists in Bahrain and Egypt. Leonie Industries, a defense contractor specializing in information operations, was caught in an online smear campaign against a journalist and editor from USA Today who had written an article that was critical of that same company.

    Stratfor was discovered surveilling Bhopal activists at the behest of Dow Chemical, and PETA on behalf of Coca-Cola, as well as monitoring the Occupy Wall Street protests.

    Amesys’s Eagle spyware was sold to Gaddafi while he was still in power, and used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in Libya. Qorvis, an American public relations firm, has been hired to shore up the Kingdom of Bahrain’s reputation as it engages in a violent crackdown against demonstrators.

    Endgame Systems and VUPEN are selling zero-day exploits to the highest bidder, vulnerabilities which are used to eavesdrop on communications. Hacking Team’s interception and remote control software has been used against journalists and activists in Morocco, the UAE and many other places.

    Ntrepid won a large contract from CENTCOM for persona management – software capable of controlling multiple sockpuppets, fake online personalities which are used for disinformation and propaganda. Raytheon has developed a program called Riot which mines data from social media and uses it to predict your next move.

    TrapWire, a mass video surveillance system created by Abraxas Applications, caused a scandal when it was revealed that CCTV was being used to detect patterns of behavior preceding terror attacks. Bright Planet has a product called BlueJay which bills itself as a “Law Enforcement, Twitter Crime Scanner”.

    Syngenta, a large agribusiness, attacked the credibility of a scientist who had published research critical of one of their chemicals.

    A consortium of firms informally called Team Themis plotted to disrupt and undermine WikiLeaks and target Glenn Greenwald, along with critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Names such as Palantir Technologies, HBGary, Berico Technologies and Endgame were all involved.

    Palantir’s flagship product is a big data search and analysis application that is so good, and so ripe for abuse, it’s scary. Booz Allen Hamilton — Snowden’s former employer — earns 99 percent of their revenue from the federal government.

    Blackwater had to change their name, and their license to operate in Iraq was revoked after gross negligence came to light. Wackenhut Corporation has been implicated in numerous scandals involving lax security at nuclear facilities.

    There’s more; we’ve only scratched the surface… Look up SAIC, In-Q-Tel, Archimedes Global, Cubic Corporation, ManTech International, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman. The industry has become so large that some in the European Union are rightfully pushing for export controls on surveillance technology. Meanwhile, the evolution of cyberspace as a theater of war has troubling implications for the liberty of all who inhabit the internet.

    Sure, the NSA, CIA and FBI deserve scrutiny, but we should devote our attention to the private sector also. Outsourcing has always been a convenient way to avoid accountability. Firms such as these typically maintain a revolving door, with executives and board members moving in and out of key government positions.

    The GAO has criticized agencies’ reliance on contract personnel within the civilian intelligence community and called for improved reporting. Agencies are not even sure how many contractors they employ. Meanwhile, a recent DoD IG report found that contractors who had committed misconduct rarely lost their clearances.

    And since 2012, domestic propaganda has been legal in the United States. With what we know by now, we should be very concerned. But what brave contractor will become a whistle-blower and reveal wrongdoing, when they are afforded very little protections to do so because of loopholes?

    What was said by Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer in response to the revelation of Romas/COIN: “I think the public is naive to the actual level of technology that’s available and what’s being done,” is echoed by the sentiment of Barrett Brown: “This is the world we accept if we continue to avert our eyes. And it promises to get much worse.”

  • Instagram for Business: Engaging Content Ideas
    Instagram is a challenging place for brands. Analytics are currently non-existent, ads are extremely expensive, off-app content is nearly impossible to link to and ideas for new content can be exhausting to generate.

    Although I can’t change anything about the first three points, I can offer some help with the last one. The following posts showcase a few different types of content that any business Instagram account can borrow from and customize for their own needs. (Plus, read this for other helpful tips: 3 Things Missing From Your Business Insatgram.

    Inspire and motivate
    Motivational quotes sometimes border on the cheesy or insincere side, but there’s something to them when they’re relevant to what you’re going through. That’s the magic of a great inspirational post — it can create a connection between a company and its fans by communicating “we understand you” through the message.

    The caption to Nike’s photo below is: “You don’t need a crowd. You just need a court.#justdoit”

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    It’s simple and short and builds on their strong athletic brand while underscoring their iconic motto.

    Weight Watchers certainly understands their average fan. This motivational message could not be more appropriate for their members who are trying to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles.

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    The points Weight Watchers refers to are a part of the system members use to track what they eat every day. The company has a clear sense of what matters to their fans and created something to push them on toward their goals.

    Take Away: Inspiring quotes and messages work best when they are matched to the attitude and interests of a business’s fans and customers.

    Offer the chance to engage
    A common trap businesses fall into is to push, push, push content without letting followers have a say. That’s like having a one-way conversation — it’s boring and unhelpful to both parties.

    Especially because according to recent data, Instagram’s community is 15 times more engaged than Facebook’s, which means that Instagrammers are more likely to talk back.

    Sephora found a way to successfully engage with their fans. They created the #SephoraNailSpotting hashtag, where they’ve encouraged Instagrammers to share their own nail creations. Sephora then rounds up their favorite posts and shares a compilation.

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    It’s a win-win because the makeup brand offers fun and interesting nail art to their followers while their fans in turn gain the notoriety of being featured on Sephora’s profile.

    Chobani also engages in a similar way. They share tasty pics of fan recipes that use the yogurt as an ingredient. The recipes are relevant and helpful to fans and subtly promote the brand without Chobani saying it directly.

    See this example:

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    The caption: “Um, yum. #maple #banana #bread with #chobani by@thenutritiouskitchen w/ delicious #chocolate spread.#recipe at thenutritiouskitchen.com”

    Take Away: Don’t just share fan photos; allow them to talk and engage with the brand. Let what fans are doing affect what is posted. They are who the company is trying to influence, so let their voices be heard.

    Tease new products
    Even though every piece of social media advice instructs companies to stop talking about themselves… have you noticed something? The big businesses ignore that advice completely, and fans don’t seem to care.

    That’s because with highly visible and recognizable brands, they can get away with being self(ie)-adsorbed on social media (see what I did there?). For everyone else (i.e. small and medium businesses), offer a balanced presence.

    Take a look at H&M. About 50,000 of their 2 million fans double-tapped this photo that announced a new line of crop tops.

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    The pattern and product speak for itself, so the minimal setting and backdrop worked perfectly in this photo.

    On the other hand, the vibrant colors and haphazard placement of these body lotions put Bath and Body Works customers in mind of vacations and the summer.

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    The new products highlighted in the photo are one part of a larger marketing initiative — reminding followers what’s ahead and what key B&BW items they’ll need.

    Take Away: Balance engagement-driven posts with product-related content. When a product is successfully teased and photographed, it can have a powerful impact.

    Participate in popular memes
    There’s certainly value in creating a brand-specific hashtag or meme, but there’s also something to be said about joining in large, wildly popular, already-trending memes, as well. It’s rewarding to jump in with the crowd.

    MTV nailed the #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) meme with this ode to Jennifer Lawrence.

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    They really understood what the meme is all about and created a shareable moment for fans.

    With a rich history to work with, it’s not surprising Disney offered a look into their archive for a #TBT (Throwback Thursday) post. Their caption for this picture reads: “Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas sketch the three fairies during production of Sleeping Beauty in 1957. #ThrowbackThursday”

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    With the upcoming release of Maleficent, this is a superbly timed #TBT choice.

    These Instagram content ideas are just a jumping off point. Let these posts inspire your business Instagram account and save you some time brainstorming… for at least a couple days.

  • Get A New iPhone 5S For Zero Dollars, Just By Finding A Surviving Radio Shack
    Looking to buy a brand-spanking-new iPhone 5S on the cheap? Your best bet might be to go somewhere you haven’t been in a long, long time: a RadioShack.

    The struggling electronics chain has a new promotion in which you can trade an eligible iPhone 4S for the fancy 5S. Crazy, right? It’s not exactly straightforward, but here’s how it works.

    Normally, an iPhone 5S with a new or renewed contract costs $199. Starting Friday, RadioShack is knocking $100 off the price of a 5S with contract. Then, if you own an old 4S in working condition, you can get a $100 credit if you trade it in at RadioShack, which brings the price of that iPhone 5S from $99 to $0. Compare: If you were to buy an iPhone 5S without a contract, it would cost $549.

    Of course, there’s a catch. And of course, it involves your cell phone contract.

    To take advantage of the deal, you must be eligible to start a contract with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. That means you must either start a new two-year contract for the first time with one of those companies or you must be eligible to renew your current contract for two years with one of those providers.

    You can take advantage of this promotion in person or online, though it’s not clear how long it will last. RadioShack seems to be desperate to get people into stores, especially since the company announced last month that it would close up to 1,100 of them.

  • You Can Better The World By Watching Cat Videos. Seriously
    Get ready for the best news ever.

    You may want to sit down … are you ready? Okay, here it is: You can save the world by watching CAT VIDEOS!

    We know what you’re probably saying: “I’m already watching cat videos each and every day, but haven’t saved the world yet. How could this even be possible?”

    CharityAnimalTV released this video above with an innovative concept — one that employs a major staple of the Internet with a bit of slacktivism to create change.

    In short, all profits from this video go to a charity, in this case the ASPCA. When you watch the video, you get the added cat-isfaction of knowing the furry, feline antics on display are actually helping out a good cause.

    Is your mind blown? Click play to let them explain more about the brilliant idea.

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  • How Video Games Can Improve Dialogue on Mental Illness
    Co-authored by Doris C. Rusch, Ph.D., assistant professor for game design, and Anuradha Rana, MFA, MA, instructor in digital cinema at DePaul University.

    The darkness is closing in around you. You know what to do to make it stop, to keep the rising anxiety at bay — you perform the ritual that has become so familiar, it’s almost a part of you. A ritual that is both cure and curse. Curse, because it keeps you stuck in a labyrinth without exit. You don’t want to be stuck anymore, compelled to go through the same motions over and over again. But the alternative is unthinkable, scary. Still, doing nothing will keep you trapped in this cycle forever. You could try to break out. What if you faced and endured the fear? You stop, wait. Darkness engulfs you. It sounds like an army of tentacle monsters is getting ready to have you for dinner. But it’s just an illusion. The danger feels real, but it isn’t. If you don’t give in to the urge of performing the ritual, a way out becomes possible — a light appears somewhere in the darkness. It points towards an exit. You approach it. You leave.

    You just beat “Through Darkness,” a video game about obsessive-compulsive disorder. More importantly, you just experienced the struggle associated with resisting an overwhelming urge. The game can only be won by not giving in to that urge (just like OCD cannot be overcome by continued obsessive, compulsive behavior). “Through Darkness” is one of four short games that we — a team of students at DePaul University in Chicago and Doris C. Rusch as game design faculty, producer and designer — made as part of the interactive documentary, For the Records. The other games deal with an eating disorder, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder. For the Records is intended to make the lived experience of mental health issues tangible to a broad audience in order to increase understanding and alleviate isolation and stigma.

    While there are strong arguments for the games’ unique potential as vehicles for a deep, experiential understanding, it is our experience that these kinds of mental health games tend to polarize. As seen with Rusch’s previous games, “Elude” (a game about depression) and “Akrasia” (a game about substance abuse), the discourse around what games are supposed to be and what they are allowed to model is complex and filled with strong opinions.

    How games can improve a dialogue on mental health?

    Many social problems surrounding mental health issues are founded in insufficient understanding of the fullness of experience (not merely the cognitive understanding of symptoms or physio-psychological mechanisms). Lack of such an experiential understanding contributes to stigma and often burdens relationships between people with mental health issues and those without. For friends, family and providers of people struggling with mental illness, this can complicate the difficulties of constructively dealing with aspects of the disorders, leading to feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger, and fueling the experience of stigmatization, isolation and disconnectedness by persons with mental illness.

    Games are excellent tools to enable embodied, first-hand experiences, as renowned educational game researcher James Paul Gee states in his book What Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. No other medium allows you to truly experience life from somebody else’s perspective, to take on new identities and explore what the world feels like, walking in someone else’s shoes. That is because game rules create realities. By submitting herself to the rules of the game, making choices and having to deal with the consequences of these choices, the player gains first-hand, lived, embodied experience of the world that the game models, and her role within it. This is fundamentally different from experiences other media provide, which only allow you to witness someone else’s choices and consequences. While we might feel empathy for someone struggling with depression in a movie, we may remain oblivious to the forces that bind the protagonist to the bed. We see the symptoms, but not the sources.

    Games are different in that regard. Instead of describing: “X just didn’t have the energy to get up,” games can take the ability of movement away from the player. You might want to get out of bed, but you just can’t. Willpower has nothing to do with it, which is an important realization particularly for friends and relatives of persons who are depressed.

    Why mental health games irritate and what we can do about it.

    As powerful as they can be, games like these also have a tendency to irritate. They provoke, disturb and trouble players for various reasons. One is that they rub against the expectations we have of games as a medium dedicated to our entertainment and instant gratification. Games ought to be fun, right? Don’t we play them to escape our meager, little lives, our human limitations? Don’t we embrace athletic, resourceful Lara Croft precisely because she makes us feel hardcore and powerful? Why would anyone want to play a game that puts you in the position of someone with a debilitating mental illness?

    It’s this expectation (that games are supposed to facilitate power fantasies) that keeps the medium from growing up, from expanding its emotional range, and from taking its place amongst other works of art that tackle the whole bandwidth of the human condition. The only counterargument to “But mental health games aren’t fun!” is don’t play them. AAA mainstream games won’t go away because of them. The existence of Ulysses did not prevent the writing of 50 Shades of Grey, either. No reason to hate.

    But games about the experience of mental illness can irritate for other, more complicated reasons — their rules model “what it feels like.” They embrace the subjectivity of someone’s lived experience and might thus portray this experience as more desperate or hopeless as the friends, relatives or therapists want to believe. Of course, it’s not an objective fact that meeting friends is impossible during depression. Believing that there are effective strategies to catapult oneself out of a depressive phase and overcome feelings of hopelessness is an important part of recovery.

    It’s equally important, however, to accept that it might not feel that way to those who are depressed. No one says it should stop with this acceptance, but it would be helpful if any kind of dialogue about mental illness, let alone therapeutic process, began with as much of a shared understanding of the experience as possible. There’s value in acknowledging these inner truths, as desperate as they may seem, rather than denying them. We can go from there together, as collaborators on the road to recovery, rather than perpetuators of patient/provider misunderstandings and power imbalances.

    Another source of doubt about these types of video games is the question about the games’ “correctness” and the adequacy of their modeled experiences. How do we know that what they make us feel is an accurate representation of what, for example, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder or bipolar disorder feel like? Both are valid concerns. As we see it, the gameplay experience is always a collaborative effort between designer and player. Without the willingness to take the game seriously (any game, for that matter), its potential emotional impact will be diminished.

    Also, as with any medium, the factors that enable personal resonance are complex and are located on the side of the medium just as much as on the side of the recipient. The game might “hit the spot” for one player but not for another — or it may resonate today but not tomorrow. There’s no guarantee that whatever experience is inscribed within the rules and mechanics of the game and its audio-visual design, is retrieved by the player.

    Embracing subjectivity of embodied experience
    Although there will always be deviations and different interpretations, the range of experiences afforded by a game is not random. Why should we be less inclined to live with a certain ambiguity in games when we expect it as a mark of high quality in other media?

    As for the “correctness” of the inner truths mental health games model (regardless of what players experience when they are playing them): Obviously, there are always abstractions. To claim that one could model the whole complexity of living with a mental illness would be an irresponsible overstatement.

    One can only focus on salient aspects of it. Are these salient aspects true “across the board”? Probably not. While there are common denominators, the misdiagnoses of mental health issues point towards the diversity of their subjective instantiations. Everyone’s depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, eating disorder — you name it — has a different flavor. Does that mean any attempt at understanding and modeling other people’s experiences is doomed to fail?

    Not at all.

    Two things were important to us when we designed the games for For the Records: one, including people with lived experience in the design process. All games in For the Records have been produced either with people in leading roles who have lived experience of the mental health disorders portrayed in the game, or in close collaboration with them. For the latter, there was a constant dialogue and exchange between us — as designers and subject matter experts. Feedback to play tests was the main guideline for design iterations. Doing their experiences justice seemed like the best way to ensure the games’ integrity and phenomenological accuracies.

    The second important thing to promote understanding and ease players’ concerns about the authenticity of the modeled experience is to be transparent about this subjective design approach: to communicate clearly that each game is only one voice from a polyphone choir that is more or less dedicated to the same song.

    Without the individual voices, the choir would not exist. It’s worth listening, and it’s worth leveraging the unique experiential potentials of video games to make these voices heard.

  • Watch This Student Set Music On Fire With Help From Freaky 'Pyro Board' (VIDEO)
    Talk about a hot beat!

    With the help of a “pyro board,” Sune Nielsen, a masters student in physics at Denmark’s Aarhus University, uses fire to represent music visually. The result, displayed in the video above, is absolutely mesmerizing.

    Exactly what is this pyro board? It’s a sealed metal box that allows flammable gas to mix with sound waves. Atop the box, gas flowing out of 2,500 perforations creates 2,500 individual flames that pulsate in time to the music produced below. At certain frequencies of sound, the device reveals standing waves, which appear as an unmoving pattern of flame resembling a sine wave.

    This particular device was created by Fysikshow, a physics outreach program for students in Denmark.

    In a demonstration for the science video blog Veritasium, Nielsen explains that the pyro board was inspired by a simpler device called a Rubens’ Tube. Unlike a pryo board’s matrix of perforations, Rubens’ Tubes feature a single line of perforations.

    A Mythbusters” video from 2008 offers a primer on Reubens’ Tube physics:

    [When a tone is played] through the speaker, the sound wave enters the tube, and the confined space creates reflections and interference, which combine to create a standing wave. The standing wave affects the air pressure inside the tube, which affects the amount of gas coming out of each perforation, which affects the size of each individual flame.

    WATCH the pyro board in action, above. The video opens with an explanation of how the board works. Skip to 3:88 to “see” the music.

  • Newspaper Industry Revenue Continued To Fall In 2013

    NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. newspaper industry revenue fell last year, as increases in circulation revenue weren’t high enough to make up for shrinking demand for print advertising, an industry trade group said Friday.

    The Newspaper Association of America said revenue fell 2.6 percent to $37.6 billion in 2013.

    Circulation revenue rose 3.7 percent to $10.9 billion, the second straight year of growth.

    Advertising revenue fell 6.5 percent to $23.6 billion.

    In recent years, newspapers have looked to increase revenue from online sources, as more readers turn to the Internet and mobile devices for news. Digital advertising revenue increased 1.5 percent to $3.42 billion. But that wasn’t enough to offset an 8.6 percent drop in print advertising revenue to $17.3 billion.

    The industry also got a boost from a 2.4 percent increase in direct marketing advertising revenue to $1.4 billion, while advertising revenue related to niche and non-daily publications fell 5.8 percent to $1.45 billion.

    Revenue from businesses other than advertising and circulation rose 5 percent to $3.15 billion.

    The NAA’s numbers are based on a sample of public and private company data collected on a confidential basis.

  • SpaceX Rocket Launches To Space Station After Long Delay
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A SpaceX supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Friday, setting the stage for an Easter morning delivery and urgent spacewalking repairs later in the week.

    Following its midday launch through cloudy skies, the Dragon cargo carrier was shown drifting away in the blackness of space, against the blue backdrop of Earth. It’s transporting 2½ tons of goods, including a new spacesuit, spacesuit replacement parts, much-needed food, legs for NASA’s humanoid, Robonaut, a bevy of mating flies, and germs gathered from sports arenas and historic sites across the U.S.

    Neither NASA nor SpaceX packed any Easter goodies, but the families of the six astronauts sent private care packages.

    “It will be a surprise for all of us when they open the hatch,” said NASA’s human exploration chief, Bill Gerstenmaier.

    The Dragon will reach the orbiting lab on Sunday morning. That pushes urgent spacewalking repairs to Wednesday; NASA wants a bad backup computer replaced before something else breaks.

    This was the second launch attempt this week for SpaceX after a month’s delay.

    On Monday, NASA’s commercial supplier was foiled by a leaky rocket valve. The valve was replaced, and the company aimed for a Friday liftoff despite a dismal forecast. Storms cleared out of Cape Canaveral just in time.

    SpaceX’s billionaire chief executive officer, Elon Musk, was delighted with the successful launch for NASA, the customer. “This was a happy day,” he told reporters from company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

    Last Friday, a critical backup computer failed outside the space station, and NASA considered postponing the SpaceX flight. The primary computer is working fine, but numerous systems would be seriously compromised if it broke, too. A double failure also would hinder visits by the Dragon and other vessels.

    “It’s imperative that we maintain” backups for these external command-routing computer boxes, also called multiplexer-demultiplexers, or MDMs, said flight director Brian Smith said Friday. “Right now, we don’t have that.”

    NASA decided late this week to use the gasket-like material already on board the space station for the repair, instead of waiting for the Dragon and the new, precision-cut material that NASA rushed on board for the computer swap. Astronauts trimmed their own thermal material Friday to fit the bottom of the replacement computer, and inserted a fresh circuit card.

    The space station’s crew watched the launch via a live TV hookup; the outpost was soaring 260 miles above Turkey at the time of ignition. Video beamed down from Dragon showed the solar wings unfurling.

    The shipment is close to five weeks late. Initially set for mid-March, the launch was delayed by extra prepping, then damage to an Air Force radar and, finally on Monday, the rocket leak.

    Earlier, as the countdown entered its final few hours, NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini said an investigation continues into the reason for last summer’s spacesuit failure. The helmet worn by an Italian astronaut filled with water from the suit’s cooling system, and he nearly drowned during a spacewalk.

    Routine U.S. spacewalks are on hold until engineers are certain what caused the water leak. The upcoming spacewalk by the two Americans on board is considered an exception because of its urgent nature; it will include no unnecessary tasks, just the 2½-hour computer swap.

    NASA is paying SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia’s Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the orbiting lab well stocked. It was SpaceX’s fourth trip to the space station. Russia, Japan and Europe also make periodic deliveries.

    Unlike the other cargo carriers, the Dragon can bring items back for analysis.

    Among the science samples going up on the Dragon and slated to return with it in a month: 200 fruit flies and their expected progeny, and germs collected from stadiums and sports arenas, as well as such notables as America’s Liberty Bell and Sue, the T. rex fossil skeleton at Chicago’s Field Museum.

    Scientists will study the hearts of the returning flies — as many as 3,000 are expected for the trip home. The germ samples, once back on Earth, will be compared with duplicate cultures on the ground.

    Staying up there — for as long as the space station lives — will be new legs for NASA’s humanoid, Robonaut. The indoor robot has been in orbit for three years, but only from the waist up.

    ___

    Online:

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

    SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com

  • Something Fishy Has Happened At Amazon Over The Last 2 Years
    By Tom Bergin
    LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) – The amount of money Amazon.com Inc reports through a tax-exempt vehicle in Europe has dropped sharply in the past two years, even as European sales jumped, after the U.S. tax authority tightened rules it felt were being abused to shift profits.
    Amazon minimises its tax bill by having the U.S. unit which owns its technology licences lease the rights to re-license the technology to a tax-exempt partnership based in Luxembourg.
    This partnership then resells the software rights to other affiliates for a much higher price, corporate and court filings show.
    Such arrangements have drawn fire from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic as well as citizens struggling with higher personal taxes and cutbacks in state services imposed to pay for the financial crisis.
    The Group of 20 leading economies has vowed to crack down on corporate tax avoidance and the practice of shifting profits into low or no tax jurisdictions.
    Amazon has been a frequent subject of politicians’ criticism in Europe over the way it channels all European revenues to Luxembourg where profits can be earned tax free.
    However, since 2012, when a dispute between the company and the UK tax authority was disclosed in court filings, the amount of profit reported by the group’s Luxembourg-based tax-exempt partnership, Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS, has halved.
    The company declined to comment on Friday but has previously said it follows the tax rules in all the countries where it operates.
    The U.S. tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) declined to comment, citing federal privacy rules that prohibit it from discussing individual taxpayers.
    Most companies seek to pay no more tax than they have to because managers have a fiduciary duty to investors to maximise long-term profits.
    Amazon and the IRS have been in dispute for years about Amazon Europe Holding. The unit pays U.S. affiliates to use existing software and shares the U.S. affiliates’ cost of funding new technology, in return for the right to re-license this technology to affiliates in Europe.
    According to a filing with the U.S. Tax Court in December 2012, the IRS has argued that Amazon Europe Holding should have paid much more to the U.S. affiliates, A9.com Inc and Amazon Technologies Inc., for the rights it received.
    If Amazon Europe Holding had paid more, this would have increased Amazon group’s U.S. taxable income. The IRS said Amazon Europe should have paid the U.S. arm an additional $110 million in cost-sharing payments in 2006 alone.
    Amazon took a legal challenge against the IRS claims, saying its 2005-to-2011 payments were appropriate, the December 2012 court filing said.
    Nonetheless, from 2012, Amazon Europe Holding increased the amount it paid its U.S. affiliates substantially.
    In 2012, it paid them 408 million euros, up from 229 million euros in 2011. In 2013, it paid 420 million, accounts filed in Luxembourg this week showed.
    Amazon declined to say why the payments had risen. Lawyers and accountants say the IRS has been tightening the rules covering inter-company cost-sharing agreements since December 2008.
    Last year, it finalised new rules curtailing the discount rates companies could use when deciding the prices for inter-company cost-sharing deals.
    “Amazon’s decision is probably a result of negotiation with the IRS. I don’t think that’s something they would have chosen to do,” said Richard Murphy, a tax adviser-turned-campaigner.
    The higher payments mean profits at Amazon Europe Holding have fallen sharply, even as its income has risen.
    Profits of 157 million euros last year were up from 118 million in 2012, but these results compare to profits of 302 million to 442 million between 2008 and 2011. No tax was paid on that income, accounts show.
    Cost-sharing agreements are widely used by U.S. companies including Google and Microsoft. Yet the contracts are not published and deals usually involve subsidiaries in the Caribbean or Singapore, where companies are not obliged to file accounts.
    Despite the higher payments its European operation is making to U.S. affiliates, Amazon’s European business continues to thrive, with profit margins around 50 percent higher than at its U.S. operation.
    Revenues at Amazon’s three main European operating units were 15.8 billion euros last year, up 18 percent. This includes sales by Amazon EU Sarl, which retails books and consumer goods, Amazon Media EU Sarl, which sells music downloads and Amazon Services Europe Sarl which sells auction services to third-party retailers. All are based in Luxembourg.
    The three companies declared profit of less than 53 million euros. They are liable to Luxembourg corporate income tax and had a combined charge of 11 million euros in 2013, accounts filed this week show.
    By having these three units pay large fees to Amazon Europe Holding, which is tax exempt, Amazon minimises its total tax bill.
    Including Amazon Europe Holding, the main Luxembourg-based subsidiaries reported profits of 209 million euros, meaning a profit margin of 1.3 percent on European sales. The group’s margin is 0.7 percent, according to Amazon’s annual report.
    The actual European result could even be slightly higher, as it excludes profits from subsidiaries across Europe, which have not yet filed accounts for 2013.
    The main operating units in Britain, Germany and France reported combined profits of around 33 million euros in 2012.
    The low profits at these subsidiaries which employ most of the staff and assets, reflect the fact they are funded by fees from the Luxembourg companies. These fees are just about enough to cover operating costs and report a small profit, which in turns means minimal taxes are due. (Reporting by Tom Bergin; editing by Jason Neely)
  • The Three Internet Devices That Shook Up Algeria's Election
    Thursday’s presidential election in Algeria did not play out in the usual way. The Internet’s sudden boom has changed the situation in the country and has brought about changes in communication, especially for presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika. From the instantaneity provided by the 3G network to the interactivity of Twitter, the Internet has influenced the country’s outdated approaches.

    An Attentive 3G Network

    3G was launched in Algeria four months before the presidential election on April 17, and it upset the 2014 campaign by giving it an unexpected echo. The manifestations of the Barakat movement, which opposes a fourth term for current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have been widely followed on the Internet through photos and videos posted in real time. The aggressive arrests of demonstrators during the first rallies in early March were relayed at breakneck speed through instant tweets:

    Sit-in déjà dispersé à #Audin. C’était plus impressionnant que samedi, la police a interpellé bcp plus de monde ๐Ÿ™‚ pic.twitter.com/WXmGwPOcuY

    — AbuCalypse (@copi35) March 6, 2014

    Sit-in already dispersed in #Audin. It was more impressive than Saturday, police arrested many more people ๐Ÿ™‚

    Les policiers procèdent à l’interpellation de chaque personne qui prend la parole devant une caméra ou scande un slogan. #Audin

    — AbuCalypse (@copi35) March 6, 2014

    Police are arresting anyone who speaks in front of a camera or chants a slogan. #Audin

    Des journalistes ont été embarqués vers des commissariats. La police savait qu’ils étaient journalistes. #Audin #Barakat

    — AbuCalypse (@copi35) March 6, 2014

    Journalists were sent to police stations. The police knew they were journalists. #Audin #Barakat

    “The social unrest that has shaken Algeria since the announcement of Bouteflika’s candidacy has been found to be linked with this ‘third generation’ technology,” the newspaper El Watan pointed out in an article entitled “Live from the demonstrations thanks to 3G.”

    Internet users are aware of this new power struggle and regularly point out 3G’s “advantages,” though sometimes ironically.

    #Alger Aujourd’hui, grâce à la 3G, le monde a pu voir en direct la police arrêter des manifestants qui leur distribuaient des fleurs

    — Mélanie Matarese (@melalger) March 1, 2014

    #Algiers Today, thanks to 3G, everyone saw live the police arresting protesters who were handing them flowers

    Debates on Twitter

    From presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s television appearances to the unsuccessful candidacy of Rachid Nekkaz or the shocking comments of candidates on the campaign trail and their presence on TV shows — all of these episodes have been blithely discussed on social networks.

    Twitter, in particular, has become the primary forum for debates due to its immediate interactivity, as proven by the appearance of several hashtags centered around the presidential news: #QstcandidatDZ (#DZCandidateQuestion, DZ being the country code for Algeria), #SelonAmaraBenyounes (#AccordingtoAmaraBenyounes, Amara Benyounes is Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s spokesperson), #BenflisFacts (Ali Benflis, former prime minister, was Bouteflika’s main challenger in the bid for the presidency), #PoseUneQuestionCommeHabibaEcherrira (#AskAQuestionLikeHabibaEcherrira, a reference to the Ennahar TV journalist Habiba Mahmoudi, who has been criticized for her aggressive style when interviewing candidates), #BoutefSong (a reference to the pro-Abdelaziz Bouteflika video “Our Oath to Algeria,” which reunited about 60 artists).

    Although the use of the microblogging site remains limited in Algeria — with 45,000 users out of 38 million people, according to a survey by the Dubai School of Government from March 2013 — the dynamism and activism of a few hundred Algerian Twitter users have transformed the chirps of the blue bird into a real uproar.

    Videos to Condemn

    Internet users surfed on the shockwave created by the announcement of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s fourth term. They quickly posted countless parody videos of politicians, elections, and the president. “Où es-tu Boutef? Dis-nous où es-tu Boutef? Sans même pouvoir parler tu veux encore être chef” (“Where are you, Boutef? Tell us where you are, Boutef? Even when you can’t speak, you still want to be the chief”) goes the song “Boutefoutai,” inspired by famous Belgian singer Stromae’s hit song “Papaoutai,” whose success on the Internet hasn’t faded.

    “Lately, our best hits, that is to say, the videos that have tens of thousands of views, are those about the presidential election,” said Karim Amellal, founder of the Algerian participatory video site Chouf-Chouf, in an interview with Maghreb Emergent, mentioning in particular the highly criticized videos about Bouteflika’s fourth term from rappers Lotfi Double Kanon and Mister AB.

    This piece was translated from French and was originally published on HuffPost Maghreb.

  • Wikipedia Use Could Give Insights To The Flu Season
    By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Staff Writer
    Published: 04/17/2014 05:50 PM EDT on LiveScience

    By monitoring the number of times people look for flu information on Wikipedia, researchers may be better able to estimate the severity of a flu season, according to a new study.

    Researchers created a new data-analysis system that looks at visits to Wikipedia articles, and found the system was able to estimate flu levels in the United States up to two weeks sooner than the flu data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were released.

    Looking at data spanning six flu seasons between December 2007 and August 2013, the new system estimated the peak flu week better than Google Flu Trends, another data-based system. The Wikipedia-based system accurately estimated the peak flu week in three out of six seasons, while the Google-based system got only two right, the researchers found. [10 Technologies That Will Transform Your Life]

    “We were able to get really nice estimates of what the [flu] level is in the population,” said study author David McIver, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital.

    The new system examined visits to Wikipedia articles that included terms related to flulike illnesses, whereas Google Flu Trends looks at searches typed into Google. The researchers analyzed the data from Wikipedia on how many times in an hour a certain article was viewed, and combined their data with flu data from the CDC, using a model they created.

    The research team wanted to use a database that is accessible to everyone and create a system that could be more accurate than Google Flu Trends, which has flaws. For instance, during the swine flu pandemic in 2009, and during the 2012-2013 influenza season, Google Flu Trends got a bit “confused,” and overestimated flu numbers because of increased media coverage focused on the two illnesses, the researchers said.

    When a pandemic strikes, people search for news stories related to the pandemic itself, but this doesn’t mean that they have the flu. In general, the problem with Internet-based estimation systems is that it is practically impossible to tell whether people are looking for information about an illness because they are sick, the researchers said.

    In the new system, the researchers tried to overcome this issue by including a number of Wikipedia articles “to act as markers for general background-level activity of normal usage of Wikipedia,” the researchers wrote in the study. However, just like any other data-based system, the Wikipedia system is not immune to the issues related to figuring out the actual motivation of someone checking information related to the flu.

    Therefore, it’s important to view systems such as Google Flu Trends and the Wikipedia system as complementary to data from official sources such as the CDC, McIver said.

    “We are not trying to create something that will replace the CDC or anything like that,” he said. Rather, the researchers’ goal is “to get both things to work well together, to give us a more holistic view of what is going on,” they said.

    The study is published today (April 17) in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

    Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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

  • Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Tackle Misleadingly Photoshopped Ads
    In an effort to shield young children and teenagers from the damaging effects of photoshopped images, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have co-sponsored legislation to reduce the use of misleadingly altered images in advertisements.

    “Just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women,” Capps said in April. “And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops.”

    While the proposal would not implement new regulatory standards, the “Truth in Advertising Act” would mandate the Federal Trade Commission to report on advertisements photoshopped to “materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted.”

    The legislation would also require the FTC to coordinate with health and business experts to develop an ongoing strategy aimed at reducing the use of photoshopped images.

    Opponents of the measure view the bill, introduced in March, as a broad and redundant infringement on advertisers’ rights, arguing that the FTC already employs existing powers to block blatantly untruthful ads.

    “The use of cosmetics and photoshop are widespread practices,” Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers told Time magazine in April. “It can’t just be the photoshopping that they go after, it would have to be tied to something specific. Are you just going to say that whenever someone photoshops it’s a per se violation? I think that would be going too far.”

    (h/t Jezebel)

  • Lactate threshold monitor pairs with Garmin computers and watches
    BSX Athletics has launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Insight lactate threshold monitor.
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