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Mobile Technology News, August 10, 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.

  • America's Best Companies To Work For: 24/7 Wall St.
    No one knows more about a workplace than its employees. Employee opinions reflect basic measures, such as pay, perks, benefits, and hours worked. But they are also influenced by factors such as a company’s culture, internal politics, and even general mood — intangibles that can be lost in internal audits and consultancy surveys.

    While companies have websites, public relations teams, and recruiters to tailor their message to prospective hires, employees have far fewer forums to communicate their views. Glassdoor.com, a career community website, provides the opportunity for employees to give their own opinions, and for potential employees to research the company. To identify the 75 Best Companies to Work For, 24/7 Wall St. examined company ratings provided by current and former employees to Glassdoor.com. (See how we made our list on the last page of this article.)

    Click here to see America’s best companies to work for.

    Employees in certain sectors are far more likely to offer a positive opinion of their employer than others. Technology companies are certainly well represented among the highest-rated employers, as are consulting firms. Of the 75 best companies, only 12 received an average rating of 4.0 or higher out of 5. Of these, four are in the technology space — Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Riverbed Technology — and three are consulting firms.

    Being a market leader also appears to help. Many well-reviewed companies are the leaders in their respective industries, and as a result are financially successful. Apple, Intel, Procter & Gamble, and Walt Disney are all among the top-rated employers on Glassdoor.com and among the largest public companies in the world by market capitalization. Others are leaders in public relations, like Edelman and auditing giant EY, formerly Ernst & Young.

    Many of the best companies to work for have cultivated an extremely strong reputation among the broader public as well. American Express, Facebook, Google, and SAP are all among the best companies to work for and among the top companies by brand value, according to brand consultancy BrandZ. Top employers also perform well according to other measures of brand awareness, such as CoreBrand and Interbrand.

    Not surprisingly, companies with strong employee reviews also give CEOs good grades. It would seem leadership matters, not just for running a company and producing returns for shareholders, but also for promoting employee satisfaction. Among the 75 best companies to work for, 38 have CEOs with an approval rating of 90% or higher. In all, just 10 CEOs have an approval rating below 80%, and all have the endorsement of at least two-thirds of their employees.

    Employees at these companies also frequently cite a good office culture and work-life balance. In many cases, employees also praise a company if it promotes learning or training opportunities and career development. At several of these companies, employees also note a good benefits package, which is uncommon in many industries, such as retail.

    These are America’s Best Companies to Work For, according to 24/7 Wall St.

  • NASA 'Flying Saucer' Passes Flight Test, Engineers Say (VIDEO)
    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sending heavier vehicles and, eventually, humans to Mars requires first testing new technologies to see if they actually work.

    But it’s infeasible to conduct experiments on the red planet, so to mimic Mars’ low-density atmosphere, NASA sent a saucer-like test vehicle high above the Earth. NASA engineers announced Friday that the June mission’s main objective was met: The vehicle, called the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, flew to 190,000 feet (57,900 meters) at more than four times the speed of sound and simulated Martian landing conditions.

    “The vehicle did an amazing job of getting to the right speed and altitude,” said Ian Clark, principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    The experimental flight, which cost about $150 million and was conducted from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, was intended as a dry run for two more tests scheduled for next year.

    One of the technologies NASA engineers tested is an inflatable, doughnut-shaped ring around the edge of the saucer-like vehicle that deploys like a puffer fish in one-third of a second, slowing the vehicle. In the test run, the saucer went from traveling at Mach 4.3 — more than four times the speed of sound — to a breezy Mach 2, making the inflatable device a success, NASA engineers said.

    The second technology is a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) parachute, which virtually disintegrated the moment it was released. In the months ahead, NASA will try to figure out how to properly deploy the parachute, Clark said.

    “The idea of taking 200 pounds of Kevlar and nylon and deploying it at 2,500 mph, 200 pounds that inflated would be the size of a small warehouse, is certainly a challenging endeavor. There’s a lot of physics with this problem that we’re now gaining new insights into that we’ve never had before,” Clark said. “And we’re going to take all of that knowledge, and feed it toward our flights next year.”

  • Facebook's Switch To Messenger App Going Just As Terribly As You'd Expect
    Facebook members are sending the social giant a pretty clear message: Your app stinks.

    “Terrible app” and “to hell with this” are just some of the things people are saying online about the latest version of the Facebook Messenger app, which will soon take the place of the messages function on Facebook’s mobile app. Though the Messenger app first launched in 2011, Facebook began alerting users this week that they had to download the app in order to continue to send and receive messages on iPhone and Android devices.

    The switch has peeved users, many of whom thought Facebook’s messaging function worked just fine. A blog post originally published on The Huffington Post in December, which has gone viral this month, warns users about the chat app’s “insidious” terms of service and its “attempt to collect so much information and take control of our devices.”

    Though Facebook has countered the post, telling the Wall Street Journal that many of its claims are overblown and outdated, users still don’t appear to be so willing to make the mandatory migration.

    Facebook told The Huffington Post on Saturday that the app is a work in progress.

    “Our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences,” a Facebook representative wrote in an email. “Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.”

    Since Facebook started forcing people to switch over, Messenger has climbed to the top spot for free apps in the Apple App Store. That said, the newest version of the app has a terrible 1-star rating.

    apple

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    Over on the Android App Store, things aren’t much prettier:

    android

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    Of course, there are some easy things you can do to avoid the forced switch. For one, you could quit Facebook. Or, you could just simply email or text your friends. If you’re feeling super adventurous, you could also try picking up the phone and calling them.

  • Amazon Wants You To Fight Its Battle With Hachette
    Amazon and Hachette are officially engaged in a tug-of-war game, and now the e-retailer is reaching out to customers for a little extra leverage for its side.

    On Friday night, Amazon launched ReadersUnited.com, a website dedicated to urging readers to take a stand in its messy contract battle with the French publisher, The New York Times reported. The site features a letter from the Amazon books team, asking customers to directly email Hachette’s CEO, Michael Pietsch, and tell him to “stop working so hard to overcharge for e-books.”

    The move appears to be a direct rebuttal to an earlier letter signed by over 900 authors — including both authors who’ve been published by Hachette and ones who have not — that asks readers to contact Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, and weigh in on the matter. The letter, which is signed by best-selling authors like Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as many others, will be published in a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times, according to Bloomberg.

    The two letters are the latest shots fired in a dispute between the two companies over e-book prices. In May, Amazon began holding Hachette hostage by raising prices and refusing to restock some Hachette titles on its site.

    In its letter published Friday, Amazon argued that Hachette is preventing it from lowering e-book prices.

    “E-books can and should be less expensive,” the retail giant wrote in its letter. “Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices.”

    But in their open letter, the authors maintain that Amazon is unfairly holding them hostage by refusing to sell certain books.

    “It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation,” the open letter, penned by the author Douglas Preston, reads. “Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company.'”

    In a statement provided to The Huffington Post on Saturday, Preston, who writes thriller novels, said that Amazon’s letter misrepresents the authors’ views, and the writers “take no position on the dispute between Amazon and Hachette.”

    Preston wrote:

    What we are united on is this: we strongly object to Amazon blocking and impeding the sales of books, hurting authors, and inconveniencing readers as a negotiating strategy. We authors helped Amazon become one of the largest corporations in the world. Amazon used book sales as the cutting edge to selling everything. And yet, when Amazon gets in a dispute with a publisher over terms, it retaliates against the authors by blocking or otherwise impeding the sales of their books. Surely Amazon has other negotiating tools in its portfolio without targeting authors and damaging our livelihoods every time they get into a rough patch negotiating with a publisher. It’s as simple as that.

    Pietsch, Hachette’s chief, and a representative from Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

  • How Technology Can <em>Help</em> You Tune Back Into Nature
    The summer months have an uncanny way of making us realize how much time we don’t spend outdoors. The days are longer and the grass is greener, yet we’re still chained to our desks (despite how much we’d rather be soaking up rays of natural sunlight in lieu of fluorescent bulbs).

    By now, we all know how much better off we would be if we did spend more time among the elements. Living near nature — and taking advantage of it — helps us stay physically fit, improves our mood, boosts our brainpower and keeps our sense of wonder alive. Last year, British mental health experts confirmed that getting back to nature through walking and gardening can be more effective in combating symptoms of stress and depression than medication.

    Yet, we seem to be spending less and less time outside — children, particularly. It only takes five minutes of outdoor play each day to help with a child’s physical and mental development. But growing numbers of young ones don’t even log that little amount of time. “More kids today are interested in the natural world than ever before… but far fewer are experiencing it directly, on their own or with their friends, and that’s what counts: this is about more than nature,” naturalist, broadcaster and author Stephen Moss told The Guardian. “Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves.”

    Richard Louv, the founder of the “nature deficit disorder” principle, put it best when he said, “The future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

    But while technology can get in the way of our ability to experience nature, it can also enhance it. There are many ways that modern-day advances not only connect us with the natural environment, but also create a more immersive and fulfilling experience in in the environment. Ready to reconnect with nature? Here are three ways technology can help take your outdoor experience to the next level.

    Defy human limits.

    skydiving

    Let’s face it — man could not enjoy the experience of flight without the help of technology. From hang gliding to skydiving, the “smart” equipment is just as important — if not more so — than the person using it. Think about the technology and design that went into developing hang glider wings, for instance. The wings are actually a nylon fabric parachute modified into a triangular airfoil, and their design was inspired by research completed by NASA engineer Francis Rogallo in the 1960s. The “delta wing” parachute is lightweight, durable, easily maneuvered by human hands and the reason the sport of hang gliding exists at all.

    While extreme sports certainly carry risks, they can also provide a sense of transcendence, personal identity and motivation. There’s something to be said about being able to see the world from a bird’s eye view.

    Chart new territory.

    hiking woods

    Hiking is one of the best nature-based activities for the mind, body and spirit. And sometimes, veering off the beaten path and making one of your own can help you connect with Mother Nature on an even deeper level. GPS technology — accessible to the masses now, in the form of watches and handheld devices — can help you do this while staying safe.

    Global positioning systems can do just about anything these days. From the basics of reading information from the 30 satellites orbiting the Earth to coming equipped with touchscreen surfaces and geotagging cameras, handheld GPS systems from companies like Garmin, Magellan, DeLorme and Rand McNally can be an adventurer’s best friend. With a little sense of direction, you can quell your worries and just enjoy being in the moment, exploring the natural space that lies ahead.

    Ditch the treadmill.

    run outside

    There’s no need to feel restricted to cardio machines in your neighborhood gym with such a wide selection of fitness apps available on your smartphone (yes, we’re encouraging you to use your phone this time). Whether you’re focused on calories burned, steps taken or overall pace, there’s a program to take those details off your mind and let you enjoy your activity in the present moment.

    Apps like Argus, Fitocracy, MapMyFitness and Moves have tracking and analytics features that can help even the biggest gym rat step outside and work up a sweat while immersed in Mother Nature. Many of these apps also allow you to explore local running trails and routes other people have mapped beforehand. You’ll feel far more revitalized surrounded by green and breathing in fresh air, than contained within a gym’s four walls.

    But what if you can’t ditch the office?

    nature on computer

    This is meta — it is possible to use technology to channel nature to combat the health effects of too much tech use. Use your computer screen to help you test out the 20-20-20 rule, advice originally given to tech blogger Amit Agarwal by his doctor to combat eyestrain. Every 20 minutes, open one of your favorite natural images on your monitor — a beach, an open field, a mountain peak, you name it. Slide your chair back 20 feet (or as far as reasonably possible in your office setup) and simply gaze at the image for 20 seconds without distraction. Not only will your eyes thank you, but you’ll be reminded of the world that’s waiting for you outside of your office.

    And if you’re feeling particularly impulsive with your decision-making — ready to send a hasty email or pounce on an online sale — take a moment first to mentally check out by looking at a natural image on your computer screen. A new study from researchers at Utah State University found that it may help provide an increased sense of self-control, Fast Company reported.

  • Check Out These Emojis Designed Just For Lesbians
    Attention queer women: there may very soon be emojis — like a fish taco, a turkey baster and a U-Haul moving truck — just for you!

    From designer Kimberly Linn comes a series of humorous emojis intended to be used by women who have sex with women. While not necessarily available on a smartphone — yet — Linn is currently showcasing her work through the Instagram page lesbianemojis.

    The designer plans on soon making these emjois available in prints and, who knows, maybe your smartphone provider will pick them up one day! The Huffington Post chatted with Linn this week about her work.

    The Huffington Post: Why did you decide to design these emojis?
    Kimberly Linn: Basically how it all came about was my friend Katie and I were drinking wine one night on my front porch and talking about some lesbian stereotypes we’ve all fallen into. I was looking down at my phone looking at my “recently used emojis” and realized I only use emojis that can be interpreted in gay ways. She and I started spitballing emojis that could be released that were only for lesbians. We wrote out a list of about 100 of them and I started designing them. I’m an art director at an ad agency and she’s a writer/actor and we both are always looking for side projects that feel pure and not so commercial. It’s still in its infancy but we plan on rolling new ones out at least once a week.

    Emojis are becoming increasingly culturally relevant — why is it important to have emojis specifically for the lesbian community?
    Lesbians, like anyone else, like to see a part of their world and identity reflected back at them. It’s not just “emojis for lesbians” but emojis that represent lesbians. Making that iconic expression not only allows a sense of community but also gives a humorous insight to others about our lives. I remember when I was coming out, I definitely felt alone. I was slightly tomboyish and I didn’t have a sense of belonging. Only at 22 did I finally make my first gay friends. Suddenly my love of plaid was shared. My penchant for moto boots versus ballerina flats was understood. And I wasn’t too tomboyish or too anything. I was perfectly me.

    Are these emojis mostly meant to be humorous? Why did you decide on these specific designs?
    These emojis are completely meant to be humorous. I would hope that nobody would be offended by them, but you never know what will set people off. If you stop inside [Los Angeles gay bar] the Abbey on a Wednesday I guarantee you will encounter half of these emojis: a snapback with the word “Boi,” lots of Chucks, at least 10 lesbians smoking Parliaments on the patio, a couple bow ties and me in a fancy blazer. My favorites are definitely the U-haul truck (which was appropriately numbered two because of that joke, “what does a lesbian bring on the second date…a U-haul”) and the Home Depot. We’re an efficient handy group of people. And how we decided on the specific design was that we basically wrote out a list of 100 or so and I began just designing the ones that felt like would be the easiest ways for people to understand what this project is all about and where we were headed with it.

    SheWired noted that you will be making prints of these emojis. When will they be available?
    Katie and I plan on getting a site up pretty soon where people can buy prints. I want people to be able to hang one up at their office desk or wherever when they find one that resonates with them. And I’d definitely like to make them available as greeting cards.

    Head here to visit the Lesbian Emoji Instagram page.

  • VIDEO: John McAfee in surprise Google rant
    Notorious computer security pioneer John McAfee has used a surprise appearance at a hacking conference to warn of threats against “freedom” thanks to privacy issues with technology.
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