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Mobile Technology News, August 16, 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.

  • Picture of claimed 5.5-inch 'iPhone 6' parts published
    Taiwanese Apple blog Apple Daily has published pictures of three components it claims are parts from the oft-discussed but little-seen 5.5-inch version of the “iPhone 6.” The photos show what are said to be the display, logic board and battery of the device, but at least two of the three parts are identical to the claimed 4.7-inch iPhone, casting doubt on the entire report. The battery, however, may be a genuinely new part, and is said to be nearly double in capacity compared to the current iPhone 5s battery.



  • Paying for life's basics by Bitcoin
    The newsagent bringing the virtual currency back to basics
  • Beating the Heat before Central Air
    2014-08-14-frigfan.jpg

    How does one beat the dog days of August? It’s easy! Open your Westinghouse refrigerator, prop a fan in front of it, and let the cool air do the rest. At least until your mother finds out. Jane Dornfeld of Edina did just that, although her comfort was short-lived. Given that air conditioning was not common in most homes in 1955, people had to find creative ways to get comfortable; sacrificing the family food supply is not typically the best approach.

    2014-08-14-ice.jpg

    An alternative to a fan in front of an open refrigerator is to place a fan directly on top of 400 pounds of ice. These women who sold advertising at the St. Paul Daily News used that method to get through a stifling work day during the heat wave in the July of 1936. Judging by their smiles, it appeared to work.

    2014-08-14-carice.jpg

    Blocks of ice serve other purposes, too. Why use a fan when direct contact offers immediate relief? In this instance, truck driver Frank Smith of Minneapolis chills his motor with a slab of ice, also during the scorching heat wave of 1936.

    2014-08-14-sleepingoutside.jpg

    The summer of 1936 was one of the most brutal in terms of the heat during the 20th century. So much so that numerous St. Paul residents resorted to sleeping outdoors on the grass to get some much needed respite.

    2014-08-14-hydrate.jpg

    Of course, the quickest way to cool off is to step directly into the path of water jetting out of a fire hydrant, which is exactly what this Twin Cities area boy did in 1938. Doesn’t that look refreshing?

    To see more historic images of summer, visit Minnesota Historical Society’s Collections Online.

  • Back to School: 9 Must Have Tech Essentials for College Life
    With summer vacation coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about getting geared-up for the school year. Sure, most kids already have laptops and backpacks by this stage, but there are a few more must-have tech gadgets they’re sure to need. From a new tablet to portable chargers to keeping things organized in the dorm room, here are my picks for top tech back to school essentials.

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    TABLET
    Tablets are fast becoming an essential item for today’s connected students. They’re portable, easy to tote around campus, and with built-in Wi-Fi, can connect from almost anywhere on a college campus. Android-loving smartphone users will want to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablet. It has a brilliant Super AMOLED display, making this the perfect tablet for watching Netflix videos or browsing images. Multi-tasking college kids will appreciate the ability to browse the web while watching videos. SideSync 3.0 lets you seamlessly connect your Galaxy S5 phone to your tablet so you can transfer data, cut and paste text and even send and receive voice calls directly from the tablet. Battery life should last a full day on campus.
    The Wi-Fi only 8.4-inch tablet starts at $399.99 and the 10.5-inch starts at $499.99.

    2014-08-15-RFAM0266_INSITU.PNG

    EXTRA BATTERY FOR YOUR PHONE
    Students know it’s virtually impossible to get through the day without charging their smartphone. But what do you do if you don’t have a charger or can’t find a convenient outlet? The $79.99 MyCharge Freedom 2000 case for iPhone 5/5S protects your phone from drops and bumps in an attractive, slim case which houses a 2000mAh battery which can fully recharge your phone. What I like about this particular case is the access to the headphone jack and charging port on the bottom of the phone. Other cases require an adapter for some headphones to reach the jack, or you need to remove the bottom of the case. This one-piece design makes it super easy to recharge using the built-in cable tucked into the back of the case.

    2014-08-15-nomadkey2.png

    PORTABLE CHARGER
    If a phone case isn’t your thing, the tiny $29 NomadKey attaches to a keychain, so you always have it with you. It’s available with a Lightning or micro-USB connector, so you can charge up from any USB port available. I also like the NomadCard which slips into a wallet like a credit card and can charge and sync your phone.

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    iPad KEYBOARD CASE
    There are plenty of keyboard cases on the market that turn your tablet into a laptop by connecting an integrated Bluetooth keyboard. Only the Custom Quest iPad keyboard case with retractable strap gives you the ability to carry your iPad like a shoulder bag. The $70 case comes in a variety of colors, has a suede interior to nestle your tablet and a flip-out rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard. When you want to travel light, toting only your iPad, a retractable handle pulls out from the edge of the case, letting you sling it on your shoulder in style.

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    SUPPORT YOUR PHONE AND HOME TEAM
    When you’re away from home and want to show off your home team pride, the OtterBox NFL Edition Defender Case has you covered. The cases have an impact-resistant exterior and cushioning foam for accidental drops and fumbles, as well as built-in screen protector to guard against scratches and scrapes. Logos of all 32 NFL teams are available for iPhone 5/5S and Galaxy S4/5 for $65.

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    DRIVE WITH CONFIDENCE
    When you’re driving in an unfamiliar location, having a GPS to help guide you is critical. What sets the $229 Magellan RoadMate 6230-LM apart is the integrated DashCam located on the back that records your trip in HD. It features a 120-degree wide angle camera that constantly records video onto a memory card. The video is over-written unless the integrated G-sensor detects sudden speed changes or motion. Any impact locks the video and data so it can’t be deleted. That way you have a real time video record in case of any traffic accident or event.

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    QUIRKY CORDIES
    Tangled cords on your desk are not only a mess; they can be so distracting, especially when you’re trying to find earbuds to quietly listen to music while you study. There’s nothing more annoying than having your chargers and cords fall behind your desk when you’re not using them. Tidy up your workspace and keep cables in place with with Quirky’s $5 Cordies. These small, colorful devices have rubber grips with four slots and a weighted base to help keep your cables and cords organized and where they belong.

    2014-08-15-minijamboxdisplay019.jpg

    MUSIC EVERYWHERE YOU ARE
    There are lots of Bluetooth speakers on the market but the Jawbone Mini Jambox is completely portable, comes in nine fun colors, and packs a punch when it comes to sound. It connects via Bluetooth 4.0 to your mobile device and turns your dorm room into an instant party or movie theater. There’s also a line-in for wired audio sources. The speaker can get about 8 hours of battery life before needing to be recharged and doubles as a speakerphone. At $170 the Mini Jambox is a little more costly than others, but the sound and slim profile make this one so easy to throw in your pocket and take with you to the party.

    ANTI VIRUS PROTECTION
    Nothing keeps you from being able to study or write term papers faster than downloading a virus. Security software is imperative to have on campus, especially since students use a lot of free, open Wi-Fi to get online. Software such as Trend Micro Security 2015 or BitDefender helps protect students’ devices from becoming infected with malware or potentially hacked.

    2014-08-15-PooPourri.jpg

    STOP BATHROOM ODOR
    Lastly, living in tight quarters is tough, as is sharing a bathroom. Really, who wants to talk about embarrassing bathroom odor or be known as “that guy?” While a can of Lysol in the bathroom helps to mask the odor, Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray stops it before it begins by trapping the smell below the water’s surface. A few squirts into the bowl before you do your business forms a protective layer of essential oils that keep the odors buried under the water. With names like Trap-A-Crap, Royal Flush and Flushionista, these will likely be a welcome addition to the dorm room.

  • When You Google Gaza: Techies' Ambitions on the Embattled Strip

    Nearly four weeks into Operation Protective Edge, Ahmed Borai is explaining how to separate hydrogen from seawater. Gaza’s sole power plant was bombed out of commission four days earlier, leaving Gaza City blacked out and reducing the rest of the strip to two hours of electricity a day. The gasoline needed to run a generator costs two dollars a liter, the plant could take a year to repair, and Ahmed doesn’t have that kind of time or money to spare. So he’s using a car battery and a converter to run high voltage through a barrel of water to create an alternative — albeit highly explosive — source of fuel.

    “We’re bombed at any time here,” he declares over Facebook chat, “so not a big deal.” But while he concedes his workaround is “scary”, Ahmed has bigger worries. “If I lose the internet, I lose my company.” Fabraca, a 3D printing and product design company that he founded in early 2013, now includes four other employees from India, Serbia and Armenia, and the income it generates supports his entire family.

    2014-08-15-ahmedborai.jpg

    Ahmed is not the only young entrepreneur on the strip seeking innovative solutions to economic straits. Imposed after Hamas won elections in 2007, the Israeli blockade of the strip has seen the implosion of much of Gaza’s private sector. As unemployment rose to over 50 percent, Ahmed’s father was one of many who lost his livelihood. At that time, Ahmed recalls, “a young man should think of either involving [himself] with the government or … finding a job somehow.” With no way to study abroad, factory work unpalatable, and his family depending on him, he wracked his brain for “a business that can’t be affected by Palestine crises.” Through Fabraca he has managed to achieve a measure of that independence. “The most effective thing in my life is that I built my work on the internet,” he declares, so it has “no boundaries, no one can control it.”

    In recent years, other residents of the San Francisco-sized strip have also turned to online business platforms in hopes that virtual space will prove less vulnerable than on-the-ground infrastructure. One of its biggest success stories is Unit One, a company with a staff of over 200 that provides software development, data entry, online marketing and e-content development at what its founder, Saady Lozon, calls “highly competitive prices.” Lozon points out that each year, about 150 students graduate from Gaza’s four universities with degrees in IT-related fields, “and we’re trying to use the skills they have.” To skirt opposition to women working in mixed environments, his 150-member data entry team is all female; per the company’s corporate social responsibility policy, 10 percent of these employees are disabled.

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    While Gaza’s startup sector is still nascent, would-be entrepreneurs in Gaza have gotten a boost from partners like Google, which along with NGO Mercy Corps and local partners sponsors both a startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks, and an annual startup weekend that attracts hundreds of competitors. Last December, three of those teams received investment from private investors outside Gaza for the first time; this year, the number of applicants to Startup Weekend Gaza doubled. “The tech sector offers the opportunity to work despite borders not being easy to cross,” says Iliana Montauk, Mercy Corps’ digital economy program director in the West Bank and head of the Sky Geeks. “Startups are a way to connect to the world, and people are thirsty to be a part of that. When we brought [judges] to Gaza, they said they’d never seen such thirst anywhere else.” Because security restrictions make it harder for men to obtain visas, women are especially vital for startups’ networking capacities. In this June’s competition, women made 36 of the 71 total pitches, and judges awarded a special prize to Boom Baby Boom, an app for pregnant women and mothers designed by 16-year-old Sofiya Mosalam.

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    Three weeks later, the IDF informed Sofiya’s family that their house was targeted, so they moved in with friends in what they hoped was a safer neighborhood. From there, working on four hours of electricity a day, she is now creating an aid campaign, complete with video, for Gazans who are worse off. Saady too left his house after an air strike demolished his next door neighbor’s house and severely damaged his. Nevertheless, he estimates that his team managed to fulfill 60 to 70 percent of their orders until the loss of the power plant reduced them to 10 percent of normal capacity.

    While the latest ceasefire has given him the chance to hook up more solar cells and generators, upping his daily power supply to roughly six hours, it remains to be seen whether negotiations will yield a significant easing of the current blockade, and with it improved chances for entrepreneurs based in the strip. For his part, Saady remains doggedly hopeful. Though he admits to sadness about the loss of his house, what he most wants to recover is Gaza’s self-sufficiency. “We have to live and build up Gaza by ourselves.” Google the word “Gaza”, he laments, “and what comes up is images of people who’ve been killed, blood, and destruction. We have to show the world that Gaza is beautiful and its people have lots of energy, that we aren’t living off of wars and we don’t need relief from anyone.”

  • Bill Gates Takes On ALS Ice Bucket Challenge As Only He Can
    The beauty of the#ALSIceBucketChallenge is that it requires minimal equipment. Anyone can raise awareness with the help of some ice water and a medium-sized container. But if we’ve learned anything about tech magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates in the decades he’s been on the world stage, it’s that he doesn’t do anything halfway.

    Gates was challenged to the icy cold bath by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who himself made do with a simple plastic container for his ice.

    Instead of taking the easy route, Gates rigged up his own water-dumping contraption (complete with pull-string), setting a new standard for the challenge. We’re eager to see if the three people he tasked with completing the challenge — Elon Musk, Ryan Seacrest and Chris Anderson — try to outdo him. We’ll be surprised if they can.

    With or without all the trappings and specially rigged ice bucket structures, it’s incredible to see how everyone’s coming together to help combat the neurodegenerative disease. Particularly if that means we get to see some of the world’s most brilliant minds completely drenched.

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  • 'Last Week Tonight' Is Trolling Tinder With A Chicken Profile & It's The Best
    On Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver mocked Vladimir Putin’s ban of some U.S. agricultural products by announcing that if the Russian president was breaking up with our chicken and soybeans, they’re now single and on the prowl.

    “I’m warning you, Russia, I’ll put U.S. chicken on Tinder right now,” threatened Oliver, showing an image of a chicken in the dating app. “This is real. Check Tinder right now, it’s actually there. Some pervert with a chicken fetish just hit the fucking jackpot.”

    In the days since, the chicken has apparently been swiped right at least a few times, because the Tinder chats that have taken place are ridiculous and wonderful.

    Tweeting screen grabs of them with the hashtag #ChickenTinders, the @LastWeekTonight social media editors seem to be having a field day.

    Also, guys are gross.

    This guy really wanted to make it work…
    #ChickenTinders pic.twitter.com/WD5dYQVJ32

    — Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) August 13, 2014

    Gross metaphor, bro. #ChickenTinders pic.twitter.com/aOALkqD658

    — Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) August 14, 2014

    Reminder: The only picture we posted is a headless uncooked chicken costume. #ChickenTinders pic.twitter.com/XKFUkFDW50

    — Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) August 15, 2014

    This guy even stumped autocorrect. #ChickenTinders pic.twitter.com/xvKzmj2GaW

    — Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) August 15, 2014

    Okay maybe this one was a little mean… #ChickenTinders pic.twitter.com/hs5ar2kpsH

    — Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) August 15, 2014

  • Remembering a Few Things We Forgot
    Okay, so everything isn’t perfect in geekland! We get it. We’re fallible and forgetful (insert old age jokes here).

    With that in mind, we dove into our piles of gadgets and discovered we unintentionally left four noteworthy items out of our past blogs. There are probably more, but we haven’t yet worked our way down to the deepest depths of the piles of boxes in our office.

    The GOgroove BlueSYNC Wud Retro Wood Bluetooth Wireless Speaker ($59.99) from Accessory Power resembles an old-fashioned, walnut wood-encased stereo radio, but looks can be deceiving. This retro device not only sounds great, but offers many of the features you’ll find in it’s higher-priced, digital brethren.

    The first thing you notice when you take it out of its box is a leather handle and a knob at the top, which actually turns the speaker on and off and controls the volume. But, once it’s turned on, the functions become a bit more high tech:

    • It is Bluetooth and NFC (near field communications) compatible
    • It boasts a wireless range of more than 30 feet
    • It’s truly portable, weighing in at a hair more than 1.5 pounds
    • It has an auxiliary port to accommodate devices without wireless connectivity

    We tested its wireless range moving from room to room, trying to detect a crackle, pop or loss of signal and were pleased to discover it never lost connectivity with our devices.

    Next is the Minx Go ($199) from Cambridge Audio. This is a smaller version of the Minx Air 100 we wrote about last week and is much more portable.

    The Minx Go may be small in stature, but it contains an array of five speakers: two titanium tweeters, two two-inch woofers and a subwoofer. Also we found that, although the sound was a bit “bass-heavy,” it was able to adequately handle the full range of audio we pumped through it. Truthfully, the booming bass can be a bit overpowering at times, but this seems to be a chronic condition found with most speakers in this price range.

    Other features include:

    • Eighteen hours of battery life per charge
    • Bluetooth compatibility
    • An auxiliary input for non-wireless devices
    • A Bluetooth range of 33 feet
    • A small, built-in stand that flips out from the bottom of the case

    ShareBrands Stereo Headphones ($65) combine comfort and decent sound plus 25 percent of what you pay goes to one of five charities, depending on the color you choose: green helps the environment, blue donates to men’s and children’s health causes, pink for women’s and children’s health, yellow for education and red to help fight poverty.

    These were the only headphones we tested that didn’t feature any form of wireless connectivity. They do, however come with a 5.7-foot cable. Plus there’s a control button that lets you answer phone calls.

    Last is the MoovMic Detachable Boom Microphone ($19.95) from Headset Buddy.

    This is an attachment for headsets that come without microphones and, although a bit cumbersome to use, easily convert older headsets into fully functioning multimedia devices.

    The MoovMic attaches to the earpiece of over-the-ear headsets using a magnetic clasp and a wire adapter kit that combines the wire from the MoovMic and the wire from the headset into one 3.5 millimeter plug that fits the microphone port on most computers. Unfortunately, the combination of the magnetic clasp and the wires can sometimes be a bit unweildly resulting in the clasp falling off of the earpiece. This, according to a person that “reviewed” the item on Amazon, can be fixed by simply using a piece of scotch tape.

    The microphone itself worked perfectly, with no distortion or cutouts. We were able to use it to chat online without a hitch.

    Other features include:

    • An adjustable gooseneck “boom”
    • It filters out background noise
    • You can purchase adapters to allow it to work with any device, ranging from smartphones to tablets

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

  • Astronomers Think This Cosmic Rubble Pile May Show Us How To Avert An Asteroid Disaster
    Astronomers are keeping a close eye on asteroid 1950 DA, which is expected to give Earth a close shave on March 16, 2880.

    The strange asteroid — essentially just a half-mile-wide collection of rubble rather than a rocky lump — could cause tsunami-like waves if it were actually to collide with our planet. Fortunately, the chance of 1950 DA colliding with Earth has been pegged at just one in 4,000.

    That’s good news for our descendants, of course. Even better is this: astronomers at the University of Tennessee believe that 1950 DA might point the way to an effective means of eliminating other asteroids that do pose a meaningful threat to our planet.

    In a new paper published in Nature on August 14, 2014, the astronomers theorize that the asteroid might be held together not by gravitational forces but by intermolecular bonding known as Van de Waals forces.

    “We found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the breakup limit for its density,” lead researcher Dr. Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral scholar at the university, said in a written statement. “So if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together, as is generally assumed, it would fly apart. Therefore, interparticle cohesive forces must be holding it together.”

    Astronomers have long suspected that these forces apply with smaller asteroids, but there has never been any opportunity to confirm past predictions. But now astronomers tracking near-Earth asteroids — including space rocks similar to the one that crashed last year in Chelyabinsk, Russia — could use lessons from 1950 DA to divert or destroy other space rocks, as long as they are held together by the same cohesive forces.

    How would such a space rock be destroyed? “With such tenuous cohesive forces holding one of these asteroids together, a very small impulse may result in a complete disruption,” Rozitis said in the statement.

  • This Bjork Film Will Be Like A Bjork Concert But With <em>More Bjork</em>!
    Bjork fans, life has been kind to us as of late.

    First there was Bjork’s eighth full-length studio album, a cosmic masterpiece called “Biophilia” — as the Jews say: Dayenu, or it would have been enough.

    Then came an interactive app accompanying the album, in which a main “mother” app branched out into a network of mini-apps, one for each song, each incorporating elements of music, engineering, design, cinema and philosophy. It would have been enough.

    Then Bjork went on tour and it was glorious. It would have been enough.

    bjork

    Then Bjork’s “Biophilia” app was transformed into an experimental school curriculum designed to draw children into the depths of their imagination. It would have been enough.

    Then MoMA announced a massive retrospective of Bjork’s sounds, film, visuals, instruments, objects, costumes, and performances slated for this fall. It really would have been enough!

    And now, Jacqui Edenbrow and Gloria Films are releasing a documentary chronicling Bjork’s multi-sensory tour. The concert film, titled “Biophilia Live” and directed by Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland, was recorded live at Bjork’s show at London’s Alexandra Palace last year. The film will combine Bjork’s live performance with animated sequences to enhance the tripped out Bjork experience.

    The Creator’s Project debuted the film’s trailer above. It looks, not surprisingly, totally wonderful. The film will screen at select locations around the world beginning in September. See a complete list of screenings here.

    May this chain of Bjork-related happenings go on forever. Amen.

  • Facebook-Stalking Wife Learns Husband Has 3 Other Wives: Cops
    Darnell Pixley is in at least one complicated relationship.

    The 49-year-old from Newbury, South Carolina was arrested Wednesday and charged with bigamy after his wife spotted wedding photos of him and another woman on Facebook, the Associated Press reports.

    She turned to investigators, who found a November 2013 marriage certificate to the other woman.

    Investigators also found that Pixley is allegedly married to two additional women in unions dating back to 1988, according to WIS.

    Each of his alleged wives lives in a different South Carolina county.

    Newbery County Sheriff Lee Foster told the station that Pixley may have even more wives. Pixley was “not into wanting to talk” about his marital status, Foster said.

    “[Pixley] had made just a few comments regarding that he thought maybe it was a misunderstanding, but past that, he didn’t have anything else to say.”

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  • Amazon's New Phone 'Traps' You: Consumer Reports
    CNBC

    The new Amazon Fire smartphone doesn’t measure up against its competitors and “traps” its users in the Amazon ecosystem, according to a new review by Consumer Reports.

    While the Fire, which wants to be the ultimate shopping phone, taps into all Amazon has to offer, other phones can provide most of those benefits, Mike Gikas, an editor at Consumer Reports, said Thursday on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

    Instead, users are “trapped in Amazon’s retail world.”

    amazon fire phone

    “What happens with the Fire is that it’s locked out of Google’s Play app store, which prevents people from downloading very popular Google apps” like Gmail, Google Maps and the search tool Google Now, Gikas said. “These apps work together in a very interesting and compelling way that a lot of people like.”

    More from CNBC:
    – This could be what the new iPhone 6 will look like
    – Facebook anger: Users slam Messenger app
    – Not so smart? Bank deposits by phone

    That said, the Fire isn’t “awful” or necessarily doing anything wrong, he noted.

    However, when you tally up the test results and compare them to the 100 other smartphones the magazine tested, the Fire “didn’t add up to a high enough score.”

    One issue was that its battery life is much shorter than its rivals. The phone provides about 10 hours of talk time, compared with other phones that can go close to 20 hours or more, Gikas said.

    He thinks a better smartphone is the new LG G3 phone. He likes its ultra-sharp HD display, the battery life and camera. He also said its interface is simpler and smarter.

    “These are the things that people who use smartphones appreciate,” Gikas said.

  • Talking to "Biologist's Imagination" Author William Hoffman
    By Meredith Salisbury

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    In a new book called “The Biologist’s Imagination,” authors William Hoffman and Leo Furcht from the University of Minnesota Medical School take a spin through the history of biological innovation in an effort to shed light on current trends and expected future developments. The authors weave historical threads–such as pioneering studies of genetic traits in the mid-19th century and the effects of the animals and diseases brought to the Americas in the wake of Columbus crossing the Atlantic–to help readers make sense of what’s happening today. They track biological and technological innovation from its earliest days, but focus on what’s happening now: the state of the pharmaceutical industry, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, scientific intellectual property, and more. The book covers a number of topics relevant to Techonomy, so we chatted with Hoffman to find out more.

    When it comes to synthetic biology, there’s an inherent tension between fears of genetic modification and the critical need to use resources more efficiently. How does this get resolved?

    In this country, you’ve got a very interesting split. It’s been 20 years now since the Flavr Savr tomato was approved by the FDA. There have been countless studies, and they haven’t shown anything convincing that we should be alarmed about, as far as food intake is concerned. (For effects on the environment, the jury’s still out.) But you have a very strong reaction against GM food in some quarters. I think this is going to take a long time, and scientific studies showing that food from genetic modification is safe will have marginal impact. This goes beyond scientific evidence and into the cultural realm.

    We’re also seeing a lot of turmoil in the nascent field of consumer genomics. Where do you see that heading, particularly given FDA’s actions with 23andMe last year?

    Consumer genomics will persevere. People want the information and there’s no reason they’re not entitled to it. But the FDA does have the responsibility to insist that what companies say about personal health information based on genetic data is accurate and can be verified. There’s no question that new models of ongoing regulatory reform and standards are needed so that agencies can adapt. One of the big problems we have at agencies such as FDA is rapid turnaround of personnel. You’ve got to be able to hire smart people and keep them employed over a longer period of time–they’ve got to like what they do and be compensated decently for what they do, otherwise they will leave. If you want to have a top-notch and moderate regulatory framework, it’s got to be funded and you’ve got to keep people on board.

    You talk about the importance of open-access publishing, which allows anyone to read research papers without pricey subscriptions to scientific journals. What’s happening in this arena now?

    Federal funding agencies are moving forcefully into mandates that journal articles be available at least after a certain period of time; that’s also happening in the European Union. A lot of this is being driven by patient advocacy groups. They’re tired of seeing information sequestered–they want it available so patients are served.

    Your book covered regions such as Research Triangle Park that have emerged as major biotech hubs. What lessons can we glean from these successful clusters that might apply to cities attempting to revitalize, like Detroit, where Techonomy is hosting a public conference in September?

    The solid research base and physical infrastructure are critical for this field: how that base is supported, locally as well as federally, and how it links its activities with the local industrial community. As these communities revitalize, simply creating greater self-awareness through networking and entrepreneurial associations becomes all the more important. The tacit communication within these concentrations is very important; people need to know what other people are doing. Another thing is to use existing research and industrial strength to create the conditions for existing embedded know-how to move into bio. With respect to Detroit, Wayne State University is strong in biomaterials research. So is Ford.

    What is the role you see for the growing group of amateurs getting involved in biological research, the trend known as biohacking or DIYbio?

    I am intrigued. We’re fairly early in a biological revolution and the tools are coming fast and furious. There’s always been a tension, even in the beginning of the industrial revolution, between the credentialed and the uncredentialed. So-called biohackers are largely uncredentialed in the academic sense, but they are very creative people. Many of them work in established community labs now, like BioCurious. They’re involved in crowdsourced design, and they get crowdfunding. They’re outside the standard mainstream practice of laboratory science, but they’re going to be part of this.

    Original article published on Techonomy.com.

  • Drones Pose Threat To Firefighters, Wildfire Managers Say

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Drones flying over wildfires could lead to firefighter injuries and force retardant bombers to be called off, wildfire managers say.

    At least three drones have flown within or near restricted airspace intended for wildfire fighting aircraft so far this year, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise announced Friday. That’s up from one incident last year.

    “We’re seeing an increase in people wanting to film from a distance with hobby aircraft,” said spokesman Mike Ferris, noting wildfires are often buzzing with low-flying planes and helicopters. “If you had one of these would you fly it near an airport?”

    In June, a drone was spotted at the Two Bulls Fire near Bend in central Oregon. Drones have also been spotted at a fire in Washington state that destroyed hundreds of homes, and another that went aloft at a Northern California wildfire.

    “Anytime that that happens, folks working these fires are going to feel compromised and they’re not going to want to fly until they’re sure the airspace is safe to fly in,” said Aitor Bidaburu, chair of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at the center. “We have enough hazards on the ground.”

    Managers said tankers trying to make drops to protect firefighters or homes might have to turn away if a drone is in the area.

    The Federal Aviation Administration allows hobbyists to use model aircraft or small drones as long as they keep them away from airports, fly them under 400 feet and keep the aircraft within sight of the remote-controlling operator at all times.

    However, wildfires typically have temporary flight restrictions that extend up and out from the fire so helicopters and retardant aircraft can do drops without worrying about other aircraft. The restrictions include small drones.

    “If they’re going to be flying these things, they need to educate themselves,” Ferris said.

    Those seeking to fly drones near wildfires might be able to do so legally, but they would first need permission from wildfire managers. The center said individuals using drones that interfere with firefighting efforts could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution.

    Center spokesman Randy Eardley said some state agencies fly drones over fires to find hotspots, but the operators are communicating with wildfire managers.

    “The problem with these hobbyists and recreationists is we have no communication with them,” he said.

  • How the FCC Can Save Net Neutrality and Still Ruin the Internet
    Prolonged discussions of Federal Communications Commission regulations are typically about as stimulating as a fistful of Ambien — except when it comes to net neutrality.

    With the FCC poised to issue new rules governing how Internet service providers manage and price the traffic that flows through their networks, Americans woke up and spoke up so loudly that they crashed the agency’s website last month. The million-plus comments from concerned citizens were the most the FCC has ever received during a proposed rule’s public comment period — and just a few hundred thousand shy of the number of complaints that poured in after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” When we’re comparing tech regulations to Super Bowl nipple slips, you know we’re in a different kind of debate.

    You probably haven’t had a chance to read all 1,067,779 comments. Neither have I. But most support an outcome preserving the wide-open Internet that birthed our current era of innovation, transformation and disruption. The question now is how to achieve this.

    The debate so far has been oversimplified: Are you for net neutrality or against it? That reductive framing may lead us to embrace a solution that doesn’t solve the problem.

    From where I sit at CALinnovates, representing tech companies dependent on the open Internet to survive, this debate is incredibly important. Disruptors like ride-share platform Sidecar and conference-call service Speek shouldn’t be forced to bid against deep-pocketed giants — or anyone, for that matter — for their share of bandwidth. Nor should they be forced to adapt to regulations that would suppress new ideas or hamstring the entrepreneurs who hatch them.

    They, along with countless other startups and aspiring innovators, agree: We need an outcome that preserves the openness of the Internet.

    Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Let me explain. The leading proposal in Washington to achieve that goal is to reclassify broadband providers as “telecommunications services.” This would allow the FCC to regulate providers using authority granted it under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

    As you have undoubtedly noticed, the Communications Act of 1934 was passed in 1934. That means the FCC is gathering input as it considers adopting the same legislative framework for the Internet that existed back when “wireless” meant the hand crank on your grandparents’ AM radio.

    Title II turned our nation’s telephone system — a single network operated by a single company, Ma Bell — into a highly regulated utility, just like water and electric companies. While they helped protect consumers from the excesses of a corporate monopoly, Title II’s restraints hardly made that phone network an innovative one.

    Ask your parents: Under Title II, innovation in telecom meant being able to buy a different color of the same phone chosen by the monopoly at a price set by the government. This same law can’t accommodate today’s sprawling, bustling, magically fragmented Internet, a miracle of technology unimaginable in 1934 — or even in 1996, when the act was updated for the “modern” era.

    By turning the Internet into a utility, we’ll bleed tech innovation with a thousand paper cuts. Would we even know what an iPhone is if Steve Jobs had to run his pricing models past the FCC? Would Twitter be fomenting revolution if Jack Dorsey needed to check with regulators about what kind of data can be shared online and by whom?

    It sounds far-fetched, but that’s how it would work. Under Section 214 of Title II, common carriers have to ask for approval before discontinuing nonperforming platforms or launching new ones.

    Shoehorning Internet companies into Title II won’t just slow Silicon Valley down to Beltway-at-rush-hour speed; it will also render impossible a great many things that have become part of our daily routines, like using on-demand services from location-based smartphone apps.

    Under Section 222 of Title II, companies have a duty to protect the confidentiality of customers’ proprietary network information. Sounds benign, right? Well, it means wireless location data could no longer be shared with Internet companies for mapping or advertising. Location-based companies would be limited by, in the regulators’ lyrical stylings, the “use or disclosure” of “call location information concerning the user of a commercial mobile service.” In plain English, that means companies like dating service Tinder, car navigation service Waze and ride-sharer Uber could soon become relics of the past. At the least, they would have far higher hurdles and costs in launching and attracting investment capital.

    The big losers in all this would very likely be startups and the consumers they seek to serve. For large, established digital companies, these new regulations would probably just be an inconvenience. For startups that don’t have the resources to fight Title II classification, or the in-house legal teams to interpret the new requirements, the rule changes would be a death knell.

    Before we trade the devil we know for the devil our grandparents knew, we should pause to ask ourselves whether legally defining the Internet as a utility will keep it both open and innovative — or act as a drag on creativity and growth.

    I’m pro-net neutrality, but anti-1934-style strangulation. Where does that leave me? According to the approaches under consideration, I may soon be a man without a country. Good thing the Internet, at least for now, doesn’t require a passport.

  • "Live a Big Life, and Let Your Voice Be Heard"
    2014-08-14-00000031.JPG

    Women in STEM: Meet mother-daughter pair Natae Rayner and Gayle Darby

    Natae Rayner did not know what she wanted to be when she grew up. A cheerleader in college on a ballet scholarship, Rayner had a variety of interests, but no clear career direction. So she asked her mother for advice. Rayner’s mother, Gayle Darby, had one question for her daughter: “What do you want out of life?”

    Rayner answered, “I want to be independent. I want to be able to make my own money. I want to have a nice car to drive. I want to own my own home. I want to be able to travel and do great things.”

    Her mother replied, “If that’s what you want, why don’t you take an automotive class?”

    Although this is not typical mother-daughter advice, Darby was speaking from first-hand experience. At the time of their conversation, Darby was finishing her own BS in Automotive Technology, after having had a successful career in the Railroad Industry.

    Rayner took her mother’s advice. The first and second women ever to graduate from Weber State’s Automotive Technology program, both Gayle Darby and Natae Rayner have excelled in their careers in automotive. In fact, they both hold management positions overseeing training at luxury automotive companies. Natae Rayner is General Manager of Training and Development for Audi of America, and her mother, Gayle Darby, is National Manager of Dealer Development for Lexus College at Lexus, under Toyota Motor Sales of USA.

    Inspired by their story, I talked to both women about how they decided to pursue non-traditional careers for women, the challenges they have faced, the opportunities they have made for themselves and the advice they have for women pursuing STEM careers.

    Yury: Natae Rayner, what did you think when your mother first told you to consider a career in automotive?

    Rayner: My mom has always been successful in everything that she has done, so when she said, ‘Try something different. Try something that’s not typical for a woman, because you will succeed in that area’ I considered it. At first I was kind of like, ‘Okay, automotive, huh. Well, let me try this, let me put one toe in this.’ So, I took one class and enjoyed it. I continued dancing and cheer leading but I decided to go full-force into the automotive technology program. And from there, I started taking every class I could possibly take. It was a real kick. I took the paint and body classes, which was really exciting, really fun and really different. I even started working at a parts warehouse, so I could still be immersed in the automotive area.

    2014-08-14-ToyotaJapan2002.jpg
    Rayner in Japan receiving Technical Training (diagnosis and repair) in order to develop training courses for US dealers

    Yury: What has it been like to be a woman in the heavily male-dominated automotive industry, both in school and then in the corporate world?

    Rayner: I would say for the most part, it’s a very supportive environment. You don’t really know what to expect when you put yourself in that situation, but I would say 99% of the time, I was supported through school, being the only woman in the program. You put yourself out there and hope that people will accept you and that it will feel right, that it will fit. Really for the most part, it was an amazing experience.

    The funny thing is, is when I started my first job (at Toyota), I started off in the technical training area. It was right when the Prius was launching for the first time in the United States, so I was writing hybrid courses. I was writing technical information on engines and then I would have to stand up and train our trainers that were out in the field. So you can imagine all these older men who were set in their ways and there’s me — this 21-year-old blonde little girl — coming in to teach them how a hybrid system works. It was scary; there were times that I was really nervous, not necessarily because I didn’t know that I had it, but because I was being judged. But, it went very well; I proved myself to them, we became the best of friends and to this day, I still talk to some of those men. Everybody was very supportive. I have found that throughout my career. Have I been tested? Yes. But, overall it’s been a really good experience.

    Yury: Gayle Darby, what was it like when you started at Weber State as a woman in the Automotive Technology program?

    Darby: When I was starting school I thought I was the only one who didn’t know anything. I was the only woman, and I looked around at all these guys and thought they all worked on cars with their dads and knew what they were doing. I came to find out, they didn’t know a thing, either!

    Yury: What was it like when you started at Toyota, and what have you learned in your career there?

    Darby: My first job at Toyota was in quality assurance. The first thing I did in quality assurance was to lead groups of Japanese men to do port-of-departure and port-of-entry inspections on the Lexus vehicles. That meant I was leading men that were of an older generation. I noticed they would never look at me; there was never any eye contact. And it was kind of scary. I thought, ‘Gosh, what’s wrong?’ And then I started to inquire a little more and realized it was very much their culture and started to study their culture more.

    I certainly had really challenging days, but it just got easier and easier. And then, you start creating laughter and having a lot of fun and connecting. I had 4 regions when I moved up to Senior Engineer. I had Taiwan, Canada, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. When I traveled to Taiwan, I was doing dealer visits and when I did the dealer visits, the men would hold up these signs from each dealership, saying, ‘Welcome, Mr. Darby.’ They had no idea I was a woman. And then they would profusely apologize and say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.’ I was like, ‘No, no problem.’

    But what I really understood through these different experiences is that business starts at the dinner table. It’s really important to get to know people; it’s important to connect and bond. That was such a valuable lesson in my life: ‘Just slow down and understand that it’s getting to know each other, getting to trust each other. Getting to that point where you can laugh at yourself and have fun.’ You build relationships through that.

    Yury: What advice would you give to women who were interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

    Rayner: I think there’s so much opportunity in many areas that have been previously male-dominated in the past. We are so much more empowered as women. And so, I guess my advice would be to look at every single avenue and to have the confidence to go into these non-traditional areas. Because, just like my mom said, just because you’re male, does not actually mean you know exactly what you’re doing. We’re all people and we’re all in this together. Businesses need strong, successful women with confidence that can come in and lead and be a guiding light and inspiration to other women. I have a couple women technicians out in the dealerships right now. I’m mentoring them and helping them understand that they can do this, they can do this well and they can grow into anything that they need.

    Darby: My lesson is: Move beyond the fear. I think everybody has fear. I think it’s really important. You just have to move beyond it because it’s so limiting otherwise. Live a big life, and allow your voice to be heard! I know that’s a scary thing but get out there and be brave and be heard and move beyond your own fear. And celebrate the wins and just be humble enough to laugh at yourself.

    Carrie Yury is Director of Research and Insights at BeyondCurious, an innovation consultancy that develops mobile-first solutions for enterprise clients, including TMS.

  • Dad's Challenge For 'Real Men' Is Going Viral (And It Doesn't Involve An Ice Bucket)
    Your Facebook feed has probably been pretty filled lately with ice bucket altruism, but with any luck, it’s about to get a little more crowded.

    “All right, I don’t really do Facebook videos or anything like that, but I guess since everyone else is doing a challenge, I figure I should do one too,” dad Kendell J. Smith says in the clip, initially referencing the viral ice bucket video challenge to benefit ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. “So this is my challenge out there to anybody that wants to accept it. See if you can do this.”

    But when he reaches down, he doesn’t pick up a bucket full of cold water; he picks up his son. His challenge — one for “real men,” the viral clip’s title notes — requires a much different sort of commitment.

    According to the National Center For Fathering, about 24.7 million children in the United States live apart from their biological fathers. That’s a full 33 percent of American children overall, but the phenomenon affects different demographics disproportionately.

    And while it is definitely possible to live apart from your kids and have a good relationship with them, a Pew Reach Center report found that about half of fathers who don’t live with their kids only saw their children a few times a year, or had no visits at all. In addition, almost one-third of those fathers corresponded with their kids over the phone or via email less than once a month.

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children with involved fathers have much better social and educational outcomes. They are more likely to grow up healthy, more likely to succeed and less likely to become involved in crime or be incarcerated.

    “Fathers are more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” renowned sociologist Dr. David Popenoe wrote in his book, Life Without Father. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”

    So when Smith reaches down to pick up his son, it means something.

    “Be a father,” Smith says, his son now in his arms, his gaze trained on the camera. “Take care of your kids. Be there in their lives and mean something to him,” he says.

    He plants a kiss on the toddler’s cheek and receives a tiny smile in return.

    The video is titled “New Challenge… Only Real Men Can Do This,” and we have to say we agree. Father and son, against the world.

  • Network upgrade levels the playing field for Infiniti Red Bull Racing
    Formula One team Infiniti Red Bull Racing uses AT&T network and UC services to stay in the running after big changes to sporting regulations
  • Barclaycard wearables to monitor customer behaviour
    Barclaycard is launching a scheme testing the data collection capabilities of its contactless payment band bPay
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