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Mobile Technology News, September 17, 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.

  • Full Charlie Rose interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook now posted
    A nearly two-hour conversation with Apple CEO Tim Cook covering a wide variety of topics is now available in full from the Charlie Rose show website as well as PBS’ own Hulu channel. Excerpts from the interview are also available on PBS’ iOS app. The sit down discussion with Rose was filmed almost immediately after Cook unveiled the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Apple Watch and the Apple Pay mobile payments system.

  • Chin strap turns chewing into power
    Engineers build a chin strap that harnesses the energy produced by jaw movements, and could one day power hearing aids or bluetooth earpieces.
  • Apple publishes guide for Android data transfer to iOS devices
    With its combination of more and better apps, better security and now large-screen mobile devices, Apple is expecting the new iPhone and iOS 8 to help persuade more Android users to move up to iOS, and to that end has published a document on its website guiding switchers on how to move content from their Android device to the iPhone. The expectation isn’t based on hubris: surveys have shown that at least a third of Android users would consider switching to the iPhone 6 family.

  • VIDEO: Lasers deliver brighter 3D films
    A new laser-based system offers crisper, clearer movies
  • Silicon Valley Should Care About What Wall Street Is Doing in Washington
    Six years ago this week, Wall Street began imploding with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The biggest banks started falling like dominoes, taking a big portion of our economy down with them. Ultimately, the 2008 financial crash was the worst since 1929 and the economic wreckage and wealth destruction it caused is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    While the damage was widespread – costing our economy more than $12.8 trillion – Silicon Valley and the innovation economy paid a heavy price.

    Venture capital investments plunged 25% within a year. All told, the crash cost America’s innovation economy $10 billion worth of venture capital in 2009 alone – including a $3 billion hit to Silicon Valley. As a result, investments in biotech companies fell 24%. Electronics fell 37%. Information technology dropped 42%. And investments in software, semiconductors, and telecommunications fell 32%, 49%, and 62% respectively.

    The financial and economic crash also caused tax revenues to plummet and spending on social needs to skyrocket. This in turn resulted in massive federal deficits, which forced federal spending cuts for almost everything else, including causing federal funding of research and development to sink to its lowest level in decades.

    Many of these losses will never be regained. But if you think it can’t happen again, think again.

    Congress did pass a historic Wall Street financial reform law in 2010. But Wall Street’s cash and its army of lawyers and lobbyists have mounted a relentless campaign to block or delay many of the most important provisions. The dangerous too big to fail banks have actually gotten bigger. Not a single Wall Street executive was held accountable for their role in the crash. Wall Street’s profits and bonuses are back, but American families, communities and companies still suffer from the ongoing economic wreckage.

    Remarkably, however, those with the greatest stake in these issues — innovators, entrepreneurs and business people — are almost entirely absent from the New York/Washington debates on these key financial and markets issues. Instead, the handful of self-interested too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks and their lobbyists and lawyers monopolize the political, policy, regulatory, legislative and legal debates on these issues. Frankly, these “debates” are really mostly discussions among likeminded people rather than genuine exchanges with opposing views about the merits and the public interest.

    The sad truth is that we haven’t done nearly enough to reform the financial system to prevent another cataclysmic crash, end rampant predatory behavior, restore investor confidence and protect taxpayers, companies and the federal treasury.

    The financial system and financial markets exist to be the funding mechanism for Silicon Valley innovators and businesses at all stages and of all sizes. Markets are supposed to support the real economy that invents, builds and distributes goods and services which fuel employment, growth and standards of living — improving lives, communities, our country and the world.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a handful of the biggest banks will act in their own narrow interests to block efforts designed to rein in their excessive risk taking, which enriches them while endangering everyone else.

    That means that real reform will not happen until the people and companies with the most at stake in our economy get actively and consistently involved in these debates and the political process. Otherwise, Wall Street’s New York/Washington alliance will continue to monopolize the policy outcomes – producing results that favor them regardless of the threat they pose to Silicon Valley and the rest of the real economy.

    What does that mean? Silicon Valley, at the corporate and executive level, has to commit its influence, credibility and resources to the fight. That can be done individually or, better, by creating or joining alliances and coalitions with others. It means organizing to work the political process in Congress and the White House to reject efforts to weaken the financial reform law. It means pushing back at the derivatives, securities and banking regulators to prevent Wall Street from getting loopholes in the rules they are passing. Importantly, it also means a PR campaign that rebuts the all-too-often one-sided pro-Wall Street reporting on many of these matters.

    Unfortunately, what needs to be done isn’t glamorous. It’s digging into the nuts and bolts of DC policymaking. Wall Street didn’t get its power and influence overnight and it didn’t do it by dipping in and out of Washington as issues occasionally flare up. In fact, Wall Street is most effective when public attention is focused elsewhere and no one is watching as it bends policy in its direction, slowly and mostly unseen. Any effective counterbalance must do the same.

    It’s been said that democracy belongs to those who show up and speak up. Silicon Valley can’t afford to sit this debate out any longer.

    Better Markets is a DC-based, independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in the financial markets.

  • Official iPhone 6, 6 Plus cases being delivered for early orders
    Early orders of Apple’s official cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are beginning to reach customers, anecdotes indicate. While the company usually gives strict instructions to courier services that prevent them from delivering iPhones and iPads before a launch date, it doesn’t do the same for accessories. The strict timing with hardware is believed to be for the sake of marketing impact as well as deterring scalpers.

  • Yes, Facebook, Drag Queens Are Real!
    As many of you are more than likely aware by now, Facebook, for reasons unknown to anyone, has decided to start enforcing a policy requiring that users use only their legal name on their personal profiles. This decision has affected many entertainers across the country and seems to be targeting drag queens.

    For a drag queen, her drag name is a real name. The majority of drag queens have spent years making their drag name memorable and recognizable. And a drag name is not chosen lightly. There are numerous different reasons one might choose the name she uses. For some drag queens it is because it makes them laugh; for others it is because it has a meaning to them; and for still others it is because it honors the person who helped them get started in the art form. The list of reasons for choosing a name goes on and on.

    The reasons a drag queen might use a separate profile for her drag persona can vary greatly. For some it’s because people close to them — parents, brothers, sisters, etc. — don’t know they do drag. They may fear being kicked out of their home or shunned by family. Or maybe they could be fired from their job if it were learned that they perform in drag.

    There are also some drag queens who use a separate profile for their drag persona because it allows them to really immerse themselves in that character. For many queens their drag persona is nothing like their real personality, and that separation is needed. Others just like keeping the two separate because it allows them a chance to escape from the art form from time to time. Doesn’t everyone deserve a little time out of the spotlight, so to speak?

    So for Facebook to come along and tell these entertainers that their name is not real is offensive.

    The Von Bs were a victim of this new policy over the weekend. Both Vivian’s profile and mine were suspended until we can prove that that is who we are. To me the whole issue is ridiculous. Vivian and I have spent the last five years making the Von Brokenhymen name not just a name but a brand that represents an image in the drag community, and I like to feel that we have achieved that. So for Facebook to now say that that name is not real is wrong and a huge insult. That name has raised tens of thousands of dollars for different charities over the last five years and brought attention to a whole host of different issues. Please explain to me how that is not real, because the money raised certainly was.

    Tell me this isn’t real:


    So yes, Facebook, drag queens are real!

    If you want to stay current with the Von Bs, “like” our new Facebook page, The Von Bs or visit The Diary of a Drag Queen Husband.

  • Forums: Incoming iPhone!
    MacNN forum goers anxiously awaiting the delivery of their latest, greatest iPhones have converged in the thread titled “Incoming iPhone” to discuss just where in the world the tracking numbers state their precious cargo resides. Forum members who are looking for an iPad sleeve with a spot for a power adapter that doesn’t cause a bulge converse about the available options in a thread started by Clinically Insane member “subego” earlier this week.

  • Dad Is Totally Loving This Oculus Rift Roller Coaster 'Ride'
    If you’ve ever experienced the 360-degree virtual world inside the Oculus Rift, then you know it’s hard not to react to its awesomeness.

    Watch to see what happens when the owner of an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset lets his father have a go. It seems no one could be happier about riding a virtual roller coaster through a house.

    There’s no set release date for a consumer-ready version of the highly anticipated gaming technology. For now, all we can really do is watch videos like this on repeat.

    h/t Reddit

  • Waiting for Data Breaches Like Home Depot & Target to Stop? Don't Hold Your Breath.

    “When is this going to end?” you’ve probably asked yourself, after hearing about the Home Depot data breach of up to 60 million consumer credit cards. The breach is the latest–and possibly largest–of a series of massive exposures of sensitive consumer information over the past few months.

    The simple answer to your question: Not anytime soon.
    In the five months since April 16, when I wrote one of my final blogs as Consumer Reports’s Technology Editor, entitled Another breach like Target’s is inevitable, we’ve seen more than just “another” such breach. We’ve seen several:

    • In April, AOL notified millions of users that their user e-mail addresses and passwords may have been compromised.
    • In May, eBay asked millions of its users to change their passwords after a reported 145 million records were exposed.
    • In early August, Hold security (which had reported a massive data breach at Adobe in late 2013) reported that Russian hackers had amassed one billion user names and passwords stolen from 420,000 web sites.
    • In late August, UPS (United Parcel Service) announced that credit card data for customers in 24 states may have been exposed.

    In all, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, more than 200 breaches have been reported so far in 2014, resulting in the exposure of at least 7.5 million records.

    Why the breaches keep coming


    Cybercrime is a massive multinational industry that regularly makes many attempts to breach major institutions. Why so many of those efforts have been succeeding lately, on such a large scale, is due partly to how smart an organization needs to be to defend against them.

    As security expert and author Jim Manico, head of Manicode Security, put it to me a couple of days ago in an e-mail, no silver bullet can prevent these massive breaches. It takes hard work. “Under these circumstances, no product, service or consultant will solve these security problems,” he wrote. “Security is not a product, a process or a person, but the harmony of good engineering that spans all of these things. Target at least did not have this harmony in play and paid the price dearly.”

    But leaving it at “defense is hard” would be to excuse the organizations we entrust with our data for failing to do their job. The fact is, many retailers and website operators–large and small–have yet to earn our trust. In May, for example, I reported on widespread lax security and complacency among small retailers.

    Large organizations like Target and Home Depot, with highly-trained, dedicated IT departments, have less excuse. As security expert Jeff Williams, now the Chief Technology Officer of Contrast Security, told me in April, when we discussed the inevitability of another massive breach like Target’s, “The problem is systemic…the security practices Target used are widespread.” Those included failing to respond to automated warnings about intruders and not isolating the most sensitive network assets.

    Statistics from 2013 support Williams’ assertion. This table from Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigation Report shows how the most serious data breaches in what Verizon called the “year of the retail breach” were widely distributed among organizations of all sizes and industries:


    The chart below from the 2014 TrustWave Global Security Report shows how retailers, food and beverage firms, and hotel/motel outlets tended to suffer the most security breaches in 2013.


    Lessons learned
    I asked Williams to reflect on the accuracy of his prediction last May. “Well, you always feel terrible when a bad prediction comes true,” he told me. “But it’s easy to see when you look at the trends. Enterprises are busy automating their business at a record pace, digitizing more and more critical assets and functions, interconnecting systems like never before, and creating increasingly complex code. It’s the perfect storm for security issues.”

    What have you learned from the latest breach at Home Depot? I asked. “I learned that other companies are not learning from the mistakes of their peers and competitors,” Williams responded. “When Target was breached, and their CEO and CIO fired, I would have expected other large retailers to take a really hard look at their POS [point of sale] systems. But here we are with another potentially gargantuan breach. I wonder if other companies will get the message this time. Of course, it’s easy to focus on the one security problem where someone just got hit. But the forward looking companies will see this trend and up their game across their entire enterprise.”

    How can you protect yourself?
    You can’t prevent a breach by a retailer or web site you patronize. But here are three measures you can take to minimize your own risk should such a breach occur:

    • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. It has stronger legal protections.
    • For the few sites with the greatest potential risk, such as financial institutions or those that store your credit card, use a strong password that you do not use at any other site. Then, if your password at a less important site is exposed, it can’t be used to compromise the important accounts.
    • Regularly monitor your credit card and financial statements for unauthorized transactions. The sooner you spot any, the less damage you’ll suffer.

    Industry’s dirty secret is out. Now what?
    At security conferences over the past few years, I’ve heard security experts regularly lament such widespread lack of security preparedness–even on the part of some very large and respected brands. But until the Target breach, the public remained blissfully unaware of just how vulnerable to hackers some big household names really were. Even now, after all that has happened, few outside the security community and law enforcement appreciate the true size and scope of institutional vulnerability.

    In the wake of this year’s massive breaches, is there any hope for a solution? “The situation is not hopeless,” Jeff Williams told me. “I have huge optimism about the use of automated security sensors in our development and operational environments. These sensors gather security critical data continuously and in real time – making security considerably more effective, complete, and efficient.”

    To find out what the rest of the security industry thinks, I’ll be at AppSecUSA2014, one of the largest national security conferences, on Sept. 18 and 19. From there I’ll report on my blog at StateoftheNet.Net about the latest thinking in the ongoing effort to establish online security.

  • Big Data's Impact On Underserved, Low-Income Consumers On FTC Radar
    The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a workshop this week on the growing use of big data and its impact on underserved and low-income consumers. The Commission’s request for input from a wide variety of stakeholders is responsible and appropriate, given how central data is to the Internet economy, which is projected to be valued at $4.2 trillion in the next few years.

    But big data’s reach stretches far beyond just the Internet economy. I nodded in agreement with many others who attended last the Technology Policy Institute’s Aspen Forum last month, when FTC Chairwoman Ramirez spoke of how “big data is now, or soon will become, a tool available to all sectors of the economy.” Her remarks are in line with a recent McKinsey report‘s conclusion that “it is increasingly the case that much of modern economic activity, innovation, and growth simply couldn’t take place without data.”

    It is precisely because big data is so essential that regulators should thoughtfully pursue policies that allow the global Internet economy to grow responsibly, while taking care not to unnecessarily restrain this growth.

    To that end, the tech industry has demonstrated a willingness to work collaboratively with consumer advocates to develop guidelines on the responsible use of data. In my opinion, maintaining this delicate balance involves letting data-driven companies collect information that users freely provide, so long as these companies avoid using data in ways that harm or unfairly target certain populations or groups of consumers.

    The ready availability of public and consumer data is key to society’s continued ability to enjoy its benefits. Data innovation most often results from unanticipated analyses of unrelated collections of data–serendipitous uses that can lead to new services or positive insights that benefit consumers or society. Big data can be used to combat forms of discrimination. One clear example comes from the New York Police Department’s meticulous demographic data from its so-called “stop and frisk” program. Analysis of the collected data confirmed anecdotal evidence the searches were racially disproportionate.

    Big data is leading to improved outcomes in healthcare, education, and economics, but those benefits will only be available to those communities that leave a data footprint. So while it’s important to ensure low income Americans’ personal information is not being used to target them for high interest, high-risk loans, it is also important these populations don’t end up on the sidelines of data-driven progress.

    For example, a distinct lack of information about LGBT populations has historically made it very difficult to measure and address their health disparities. In response, New York state agencies are now leading an effort to acquire data about the LGBT community to provide them with better tailored public health services. To encourage widespread access to the positive results of big data use, regulators should avoid restricting the collection of data about underserved populations and instead seek to educate consumers about how responsibly used data tools can serve them in the future.

    The FTC has an important role to play in gathering information and encouraging stakeholders like the tech industry and public interest groups to work together to craft a framework that promotes the responsible use of data tools going forward. The Commission’s workshop is a good opportunity to foster consensus on big data’s positive uses–and identify preventable harms–while ultimately ensuring that its benefits are available to traditionally underserved communities.

  • Mobile Payments: Looking for Signs of Life
    The arrival of Apple Pay has been a positive sign for NFC (near-field communication) mobile payments. Nevertheless, many in the industry have still chosen to remain on the sidelines, waiting to see whether the time for NFC has finally arrived. Over the coming months, we will inevitably see many announcements regarding the success of mobile payments – some of which will be more important than others. Here are the most important key leading indicators to look for:

    Consumer Adoption

    1. Consumer wallet provisions – As the iPhone 6 rolls out, we will likely hear about the number of wallets that are being provisioned. This will likely be the first leading indicator. Most marketers will likely be looking for a number in the 10 million range before they really begin to take notice. According to NPD, Apple sold ~50 million phones in the U.S. last year. That would mean a 20% adoption rate would be required to reach scale by the end of next year.

    2. Consumer use in existing, high volume accounts – Once consumers get the wallet, they will be looking for places to use it. Merchants such as McDonald’s, Subway and CVS – high-frequency purchases with many convenient locations – will be among their first stops. While it is unlikely any of these accounts will release actual figures, one can gauge use by interviewing their store associates at checkout.

    3. Number of ratings on the app stores (not necessarily positive) – As people begin to engage with the technology, they will post reviews on the app stores. Inevitably, not all reviews will be positive as there are still several barriers to use including a) an embedded base of non-NFC phones who cannot get the technology, b) lack of acceptance and broken readers and c) user error. However, the mere presence of reviews can serve as evidence that there is a base of enthusiasts.

    4. Consumer requests for NFC – As mobile payments take off, consumers should begin to clamor for more places to use it. Merchants should expect to see consumer requests first in their social channels as well as at checkout.

    Merchant adoption

    5. NFC implementations in key merchant categories – The most important factor in habituating mobile payments will be an increase in merchant acceptance. The number of locations using NFC is much less important than transaction coverage – the percent of a consumer’s transactions where they can use the technology. That will mean enabling large national accounts in high-frequency categories including: grocery, gas/convenience, quick-serve restaurants and coffee, drug, vending and transit.

    6. Increase in terminal sales and upgrades – Broad merchant adoption should also lead to an increase in terminal upgrades and replacements. Consequently, one would expect to see an increase in sales by the key manufacturers including VeriFone, Ingenico and Equinox.

    7. Emergence of a commerce model – Marketers are looking for alternatives to market to consumers via mobile. To date, over 60% of that spend has gone to just two companies – Google and Facebook. If mobile payments takes off, marketers will likely allocate mobile marketing spend to support payments. That could include mobile offers (e.g., via Passport), the mobilization of their loyalty programs and the use of NFC tags throughout retail stores.

    Issuer promotion and adoption

    8. Issuer promotion of NFC wallets – Outside of Apple, partner issuers will have the best data about consumer adoption of mobile wallets. Issuers view mobile payments as an opportunity to gain market share. If they see significant activity, they may seek to take advantage of it by promoting mobile payments themselves.

    9. Increase in the number of partner issuers – Apple’s announcement included an impressive list of issuers accounting for over 80% of transaction. However, there is a long list of smaller issuers that have yet to get onboard. If mobile payments is seen as a competitive threat, the number of issuer partners will grow.

    10. Launch of competing issuer wallets – No issuer wants their product sitting side-by-side with a competing issuer product in a wallet. If they see mobile payments taking hold, larger issuers will launch their own wallets where they can control the user experience. On the Android platform, HCE already makes this a possibility. They will also likely pressure Apple for similar capabilities.

    None of this will happen overnight. We will likely see some light promotion of the wallet during the holiday season, both in Apple ads and in those of key merchant partners. I suspect we will not see real “signs of life” until mid-next year when Apple Pay begins to reach scale (assuming it does) and the EMV regulation, which encourages retailers to adopt contactless, begins to take hold. That said, smart retailers will be reading the tea leaves and looking at these leading indicators for signs of life to inform their own mobile payment strategies.

  • Vikings Fan Shuts Down Popular Message Board Following Adrian Peterson Revelations
    After initially receiving praise for their prompt suspension of Adrian Peterson following allegations of child abuse, the Minnesota Vikings reversed course, reinstated the star running back, and are now the subject of renewed criticism.

    A healthy amount of criticism has come from the Vikings’ own fan base, highlighted by what appears to be the voluntary shutting down of a popular Vikings fan blog. The homepage of Vikingsmessageboard.com was wiped following Peterson’s reinstatement, and replaced with this strongly-worded statement, now available only via a cached copy provided by Google:

    Vikings Message Board has been shut down permanently. It will not return. There are two primary reasons.

    1. The Vikings cowardly decision to reinstate a child abuser and think that an apology will make this blow over. We will not stand for this arrogance and we will no longer be the home of any support of the Vikings. We stand for those who cannot defend themselves.

    2. We will not give a voice to those who think child abuse is “cultural” or worse, openly advocate child abuse as a reasonable method of punishment. This ends here. Yes, a few board members have ruined it for everyone. Congratulations, a****les.

    edit: we have replaced the word “thugs” with “those” to avoid any potential racial connotation. it wasn’t intended and appears to be distracting from the real message that child abuse is never okay.

    Despite the note’s unequivocal and inclusive tone, a moderator of the website, Jim Nelson, told CBS Sports the page’s sudden end and accompanying statement were the work of one person. As such, says Nelson, the decision is not necessarily reflective of the entire community or even other administrators at the site.

    There are now numerous news reports around the web regarding the sudden demise of that community and the statement that accompanied it. Most of those reports understandably make the assumption that a large group of fans chose to make this move in protest. I use the word “understandably” because the administrator who shut the board down used the word “we” in the strongly worded statement he temporarily posted at the board’s address. However, that statement, and the choice to shut down a forum that was over a decade old, was not the decision of a large group of devoted Vikings fans. All indications are that it was the decision of one individual, who closed down a community that had varying views and opinions and then decided to speak for its members without asking for their blessing or permission.

    There was a great deal of outrage in that community over the ongoing Adrian Peterson story but there was no single unified view on it. There were many different views, some extreme, some quite intelligent, insightful and nuanced.

    Peterson is accused of causing numerous bruises and lacerations to his 4-year-old son’s lower body by punishing the boy with a switch. Unless the Vikings reverse their decision, Peterson will be allowed to play in next Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

  • #Existence_Error: How I Refreshed the Page
    I bit hard on the hook of connected life. I am a media professor and started studying smartphones changing business behavior at the onset of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in 2001. I had a continual stream of the latest and greatest smartphones from 2001-2012 and was obsessed with ways of connecting and sharing. Then the epiphany happened: All this connecting and sharing wasn’t propelling me up the satisfying life-o-meter. My eyes were doing my ears’ job too much. And it was costly both cognitively and financially. The congestion of all the data and multiple digital selves to maintain; keeping in touch with fourth grade acquaintances and supposed networking contacts–constantly–coupled with one hour traffic jams in my physical life. I was done. Eject button.

    I uprooted my Detroit urban always-on existence, the only one I had known for my whole life, to move to rural Vermont. I wanted to let some semblances of real, and tangible, seep into my life. If 2.0 brain-based, constant connection living is so good, why is my life so much better without it? Before I plunge deeper into this Henry David Thoreau realm let me clarify: I am not Amish nor reclusive. And although I cancelled my smartphone and have $2,000 in my pocket that could have been paid to Verizon over the last two years, I found out some of the functionality is not contract based. I went for a jog this morning while using Runkeeper. I still utilize my Android phone’s GPS navigation on trips. I have the ability to keep the phone in my pocket around the house as my home network keeps my email and streams at my fingertips–when I want it, which is increasingly diminishing. Mobile connectivity wasn’t the necessity I thought it was.

    “You can be yourself online, but you have to remember you are speaking through a straw,” says media critic Douglas Rushkoff. Following that line of reasoning it didn’t take long to realize the majority of my thinking and available mental resources, prior to cutting my smartphone connection, were diverted through the shallow streams of the digital. And always on, always available, checking my messages 200 times a day wasn’t helping to deepen one iota of my existence: Just keeping my thoughts spread increasingly thin.

    I have assimilated back to the disconnected quiet. When I am in my car, or walking around my home property, I have a deeper calm knowing my pocket will not erupt and break the moment. I have only recently quelled the fear that I forgot to silence my phone in meetings. Beyond that I have grown to enjoy the real moments of brainstorming and pondering without having every answer a fingers length away. It is healthy to ponder questions without answers.

    Stating the prior positives from my disconnection during the era when masses wait for the newest Apple Watch with accelerometer, heart rate sensors, GPS, Wi-Fi and Blutooth creates dissonance. Regardless, my connection downtime and digital distancing has given me more personal depth and clarity. I have been busy writing, creating content and videos and using Salesforce Marketing Cloud to understand consumer sentiment in my media directed research. In other words, dropping the smartphone didn’t make me join a militia or become an anti-technologist.

    The swell of those questioning the connection is growing. Baratunde Thurston, comedian, author and co-founder of Cultivated Wit talks of his need to take an extreme social media hiatus which culminated in a Fast Company cover article entitled, #Unplug. Thurston speaking of the disconnect told me, “it was very healthy and what led to it was a sense of drowning, a sense of the extreme negatives associated with over sharing instead of just living; overreacting instead of just living, over quantifying instead of just living, and feeling this sense of obligation to engage at every moment. I realized it doesn’t always have to be digitized and documented, cataloged, and preserved forever and ever.”

    Tiffany Shlain filmmaker and media theorist, in a similar realm to Thurston, says, “I think people are completely over connected right now.” To combat this in her own life Shlain and her family take part in what they call a technology Shabbat which is a decisive action to completely unplug for one full day a week and have done so for five years. Shlain says this is one of the best moves her and her family have made and they continually look forward to a day without screens.

    As technology has evolved, every iteration has made the data more rich and real-time based. In turn these advancements give more dimensionality to the device in our pocket and make ignoring it a personal affront. The most talkative of teenagers from years past eventually had the opportunity to hang up the hard line phone. It is our right as digital content creators, and leaders in that field, to decide how we navigate the waters of the constant connection. The ultimate choice decides whether our devices serve us, or we serve them.

  • Nasa picks astronaut ship designs
    The US space agency picks the companies it hopes can take the country’s astronauts back into space – a capability lost when the shuttles retired in 2011.
  • NASA Awards Boeing & SpaceX Big Contracts To Build ISS 'Space Taxis'
    NASA has chosen SpaceX and the Boeing Corporation to build spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, the space agency announced in a press conference held today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The agency will award a combined $6.8 billion to the firms for the first phase of the program.

    “This is the fulfillment of the commitment President Obama made to end our reliance on the Russians,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said during the conference.

    In a blog post published in conjunction with the announcement, he added, “NASA has set the stage for what promises to be the most ambitious and exciting chapter in the history of human space flight.”

    The so-called space taxis are expected to provide an alternative to the Russia’s Soyuz capsules, which since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011 have been the only ride for astronauts bound to and from the ISS.

    Chicago-based Boeing, a long-term partner of NASA, has designed a seven-passenger spacecraft called the CST-100.

    SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., has been ferrying cargo but no crew members to the ISS since 2012. The firm is expected to produce a seven-passenger version of its Dragon capsule.

    SpaceX is led by CEO Elon Musk, who also owns electric car company Tesla Motors.

    The agency hopes to send the first crews up in 2017, the Associated Press reported.

  • NSA Reform Bill Splits Reformers
    James Clapper became public enemy number one for civil liberties groups in 2013 when Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed that he lied to Congress about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance.

    One year later, the embattled director of national intelligence is the unlikely bedfellow of the American Civil Liberties Union in backing an NSA reform bill that has divided civil liberties groups. The differing views on the bill reflect a more fundamental disagreement about how best to reform government surveillance practices after a decade of obfuscation.

    The USA Freedom Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), seeks to curb the NSA’s bulk phone record collection program, one of the most controversial programs revealed by Snowden, a former agency contractor. Under Leahy’s legislation, telephone providers, rather than the government, would store records detailing who Americans call and when. The government would only be able to ask phone companies for the data in a narrow set of circumstances.

    “We cannot wait any longer, and we cannot defer action on this important issue until the next Congress,” Leahy said in a Saturday statement. A long list of left- and libertarian-leaning groups ranging from the ACLU to the Council on American Islamic Relations to FreedomWorks, as well as a number of major tech companies, have endorsed the bill.

    But a smaller band of privacy groups came out on Monday against the legislation.

    “This bill is a fraud,” charged whistleblower Mark Klein, who revealed AT&T’s cooperation with the NSA in the early 2000s. “It’s designed to look like things have been fixed when actually it doesn’t do a damn thing.”

    Klein, other NSA whistleblowers, and groups including the Progressive Change Institute released a letter on Monday claiming that Leahy’s legislation is shot through with loopholes.

    While these critics acknowledge that Leahy’s bill imposes stricter limits on the government than the gutted version of NSA reform that the House passed in May, they contend that there are still plenty of ways for the NSA to collect exactly what it wants.

    Harry Pohlman, a professor of political science at Dickinson College, said that “the bill will stop bulk collection as defined by the government, but the government has a crazy definition of bulk collection.”

    Ambiguities in the bill, Pohlman claims, will still allow the government to collect call detail records in bulk, as long as they don’t do so on a daily basis. Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler suspects that the government will still be able to collect equally invasive business records, such as Western Union’s money transfer records, in bulk.

    Yet supporters maintain that the bill is a step forward. “Even given those ambiguities, and given that there are a lot of things that need to be done down the line, on balance the bill still improves the existing state of affairs,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel at the ACLU.

    One crucial step the Leahy bill takes, Guliani said, is toward transparency. For a decade, the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has secretly issued decisions dramatically expanding the scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance powers. The court’s definition of what was “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, for example, was so elastic that it allowed the spy agency to hoover up nearly every domestic call record under the 2001 Patriot Act — to the professed surprise of the bill’s author.

    Leahy’s bill would force the special court to release summaries or redacted copies of major decisions, and it would also create a special advocate to argue, for the first time, the public’s side of surveillance controversies.

    Transparency, the pro-Leahy groups argue, would serve as a warning if the government once again starts to creatively re-interpret surveillance laws.

    “If there is a misinterpretation, we have a better chance of knowing,” said Guliani.

    But even the ACLU admits there are still major gaps in Leahy’s bill. It would do nothing, for instance, to end “backdoor searches” of foreigners’ messages for Americans’ communications. Nor would it limit the application of a Reagan-era executive order that supposedly concerns itself with surveillance conducted exclusively abroad, which a former State Department official recently claimed is being abused.

    Staunch reform advocates on Capitol Hill are also concerned about these potential problems. For instance, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is holding back support for Leahy’s bill until backdoor searches are addressed. If Leahy does expand his bill, however, he risks losing the Obama administration’s support.

    For the more suspicious civil liberties groups, the mere fact that Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder support the bill raises alarms.

    “I see nothing good coming out of this Congress,” said Klein. “In the longer run there needs to be a movement of rebellion in the country. That was what you had in the ’70s, which is why Congress made some attempts at reform, and actually attempt to jail some of Nixon’s cronies who had violated the law.”

    But the many civil liberties groups who support Leahy’s bill have more modest aims.

    “We can’t let the distrust of the NSA stand in the way of every single attempt to reform,” said Guliani. “If we took the position that we could just never trust the government, then we would never have a bill.”

  • How Tim Cook Passed the Test With Flying Colors
    A year ago, I worried aloud what kind of leader Apple’s Tim Cook might be. Still emerging from the death of Steve Jobs, there was a great deal of concern whether he could pick up the mantle of “pied piper,” who offered the vision.

    When I talked about last year’s product launches, I said:

    The question remains — and this is something that I’ve discussed before — can Tim Cook help champion transformative products at Apple, or is he merely the executor of Steve Jobs’ corporate last will and testament? After three years on the job, the products released by Apple still appear to have the imprimatur of Steve Jobs on them. There are no “Tim Cook” products from Apple yet.

    What a difference a year makes.
    After last week’s product launches of the iPhone 6 family, the introduction of the Apple Watch, and the roll out of Apple Pay, it’s safe to say that Tim Cook may even surpass the height that Steve Jobs brought back to Apple when he returned from his exile in the wilderness.

    Various Apple product launches have had the flirtatious coyness of a bull charging though a china shop and Apple executives have been called to task when their presentations were merely interesting. The big win for Apple is not the latest iPhones or the watch, but Apply Pay, which will fund Apple’s technological desire to dominate for decades to come.

    In the end, products come and go. A friend of mine still has the original Apple Macintosh he bought in 1985 as a college graduation gift, only two years after it was launched to eager eyes. Today it’s found in his backyard, repurposed as a birdhouse, perhaps the most expensive birdhouse in Northern California.

    Apple Pay will pay dividends for decades.

    Apple Pay makes it easier and safer to use your iPhone to make face to face purchases. If you walk into a Starbucks, with a wave of your phone you can walk away with your latte. Merchants love it because it increases the speed at the point of sale and allows baristas to handle more orders and generate more income.

    Card members and bankcard issuers also like it because instead of using 1960’s technology to fight 21st century cyber crime, Apple replaces the magstripe on the back of your card with Apple’s Touch ID biometric technology, which authenticates the shopper at the point of sale. The merchant has a NFC (Near Field Communication) reader which captures the data coming from your iPhone. The transaction is completed away from the prying eyes of a lot of bad guys.

    That’s not to say that some Russian teenager will figure out how to infiltrate the security apparatus that Apple and a number of other companies have created. The most dangerous place for credit card fraud — until the various data breaches that started with Target — has been at the point of sale. What Apple Pay does is that it reduces the window of vulnerability for Cardmembers, Merchants and Acquirers (the bank whose name is on your bankcard) so that everybody can use 21st century security to fight 21st century fraud.

    Why is Apple able to succeed while others have missed the mark?
    For the past decade, American banks and merchants have been dragging their feet on EMV conversion, where a “chip and pin” approach replaces the good ol’ magstripe with a chip and PIN approach, something that is old hat in Europe. It took the earth-shattering data breaches that began with Target and exploded outward to include Home Depot to get the attention of “foot draggers” everywhere.

    Various other companies like Google have tried to launch their wallets and after a noisy start, they have stumbled and laid off people.

    Apple has succeeded because the brand inspires unquestionable trust in those who are loyal for the past three decades. Apple Pay was not launched in a vacuum, but stood on the shoulder of other game-changing product demonstrations as far back as the original Macintosh launch in 1984. There have been a few missteps, but they were during the non-Jobs years.

    However, Tim Cook brings something new to the table that even Jobs himself lacked. As you read through the Walter Isaacson biography on Steve Jobs, one cannot help but come away with the realization in the later chapters, that Tim Cook cleaned up more than his share of tantrums that emanated from Steve Jobs.

    But Steve Jobs could serve as his own worst enemy. He painted himself into a corner and that diminished the game changing nature of many of his products. The original Macintosh was underpowered and extremely overpriced. At NeXT, factory walls were repainted as Jobs capriciously felt they fell a shade short. His monumental rages unhinged those around him and his inability to “play with others” probably cost him his job during his first tour at Apple.

    With Tim Cook, Apple has discovered that a wiser temperament at the top produces better products for your customers. And that is how you build a company that can inspire for generations. He made Apple his own.

    And that is how Tim Cook passed the test.

  • VirnetX's $368.2M verdict against Apple tossed on procedural grounds
    Last week, the US Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC threw out a jury award of $368.2 million to patent holder VirnetX. While the court agreed that some patents were infringed, the appeals court ruled that incorrect jury instructions were doled out by the judge, which tainted the jury when it determined the damage award.

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