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Mobile Technology News, February 28, 2015

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.

  • The Future Is in the Stars
    This morning, Leonard Nimoy passed away, taking with him a brilliant, sensitive soul and a character that has for half a century been one of the most popular and enduring reflections of our humanity.

    Earlier this week, it was revealed that ISIS had started to make good on their threat to destroy as many of humanity’s most remarkable achievements as they can. Hammers were taken to Akkadian and Assyrian art and artifacts. Rare and priceless manuscripts were burned. And, of course, the slaughter of living, breathing humans continues, virtually unabated.

    I would certainly never draw comparison in terms of tragedy, of course, and do not for one moment think that’s what I mean to do. I am aware that Mister Nimoy wasn’t singlehandedly keeping the world safe for democracy by day and pulling orphans out of burning buildings by night. But it is difficult to think of him without seeing the proud face of an optimistic future, one in which exactly this sort of evil has been overcome.

    Rather, I draw one of possibility verses doom. Given Nimoy’s association with an unabashedly optimistic vision of the future and his own work to celebrate the beauty of human diversity, I find it difficult to dismiss the contrast between gentle artist and violent regime, steward and denier of the past, champion of optimism and cheerleader of the apocalypse. Creator and destroyer. Everything good and everything evil.

    In the end, this is the difference that will decide whether we, as a species, thrive or die. And which fate we deserve.

    When people try to figure out how likely we are to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization — the premise that brought Nimoy into our collective consciousness — they usually use some form or modification of the Drake equation. They calculate our number of potential alien pen pals by taking into account a number of factors: the probable number of planets that could support life, the fraction of those in which life might evolve to become industrialized, the number that come to use detectable telecommunication systems… But by far the most distressing part of the equation is the length of time that passes between a civilization developing something like radio and doing something so stupid that they wipe themselves out. Depending on that number, the estimate can change from tens of millions of alien civilizations to zero. Zero.

    And boy, are we eager to do something stupid. ISIS is, of course, a destructive force almost without parallel. An aberration, many would argue. But there are near-infinite ways to march toward doomsday, and many of them are not particularly exceptional human behaviors.

    We know that certain gases trap heat. So we pump them into our atmosphere by the ton. Then, when it warms up, we say, “Hey, we don’t know what’s causing that! Could be anything!” Governments around the globe spend a little over one and a half trillion dollars a year on making sure that we’re all always ready to kill each other. And that doesn’t account for all the weapons they already have, or the ones in the hands of militants, terrorists, private citizens who are pretty sure they might one day need an AR-15, or the ones that law enforcement agencies acquire to protect themselves from the citizens. We can still destroy cities at the touch of a button. The poverty and prejudice that must surely be robbing us of enormous potential still linger. We’ve even decided that it’s time to bring back incredibly infectious and potentially deadly diseases, because hey, there might also be drawbacks to vaccines. I hate to be a pessimist in praise of optimism, and on many of these fronts the world is actually getting much better, not worse. But if anything is going to wipe humanity out anytime soon, there’s still a very good chance that it will be our own stupidity.

    Imagine a future in which we have indeed wiped ourselves out. Humanity never left our home world. Our future is no more. And, unless other civilizations are in the right place at the right time, capable of deciphering what we are, and had the foresight to build some really enormous antennas, so is our past. No one will ever experience Shakespeare or Li Bai, Picasso or Bellini, Billie Holiday or Maria Callas, Buster Keaton or Marilyn Monroe, The Bicycle Thieves or Cria Cuervos ever again. I will be the first to admit that most of us really have no business asking to live forever, but Audrey Hepburn? Caravaggio? And yes, even Leonard Nimoy? They deserve better.

    It isn’t all about our own actions, of course. Even if by some completely implausible miracle humanity decided to lay down its arms and hug everything out, the planet we live on still comes with an expiration date. Certain global disasters cannot be prevented. The sun, for example, is becoming more luminous. In the long run — if something else doesn’t beat it — this will lead to the extinction of plant life on Earth and, with it, animal life as well. That date is counted in millions, not billions, of years.

    The good news is that this need not mean the end of humans — or dogs or cats or parakeets or Venus fly traps, either. You see, another factor in some versions of the Drake equation is colonization. Life might only develop on select worlds, but what if that life went on to tame others? The odds of their survival, and their accessibility, increase with each settlement.

    So let’s imagine another future. Here, humans live on countless planets orbiting countless stars. Our sun has long ago died, but humanity still survives. As does its past, in a way, even if they have forgotten their various Renoirs and Freuds.

    In fact, if very deep space, faster-than-light travel is indeed possible and ever becomes a practical reality, the past might become more alive than ever. Future humans could actually see Earth’s past unfold, just as we look 13 billion years into the past with telescopes today. Humans might literally watch the Earth form. Even if this kind of travel currently looks unlikely, certainly it must be worthy of our efforts.

    All of this takes an enormous amount of work, of course. We need a means of travel that makes sense. We need to be sure our bodies can adapt to different suns, different soils, different levels of gravity. We need a means of communication that is practical over great distances. So many daunting undertakings, and we’ve barely taken a first step.

    Is it really so much to ask? A real investment in human survival? NASA believes that the cost of a first trip to Mars would be around $100 billion — a scary number, but only about 6.5 percent of what humans spend annually on speeding ourselves toward destruction. Mars One is trying to do it with a pittance of around $6 billion in money it hasn’t raised yet, including revenue from corporate sponsorships and a proposed reality television program. As much as I wish for them to succeed, it seems at this point like a pipe dream. And Mars is barely a stepping stone toward the kind of travel that humanity is surely capable of. We have to start taking the future of our race, and every other species on this planet, seriously.

    If humanity wants to continue, it has to shoot for the stars. The future, if we have one, is indeed a Star Trek, my friends. But it is also people like Leonard Nimoy — artists, optimists, dreamers and thinkers. The people who will one day really take us to the stars.

  • 30 Original Jokes About #TheDress
    1. Good one.

    We see purple and black, if you were wondering.

    — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) February 27, 2015

    2. Nice.

    The dress is red and black.

    — Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) February 27, 2015

    3. Hah!

    Pretty sure the dress is purple and gold… #justsaying

    — Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) February 27, 2015

    4. Oh, you.

    #TheDress looks silver and blue to us.

    — Coors Light (@CoorsLight) February 27, 2015

    5. Zing!

    There is no debating the color of this! pic.twitter.com/TihAau2GRn

    — LIRR (@LIRR) February 27, 2015

    6. Classic.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delicious. #thedress pic.twitter.com/Oq8srrAKnd

    — Dunkin’ Donuts (@DunkinDonuts) February 27, 2015

    7. Got ’em!

    idk what color that dress is but pancakes are definitely gold and butter is definitely white

    — IHOP (@IHOP) February 27, 2015

    8. Ka-boom!

    It’s black. End of discussion. #ElevationEdition #TheDress pic.twitter.com/LbY2S5iN59

    — GMC (@ThisIsGMC) February 27, 2015

    9. Ka-blam!

    Whether you’re #TeamWhiteandGold or #TeamBlueandBlack — everyone is on #TeamBreadsticks. #TheDress pic.twitter.com/P04bjXgzED

    — Olive Garden (@olivegarden) February 27, 2015

    10. Ka-wow!

    So do you think this is #whiteandgold too? pic.twitter.com/C829igRjVq

    — Xbox (@Xbox) February 27, 2015

    11. Ka-huh?

    Don’t let people guess what color your teeth are…#TheDress #WhatColorIsThisDress #3DWhite pic.twitter.com/RuRJTwGTc6

    — 3DWhite (@3DWhite) February 27, 2015

    12. There we go!

    We see #blueandyellow…of course. Bring out #TheDress

    — Hellmann’s (@Hellmanns) February 27, 2015

    13. There it is!

    The only colors I see are #Yellow and #Black #TheDress

    — Waffle House (@WaffleHouse) February 27, 2015

    14. Yes.

    No matter what color you see, there’s no denying our Ram trucks look great. #TheDress pic.twitter.com/1HSwZpp3XX

    — RamTrucks (@RamTrucks) February 27, 2015

    15. Yes!

    Let’s settle this once and for all, it’s blue and white. #Effortless #TheDress pic.twitter.com/EndigfjSVB

    — AT&T (@ATT) February 27, 2015

    16. YES!

    I have no idea what you guys are talking about. It looks Rainbow to me. #TheDress

    — Skittles (@Skittles) February 27, 2015

    17. YES!!!

    Does #TheDress debate really matter? #teamgold pic.twitter.com/Qhq9lYW4Fq

    — Yuengling Brewery (@Yuengling_Beer) February 27, 2015

    18. Love it.

    Clearly it’s copper and black. #TheDress

    — Duracell (@Duracell) February 27, 2015

    19. Hah, yes!

    Proud to be black & white, or is it white & black? #TheDress

    Drinkaware.ie pic.twitter.com/Turyk9zYfc

    — Guinness Ireland (@GuinnessIreland) February 27, 2015

    20. Good one, guys.

    Definitely Red and White! #HaveAbreak #TheDress #breakfromthedress #TeamRedAndWhite pic.twitter.com/BFVVMRGn5m

    — KITKAT (@KITKAT) February 27, 2015

    21. Amiright?

    We see it as blue and yellow, but we may be a tiny bit biased. #TheDress pic.twitter.com/JGs4XuyiZ8

    — Cirque du Soleil (@Cirque) February 27, 2015

    22. LOL!

    You’re not the only ones @Cirque! We see blue & yellow too 🙂 #TheDress pic.twitter.com/jOcsQrOCUN

    — IKEA USA (@IKEAUSA) February 27, 2015

    23. Here we go!

    You all have it all wrong. It’s red & red. #TheDress

    — Fireball Whisky (@FireballWhisky) February 27, 2015

    24. Now that’s comedy.

    Obviously, the dress is blue and gold. #Rams

    — St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) February 27, 2015

    25. #True.

    Nice try #blueandblack / #whiteandgold dress

    The only colors that matter are #pewterandred pic.twitter.com/XdWEwWtCGP

    — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) February 27, 2015

    26. Hahahahaha.

    Black and Blue. pic.twitter.com/umwmVWILDL

    — Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) February 27, 2015

    27. Ohhhhhh, yes.

    Seems pretty obvious what color it is…
    #TheDress pic.twitter.com/1V5vIFCCFL

    — Syracuse Athletics (@Cuse) February 27, 2015

    28. It’s funny because it’s true!

    All we see are #RedandBlack. #TheDress pic.twitter.com/qAMC33QVgd

    — GoAztecs.com (@GoAztecs) February 27, 2015

    29. Dying.

    The dress is none of these colors so we move on pic.twitter.com/wJ3MLEsxck

    — Duke Basketball (@dukeblueplanet) February 27, 2015

    30. I can’t even!

    You people are all crazy. All I’m seeing is blue and white.

    — John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 27, 2015

  • VIDEO: The chair that assembles itself
    Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are examining the possibilities of self-assembly.
  • Q — Next Generation Bio-Data Device
    Cupertino’s Apple Watch Event is around the corner – highly anticipated on March 9th, 2015. Apple enthusiasts are getting into their start blocks. The start of the Apple Watch will only be the beginning of a new area of technology devices helping us to understand our biological functioning in a new and easy way.

    And I hear many of us asking “What will be next?”

    Let me be Orwell’s bio-screen-outlook and let’s turn the clock to 2018.

    How will we be using technology in three years for self bio-screening and to identify our individual peak performance levels?

    I was asked recently what I anticipate in the near future. I am pretty sure that March 9th is the start into a new mind-and-body understanding.
    Here is my prediction:

    For now … let’s call this new device Q and it’s Next Generations Bio-Data Device.

    It may look like the new Apple Watch or one of the ‘Activity Tracker’ systems for your wrist, nicely designed and in-style for a day-to-day use.

    Q for your Office

    The Q is designed for your office performance and productivity. It transforms your corporate floor into a powerhouse of creativity, decreases sickness days and helps to increase employee’s morale, happiness and engagement levels. Q allows each individual to function on an individual level. Some employees may show up for their 8-to-5 jobs at 4:30am at night where their productivity and creativity level is at maximum peak. They may only need 3 hours of work to get the job done and come home at 8am satisfied and fulfilled with their quality of work. The rest of the day is off to spend some hours in nature or in the gym, playing with the kids or listening to their favourite music when others without their Q are sitting on their office chairs waiting for the next break. Q allows for the highest level of creativity, shuts the nagging voice between our ears off and allows our intuition to create and solve challenges. It helps the corporate level to function much faster and with more resilience against the typical stressors. Q creates a winning culture for your organization, connects and puts your people first.

    Q for your Home & Family

    Q is helping you to self-direct your energy. It helps you to leave stress out of your family environment. When you are in the green zone (coherency level is high) come home, when you are in the ‘red’ you better take a detour and pick up your favourite coffee from Starbucks and calm down before you come home.

    Q will monitor the kids stress factor at school, if they had a balanced diet, enough sleep and enough time for physical activity and mental relaxation.

    Q and your Eating Habits

    Q assembles the best nutrients for you and your family according to your needs. It may tell you to eat more fat so that your brain can function on a higher level. Fat? Yep!
    It will tell you when your blood sugar is too high or low and when you have achieved your ketogenic state for optimal body performance.

    And by the way, you don’t have to enrol in a fat-loss/diet program anymore. You can connect with your nutrition coach via text message any time during the day through your LifeStyle app for $9.95 in case you have a question ‘what to eat’ in the restaurant and ‘what to cut’ at a lunch buffet. Your coach can track your bio-levels at any time (wireless of course) and can contact you when you hit the red danger zone and you are at risk for a heart attack. Of course, there is a mute button on your Q.

    Q and your Mental Zone

    Q will tell you how and when to get in-the-Zone for optimal mental performance, in case you have to focus for a test, your exam or at work. When your stress level is up and your brain is inhibited, stress hormones are all floating around in your body it is time to re-calibrate and synchronize your Autonomic Nervous System for maximum performance and health benefits. Q reminds you to do your breathing exercises (as part of your meditation program). You will be able to get back to the green zone in about 2 minutes and can function in a more uplifting and more energetic level.

    Q for Fire Fighters, Police and Soldiers

    Fire fighters, police officers and our soldiers use their Q to self-monitor and to signalize them to remove themselves from the first response squad when their stress level is too high and can cause a physical and or mental defect. Colleagues that are currently in a ‘neutral’ state will get a signal and respond to the call. Only the most alert and best functioning first responders will make the right decisions, from what lives may depend on. High stress personnel can train their resiliency levels and can prevent long term disability.

    Q for Everybody

    Q will feedback to you how much sleep you got and if it was sufficient. Q evaluates your bio-data and warns us if we are in crisis and if our body has been exposed to a toxic environment, tells you if you had sufficient sunlight for your vitamin D levels and enough water intakes. The bio-data is monitored by your monitoring Q headquarters in your country, region, or city. Professionals are there to help you when needed. You have your family physician around your wrist, when you are on a trip, on a cruise ship or on a hiking tour in the Himalaya Mountains.

    Q in Sport

    Athletes will be informed about their genetic disposition and able to push their limits while self-controlling their data. No overuse, no burn-out. Effectiveness instead, individualized training and recovery.

    Q bio-screens your body and mind to prevent injuries, helps to recover from a concussion, your last marathon or Pro-game and refreshes your mental and physical game. Q tells the athlete when and what to use to refuel the athlete’s cell batteries and the neural connections for physical and mental coordination.

    If our bodies work more in sync and less in crisis mode we can expect a decrease in sickness days, drug prescription and overall chronic diseases, diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. We will finally control and minimize our economic losses, health expenses, and can start optimising medical and mental care with preventative measures.

    Q will make us more responsible for our own performance, health and well-being. It is our onStar System and can GPS you through day-to-day challenges and reacts in case of an emergency like the RoadAssistance program that comes with your new car purchase.

    Houston we have a problem – Help is on its way! Thanks to Q.

    Q is Free … it may have a retail value of $199 but it will safe the economy a three figure billion dollar amount, our health system another three figure billion dollar amount … makes almost a trillion per year. And don’t forget that Q helps people to feel more ‘neutral’ and less reactive which will decrease domestic violence and the risk of war.

    When can I get my Q watch? Houston – Do we have to wait till 2018? Cupertino may have the solution.

    Visit www.dirkstroda.com and on facebook The Quantum Athlete Club

  • Uber Security Breach Affected Up To 50,000 Drivers
    (Recasts with company statement)
    By Dan Levine
    Feb 27 (Reuters) – A security breach at car service Uber may have disclosed the names and driver’s license numbers of about 50,000 drivers across multiple states, the company said in a statement on Friday.
    The data breach involved current and former Uber drivers, and the company has notified attorneys general in states where those drivers live, including California.
    “To date, we have not received any reports of actual misuse of any information as a result of this incident,” the company said. However, Uber advised drivers to monitor their credit reports for fraudulent transactions.
    The company has raised more than $4 billion from prominent venture capital firms such as Benchmark and Google Ventures, valuing Uber at $40 billion and making it the most valuable startup in the United States.
    Uber also filed a lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco on Friday against the unnamed individual who accessed the company’s files. Such litigation can be used to help uncover who committed the breach.
    Uber said the breach occurred in May 2014 and was discovered in September. The company said it changed database access protocols and began an investigation. (Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
  • Apps in pockets, bums on seats
    Keeping cinema affordable after Orange Wednesday’s demise
  • Best Teen Tweets Of The Week! (2/27/15)
    Every week, we round up the best 140-character quips and insights from our esteemed blogging team — and other equally awesome teen tweeters. Scroll down to read the latest batch and share your own suggestions by following @HuffPostTeen!

    I honestly didn’t even mean to order fries it just came out of my mouth at the drive thru they were an accident

    — ally (@allyybradfieldd) February 23, 2015

    I like the weather but my hair doesn’t.

    — susy chávez (@susych17) February 24, 2015

    My head hurts and immediately I think to Greys Anatomy and see which cases had this same symptom so I can diagnose myself

    — Annabelle Johnson (@its_annabelleee) February 24, 2015

    Winter storm 2015 before and after. pic.twitter.com/Dr1TUeMZ0Z

    — b. (@briefrankk) February 26, 2015

    Eating tacos you wish you were me

    — Piper Curda (@pipercurda) February 24, 2015

    Don’t you hate it when you comfortable in bed and then YOUR MOM CALLS YOU AND RUINS EVERYTHING

    — Lance (@law0125) February 25, 2015

    Just tried to fry an egg. There were flames involved. Won’t be doing that again, then…

    — Amber (Book Blogger) (@MileLongBookS) February 27, 2015

    trying to clean my desktop so that people behind me in lectures dont see the abundance of kitten photos on my laptop

    — kelsey *✲゚*。⋆ (@maydaykels) February 22, 2015

    A Little Girl Just Asked Me If I Was Willow Smith I Humbly Said Yes And Took A Selfie.

    — Jaden Smith (@officialjaden) February 25, 2015

    That awkward moment when you’ve already said “what?” three times and still have no idea what the person said

    — Trudy Banks (@thainnill) February 27, 2015

    “Is that a prison?”-me
    “No. It’s a middle school.”-my mom
    “Is there even a difference?”-me

    — Abigail Breslin (@yoabbaabba) February 24, 2015

    beauty comes in all shapes and sizes ♡ pic.twitter.com/xv1SeFb3pB

    — Danny Edge⚓️✖️ (@epDannyEdge) February 23, 2015

    I dropped my phone one too many times and now it’s trippin, it’s like typing what ever it wants…I’ve been typing this since last night

    — Zendaya (@Zendaya) February 27, 2015

    Annoyed cos Kylie Jenner is 17 and buying herself a $2.7 million house and I’m 18 and can barely afford chipotle

    — Allison L. (@allisonkateee) February 24, 2015

    Follow HuffPost Teen on Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pheed |

  • The FCC Did NOT Make The Internet A Public Utility
    Today the Federal Communications Commission voted 3–2 to approve of Title II-backed net neutrality regulations.
  • The One Sided Relationship of Microsoft with Google

    Before Twitter was taken over by llamas and dresses of different colors, there was a flutter of a different type.  It started with Google’s purchase of SoftCard, a mobile payment solution, and the subsequent dropping of Windows Phone support just two days after the acquisition.  The result means that Microsoft and Windows Phone have no mobile payment app or system available in the short term (rumor has it that Microsoft is coming out with something with Windows 10 for Phones) so we loyal users will need to continue to whip out the plastic to make a purchase and not our

    The post The One Sided Relationship of Microsoft with Google appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • The Funniest Auotcorrect Fails February 2015 Had To Offer
    Another month, another batch of autocorrect victims.

    We all make the occasional texting slip-up, but most of the time, these mistakes stay between the texter and the textee. Thankfully for us, Damn You Autocorrect compiles the greatest fails of each month for our enjoyment. This month’s victims learned NEVER to eat laxatives before going to McDonald’s, “ho” makes some excellent soup, and birthday haikus are seriously underrated. Check them out, and remember, always think before you text!

    Warning, some NSFW language.

  • Hands On: AG Drive (iOS)
    Fittingly enough for a racing game, let’s get this out front: AG Drive ($4) is a Wipeout clone. That isn’t a strike against it – the developer admits it, the Wipeout series has plenty of fans, and many worthy titles have followed the same template. But a game can hew close to that template or build a unique identity, and execution, ultimately, is everything.

  • Want To Look Smarter? Stop Sending Emails And Speak Like A Human
    Think you’re saving time and looking pretty smart dashing off endless emails to your boss?

    Do yourself a big favor, stop typing and talk to her instead.

    A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business finds that when you speak out loud, you’re viewed as more intelligent. That’s compared with someone reading a message you’ve written. (So call me and I’ll read this article out loud to you.)

    “If you want to be seen as thoughtful and intelligent and someone who has something going on between their ears, it’s important quite literally to be heard,” Booth professor Nick Epley told The Huffington Post.

    For this study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, Epley and PhD candidate Juliana Schroeder had participants write out job pitches to prospective employers. Some pitches were read by the employers. Others were spoken out loud by the candidates. When the pitches were heard out loud, recruiters viewed the candidates as more thoughtful, rational and intelligent. The written pitches were not as well-received.

    Though emailing and group-chatting at work can certainly feel more productive, you lose some of the benefits of spoken communication, as the research shows. With the spoken word, you can convey meaning through tone. If it’s an in-person conversation, your body also gives off contextual cues. Text is more of a “blank slate,” Epley says. Ever get an email from someone you despise or fear? It’s hard to truly gauge its meaning.

    In other work he’s done, Epley found that sarcasm and sincerity are really hard to distinguish over email, and people don’t seem to realize it. That leads to a lot of miscommunication.

    Of course, talking can also be a lot more productive than typing. What often takes several emails to communicate — like trying to schedule a lunch or a meeting over Gmail — can be quickly handled with conversation.

    Epley explains that talking to each other is the closest humans get to truly connecting with each other’s minds. “It’s how you demonstrate that you are a thinking, feeling human being as opposed to something lesser,” he says.

    Even talking to strangers can make you feel more connected and happier, even strangers on the subway, according to other research Epley’s done.

    “Engaging someone in conversation humanizes you,” says Epley.

    The message about our mediums of choice seems all the more critical these days, when we email or group chat with coworkers who are sitting a few feet away or ignore our ringing phones in favor of a quick text.

    Taking his research to heart, Epley doesn’t have a smartphone, doesn’t text and definitely abhors Twitter.

    He does do email though, he says. “I’m not some sort of freakish person.”

  • Lost in the Crowd: Surviving Kickstarter's Emotional Rollercoaster
    Crowdfunding is everywhere. Movie stars and directors are doing it for their films. Tech wizards are using it to introduce new inventions. Even a portable cooler brought in more than $13 million in 30 days. In the past few months, I’ve contributed to campaigns for a chocolate-infused peanut butter, a photographer’s journey to Antarctica and a graffiti bridge in Pensacola, Florida.

    Supporting a crowdfunding campaign is easy, and fun. Running one? Well, that’s a different story.

    I’m halfway into my first Kickstarter campaign for my latest book, and it’s kind of kicking my ass, but in that worthwhile, good-for-you-in-the-long-run, Mr. Miyagi-to-the-Karate Kid kind of way. I know many people who’ve run Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, and before I launched mine, I read a lot of articles and blogs with tips on how to be a successful crowdfunder.

    All of them talked about the unexpected time commitment once they launched, and the logistical needs associated with preparing, promoting and updating their campaigns. Aside from Amanda Palmer, the crowdfunding queen and first musician to raise more than a million dollars on Kickstarter, few of them spoke of the emotional impact or life lessons learned along the way. And, I can assure you, there are many.

    If you’re thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign, if you’re willing to experience a whole new level of vulnerability, and if you’re prepared to give it your time and energy, I recommend you do it. You’ll learn a lot more about yourself than you’d expect, and, if you’re open to it, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away a stronger, wiser and more resilient human being.

    The logistical components of being a successful crowdfunder are well-documented. Here are a few tips to help with the emotional ones. 

    Ask Without Expectation
    In her TED talk, The Art of Asking, Ms. Palmer put it best when she said, “You can’t ask authentically and gracefully without truly being able to accept ‘No’ for an answer. Because if you’re not truly willing to accept ‘No’ for an answer, you’re not really asking, you’re demanding — you’re begging.”

    Asking for support is no easy task, and it’s made all the harder when we’re too attached to the outcome of our ask. When we ask without expectation — in all areas of life, crowdfunding and beyond — we give people the freedom to answer, yes or no, without pressure or demand.

    You’ll invest a lot of emotional energy into your campaign, and it will be difficult to remove expectation from the equation. That’s where good friends come in handy. Run your communications by people you trust to be honest with you. Does your email seem demanding? Does your Facebook timeline post feel like begging? Test them on people before sending them out, until your energy, and your asks, feel more authentic. 

    Prepare for Ebbs and Flows
    Though a card game featuring exploding kittens just raised nearly $9 million in its thirty-day run, the multi-million dollar crowdfunding success is the exception, not the rule. Don’t expect people to be pledging to yours around the clock. Like life, your campaign will likely have its highs and lows. Prepare for both. Breathe through both.

    I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit these past two weeks with my Kickstarter page up, waiting, hoping for a new pledge to come in. It’s like a drug, each new backer a jolt of adrenaline. But your campaign will probably be 30 days or more. That’s 720 hours, minimum — a long time to be tripping. Take care of yourself while it’s going on. Eat well, meditate, take walks, dance your ass off, do whatever it is you do to stay grounded.

    Let yourself be excited and passionate, of course, but remain centered within it all. That grounded energy will come through in the way you manage the campaign, in the tone of your promotion and updates, and, ultimately, how you handle yourself when it’s over. You want your committed and prospective supporters to feel your confidence, not your angst.

    Don’t Take It Personally
    Whatever your campaign is about, it’s undoubtedly very personal to you. What you’ve created likely represents a deep passion, and you’ll want to share it with as many people as possible. If people don’t respond the way you had hoped, it’s hard not to take it personally. In the same way each new pledge feels like validation, each hour that passes without a pledge can feel like rejection. This is all ego talking, in both directions. It’s not real.

    Consider the times you’ve chosen to support some things in your life, but not others. We’re likely to support what speaks to our hearts, if we’re in a place to do so. You can’t expect everyone to be as excited about your passions as you are, even close friends and family, and that’s okay.

    Like with dating and job interviews and so many areas of life, we can’t always be the thing someone else is looking for. That’s more a reflection of them, of what they need; it’s not a rejection of you. Have faith that your campaign, if you give it your all, will ignite the right hearts.

    Trust in the Outcome
    I still have two weeks left in my Kickstarter campaign, and while I’m extremely optimistic about reaching the goal, not yet knowing the final outcome has had me wavering some between confidence and insecurity. Overall though, I trust in the process, and in the outcome.

    When we approach our goals with determination and commitment, and when we do everything we feel we can do to make them happen, we have no choice but to trust in the outcome of things. More important than the success or failure of your campaign is the quality of effort you put forth and the wisdom you take with you moving forward.

    Give your campaign everything you’ve got. Stay as passionate and committed as you can, run your campaign as smartly and strategically as you are able, and then allow it to become whatever it becomes. Whatever that is — massively funded, dramatically unfunded or anything in between –will be the right thing for you, the perfect next step for your journey, and just the teacher you needed, if you’re willing to see it that way.

    So get out there, launch your crowdfunding campaign and give heart to your passion. It won’t just teach you how to be a better business person, but a better person in general. And that alone makes the adventure worth it. 

  • If We Are What We Eat, Then We Are Becoming Coffee Cups

    After you’ve swilled down that last gulp of coffee, make sure you’ve saved room to start munching the cup.

    That’s what KFC wants us to do, apparently having decided that they can increase their profits along with our waistlines by inducing us to eat things we wouldn’t normally ingest.

    As if we are not already devouring (way more than) enough calories, the marketing division at Yum! Brands — the weirdly-named and-punctuated multinational conglomerate that owns KFC — has decided that the world would be a better place if we ate our packaging after we’re done with it.

    “The new cup addresses several of the trends bedeviling the food business today, including consumer concerns about the environmental impact of packaging, as well as their desire for simplicity,” according to The New York Times.

    The folks at Yum! have probably discovered, as the cigarette industry did in the last century, that tapping into our oral fixations is a lucrative enterprise.

    I like the idea of eliminating some packaging waste, but as Barry Commoner reminds us in his Four Laws of Ecology (#2), “Everything must go somewhere.” Do the math . . . or, rather, the biology. And the physics, too: matter cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. Still, poop is better than trash (maybe?).

    Yum!’s innovation just doesn’t seem all that yummy. It transgresses Michael Pollan’s maxim — “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” — a mantra that is probably the most intuitively sensible guideline amid the ever-changing flurry of messaging about our diets.

    On the same day we learned about edible coffee cups, another story, “Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue,” revealed that it costs $1.5 billion just to dispose of all the food Americans throw away. The actual value of that food itself — the one-third of all food produced that is never consumed — is a stunning $162 billion.

    When we’re throwing out such an obscene amount of food (which is, presumably, actual food: broccoli, juice, cheese, and the like) do we really need to be eating coffee cups? I’d say we have enough things to eat already that we don’t need to be inventing new stuff. The average supermarket carries over 40,000 items.

    The edible coffee cup may be a sensory novelty, which reminds me of another invention from the 1970s that’s still going strong today, edible underpants.

    Taffy thongs are harmless enough, and may even have the benefit of spicing up people’s sex lives. But it seems to me that there’s a line we shouldn’t cross (though in all likelihood we crossed it long ago) about what we eat and what we don’t.

    Pica is a psychological disorder that involves eating things we’re not supposed to eat. (“Pica” is the Latin word for magpie, a bird known for eating indiscriminately.) While it’s normal for young children to put things in their mouth as a way of exploring objects and exploring their own sense of taste, it’s not normal to eat your sofa. Adele Edwards, a pica sufferer from Florida, has eaten seven.

    A TLC cable show, “My Strange Addiction,” features people who eat cigarette ashes, chalk, glass, toilet paper. Some sufferers of this disorder eat their own hair, stones, car keys, silverware.

    French epicure Michel Lotito earned himself a bizarre fame by eating bicycles, shopping carts, and televisions. He called himself Monsieur Mangetout (“Mister Eats-All”). You can watch him eating a car, as his interviewer observes, “you’re a nutter, you are.” Limiting his metal intake to one kilogram per day, it took him two years to eat a Cessna 150 airplane.

    Trigger warning: researching pica will take you into some strange and unpleasant corners of the internet, exposing you to things you can’t un-see and websites you probably don’t want cached in your browsing history.

    The future promises to deluge us with many more foods that Michael Pollan’s grandmother wouldn’t recognize. At the vanguard of efforts to create ridiculous digitally-designed products, 3-D printers filled with hummus or chocolate or marzipan pastes extrude previously unimaginable edible artifacts. A Cornell lab has made miniature space shuttles out of ground scallops and cheese: brave new world.

    Cultural anthropologists remind us that any society is keenly identified with its food — what and how people eat, and where, and why. More likely than not this ship has already sailed, but in case there’s still time for us to repent: let’s try not to go down in history as the people whose appetites were so peculiarly deranged that they ate their coffee cups.

    Randy Malamud is Regents’ Professor of English and chair of the department at Georgia State University.

  • Net Neutrality Nonprofit Wins Reddit's Top Charity Vote
    Proponents of net neutrality are marking Thursday’s historic ruling by doing what they do best –- further protecting the rights of Internet users.

    In layman’s terms, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) stunning decision means that broadband is considered a public utility (like electricity or telephone service) and Internet service providers can’t charge content producers a premium to give users more reliable access to that content. (For example: a CNN video would stream at the same pace as a no-name blogger’s eye-witness clip.)

    A number of advocacy groups played instrumental roles in thwarting major cable companies and Republicans on Capitol Hill, including community news and networking site Reddit.

    The same day as the victory, Reddit announced it would donate $82,765.95 to the Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group that defends civil liberties in the digital world.

    Together with technologists, activists, and attorneys, EFF works to defend free speech online and fight illegal surveillance, in addition to its other advocacy work.

    Reddit is donating 10 percent of its 2014 revenue to a number of noteworthy organizations whose missions fall in line with that of the Reddit community. It named its recipients after 80,000 users cast their votes for U.S.-based nonprofits they deemed worthy of getting the funds.

    The group also donated the same amount of money to nine other groups, including Planned Parenthood and Doctors Without Borders USA.

    It comes as little surprise that Reddit users were keen on supporting EFF, considering the site’s commitment to protecting an open Internet.

    Reddit’s work was so critical in the FCC ruling, in fact, that President Obama personally thanked the site for its persistent efforts.

    “This would not have happened without the activism and engagement of millions of Americans like you. And that was a direct result of communities like Reddit,” Obama wrote in a letter. “So to all the Redditors who participated in this movement, I have a simple message: ‘Thank you.'”

    The movement started eight months ago when Redditor TheArmedGamer urged users to flood the FCC with comments related to its proposed anti-net neutrality rules.

    That set off a whirlwind, leading to a record-breaking 3 million comments, according to The Washington Post, and more than 15,000 phone calls to FCC representatives, according to Reddit.

    “A year ago, they said it’d be futile,” Reddit wrote in a statement. “Today, we defeated opponents of net neutrality who have spent tens of millions of dollars every year lobbying government.”

    Find out more about the Electronic Frontier Foundation and how you can get involved here.

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  • College Snapchat Accounts Raise Legal Concerns
    You take a selfie of your night and send it to your best friends with the expectation that it will disappear in a matter of seconds.

    Since social-messaging platform Snapchat rolled out their Stories feature, campus-specific conversations are going far beyond simple self portraits.

  • Here's What It Was Like Inside Jabba The Hutt
    Jabba the Hutt fans, have we got a geekout for you.

    “Filmumentary” maker Jamie Benning interviewed Jabba puppeteer Toby Philpott over Skype about his work inside the gelatinous villain of “Return of the Jedi.” Then Benning combined Philpott’s words with behind-the-scenes footage to make the mini-documentary “Slimy Piece Of Worm-Ridden Filth: Life Inside Jabba The Hutt.”

    Getting the slug-like bad guy to move and express himself was no easy task in early 1980s animatronics, sometimes requiring multiple men inside the massive puppet, as the video recalls.

    But whenever Jabba filled the screen, the effort clearly was worth it.

  • 10 Spock Quotes That Took Us Where No One Has Gone Before
    Without Spock, there would be no “Star Trek.” The Starship Enterprise’s part-Vulcan officer always captivated audiences with his wit and logic while knowing exactly how to keep Captain Kirk in check.

    On Friday, Leonard Nimoy, the actor who made Spock famous, died at the age of 83. Now, looking back on his career, we fondly remember the times no one could have said it better than Spock.

    In honor of Nimoy, here are 10 of Spock’s best quotes from “Star Trek”:

    10. On change.

    9. On sacrifice.

    8. On critical moments.

    7. Spock just being Spock.

    6. When even he doesn’t understand.

    Image: Giphy

    5. … like when it comes to women.

    4. On the difference between wanting and having.

    3. On luck.

    2. Fascinating!

    1. And of course.

    Image: Tumblr

  • 9 Funny Someecards To End Your Week On A High Note
    What do you mean February is over already? We blinked and POOF it was gone. We braved frigid temps and — shudder — Valentine’s Day. Up next? We have “House of Cards” binge-watching sessions and (fingers crossed) warmer temperatures.

    And on top of all that, we have this week’s funniest Someecards. Things are looking up!

Mobile Technology News, February 27, 2015

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.

  • American Blogger Avijit Roy Killed In Bangladesh; Wife Also Injured In Cleaver Attack
    DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A prominent U.S. blogger, known for his writing against religious fundamentalism, has been hacked to death by unidentified attackers in Bangladesh’s capital, police said Friday.

    The attack on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen, took place late Thursday when he and his wife Rafida Ahmed, who was seriously injured in the attack, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. It was not known who was behind the attack, but Roy’s family and friends say he was a prominent voice against religious fanatics and received threats in the past. No groups have claimed the responsibility.

    The local police chief, Sirajul Islam, told The Associated Press that the assailants used cleavers to attack Roy and his wife, who is also a blogger.

    “Several attackers took part in the attack and at least two assailants hit them directly,” Islam said, adding that two blood-stained cleavers were found after the attack.

    Roy had founded a popular Bengali-language blog — Mukto-mona, or Free Mind — in which articles on scientific reasoning and religious extremism featured prominently.

    Anujit Roy, his younger brother, said Roy had returned to the country earlier this month from the U.S. and was planning to return there next month.

    Similar attacks have taken place in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people but ruled by secular laws, in the past. Investigators have said religious fanatics were behind those attacks.

    In 2013, another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, who also spoke out against religious fanatics, was killed by unidentified assailants near his home in Dhaka.

    And in 2004, Humayun Azad, a prominent writer and a teacher of Dhaka University, was seriously injured in an attack when he was returning from the same book fair, which is an annual event.

    Baki Billah, a friend of Roy and a blogger, told Independent TV station that Roy had been threatened earlier by people upset at his writing.

    “He was a free thinker. He was a Hindu but he was not only a strong voice against Islamic fanatics but also equally against other religious fanatics,” Billah said.

    “We are saddened. We don’t know what the government will do to find the killers. We want justice,” he said.

  • 12 'Office Optional' Industries That You (Yes, You!) Might Be Qualified For
    Working a 9-to-5 desk job is not for everyone. Forget the humming of the air conditioner and the gray walls of a cubicle; some people just really don’t work best in an office environment. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t suited for a fantastic job in a lucrative industry.

    According to NBC News, 80 percent of Americans perform little to no physical activity at their jobs, most of which include sitting at a desk with a plant, a corkboard, and a sad-looking break room with fluorescent lighting (if you are reading this in a similar location, apologies for my on-the-money description).

    Now’s the time to break out of your rut. We’ve teamed up with Best Buy to present 12 industries that can keep you out of the office and on your own schedule.

    working from home

    Translation services: If you speak more than one language, translation could be the perfect opportunity for you. Organizations like Gengo allow you to do your work through a third party, or you can work on your own to get certified by passing a translation test. Either way, you can operate right out of your home, and make more than $40,000 annually.

    Graphic/Web design: With a number of companies looking to hire designers — while they also look to save on desk space — this turns out to be a freelance-friendly field, as well. Sign up for a Web design class and work on your craft, and you could easily make a $65,000 salary right from your couch.

    Writing: As with a number of creative jobs, freelance writers often work straight out of their living rooms or nearby coffee shops. Whether you pitch to specific publications and gain steady employment through that, or work with third parties such as Content.ly to contribute articles, writers can set their own hours and location, making it an ideal “office optional” position.

    Market Research: For a company to thrive in a competitive environment, it likely will turn to market researchers to analyze data and conduct research on its product and consumers. Whether you are one to actually digest this information, or are looking for opportunities to contribute to market research studies, you can often work with little more than a laptop and some simple software.

    working from home

    Personal Assistance: Thanks to the advent of the Internet, many busy people don’t need someone physically at their side to help them with important tasks. Personal assistants set up appointments, manage schedules, and organize tasks for executives and the average busy mom alike. With no certification required and an average salary of $14 per hour according to PayScale, this can be a pretty cushy job.

    Accounting: Believe it or not, many personal accountants don’t work out of a downtown office. A number of people skip the office entirely and set up personal accounting services right out of their homes. (Even some corporate CPAs moonlight on their own.) And while having CPA certification will certainly help your rates, anyone with a client base and accounting background can set up on his or her own.

    Transcription services: Have you always prided yourself on speedy typing and exceptional auditory skills? Then becoming an at-home transcriptionist might be right up your alley. While some transcription focuses on specific industries, many people are looking to get interviews and other verbal recordings down on paper. Sign up through a service like Transcription Professionals or venture out on your own!

    Public Relations: Since PR is such a communications-driven industry, it might seem counterintuitive to think you could do it from your living room. But thanks to online services and telecommunications, you can do just that. And according to U.S. News, the median salary for PR specialists keeps climbing every year.


    Nannying/Childcare: While professional childcare services require licensing, many nannies and babysitters for individual children work out of their own homes. If you are looking after a young child or an infant who needs only minimal entertaining, working from the comfort of your home can be easy, safe and reliable.

    Financial planning: Similar to accountants, financial planners don’t need to sit in a corporate office to get the job done. With some easy software, a laptop, and some financial know-how, this can be the ultimate work-from-home gig.

    Sales: For a number of companies, especially smaller startups, sales representatives don’t need to work from the office. Many responsibilities include sending emails, making phone calls and setting up meetings with clients — all of which can be performed remotely. While this position can be based on commission, the average rep can make a pretty penny.

    Fact-checking: With self-publishing becoming more popular every day, fact-checking has become an integral part of the freelance writing business. Working part-time as an independent fact-checker for an author can be a great way to rake in some extra dough right from your couch.

    Get the most out of both work and play time. Visit www.bestbuy.com for the very latest 2-in-1 devices.

  • 13 Things We Wish Were More Flexible
    In a country that prides itself on giving every American the right to exercise his or her free will, there are still plenty of limitations and restrictions we wish would, well, just go away.

    To highlight how much easier (and delightful) the world would be with more versatility — and, to pour our frustrations out about the things that are not — we’ve partnered with U.S. Cellular to bring you this list of things we wish were more flexible.

    Pay Day

    Sometimes, we could really use an advance on our next paycheck. Unfortunately, our HR department doesn’t provide any kind of pay-ahead model for a big weekend sale at our favorite department store.

    Post Office and Bank Hours
    Even if we get out of work on time to mail that important document or open a savings account for our own, hard-earned money, there’s usually a long, twisted line of countless other individuals trying to fit this small window of time into their busy lives. We can’t even make it to happy hour — how are we supposed to finagle our way out of a late work night when the only reward is a lolli-pop?

    Doctor’s Appointments
    We almost always end up waiting anyway, yet we still adhere to the, “Please be on time” disclaimer receptionists remind us over the phone. If we’re going to be forced to hurry up and wait, all doctor’s offices should at least have Wi-Fi to accommodate the fact that we’re there during our lunch hour (which is really only 30 minutes).

    Concert Ticket Sales

    Monday at 10 a.m. is a perfectly appropriate time for company-wide meeting. However, it’s also when tickets go on sale for that sure-to-sell-out show we really, really need to go to. Maybe the boss won’t notice us pressing “refresh” every three seconds as he or she explains the company’s forecasts for next quarter.

    Vacation Days

    Planning to travel for your niece’s wedding, your parent’s anniversary and that relaxing beach getaway this year is quite the challenge when allotted just two weeks of vacation.

    Parking Meters
    Sometimes it feels like police officers are just waiting for the moment our meter expires to slap our car with a ticket. At least we can find some grace in the situation, as we’ve managed to avoid the tow trucks…for now.

    Cafés That Only Offer Two Options: Tiny And Super Sized
    Unlike our favorite pajama bottoms, coffee cups are NOT one size fits all. We’d love to see “medium” make a comeback.

    Apartment Rental Leases

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if getting out of your lease a few months months early wasn’t plagued with sacrificing your security deposit?

    Work Hours
    Working with doctor’s office and bank hours is even more difficult when you’re locked into a 9-to-5 job. It doesn’t make getting the kids to and from school any easier, either.

    Gym Memberships
    The whole reason you join a gym is to get in shape for one certain event (right?) — so getting locked into a year-long membership pretty much defeats the purpose. If you’re going to pay for the whole year, get your money’s worth: take full advantage of the water cooler, use all the hot water in the locker room, and heck, even dine in!

    Flight Reservations
    Oh, did you want to cancel your flight? Pay no attention to that hefty rebooking fee.

    Return Policies

    That sweater looked great in the dressing room…but as soon as we got home, it pretty much sprouted devil horns and added ten extra pounds to our reflection. It’s unwearable — but the return policy says, “Tough luck.”

    All Pants — But Jeans, Specifically
    Can Pajama Jeans just become acceptable to wear in public, already?

    Wish a lot of things — like phone plans — were more flexible? U.S. Cellular believes that everyone deserves great prices on their wireless plan and offers that to everyone, not just families of four.

  • Android loses share to iOS in mobile enterprise arena
    The latest Good Technology Mobility Index Report on the mobile enterprise space, based on a survey of Good’s customer base for its own enterprise-level email services, shows iOS gaining ground by taking away share from Android in calendar Q4 2014, with the former growing by four percentage points to hit 73 percent share of global enterprise activations. Android fell by the same amount to 25 percent, while Windows Phone held steady at one percent.

  • Is Social Media Testing Our Morals?
    Every day, I learn so much about the world through the eyes of my children. My boys are 15 and nine and, like so many kids their age; they are significantly more fluent with technology and social media than I ever will be. It seems as much as I try to catch up with social media, such as establishing a Twitter presence, for example, they’ve already moved on to something else. Just a few days ago, my kids and I got talking about someone who was being discussed negatively on social media channels, and my oldest son commented, “He’s going down, man.”

    As a psychologist mom, I typically seek to understand before making assumptions or sharing my own opinions. So, I started to inquire about the particular situation and, of more interest to me, what my sons thought about the running commentary. I was surprised by what I learned.

    While I am still trying to grasp how easily the most private of matters are now shared publicly, how quickly assumptions about others are made without critical data, and how in a blink of an eye a reputation can seemingly be ruined; I thought my boys would find this new way of engagement normal, and my reaction, old school. Not the case. Both said it was “wrong” for people to comment on others in a “mean” way, and that they would “hate to be him.” When my oldest son said, “he’s going down,” he explained that he realized people his age tend to believe what is shared on social media and how difficult it is to recover your reputation from a social media “blast.”

    We all know that social media is a growing force within our society. We have heard horror stories about the consequences of cyber bullying, and we’ve read about how lines have become blurred between what is private and public. What facilitates all this? The constant access to social media, and the speed with which information can now be shared is now very much a way of life. There are a multitude of explanations given for why people — of all ages — are feeling so liberal with their social media posts.

    Dr. Aaron Mishara, a professor of Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, recently commented about this issue in a KPCC-FM news interview titled: Why does social media so often go from sharing and shaming? Dr. Mishara had this to say: “There is a purpose to this public shaming. We compare ourselves to those who, for the moment, are less fortunate than we are [and] that makes us feel somewhat better. But just as public shaming is “hard-wired” into us, so is empathy, and that can offer a potential solution. Engaging in our empathetic side and taking the time to see things from the other person’s perspective, “sort of balances this sort of other attacking side.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I wonder if we have a moral question before us as much as anything else. My sons know people get hurt through social media, and they said they would be devastated if it ever turned on them personally. I bet most young people would say the same. Yet it seems so easy to share opinions about others right now even when we know the information that is put out there will cause pain. Has social media removed the barriers that have long been in place to censor and control hurtful comments and behavior? Does it provide an electronic buffer behind which a protagonist can hide? Will social media make it even easier, in the future, to dissolve the deteriorating barrier between private and public as it continues to evolve? And, of equal importance, where will it end?

  • Cyber attacks top US threat list
    A US intelligence assessment of security threats faced by the country highlights cyber attacks from foreign governments and criminals.
  • VIDEO: The robots who build furniture
    An experiment at MIT’s Distributed Robotics Lab is teaching robots to work collaboratively.
  • VIDEO: 'Bionic eye' allows man to see wife
    An optical implant allows a man to see his wife again for the first time in years, and other technology highlights.
  • Are tablets falling out of favour?
    Are tablets losing their appeal?
  • Can technology help combat CV fraud?
    The tech combating job applicant fraud
  • What's the Real Value of Twitter?
    Twitter o Twitter, what’s a Twitter worth? A tweet or a song? Investors have been debating this the past month and I’m not sure anyone has it right just yet.

    Twitter has come a long way in user growth, gone public (NASDAQ:TWTR) and come under fire for growth/lack of growth and revenue numbers.

    The stock chart looks like a runaway iceberg ran through the Grand Canyon. Here it is:


    Meanwhile, back in startupland, private ventures such as Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb and others are getting valuations that’d make a public market investor blush (or laugh).

    Twitter’s market value stood at about $30 billion last I checked. Compared to the lesser-known compadres above something seems amiss. Take Facebook value at $223 billion and the debate extends to another level. Is Facebook really 7x a Twitter?

    So what’s holding Twitter value back?


    Where Facebook seems to leverage its platform more to sell ads, Twitter doesn’t yet seem to be “fully realized” in terms of what it could be.

    To understand this let’s consider the levels of interaction. Facebook revolves around personal or quasi-personal interaction, someone you know sharing a tidbit of info or funny photo. Engagement level is high, “emotional meaning” built in.

    Facebook is kind of like a private dining room at a popular restaurant. Stories and moments shared among a circle you know.

    In contrast, Twitter’s “conversations” and information flow seem more “corporate,” “branded,” less personal. A lot of media use Twitter as link referrals to stories and companies do the same for announcements.

    Twitter is more like a banquet hall, noisy and echoing with a cacophony of voices. Today that is. And that’s why I believe the stock pales compared to Facebook and even the value of some of the private ventures I mentioned.

    On the plus side Twitter is a global brand, very difficult to build that. Media the world over use Twitter as their media outlet. Celebs use it. It has changed public relations and marketing.

    That said, the “true” value of Twitter lies in what it could be doing. I don’t own the stock. What I’m sharing today has to do with seeing a company and potential, avenues and expansion, to what it could be “grown up.”

    As an analogy, as a sophomore in high school Michael Jordan stood 5′ 11″ tall. He didn’t make the varsity squad that year. Of course we all know what happened later.

    Unlike Jordan, however, Twitter may or may not grow to it full potential. There is no predetermined DNA here.

    The DNA will be choices Twitter makes to grow.

    A few of the areas I see with massive potential for Twitter are:





    and half a dozen more even more powerful. Many observers show stats that Facebook, Twitter, or ads don’t convert to clicks, etc. This is seen as a negative and it is — if you’re in the ad business. What Twitter has yet to realize is it is a content network, yet lacks a self contained way of benefiting (other than sloppy promoted tweets).

    Anyway, the product pipeline at Twitter could be magical if thought of differently.

    Back to “worth”…

    While many writers will use the word “worth” in a story I don’t. The term ‘value’ is the proper way to address a company valuation.

    As someone who’s been in business development since Netscape I can see this flatfooted geeky “teen” called Twitter and wonder if it’ll always lay up or ever get to dunk?

    Steve is the founder of hapn.cool, and has been a venture capitalist and executive at public and private companies.

  • Apple Pay now accepted at more than 860 Firehouse Subs locations in US
    In addition to sandwich chain Panera Bread and Subway, and fast food king McDonald’s, some 860 branch locations of sub sandwich chain Firehouse Subs will now officially begin accepting Apple Pay starting today. Apple Pay allows users to pay for food by simply holding the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to a terminal while holding the Touch ID button on the devices. The franchise is hoping to more than double the number of locations it has in the US to over 2,000 by 2020.

  • Microsoft Update OneDrive for Windows Phone with PIN Locking and A New Photo Album View

    OneDrive for Windows Phone has received a significant update today, bringing several new features to the cloud storage app.  The new update, version 4.7 for those keeping score at home, is available now in the Windows Phone Store and brings four key updates that continue to level the playing field between the Windows Phone version and iOS or Android versions of OneDrive. The first new feature is PIN lock support.  Now in OneDrive for Windows Phone you can setup a 4-digit PIN which will be required to access your files.  It is an added layer of security so if your device

    The post Microsoft Update OneDrive for Windows Phone with PIN Locking and A New Photo Album View appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Twelve Ways To Reverse California's Income Inequality
    This piece was originally published by Capital & Main.

    “The California Chasm” is a challenge that threatens to transform the nation’s most populous state into a shadow of its former self. Once a place where people came together to realize fortunes, remake their lives and attain their piece of the American Dream, California has become a state saddled with sharp differences in social, economic and health outcomes due to race, place and class.

    Here is a set of bold recommendations for how California can rebuild its middle class and lay the foundation for a future that reclaims the bright promise of the Golden State.

    Raise the Floor

    1. Raise the Minimum Wage, Stop Wage Theft and Expand the Right to Sick Days: These measures are not sufficient to rebuild our middle class, but they are absolutely necessary as first steps.

    2. Encourage Employment for the Formerly Incarcerated: To reflect our state’s values of opportunity and reinvention, we must ease market reentry for those who have been convicted and served their time.

    3. Expand the Rights of Immigrants: We cannot wait for reform from Washington – the health of our economy and communities requires us to act now.

    4. Crack Down on the Misclassification of Workers: The law-breaking by employers is undermining our system of justice while also leaving millions of workers behind.

    Grow the Economy Together

    5. Fight Climate Change With Good Green Jobs: The two greatest challenges of our time – global warming and economic inequality – can and must be addressed together.

    6. Close Proposition 13’s Corporate Loopholes: It’s time to ride the third rail of California politics and restore fairness to our tax system.

    7. Promote Affordable Housing: California’s rising rents and home prices must be met with rigorous legislation as well as major investment.

    8. Invest Big in Public Transit: Large-scale, sustained investment in clean public transit is essential for creating livable communities and can generate a number of high-quality jobs.

    Create a Path to the Middle

    9. Provide Free Community College Education: California should take a page from President Obama’s playbook and open up our most important higher education institutions to everyone in a way that removes financial barriers.

    10. Close the Wealth Gap: It’s not enough to raise wages – we need to enable Californians to build their wealth and their personal safety nets.

    11. Strengthen Retirement Benefits: With nearly half of Californians set to retire into economic hardship, we need bold action, including contributions from a much broader set of employers.

    12. Renew Our Democracy: We need a thriving democracy to ensure broadly shared economic prosperity, and in California that means fostering civic engagement and finding creative solutions that remove barriers to participating in the political process.

    We hope this list is inclusive but we know it is not exhaustive. Every day, the creativity of Californians is demonstrated as they open new businesses, devise new technologies and experiment with new ways to engage the public and shift public policy. And so we see this as an invitation to readers and leaders to comment, discuss and offer new approaches to rebuilding California’s economy.

    Such a conversation is essential not only for our future prosperity but also for our democracy. After all, one of the most serious threats inequality poses is to our political system. When wealth rather than voice determines the directions our government will take, when policies tilt the playing field to reproduce disadvantage rather than to spread opportunity, that is a recipe for the erosion not just of the middle class but of our hard-won democratic rights.

    And the only antidote is more debate, more organizing and more participation. Indeed, civic engagement is the lifeblood of any effort to restore shared prosperity – and we hope that by raising tough issues, offering compelling stories and proposing real solutions, we can jumpstart the civic conversation and action we need to restore the luster of the Golden State.

  • Find Out What The No. 1 Song Was On The Day You Were Born
    Have you ever wondered what the No. 1 song in the country was on your date of birth? Okay, probably not, but it’s still fun to find out!

    For example, the No. 1 song on Kanye West’s birthday back on June 8, 1977 was “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder:

    And when Kim Kardashian was a mere newborn child, born on Oct. 21, 1980, the No. 1 song was “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.

    Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical” was the most popular song when Britney Spears was born on Dec. 2, 1981:

    But enough about them. Find out what the No. 1 song was on your birthday over at Playback.Fm, and contemplate if there’s some existential correlation between the song and your life. (At least that’s what we did, anyways.)

    h/t Refinery 29

  • New Facebook Ad Reminds Us How Important Best Friends Really Are
    “It started with secret languages, some without words.”

    So begins Facebook’s new advertisement that shows the importance of friendship throughout all stages of life. Published on Feb. 13, the ad is one of three 60-second commercials created by Facebook.

    The ad shows all different types of best friends from teenage girls laughing to young women dancing. It features the different stages of friendships women go through between learning how to kiss and even the darker, harder times when we need our best friends the most.

    “They are the faces in our photos,” the voiceover says. “The handwriting that we know by heart. Silver linings and good luck charms. Fellow life planners and re-planners.” They are our irreplaceable best friends.

    Check out the full commercial below.

  • The Best Time To Do Everything (At Work)
    This isn’t the most productive day for you. You sit down at your desk. Get up. Sit down again. Fiddle around with your chair. Open a browser window. Sign into your email. Answer a chat on Google. Answer another.

    For the next several hours, you are a permanent resident of your email inbox. On several occasions, a possibly better, possibly more interesting distraction drags you away from your current one. (These distractions are rarely better, or more interesting, but they are different.) Your fingers, seemingly autonomous from your brain, scroll through your social feeds: your gurgling babies of Facebook, your logorrheic celebrities of Twitter, your enviable landscapes of Instagram, your ever-deepening vortex of Mason jars on Pinterest.

    What if you did this differently? What if you resolved to be your best self today? With a combination of expert research and anecdotal evidence, we’ve partnered with Best Buy to find the best time for everything.

    Welcome to your best day ever!

    6 a.m.: Send Emails That Actually Get Read

    According to data gathered by online marketing company HubSpot, the click-through rate on emails peaks around this time. Of course, you can’t guarantee an immediate response, but at least you’ll make yourself heard.

    6:30 – 8:30 a.m.: Get Stuff Done
    Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, encouraged readers of his Reddit AMA to seize the first two hours of their day. “Generally, people are most productive in the morning,” he wrote. “The two hours after becoming fully awake are likely to be the best.”

    8 a.m.: Make A Highly Ethical Decision

    This is a big day for you! Start it on a moral high horse. According to research published in Psychological Science, we are inclined to make better moral and ethical decisions in the morning than we do at night. Apparently, it takes a good deal of energy and restraint to avoid becoming your lying, cheating, Worst Self, and that self-control erodes with the “normal, unremarkable” choices you make throughout an average day, the journal notes. This is called the “morning morality effect,” so make all of your tough calls now.

    10:30 a.m.: Grab A Cup Of Coffee
    Believe it or not, the best time to have a cup of coffee is not first thing in the morning, according to Steven Miller of Neuroscience DC. Between 8 and 9 a.m., your level of cortisol — popularly known as the “stress hormone” — is at a high, meaning you’re already quite alert. Aim to drink your joe between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., when the cortisol concentration in your bloodstream starts to dip.

    1 p.m.: Post Something Interesting On Facebook
    According to marketing company QuickSprout, this is the time when most people will reshare your posts.

    1:30 p.m.: Take A Nap
    Go ahead, you’ve earned it. Your optimal naptime will depend on the time you woke up today — a nap starting at 1:30 p.m. assumes that you’ve gotten out of bed around 6 a.m. — you know, when you sent all of those important emails. A catnap that lasts between 10 and 20 minutes is optimal. (Check out this handy tool to guide you to your best siesta.) As far as logistics: if you’re not lucky enough to have designated nap rooms at the office, there’s always your car or a variety of other creative options.

    4 p.m.: Let Sparks Fly

    How about another break? Based on a small, unscientific survey from dating service Sparkology, users were 40 percent more likely to get a response to an initial message during work hours than after 5 p.m. Alex Furmansky, the company’s founder, posits that evening messages suffer from a few perception problems: (1) a Friday night message means you’re sitting, sad and alone, in front of your computer instead of socializing, (2) it may seem ill-considered, and (3) the recipient is likely not in front of a computer.

    5 p.m.: Ask For A Raise
    Aside from dawdling on, say, online dating sites instead of working (oops!), you’re a pretty conscientious worker, we’ll assume. You’ve put some real time and energy into this job, and you’re ready to ask your boss about a pay bump. Lynn Ellis, a career coach in Texas, told Real Simple: “The key is finding a moment when your boss is not rushed and has time to truly listen.” Of course, you’ll want to use your best judgment: if you and your boss are morning people, then you’ll want to present your case by the light of day.

    6 p.m.: Get Creative

    If you are indeed a morning person, it turns out that your creativity peaks in the evening — that is, when you are more distracted and less energetic. In a 2011 study by Mareike B. Wieth and Rose T. Zacks, subjects were assigned “insight” and “analytic” problems at both optimal and non-optimal times of the day. The results indicated that insight problems, or creative pickles that require an “a-ha” moment, are best reserved for when your energy and inhibitions are somewhat lowered.

    Want to have the best work days ever? Visit www.bestbuy.com for the very latest 2-in-1 devices.

  • Explore Nebraska's Carhenge, A Monument to American Ingenuity

    Along a lonely stretch of highway in Alliance, Nebraska sits a mysterious monument to America’s rich history of putting the pedal to the metal: Carhenge. We sent our roving photographer, Joel Schat, out to capture the classic roadside wonder on camera, and the video doesn’t disappoint:


    Paying homage to Stonehenge, Carhenge has been fascinating people since its installation in the ’80s. Dreamed up by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, Carhenge consists of a circle of cars with a heel stone, slaughter stone, and two station stones within the circle. In fact, it’s a near perfect match to its counterpart across a pond, thanks to Reinder’s extensive studies of Stonehenge while living in England.


    While it’s certainly the centerpiece, the druidic tribute isn’t the only strange thing on the property. There’s also a “Car Art Preserve” populated with plenty of art projects created with vehicle bits and pieces, and even a little graveyard dedicated to three foreign cars buried on the grounds. A full vehicle serves as their makeshift gravestone, reading: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!”


    Free of admission and open every day, Carhenge welcomes visitors with open arms, but encourages the curious to visit during daylight hours. God only knows what happens there at night. Fun fact: Carhenge is set to line up perfectly with a total solar eclipse in 2017, so now’s the perfect time to start planning your visit if you really want to catch an incredible sight. 


    Can’t make it to Nebraska? Don’t worry, from Virginia’s “Foamhenge“, to Washington’s Maryhill Stonehenge, to South Carolina’s very own “Phonehenge” at the Freestyle Music Park, there’s no shortage of American tributes to the mysterious Stonehenge.

  • I Lived for 90 Days in New York City Without Internet, Computer or a Cell Phone
    For three months, I collaborated with the Huffington Post France to share with you the highs and lows of this experience. Each hand-written note was sent through the mail, then typed and posted online by the editors. This post contains my impressions of the experience. Happy reading!

    From October 15, 2014 to January 11, 2015, I ran a rather peculiar experiment… traveling from Paris to New York, and spending 90 days there without Internet, computer or a cell phone. Why? I needed to disconnect in order to better reconnect in a hyper-connected environment.

    The origin of the project

    I felt a real need for emancipation, and I was pushed by a quest for authenticity. At 25 years old, the Internet and its related technologies (smartphones, computers, etc.) make up the main part of my daily exchanges: virtual exchanges of information, not to mention virtual exchanges of emotion. Weary of the way technology can distort meaning, I decided to try the opposite. It would be an adventure: connecting to individuals and the world, guided by my intuition rather than a smartphone.

    My project wasn’t solely intended to be a “digital detox.” Yes, I sometimes feel dependent on my electronic gadgets, and the decision to put them away for a while certainly feels like “detoxing.” But if distancing myself from technology had been my goal, I would have headed somewhere with wide open spaces, instead of New York, with its skyscrapers. No way was I going to declare a war against Google. It is, after all, thanks to this technology that I am sharing my experience with you now! Millions of people on this planet still don’t have Internet access, and as far as I know, they get by.

    What really pushed me to make this apparently contradictory choice was the wish to better understand the ideas of “connection” and “disconnection.” Have they been reduced to just “clicks” online? Convinced that the opposite is true, I decided to experience connection, rather than connectivity.

    The rules of the game

    No Internet, no computer (or equivalent), no cell phone. To communicate with my family, my friends or anybody I met during the experiment, I used public payphones, the landline in the basement of my building to make local calls, or the New York postal service.

    new york
    The payphones at Grand Central Station

    My precious tools: a paper smartphone…

    To guide myself around a very spread out New York, I used a map of the city and a subway map. My paper diary also followed me across the Atlantic, as well as my “homemade” hand-written business cards. Then, in order to make sure I forgot no one and to stay in touch with the people I met along the way, I carefully recorded phone numbers and addresses in a little notebook.

    My day-to-day life in New York

    It’s hard to summarize three months of living in a few sentences, especially when I was at the center of the adventure! Here, however, are some key episodes I’d like to regale you with.

    The first few days following my arrival in New York, I felt very alone. Technologically isolated, surrounded by the silence of my situation, I was drowning in uncertainty: what would I do for the next three months?

    First step, find a place to live. Not an easy undertaking when classifieds have become thin on the ground in the New York newspapers. After a few scares and with the support of some French expat friends, I finally found help from the French Consulate. There, I met a really friendly team who run an extremely efficient word-of-mouth system.

    A few hours after my visit to the Consulate (5 days after my arrival in New York), I already had a serious offer: a room to rent in an apartment in Harlem, in northern Manhattan. I jumped at the opportunity. My flatmates (Adam and Clara) were French. They have since become my friends.

    new yorkApartment hunting…any takers?

    Once properly set up, I decided to find something to do. Not only to keep myself busy, but also to give meaning to this experiment. My status as tourist didn’t allow me to work legally in the US, so I decided to get involved with charity work. After gathering a few contact details from the French Consulate during my real estate expeditions there, I volunteered at three charities: Comptoir Pastoral de la Francophonie, New York Common Pantry and Murphy Center. For almost two and a half months, I served a purpose which was decisive in my adventure: resisting isolation. Faced with people who are less fortunate or completely homeless, these charitable organizations offer food, time and a place welcoming to all.

    On top of feeling useful, I felt another form of disconnection: the absence of concerns. This marked a fundamental break in the way my experiment was running and made me be more daring, braver when going towards others, going beyond what I had often hidden in electronic communication. I also understand why I feel alone without this technology. Why I abused it in the past. Why some are dependent on it. The internet is a virtual other who “likes” my photos on Facebook, who “follows” me on Twitter or visits my LinkedIn profile. The Internet is the one who offers me consideration, attention, love. In the end, connecting to the Internet is an assurance I will never be disconnected.

    new yorkTo give meaning to my experiment, I volunteered at various organizations, such as New York Common Pantry, which welcomes and feed several hundred people each day.

    When I wasn’t volunteering, I was out meeting people. People from here, but mainly from afar. In New York, everyone has a story. People coming from Central and South America, from Africa, from Europe, from Asia become locals who live together and confer the title of world capital on the Big Apple. We met up in the cafes near the Columbia campus, in jazz concerts in Harlem or Brooklyn, in impromptu nights out on the Lower East Side. We cross paths on the street, on the subway. Day or night. People are everywhere, and everywhere there are people I am more attentive. By leaving aside my screens, I rediscovered the pleasure of chance meetings. Who’s to say we will never meet again?

    I also rediscovered the pleasure of writing by hand. For seven years (since the end of secondary school), I had only typed on a keyboard. Typed my homework, typed my emails, and type text messages. To “type”– what a barbaric word when we think about it! Since my school days, opportunities to pick up a pen have been rare. In those three months, I rediscovered the dexterity of my wrist, rough drafts and ink stains. I personally find it charming.

    new yorkI decided to give a sense of identity to my envelopes before they were mailed. They said “Imprint me.”

    I also discovered the intensity of corresponding by mail. Outside of a few postcards I had sent my grandparents while on summer holiday, I can’t remember sending a handwritten letter before New York. How deep it is, though! How powerful! I often talk about it, and everyone agrees: they love receiving letters.

    new yorkJubilation!

    Is living without technology easy?

    In practice, my New York life wasn’t too different from everyone else’s. I adapted easily to my new condition and kept the bet until the end without too much difficulty. Before setting off, I wondered “will I miss my computer?” In the end the answer is “no,” a genuine “no.” None of the crutches I left in Paris created any temptation once I arrived in New York.

    What I did miss was checking my emails. Even though it doesn’t have the same intensity as a letter, I always enjoy finding a personal email. Because if we think about it, checking one’s emails, outside of a professional context, comes back to measuring how much attention others give us. Who has written to me? Who is showing interest in me? Who loves me?” And even more so: How many people love me? How many people like me? In the not-so-distant past, I used to confuse the two. Convinced of the existence of a quantifiable love, my online behaviour, especially on social media, was aimed at collecting “likes.” The more my photo was “liked,” the more I felt I was worthy of attention. By contrast, when it wasn’t, I felt less valued. Realizing this today has helped me understand the causes of this, and adapt my behaviour online to detrimental effects on real life.

    Living without this technology wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t always very practical. Especially in a city like New York! Lateness, not enough detail when making an appointment, forgetfulness…all of these situations are easily fixed when our cell phone is close to hand. In my situation, I needed to agree to appointments in advance, be on time, give myself strategic landmarks and come up with a plan B just in case. It was rather restrictive. Restrictive not only for me, but also for those who crossed my path. Thanks to them for playing along! To think that humanity lived this way for centuries, and the Internet and its accessories have revolutionized our interactions in less than a generation, is unbelievable. In any case, I am now a lot more tolerant towards tardiness.

    new york
    The French Consulate, a vital place for my experiment.

    The trials of disconnection: doubts, withdrawal and isolation

    No, I didn’t miss either my smartphone or my computer. Not even Facebook or LinkedIn, where I had spent hours. So… should we talk about isolation? Yes indeed. Because I missed human beings. Because I sometimes felt alone and the Internet often filled that emotional hole from in my life. This solitude is the experience of disconnection. This unease? The fear of the ultimate disconnection.

    Faced with only myself in certain situations, I became aware that there is a beginning and an end. Without Google to give me answers, I needed to share this discovery, seek attention from others, trust strangers, show a side of myself we often try to hide through fear of being judged, misunderstood or rejected. It was in a moment of absolute doubt that I truly understood the power of human contact. Having the courage to be vulnerable and the luck of being well supported, the trial of “disconnection” left room for the relief of “reconnection.” So, thanks for being there.

    new york
    Installation by Richard Serra in Dia:Beacon, New York.

    Intensity and new flavors off screen

    “A wonderfully chaotic adventure” is how I like to describe it. Because before writing about it, you have to live it. I lived a poignant experience, a punch in the stomach of an experience. Away from screens, I rediscovered more intense flavours, deeper, richer. It was as if, from one day to the next, you rediscovered the taste of a tomato. It’s still a tomato in substance, its composition hasn’t changed. What has changed is the perception you have of it, the importance you give it, the eyes with which you look at it. Dear readers, this tomato is you.

    New practices and behavioral changes once home

    It’s too soon to talk about “new habits” given that I was only reunited with my gadgets a month ago. Obviously, such an experience will modify my relationship to technology, but we will talk about that at a later date. For now, I often forget my cell phone, don’t leave home without a map of Paris and have imposed a single rule on myself: no more emails after 8pm. I had completely lost my awe of my computer and finding it again, turning it on and opening up Google for the first time didn’t move me at all! Having unsubscribed from most social media before leaving, my New York experience immunized me from it. The only one I continue to use for a professional reason is LinkedIn in my new adventure: finding a job!


    I wish to thank all those who contributed to the unfolding of this wonderful experience. All of this is thanks to you. Thank you to Bastien, my best friend, and Charlotte, his sweetheart, for their warm welcome and generosity, to Stéphane (Adam) and Sophie (Clara), my two gold-star flatmates, for their open mindedness and their support, to Brené Brown, my source of inspiration. Thank you to Marianne and her far-fetched stories, to Claire, Chris and A. for their commitment, to my family and all those who took the time to write to me. Thank you to Shaï for the magical musical moments. To Sandra, Carolyn, Rachael and Will, for our interesting conversations. I also spare a thought for two Isabelles, who not so long ago, gave me a rung up on the ladder. Yes there are many of you! Thank you to Frédérique, Florent and Jean, who I have met since our epistolary exchanges. Finally, thank you to all those whose paths I crossed for the space of an evening, the time of a trip or on a street corner. That old lady on a bench, her smiling face. If the world is a better place, it’s thanks to you.

    In conclusion?

    Rather than the technology itself, it’s more my own usage of the Internet, computers and cell phones that influence my daily life. I’m no longer a “victim” of their impact on my life, since I have understood the importance of my own “responsibility” in their usage. Once a prisoner of screens looking for recognition (in other words, love), I’ve understood, from taking a step back, that being obsessed by their powerful attraction, I’d forgotten to look around me.

    Love is all. Through experiencing more natural, spontaneous exchanges with others, I grasped the richness of human contact. This was the key to my release.

    Could better educating individuals on how to use new technologies be a future project?

    new york
    Proust’s madeleines, New York style
    new york


    Exchange was an integral part of my experiment, I would like to pursue discussions with those who wish to. Don’t hesitate to comment, give your opinion, ask questions and share your own experience of connection/disconnection. It’s a broad topic, so let loose!

    To get in touch with me: empreintenewyork@gmail.com

    This post was originally published on HuffPost France and was translated into English.

Mobile Technology News, February 26, 2015

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.

  • Water Leaks Into Astronaut Terry Virts' Helmet During Spacewalk
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A spacewalking astronaut ended up with unwanted water in his helmet Wednesday after breezing through a cable and lube job outside the International Space Station.

    The leak was scarily reminiscent of a near-drowning outside the orbiting complex nearly two years ago.

    This time, the amount of water was relatively small – essentially a big blob of water floating inside Terry Virts’ helmet. In the summer of 2013, another spacewalking astronaut’s helmet actually flooded. He barely made it back inside.

    Virts was never in any danger, Mission Control stressed, and he never reported any water during his 6 1/2 hours outside.

    This was the second spacewalk in five days for NASA astronauts Virts and Butch Wilmore, who encountered no trouble while routing cables for future American crew capsules, due to arrive in a couple years.

    terry virts
    Terry Virts performs a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.

    Three spacewalks had been planned, with the next one Sunday, but its status was uncertain given Wednesday’s mishap. Managers will meet Friday, as planned, to discuss the situation.

    Wednesday’s spacewalk had just ended and the two astronauts were inside the air lock, with the hatches closed, when the incident occurred. The air lock was being repressurized when Virts first noticed the water. He said he reported it about a minute later.

    The absorbent pad inside the back of Virts’ helmet was damp, but not saturated, said Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, one of the station’s six crew members. The pad became standard procedure after the 2013 emergency.

    Cristoforetti removed Virts’ helmet and wiped his face with a towel once he was out of the air lock and reunited with his colleagues. She noted that his neck was wet and cold.

    The water – cold to the touch with a chemical taste – most likely came from the suit’s cooling system, the source of the leak in 2013. Mission Control described the amount of water as “minor,” at least compared with 2013.

    Virts, a 47-year-old Air Force colonel, spent about half of Wednesday’s spacewalk lubricating screws, brackets and tracks on the end of the space station’s giant robot arm. The snares had gotten a bit creaky over the past year, increasing the motor current, and engineers hoped the grease would make operations smoother.

    “We’re the cable guys. Now we’re the grease monkeys – or I am,” Virts radioed.

    “Yep, you guys have a life after NASA,” replied Mission Control. “That’s good work.”

    That’s when the spacewalk ended – and Virts noticed the water. A camera zoomed in on a big bubble floating near his left eye.

    “Yeah, Terry, we can see it. Thanks for making it ripple,.” Mission Control said.

    The same suit ended up with some water in the helmet during a Christmas Eve spacewalk in 2013, according to Mission Control. That also occurred while the air lock was being repressurized.

    NASA spent months investigating the July 2013 close call experienced by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, and zeroed in on clogged holes in the fan and pump assembly.

    A corrosion problem with the same type of fan and pump assembly – believed unrelated to the original leak – had to be cleared before the latest spacewalks could get underway last weekend. The analysis held up the spacewalks by a day.

    NASA considers this the most complicated cable job ever at the 16-year-old orbiting outpost.

    So far, Virts and Wilmore have routed 364 feet of power and data cables, with another 400 feet to be strung outside the space station on the next spacewalk, whenever it happens.

    NASA had hoped to complete this series of spacewalks before Wilmore returns to Earth in mid-March.

    The extensive rewiring is needed before this year’s arrival of a pair of docking ports, designed to accommodate commercial crew capsules still in development. NASA expects the first port to arrive in June and the second in December.

    SpaceX and Boeing are designing new capsules that should start ferrying station astronauts from Cape Canaveral in 2017. Manned flights have been on hold at the cape since NASA’s shuttles retired in 2011. SpaceX already is launching station cargo.

    NASA has contracted out space station deliveries so it can concentrate on getting astronauts farther afield in the decades ahead, namely to Mars.


    NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission-pages/station/main/index.html

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  • A Free and Open Internet for All
    On the eve of the Federal Communication Commission’s historic vote on net neutrality, I join with other Mayors and millions of other Americans to urge Commissioners to support an open Internet for everyone.

    In order for San Francisco and other U.S. cities to continue to grow, thrive and succeed, everyone needs equal access to the Internet — access to the same high quality, fast speed data.

    A combination of affordable technology and the birth of Internet innovations put the Internet into the hands of the people. And now, this high quality access has become a lifeline. It is an essential tool to communicate, look for a job, or learn about what your government is doing. A free Web also supports our economy and is helping our cities grow and create jobs.

    San Francisco is a city of immigrants, and for many immigrants, the Internet provides a tool to connect to those possibly an entire world away. From Skype to WhatsApp and other video chat, technology reduces the distance for the lone immigrant, thousands of miles from home, to reach family every day. It’s how grandparents keep up with their grandchildren who are growing up in another time zone and in another country. And of course, it’s where millions of business meetings happen every day.

    Net neutrality makes this all possible.

    But now Internet freedom and transparency is in danger from a new kind of discrimination.

    The years-long debate of net neutrality has come down to tomorrow’s vote. Approving Title II means that no Internet service provider can charge more to get you the same content at the same speed as any other competitor. Net neutrality will ensure that San Francisco’s diverse residents and businesses can stay connected to communication networks, online education tools and information resources without fear of speed bumps or — even worse — not being able to access information.

    Developing a fair and open network creates space for startups and individuals from all walks of life to experiment as part of the new 21st Century economy. The Internet continues to evolve and innovators will continue innovating using the Internet to improve our lives for the better.

    As the Mayor of San Francisco, I have been an early and vocal supporter of net neutrality, and I hope you will join me today in encouraging the FCC to approve Title II.

  • Pointers: introducing Siri to your family
    This week’s Pointers tip is short and sweet, and one of those head-slapping “of course!” moments. It’s a far simpler way of adding your family into Siri so that she (or he) will understand who you mean when you say “send a text to my wife” or “read me the last email from my father.” You can do this manually in Contacts (or the previous version, known as Address Book), but its a bit labor-intensive that way. Using this easier method, you can eliminate the dreaded “which John did you mean?” when you know more than one, and meant the one you’re related to.

  • IDC: Apple, Samsung control 96.3 percent of entire smartphone market
    Based on shipment data, analyst firm IDC has determined that Apple and Samsung have effectively gained full control of the smartphone market, splitting 96.3 percent of all smartphones shipped — up nearly a full percentage point from the same period last year. All Android phones combined account for 81.5 percent in 2014, a slight increase from 2013. The percentages flip, however, when talking about money rather than units — with Apple said to get 90 percent of the profits in the industry.

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  • Drones Are More Than Killing Machines, but What Happens When They Become Intelligent

    You will be forgiven if you missed the Drones for Good competition held recently in Dubai. Despite drone technology really taking off commercially in the last year or so (the potential puns are endless) they remain a relatively niche interest.

    Drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as they are increasingly known — have reached a mass-market tipping point. You can buy them on the high street for the price of a smartphone and, despite a large DIY Drone community, the out-of-the-box versions are pretty extraordinary, fitted with built-in cameras and “follow me” technology, where your drone will follow you as you walk, run, surf, or hang-glide. Their usefulness to professional filmmakers has led to the first New York Drone Film Festival to be held in March 2015.

    Technologically speaking, drones’ abilities have all manner of real-world applications. Some of the highlights from the US$1m prize for the Drones for Good competition include a drone that delivers a life-ring to those in distress in the water. Swiss company Flyability took the international prize for Gimball, a drone whose innovative design allows it to collide into objects without becoming destabilized or hard-to-control, making it useful in rescue missions in difficult areas.

    The winner of the national prize was a drone that demonstrates the many emerging uses for drones in conservation. In this case, the Wadi drone can help record and document the diversity of flora and fauna, providing a rapid way to assess changes to the environment.

    More Civilian Uses Than Military

    What does this all mean for how we think about drones in society? It wasn’t long ago that the word “drone” was synonymous with death, destruction, and surveillance. Can we expect us all to have our own personal, wearable drone, as the mini-drone Nixie promises? Of course the technology continues to advance within a military context, where drones — not the kind you can pick up, but large, full-scale aircraft — are serious business. There’s even a space drone, NASA’s Boeing X-37, which spent several years in automated orbit, while others are in development to help explore other planets.

    There’s no escaping the fact that drones, like a lot of technology now in the mainstream, have trickled down from their military origins. There are graffiti drones, drone bands, Star Wars-style drone racing competitions using virtual reality interfaces, and even theatrical drone choreography, or beautiful drone sculptures in the sky.

    A Legal Minefield

    There are a few things about drones that are extremely exciting — and controversial. The autonomous capabilities of drones can be breathtaking — witnessing one just fly off at speed on its own, it feels extremely futuristic. But this is not strictly legal at present due to associated risks.

    A pilot must always have “line of sight” of the drone and have the capacity to take control. Technically even the latest drones still require a flight path to be pre-programmed, so the drone isn’t really making autonomous decisions yet, although the new DJI Inspire is pretty close. Drone learning has to be the next step in their evolution.

    Yet this prospect of artificial intelligence raises further concerns of control, if a drone could become intelligent enough to take off, fly and get up to all kinds of mischief, and locate a power source to re-charge, all without human intervention or oversight, then where does that leave humanity?

    There are also concerns about personal privacy. If Google Glass raised privacy hackles, drones will cause far worse problems. There have already been a few occasions where drones have caused some trouble, such as the one that crashed onto the White House lawn, or the one that overshot into a runway at London Gatwick. The point at which a drone is involved in something very serious may be the point at which their status as a mainstream toy ends.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

  • Ménage à Trois of Social Media: 3 Super Tools to Improve Your Social Influence
    Social media has come in like a flood and nearly washed away every trace of how communication used to be back in the day. You remember, actually dialing a number and waiting for someone to answer, only to leave a voice message for a return call. Or, how about using fully spelled out words, not emoticons, abbreviations, short messaging scripts, and the like to convey a message. Or, one of my favorites, when the number (#), hashtag, or pound sign (whatever they’re calling it these days) was actually used with NUMBERS!

    Some are embracing our technological wave of communication, while others are having a tough time keeping up! I feel like a wrangler shouting through a mega-phone, “COM’ON PEOPLE, KEEP UP!” While I jest, social media is a powerful force in marketing your business brand, and when done right, can have a positive impact on your social influence. The problem I have found with using social media is the coordination between the many platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, and many countless others that just haven’t reach global recognition. Each of these platforms have a different functionality, and when aligned with objectives that match that functionality, can be very effective in reaching your specific audience.

    Before we go any further in this article, I must qualify my expertise with social media. I do not consider myself an expert. In fact, like many of you reading this, I’m learning as I go along. Picking up new ways and trying to keep up with all the growth that is happening. Amazingly enough, I attribute my success in increasing my social relevance and influence with the use of the following three tools.

    First, let me share a little secret: You don’t have to generate or create ALL the content you share on social media. In fact, the best-kept secret of social media is what I like to call, O.P.C (Other People’s Content) — yes, I just coined another phrase! I mean, let’s face it, we all aren’t graduates with English degrees or laureates of poetic societies. Most of us struggle to convey ideas in a way that is interesting and attracting. The whole idea of social media is sharing interesting topics with other people who are interested in that topic. That is how you create connection, which could lead to a great business (or personal) relationship. Another side secret: Lighten up! Don’t take it too serious. I believe the reason Millennials are killing it on social media is because they don’t take it too serious. Basically, they have fun — a good reminder to all the struggling Boomers out there (myself included).

    So, without further ado, here are three of my favorite tools that create what I like to refer to as the social media ménage à trois

    1) IFTTT: If, This, Then, That is a little coming to be known tool that I discovered a couple of years ago. I fell in love with it because of the algebraic expression it represented. But unlike Algebra, you get to decide the outcome, rather than trying to solve the problem for the answer. In this online social bookmarking tool, you create what are referred to as recipes. The elements in your recipes are content that you want shared across platforms. It helps to keep consistent flow of content and consistent context of content. This helps keep interested readers aligned with your objectives and doesn’t confuse your brand’s message.

    2) Buffer: Buffer is a content aggregation tool. We go back to the O.P.C. concept. It offers up great content in different categories. You select what you want to distribute and what platforms to use. It’s very user-friendly and free with a fee version also available.

    3) KLOUT: Although this is the last on my list, it is by far the most responsible for my increased visibility in social media. Klout gives you an opportunity to increase your Twitter following, as well as share great content. It measures your influence and appropriates a score. It helps me to see when I’m slacking off with sharing valuable content and helps me to get back on track to keep my audience engaged and interested.

    Social media is so ME! It’s a big part of anyone who want to share their message with the world! So, all those fighting the power of social media… stop it! Give in, you’re fighting a losing battle. Tools like the ones I mention make it so much easier to swallow. Before you know it, you’ll be a social media pro, or not! At the very least, you’ll be running with the mustangs instead of trying to get the ol’ mule to move.


    Kim Harris, Creator/Visionary – Stiletto Business Strategies for Women Business Owners and the #StilettoMovement is an entrepreneur who creates stages via live and virtual events for women entrepreneurs to share value. She is the recipient of the SBA’s Women in Business Champion of the Year Award a published author. Follow Kim on Twitter @MsKHarris or #StilettoWBO or #ItsSoMeTips for business strategies and social media tips. Visit http://www.facebook.com/StilettoWBO to learn, connect, and collaborate. Schedule a private VIP consult with Kim at http://bit.ly/VIPConsult

  • UI Does Not Equal UX
    There is a lot of discussion around UI and UX. Countless times we’ll see “UI/UX” written in job postings, mentioned in meetings, etc., as if they are interchangeable, or as if they are one and the same. But what does that even mean?

    A UX designer friend of mine was telling me of a meeting they were in the other day.

    Executive: “We need to address the UI/UX.”
    UX Designer: “What do you mean? The underlying user flows, or the visual elements, or what exactly?”
    Executive: “I mean the UI/UX, this button should be naturally on the left – where I would expect it to be.”

    Of course, we will not go into the executive that says “I” too much here, as that is a whole other post… but people talking about UI and UX as if they are one and the same seems to now be a pretty standard situation.

    Let’s clear up a common misunderstanding; UI does not equal UX. There… I said it. People may see UX as Interface Design but it is not that alone.

    If you have a job listed as UI/UX, you need to ask yourself exactly what is it that you expect that person to do? While some designers may play both roles, especially in a very small company, it is worth remembering that each role requires different skills, and people that can do both well are very hard to find. I know several visionary experience designers who are exceptional at understanding their user base, but couldn’t put together a visual design to save their lives and, I know amazing UI designers that put together great interfaces, but have no clue how to conduct usability testing. And that is just fine. It is the reason why both roles exist and are not the same. A quick search on Indeed.com returned 6570 jobs for “UX designer” which included everything from User Experience Designer/Developer to Interaction Designer, UX Engineer, UX Architect and, of course, the favorite — UI/UX Designer. This can certainly be incredibly confusing for people new to UX design, or aspiring to be UX designers.

    Is this role really responsible for both the UI and UX components of a solution? More importantly, can the same person actually do both well enough for a product to be successful? Especially given that each requires enough time and effort as to be a job within itself. To answer this, let’s take a look at what each role actually involves.

    Experience Design: Incorporates the consideration of every aspect of a user’s interaction with an entity. It evokes all their senses triggering a perception of the entity’s meaning and value, as well as forging an emotional connection with it. UX can be used in the design of any medium — a service, a website, an application, an event etc. It encompasses many disciplines such as cognitive science, computer science, design, human factors and psychology. A UX designer also works with many other business functions such as marketing, communications, design, architecture and support to ensure that the experience is cohesive all the way through from start to finish.

    UI Design: The goal of user interface design is to make a user’s interaction with an entity as simple and efficient as possible, aiding them to accomplish their goals. It combines visual design, interaction design and information architecture to present an experience to a user.

    UI is very clearly an incredibly important part of UX design… It is not, therefore, synonymous with, but a key part of UX.

    This being said, there are clearly skill sets that pertain to each discipline when you are recruiting for a UI designer and a UX designer, and both of these roles are equally as important to your success. Various companies use different descriptions and titles, but there are definitely some trends emerging in the types of skills these two roles require.



    UI usually pertains to applications or web sites, but let’s expand on this to the experience of anything. UI could be called the “presentation layer”; the layer that the user sees and interacts with. This is also true with the “presentation layer” of how a workplace looks, how a restaurant looks, how a hotel looks. It is in the positioning, the alignment, the colors and the way it all makes you feel when you see it and use it.

    The fundamentals of UX design typically used in software and product can also be taken into the physical world. For example, whether designing an application or a physical world experience, designers can consider Norman’s three levels of cognitive processing.

    This is the immediate reaction we have to something. It is the reaction of our senses, for example, the things we see and hear before we have even had a significant level of interaction. Think back to when you last saw an app for the first time and immediately liked it, or walked into a restaurant and immediately felt good about it as it looked great and had a fantastic smell of deliciousness in the air. This immediate reaction to our sensory inputs is what makes us instantly decide what is good or bad. Think of the impact of this. As a designer you should always strive to make sure that your user has a positive reaction at this stage.

    This is where usability and interaction play a role. It is about the functions that are being performed — what does the product or solution actually do? Is it easy for the user to complete the actions they need to? Are they comfortable performing these actions? Here, designers should focus on how easily a user is able to understand the functions, the usability and the physical feel of the solution.

    This is a very powerful level of processing accessed through memory. It is the meaning the user associates to a product, solution or experience that makes them come back for more. Only by associating meaning can a user find true value in an experience.

    A good experience designer should be able to think through and design the end-to-end experience for anything. This means utilizing a team which would include a specialist in the presentation layer for that particular experience, whether that is an interior designer or an Application Designer.

    The way in which people emotionally connect with the experience will come from a variety of aspects, such as what they see and hear before, during and after their interaction. For example:

    • Viewing marketing and online reviews presenting the experience before the user experiences it for themselves.
    • How support or help is received in an error situation — be that an error on a website, or the wrong food being served in a restaurant.
    • How easy it is to use — how easy is it to order your food, or purchase that product?
    • How natural and comfortable it feels.
    • … the list continues.

    The key can be found in ensuring that the UX is designed end-to-end from a core understanding of the user through to design and delivery, whereas the UI is the presentation designed to expose the power of that design process underpinning the UX for the user. Combined, UI and UX are the two different aspects that literally define the success of your product.

  • How Tinder Is Changing the Dating Game
    I spent this past Valentine’s Day at a dark bar, with a “match” from Tinder, a one-sided conversation and a split bill. This floundering shot at romance didn’t leave me crying, “Chivalry is dead!” on a darkened street corner. I felt indifferent at best, shrugging the night off as a wasted outfit and a missed opportunity to tend to the unbaked sleeve of Valentine’s Day cookies in my freezer (which I’ve since taken care of).

    Despite our generation’s blind acceptance of a different standard of dating, one can’t help but wonder what happened to courtliness and tradition. In a dating world in which one-word text messages warrant excitement and a “match” is made with the swipe of a finger, you can’t help but wonder… Are we to blame, or is it all Tinder’s fault?

    The Market for Relationships

    Let’s take a look at the dating world through the lens of behavioral economics. The market for relationships is best viewed as a barter economy in which the “double coincidence of wants” is the main problem. This means that one person in the transaction must have exactly what the other person wants, and vice versa.

    Like a functional relationship, a successful barter economy can be quite difficult to cultivate. Imagine going to a gas station with a baseball bat and a deck of cards and waiting for the owner of the gas station to be in need of those exact items, finally willing to trade you for ten gallons of gas. Your chances of success are slim to none.

    Now you can see why the dating game can be rather difficult. A girl may want a six-foot-two, dark haired investment banker who loves red wine and Wes Anderson films. A guy may be looking for a five-foot-five, blonde woman in advertising who loves craft beers and wants two kids. The odds of two people searching for those certain reciprocal qualities actually finding each other are also improbable, which leads us to spend a significant amount of time with imperfect matches.

    Dating Gone Viral

    Enter Tinder. The popular dating app took 2013 by storm, allowing users to swipe their way to love (or just lovin’). In economic terms, it has drastically reduced the costliness of searching for a potential partner.

    The dating app illustrates a phenomenon that economists call “technological shock,” which is when an event produces a significant change within an economy. An example of this is the invention of birth control, which vastly reduced the cost of having sex. Prior to “the pill,” having sex meant a statistically significant possibility of producing a child, complete with long-term commitment and high expenses. The pill cut that price tag, making sex “cheaper,” so to speak.

    Tinder has done the same. By allowing users to only pair with partners who they find physically attractive (or at least capable of writing a witty bio), the initial expenditures (time, fear of rejections, the cost of a drink) of dating are more likely to be applied to a partner that is a good “match,” reducing the risk of failure and, thus, the cost. With the number of swipes growing from five million per day in 2013 to one billion per day in 2014, we can safely assert that Tinder has diminished the once-high cost of dating.

    The Safe Way to get Rejected

    2015-02-23-your_project5300x300.jpgPie Chart

    Tinder also lessens the emotional cost of dating. With men “swiping left” (saying “I’ll pass,”) on a potential suitor 53 percent of the time, and women swiping left 85 percent of the time, the rate of rejection is high. Out of the one billion daily swipes on Tinder, only 12 million matches are made — resulting in 988 million daily rejections.

    The free app allows you to judge potential matches from the comfort of your smartphone, eliminating the costly guessing game of scheduling and preparing for a dinner date only to have it potentially fail, not to mention the heartache of experiencing face-to-face rejection. Although it’s not very romantic, it’s definitely efficient.

    …So is Chivalry Actually Dead?

    With dating apps becoming the norm, we’ve seen some significant changes in the dating scene over the past few years. Tinder allows users to benefit from an influx of potential partners at an extremely low cost, creating the illusion of endless dating options. This makes many feel that they have nothing to lose in dating a variety of people, which simultaneously diminishing the prevalence of committed, long-term relationships. There’s no need to settle down if you can find a new match after one swipe, right?

    However, like the pill, the so-called “Tinder Effect” may have a long-term effect on relationships. With millennials already saying “I don’t” to marriage in favor of developing their careers or traveling the world, dating apps may exacerbate the already dwindling percentage of those open to marriage at a young age.

    In fact, Pew Research recently reported that the number of Americans who will always be single and never marry is at a historic high, with less than half of adults over the age of 18 already married (it was 72 percent in 1960). Experts are concerned about how the increasing number of chronically single Americans will affect our economy, since married couples tend to have more income, more wealth and rear more well-adjusted and economically supported children.

    So, what do you think of the “Tinder Effect”?

    This post originally appeared on GenFKD in February of 2015. It was written by GenFKD Content Manager Kelsey Clark and GenFKD FSU Fellow Kevin Gomez.

  • Spot-On Bon Jovi Parody Takes On Parents' Instagram Addictions
    In our social media-crazed culture, people often feel like life isn’t actually happening if it’s not documented on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/etc. This is the theme of the newest parody video from What’s Up Moms, “Livin’ for the Share.”

    Parodying Bon Jovi’s karaoke-ready hit “Livin’ on a Prayer,” the moms highlight their often comical determination when it comes to capturing the perfect vacation photo to share on social media. From dead batteries to bad lighting to an overload of selfies, it’s clear no obstacle is too big for parents set on documenting their family memories.

    And, summing up what so many parents know to be true, the captions at the beginning of the video read, “for every perfect photo, there are 100 that didn’t make the cut.”

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  • Here Are The Best 3 Minutes Of YouTube History
    A decade sure goes by fast when you’re watching viral videos.

    To celebrate YouTube’s 10th anniversary, Luc Bergeron has compiled nearly 200 of the most memorable clips in a slam-bang mashup that’s about 3 minutes long.

    From early favorites such as “Leave Britney Alone” to recent ones such as “Tiny Hamster Eating Tiny Burritos,” this quick tour is sure to please.

    It might also remind you of the countless hours you wasted checking out dog, cat and baby videos, but that’s another story.

    H/T Viral Viral Videos

  • A Guide To All Of Frank Underwood's Backstabbing In 'House Of Cards'
    When “House of Cards” returns on Friday for it’s third season there will be a new president in office, and as we know, he’s not a very good guy. Frank Underwood is the paragon of human (and one time, animal) manipulation and treachery. He’s ruthless, he’s calculated and he’ll stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants.

    After being snubbed for the Secretary of State nomination, Frank squirmed his way into the Vice Presidency and then behind the desk of the Oval Office. Before Season 3 of “House of Cards” premieres, here’s a look back at everyone Frank has backstabbed since day one, and the few who’ve succeeded to double-cross him:

    See larger version here.

    Story by Erin Whitney
    Infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

    “House of Cards” Season 3 premieres on Friday, Feb. 27 at 3:01 a.m. ET on Netflix.

  • Gameloft Releases Age of Sparta for Windows Phone

    It has been anticipated for a while now but Gameloft has finally release Age of Sparta for Windows Phone and Windows.  The new game puts you in charge of the Greek army as you wage war against Xerxes and the Persians.  Using the powers at your disposal and with the help of the Greek Gods, you rebuild your city to get resources and an army to mount your campaign.  You can of course also align yourself with other players to form a bigger army and battle rivals. While the game concept is not unique, Age of Sparta does have some

    The post Gameloft Releases Age of Sparta for Windows Phone appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Kindness Matters — Even on the Internet

    Six months ago, I wrote an essay about my son’s injury at Mt. Hood. I called it “Broken,” and you can read the original piece here. It was hard for me to write; I was going through some emotional times during the summer, and, as with any time a parent sees their child injured, his accident really shook me up. I needed to figure it out.

    As with all my writing, I wrote it for me. I wasn’t out to impress anyone with his injury or our story. I didn’t intend to make my life seem harder/more painful/more dramatic or fill-in-the-blank with whatever word you would like. I was simply telling my story, my experience, and sharing how it made me feel. No judgement, no pity party, nothing but sharing my love for my son, and no evaluation or proclamation that our situation was more traumatic than any other.

    My story was about healing, change, and adapting to the ‘new normal’ – something I was dealing with on several levels in my life. At the same time this happened, I was reading a blogpost by one of my favorite writer/bloggers, Katrina Kenison, who so eloquently pens the exquisite agony we feel as mothers adapting to different experiences with our children. It felt like the Universe was speaking to me, sending me ways to cope with my situation.

    I ended my story with healing, with gratitude, and with thoughts of moving forward.

    last week, my blog post was published on The Huffington Post, with the title “The Phone Call No Parent Wants To Get.” Provocative title, I agree — that’s what happens when stories get published online.

    Within minutes, there were dozens of comments. Surprised, I clicked over. I didn’t think it was the kind of post that would garner much commentary at all. It was just a retelling of an experience of motherhood.

    What I saw was full of hate.

    I fully realize that the Universe deals out trauma much more intense than what we were experiencing. No one wants to see their child — or any other child — experience pain, fear, or injury. I know that some have more than their share of heartbreak, suffering, and agony. I would never presume to understand the pain of losing a child, or watching a child suffer through any trauma.

    But that’s not what my essay was about.

    It’s too bad that those people who clicked on my post were “infuriated”, as one reader expressed. It’s too bad that they felt they just wasted their time reading it, or that they somehow had to insert their ego/story/opinion into mine.

    Why they would waste more of their time spewing hate and vitriolic comments to me is amazing.

    Kindness matters.

    Kindness matters, people. Read closely:

    You absolutely have the right to say what you think, just like I do. But please, think about how you say it.

    This essay wasn’t a piece about politics or religion. It wasn’t a controversial topic. This was a reflection, a memoir, a snapshot of time. It was my experience, not meant to be evaluated or judged against anyone else’s. What would be the point in that? How could one possibly believe that their pain is any greater than another, that their suffering is any stronger? We never know each other’s back story.

    While the internet offers an amazing opportunity for people to communicate and connect, why not do so with kindness and seek to understand and be understood? Why hide behind anonymity, freely condemning people for their ideas? Would you yell at me like that in person? Would you hunt down a book author, and plaster your words all over their home?

    I’m not impressed by your hate. I’m not even agitated enough to write back and engage in any sort of debate. It’s pointless. I’m even laughing at much of your poorly written, ignorant assumptions you make about me and my son. You have no idea. You don’t know me, you don’t know my story — and to engage with you would be to proclaim that I know yours. Your assumptions make you look like an ass, and give you no credibility. Who are you to judge me?

    Life is hard. We all have different challenges. In no way would I equate my son’s accident as anything even close to what many parents deal with on a daily basis.


    We are all on this life journey together. We all have a voice. I use mine to communicate, to understand others, and to make the world a kinder place to live in. By spewing your commentary, it makes me wonder what else you do in life that pushes us all backwards in anger, instead of forwards in compassion.

    Remember, kindness matters. Maybe I could learn from you — but not if you try to teach me with your hate.

  • Facebook Adds New Feature For Suicide Prevention
    Starting on Wednesday, Facebook is rolling out a new feature for suicide prevention.

    The social media site is partnering with Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, a nonprofit operating out of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, to give users more options when they see a friend post something that is concerning. It works on both desktop and mobile.

    If a Facebook friend posts something that you feel indicates he or she could be thinking about self harm, you’ll be able to click the little arrow at the top right of the post and click “Report Post.” There, you’ll be given the options to contact the friend who made the post, contact another friend for support or contact a suicide helpline, the University of Washington reported on Wednesday.

    After that, Facebook will look at the post. If Facebook feels like the post indicates distress, it will contact the person who posted it. That person will be greeted with the following pop ups when he or she next logs in:

    facebook suicide prevention

    Then they’ll see options to reach out to a friend or get tips and support.

    facebook suicide prevention

    If he person decides they’d like to talk to someone, they’ll be prompted to call a friend, send a friend a Facebook message or contact a suicide helpline. They can either call or message a suicide prevention expert. Facebook also provides videos that use true stories of people who have dealt with suicidal thoughts.

    There’s also a section that recommends simple relaxation techniques like baking, drawing, going for a walk or visiting a library.

    Facebook will even help someone find a self-care expert.

    facebook suicide prevention

    Facebook has had a way to report potentially suicidal content since 2011, but this is the first time this support will be built directly into posts. Until now, you had to seek out Facebook’s suicide prevention page and upload a screenshot or URL of the post.

    The new reporting feature is currently available for 50 percent of Facebook users in the U.S. and will roll out to the rest of the country in the next few months, a spokesperson for Facebook told The Huffington Post in a phone interview on Wednesday.

    “We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in,” Rob Boyle, Facebook Product Manager and Nicole Staubli, Facebook Community Operations Safety Specialist, wrote in a post for Facebook Safety on Wednesday. “They prioritize the most serious reports, like self-injury, and send help and resources to those in distress.”

    Forefront FB v8 from Mimi Gan on Vimeo.

  • Hillary Clinton Addresses Silicon Valley's Women in Tech
    Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives the keynote speech during Lead On: Watermark’s Silicon Valley Conference For Women on February 24, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images.

    Yesterday in Silicon Valley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood before an audience of 5000 women in the tech industry, eager to hear her perspective on advancing women’s leadership, advocating for themselves and other women in the workplace. The event, Lead On Conference for Women, was hosted by Watermark Institute, a community of executive women in the San Francisco Bay Area developing women leaders and advocating for the advancement of women in the workforce.

    The tech industry, a notoriously male-dominated profession, is making some strides in advancing women’s leadership. Last month, Intel, the lead sponsor of the event, made a commitment to significantly increase hiring, retention and progression of women and underrepresented minorities in their workforce over the next five years, while measuring and reporting their progress annually. “We believe increasing diversity is a highly relevant issue for our industry and that it is time to do far more,” said Renee James, President of Intel Corporation.

    While there have been some strides, there is still a significant gender gap in Silicon’s Valley’s tech industry. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn lag tremendously when it comes to women’s leadership. While Facebook boasts Sheryl Sandberg as their COO, men hold 77 percent of the top-level leadership positions, with women at just 23 percent. At Google, the top-level leadership is 79 percent male and just 21 percent female. Two percent of this leadership is Latina, and one percent is black. Yahoo and LinkedIn also have a long way to go for gender parity. So do Intel, Cisco, Twitter and Pinterest.

    “Building a diverse talent pool can’t just be a nice thing to do. It is a must do,” said Secretary Clinton. “When women’s participation is limited, our country’s prosperity is limited.”

    Studies have shown that companies with women in leadership have better revenue, better profit and better growth. But the lack of workplace policies that honor the truth of women’s lives, like paid family leave and flex time, make it difficult for women to progress to higher levels of leadership. While some tech companies offer paid family leave, the time is typically not enough, and many women end up leaving their job so that they physically recover, bond with their new baby and normalize family life. Those women who do take paid family leave and later return to their job are often marginalized, or even demoted.

    The United States is one of nine countries in the entire world without national paid family leave, and the only advanced country without it.

    “We are going backward in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward,” said Secretary Clinton, criticizing the gender gap in the tech industry.

    Not only is there a leadership gender gap in the tech industry to stew about, the pay gap remains atrocious. One recent report on the gender pay gap in Silicon Valley found that a woman with a bachelor’s degree tends to make 60 percent less than a man with the same degree.

    “If there is an issue you have been stewing about, go out and find a group of people to lead on with,” encouraged Secretary Clinton.

    She advised women to stand up for other women and raise questions about how women are being treated. Quoting her friend Madeline Albright, Secretary Clinton said: “There is a special spot in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

    “A helping hand or a kind word can make a big difference,” she said.


    Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a women’s leadership mentor and coach, specializing in helping women find their voice. She is the author of the bestselling book, Find Your Voice: A Woman’s Call to Action. Learn more at tabbybiddle.com.

  • Review of PCGS Photograde for Windows – Coin Grading Made Easier

    Coin collecting has been something that humans have done almost since coinage was invented.  Often referred to as the “Hobby of Kings” during the Renaissance, over the past two centuries has become more affordable and easier to do than ever.  Those who collect coins seriously, Numismatics, today now have the benefit of technology and applications that even a few years ago was not available.  When I started collecting back in the mid-80s, coin grading and cataloging all had to be done by hand.  Now, it’s all done with apps but there is – and always will be – a human

    The post Review of PCGS Photograde for Windows – Coin Grading Made Easier appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Coding: The Next Superpower
    I have told and retold stories describing my hackathon experience so many times to friends and family members that I have perfected every detail — so much so that it sounds like I am giving a soliloquy from Hamlet rather than casually telling a story. I now know exactly when to pause for dramatic effect (right before I tell my listener about the results being announced) and I know when to pause for subtle chuckles (right after I say how our team won the Hackathon Dance Battle.) However, if I had to sum up my hackathon experience without delivering a monologue-type speech, I would probably accurately capture it in these two sentences.

    1. It smells way too much like Axe cologne.
    2. You feel like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, (insert ambitious, excited, slightly crazy entrepreneur here) for a solid 36 hours.


    These two thoughts might seem extremely bizarre and unrelated but bear with me.

    Part 1: It smells way too much like Axe cologne.

    Computer science is notoriously labeled as being a male-dominated field. In fact, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, women hold only 18 percent of all undergraduate computer and information science degrees. It’s a pretty disheartening statistic, but as one of the five girls in my AP Computer Science class of 45, I can unfortunately corroborate the fact that female representation in computer science is depressingly lacking.

    I was therefore unsurprised (not to mention irritated) at the wave of Axe cologne that greeted me when I first entered the hackathon. After looking around for a couple minutes, I sadly confirmed my suspicions: I was a minority there by a long shot. I remember being so surprised that, for once, the line for the men’s bathroom was much longer than the line for the women’s. Only after checking the guest list did I realize how bad it was. There were twenty girls at the hackathon. Out of more than three hundred participants.

    It doesn’t have to be this way, and with the up and coming organizations that aim to close the gender gap in computer science, such as GirlsWhoCode, it probably won’t in the future. But it should not be just up to these organizations to encourage girls to try out coding — a lot of responsibility lies with the girls themselves.

    So if you are a girl reading this, I am talking to you. Once you read the second part of this article, you are going to realize what incredible events, experiences, and memories you are missing out on. You are going to realize that after learning even basic forms of coding, you can begin to build, design and create anything you want. This probably sounds extremely exaggerated, and you might not believe me right now. But coding is literally the closest thing you can get to a superpower in our mere mortal world.

    And here’s why:

    Part 2: You feel like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, (insert ambitious, excited, slightly crazy entrepreneur here) for a solid 36 hours.

    There is something enticing about the hacker type of lifestyle. It’s alluring. It wasn’t so much the idea that you could come across a billion dollar idea at 2:00 a.m. (although that is a pretty big incentive). No, it was more the idea that in 24 hours you could make something, build something, design something that could change the world. Of course, this is not always true — my first hackathon app was an Android app that wakes sleepy train-goers up before reaching their stop. It didn’t exactly solve the American obesity problem or help early diagnoses of cancer. But, I still remember, at the end of the night, when the app was finished, my team and I stared at our little Android phone for a solid five minutes, just in awe. We had just made that, from scratch, in less than 15 hours, and it works.

    It’s a magical feeling that is hard to describe. You feel a sense of pride and confidence combined with an insatiable hunger to make it better. You feel a marvelous sense of accomplishment in your own skills and knowledge. And of course, you feel a very tight, emotional bond with your teammates, because, honestly, it has been a good 22 hours and you haven’t gotten sick of them yet. Coding combines the left and right sides of brain because it harnesses your visual/art skills and couples it with your logic/thinking skills. At the end of the hackathon, you don’t feel as though you just did a giant research paper, but more like an artist finishing a masterpiece. There is no feeling like it.

    At the end of my usual impassioned hackathon speeches, I usually get the same response: “That sounds so cool! I wish I knew how to code like you!”

    That’s usually where the conversation ends, and the person I’m talking to brings up a new topic. And I think, that’swhere the problem lies. I always hear, “I wish I knew…” rather than “I want to learn NOW.” You can wish all you want, but in the end it is up to you to sit down and type in “learn how to code” in Google search. Learn how to design a basic website. Create an app on your phone. Make a video game. After all, the next hackathon is only a couple months away.

    I hope to see you there.

  • 4 Reasons to Put Your Phone Down (NOW!)
    The technological innovations that have allowed us to be constantly connected to one another are brilliant. That being said, your smart phone should not be attached to you 100 percent of the time. Being in constant communication with everyone can be rather daunting and evidently stressful. The expectation to respond to someone within a very short period of time is inescapable in today’s world. Therefore, removing this technological connection every once in a while can be beneficial for your overall health and lower your stress levels.


    If you feel like your phone has become an extension of your hand this is not necessarily a good thing. You should not feel like your phone is controlling you!


    For those who need further convincing below is a list of just four reasons to put down your phone (NOW!).

    1. You offend the people you are with when you are on your phone all the time.

    It is no fun to try and have a conversation with someone who is constantly staring at their iPhone screen. Perhaps you are deeply interested in the conversation you are having — however this is not what you convey as you are seemingly preoccupied by your phone screen.


    2. Looking up from your phone screen could help you connect with the real people around you!

    Face-to-face contact is important in order to make real lasting connections. Yes, online dating sites can be successful. However, putting your phone down and engaging in the world around you might make you notice someone you never saw before.

    Remember: Despite Siri’s sassy remarks to your forward loving advances, Siri does not having feelings for you — loving or otherwise. Do not take it personally that Siri does not love you back. You are not Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her, and you should not want to be him. (Spoiler alert: He ends up heartbroken and a little depressed.)

    Look up from your phone, engage with the people around you and you maybe be surprised at the connections you will make! Even if your not looking for love being constantly on your phone makes you seem unavailable to people around you. Making friends is much easier when you are not sucked into your smart phone.


    3. You miss things when you’re constantly on the phone!

    This one is easy to explain.


    “Did you see that purple elephant?!?!?”

    “No… What? Where is it?”

    “Oh it is gone now. You must have missed it!”

    “Shoot I was on my phone!”


    4. When you become attached to your phone it becomes slightly addictive!

    Addiction is bad! Too much of anything is never a good thing, and even though I try and remind myself of this as I eat ice cream, it can easily be applied to phone usage as well. As you become more and more attached to your phone, it becomes harder to be without it. Being unavailable sometimes is important, as it can open up time for you to think without constant interruption.


    Toss that thing away and enjoy the real world around you. Trust me you’ll feel better!


Mobile Technology News, February 24, 2015

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.

  • 'Digital legacy' letter plea issued
    People need to consider their “digital legacy” and whether they want relatives to access their online accounts after they die, a funeral company has said.
  • The card aiming to end Nigerian fraud
    How Nigeria is tackling identity fraud
  • Net of things starter kit unveiled
    New “starter kit” that promises to let start-ups make their inventions internet capable within minutes is unveiled by ARM and IBM.
  • AAPL: Analysts revise estimates as North American sales increase
    A number of analysts revised their expectations for Apple’s stock last week — only to watch those year-end estimates melt in the face of the stock’s current performance, which ended trading on Monday at yet another all-time high of $133 per share. The combination of much better-than-expected sales in the holiday quarter and the increasing interest in Apple’s other initiatives — ranging from Apple Pay to forthcoming products like the Apple Watch and a possible-but-far-off car design — has sent the stock skyrocketing.

  • VIDEO: The smart bandage treating wounds
    Dan Simmons looks at the medical devices of the future.
  • We Need a Manhattan Project for Cyber Security

    By Marc Goodman

    Of the 6,494 words President Obama uttered in his January 2015 State of the Union Address, only 108 of them were dedicated to the topic of our growing technological insecurity. Sure, the leader of the free world has a lot on his plate, but the President’s legislative proposal to “enhance information sharing” and “mandate national data breach reporting” are likely to have a minuscule impact on a serious and growing problem.

    Indeed, suggesting these measly offerings would make any meaningful difference in our global cyber security is akin to applying sunscreen and claiming it protects us from a nuclear meltdown – wholly inadequate to the scale and severity of the problem. It is time for a stone-cold, somber rethinking of our current state of affairs. It’s time for a Manhattan Project for cyber security.

    The major hacking incidents over the past few months, whether it was the Sony Pictures attack allegedly carried out by North Korea or the hundreds of millions of accounts penetrated at Target, Home Depot and JPMorganChase purportedly by Russian organized crime, make it clear that all our online data – whether financial, personal or intellectual – is at risk.

    But we have a bigger problem: Computers run the world. They run our airports, our airplanes, our cars, our hospitals, our stock markets and our power grids–and these computers too are shockingly vulnerable to attack. Though we’re racing forward at breakneck speed to connect all the objects in our physical world – the tools we need to run our society – to the Internet, we still fundamentally do not have the trustworthy computing required to make it so. We’ve wired the world, but failed to secure it.

    Indeed, it has become plainly clear that we can no longer neglect the security, public policy, legal, ethical, and social implications of the rapidly emerging technological tools we are developing. We are morally responsible for our inventions and though our technological advances are proceeding at an exponential pace, our institutions of governance remain decidedly linear. There is a fundamental mismatch between the world we are building and our ability to protect it. Though we have yet to suffer the sort of game-changing, calamitous cyber attack of which many have warned, why wait until then to prepare?


    There are good examples in history where we as a society have brought together expertise in anticipation of catastrophic risk before it occurred. When it was discovered in 1939 that German physicists had learned to split the uranium atom, fears quickly spread throughout the American scientific community that the Nazis would soon have the ability to create a bomb capable of unimaginable destruction. Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi agreed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to be apprised of the situation.

    Shortly thereafter, the Manhattan Project was launched, an epic secret effort of the Allies during World War II to build a nuclear weapon. Facilities were set up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Robert Oppenheimer was appointed to oversee the project. From 1942 to 1946, the Manhattan Project clandestinely employed over 120,000 Americans toiling around the clock and across the country at a cost of $2 billion. Those working on the Manhattan Project were dead serious about the threat before them. We are not.

    While no sane person would equate the risks from the catastrophic impact of nuclear war with those involving 100 million stolen credit cards, we must surely recognize that the underpinnings of our modern technological society, embodied in our global critical information infrastructures, are weak and subject to come tumbling down either through their aging and decaying architectures, overwhelming system complexities or via direct attack by malicious actors. It’s high time for a Manhattan Project for cyber security.

    I’m not the first to suggest such an undertaking; many others have done so before, most notably in the wake of the September 11 attacks. At the time, a coalition of preeminent scientists wrote President George W. Bush a letter in which they warned, “The critical infrastructure of the United States, including electrical power, finance, telecommunications, health care, transportation, water, defense and the Internet, is highly vulnerable to cyber attack. Fast and resolute mitigating action is needed to avoid national disaster.”

    Signatories to the letter included those from academia, think tanks, technology companies, and government agencies. These serious thinkers, not prone to hyperbole or exaggeration, warned that the grave risk of cyber attack was a real and present danger and called for the president to act immediately in creating a cyber-defense project modeled on the Manhattan Project. That call to action was in 2002.


    Sadly, precious little has changed since then with regard to the state of the world’s cyber insecurity; if anything, the situation has grown worse. Sure, there have been nominal efforts, but precious little substantive progress. What is America’s overarching strategy to protect ourselves from the rapidly emerging technological threats we face? We simply do not have one – a serious problem we may live to regret.

    A real Manhattan Project for cyber security would draw together some of the greatest minds of our time, from government, academia, the private sector, and civil society. Serving as convener and funder, the government would bring together the best and brightest of computer scientists, entrepreneurs, hackers, big-data authorities, scientific researchers, venture capitalists, lawyers, public policy experts, law enforcement officers, and public health officials, as well as military and intelligence personnel. Their goal would be to create a true national cyber-defense capability, one that could detect and respond to threats against our national critical infrastructures in real time.

    This Manhattan Project would help generate the associated tools we need to protect ourselves, including more robust, secure, and privacy-enhanced operating systems. Through its research, it would also design and produce software and hardware that were self-healing and vastly more resistant to attack and resilient to failure than anything available today. Such a project of national and even global importance would have the vision, scope, resources, budgetary support, and perhaps most importantly, a real sense of urgency required in order to make it a success.

    By bringing together those at the forefront of their respective fields, this Manhattan Project would also be able to forecast the troubling waters ahead. Though today’s technologies have been a boon for illicit actors, they will pale in comparison to the breadth and scope of technological change that will rapidly unfold before us in the coming years. Soon a plethora of exponential technologies now just in their infancy, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, and synthetic biology, will be upon us, and with them will come concomitantly profound, perhaps even life-altering, opportunities for good–but also for harm. In this exponentially accelerating world the ability of a single person to affect many – for good or evil – is now scaling exponentially, with implications for our common security.

    Despite this, we plod forward, adopting newer, brighter technologies, each promising to solve a new problem or deliver a particular convenience. The problem is not that technology is bad; in fact, science and technology hold the promise of profound benefit to humanity. The problem, as we have seen, is that those with technological know-how, be they criminals, terrorists, or rogue governments, can use their knowledge to exploit an exponentially growing portion of the general public to its detriment.


    Last month, President Obama acknowledged “no foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families.” But encouraging Congress to pass legislation on identity theft and data breach notifications is not nearly enough. There is a gathering storm before us. The technological bedrock on which we are building the future of humanity is deeply unstable and like a house of cards can come crashing down at any moment. It’s time to build greater resiliency into our global information grid in order to avoid a colossal system crash. If we are to survive the progress offered by our technologies and enjoy their abundant bounty, we must first develop adaptive mechanisms of security that can match or exceed the exponential pace of the threats before us. There’s no time to lose.

    Adapted for XPRIZE from the book Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman, available in bookstores and online Feb. 24.

    Marc Goodman has spent a career in law enforcement and technology. He has served as a street police officer, senior adviser to Interpol and futurist-in-residence with the FBI. As the founder of the Future Crimes Institute and the Chair for Policy, Law, and Ethics at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, he continues to investigate the intriguing and often terrifying intersection of science and security, uncovering nascent threats and combating the darker sides of technology. Follow him on Twitter @FutureCrimes.

    Visit XPRIZE at xprize.org, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and get our newsletter to stay informed.

  • It's Official: Apple Is Finally Getting Diverse Emoji
    Who says Santa Claus has to be white? Until now, your iPhone’s emoji keyboard did.

    A new beta release of iOS 8.3, currently available only to software developers, fixes that. It includes the option to change an emoji’s skin color, meaning you can finally choose something beyond the pale pink hands and white boys and girls currently available. The human-looking emoji — including the one for Kris Kringle — will now have six different skin tones to pick from.

    A spokeswoman for Apple confirmed the update to The Huffington Post via email, though an official release date has yet to be announced.

    Here’s what they’ll look like.

    Apple just showed off its new, diverse emoji for the first time http://t.co/0Y65NidRKs pic.twitter.com/fvYHhSFBMG

    — Yahoo Tech (@YahooTech) February 23, 2015

    Apple just showed off its new, diverse emoji for the first time http://t.co/miHzVWCU4D pic.twitter.com/SDsfmw2Bme

    — Yahoo Tech (@YahooTech) February 23, 2015

    The emoji change has been expected since at least November, when the Unicode Consortium released updated emoji standards that included a skin tone palette. The Consortium sets international rules for text and characters to insure consistency across platforms. Major companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and IBM use Unicode, which is basically why you’re able to send an emoji from your iPhone to a friend’s Android device without it displaying as an unreadable character.

    Here’s a screenshot of more of the new emoji options.

    Some have lauded the move for pushing emoji beyond certain stereotypes, like the default image of a brown man in a turban.

    However, there’s been some pushback over the yellowish skin tone option:

    Don’t understand why Asians should be thrilled to use bright yellow emojis. What are we, the ‘Bert’ race? pic.twitter.com/9eDdSCJf60

    — Tim Mak (@timkmak) February 23, 2015

    Apart from the diverse emoji, there’s also a little something extra for Apple nerds. The company has reportedly replaced the old cell phone and wristwatch emoji with an iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, as seen here:

    The new diverse emoji are also available in a “pre-release” of the latest Mac OS X version. But unless you’re a software developer, you’ll have to wait for the final versions to be released.

    H/T Techcrunch

  • Actress Emma Watson Applauds Men in Miniskirts
    Thousands of men across Turkey and Azerbaijan are posting pictures of themselves on social media wearing miniskirts. They are not only taking photos, they are also taking to the streets to express solidarity with those who have been protesting violence against women in Turkey for over a week now.


    And their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Just yesterday British actress and UN Ambassador Emma Watson who has been in the news most recently trying to fend off reports that she is dating Prince Harry, took time to tweet her support.


    The protests were spurred by the events surrounding the brutal killing of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan. The young psychology student went missing on February 11. She was last seen taking a bus home from college. Her body was found days later in a riverbed in her home town. Authorities subsequently arrested the bus driver, his father, and a friend. The driver is alleged to have taken Aslan to a remote area and attempted to rape her. She fought back using pepper-spray but was unable to overcome her assailant who beat and stabbed her to death. Then, with the assistance of his accomplices, he burned and dumped her corpse.


    The alleged murder has prompted outrage across Turkey where protestors have taken to the streets to demand reform. They have also taken to social media. Shortly after Aslan’s slaying, Turkish women began sharing their stories of sexual assault using the hash tags #sendeanlat or “#tell your story”. In the last 30 days, over 742,000 tweets were posted under this hash tag. In that same period, the hashtag #ozgecanaslan has been used more than 3.7 million times, making it one of the most popular topics on twitter for several days in a row.

    The latest trending hashtag being used now primarily by men is #ozgecanicinminietekgiy or “wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan”. The BBC reports that this movement originally started in Azerbaijan and has since spread into Turkey and beyond. Topsy reports that over the last 7 days (February 16-23) this hashtag has been used more than 9,500 times.

    But the men are not stopping there, they are also going out on the streets in their miniskirts to join protestors in a show of camaraderie. Their efforts to increase support for the cause have also prompted the use of the hashtag #EteginiGiyTaksimeGel or “Come to Taksim wearing a skirt”.


    Regardless of dress, what the protestors hope to do is draw attention to the problem of increasing violence against women in Turkey and to push for reform. Much of their frustration has been focused on the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP). In the more than decade since the AKP came to power violence against women has skyrocketed. Government reports suggest that between 2002 and 2009 violence against women rose 1400 percent. It is not clear what has happened since 2009 because the government has been unwilling to release new data for several years.

    Moreover there is a growing sense that via both their words and inaction the AKP has allowed this type of violence to escalate. It wasn’t long ago, for instance, that ruling party parliamentarian Ayhan Sefer Ustun said “a rapist is more innocent than a rape victim who chooses to have an abortion.” Similarly, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been taken to task for making the case that it is impossible to speak about equality between the sexes. Both of these statements were made prior to Aslan’s killing.

    It is yet unclear what the outcome of the current protests will be from a policy perspective. But there is no question that Aslan’s death has prompted women and men across Turkey, and in neighboring countries, to take to both the streets and social media to express their outrage.

  • Huge New Holes In Siberia Have Scientists Calling For Urgent Investigation Of The Mysterious Craters
    Scientists were baffled last July when they discovered three giant holes in the ground in the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia.

    Now, with the help of satellite imagery, researchers have located four additional craters–and they believe there may be dozens more in the region. That has them calling for an urgent investigation to protect residents living in the area.

    I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them… I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more,” Prof. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. “It is important not to scare people, but to understand that it is a very serious problem and we must research this.”

    Researchers ventured deep inside one of the holes last November, collecting data in an effort to learn why the holes formed. The leading theory is that the holes were created by gas explosions triggered by underground heat or by rising air temperatures associated with climate change, the Siberian Times reported last December.

    Since scientists can’t predict when or where gas explosions will occur, it’s dangerous to study them, according to Bogoyavlensky. But he said his team is planning to launch a new expedition, and to put stations in the area to detect earthquakes that might strike when the craters open up.

    “We need to answer now the basic questions: what areas and under what conditions are the most dangerous?” he told the Siberian Times. “These questions are important for safe operation of the northern cities and infrastructure of oil and gas complexes.”

    Experts in the U.S. echoed that sentiment.

    Dr. Carolyn Ruppel, a research geophysicist at the Woods Hole Field Center in Massachusetts and chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project, told The Huffington Post in an email that she was not surprised that new holes had been found.

    Ruppel, who is not involved in the Siberian research effort, called for more research on the holes.

    “The processes that are causing them to form likely occur over a wide area of the continuous permafrost in this part of Siberia,” she said in the email. “Scientists should definitely conduct more research on these features to determine the processes that cause their formation, how they evolve with time, and whether it is possible to predict where new ones will occur.”

    See below for photos from the November’s expedition into one of the craters.

  • Study shows smartphones can produce quantifiable microscope images

    Researchers use Cellscope device to capture images for automated analysis

    The post Study shows smartphones can produce quantifiable microscope images appeared first on iMedicalApps.

  • Edward Snowden Thought Neil Patrick Harris' 'Treason' Joke From The Oscars Was Pretty Funny
    After “Citizenfour” — the film about Edward Snowden’s efforts to expose the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics — won best documentary at the 2015 Academy Awards, Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t help but crack a joke.

    “Edward Snowden couldn’t be here for some treason,” Harris said.

    Reporter Glenn Greenwald, who helped with the documentary “Citizenfour” and broke the NSA news in The Guardian in 2013, called the joke “pretty pitiful,” “stupid” and “irresponsible.” But Snowden had a different reaction.

    “To be honest, I laughed at NPH,” Snowden said in a reddit AMA on Monday. “I don’t think it was meant as a political statement, but even if it was, that’s not so bad. My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.”

    Read more from the AMA with Snowden, Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras here.

  • Why the Public Loves Leaked Photos
    Another week, another leak. Flux is the new norm, and surprise is the new expectation. The latest unveiling has been a double-dose of diva exposure back to back. Not only a Cindy Crawford unretouched magazine photo made it on the scene earlier this week, but just days later, a Beyonce unretouched L’oreal ad photo. Most people seem to think this is about standards of beauty or issues exclusively about women, but there is far more to it than that.

    This phenomenon is part of a much larger trend. To assume that the leaks and the reaction to them is solely about beauty is like selecting the first slightly dented can on the shelf of your local grocer rather than reaching a bit farther to the back to get a more perfect one. In other words, easy and obvious. No, this is about something that plays into a much larger trend. While the convo around beauty and “authentic self” is a part of the cultural mindset, the real issue is a desire for transparency in all areas. This is a deepening cultural value that is growing in impact. This is about revealing the hidden, often times trying to embarrass those in enviable positions and trying to poke at them, bring them down, and making them and/or making a particular system more transparent. It’s about a democratization-of-sorts, or bottom-up stance somehow showing that the public is stating that the jig is up in terms of having unattainably perfected images, power, lifestyles, rules constantly promoted it. From celebrities to corporations, we continually see more disclosures of secrets (think: Sony Motion Pictures emails exposing racist thoughts), to hacking (think: Anonymous and crippling bank sites at which it is angered) and, yes, for better or worse, unflattering and/or nude (and soon in compromising positions) photos of notable figures (think: Anthony Weiner).

    What will this mean? Certainly, different standards of privacy and new cyber security methods will be created but also personal decryption methods and more will begin to be introduced. We’ll all have to think a lot more about what images and info we have out there and where. In addition Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist at Bing says, “People love secrets revealed; even for very young children, the surest way to make someone want something is to tell them they can’t have it. Even better when it is a celebrity, because it seems unusual, exotic. But as cliched as it may sound, celebrities are people too — despite our curiosity, these leaks cause real people real pain and it is important that we don’t become a culture in which becoming famous means giving up your basic rights.”

    Watch for discussion to build around this unique intersection of rights, cultural change, and the introduction of additional emerging tech platforms. For sure, it will be a hot one!

  • 6 Women Rocking Tech for Good
    Folks, I figure it’s really important to highlight women who are really making positive changes across the tech sector. These people aren’t often given the recognition they deserve. If you’re able, please support ’em and follow them on Twitter. They’re the real deal.

    (Also, please note the five women to watch in 2015.)

    rocking tech

    1. Jessica Greenwalt, Co-founder and Lead Designer, CrowdMed
    Follow @jessgreenwalt

    While in high school, she started a freelance design company which grew into an international design and Web development firm, then founded Pixelkeet, the world’s only “parakeet-run” graphic design and Web development firm.

    More recently, Jessica co-founded CrowdMed, whose approach and healthcare innovation help people overcome obstacles and silos that exist within the medical establishment, empowering patients and assisting doctors who simply cannot know everything about every medical condition. CrowdMed helps diagnose medical issues faster and more accurately, not only improving outcomes but saving lives.

    2. and 3. Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, Founders, Roominate
    Follow @Roominate

    Alice grew up playing in her dad’s robotics lab and made her first toy when she was only eight years old. When she asked her dad for a Barbie, he gave her a saw instead. So she made her own doll out of wood and nails! As a young girl, Bettina loved Lego and built cities filled with spaceships with her older brother. More recently, Bettina has conducted research on bionic contact lenses and worked as an electrical design engineer at Discera and KLA-Tencor.

    Alice and Bettina are changing the way girls play and learn through Roominate, their innovative line of wired building toys for girls. Roominate is designed to get girls ages 6-plus excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). With Roominate, girls practice hands-on problem solving and spatial-skill development and get an intuitive introduction to circuits. Roominate blends creativity, engineering, design, and fun.

    4. Rose Broome, Founder and CEO, HandUp
    Follow @rosical

    Rose is passionate about using the power of technology to create social change. She came up with HandUp after passing a woman sleeping on the street in the winter of 2012 and wanting to see a new way to give. Rose loves organizing the community and has been active in groups like Science Hack Day and Food Not Bombs.

    HandUp is a direct donation system for homeless people and neighbors in need that lets you donate to a specific person via their web profile and SMS. Funds can only be used on basics like food, medical care, and housing. HandUp is currently in a pilot with 100 homeless people in San Francisco, in partnership with Project Homeless Connect.

    5. Grace Garey, Donor Ops, Watsi
    Follow @gracegarey

    Grace is obsessed with the idea that connecting people will change the world. Before she started working on Watsi, she studied post-conflict development in Ghana, lived in a hospital in India, did humanitarian advocacy in D.C., and launched a student outreach program at Kiva that generated over $5 million for entrepreneurs in its first year.

    Watsi is a global crowdfunding platform that enables anyone to directly fund health care for people around the world. They’re made up of a team of developers, doctors, and marketers building Watsi because they believe that everyone deserves health care.

    6. Pooja Sankar, CEO and Founder, Piazza
    Follow @poojanathsankar

    Pooja was one of three women in her undergraduate computer science class at IIT Kanpur (India). She had grown up in an all-girls high school, and her 50 male classmates had grown up mostly in all-boys high schools. She said, “We were too shy to interact with one another.”

    Pooja explained that she started Piazza so every student can have that opportunity to learn from her classmates, whether she’s too shy to ask, whether she’s working alone in her dorm room, or whether her few friends in her class don’t know the answer either. She wants Piazza to be a remedy for students who are not given the intellectual space, freedom, or support to fulfill their educational potential and desire for learning. Piazza is designed to connect students, TAs, and professors so every student can get help when she needs it — even at 2 a.m.

    Who would you like to see added to this list? Add your suggestions to the comments, and my team and I will take note. Thanks!

  • Not Digital First, Not Mobile First, but People First!

    Is there a difference between disruption and transformation?

    Between shaking up a business sector (I’d say “business model,” but that is proving to be less and less true) and transforming society?

    Between monetizing fabulous enablement and actually changing people’s lives for the good?

    For example, we talk about Uber disrupting the “get a taxi” model, but I have yet to hear that Uber has transformed society. Au contraire, if you follow the exploits of some of their drivers….

    On the other hand, I’d argue that Amazon did transform something, and that was the focus on stickiness that was killed by one-click shopping, while Google transformed the linear website experience with the ability to get right to the place you wanted.

    But I’d continue my argument by saying that neither has transformed society. Certainly not like Gutenberg transformed the world by making information accessible to all. Since then all has been evolutionary.

    Somehow we forget that technology is a mere enabler, and since fire and the wheel were discovered, invented and uncovered, technology has played its role as human need drove innovation.

    Reed Hastings, of Netflix fame, said it best:

    In fact, technology has been the story of human progress from as long back as we know. In 100 years people will look back on now and say, ‘That was the Internet Age.’ And computers will be seen as a mere ingredient to the Internet Age.

    It is no surprise, then, that as our focus, in the developing world, is not on transformation but on disruption, if you will, the 10 largest VC-backed financing deals in mobile in the United States were around car sharing, content sharing, security management and mobile phone recycling.

    All great deals for the investors, all great products and services for those like me who use them, but Snapchat, Uber or Flipboard, to name a few, will not help transform developing countries or begin to solve society’s problems.

    Let me be clear: This is not a diatribe, as I said I use and love those and more (maybe not Snapchat); it is merely an observation after the time I spent in South Africa last week.

    The issue is really that we have become enamored with what we consider to be technology (I refer you back to Reed Hastings) and really isn’t — and clearly enamored with crazy valuations and money to be made.

    Add to that our digibabble predilections and frankly I think we are missing some amazing opportunities to actually transform the world and do some good, not to mention make money.

    I refer of course to mobile — now that “digital first” has morphed into “mobile first.”

    We are jaded. We think everyone in the world has a tablet or a smartphone. Worse, even though there are way more Androids out there than iPhones or iPads, the cool factor promoted by the people who create the images we see makes it look the other way around.

    Actually, the top three mobile phone vendors, shipments and market share in 2013, according to IDC, shows Samsung first, then Nokia, and Apple at number three.

    And there you have it: Apple wrongly seems to dominate, when in truth feature phones — plain old vanilla, semi-literate handsets ­– make up 45 percent of the world market, as so many inhabitants of developing countries ­– who don’t have access to reliable power sources, let alone WiFi, and who want clean water, access to better pricing at markets, and secure means of transferring and storing their wages — can only wonder what Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja are all about.

    And while financial services are high on everyone’s list in the developed world, we want secure ease of use, not life transformation.

    We struggle with e-wallet applications and complain about the digital services our banks offer, yet in parts of the world mobile money penetration far outstrips bank accounts — a disruption in our world but a transformation in theirs, as bank accounts were irrelevant and not equipped to cope with the kind of security and mini-payments that would really change lives.

    And the implications are vast and important and, by the way, hugely profitable for all providers of goods and services — including the Cokes and P&Gs of the world — and that is a good thing, with transformational possibilities as well.

    Bottom line: If you are serious about innovation, if you really want to make a difference and money, if you want to transform and not just disrupt, study what is happening in Africa and other developing countries and see if you can apply some of that learning and energy and sheer innovation to the rest of us.

    My fear is that we too often forget that while digital is everything, not everything is digital, and that as we become more and more enamored with what we think is technology, we are sliding backwards socially and losing sight of what is really important. Listen to Aldous Huxley:

    “Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”

    And I am terrified as I watch ISIS and others embrace the wrong kind of progress.

    So when I hear “digital first” or “mobile first,” I yell at the top of my lungs, “People first!

    Thank you, Africa, for reminding me.

    What do you think?

  • The Most Liked Instagram From The Oscars Will Surprise You
    There were plenty of Instagram-worthy moments from Sunday night’s Oscars: Kate Upton photobombed Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, J. Lo and Meryl Streep took a selfie. But we bet you probably couldn’t guess the one photo that garnered the most Likes of them all, with a whopping 719,000 people who double-tapped (and counting):
  • Ad tool is 'worse than Superfish'
    A tool shipped with security products could pose a bigger security risk than Superfish – another controversial program, say experts.
  • Los Angeles Schools Can't Afford Tech Device For Every Student
    LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chief of the Los Angeles Unified School District says there isn’t enough money to provide every student with an iPad or other computer device.

    The remarks Friday by interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines are the latest blow to the district’s $1.3 billion technology initiative, which is under federal investigation.

    The initiative was passed two years ago under former Superintendent John Deasy but only a small fraction of the district’s 650,000 students ever received tablets and the rollout was fraught with problems.

    There also were questions about the bidding process and Deasy resigned under scrutiny.

  • How The Obama Administration Is Asking Tech Companies To Help Combat ISIS
    WASHINGTON — In response to the Islamic State’s savvy use of social media to spread its messages and publicize its deeds, the Obama administration says it is ramping up engagement with the tech sector, approaching big-name Silicon Valley companies to ask about boosting anti-terrorism narratives from people outside of the government.

    Over the last few months, the Islamic State — the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL — has put the Obama administration in the unenviable position of playing digital catch-up. The group’s videos of executions of U.S. citizens are expertly produced and then widely disseminated on popular platforms like YouTube. By the time the U.S. government has verified the authenticity of a given video, it’s already gone viral. Tech companies are left playing whack-a-mole with the accounts spreading the videos.

    The Obama administration acknowledged in The New York Times last week that the government is “getting beaten” by the sheer volume of social media outreach coming from Islamic State supporters. So the government is now hoping to round up every ally it can, no matter how unlikely — from Twitter representatives to ordinary social media users — to help it fight back.

    “Our engagement with the tech sector is intensifying because of the nature of the threat,” said a State Department official with knowledge of the efforts.

    Last week, representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter attended the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism. The event brought together senior officials from the United Nations, as well as private-sector and civil society representatives like Global Survivors Network and the Anti-Defamation League, to put together an agenda to counter extremism.

    The Obama administration is also in talks with tech companies how those companies can help promote anti-terrorism narratives from non-governmental actors who are, as the official put it, “committed to taking on the ideological fight.”

    The State official outlined a couple of areas where the agency is seeking help from tech companies. “One question we have for them, and this is a continuing conversation, is about what their terms of use allow and don’t allow,” the official said. “If you talk to them, a lot of them have actually been very aggressive in taking down content that they believe violates their terms of use, so that’s one thread of activity.”

    The Obama administration has long battled the Islamic State with its own social-networking efforts, such as the “Think Again Turn Away” campaign launched by the State Department in 2013. But the effectiveness of its methods have been questioned. Think Again Turn Away has received criticism for giving jihadists a platform to spat with the U.S. government on Twitter on issues like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

    Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department terrorism official, told the NYT last week that a small State agency called the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), established in 2011 to coordinate counter-messaging, “was never taken seriously” after the first year or two, and got little support from higher-ups.

    The State Department hasn’t given up on this strategy, however. The CSCC is planning to coordinate more than 350 State Department Twitter accounts, along with accounts operated by the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security and foreign allies, in a move to combat Islamic State messaging online, The New York Times reports.

    The State official acknowledged to The Huffington Post that “the United States government has limited credibility when it comes to messaging.” He pointed to religious leaders, entrepreneurs and people who have lost family members to violence as examples of non-government voices who can offer compelling anti-terrorism messages. Other possible allies, he said, include human rights activists, former extremists and even comedians.

    “They need help telling the story and that’s where the tech sector can come in, helping them curate and distribute content [and] leverage their platforms,” the official said. He later added that it “would be great” if some of these campaigns were to go viral.

    But that will require cooperation from tech companies that remain deeply skeptical of collaborating directly with the Obama administration in the wake of disclosures of government surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    It’s clear that tech companies are already using tools to counter hate speech. Twitter, which has come under fire for how it responds to abuse on its platform — particularly harassment of women — has partnered with a number of groups to work on various “counter-speech” campaigns. But it’s not clear to what extent the company will extend those efforts to assist the Obama administration in its goals.

    A Twitter spokesman said that the company has “plan[s] to participate in the State Department’s effort” but will do so by assisting third-party NGOs, including the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S. and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism in France.

    He confirmed that four members of Twitter attended the White House summit last week, including Colin Crowell, vice president of global public policy; Maryam Mujica, who manages Twitter’s public policy team; and Will Carty, a Twitter lobbyist.

    Patricia Cartes, head of global trust and safety outreach at Twitter, told HuffPost that the company has expanded partnerships related to “counter-speech” over the last year. Twitter has helped NGOs do research and promoted some of their tweets, and has trained some volunteers and activists on reporting mechanisms and policies.

    “You tend to have 10 percent of people on the extremes of any ideology, and those are nearly impossible to influence,” Cartes said. “However, you do have the 80 percent of people in the middle” who can be influenced through education, she added.

    Jared Cohen, a former State Department policy planning staffer and the founder of the Google Ideas think tank, also attended the White House summit. A Google spokesperson told HuffPost that “exploring counter-narratives is something that Google Ideas has been working on for a long time.” Google declined to provide additional comment on potential discussions with the State Department.

    In April 2012, Google Ideas launched Against Violent Extremism, an online network that aims to provide a platform for former violent extremists and victims to connect. Google’s YouTube has also hosted “Abdullah-x,” a cartoon that features a Muslim spreading anti-jihadi messages. This might seem insufficient to counter the wildfire-like spread of the Islamic State’s beheading videos, but counter-speech is only one part of Google’s anti-terrorism efforts.

    Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and public policy at Google, said in a speech earlier this month to the Bavarian parliament in Munich that Google automatically terminates the account of any terror group and allows law enforcement to flag videos containing terrorist content.

    “All of us have been horrified by ISIS and their use of the media to spread propaganda,” she said.

  • YouTube Kids Is a Parent's Best Friend

    My wife and I were having dinner with some friends recently when I decided to show their four year-old twins a video from YouTube. I loaded up the app on my phone, searched for a video and played it but — all the while — I had a nagging fear that maybe I accidentally launched a video that’s not appropriate for that age group. YouTube, as one would expect, has a wide variety of content and even though they have rules prohibiting nudity and violence, there is plenty there that’s not suitable for four year-olds — and that’s as it should be. Still millions of children — and their parents — rely on YouTube for great content.

    But the next time I visit our friends’ house, I won’t have to worry cause I’ll be able to use the new YouTube Kids app with content for kids and only for kids. Or, as Shimrit Ben-Yair, mother of two and YouTube Kids Group Product Manager, posted on the YouTube blog, “It’s the first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.”

    Listen to Larry Magid’s CBS News 1-minute segment about YouTube Kids

    Brilliant idea

    Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea and, after extensive testing of the product over the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that — while nothing can replace parental involvement with their children’s media use — tools like YouTube Kids can be a parents’ best friend because it helps them do their job better when it comes to finding age appropriate content.

    Leading children’s channels

    The free app, which runs on Android and iOS, features content from leading children’s entertainment and education brands including DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, National Geographic Kids, Sesame Street and other shows from PBS Kids. There is also a music section where children can enjoy music videos and a separate “learning” icon that brings up content from PBS Kids, Ted Ed, Kahn Academy and other sources of kid-friendly learning resources.

    Parental controls

    Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so parents can set a timer to control how long their kids can watch (it defaults to 30 minutes but can be extended to 1:20). And parents can also turn off background music — something I recommend since you’re likely to find it annoying after awhile even if your kid loves it. Parents can also turn off the search feature so their kids can only select from featured content.

    The app is advertiser-supported but the ads are, of course, age-appropriate and relatively unobtrusive.

    About time

    Personally, I think it’s about time that Google released a kid-friendly app for its youngest users. And speaking of time, it’s also about time management. Kids should be encouraged to consume age-appropriate entertainment and educational video, but — like everything else in life — it should be part of a balanced activity diet that also includes reading, conversations, exercise and plain-old playing.

    Disclosure: I am co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Google. I was per-briefed on this product, tested early versions and provided feedback to Google on its features.

Mobile Technology News, February 23, 2015

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.

  • Here's How You Can Build Your Very Own Lego Oscar
    Did you see Emma Stone and Oprah Winfrey holding giant Lego Oscars and get a bit jealous? The statues from the insane “Everything Is Awesome” live-performance at the 2015 Academy Awards were made by artist Nathan Sawaya, whose creations ended up in the hands of notable nominees in the audience:

    Image: Giphy

    Sawaya tweeted a video of how he made the statue:

    Want to see the #LEGO #Oscars in the making? Check it: http://t.co/kQPH301gxc

    — Nathan Sawaya (@NathanSawaya) February 23, 2015

    But if that was too quick of an instruction for you, below is a longer instructional video on how to make a larger version of the Oscar statue:

    And for the more avant-garde, here’s an instructional video on how to make an Oscar … something:

  • How Microsoft Gets Around Carrier Dependency in Windows 10 for Phones

    One of the challenges that has plagued Microsoft with Windows Phone since its inception has been carriers.  If you look at the history of Windows Phone 7, 8 and 8.1, the carriers have always held the strings when it comes to updates on devices.  In some cases, particularly in Europe, this has been fine as the carriers have gotten updates out in a timely manner.  Here in the US however it has been nothing short of a debacle.  Verizon Lumia Icon users just now got Lumia Cyan (rolled up with Lumia Denim) after it was available for a year.  AT&T

    The post How Microsoft Gets Around Carrier Dependency in Windows 10 for Phones appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • VIDEO: Drone boss: 'I get a lot of support'
    Jordi Munoz started his company while waiting for a green card now it’s one of the biggest commercial drone makers in the world
  • The immigrant who became a drone firm boss
    The Mexican immigrant who set up the US’s largest drone firm
  • Can we escape urban commuting hell?
    What tomorrow’s urban transport systems might look like
  • VIDEO: Moves to make chess a spectator sport
    MIT’s Media Labs aims to make chess more accessible to spectators by including live match data.
  • Hands On: Calcbot 2 (iOS, OS X)
    You need a pretty compelling reason to ditch the calculator that Apple supplies on iPhones – and the new Calcbot 2 from TapBots offers several. Weirdly, Apple still doesn’t provide a default calculator on the iPad, so at some point you’re going to want one, and when you eventually need it, you’ll find this app compelling.

  • This Chair Assembles Itself
    The last chair you purchased likely arrived fully assembled, but let’s be clear: It didn’t assemble itself. There’s only one chair in the world that can do that, and it’s way too small for you to sit on. This very special chair, standing upon a 15 cm by 15 cm footprint, is the work of Skylar Tibbits and his team at the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT.
  • People With Disabilities Can Easily Find Accessible Spots With This App
    Inspired by his own experiences, a filmmaker has created an app to help people with disabilities.

    Jason Da Silva was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system, in 2006, and uses a motorized scooter to get around, according to Mashable. As a filmmaker based in New York City, he quickly discovered that it wasn’t so easy for people with disabilities to maneuver around the city.

    It was very frustrating,” Da Silva told Mashable back in 2013. “I was finding that the freedoms that I had — just simple things like meeting up with friends and things, it was becoming more and more difficult.”

    With these challenges in mind, Da Silva created the AXS Map, a crowdsourced mobile app and website powered by Google Maps, that allows people with disabilities to find accessible spots. Users rate and review the wheelchair accessibility of restaurants, stores, hotels and other places.

    The app launched in 2012, and Alice Cook, Da Silva’s wife and executive director of his nonprofit, AXS Lab, told Fast Company that it will eventually have a social feature. Da Silva and his team also host “mapathons” during which people are invited to get together to rate and review locations.

    The filmmaker told Time.com that the ratings and reviews aspect of his app is crucial. While the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act required businesses to become more accessible for people with disabilities, he said that in reality, this isn’t always the case. The reviews allow people to note specific details about the accessibility of a certain location, and then lets others know about those nuances.

    Ultimately, Da Silva told Time, he hopes that his work can help more people understand the obstacles that those with disabilities face.

    “People without disabilities don’t realize all the challenges that we face, like, ‘is a restroom accessible? Is there one small step outside a restaurant that would keep us from being able to get in?” Da Silva told the outlet. “Opening up the ratings to the community is an attempt to bridge the gap between people living with mobility issues and the larger communities that we live in.”

    To learn more about AXS Map, visit its website here, or check out Da Silva’s nonprofit, AXS Lab here.

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  • The Most Important Entrepreneurship Advice From a Serial Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist

    “Leap and the net will appear.” — John Burroughs

    Christopher Michel (Twitter: @chrismichel) is a writer, explorer, investor and a serial entrepreneur who has has started and also invested in a number of companies. Michel’s three distinct careers have taught him many lessons on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Michel first served as a Naval Flight Officer in the United States Navy, then he founded Military.com and Affinity Labs – both companies were sold to Monster.com. Michel is currently managing Nautilus Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm which he founded in 2008. Michel also travels the world telling people’s stories as an inspirational photographer. He has photographed some of the world’s most unusual places and people, from the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the edge of space aboard a U-2 Spy Plane.

    Christopher Michel – Nautilus Ventures

    Michel shares some of the primary success characteristics that define great start-ups and entrepreneurs.

    8 ways to be a successful entrepreneur:

    1. Take a leap of faith – Michel says that the single, most important piece of advice for an entrepreneur or a potential entrepreneur to change the odds in their favor comes from a quote by American naturalist John Burroughs, “Leap and the net will appear.” This quote is everything to Michel and he says, “The difference between everyone in the world and a lot of these well-known entrepreneurs is that they just took some risk.” People that are really smart, really thoughtful and understand the deep complexity of companies are often paralyzed with analysis. When Michel meets a great entrepreneur he almost doesn’t care what the idea is exactly, but if they are working on a pretty good idea, he says they should just go do it.

    “Some things need to be believed to be seen.” — Madeleine L’Engle

    2. Authentically believe-in your idea – Before you leap, it’s important to be authentic about your idea. To really believe in it and have passion around something that you think really needs to be fixed is a characteristic of an entrepreneur that Michel just adores. With so many people wanting to be entrepreneurs Michel is not so sure that as many of them believe in their idea as maybe they did five or six years ago: “They really believe in that idea of being an entrepreneur and they know they need to pretend to believe in their idea, but do they truly believe in it, because this is a very important characteristic. It’s not required, but it’s very important because if things get difficult and they get challenged in a really fundamental way, do they have the belief and the passion to take it all the way?” As American writer Madeleine L’Engle said, “Some things need to be believed to be seen.”

    3. Have tenacity – The portfolio of characteristics that seem to work really well for entrepreneurs include integrity, caring for people, passion and some smarts. And another one that Michel feels is really important is tenacity.

    “If you don’t have a lot of tenacity you will not go that far and you will potentially miss the opportunities to do some really great things,” says Michel as he recalls how over and over and over again he was faced with challenges where very smart people including board members told him to stop working in his company, but he didn’t give up. “A lot of real innovation happens through these difficult processes. And this is why a lot of big companies can’t really do the most difficult kinds of innovation, because it requires a kind of super human effort and a kind of personal sacrifice that only happens when an entrepreneurs feels that this is almost the most important thing to them.”

    4. Build an incredible culture – Michel has spent a lot of time thinking about the leadership mistakes around the characteristics of great companies that he didn’t follow, like was everyone in the company an A-player, were we getting rid of people that weren’t performing that were either nice but not great, or maybe great but not good people that were not a good fit in the company and didn’t contribute to an incredible corporate culture.

    One of the things Michel believes in so deeply is how possible it is for CEO’s to build incredible cultures. He says there is an approach to building that kind of culture and when you do, you can do anything. You’ve built a machine that can do anything. You’ve built the Special Forces team that can solve any problem and break through any walls.

    5. Focus on activities vs. outcomes – In his blog post on outcomes vs. activities, Michel talks about how it’s easy for a company to fall into the trap of doing a lot of things that seem like good ideas or good activities, but they don’t lead to outcomes for the company. To have the discipline to see the difference, Michel recommends that before engaging in an activity, leaders need to determine if they will make a difference by asking: can you tie it to an outcome for the company, can you tie it to revenue, can you tie it to users, can you tie it to business success?

    Michel thinks that CMO’s and CEOs need to be looking with incredible skepticism at a lot of these activities as they don’t move the needle for them and he says, “It’s easy to point at the things that don’t seem like good things, but it is really hard to triangulate on those few things, those few levers that really make a difference. You could do lots of good things, but there might be a few things and if you did them right, that really move the needle.”

    A Christopher Michel selfie at edge of space aboard a U-2 Spy Plane

    6. Have really good leadership – Coming from the military where there is no special pay package for extra performance yet people worked hard because they wanted to do the right thing and they felt proud about what they were doing and were acknowledged for it, Michel thinks that companies get confused around the things that really matter to employees. They think it’s compensation or an equity package or some earn-out or what the office space looks like, but according to Michel, while those things are important they are not the real drivers of human behavior.

    “This whole pay compensation schema that we think is driving a lot of behavior is a false area of optimization. The primary driver is really good leadership. It’s really inspiration. It’s really making people feel valued that this is a good use of their time and proud of the work they’re learning. You know, those are the things that we should be working on. Those are the biggest levers. A lot of people will work for almost nothing if they like what they’re doing is important,” says Michel.

    7. Build trust and connect with people – “I would say that you could skip your MBA and read a book called the ‘Thin Book of Trust’ by Charles Feltman. It’s a really short and incredible book that will take you about 20 minutes to read,” says Michel who feels that, “If you could build trust with people and connect with them, people will do almost anything for you. You can give them direct feedback, you can push hard and ask a lot of them and if they trust you, you can have a great dialogue, but if they do not trust you, you have a major problem. And you know, it’s sub optimal performance if you don’t trust people and it’s incredible performance if you can build a culture of trust.”

    As a first time CEO of Military.com, Michel shares how he was sufficiently insecure and felt like he needed to bully people, or show that he was smarter and not vulnerable. Seeing how this “giant mistake” of the overcompensation of his own insecurity led to huge trust issues, he has grown to love people and love working with them and appreciate their lives and what they’re going through. He says, “Once you build that kind of environment, your relationship with your employees and company is a lifetime relationship. I even tell them that one day you’re going to lose passion about the company and I’m going to help you get another job because this isn’t a one-off transaction.”

    8. Be vulnerable and talk to people – When it comes down to being a great entrepreneur, Michel thinks the first step is to be vulnerable and to talk to people. He remembers how in his latest company, Affinity Labs, they built such as cool culture that even junior people felt that they had the right and obligation to give him feedback as the CEO.

    “By appreciating and being okay with hearing all of the things you aren’t doing right, you almost create a kind of invulnerability where you can look at it intellectually and depersonalize it because you are all in it together,” says Michel who thinks vulnerability is the big opportunity because it allows you to really know people and it can be a really cool experience.

    You can watch the full interview with Christopher Michel here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3PM EST as we host CXOTalk – connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.

  • Hacker Extorts Bitcoin Ransom From Illinois Police Department
    MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago police department paid a hacker a $500 ransom to restore access to data on a police computer that the hacker had disabled through the use of an increasingly popular type of virus.

    The police department in Midlothian, a village southwest of Chicago, was hit in January by a form of the Cryptoware virus, which encrypted some files on a department computer, leaving them inaccessible without the encryption key, the Chicago Tribune reported (http://trib.in/17k9Hkv ). Midlothian Police Chief Harold Kaufman confirmed the department had been hacked, but declined further comment. A Tribune open records request turned up a village invoice listing the payment with the heading “MPD virus.”

    An unknown hacker said that if the department wanted to unencrypt the files, it had to pay a ransom in bitcoin, a digital currency that is virtually untraceable, said Calvin Harden Jr., an IT vendor who works with the village.

    The village had to make a tough decision, Harden said, and chose to make the payment because going after the hacker might have been more trouble than it was worth.

    “Because the backups were also infected, the option was to pay the hacker and get the files unencrypted, which is what we decided to do,” he told the newspaper.

    The problem of hackers demanding ransoms from law enforcement and government agencies around the country has been spreading over the past year or two, said Fred Hayes, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The city of Detroit and a sheriff’s office in Tennessee recently suffered Cryptoware attacks by ransom-seekers, the Tribune reported.

    Hayes said his advice to departments is to back up their data.

    “This is something that quite a few people recently … have been experiencing,” he said.


    Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

  • You're Not Losing Your Memory. You're Just Distracted.
    science of us
    By Melissa Dahl
    Follow @melissadahl

    I am constantly misplacing my keys and I am pretty terrible with names, and sometimes, I wonder: At what point do these little flaky moments of forgetfulness become something to worry about? In a recent interview with Newshour, Lisa Genova — the neuroscientist and author of Still Alice, now an Oscar-nominated film starring Julianne Moore — answered that question, as it’s one she apparently hears all the time. She briefly explained how medical experts can tell when memory issues become troubling:

    So the signs are like, you can’t remember the name, and then you don’t have the first letter, you don’t have the number of syllables. It doesn’t then just pop into your head an hour [later] while you’re driving down the street. It’s not going to come on the tip of your tongue, ever. Keys, you can’t find the keys and when you do, you don’t remember what they’re for. Or you find them and they’re in the refrigerator or somewhere strange.

    Science Of Us: In Praise Of Zoning Out

    For most of us, though, these types of memory slips aren’t something to worry about, Genova said. Even the average, healthy 25-year-old will experience moments like these three or four times a week; the difference is that the forgotten name will soon be recalled, or the keys will eventually be found between the couch cushions. It’s less likely that these things are being caused by a degenerative disease at all; for younger, healthy adults, distraction is the real issue. “Most of us, when we can’t find our keys, it actually isn’t a memory problem, it’s an attention problem,” Genova said. “You’re doing five things at once and you never actually paid attention to where you put them in the first place.” Guilty.

    Science Of Us:
    Why Men Always Think Women Are Flirting
    What Happens When Rich People Marry Poor People
    We’re Testing Children On The Wrong Things
    How To Be A Better Online Dater
    Some People Have An Actual Phobia Of Growing Up

  • A Conversation with Esther Wojcicki on 'Moonshots in Education'
    Moonshots in Education

    Esther Wojcicki is an award winning journalism teacher and the author of a new book on education called Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom. The book explores digital and online learning with models and examples from schools that are already implementing digital learning.

    Moonshots is an approachable book that’s part Wojcicki philiophy and part tips and advice from her co-author Lance Izumni and contributors Alice Chang and Alex Silverman. Actor James Franco (a former student of Esther’s) wrote the foreword. One of my favorite passages is about a culture of trust.

    The first thing to establish in a classroom is a culture of trust. That doesn’t mean the students are given complete freedom to run wild and do what they want; it means the students trust each other to help in the learning process and the teacher trusts the students.

    A conversation

    Esther Wojcicki

    The interview you can hear below, a conversation really, is more than just about the book. It’s about an educational philosophy that stresses doing rather than just studying and is based on something quite radical in education — respect for students.

    And the reason I call this a conversation rather than just an interview is because Esther touched on subjects that are near and dear to my heart as a former educational reformer back in a different era.

    Click to listen to my CBS Radio News conversation with Esther

  • Where To Watch This Year's Oscar-Nominated Documentaries
    The Oscars are Sunday, which means there are precious few hours remaining to catch up on this year’s nominees. And while many of the major acting races are locked up, and even Best Picture seems to have broken down to “Boyhood” versus “Birdman,” things are still a bit unsettled in the Best Documentary category. The experts’ money is on Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour,” but “Virunga” and “Finding Vivian Maier” stand close behind. Ahead, everything you need to know about the five Oscar-nominated documentaries, including where to watch them before Sunday.


    What it’s about: “‘Citizenfour’ is a real-life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).”

    Where to watch: “Citizenfour” is still out in limited release. On Monday, the documentary will debut on HBO at 9 p.m.


    What it’s about: “‘Virunga’ is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten, and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.”

    Where to watch: “Virunga” is available on Netflix right now.

    “Finding Vivian Maier”

    What it’s about: “‘Finding Vivian Maier’ is the critically acclaimed documentary about a mysterious nanny who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and, discovered decades later, is now among the 20th century’s greatest photographers. Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, Maier’s strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never-before-seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her.”

    Where to watch: “Finding Vivian Maier” is available via Showtime On Demand, Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.

    “Last Days in Vietnam”

    What it’s about: “During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The United States has only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country. As Communist victory becomes inevitable and the U.S. readies to withdraw, some Americans begin to consider the certain imprisonment and possible death of their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers and friends. Meanwhile, the prospect of an official evacuation of South Vietnamese becomes terminally delayed by Congressional gridlock and the inexplicably optimistic U.S. ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of heroic Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible.”

    Where to watch: “Last Days in Vietnam” is still out in limited release and available now via iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.

    “The Salt of the Earth”

    What it’s about: “Sebastião Salgado has created some of the most indelible photographs of our time. His black-and-white images bring an artful composition to chronicling humanity’s ‘salt of the earth’ in multiyear projects such as ‘Workers,’ ‘Migrations’ and ‘Genesis.’ This film, directed by his son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders, brings an insider’s and outsider’s perspective on the family, illuminating the key role played by Salgado’s wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanick, and their work on the nature preserve Instituto Terra.”

    Where to watch: “The Salt of the Earth” is not available in the U.S. at the moment.

  • Lenovo offers fix for hidden adware
    Chinese computer maker Lenovo offers free software so users can remove hidden software that experts warned made them vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
  • Apple reportedly launching wide public beta of iOS 8.3 in May
    According to “sources familiar with the matter,” Apple is intending to launch more public beta releases of upcoming system software, starting with a revision to iOS8 in mid-March. The move may be intended to help deflect criticism of recent, high-profile bugs in releases of both Apple’s iOS, as well as in its desktop operating system, OS X.

  • New App That Simplifies Food Assistance, Healthcare Benefits To Help Millions Of Families In Need
    A new app in development could make accessing social services a much easier task for many Americans.

    Single Stop, USA — a nonprofit that has served about 1 million households across the country — is changing how families in need are learning about and obtaining benefits. The nonprofit has helped low-income families access about $3 billion in existing public and private funds for a variety of programs — including food assistance, childcare, healthcare and financial aid for students — by providing in-person support in applying and receiving various forms of assistance.

    And that support is going digital.

    Single Stop is developing a new app based off of its current service model that’s expected to help millions more low-income families in the coming years. While the app won’t replace the need for Single Stop locations with in-person support, it will allow users to navigate the system of applying for and receiving benefits more independently.

    The U.S. Census Bureau reported last September, that 45 million Americans, or 14.5 percent of the country, lived below the poverty line in 2013. Attempting to connect these individuals and families to the resources they need exposes the logistical problems that exist within the current system, according to Single Stop.

    Since it was established about seven years ago, Single Stop has grown quickly across the country, expanding to more than 113 locations in eight states. Some of the locations are at community colleges, where the nonprofit serves students who are unlike those of past generations.

    “The majority [of community college students] travel to school — 50 percent of them are parents, 70 percent of them are working,” Mason explained to NationSwell in the video above. “They’re facing some life-or-death issues, whether they can take care of their children, whether they can get access to medicine, whether they can actually put food on the table. Colleges really haven’t shifted how they work, even though the population that they work with has changed dramatically.”

    Single Stop’s presence on 18 college campuses is bridging the gap between 21st-century students and the resources they can garner attending school. Students who access assistance through the nonprofit, for example, receive $5,400 on average in benefits each year.

    Ruben Gomez is one person who benefited greatly from Single Stop’s help. While he was in college as a student body president, his girlfriend became pregnant. He knew there were benefits for him and his family, but didn’t know how to navigate the system to find them.

    Through Single Stop’s help, Gomez received emergency Medicaid and food stamps, according to NationSwell. Gomez was able to remain in school and graduated as valedictorian in 2014, becoming the first person in his family to finish college.

    “It’s hard, I think, to imagine what could have happened to myself and to my family if Single Stop would have never connected me to the assistance that I needed,” Gomez told the outlet.

    Elisabeth Mason, the co-founder of Single Stop, said she sometimes felt helpless growing up in East Harlem, New York, and witnessing injustice and inequality all around her.

    “Many of the people I grew up with are long gone, either because of the AIDS crisis, the crack crisis, or gun violence or domestic violence,” Mason told NationSwell. “I don’t know how much I felt like an outsider, as much as how hard it is as a child to see inequality at that level and feel the injustice very personally, and not be able to do anything about it.”

    That feeling is what led her to turn her idea of change into an effective reality that’s only growing in size. As NationSwell reported, the nonprofit hopes to serve an additional 1 million low-income community college students by 2025.

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  • Facebook Ups Its Own Influence With Patent to Identify Social Media's Most Effective Influencers
    In the race to determine who the most effective social media influences are, Facebook just pulled far ahead of the competition. If you didn’t know there was a race going on, now you do – and after 4 years of waiting for a patent, the tortoise is back in the lead! Facebook was recently granted a patent, that the company had filed back in 2011, entitled “Identify influencers and experts in a social network.” The patent is exactly what it sounds like, a new method of discerning which influencers are the most effective. Facebook will then be able to directly target these select people with advertisements, charging companies a substantial amount of money in the process.

    Facebook is not the first to achieve an influencer-marketing patent. Other tech giants such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all have their own patents in this same category. The difference, and the aspect that seems much more likely to make Facebook’s method more effective, is in the technique used to identify the most important people. Google’s method looks at volume of connections, Yahoo’s examines how influential a person’s followers are, and Microsoft’s attempts to assemble a group of influencers with the largest unduplicated audience.

    The common denominator that all these methods share is the use of connection count as a proxy for influence, instead of measuring influence itself. In other words, they base influence on the number of connections a person has, not how effective they are. And let’s be honest, having a ton of connections doesn’t mean much if they are shallow. As a business owner, ask yourself: who would you rather target – the Twitter user with 300,000 followers who rarely retweet any of his material, or the Twitter user with 30,000 followers who almost always retweet his material? An easy decision when the goal is to have your content shared as much as possible.

    Number of followers is only half the battle in determining influence. Many people have the ability to gather a large number of followers. It’s the influencers whose followers are the most active in sharing content that are most valuable to advertisers. Facebook’s patent is for a method that actually measures whose followers re-shared the content, allowing Facebook to find the influencer who is the nucleus of the social media network.

    In official patent-speak, Facebook’s method “comprises identifying the first users who caused the non-zero rate of sharing of the element of information to locally increase significantly.” In other words, Facebook watches the rate at which a particular piece of content is shared, and then tracks the content back to its roots to figure out whose post led to an abrupt increase in the share rate in their network.

    With all of the time, money and effort spent on determining how to pinpoint the most effective influencers, you have to wonder whether they are worth all of this trouble. Of course Facebook wants us to believe that social media influencers are an invaluable marketing resource, but are they really? Companies undoubtedly seem to think so. And they are shelling out time, money, free services, and more to gain access to these influencers’ legions of loyal followers.

    With some social networks, influencers seem to be advertisers’ only way in – take Instagram for example. The popular network has over 200 million users who share more than 20 billion photos – a seemingly perfect platform for brands to connect with a captive audience, and the opportunity to do it with spectacular visuals. But Instagram users are notoriously resistant to direct advertising on the site, putting companies in a position where they have to resort to influencers to reach this coveted audience. And with younger generations gravitating toward media in the form of images, companies would be remiss to pass up the opportunity.

    Now that companies will be able to see who the influencers with the most reach are, perhaps they will invest more wisely. Although it is difficult to directly correlate the success of influencers in terms of actual sales numbers.

    While the focus surrounding Facebook’s new methodology centers on the potentially lucrative opportunities advertisers will gain, no one seems to be considering the impact this patent will have on influencers themselves. How will influencers feel about being hyper-targeted? Select influencers will probably enjoy the significant financial opportunities companies are likely to present them with. But that financial gain could come at a price, especially considering a large following today is not guaranteed to last. Influencers who continually succumb to company advertisements risk losing sway over their loyal followers. After all, who considers an infomercial a trustworthy influencer? The more company stamps/badges a person has, the more they are likely to read sell-out as opposed to thought leader.

    Whether Facebook’s new-patented method results in major financial gain for companies has yet to be seen. Facebook may be able to advertise directly to the “right” people, but they have no control over what influencers choose to do with the information received. Perhaps Facebook’s hyper-targeting could even result in a backlash from influencers who might resent their endorsement constantly trying to be bought. Only time will tell but either way Facebook is sure to profit, so I suppose some things never change.

  • Google, Driverless Cars and the "Gooberification" of Everything
    Google is the most dominant platform in the world.

    It is a pure platform company that makes almost all of its revenue from facilitating exchanges and interactions between its users. Google’s main revenue driver, search advertising, works by connecting advertisers with consumers. And with Android, Google connects software developers with consumers through the Play Store. In fact, Google has made a significant investment in just about every type of platform.

    #Google has made a significant investment in every type of platform | via @Applico #PlatformInnovation pic.twitter.com/21pT5Lv93P

    — Applico (@Applico) February 20, 2015

    Almost all of these platforms enable Google to improve its core business: collecting data on users and using that to serve them ads.

    But the last platform frontier for Google is a services marketplace, where uber-startups Uber and Airbnb reign supreme. Uber recently made headlines when it unveiled a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to fund research for autonomous cars and proprietary mapping technology. This announcement could turn the formerly cozy Google and Uber relationship into full-blown competition. If Uber’s investment in Carnegie Mellon pays off, it would allow the company to be less dependent on Google Maps and to directly compete with Google’s autonomous car program.

    And apparently, Google already sees the potential threat. News leaked last week that Google is in the early stages of testing its own Uber competitor. While Google’s autonomous car aspirations are well-documented, its interest in developing a ride-hailing service app would be its first foray into a services marketplace platform. The details on the intent and scope of Google’s program are still murky, and driverless cars are still years away from reaching mainstream consumers. But it’s easy to see why Google would want to own the future of transportation.

    Google’s Blind Spots

    Google makes 90% of its revenue selling text ads for every marketable product or service on earth. Search was the backbone of the consumer Internet, helping to organize traffic and information. All of Google’s core products – Gmail, Android, Maps – are given away essentially for free so that the company can extend its access to information. In essence, Google expands its revenue by “expanding the pie” for the Internet. Google wanted to be the logistics platform of a digital world, and for the most part it has succeeded. Where it’s failed is when it comes up against walled gardens like Facebook, which has reams of user data that Google’s crawlers can’t access. Enter Google’s largely failed effort to establish a social network, Google +.

    Where does Uber come into all of this? For now, Uber is just a ride-hailing app, but as some of its experiments (like messenger service Uber Rush) have shown, its mission is to become the logistics platform of a connected world. If Uber’s dream becomes reality, Google could be faced with another walled garden keeping it from accessing information it wants. Google has continuously tried to expand its reach throughout the desktop and mobile Internet. So when the Internet of Things starts to come to life, I’d expect Google to try to do the same. Owning a key transportation platform through driverless cars would be one way for it to accomplish this.

    The Gooberfication of Everything

    So how could Google take on Uber? If Google can successfully bring autonomous cars to market, it could create what many have jokingly called “Goober,” a services marketplace similar to Uber that’s powered by self-driving cars. Compared to Uber today, Goober’s transportation prices would be substantially lower. And even worse for Uber, Google wouldn’t even need to make money from rides. Currently, Uber makes money by taking a cut of each transaction. But Google wouldn’t need to. Instead, it could offer rides at-cost and make money from its captive audience by collecting data and showing them Google-run advertising.

    In this scenario, Google doesn’t even need to own the cars. A car owner could be dropped off at work and then their car could spend the day picking up and dropping off other passengers on Goober. The car owner would keep all the money they make from giving rides and Google would keep the advertising revenue and data. Everyone wins.

    The more data Google can collect, the better it can target ads and the more advertisers will be willing to spend on Google advertising. By getting more users unto its platform through expand the pie initiatives like an Uber competitor, Google can continue to finely tune its big-data engine and position itself to be a central part of the Internet of Things. Game on, Uber.

Mobile Technology News, February 20, 2015

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.

  • US and UK 'hacked Sim card firm'
    US and British spies illegally hacked a top Sim card firm to steal codes and facilitate eavesdropping on mobiles, a news website says.
  • How To Set a Photo for Your Photos Live Tile in Windows Phone 8.1

    One of the many elements of Windows Phone that I like about the platform is the ability to personalize your Start screen experience.  Live Tiles are a big part of that and many apps take advantage of this feature that has been a part of the platform since Windows Phone 8 was released.  One of those features is the ability to set a photo as your Photos Live Tile in Windows Phone 8.1.  The ability to do this has actually been around since the Windows Phone 7 and I actually posted a How To way back in November 2011 on

    The post How To Set a Photo for Your Photos Live Tile in Windows Phone 8.1 appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Why is There Panic Over Microsoft Killing of Rooms on Windows Phone?

    Earlier this week Microsoft announced that effective at the end of March they are ending support for Rooms on Windows Phone.  Then I watched as Twitter lit up with everything from “this is the end of Windows Phone” to “They don’t care about their customers”. Really?  Really peeps?  Did anyone actually use Rooms?  I have spoken to at least half-a-dozen serious Windows Phone users this week and not one of them used Rooms on Windows Phone.  In fact two of them (the innocent shall be protected) didn’t even know what Rooms was on Windows Phone.  I appreciate that 6 people

    The post Why is There Panic Over Microsoft Killing of Rooms on Windows Phone? appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • Microsoft and iPass Partner to Bring Global WiFi Access to Eligible Customers

    Microsoft’s continued drive in their “Mobile First, Cloud First” mantra has continued with the news that they have teamed up with iPass to bring eligible Microsoft users access to 18 million global access points for free.  While the details are still not fully defined, particularly this “eligible” customer portion, the news is exciting and could open a new wave of connectivity for millions of users who travel.  iPass, for those who don’t know, has a network of WiFi access points (commonly shared with other vendors) that is unsurpassed in the world.  They bill themselves as having the “largest commercial WiFi

    The post Microsoft and iPass Partner to Bring Global WiFi Access to Eligible Customers appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • VIDEO: Rediscovering a lost typeface
    The story of Robert Green’s obsession with creating a digital version of the Doves Type and his discovery of the metal type in the Thames.
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    A mobile scanner which can detect diseases in less than one hour from a small drop of blood has been developed
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  • Rand Paul Misleads With Statements On NIH, Fruit Flies

    The following post first appeared on FactCheck.org.

    Sen. Rand Paul made several misleading statements about the National Institutes of Health and some of the research that it funds.

    • Paul claimed the NIH’s budget has been increasing “for years.” That’s not accurate even in raw dollars. And when adjusted for inflation, the budget has actually decreased over the last decade.
    • He also suggested the NIH wasted $1 million on a study of whether male fruit flies prefer older or younger females, and in the process he belittled the impact of basic research using flies — which has yielded dozens of discoveries and even a few Nobel Prizes over the last century.

    Paul spoke at the American Spectator Annual Gala in Washington (at the 10:03 mark), and commented on how he has tried to point out potential areas where government spending could be reduced.

    Paul, Feb. 11: Remember when we were talking about Ebola last year? Everybody was going crazy about Ebola, and they’re like, oh Republicans didn’t spend enough at the NIH. And they didn’t spend enough on infectious disease. Turns out, the budget had been going up for years and years at NIH, the budget had been going up for infectious disease. You know how much they spent on Ebola? One-40th of the budget was being spent on Ebola. But you know what we did discover? They spent a million dollars trying to determine whether male fruit flies like younger female fruit flies. I think we could have polled the audience and saved a million bucks.

    Paul is wrong about the NIH budget increasing “for years and years,” even when using figures unadjusted for inflation. The budget was lower in raw dollars in 2014 and 2015 ($30.1 and $30.3 billion, respectively) than it was in 2010, when it reached a high of $31.2 billion. A spokesman from Paul’s office sent us the unadjusted dollar amounts to explain the senator’s claim.

    NIH, which is the primary funding source for basic science research in the United States, did see its budget increase dramatically from the mid-1990s, when it stood around $11 billion, through 2003, when it hit $27.2 billion. Since then, the budget has risen in small amounts some years in unadjusted dollars, and declined slightly in other years.

    When inflation is taken into account, no increase in funding is evident in the last decade. The $27.2 billion in 2003 is equivalent to almost $35 billion in 2014 dollars, when the NIH budget was just over $30 billion. In other words, the NIH budget has actually decreased by almost $5 billion over the last decade in inflation-adjusted dollars.


    The earlier increases, from the mid-1990s through 2003, are still evident even after adjusting for inflation, rising from about $18 billion to $35 billion over eight years in 2014 dollars. Notably, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (known as the stimulus bill) did inject almost $9 billion of extra funding into NIH in 2009 and 2010; sequestration, however, required a cut of $1.55 billion from NIH’s 2013 budget. Paul’s spokesman did not mention these as part of the senator’s calculation.

    One other measure shows the decreasing emphasis on funding basic science research. From 2003 to 2014, the NIH budget in unadjusted dollars rose by 11 percent. The total federal government spending, meanwhile, rose by 62 percent. These same calculations using inflation-adjusted dollars show a decrease in NIH budgeting of 13.9 percent, and an increase in federal spending of 25.9 percent.

    Paul also said the budget specifically for infectious-disease research had increased; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of NIH) actually saw similar stagnation to the overall budget, with a slight decline when inflation is considered. The NIAID budget was $3.7 billion in 2003, equivalent to about $4.8 billion in 2014 dollars; the actual 2014 and 2015 NIAID budget was about $4.4 billion. An analysis by Vox showed that about $100 million was being spent on Ebola specifically in each of the last few years, which Paul’s spokesman confirmed is the source for his “one-40th” claim. The $100 million would be about that fraction of the total NIAID budget, and his spokesman pointed out that some emergency supplemental funding for Ebola research actually puts the number above that estimate; in December 2014 an additional $238 million was appropriated to NIH for Ebola research.

    The Amazing Fruit Fly

    Paul specifically called out one project involving fruit flies in his speech. In doing so, he grossly underestimated the value of scientific discoveries that can come from research using Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly.

    The fruit fly research Paul mentions is actually an ongoing series of projects in the lab of Scott Pletcher, now at the University of Michigan (previously at Baylor College of Medicine). According to a search we ran on an NIH database of grant awards, Pletcher hasn’t received one NIH grant worth $1 million. But he has had several recurring grants used for fruit fly research, ranging in dollar amounts from about $75,000 per year up to about $380,000 per year, which would add up to more than $1 million.

    Moreover, the characterization of the project as simply testing “whether male fruit flies like younger female fruit flies” is misleading. The study was in fact part of ongoing work looking into olfaction and other sensory perception, the aging process and how it relates to sexual and social activity. A paper that came out of the same line of inquiry appeared in the prestigious journal Science in 2013, showing that exposure to female pheromones without the opportunity to mate actually decreased male flies’ life spans. In short, sexual reward “specifically promoted healthy aging,” according to Pletcher. His lab’s work could yield insights both into how humans age and into aging-related diseases.

    Perhaps the more important point, though, is that such findings in flies are not as trivial as Paul would like his audience to believe. Fruit flies first were used as a model organism in 1906, and more than 100 years later remain among the most important and useful tools in the biology toolkit. “It has been pioneering research,” Hugo Bellen, a Drosophila expert at Baylor College of Medicine, told us in a phone interview. Drosophila “has led to the discovery of genes that cause cancer, genes that [affect] metabolism, genes that cause developmental defects, genes that play a critical role in neurodegeneration. It has been a discovery tool for many, many different pathways, proteins, diseases.”

    Bellen has written extensively about the history of fruit fly research, and he said that about 8,000 genes in the fruit fly (of about 14,000 in total) are “conserved” in humans, meaning humans have a number of essentially the same genes as flies. The “conservation” of so many genes from flies to mice and even to humans has helped us make incredible discoveries in a wide range of fields. Another Drosophila expert, Gerald Rubin, cowrote a paper in Science in 2000 summarizing the fruit fly’s contributions. He told us in an email that “most of what we know that is relevant for understanding basic human biology and how it can go wrong in disease was discovered with simpler organisms. These basic mechanisms have been very well conserved in evolution and thus this has been a very efficient, cost-effective and ethical way to gain this knowledge.”

    Even the most important of discoveries, if described in certain ways, would sound just as ridiculous as Paul’s description of fruit fly sexual proclivities. For example: Researchers spent time and money counting up how many flies had white eyes and how many had red eyes.

    That might not sound like it has much practical import, but that work, by fly research pioneer Thomas Hunt Morgan, led to the understanding of chromosomes and heredity — basically, the way in which human traits are passed on from parents to children. Morgan won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for this in 1933. This is not an isolated example. Three other Nobel Prizes have been awarded for fruit fly research, including for the discovery that X-rays can cause mutations in genes.

    Flies are useful for research because of their short life spans and the ease with which scientists can manipulate the insect’s genes. Bellen’s review published in 2010 highlights a few of the other discoveries made using Drosophila, from insights into how humans learn and remember things to how circadian rhythms (a sort of internal clock that all animals have) function in humans. He also pointed out that fly research is among the cheapest available.

    “You get 10 times more biology for a dollar invested in flies than you get in mice,” Bellen said, thanks to the ease with which their genes can be manipulated.

    Paul is entitled to his opinions on where government funds are best spent, but the study of flies has yielded important benefits to human health.

    Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

    – Dave Levitan

    Disclosure: The author’s father is a neuroscientist who has received NIH funding to do research involving Drosophila melanogaster.

  • Dove And Twitter Launch #SpeakBeautiful To Change The Way We Talk About Beauty Online
    Dove is working with Twitter to make the social platform a more hospitable place for women.

    They’ve teamed up to launch #SpeakBeautiful, a campaign encouraging women to be more positive when tweeting about beauty and body image.

    This announcement comes just weeks after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo acknowledged the platform’s issue with trolling and abuse, much of which is directed at women. Costello said: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day.” He also took personal responsibility for Twitter’s failings in this arena, and vowed to do better.

    (Story continues below.)

    According to research commissioned by Dove, eight out of 10 women have seen negative comments about other women’s looks on social media. And four out of every five negative tweets about beauty and body image are written by women critiquing themselves.

    “Social media is playing a critical role in showing and shaping how women and girls feel about themselves,” social media researcher danah boyd said in a press release about the #SpeakBeautiful campaign. “Yet, women do not realize how online dialogue can contribute to negative mindsets and behavior towards beauty both on and offline. We women have an incredible opportunity to be more thoughtful about how we speak about ourselves and others on social media. The power is truly at our fingertips.”

    The campaign will kick off during the 2015 Oscars on Feb. 22. According to Dove, Twitter technology will identify negative tweets about beauty and body image posted during the show, and the Dove account will respond to those tweets in real-time suggesting that the users think more positively about what they are saying.

    “Ideas and opinions about body image are now fluidly shared every second through social feeds, and sometimes we do not fully realize the resounding impact of the words in even one post,” Jennifer Bremner, Dove’s Director of Marketing, said. “We can positively change the way future generations express themselves online.”

    Find out more about the Dove campaign here.

  • Want To Borrow A Shelter Dog For A Walk? There May Soon Be An App For That
    Ever wish you could swing by the local shelter and take a dog out for a walk?

    There might soon be an easy way to book that. A San Francisco-area couple is developing an app to help match up shelter dogs with canine lovers who want to take them out for a stroll.

    Walkzee was inspired by a program that Charlie Saunders and his wife Cristina enjoyed — a lot — while on a Hawaiian honeymoon. They took out a doggie named Big Z from the Kauai Humane Society, which encourages visitors to borrow shelter dogs for day trips like hiking or the beach.

    Such outings are great for the dogs, who get more relaxed and well-socialized. Wearing cute little “adopt me” vests, they also get exposed to lots of new potential adopters.

    The humans obviously love it, too. “It really was the best thing we did on our honeymoon,” Saunders says.

    “While on the walk we talked about how amazing it was as a program,” he told The Huffington Post. “So many dog lovers don’t have a dog to spend time with, because of their job or home situation. Meanwhile, so many dogs wait for a walk in a shelter. We think this is crazy.”

    The pair wanted to see if they couldn’t get more shelter dogs out walking with more dog lovers — leading, in turn, to more adoptions.

    walking a dogThe couple had a great time with Big Z, and wanted to make it so other dog lovers — and other shelter dogs — could also get out walking. (photo courtesy Walkzee)

    Here’s how the app would work: Shelters could list their dogs on Walkzee, then would-be walkers would search for those dogs by location. They’d request a walk using the shelter’s preferred method, which could be through the app, by reaching out to the shelter directly, or in any other way the shelter likes to field requests.

    Afterward, walkers could leave Yelp-like reviews for both dogs and shelters. They’d also be able donate directly to the shelters through the app. Walkzee won’t take a cut, Saunders says; the app, which will be free, will likely rely on advertising to make money.

    Users could also share their experiences on Facebook and other social media platforms, giving the dogs more exposure.

    And after that, if things go very well? “You can also send an adoption request to the shelter and kick off the adoption process,” says Saunders.

    The hope is that Walkzee will launch in June. Saunders and his wife are currently holding a Kickstarter campaign, which is about two-thirds of the toward its $20,000 goal. Saunders says there are other funding avenues available, should crowdfunding not come through.

    There are still a few other initial steps left to complete before the first version of the app is actually ready for use, like getting actual shelters on board. Saunders says he’s already heard from a handful of organizations who are ready to sign on, and he’s confident that there will be plenty more pickings by launch time.

    He has reason to be optimistic. For one thing, more and more shelters are already offering Kauai-like walking opportunities. They’re available now at shelters in Northern Virginia, Austin, Atlanta and Utah, to name a few places.

    For another, there are designs on enticing more shelters into joining by offering up bonuses like dog-supply packages — with leashes, blankets, etc. — for participants.

    Future app features may include some sort of background check process for walkers, Saunders says, and perhaps a version of Walkzee for people who like cats. (May we suggest “Meowzee?”)

    Itching to take a shelter dog for a walk? Don’t go looking for Big Z, the inspiration for all these plans. That sweet boy’s been adopted.

    Find out more about the app on the Walkzee Kickstarter and Facebook pages.

    Get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com if you have an animal story to share!

  • 'Peaky Blinders' Should Be Your Next Netflix Binge
    Peaky Blinders” is yet another show about a morally compromised, heterosexual white man who grapples with the results of his bold and even violent behavior as he struggles to realize his ambitions.

    That’s not just a brief description of the U.K. series, which arrived on Netflix in 2014 — that sentence could serve as the summary of dozens of good, great and mind-numbingly derivative anti-hero dramas that have aired during the past decade and a half. Even if you’re a fan of the finest incarnations of the form (and I am), that kind of thing has been done to death during the past couple of decades.

    That’s another way of saying that I approached “Peaky Blinders” with extreme caution. Could there really be all that much life left in the anti-hero bag of tricks?

    The answer is yes: I’m happy to report that I fell hard for “Peaky Blinders.” However familiar its building blocks, the U.K. gangster drama is positively bursting with irrepressible energy, and it’s proof that, whatever a show’s premise, capable execution is everything.

    In a way, I’m glad I didn’t watch “Peaky Blinders” last year, when the first two seasons arrived on Netflix in the U.S. If I’d watched it in 2014, I would have had to grapple with whether to put it on my Top 10 roster, which was already ridiculously difficult to pare down.

    As it is, now that I’ve seen both seasons (each of which is six episodes long), I think it would have missed my Top 10, but just by a hair. The second season of “Peaky Blinders” isn’t quite as strong as its first, but I’m still eagerly awaiting the day Cillian Murphy and the rest of the cast don their jaunty newsboy caps and start production on Season 3.

    Murphy is key to the success of the show; his performance is as crucial to “Peaky Blinders” as Jon Hamm’s performance is to “Mad Men.” Neither of those shows would work without those actors doing such fine and subtle work in those roles, and making it look absolutely effortless. Both actors are able to turn on a dime and go from tender to vicious in an instant, and both make you care about the difficult men they play without sugarcoating any of their characters’ unsavory behavior.

    In “Blinders,” which begins in 1919, Murphy plays Tommy Shelby, the leader of a Birmingham clan running an illegal betting operation. Though they’re behind various forms of illegal activity, the local cops are in their pockets and the Peaky Blinders are the law in their rough neighborhood. Business is good for the Blinders, but Tommy wants to expand the bookie operation and make it legit, a plan that is complicated by the arrival of an unyielding government agent who is determined to clean up the city and reign in its gangs.

    So far, so familiar; you’d be forgiven for thinking it sounds like a U.K. version of the stately and strangely bland HBO period drama “Boardwalk Empire,” which takes place in the same time frame. But past those surface elements, the shows are very different. One of the reasons I developed an addiction to “Peaky Blinders” is because it reminds me of another HBO period piece, the profane and violent “Deadwood,” which was, under its mud-splattered surface, a devastatingly tender show about the power and promise of community. Though many of the characters from “Deadwood” were driven by their least attractive qualities, all of them longed for some kind of connection, and that quest — for both domination and relief, for understanding amid the chaos — animates “Peaky Blinders” as well.

    As is the case with the town of Deadwood on the HBO show, the outdoor set for “Peaky Blinders” is a marvel. As Tommy and his brothers Arthur and John stride around the alleys and lanes of Small Heath, the neighborhood they rule firmly but generally fairly, blast furnaces often shoot fire out of wide doors, and the air rings with the sound of metal on metal. Rough-hewn men tote heavy sacks, carts rumble by on the cinder-strewn streets, grimy children run around and play, and women shop and gossip. No one pays the foundries and furnaces any notice, in part because the entire neighborhood is dominated by workers, machineries and noise. Wide shots depict the biggest factory of all looming over the neighborhood like a giant, smoke-belching monster. There’s a river, but it’s no nature preserve — it’s a good place to hide cargo and dump bodies.

    All these elements add excitement and visual drama to outdoor scenes that might otherwise be mundane, and they remind the viewer that walking out the door is dangerous for every person in that neighborhood, whoever they are. The pubs and factories are full of Communist agitators and IRA operatives; the corrupt and brutal police are regarded as just another gang that has to be dealt with. The black lanes, the grimy house fronts, the noisy pubs, the furnaces running hot 24-7: These backdrops continually reinforce the idea that toughness is necessary for every character in Small Heath, and they’re also reminders of everything Tommy would like to escape.

    Murphy is the still point around which the entire show revolves, but his undeniable presence and charisma make the enigma of Tommy fascinating. He’s not a man given to chit-chat, but it’s impossible not to wonder what lurks behind his cornflower-blue eyes. Is it cynicism? Weariness? Arrogance? All of these things are possible, and Murphy’s performance is so restrained and wisely calibrated that it’s a genuine jolt when Tommy engages in violence — or just laughs.

    Tommy, like his wayward older brother Arthur and many of their friends, is a veteran of World War I’s many horrors, and though “Peaky Blinders” is fond of big moments and grand gestures, it can be heartbreakingly subtle when showing the damage the war did to these men. Arthur, for instance, is clearly afflicted with PTSD, and though violence gives him temporary release from his demons, they become harder and harder to control. Tommy has more control over his public persona, but Murphy gives the character’s swagger a subtle overlay of weariness. At times, Tommy’s eyes have the quiet exhaustion of a man who hasn’t had a full night of restorative sleep since the war began, and the higher his ambitions rise, the lonelier he becomes.

    Tommy could abandon his trouble-prone brother and his tough-as-nails Aunt Polly (the magnificent Helen McCrory) and the rest of the Shelby brood. He’s smart enough to make it in London or New York or anywhere else he might choose to live. But part of what sets “Peaky Blinders” apart is its devotion to the idea that we are nothing without our tribes. He’s not demonstrative, but creator Steven Knight and Murphy find various ways to show that Tommy loves Arthur, and Tommy can’t live without the sense of camaraderie and purpose the Blinders give him.

    Tommy is trapped by circumstance: He inherited the leadership slot in his family and there was never any possibility of going a different way. But why would he want to? The alternative would be letting men like government official Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) complete the utter domination of the lower classes by the toffs at the top, and given their backgrounds and temperaments, the Shelbys would rather die than let that happen. Part of the sheer enjoyment of “Peaky Blinders” is watching Tommy and his crew exult in their rebelliousness; the show uses rock songs to great effect and its stylistic flourishes are of a piece with the Blinders’ cocky, flashy style. Looking over my notes on the first two seasons, the word that comes up again and again is “vitality”: At its best, “Peaky Blinders” exudes lively distillations of anger and tenderness, frustration and fear. On a nuts-and-bolts level, the show has distinct flaws, but it excels at creating intense moments and visceral moods, and that makes up for a lot.

    I’ve long said that the English showrunner model is a double-edged sword, and “Peaky Blinders” is yet more proof of that. As is the case with many U.K. dramas, Knight wrote every episode of the first two seasons (two other writers share credits with Knight on a couple of Season 1 episodes). For that reason, the show has the kind of aesthetic unity that you find on dramas like “True Detective” and “Penny Dreadful,” U.S. shows that have adopted the one-writer model. The problem with that gambit is that even good writers tend to repeat themselves, and over time, their favorite go-to dynamics and character moves become stale (see “Downton Abbey” for an endless array of examples of this problem). Part of the reason Season 2 of “Peaky Blinders” is less compelling than Season 1 is that certain character interactions start to feel repetitive and even a little predictable (I’m keeping things vague for “Peaky” newcomers).

    The U.K. model of only having six episodes or so also works against the show, in that there’s usually not enough time to give most supporting characters reasonably full story arcs of their own. At least two female characters could have used more screen time in Season 2; as it is, their story lines feel far more perfunctory than they should. (That assessment doesn’t necessarily apply in either season to McCrory’s Polly, who owns every scene she is in. She’s fabulous, and I’m in favor of Season 3 giving her even more to do.)

    That said, Knight’s thriving career as a screenwriter worked in his favor when it comes to “Peaky Blinders” — I think. Knight wrote the Tom Hardy film “Locke,” and you can be the judge of whether the actor’s energetic scenery chewing as a Season 2 gangster is a good thing or a bad thing. The slice of ham Hardy delivers may well be a mixture of both.

    Like other aspects of “Peaky Blinders,” Hardy’s performance is juicy and not tremendously concerned with subtlety. But then again, subtlety may not be the best fit for a story of men who roam the streets with razors stuck in the brims of their caps. This is a show that doesn’t necessarily care much about refinement and restraint; it’s cheeky and theatrical and unafraid to dwell on frailty and fury. “Peaky Blinders” is, like “Deadwood,” a drama that has a great deal of compassion for its compromised characters, whatever rung of the ladder they happen to be on. Tommy Shelby may not be a good man, but he’s a phenomenally watchable one.

  • 1 In 3 Women Has Been Sexually Harassed At Work, According To Survey
    A new survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work.

    Cosmopolitan surveyed 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees and found that one in three women has experienced sexual harassment at work at some point their lives.

    “Sexual harassment hasn’t gone away — it’s just taken on new forms,” Michelle Ruiz and Lauren Ahn wrote. Unlike workplace sexual harassment portrayed in films and pop culture that represent it as overtly aggressive, sexual harassment at work isn’t always easy to spot. It can be a sexual comment in a meeting or even an insinuating Facebook message.

    The American Association of University Women defines workplace sexual harassment as any, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

    Out of the women who said they’ve experienced workplace sexual harassment, 29 percent reported the issue while 71 percent did not. According to the survey, the field with the highest levels of reported sexual harassment is food and service hospitality.

    Check out the full infographic below for more of Cosmo’s findings:

    sexual harassment

    Head over to Cosmopolitan.com to read more.

  • The Martian Chronicles
    I’ve always been inspired by the achievable goal of space settlement. I’m excited that my relatively short life-span on Earth just so happens to fall within the window in history where mankind’s expansion in the solar system is possible, and I made a decision long ago to do everything in my power, both personally and professionally, to help advance that capability. My career with Masten Space Systems matures the rocket technology necessary to land with pinpoint accuracy at future off-Earth settlements, but my personal research has brought me all the way to Red Planet itself, or at least to a simulated version.

    The Mars Desert Research Station

    The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is nestled in the dramatic rock formations that comprise Utah’s San Rafael Swell, and a generous layer of iron oxide colors the landscape Martian-red. The terrestrial habitat is owned and operated by the Mars Society, and has been utilized by a variety of national space agencies and scientists to simulate analog Martian field research. Most recently, the prototype laboratory has brought together myself, Belgian NASA Ames research Dr. Ann-Sofie Schreurs, Canadian educator Pamela Nicoletatos, American MEDEVAC pilot Ken Sullivan, German trauma surgeon Dr. Elena Miscodan, American lawyer and public official Paul Bakken, and Japanese microbiologist Dr. Takeshi Naganuma. Together, the seven of us are Crew 149, and we have been immersed in a complete spaceflight simulation since the beginning of February, living and working in an analog Martian environment.

    The author in a prototype spacesuit loaned by Final Frontier Design, a commercial spacesuit company under Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

    We’re completely isolated from Earth except for an opportunistic desert rat who has taken residence somewhere near the kitchen, and an imaginary eighth crew member we’ve dubbed “Murphy,” in honor of all the things that have gone wrong during our rotation. Early on, we experienced a total loss of power, fuel, and communications. The catastrophic loss of our sole toilet, refrigerator, water pump, and link to the outside world kick-started our transition into complete self-reliance. We constructed field latrines, rationed water, and relayed with Mission Control to transform a rover into a temporary generator. And we did it all in spacesuits. Once power was restored, my colleagues back home even amused themselves by emailing me a model for a mousetrap. While it wasn’t the first thing I had anticipated manufacturing on Mars, it was a perfect demonstration of the utility 3D printers can have when you’re unable to pack every single tool you could conceive of needing for the rest of your life.

    (L-R) The author Kellie Gerardi, Pamela Nicoletatos and Ann-Sofie Schreurs in the lab.

    Despite the difficulties of basic survival on Mars, our rotation has been overwhelmingly productive. There’s a profound psychological satisfaction in working together in hostile environment. Life with an international crew has also been an incredible and occasionally hilarious experience. In anticipation of a visit from Karl Pilkington and the BBC production team that produced “An Idiot Abroad”, my crewmembers were walking around asking “when is the Idiot supposed to arrive?” “Is the Idiot coming today?” We’ve shared a lot of laughs and a lot of stories. I feel privileged to have spent quality time with a team of such accomplished individuals.

    An extended EVA with a crew rover.

    After getting the hang of basic survival in a simulated hostile environment, we turned our attention to research. Under the guidance of Dr. Naganuma, who is responsible not only for the discovery of new species, but for entirely new classes of species, we set out on scientific EVAs to search for lichen colonies in the nearby area and collect samples. Lichens are the most resistant organisms on Earth, and whenever new land or ice sheets form, they are the first settlers. Through the use of a centrifuge in the lab, we separated out the samples, and now we will use a sequencer to identify any extremophiles and cyanobacteria. Some people believe cyanobacteria should be sent to Mars in an early terraforming effort, due to their ability for photosynthesis. But cyanobacteria alone won’t be enough. They’ll need protection from harmful UV rays and an ability to retain humidity for growth. Our lichen colonies could provide perfectly resilient “housing”. As a true bonus, we may have even stumbled upon a new species of bacteria that can aid lichen growth. Time and a sequencer will tell.

    The author in the analog Martian environment.

    My 26th birthday also fell during our rotation (13.8 in Martian years) and after a celebratory meal of macaroni and reconstituted-cheese, a true Martian delicacy, my crewmates and I all gathered around the science lab to document the results of our “Proof of Beer” study. In addition to all of our uncontestably academic research, we also brought about 50 pounds of ORBITEC JSC Mars-1A Martian Regolith Simulant, aka NASA-grade Mars dirt. We decided to investigate the viability of sorghum seeds and hops rhizomes in a Mars soil simulant. The academic defense was that sorghum is a grain of high nutritional value with relatively low water needs, and the hops plant is used as a medicinal herb. The real reasoning was that since yeast has already been sent to space, if we prove germination and root establishment of sorghum and hops — the two other constituent ingredients of beer, we have essentially proved that one can produce beer on Mars.

    Lichen studies in the lab.

    Our experimental group didn’t just grow in Martian soil — they downright thrived. Rosenplantz and Gildenfern, my two favorite pet plants, looked like Jack and the beanstalk. This is particularly exciting, because after the plant growth, the normal home-brewing process can take place, leading to an eventual keg of space beer.

    The Explorers Club Flag

    While this has been a moment of nerdy glee in an otherwise traditionally academic environment, we never lose sight of why we’re all here together, and what goal we’re truly working towards. I’m optimistic about the future of our species, but I also recognize that life on Earth has an expiration date. Without space settlement and advanced life support systems, our entire species has an expiration date as well. On a more emotional level, I want humans on Mars simply because it’s within our reach; the entire solar system is within our reach. That’s the mantra that makes me proud to go to work every morning at Masten Space Systems, knowing that we’re maturing the technologies that will unlock access to the unexplored corners of the universe. Space settlement is a capability that my entire crew is dedicated to pursuing in our lifetimes. While there are a lot of hurdles associated with colonizing Mars, the ability to have a cold beer might just make the goal a little more appealing.

    Crew 149, L-R: Pamela Nicoletatos, Ken Sullivan, Dr. Ann-Sofie Schreurs, Paul Bakken, Dr. Elena Miscodan, Dr. Takeshi Naganuma, the author Kellie Gerardi

  • Your iPhone Is Making You Depressed
    It’s been estimated that the average mobile phone user checks a device 150 times a day, and nearly a third of smartphone users admit that they’re addicted to their devices. Everyone knows that having your nose in your phone is a pretty unhealthy habit, but new research suggests that it could even be a sign of depression.

    According to new Baylor University research, people who check their phones constantly could be trying to improve a negative mood.

    The study, published in June in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and recently revived by the Daily Mail, investigates the link between phone addiction and personality, finding that excessive use may go hand-in-hand with emotional instability.

    The researchers asked 346 college students to complete an online survey measuring smartphone use, Big Five personality traits (conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and extraversion), materialism and need for arousal.

    The data revealed that those who use their smartphones more frequently are more prone to moodiness, materialism and temperamental behavior, and are less able to focus their attention on the task at hand. (These two things may in fact go hand-in-hand, as a tendency to mind-wander has been associated with unhappy moods.) Unsurprisingly, people with impulsive personalities were also more prone to addictive smartphone use.

    And despite stereotypes of introverts as being the ones at the party who sit in a corner fiddling with their iPhones, introversion was one quality that the researchers found not to be associated with smartphone addiction. Conscientiousness was also not associated with smartphone addiction.

    “Much like a variety of substance addictions, cell phone addiction may be an attempt at mood repair,” the study’s authors wrote. “Incessant checking of emails, sending texts, tweeting, and surfing the web may act as pacifiers for the unstable individual distracting him or herself from the worries of the day and providing solace, albeit temporarily, from such concerns.”

    Pervious research has also linked addictive smartphone behavior with loneliness and shyness, poor sleep and less engagement at work.

  • Is Apple Really Making A Car? Here's What We Know So Far
    If Google can make a car, why not Apple?

    While the iPhone maker has issued no official statements on a possible car — and declined to comment to The Huffington Post — reports have circulated in recent weeks that strongly suggest it’s happening. Very strongly.

    Let’s take a look.

    • A123 Systems, a company that makes electric car batteries, is suing Apple for poaching its employees.

    • On Thursday, 9to5Mac, a well-known Apple news website, revealed what it said was a team of new hires at the Cupertino tech giant. Most have a strong automotive background, and several were engineers from Tesla Motors, the electric car company run by Elon Musk.

    • The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple has “several hundred employees working secretly” on an electric vehicle. According to the Journal’s sources, the project is codenamed “Titan” and looks like a minivan.

    • Business Insider noted that the Apple Watch will be able to control Tesla cars. Though Apple didn’t create the app that makes this possible, it’s a hint at the potential ways Apple technology could work with other vehicles.

    • Earlier in February, Patently Apple reported that the company was granted a patent for technology allowing iPhones to unlock and start a car.

    • Last year, Apple launched CarPlay, an interface built into select cars that essentially shows your iPhone’s screen on your vehicle’s display.

    • As Patently Apple noted, Apple’s head of mergers and acquisitions, Adrian Perica, met with Musk in 2013. Musk told Bloomberg in early 2014 that selling Tesla was “unlikely,” though he wouldn’t exactly say what was discussed in the meeting with Apple. When Bloomberg’s Betty Liu asked how he would respond if Apple said it wanted to make electric cars, Musk replied, “I would say I think it’s a great idea.”

    To be fair, reports and rumor are far from confirmation that Apple is working on a car. As WSJ pointed out in its article, the company often builds prototypes for products that are never released, and the components in an electric car could be incorporated into other gadgets.

    In addition, Apple files many patents for innovations that ultimately aren’t used in consumer products.

    Still, it’s not hard to believe the company is hoping to conquer the highways one day. Tech rivals like Google and Nokia already have a head start on that.

    Before the engines start revving, though, Apple’s got another launch on its plate: The Apple Watch hits stores this April.

  • OneDrive Gives 100GB of Free Storage to Dropbox Customers

    Microsoft continues to give away OneDrive storage like it is candy.  Earlier today I post about Bing Rewards customers globally getting a free 100GB of storage just by signing up.  Now Redmond has extended an offer of an additional 100GB of storage for those of you with a Dropbox account.  While Microsoft and Dropbox have done a lot of work together over these past few months including bringing an official Dropbox app to Windows and Windows Phone 8.1, they are still competitors and Microsoft clearly is showing they intend to win as many customers to their cloud storage service as

    The post OneDrive Gives 100GB of Free Storage to Dropbox Customers appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

  • How Spies Stole The Keys To The Encryption Castle
    America and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
  • 'Gayze,' Gay App Parody, Outs Gay People
    Are you ready for the newest gay app that’s always on top of gay culture?

    In this hilarious parody video, “Gayze,” is introduced as an app that gives its users all of the insider knowledge they could want about gay culture. Not only does it let you know whether or not someone is gay, it also personalizes what is most important to you based on your suggestions.

    So — what do you want from your “Gayze”? The location of near by Pride parades? Or maybe you’re more interested in glory holes. Maybe you just want the ability to decipher if that hot police officer who just pulled you over swings your way.

    Check out the video and for more on the creator, Tom Hartley Entertainment, head to Facebook and Twitter.

Mobile Technology News, February 19, 2015

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.

  • Activist Who Fought Housing Discrimination Is Now Homeless, And The Internet Is Here To Help
    A woman who fought tirelessly to ensure everyone has equal access to housing now has nowhere to call home.

    Dorothy “Dottie” Mulkey’s house was filled with donations to charitable organizations when it caught fire on Dec. 14. Mulkey — the plaintiff in the Reitman vs. Mulkey case that challenged and defeated housing discrimination in California in 1967 — was at church at the time of the fire, and lost most of the belongings inside her Santa Ana, California, home.

    Now, a Crowdrise page focused on helping Mulkey get back into her house by raising $20,000 is garnering support from those hoping to help. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $2,100 had been raised.

    Mulkey, 74, told the Orange County Register her home insurance had expired last August, and she’d wanted to wait and research new policies before buying a new one. She planned on getting new insurance for the home — a three-bedroom she purchased in 1970 — by the end of the year.

    The fire didn’t wait for that,” Mulkey, who has been staying at a friend’s house, told the news outlet. “For 40 years I had paid insurance. When I needed it, it had lapsed.”

    Support Mulkey by visiting the Crowdrise page or using the widget below.

    The fire had started due to an electrical malfunction involving a surge protector used to power Mulkey’s kitchen appliances. Smoke and water damage deemed the house uninhabitable.

    During the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, segregated housing patterns were widespread throughout the U.S. housing market. Even while a growing number of black and Hispanic Americans fought and died in U.S. military operations in Vietnam, their families faced challenges finding homes for rent or purchase in certain residential areas because of their skin color.

    In the landmark case of Reitman vs. Mulkey, Mulkey and her husband argued that Reitman refused to rent them an apartment because of their race. The case — which went to the Supreme Court and was decided in favor of Mulkey and her husband — set a legal precedent in California and helped end housing discrimination throughout the state.

    The Crowdrise page for Mulkey was set up by Eli Reyna, who met Mulkey while working for the Orange County Human Relations Commission. He told the Orange County Register that he tried to find some sort of program that could help someone in Mulkey’s situation, but there was nothing.

    It was very frustrating,” Reyna said. “So I just decided to make a video to raise some awareness and maybe help raise some money.”

    Despite her circumstances, Mulkey — who said she’s fortunate to not have been at home during the fire because “it would have been devastating” — told the Orange County Register she’s keeping her head held high.

    “I know I should be in despair, but I’m not because I was not in that burning house,” Mukley said. “That gives me joy … The sun’s going to shine tomorrow, joy or no joy. I know this house is going to be restored. I know that, and for that reason I can’t be down.”

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  • How random is a random playlist?
    Does your music player’s ‘random’ button actually do what it says?
  • Bringing Holograms Into View
    2015-02-04-Joni_Blecher_150x150.jpgBy Joni Blecher
    Joni Blecher is a freelance writer who has spent her career covering tech and a myriad of lifestyle topics. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the food scene in Portland, Oregon.

    Microsoft made a splash last month when it unveiled a concept that, until now, we’ve only seen in the movies: glasses that project interactive holographic images onto the real world. Dubbed “HoloLens,” these wireless glasses allow the wearer to interact with three-dimensional images. They can be used to learn how to make household repairs, build prototypes in mid-air, and even take a virtual walk on Mars. In the same week, Google shut down its sci-fi-inspired Google Glass Explorer program and announced it was time for a reboot, which raises the question: Is the time right for HoloLens? Can it succeed where Google Glass failed?

    There are many reasons Google Glass, in its current iteration, didn’t succeed. It had gone to market before it was ready, and essentially the company asked consumers to pay $1,500 to beta test the product. Its functionality was limited. Google Glass pairs with a smartphone to keep users connected to email and Google apps and allows them take photos and videos — which raised many privacy and copyright concerns. (They were even banned from movie theaters.) And despite making an appearance on a walk down a fashion runway, the design was reminiscent of something a cyborg might wear.

    Google Glass tried to be fashionable, but the product was plagued by privacy concerns.

    That said, Google Glass didn’t completely fail. Google’s Glass at Work program is still operating with 10 certified partners, many of them in the medical field. These companies are creating apps that use Google Glass for live surgery demonstrations, fast access to patient medical records, and workflow automation.

    HoloLens and Google Glass are entirely different technologies. HoloLens is part of the Windows 10 computing platform and has an onboard CPU, GPU, and HPU (holographic processing unit). The aim of HoloLens is to allow those who wear it to interact with projected images and their surrounding environment.

    Microsoft’s HoloLens projects three-dimensional images onto the real world.

    Like Google Glass, the HoloLens glasses are wireless, so you can walk around a room wearing them without being tethered. The difference between the two designs is that HoloLens has two lenses and resembles motorcycle goggles, while Google Glass is primarily the top half of an eyeglass frame with a tiny clear monitor. When you wear either, you can still see the surrounding environment. In fact, HoloLens accommodates furniture and other objects in the room when projecting holograms. For example, if you’re using a building app, it will project an image of a building on top of the ottoman in the room.

    It’s the HoloLens apps that are the stuff of science fiction. There’s a design studio where you can assemble a prototype by placing holographic objects together and then print it on a 3D printer. Microsoft has been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on an app for the Mars rovers. Scientists can don HoloLens and interact with the images taken from Mars in a 3D environment. There’s also a building-block app reminiscent of Minecraft that’s used to create buildings and blow up walls by tapping on them (aka AirTap).

    One of the more practical demos is using HoloNotes, an app integrated with Skype, to install a light switch. While wearing HoloLens, place a Skype call to someone who walks you through installing the light switch. They see what you see on their tablet and talk you through what you need to do and draw arrows on the tablet screen that appear on the wall in front of you. No more saying, “Wait, is it the wire on the right or the left?”

    2015-02-18-MSFT_hololens_room_915x470.jpgHoloLens accommodates furniture and other objects in the room when projecting holograms.

    The apps offer a glimpse at HoloLens’ potential. HoloLens provides an active encounter while Google Glass offers a passive experience. There are problems both solutions can solve. For example, there’s a time when a doctor may want to wear Google Glass to record a surgery as a teaching tool. In a similar scenario, first responders could use HoloLens (and the HoloNotes app) to get instructions from a doctor on how to perform life-saving treatments in the field.

    Although HoloLens has exhibited some draw-dropping demonstrations, that doesn’t mean it will be an overnight success when it becomes available with Windows 10. When it comes to introducing a new technology, it typically takes at least three shipping versions before the majority of the bugs are under control. It will also depend on the apps developed and how Microsoft supports its developer community. It’s ultimately the apps that will drive adoption. That said, HoloLens, if rolled out correctly, has far more potential to change the way we interact with technology than Google Glass.

    Visit XPRIZE at xprize.org, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and get our Newsletter to stay informed.

  • YouTube To Launch Subscription Model: Report
    (Reuters) – Google Inc is set to launch a subscription model for YouTube in a few months, CNBC quoted Robert Kyncl, the online video service’s head of content and business operations as saying at the Code/Media conference.
    The company was “fine-tuning the experience”, Kyncl said at the conference in California. (http://cnb.cx/1zOXElH)
    YouTube has been exploring a paid, ad-free version of its service for some time. The company launched a pilot program in May 2013 that allowed individual content creators to charge consumers a subscription fee to access a particular “channel” of videos.
    The plan would represent a significant change for the world’s No. 1 online video, whose free videos, often accompanied by short commercials, attract more than 1 billion users a month.

    (Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

  • 'Revenge Porn' Operator Hunter Moore To Plead Guilty

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — The operator of a “revenge porn” website who posted stolen nude photos online has agreed to plead guilty to hacking and identity theft, according to court papers filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court.

    Hunter Moore, 28, of Woodland, faces a sentence of two to seven years in federal prison under the agreement, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

    Moore was dubbed the “most hated man on the Internet” for posting explicit photos and information about the people portrayed in them on his now-defunct site, IsAnyoneUp.com.

    The term “revenge porn” was coined because many of the images were posted by jilted lovers to get even with former partners.

    Prosecutors said Moore also sought out racy content himself, enlisting a hacker to dig up nude photos from email accounts.

    Photos posted between 2010 and 2012 included an “American Idol” finalist, the daughter of a major Republican donor and a woman in a wheelchair, according to a 2012 article in Rolling Stone magazine.

    Moore acknowledged in the agreement that he paid Charles Evens to hack email accounts and steal photos.

    Evens, 26, of Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial next month. He refused to comment when contacted Wednesday.

    Moore is due in court Feb. 25, although Mrozek said sentencing could be postponed until March.

    Moore’s lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.

  • Senate: 'Tread Carefully' Before Regulating Internet of Things
    I was not surprised to learn that the Senate is looking into the Internet of Things. Senators are concerned about safety, privacy and security issues now that the tech industry is focusing on ways to connect devices to the Internet and to each other.

    There are just over 7 billion people on the planet, and so far about 3 billion are connected to the Internet. But that’s nothing compared with the number of devices in the world. Eventually the Internet of Things, or IoT, could connect trillions of them. Some will be industrial devices, but many will be in our homes, in our cars and even on our bodies.

    So IoT security isn’t just about keeping machines safe and secure; it’s also about protecting the privacy, security and even health and safety of the people who use them.

    I wear a smartwatch that tracks my sleep, my footsteps, my heart rate and my estimated calorie consumption. The watch is connected by Bluetooth to my phone, and my phone is connected to the Internet, which means that all of that very personal data about me is being stored in the cloud.

    While I’m willing to admit publicly that I only got six hours of sleep last night, I can easily see why a lot of people wouldn’t want to share their average pulse rate or other health and fitness data with the public or the insurance industry. And it’s only a matter of time before these devices start recording our blood pressure, our blood sugar and even more vital data.
    There are already lots of homes in my neighborhood with Web-connected door locks, thermostats and garage door openers. I even have a coffee pot that connects to Wi-Fi.

    As he opened a hearing on the matter Wednesday, John Thune (R-South Dakota), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, offered several more examples: a bed with smart fabric and sensors that track your sleep habits, an automated sprinkler system that saves water by using real-time weather data and a Web-enabled toothbrush that tracks the user’s brushing habits to improve oral hygiene.

    Like his colleagues, Sen. Thune expressed concern about how these connected “things” can collect sensitive personal and business data that could impact privacy. But he encouraged policy makers to “tread carefully and thoughtfully before we consider stepping in with a ‘government knows best’ mentality that could halt innovation and growth.”

    Disabling the Breaks

    Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) reminded the committee of a recent 60 Minutes segment where correspondent Leslie Stahl drove a car through a parking lot only to have a remote hacker (in this case a government security expert) turn on her windshield wipers, honk her horn and then disable her breaks as she attempted to stop the car. Nelson also warned about the danger of hacking into insulin pumps to cause an overdose or take over a pacemaker to cause a heart attack.

    “It’s not the stuff of TV drama; it’s the real threats to our nation’s cybersecurity but also to our physical safety,” he said.

    Industry Responds

    One of the witnesses, Doug Davis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel’s Internet of Things Group, told me in an interview that Intel is “integrating more and more security technologies into the solutions we’re proving to our customers, the companies building these devices.”

    He said that security is a “foundational capability” with many many layers, “so we build it into our hardware, into the software we provide,” adding that Intel also has technologies that device makers can use to encrypt and protect data that is transmitted by connected devices.

    But Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Consumer Privacy Project, raised several concerns, including “poor data security practices, unexpected or unwanted data collection, a loss of control over our own devices and potential government abuse of these technologies.”

    “Even at this early stage we’ve seen all sorts of IoT devices be vulnerable to attack,” including home alarm systems, baby monitors, smart refrigerators, medical devices, routers and thermostats, he said.

    Dangers of Overregulation

    But the risks of the IoT shouldn’t prompt the government to overregulate, said Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “We should avoid basing our policy interventions on hypothetical worst case scenarios or else best case scenarios will never come about.”

    Personally, I’m excited about the Internet of Things as long as those things can serve our needs without spying on us or making us vulnerable to potential life-threatening hack attack.

    This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.

  • Alien Star Buzzed Our Solar System 70,000 Years Ago, New Research Shows
    It’s being called a very close shave, at least in astronomical terms: new research indicates that 70,000 years ago a dim star passed within a mere 8 trillion kilometers (5 trillion miles) of our solar system.

    That’s about one-fifth the distance from the solar system to Proxima Centauri, the star that is currently our system’s closest stellar neighbor, and the closest that any star has ever come to our system.


    (Story continues below image.)
    alien star
    Artist’s conception of Scholz’s star and its brown dwarf companion (foreground) during its flyby of the solar system 70,000 years ago. The sun is seen at the left, in the background. The pair is now about 20 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros.

    The small red dwarf star was discovered in 2013 by German astronomer Ralf-Dieter Scholz, according to a written statement released by the University of Rochester. A red dwarf with a mass about 8 percent that of the sun, “Scholz’s star” isn’t the most prepossessing star in the cosmos. But when astronomers noticed that the star and its even less massive brown-dwarf companion were moving very slowly across the sky, they took notice.

    “Most stars this nearby show much larger tangential motion,” Dr. Eric Mamajek, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the university and the lead author of a paper describing the research, said in the statement. “The small tangential motion and proximity initially indicated that the star was most likely either moving towards a future close encounter with the solar system, or it had ‘recently’ come close to the solar system and was moving away.”

    To figure out whether the star was coming or going, a team of astronomers made detailed measurements using telescopes in South Africa and Chile, according to the statement. Sure enough, the data suggested that the star was moving away from our solar system. The scientists traced the trajectory back in time, and their models pinpointed the distance and date of the close shave.

    Scholz’s star is almost certain to have passed through the “outer Oort Cloud,” a comet-filled region of space at the edge of the solar system. But the star is believed to have had a negligible effect on the comets there.

    (Story continues below image.)
    oort cloud
    This artist’s concept puts huge solar system distances in perspective. The scale bar is measured in astronomical units (AU), with each set distance beyond 1 AU representing 10 times the previous distance. Each AU is equal to the distance from the sun to the Earth. Scholz’s star passed by Earth at a distance of about 52,000 AU, according to the new resarch.

    “There are trillions of comets in the Oort cloud and likely some of them were perturbed by this object,” Mamajek told BBC News. “But so far it seems unlikely that this star actually triggered a significant ‘comet shower’.”

    The paper was published Feb. 12, 2015 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

  • Twitter Helped This 'Harry Potter' Fan Get A Touching Letter From J.K. Rowling
    Every “Harry Potter” fan wants a letter from Hogwarts. Johnnie Blue of Scotland got something even better.

    Johnnie is a major fan of the book series and shows off his Potterhead pride by attending themed events. He has also visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London that’s filled with props and costumes from the films.

    This was amazing! #HarryPotterBookNight @WStonesArgyleST pic.twitter.com/nbMJX4NRbJ

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) February 5, 2015

    Sitting by the Knight Bus… @wbstudiotour pic.twitter.com/3KapsuraWX

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) October 17, 2014

    The Hagrid’s hut set @wbstudiotour is so detailed. You can really imagine Hagrid living there! #HarryPotter pic.twitter.com/X6DdKP8eo8

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) December 6, 2014

    The castle looked so amazing in the snow! #HogwartsInTheSnow pic.twitter.com/WTQIwE4HZr

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) November 15, 2014

    In the past, he’s gotten replies from author J.K. Rowling on Twitter and even met her at a signing for “The Silkworm,” a book she wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. When they met, she had recognized him from his tweets.

    .@Johnnie_Rowling Let’s face it, that’s better than mine.

    — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014

    .@Johnnie_Rowling Calling me Bob or calling Bob Bob? Bob is fine with being called Bob, though I usually call him Rob.

    — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 5, 2015

    So much derp pic.twitter.com/KxNTHvStnR

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) January 11, 2015

    According to BuzzFeed, Johnnie gave Rowling a notebook at the signing with a letter inside about the impact she had on his life. The author responded in true “Harry Potter” fashion — a letter in an envelope with a Chamber of Secrets stamp.

    This is the gift I’m giving J.K. Rowling when I meet her next Friday! The owl is by @lovelikeatoms! pic.twitter.com/xs6pBSs05G

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) July 8, 2014

    The parts of my letter from Jo that I can share… pic.twitter.com/lY4wMyFDQz

    — johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) August 25, 2014

    In the letter, Rowling thanks Johnnie for the gift and praises him for overcoming his struggles with being bullied.

    “I freely confess that I loathe bullying and the way it is still so often ‘handled’ in schools. Your experience is shocking and disturbing and that you have turned out to be a compassionate, moral, highly motivated person is high testimony to your courage. Gryffindor for you, my lad….”

    She ends the letter with a promise to continue their friendship the way it started.

    “I’m sure we’ll see each other again. In the meantime, I’ll watch out for you on Twitter.”

    To read the letter in its entirety, head over to BuzzFeed.

    With Rowling around, the magic never ends.

    Follow HuffPost Teen on Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pheed |

  • 6 Truths I Learned My First Year on Facebook
    I was a decade late to the party. This month, as Facebook turns 11, I am celebrating year one on the site. I’ve learned a lot – and not just from those Buzzfeed quizzes that turn up on my Newsfeed. Herewith, a few truths I’ve gleaned from my first year on Facebook.

    1. Time has no meaning

    I always thought time was a linear function. Yet, someone’s anniversary dinner from June of 2010 will suddenly appear on my Newsfeed. How does this happen?

    The Facebook algorithm has figured out how to distort our conception of time. I assume this is intentional. When a quick check-in turns into minutes, then hours, of scrolling through posts and articles, it’s best to be deluded about how much time you just wasted.

    2. Some people must do nothing at work

    I have a few friends who post a lot. Which is totally fine, except I know these people have “real” jobs. When do they find the time?

    Back when I used to have a real job, I remember walking in or out of my office and seeing my assistant make furtive moves to minimize an open application on her screen. I now know what that was. I also have an inkling of why some work assignments took longer for her to complete.

    3. People really do love cats

    Need I say more?

    4. The uncurated life is not worth living

    Facebook is about offering up a perfectly curated life. Some people are amazing at this: artists, marketing professionals, people who work at government jobs with little supervision.

    Not long ago, a New York Times article “Facebook’s Last Taboo:The Unhappy Marriage” noted that divorce is the unmentionable of the site. I couldn’t agree more. Facebook is for posting the best version of yourself. Moreover, it’s an escape. If we want depressing stories, we can watch the six o’clock news. At least I think we can; most of my news comes from Facebook so I have no idea if TV news still exists. Regardless, I love that I get the top stories of the day carefully curated for me by my friends, as well as funny posts, pop culture clips, and the previously mentioned quizzes.

    5. The “Like” button is fraught

    I had heard a lot about the lure of the “like,” and how getting that little thumbs up could be addictive. It’s true; the only thing worse than checking your latest post to see how many “likes” you have is worrying whether your friends who didn’t “like” it actually didn’t like it.

    Of course, giving “likes” is just as complicated. Sometimes it feels as though you’re straddling the thin line between sycophancy and snubbing. If you “like” every post, are you fawning too much? Conversely, if you don’t “like” something, are you signaling indifference? Or worse, could it be mistaken for passive aggressive non-liking?

    For example, if I don’t press the button for someone’s post about their three-book deal with HarperCollins, or their gorgeous child accepting his student of the year prize, could it be misconstrued as willful ignorance—as if I am consciously ignoring their success? What happens if you simply stayed off Facebook for a day or two and missed some posts? (FYI, I’m sure that’s what happened.) This is the problem with online social interaction: it’s not always easy to convey, or discern, real intention.

    I try to be a judicious liker, acknowledging people but trying not to litter newsfeeds with my own “likes.” As for my own posts, I’ve become more appreciative of the “likes” I receive, and less upset by those I don’t—I’m sure the latter people just missed my post in their Newsfeed, right?

    6. Facebook screws with our emotions

    A few years ago, Facebook played its own version of Big Brother and manipulated the types of posts people received in their newsfeeds. The goal was to see how a user’s state of mind affected his subsequent posts. When word of this “experiment” got out, Facebook was forced to apologize for toying with human emotions.

    I may be new to this, but I didn’t need a corporate admission to realize that Facebook screws with our emotions. All those pictures and posts of perfectly curated lives (see above) can’t help but make you feel, at times, that you’re missing out, left behind, or totally on the wrong track.

    A year ago when I joined Facebook, I wondered, Will it make me happier? I’ve learned that the inputs and outcomes of this large-scale social experiment vary day by day. I’ve decided though, I’m sticking with it—because there’s another way Facebook screws with my emotions. It’s with the smiling faces of friends who have moved away or I’ve lost touch with; or the stunning work of art or brilliant piece of writing posted by a friend; or the picture of a grade school girlfriend, arms around her child who is the same age we were when we first met. These things make up for all the cats and quizzes, and they’re the things that truly warrant a virtual thumbs up.

  • 10 best medical apps released in January

    The 10 best medical apps released in January

    The post 10 best medical apps released in January appeared first on iMedicalApps.

  • Your Phone Is Germier Than You Could Ever Imagine
    In an epic battle of Phone vs. Toilet, BuzzFeedBlue investigates which surface is dirtier — the one we tap on to do business or the one we sit on to do business.

    Dr. William DePaolo, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California in the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology department, compared testing swabs taken from the screens of BuzzFeed employees phones for bacteria and swabs collected from a toilet. The results were kind of crappy (sorry): The toilet contained about three different kinds of bacteria and fungal species, while the cell phone contained, on average, 10 to 12 kinds of bacteria and fungal species.

    This is not entirely surprising: Our phones go everywhere with us, including the bathroom, meaning they encounter far more flora than the fixed-in-place toilet. What’s more — and perhaps more relevant — toilets, particularly the corporate office toilet used in this experiment — are cleaned regularly. Phones? Well, that’s up to the individual user. (And, in truth, we find fault in this study design — for a true understanding of phone vs. toilet, DePaolo and team would have had to swab each phone owner’s individual toilet, to accommodate hygiene differences.)

    But we digress. If you still feel like crawling into a (germ-free) hole, know that there are ways to de-germ your phone. (Whatever you do, don’t use your kitchen sponge.)

    Start by removing your phone case from the phone and clean it with soap and water. Don’t put it back on the phone until it’s dry. As for your actual phone, CNET suggests rubbing a dry (unused) toothbrush around the device’s small ports and crevices to remove tiny pieces of debris and lint. You might also consider investing in a pack of pre-made electronic wipes; be sure to stay away from liquid cleaning products. Always power down your device before you begin to sanitize, and use a clean cloth to wipe down your gadget when your finished.

    (H/t: BuzzFeed)

  • Silence Is a Blinking Cursor
    We didn’t live in the same city. We didn’t even live on the same side of the country. Aside from the first six months when we both lived in Massachusetts, the entire decade of our friendship had been on the Internet.

    For over 10 years, Ray and I talked almost every morning. We would catch up about what was new, or what our plans were for the day. Our conversations often broke off into sharing new music, or the books we’d been reading. If we had time, we would venture into deeper philosophical discussions. Other days, we only had a few minutes to complain about the weather before logging off and leaving the house. Sometimes we would talk on the phone, but the vast majority of our conversations were via instant messenger.

    Even though we had thousands of miles between us, we spent better quality time together than friends who live in the same city. He would tell me about his treks through nature. He offered encouragement as I started my writing career. We played Scrabble and wrote poetry together. He affectionately nicknamed me “Katers.”

    There is a constant criticism that suggests social media is making us depressed or anti-social. Is it because we are drawn in to our digital lives when there’s a lull in our “real” lives, or interrupted during in-person conversations by a sudden chime? Of course there are some who take their device usage to an obnoxious extreme, but weren’t there people who behaved in obnoxious extremes before the digital age?

    The Internet is a place, just as real as your favorite coffee shop or local bar, where we can stop by and catch up with friends as often or infrequently as we want. We can use social media to make arrangements to meet in real life, or simply hang out online. Life can be lonely, but the way we connect with people is evolving.

    Sometimes, Ray and I would talk about what we would do if we were together in person. But I don’t know what it would have been like if Ray and I lived in the same city. One of the things that made our friendship special was the fact that we could share our thoughts without being self-conscious. Since we weren’t facing each other, there was no sting of shame when the other person frowned or flinched at what you said. Not that we didn’t disagree, we did, but our keyboards kept disagreements conversational. The distance is one of the things that kept us close.

    I never felt like I needed to justify our friendship until he died.

    I learned about his passing the same way we spent all our time together: digitally. I was sitting at work, and received a text message from him. But then when I unlocked my phone, I read―

    “Hi, this is Ray’s brother. Is this Katie?”

    I knew immediately that something was wrong.

    The distance between us and the mode of our communication suddenly felt cheap, not as meaningful as other friendships in real life. At least, that’s how I felt as I sunk into grief.

    That’s the thing about having a digital friendship, you trust that they are always there. You can send them a message, and even if they don’t respond right away, you know they received it. They will respond. They exist. They are conducting their lives, and believing in you.

    That was the hardest thing about coming to terms with Ray’s death ― he wasn’t just not here, he wasn’t there either.

    I didn’t have the money to fly across the country for his funeral ― the same reason I hadn’t bought a ticket to Seattle to visit while he was alive. But his brother found a solution: He set up a webcam so I could attend virtually. I put on a dress and slipped on a bracelet that Ray had made me. Through the webcam’s blurred connection, I could see the flowers that I had sent the funeral home next to the casket.

    I was there.

    Maybe it’s not so hard to imagine “virtual funerals” becoming more common. Already I’ve seen once-active Facebook profiles become memorials, places for friends to grieve and remember the good times. Coping with loss is one of the things that makes us human, and it can be really hard. We have to use whatever tools we have, virtual or in real life, to learn to live without the ones we lost.

    What defined my friendship with Ray, and I dare say, what defines friendship is not the proximity between friends, but the impact of our interactions. These interactions―small gestures and chats and likes, all acts of sharing―are just as legitimate in cyberspace as they are in person. Their impact is still felt, even as the cursor blinks, with nothing more to say.

  • 6 Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using Too
    By Polly Conway, Common Sense Media editor

    Unless you’re single, you might not be familiar with dating apps such as Tinder, where users can quickly swipe through prospective dates. But it’s likely your teen knows all about these apps — even though they’re mostly designed for adults. According to the company’s own estimates, about seven percent of Tinder’s users are age 13 to 17.

    Although adults use these apps both for casual hookups and for scouting out more long-term relationships, they’re risky for teens. For starters, although many of the apps aren’t intended for them, it’s easy for savvy teens to get around registration-related age restrictions. Secondly, adults can pose as teens and vice-versa. Location-sharing increases the potential for a real-life meeting; less dangerous but still troubling is the heavy emphasis on looks as a basis for judgment.

    It’s possible that teens are only testing boundaries with these apps. Many are eager to be on the same wavelength as their 20-something counterparts, and the prospect of meeting someone outside their social circle is exciting. And with so much of their social life happening online, teens feel comfortable using apps to meet people. But these apps are not a safe way for them to explore dating.

    If you learn your teen is using dating apps, take the opportunity to talk about using social media safely and responsibly — and discuss what’s out of bounds. Keep lines of communication open; talk to them about how they approach dating and relationships and how to create a healthy, fulfilling one — and note that they usually don’t start with a swipe.

    Below are some of the adult dating apps that teens are using.

    1. Skout.
    This flirting app allows users to sign up as a teen or an adult. They’re then placed in the appropriate peer group, where they can post to a feed, comment on others’ posts, add pictures and chat. They’ll get notifications when other users near their geographic area join, and they can search other areas by cashing in points. They receive notifications when someone “checks” them out but must pay points to see who it is.

    What parents need to know. If your teens are going to use a dating app, Skout is probably the safest choice, if only because it has a teens-only section that seems to be moderated reasonably well. However, ages aren’t verified, making it easy for a teen to say she’s older than 18 and an adult to say she’s younger.

    2. Tinder.
    Tinder is a photo and messaging dating app for browsing pictures of potential matches within a certain mile radius of the user’s location.

    What parents need to know. You swipe right to “like” a photo or left to “pass.” If a person whose photo you “liked” swipes “like” on your photo, too, the app allows you to message each other. Meeting up (and possibly hooking up) is pretty much the goal.

    3. Badoo. This adults-only app for online dating-style social networking boasts more than 200 million users worldwide. The app (and the companion desktop version) identifies the location of a user by tracking his or her device’s location and then matches pictures and profiles of potentially thousands of people the user could contact in the surrounding area.

    What parents need to know. Badoo is definitely not for kids; its policy requests that no photos of anyone under 18 be posted. However, content isn’t moderated, and lots of sexual images show up as you browse.

    4. Hot or Not. This app started as a website over 10 years ago and has gone through lots of iterations since. It currently exists as a location-based app that shows you the hottest — or most attractive per their rating system — people nearby.
    What parents need to know. Users must first set up an account of their own, with photos — and must verify their identity with a working email address or a Facebook account and their mobile phones. The site says it will not accept a profile unless the user is 13 or older and that users 13 to 17 can’t chat or share photos with users older than 17 — but there’s no age-verification process.

    5. MeetMe. MeetMe’s tagline, “Chat and Meet New People,” says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a “Match” feature where users can “secretly admire” others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention. Users can chat with whomever’s online, as well as search locally, opening the door for potential trouble.

    What parents need to know. First and last name, age, and ZIP code are requested at registration, or you can log in using a Facebook account. The app also asks permission to use location services on your teens’ mobile devices, meaning they can find the closest matches wherever they go.

    5Omegle. One of the older, more established anonymous-chat apps, Omegle lets users start out anonymous, but they can (and do) share information such as names, phone numbers, and addresses.

    What parents need to know. Although not an official hookup site, Omegle gives kids the opportunity to share personal information and potentially set up IRL (“in real life”) meetings with the people they’ve met through the app. Adding an “interest” to your profile also makes it possible to match like-minded people. Chat on Omegle often turns to sex very quickly, and it encourages users to “talk to strangers.”

    Want more? Check out these related posts at Common Sense Media
    15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading Beyond Facebook
    Snapchat and Other Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets
    Alert! Digital Drama to Watch Out for This School Year

    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org

  • These High-Tech Shirts And Pants Can Help Protect Kids With Autism
    Many children with autism are prone to wandering away from their home or supervised space. While parents of these children face the daunting task of keeping tabs on them at all times, a GPS-equipped clothing line designed specifically for these families aims to help.

    Nearly half the parents of children with autism said their youngster had tried to wander off or run away at least once after age 4, and most said the child was gone for “long enough to cause worry,” according to a 2012 study. Former CNN correspondent Lauren Thierry — whose teenage son, Liam, has autism — is stepping up to change these statistics.

    ID Clothing shirt and leggings from the 2014 collection, both of which have a special pocket to hold a GPS device.

    In 2014, Thierry founded Independence Day Clothing, which offers shirts and pants that can help track down a child in the event he or she goes missing.

    “One out of every 68 babies born today is going to fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. We’re talking about 4.3 million people. I was shocked that someone else hadn’t come up with it,” Thierry said of her idea for clothes outfitted with tracking devices.

    Unlike many other pieces of wearable tech, which are worn around the wrist or ankle, ID Clothing’s GPS units slip inside a soft pocket sewn into each garment. There aren’t any uncomfortable wires sewn into the apparel, either.

    Currently, each GPS device measures 2 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. Thierry says an even smaller unit is on the horizon.

    “The predator can’t see it. The fidgety kid can’t see it or feel it. It’s in a quilted compartment, and it leaves the parent with the ultimate decision-making of who needs to know my kid has a GPS sensor on them,” Thierry told The Huffington Post.

    The GPS tracker slips right into ID’s clothes.

    The shirts and pants are the same backward and forward, which makes it easier for children to dress themselves. Thierry said she made this a big priority after realizing she wouldn’t always be able to help her son in the morning.

    Available on the company’s website, the clothing items range from $37.50 to $59.50. Currently, the GPS sensor is offered on a subscription basis: You get the device for free, but pay an activation fee of $69.95, plus $14.95 monthly.

    Thierry told HuffPost that the subscription model got some pushback from parents, and she plans to replace it with a one-time charge, which has yet to be determined.

    Kristina Chew, an online classics lecturer at Rutgers University who blogs about raising a son with autism, told HuffPost it’s key for the device be easy to wear and hard to detect.

    “[Some] families have noted that [wearable] devices can be difficult for a child (especially one with sensory sensitivities, such as many children on the spectrum have) to wear, much less to wear for extended periods of time,” Chew wrote in an email.

    “A technology that makes it possible for families to monitor the movements of a child who tends to wander (and who has no idea that she or he is lost) … could certainly be [useful],” she continued.

    There have been a number of efforts to make ideas like this work.

    Following the death of Avonte Oquendo, a teen with autism whose remains were discovered on a New York beach months after he disappeared from school, Senator Charles Schumer proposed a law that would finance tracking devices for children with autism. That bill has still not been passed by Congress.

    Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, recently announced a $98,000 commitment to Project Lifesaver, a program that provides wrist and ankle tracking devices, in addition to training for first responders to better understand the needs of individuals with autism.

    “When we think about wandering, it needs to be a multi-pronged approach,” Lisa Goring, executive vice president of programs and services for Autism Speaks, told HuffPost. “You need to back it up much further than GPS or the locating device. It needs to start with educating people with autism and their families.”

    The challenge now is to get the clothing in the right hands. She recently met with Walmart to pitch the idea of a “starter kit,” which would have included a shirt and device for $80. Walmart, however, ultimately decided that the price tag seemed too high, Thierry said. Now, she’s working with the local government in Enfield, Connecticut, to establish a program for getting ID Clothing items to 300 students with special needs.

    “GPSing in the clothes is going to become the norm,” Thierry said. “Hear me now, believe me later.”

  • Drone Rules
    We have all seen news articles about the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking to govern the commercial use of drones in the U.S. The FAA’s own summary sheet is shorter and better-written than nearly all the articles, so take a look at their Summary of Proposed Changes.

    First of all, I am surprised by just how conservative the FAA is being around the issue of pilotless flying aircraft. The category not only limits altitude (below 500 feet above ground level), speed (100 m.p.h.) and weight (25 kg), but more importantly bans operations over non-participating people (football games, unsuspecting crowds, downtowns, etc.). But the really interesting level of care comes from the requirement that the operator always be able to literally see the drone if needed, even if a visual observer is doing the observing for the moment. The operator really cannot be miles away under these rules, and furthermore the operator or visual observer can only care for one drone at a time.

    This last rule eliminates the possibility of a commercial operator having a fleet of twenty drones, all overseen by one human supervisor, doing agricultural assay, bridge inspection, disaster mapping, or any other commercial operation you can imagine. The fundamental position implicit in the FAA’s rulemaking is that drones are really miniature airplanes that happen to have their pilots on the ground. They are not looking at drones as intelligent machines, but as the flying shell of an intelligent, remote pilot. As such, the drone cannot operate if there is poor visibility; the drone cannot operate if the ‘pilot’ cannot see it when needed, and the drone cannot share a pilot with other drones at the same time.

    Ironically, as technology marches forth drones will become ever more intelligent; and with every advance, they actually become safer, in many cases, than the human pilots can ever be. If the visibility is near zero, it is the well-instrumented drone, with on-board sensor processing and control, that can fly at a disaster site and look for signs of human survivors. In such cases humans are nothing more than supervisors- not pilots at all- and under these circumstances, the “one drone per operator” policy is very much counterproductive and outdated.

    So the rules are a good first step if we are to ease very gradually into the world of commercial drone operations: they will be matched one-to-one with operators, and will start out in unpopulated and controlled sites, where bridge inspection, agricultural assay and movie production are all possible applications. These rules are a serious problem for startups and heavyweights who have been dreaming of operations atop our nation’s major cities, and they will have to wait patiently until the first flush of drones prove or disprove their usefulness, reliability and worst-case characteristics in time for new rules in several more years. The FAA rules are incremental, and in this case that’s exactly the right thing to do.

  • 6 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Mobile App

    Mobile Applications – almost everyone you know has talked about building one, right? Mobile commerce and sales are growing exponentially and that’s all the more reason to get in on the action. However, building a successful application comes down to the type of service or product you offer, your audience, which platforms to consider, and your marketing strategy.

    This article is going to take a look at a few things you need to know before switching the green light on towards your mobile app development efforts.

    1. What Will It Cost?

    This question is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding app development, and is the same as asking “what does a house cost?” Ultimately, there are different variables, features, and development processes to consider, and then it furtner varies from project to project.

    If you are planning to build the app yourself or you have access to an in-house development team, the cost would depend on the amount of time you put into the project. If you can do this in your spare time, it will only cost you your time and skills. However, keep in mind that most professionally developed applications require a team-effort, usually consisting of a product manager, designer, developers, testers, and marketing experts.

    The leading mobile app developer review company Clutch recently surveyed representatives from 12 leading mobile app development firms to determine cost ranges for building an iPhone app “and found that the median cost range is between $37,913 and $171,450, but could climb up to $500,000 or higher. The best way to find out where your app will fall in that range is to obtain price quotes from several development companies;” One of the 12 firms surveyed by Clutch was Digital Brand Group, and the CEO Jeremiah Jacks is a friend of mine. Something to keep in mind that Jeremiah mentioned is that “what you get from a lot of development companies is that they treat their customers from a kind of manufacturing standpoint, where they’re getting in a contract, they’re looking at a scope, and they’re just delivering on the scope. They’re not going any further beyond that.”

    If you’re going to hire a mobile development company, then at least choose one where your money is going to count for something, and the vendor doesn’t look at you as just a number – you will need a partner. DBG has a good whitepaper on selecting a top mobile development company to help you decide.

    Finally, innovative mobile application ideas can also be promoted on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. In this way you may be able to raise funds externally before you have to spend money out of your own pocket. Make sure you have a killer pitch if you want to increase your chances of raising money through crowdfunding, and keep in mind that once your idea is out there, you have limited time before someone else takes off with your idea.

    2. Understand the Process

    Even though your mobile app idea might have revealed itself in a matter of minutes, your application won’t be developed overnight. Discuss the project scope with your developer and make sure that you understand the process. Below are the areas you should cover in your process:

    • Project / Product Management
    • Design (Wireframing & Visual Design)
    • Architecture
    • Programming
    • Testing
    • Infrastructure
    • Validation

    Once you have an application developed, you should go through a rigorous testing and quality assurance phase to identify bugs, and areas you can improve on user experience. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to initially build a Beta-version of your idea (some call this a minimum viable product or MVP) and make this available to a select few in order to extract valuable feedback, and direct the development process.

    3. The Mobile App Platforms: Native, Hybrid, or mobile Web

    Before building your killer app, you will want to decide which platforms to target. Ultimately, this will come down to your budget and project requirements. When opting for a native application you will need to build the same application over and over again for each platform ecosystem (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.), so costs will be significantly higher going native. However, one of the benefits of creating a native app is that you will be able to work with the platform device’s unique operating system features.

    To learn more about these three different platforms and why to select one over the other, check out this mobile platform research from Clutch.

    4. The App Ecosystems: iOS, Android, etc.

    Selecting which mobile application ecosystem to build for comes down to knowing your user types. It would be ideal to deploy your application on all possible platforms. However, when you are starting out it is often only feasible to start with one ecosystem unless you have a large budget out the gate. The obvious choices are usually between iOS, Android, and Windows. Consider your application features, monetization strategy, brand and audience – where are they most likely to “hang out” and which would be the best fit for your particular idea. Localytics explains the different ecosystems in detail:


    (Image retrieved from http://info.localytics.com/blog/9-things-to-consider-before-during-and-after-launching-your-app – credit)

    When creating any product, you have to keep your audience in mind. Will the application be accessible to them? Will it be user-friendly? and also, would it have a lot of competition?

    5. Will Your App Add Value?

    Remember, you are creating a mobile app in order to reach your business objectives. This could be sales driven, or have engagement and entertainment as its top priority. Keep the bigger goal in mind before launching your application and make sure the costs are weighed against your goals.

    Your mobile application is just another extension of your brand, and will be a reflection of your company. Don’t just create an app for the sake of it, make sure that it serves a purpose and adds value to the user. Think: “What problem am I solving with this application, and how will my application solve the problem?”

    6. Keep Updates in Mind

    Unfortunately, just like any other product or service – your application will need updates. These updates may include improving the overall user-experience, adding extra features, fixing bugs, or just modernizing the app to keep up with changing times. When you are planning your budget and project, keep the before, during and “after” in mind to assure that you will be prepared. Don’t fear, these updates shouldn’t be too regular since this will cause frustration with the user or put them under the impression that you have a lot of things to “fix.” Find a healthy middle-ground in order to keep your application competitive and at the highest quality.

    There are additional factors to keep in mind when considering app development. The above-mentioned factors can also be split into sub-sections because creating a mobile application can be rather intrinsic. Basically, you should do enough market research to determine if your product will be of value, choose the right platform, the best mobile development company and try to understand the process.

  • How Many of These Security Mistakes Are you Making?
    When it comes to Internet security, what you think you know can hurt you.

    A lot of what passes for common sense about this subject is just plain wrong — and often risky. Here’s a list of some mistaken beliefs that can get you ripped off or hacked, or your computer infected with something nasty.

    Which of these apply to you?

    I don’t worry because I’ve got security software on my computer.
    Don’t drop your guard. Security software is essential, but it won’t protect you from every threat out there. Even the best security suite may fail to stop a new piece of malicious software that has been in circulation for too short a time to be easily recognized. If you’re still running the trial version of the security software that came with your new computer a couple of years ago without having paid for updates, that software has probably gone stale. Security software needs to be updated frequently. Free antivirus programs like Avast, Avira and AVG may perform decently. But if you’re willing to pay $40 to $80 for more versatile products that include technical support, check out the free ratings of security suites at Top Ten Reviews, which are based on performance tests conducted by an independent lab.

    No need to worry when I use my smartphone or tablet, because security risks are only for desktop and laptop computers.
    It’s partly true: Malicious software is rare on Apple mobile devices and just a small threat on Android devices if you stick with apps from the Google Play Store or Amazon App Store for Android. But phones and tablets have other risks, namely that a stolen or lost device will be hacked into by a criminal, or that someone will tap into your communications when you use the device at an unprotected Wi-Fi hot spot in, say, a coffee shop or airport. To minimize the threats from a lost phone, use the device’s built-in security features. To thwart Wi-Fi eavesdroppers, use your carrier’s 3G/4G connection or install a free VPN (virtual private network) like HotSpot Shield.

    I can safely read any e-mail as long as I don’t open any attachments.
    This is mostly true, but be aware: Researchers have discovered some HTML-enabled e-mails that delivered malicious software even if you don’t open an attachment. Don’t forget that just by opening a piece of spam e-mail you confirm to the spammer that your address is legit–and encourage more spam.

    I’m safe visiting nearly any web site, because a site can’t infect my computer unless I knowingly download something from it.
    Not true. Web sites can trick you into downloading malicious software via a technique known as a drive-by download. Not all security software is equally effective at blocking these downloads. In fact, I had a computer infected and crippled this way even though my antivirus was running at the time. This risk is a good reason to make sure you back up important files on your computer on a regular basis.

    I’m sure my computer isn’t infected by malware, because the symptoms would be obvious.
    Not all malicious software leaves tell-tale signs such as slowing down your computer or displaying annoying popups. If you have reason to suspect an infection, scan the computer using good security software. That’s not a sure thing either, but it’s the best you can do without bringing the computer to a professional.

    My computer is safe because I only visit well-known sites and avoid the shady ones.
    High-profile sites are not immune to malicious software. Last fall, via a criminal practice known as malvertising, banner ads on 22 popular sites — including Yahoo Finance, AOL, The Atlantic, and Match.com — infected users’ computers with CryptoWall, a malicious ransomware program, according to security firm Proofpoint.

    I’m sure no one would attack my computer. There’s nothing on it worth stealing.
    If only that were true. Criminals are scouring the Internet around the clock for vulnerable computers. Yours probably contains something useful to a criminal, such as passwords and account information, your address and contacts, or other sensitive material such as tax or medical records. Or a hacker may want to hijack your computer to use it to attack web sites or to store illicit material on it, such as pornography or stolen intellectual property.

    I change my passwords often to be more secure.
    Changing passwords often does not improve your security. In fact, if you change them so often that you’re tempted to come up with quick-and-dirty passwords just so a web site will accept them, it can actually lower your security.

    I’m safe because my home router has a firewall that keeps out the bad guys.
    Your router is probably more vulnerable than you think, even if you avoid the common mistake of not changing its factory-set administrator name, password and SSID. Last summer, hackers in a security contest called SOHOpelessly Broken found numerous vulnerabilities in small office/home office routers from major brands like Linksys, Netgear, D-Link and Belkin.

    Social networks are safe because I only interact with friends. And besides, there are no computer viruses on them.
    It’s precisely because people lower their guard when using services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, that social networks have become a breeding ground for criminals, according to security firm Zerofox. Forged Facebook pages, links to malicious sites, and even some apps on Facebook have led unwitting users to download malicious software and fall into the hands of hackers.

    Whenever I see the little padlock symbol in my browser, it means that the web site I’m visiting is safe.
    Actually, that little padlock tells you nothing about how secure the site itself is from hackers or data breaches. All it means is that the site uses encryption to secure the data that’s exchanged between the site and your computer.

    It’s safe to read an e-mail if it comes from someone I know.
    Don’t fall for this trick, which criminals have used for years to get trusting users to open malicious e-mail. If the subject for an e-mail from a friend appears even slightly suspicious, check with the friend directly before opening it. The chances are that your friend’s computer has been infected with malicious software that sent infectious e-mails to the contacts in their address book — including you.

    I’m not at risk because I use an Apple computer.
    While malicious software for Macs is rare, don’t become overconfident. As a Mac user, you’re still vulnerable to phishing and other e-mail scams, as well as criminal web sites that try to trick you into divulging sensitive information.

    A scam or phishing e-mail is easy to recognize because it’s so poorly written.
    Don’t kid yourself. While some scams may be easy to spot, criminals have created some very slick e-mails and bogus sites that even an expert would have a hard time identifying.

  • New HTTP/2 protocol to speed up web
    The HTTP/2 protocol, which is promised to speed up webpage loading and make the web more secure, has been approved by internet engineers.
  • Samsung TVs fail to encrypt voices
    Samsung acknowledges that some of its smart TVs upload voice commands to the internet in an unencrypted form, making it easier to hack the data.

Mobile Technology News, February 17, 2015

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.

  • NSA Has Ability To Hide Spying Software Deep Within Hard Drives: Cyber Researchers
    SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

    That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

    Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

    The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the U.S. agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence.

    A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the spy agency valued these espionage programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

    NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency was aware of the Kaspersky report but would not comment on it publicly.

    Kaspersky on Monday published the technical details of its research on Monday, a move that could help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.

    The disclosure could hurt the NSA’s surveillance abilities, already damaged by massive leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden’s revelations have upset some U.S. allies and slowed the sales of U.S. technology products abroad.

    The exposure of these new spying tools could lead to greater backlash against Western technology, particularly in countries such as China, which is already drafting regulations that would require most bank technology suppliers to proffer copies of their software code for inspection.

    Peter Swire, one of five members of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, said the Kaspersky report showed that it is essential for the country to consider the possible impact on trade and diplomatic relations before deciding to use its knowledge of software flaws for intelligence gathering.

    “There can be serious negative effects on other U.S. interests,” Swire said.


    According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on.

    Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up.

    “The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over,” lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

    Though the leaders of the still-active espionage campaign could have taken control of thousands of PCs, giving them the ability to steal files or eavesdrop on anything they wanted, the spies were selective and only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets, according to Raiu. He said Kaspersky found only a few especially high-value computers with the hard-drive infections.

    Kaspersky’s reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc , Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

    Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of these spying programs. Toshiba and Samsung declined to comment. IBM did not respond to requests for comment.


    Raiu said the authors of the spying programs must have had access to the proprietary source code that directs the actions of the hard drives. That code can serve as a roadmap to vulnerabilities, allowing those who study it to launch attacks much more easily.

    “There is zero chance that someone could rewrite the [hard drive] operating system using public information,” Raiu said.

    Concerns about access to source code flared after a series of high-profile cyberattacks on Google Inc and other U.S. companies in 2009 that were blamed on China. Investigators have said they found evidence that the hackers gained access to source code from several big U.S. tech and defense companies.

    It is not clear how the NSA may have obtained the hard drives’ source code. Western Digital spokesman Steve Shattuck said the company “has not provided its source code to government agencies.” The other hard drive makers would not say if they had shared their source code with the NSA.

    Seagate spokesman Clive Over said it has “secure measures to prevent tampering or reverse engineering of its firmware and other technologies.” Micron spokesman Daniel Francisco said the company took the security of its products seriously and “we are not aware of any instances of foreign code.”

    According to former intelligence operatives, the NSA has multiple ways of obtaining source code from tech companies, including asking directly and posing as a software developer. If a company wants to sell products to the Pentagon or another sensitive U.S. agency, the government can request a security audit to make sure the source code is safe.

    “They don’t admit it, but they do say, ‘We’re going to do an evaluation, we need the source code,'” said Vincent Liu, a partner at security consulting firm Bishop Fox and former NSA analyst. “It’s usually the NSA doing the evaluation, and it’s a pretty small leap to say they’re going to keep that source code.”

    The NSA declined to comment on any allegations in the Kaspersky report. Vines said the agency complies with the law and White House directives to protect the United States and its allies “from a wide array of serious threats.”

    Kaspersky called the authors of the spying program “the Equation group,” named after their embrace of complex encryption formulas.

    The group used a variety of means to spread other spying programs, such as by compromising jihadist websites, infecting USB sticks and CDs, and developing a self-spreading computer worm called Fanny, Kaspersky said.

    Fanny was like Stuxnet in that it exploited two of the same undisclosed software flaws, known as “zero days,” which strongly suggested collaboration by the authors, Raiu said. He added that it was “quite possible” that the Equation group used Fanny to scout out targets for Stuxnet in Iran and spread the virus.

    (Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

  • VIDEO: The PC without a keyboard or mouse
    HP shows off the Spout, a computer that uses an interactive mat and 3D scanner as alternative controls to a mouse and keyboard.
  • VIDEO: How to create a virtual black hole
    The Oscar nominees behind the film Interstellar explain how they created some of the visual effects in the movie.
  • The school growing a digital forest
    The school growing a digital forest in Rwanda
  • Is your toaster a security risk?
    How your gadgets could be ‘thingbot’ army recruits
  • What Apple Is Missing About Cyber Security
    Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook attended a cyber security conference sponsored by the White House, in which he signed up for a framework to share information on cyber threats between companies.

    However, in an impassioned speech, he made the case for not violating user privacy even to protect national security, and staunchly refused to share information with the U.S. government. Apple has also made it virtually impossible for law enforcement to obtain data from its devices even with a valid court order.

    While it’s easy to applaud Cook’s stance, especially after the NSA debacle, and the CEO is known for his personal commitment to privacy protection, there’s also a problem with his view: namely, it ignores a basic truth about the threat faced by Americans today.

    A new report on cyber security showing that since 2013, hackers have infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries and stolen more than $1 billion, not to mention the many large data breaches which occurred in 2014, illustrate just how serious and widespread the problem of cyber crime is. Whether it’s money or sensitive personal data, we are extremely vulnerable to hackers. In the computer age, all our information is stored electronically somewhere and that leaves us exposed even offline.

    In this environment, and what Cook seems unable or unwilling to recognize, is that privacy and security are inextricably linked. You can’t have the former without the latter, and just because Apple won’t reveal information to the government doesn’t mean that information could never be hacked by criminals. Let’s not forget that our biggest banks and retailers also promised us protection, but were unable to provide it.

    The fact is that no system is foolproof, even with cutting edge technology, and therefore a joint effort by the federal government and private sector, utilizing both military and corporate expertise and maximum resources, is essential for creating a robust defense against cyber crime.

    We are no longer dealing with innocuous teenage hackers like the one portrayed in War Games, but sophisticated criminal networks often sponsored by rouge nations. As a result, we don’t just need individual company safeguards but system-wide ones to protect us properly, and that requires cooperation.

    That’s why Apple’s attitude is misguided.

    A better approach would be for the company to work collaboratively with the government so that it can monitor how its user information is used, contribute its own knowledge and expertise, and work on a broader national solution to privacy protection instead of just championing it internally. That may not be as media-friendly but would likely be more effective.

    It would also be more responsible. Apple’s decision may be well-intentioned but the result is that it’s deciding what our government can and cannot do to protect us from crime. That may not place the company above the law but it certainly feels like it’s making its own laws, and that’s scary.

    Other articles on Apple by Sanjay Sanghoee: “Has Apple’s value peaked?”

  • Anger over BBC radio streaming
    Some internet radio devices, including models aimed at blind and partially sighted listeners, have been left unable to receive BBC radio.
  • Before Steve Jobs, An iMac-Like Device 'Was Of No Interest To Apple'
    If it weren’t for Steve Jobs, the iMac may have never come to be.

    In fact, before the late Jobs became CEO of Apple, the company really wasn’t that interested in what would become one of its most iconic products, according to Jonathan Ive, the senior vice president of design at Apple. The “surprising” revelation can be found in an epically long profile of Ive by Ian Parker, which will be published in the Feb. 23 issue of The New Yorker.

    Parker writes:

    … Ive told me that, before Jobs replaced [Gil] Amelio, the studio’s work on an iMac-like device “was of no interest to the company.” The comment was surprising: Ive tends to be strenuously courteous toward his employers.

    Jobs unveiled the iMac in May 1998, a little less than a year after Amelio was ousted and Jobs took over as interim CEO. The computer, which later came out in a number of candy colors, revolutionized desktop computers.


    The iMac was a game changer for many reasons, especially for its design. Before the iMac, computers were bulky, beige boxes. Ive and Jobs changed that. According to Parker’s profile, the iMac “fully launched” Ive, even though Jobs “took much of the credit for its conception.”

    Apple didn’t immediately respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment.

    Ive’s design acumen has gone far beyond the iMac in the 17 years since its launch. He’s at least partly responsible for the fact that the iPhone 6 isn’t even bigger than it currently is and that the Apple Watch doesn’t have a circular face, among many other things.

    His reach has even gone beyond Apple. According to Parker’s profile, Ive had something to do with the design of the lightsabers that will be used in the upcoming film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

    Here’s a look at how Mac computers have evolved over the last 30-plus years:

    Visit The New Yorker’s website for the full profile.

  • Giveaway: win 1 of 5 copies of Workflow 1.1
    What is Workflow 1.1? Is it really an “essential” tool to add to your tool kit? What is new in version 1.1? Last week MacNN explored these questions in a complete Hands On review. We discussed who this software title would be good for, and who it might not be so good for. We also secured 5 promo codes to give away copies of this software to our readers.

  • Experts judge '$1bn bank hack' claim
    A leading security company says it has uncovered an “unprecedented” cyber-attack on up to 100 banks, but experts are split over its severity.
  • Code to delete Facebook photos found
    A “white hat” hacker was given £8,000 after he found a way to delete public photo albums on Facebook.
  • Hundreds Of Unseen NASA Photographs Reveal The Vintage Beauty Of Outer Space
    On October 24, 1946, the world was introduced to the first photograph from space, a shot of our tiny planet taken 65 miles above Earth. The artist behind this iconic image was a V-2 rocket, programmed to capture a frame every 1.5 seconds before delivering a steel cassette of film back to the ground just minutes after it launched.

    Clyde Holliday, The first photograph from space, October 24, 1946

    This photograph is at the center of an auction this month, set to honor the storied tradition of celestial photography. Titled “From the Earth to the Moon: Vintage NASA Photographs of the First Voyages Beyond Our Home Planet,” the auction From the Earth to the Moon (and corresponding exhibition at Mallett Antiques) will showcase 600 visual bits of space program history, everything from the first “selfie” in outer space, belonging to Buzz Aldrin, to an abstract portrait of an eclipse to panoramic views of lunar canyons.

    One of the more memorable lots is a relic from 1969, the year Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. It wasn’t until two decades after Armstrong became a lunar hero that NASA discovered a surprisingly clear image of him standing near a module, taken by his Apollo 11 colleague Aldrin and subsequently stashed in a Houston archive. Before that, NASA believed the only photos from the lunar surface were blurry shots grabbed by a TV camera and a 16 mm motion picture camera.

    Beyond Aldrin’s impressively composed image, the auction offers a number of works by astronauts-turned-artists. There’s John Glenn, the first man to carry a camera into space. Eugene Cernan, the last man to trek to the moon. Ed White, the 1965 spacewalker who documented his time on Gemini 4 in 1965. As Sarah Wheeler, Head of Photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions describes the collection, these photographs reflect not only on the golden age of space travel, but the golden age of photography as well.

    After all, the photographs on view are vintage Kodaks, printed shortly after they were taken, estimated to fetch anywhere between £300 to £10,000 ($462 to $15,390).

    Harrison Schmitt, Portrait of astronaut Eugene Cernan, explorer of another world, Apollo 17, December 1972

    “It’s incredible to realize that many photographs in this auction were unknown to the general public for decades until the complete NASA photographic archive began to appear digitally on the internet,” Wheeler explained in a press statement. “This is particularly true of the collection of mosaics, real boots-on-the-ground panoramas taken by the Apollo astronauts as they explored the lunar landscape. These spectacular images were pieced together from individual Hasselblad frames for internal use by NASA scientists. We know of no such collection ever having been offered at auction.”

    Check out a preview of “From the Earth to the Moon,” on view at Mallett Antiques before the works head to auction on February 26 at Bloomsbury Auctions in London.

  • NBA's Harrison Barnes Shines on Court and Social Media
    A while back I wrote a blog post about athletes and social media. Ever since then I have been keeping an eye on athletes that seem to be using social media to maximum effect. One such example is Harrison Barnes (@hbarnes) of the Golden State Warriors.

    Heading in to the All-Star break, the Warriors are off to the best start in franchise history. In his third year in the league, Barnes has emerged as a key part of the team’s success. Meanwhile he has already established himself as a super star on social media.

    Barnes and other athletes of his generation have grown up around social media, but not all have embraced the medium the way Barnes has. I was intrigued by what Barnes was doing so I tweeted at him. Despite being in the midst of the season with a busy travel, practice and game schedule, he responded. It’s not every day that an NBA star tweets at me, but this level of one-on-one engagement is what makes Harrison Barnes unique. I asked if he would be open to sharing some of his perspective on social media and he graciously obliged.


    Although Barnes really only became active on social media when he entered the NBA, he has used these platforms to connect with hundreds of thousands of fans. I asked him about some of the fun ways in which he uses social media and he told me, “Hands down, the most fun I’ve had is with my scavenger hunts. I’ve dropped jerseys, tickets, and other items at random places across the Bay Area, along with clues on social media on how to find them. I have some great stories from those times.”

    Talk to people around the Warriors organization and you will find that Barnes is one of the hardest working members of the team, spending countless hours in the gym. While basketball is clearly his #1 priority, his passion for the game seems to be matched by his keen interest in technology. Barnes made headlines last summer when he became an “intern” at Facebook, a role he took on top of his off-season basketball training. According to Barnes, “I would work out each morning, and during rest period go over to Facebook and learn about what they’re doing and how I could more uniquely connect with my supporters.”

    Here are some other insights that Barnes shared with me:

    BP: What do you view the role of social media being for you on a personal and professional level?

    HB: Personally, social media has kept me in touch with close friends and family while I am doing significant traveling. I use Skype, Instagram & Twitter mostly for that. It also has been a great outlet for me to connect with people I respect in other industries (other sports, entertainment, journalists, fitness, etc.). Of course it’s the biggest driver for my consumption of news as well.

    Professionally, I view it as my responsibility to connect with and give back to my fans and those that support me. Typically, if I have down time after a workout, I’ll go to social media to update my fans and see what they are talking about. I like hosting Q&A’s during those times to make it spontaneous. I have over 200,000 followers on Twitter & over 350,000 fans on Facebook, and I’m truly humbled by that. I owe it to those people to stay present, give them content they want to see, and have fun with them along the way. I’ve built real relationships with fans from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I’m proud of that.

    BP: What have you found to be the best social media channel to engage with your fans?

    HB: Facebook. That has been the main hub for scavenger hunts and other big contests, and the volume is just higher since there are more fans on there than any other platform. On some posts I get thousands of comments and responses, and Facebook has made hosting Q&A’s easier for me. I also like the fact that I can do more long-form content.

    BP: What advice would you give to younger athletes about the role of social media in their personal lives and playing careers?

    HB: I’d say to just let it come to you and don’t force it. When you have downtime, talk to your fans. Sometimes the smallest things can go a long way for people that never can come to a game, or even watch a game. Almost everyone can tweet. We didn’t used to have these mediums to do so, and now that we do, take advantage.

    BP: What is the biggest thing you learned from your time at Facebook? Will you do something like that again next off season?

    HB: I learned that with all the powerful tools and technology we are exposed to today, my quest to build relationships with fans is just starting. To see first-hand how hard Facebook works to constantly improve its product was powerful. I definitely look forward to doing something else like that again. Facebook has been very helpful in working with me.

    What was most refreshing to hear from Barnes is that he views social media as a vehicle to communicate with fans rather than a platform to build his brand. In my original post I wrote about how athletes could monetize their social media presence, but Barnes reminded me that isn’t what it’s all about. The true power in social media is being able to connect with others and nobody exemplifies this better than Harrison Barnes.

  • Call for 'eBay-style' online courts
    Low-value civil court cases cases in England and Wales could be dealt with by an online disputes system similar to eBay, a report recommends.
  • MacNN Podcast: Apple Pay, great apps, huge iPhones, Tesla, and more
    The MacNN Podcast hits its second episode and engages on a wide variety of topics! Join this week’s hosts, MacNN Editor Charles Martin, alongside staff writer Michelle Elbert, reviewer William Gallagher, and news writer Malcolm Owen as they discuss the events that got our attention, needed further discussion, or just plain tickled our fancy.

  • Under Armour's Purchase Of MyFinessPal: What Happened To My Data?
    with Fatemeh Khatibloo

    Like 80 million others, I use MyFitnessPal to log my calories and workouts. I’ve been doing this for about three years. MyFitnessPal made news last week when it was acquired byUnder Armour. I’m sitting here thinking two things: 1) Should I panic? 2) I’m so glad I didn’t link my Nike Fuelband (not compatible) or Withings Body Analyzer (just hadn’t gotten to it yet) with MyFitnessPal. I also had a MapMyFitness (acquired by Under Armour for $150M in 2013) account, but I hadn’t used it as much. I always thought I’d have control over how my data was combined and by whom it would be consumed. There is simply a future promise “to deliver more impactful services and experiences.”

    I always knew this would be a risk. I downloaded a free app and willingly uploaded data to it. As an analyst, I also knew at some point that they would need to monetize their audience (yes, they now have ads in the app) and would want a return on their asset: data. Aside from my personal issues, as an analyst, I’m curious about the $475 million paid by Under Armour.

    Two things matter in mobile: audience and data. MyFitnessPal has both.

    1. Audience matters because consumers are using fewer and fewer applications on their mobile devices. Brands can no longer pursue a “destination” strategy and expect consumers will come to them. They need to go engage consumers where they are. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for19B gave us a sense of just how valuable audience depth, reach and usage is.
    2. Data matters because it helps us simplify or improve mobile experiences by anticipating the needs of customers or to improve the value of advertising – if you are monetizing your app that way. Under Armour just paid475M for MyFitnessPal for the audience, food database and personal data.

    Both Under Armour and MyFitnessPal are celebrating. But, what about my data?

    The truth is, there are lots of players that *might* have acquired MyFitnessPal that worry me even more: one of the internet giants that already has too much information about me or an insurance company, who might use its data to evaluate claims — or worse, assess insurability. I worry most about what dots are being connected.

    At least UnderArmour is a business that has never wavered from its commitment to supporting athletes, servicemen, and civil servants with technically superior products.

    To myself, and my Forrester colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo, Under Armour recognizes an important opportunity in the fitness market: “app overload”. This is the sense that we all just have too many apps, and too many have redundant qualities. Most of us tend not to have especially deep loyalties to these myriad tools, so we might have three fitness apps on our device, collecting significantly similar data, but each with different data visualizations or other features that make them unique.

    If UnderArmour can successfully consolidate, standardize, and resolve the data that sits within MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, here’s what it wins:

    • First, it becomes the fitness destination for 120 million users of fitness apps. This is what we mean by “intelligent agents,” or services that consolidate an individual’s data from many sources, but within a single “category.” [this needs more explanation and fleshing out]
    • Second, it has created the most valuable focus group (for its category) on the planet. UnderArmour now has the ability to study actual behavior data, not just self-reported data, with respect to how frequently people exercise, how/where/when they exercise, and the full spectrum of consumer- and professional-level fitness activities. From a product development/product marketing perspective, this is priceless.
    • Finally, if UnderArmour decides to monetize the consolidated data from the apps it has acquired, it would be a tremendously valuable entrant in the global data economy. And this could all be done in a privacy-compliant way: the firm could, for example, sell city or state governments data about running/biking/hiking trail usage. It could help urban planners understand actual use of city paths to help them optimize energy usage (eg, one path might be more trafficked, therefore need better nighttime lighting), plan for future bike lanes, etc.
  • Dotcom's team reacts to guilty plea
    Kim Dotcom’s lawyer denies that a guilty plea by one of Megaupload’s ex-employees will have a major impact on his client’s case.
  • Comets Are Just Like Deep Fried Ice Cream, According To Science
    Astronomers have long known that comets are cosmic snowballs with a soft interior and hard surface. But the exact composition of that surface — and how it forms — has been somewhat of a mystery, until now.

    In a new study, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory mixed together ice and organic dust to simulate how a comet forms. And they found that the crunchy comet crust is much like something very decadent and delicious…

    “A comet is like deep fried ice cream,” study co-author Dr. Murthy Gudipati, principal scientist at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., said in a written statement. “The crust is made of crystalline ice, while the interior is colder and more porous. The organics are like a final layer of chocolate on top.”


    For the study, the scientists used an icebox-like cryostat device dubbed Himalaya to simulate the conditions that a comet’s icy materials would experience in deep space as they journeyed toward the sun, Discovery News reported.

    (Story continues below.)
    cryostat machine
    The cryostat instrument, nicknamed “Himalaya,” that researchers used to study the icy conditions under which comets form.

    First, the team flash-froze a special mixture of water vapor that was infused with organic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are common in deep space. Then the researchers used Himalaya to slowly warm their “comet” from minus-406 degrees Fahrenheit to minus-190, mimicking what it would experience if traveled toward the sun.

    Then something quite strange happened.

    “The PAHs stuck together and were expelled from the ice host as it crystallized,” Antti Lignell, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, who led the study, said in the statement. “This may be the first observation of molecules clustering together due to a phase transition of ice.”

    According to the researchers, when the PAHs were expelled from the ice mixture, that left room for water molecules to link up and form more tightly packed structures of crystalline ice — and voila, a hard comet surface was made.

    “What we saw in the lab — a crystalline comet crust with organics on top — matches what has been suggested from observations in space,” Gudipati said in the statement. “Deep fried ice cream is really the perfect analogy, because the interior of the comets should still be very cold and contain the more porous, amorphous ice.”

    The study was published online in The Journal of Physical Chemistry on Oct. 10, 2014.

  • A Closer Look At The Action Center in Windows 10 for Phone

    As I put in my initial thoughts post last week, there are a lot of changes coming in Windows 10 for Phone aimed at brining the Little OS That Could to par with Android and iOS.  While the final verdict of if that was achieved will come out in the months ahead, there are clear indicators already in the Preview that point to Microsoft taking a big step forward in making the user experience in this release far more friendly and customizable.  One of those areas is the Action Center. Action Center itself in Windows Phone is not new.  It’s

    The post A Closer Look At The Action Center in Windows 10 for Phone appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

Mobile Technology News, February 16, 2015

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.

  • Creative Solutions to Information Access from Chicago's Chief Librarian
    There is a lot more to check out at the Chicago Public Library than just books and periodicals.

    For starters, the library system through its 80 locations and “Internet to Go” service is the largest provider of free online access to Chicago’s 2.7 million residents. Students, small business owners and citizens of all walks of life who otherwise have no or limited connection to the information economy can now at least tap into this foundational infrastructure at any Chicago library. As digital innovations have advanced dramatically in the two decades since the debut of the World Wide Web, however, it is essential that citizens are provided with the tools to create and not just connect.

    “Today, more people have more access to more information than at any other time in human history. But that access is not equal,” said Brian Bannon, who for nearly three years has served as Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library. Bannon’s remarks came during a presentation to civic leaders at the City Club of Chicago. He added that “for Chicago to compete in this borderless economic frontier, we must ensure that Chicagoans are informed, creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative. It also means that our children must become lifelong learners who are able to absorb and utilize new information.”

    Prior to coming to Chicago, Bannon served as Chief Information Officer of the San Francisco Public Library. He possesses both a deep appreciation of a library’s role in the public sphere, as well as an immense understanding of digital information delivery systems. These attributes make him the perfect advocate to showcase emerging technologies like 3D printing and multimedia production within educational settings that are available to anyone.

    I’ve had the opportunity to have several conversations with Bannon over the last few months about how all Chicagoans can benefit from information innovations. Here are a few of the key points we discussed.

    What is the role for a public library in a time when much of the world’s recorded information is now literally available at our fingertips?

    Brian Bannon: We recently surveyed 30,000 people and 95 percent of respondents said they had used their branch for books in the last year, and one in every four patrons have used the Library for programs. Of those who have used the Library, 79 percent said they were very satisfied or extremely satisfied with Chicago Public Library services. And 72 percent responded that the Library was very important in their lives. Chicago Public Library is adapting. With our expanded digital offerings — like our new website with (periodical distributor) Zinio and movie and music distributor Hoopla — and our Android and iPhone apps — you can quite literally take the Library anywhere with you. We are a wonderful balance of both a community hub for Chicagoans, and something that is still accessible for people on the go in a digital world.

    The Chicago Public Library’s new three-year strategy launched earlier this year. Our timeless priorities are to provide access to materials, information ideas and knowledge to all, and to serve our patrons effectively by providing them books, programs and programmatic resources. This strategy will continue to respond to the current and evolving needs of patrons by focusing on three specific areas: nurturing learning for children, teens and adults; supporting economic advancement; and strengthening communities.

    How can the library best serve individuals without reliable and regular home Internet access?

    Brian Bannon: The Chicago Public Library is already the largest provider of free internet in the city of Chicago, offering computers and Wi-Fi access at 80 locations across the city. In 2015, we plan to go even further with our tech lending with our “Internet to Go” program thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation we received last year. Earlier in 2014 we submitted a proposal for Internet to Go to the Knight News Challenge and were one of the winners, receiving a $400,000 grant to pilot the project. The Internet to Go Program will lend out Wi-Fi hotspots to patrons for three weeks at a time.

    While we aren’t ready to announce the locations at this time, we can share that we plan to pilot this program in three targeted neighborhood locations where internet access is particularly low. If the first three locations go well, we will expand to three additional locations. After that, we can explore how to engage this lending city-wide.

    Describe examples of how specialists with deep access to technology and learning tools can take advantage of library resources.

    Brian Bannon: Our Maker Lab offers access to digital technology, 3D printers, vinyl and laser cutters and even a robotic knitting machine. Some examples of people using the Maker Lab are:

    • A patron who comes in regularly uses the laser cutter to design jewelry to sell on Etsy. She draws the designs and then converts them to digital format and laser cuts them here.
    • A patron worked on a prototype for a dental hygiene instrument — he used the 3D printer to print out these prototypes.
    • A patron came in to prototype some guitar hardware pieces. He has been printing them in 3D so he can then have molds produced in order to mass produce.
    • A patron from a volunteer organization came in to laser cut name tags for the volunteers in her organization.
    • A doctor from a teaching hospital is creating an image of a patient’s skull in order to have a life-size model to see where the physical defects are in order to see how they will need to be repaired. It would cost many hundreds of dollars to have this done elsewhere.

    Explain the motivation behind installing a Maker Lab within the Harold Washington Center.

    Brian Bannon: The Maker Lab began as the first installation in a series of experimental offerings of our Innovation Lab. It’s a hands-on, collaborative learning environment designed to expose Chicagoans to 21st century technology. Patrons come together to share knowledge, design and create. In its first nine months, our Maker Lab had 42,000 visitors and will be open through June 2015 thanks to a grant from the Motorola Mobility Foundation through Chicago Public Library Foundation. The Library’s Maker Lab brings the latest in technology to patrons from all over the city — in a free and welcoming environment where they can master the skills needed to join the maker community.

    These skills are essential in the advanced manufacturing world and skills needed to imagine the future. Inventables (a Chicago-based retailer and promoter of 3D Printing equipment) donated 3D printers to our Maker Lab prior to opening. Inspired by our Maker Lab’s success, Inventables will be donating 3D printers to other libraries across the United States.

    Beyond providing access to knowledge and reading materials, libraries can serve as a place to foster social and collaborative learning. What is your approach to this, particularly for middle school and high school-aged students?

    Brian Bannon: Opened in 2009, YOUmedia was the first space devoted to high school teens at the Chicago Public Library, occupying a 5,500-square-foot space on the ground floor of our central library, Harold Washington Library Center, in downtown Chicago. We now have expanded this program to 11 locations. The design of the space is based on the research of Professor Mizuko Ito and colleagues, Living and Learning with Digital Media (2008).

    His ethnographic study of more than 700 youth found that young people participate with digital media in three ways: they “hang out” with friends in social spaces such as Facebook; they “mess around” or tinker with digital media, making simple videos, playing online games or posting pictures in Flickr; they “geek out” in online groups that facilitate exploration of their core interests.

    We see the library as a node on a teen’s pathway to lifelong learning, and we connect teens to other learning opportunities that will lead to skill-building as well as college and career development. YOUmedia connects teens to mentors, 21st century technology, and a space where their social skills and learning can be cultivated in a safe environment.

    YOUmedia operates as a drop-in, out-of-school learning environment for teens to develop skills in digital media, STEM and making. We encourage participants to create rather than consume, and teens are encouraged to learn based on self-interest through intergenerational and peer collaborations. Teens learn how to code, record music and videos, create art through different mediums and are encouraged to explore 21st century technology.

  • Reading as Construction – Part II: Humans vs. Machines
    Last time, we were looking at what goes on inside our heads as we read a text, in hopes it might shed some light on how to emulate human reading proficiency in an automated knowledge-acquisition capability. More specifically, we looked at whether, and to what extent, readers actively construct and manipulate mental models of the entities and events they encounter in the text, versus whether they are content to simply skim over, without reflecting on, the words on the page.

    If true, the latter alternative would certainly be far simpler to automate, but is it?

    Judging by the pitched battles between “constructivists” and “minimalists” raging in reading theory throughout the 1990s, that question turned out to be more controversial than you might think. But when the dust settled, one experimental result, due to Leo Noordman and Wietske Vonk, seemed fairly well established — namely, that the harder the text, the less inferencing and/or mental modeling occurs while actually reading it. Rather, any such active (re)construction of a difficult text’s meaning only takes place after the fact, and even then only if readers are interrogated regarding the material.

    More significant for present purposes, though, is the converse finding that people do deploy inferencing and modeling when reading “texts dealing with familiar topics”.

    Why should familiarity with a topic enable readers to engage in inferencing on the spot? A review of Noordman and Vonk’s experimental design offers a clue: It turns out that, in those cases which gave rise to deferred, only-on-demand inferencing, “[t]he texts were chosen so that readers did not have the background knowledge underlying the inferences” [Noordman and Vonk 1993].

    Crawling a bit further out on this limb, I’m going to interpret the above as implying that the reason the more difficult texts failed to evoke any inferencing on the part of their readers was that, in the absence of the relevant background knowledge, those readers had no basis on which to infer anything — at least not without considerable conscious, after-the-fact cogitation.

    What Noordman and Vonk appear to have demonstrated, then, is that having a sufficient store of readily accessible background knowledge — a.k.a. common sense — on the subject matter at hand is prerequisite to performing the sort of immediate inferencing that enables a reader to actually understand a text as he or she is reading it.

    What does all this say about knowledge-acquisition systems, though? Are they going to require background knowledge too? And, if so, —

    How Much is Enough?

    Even granting the assumption — which, as we’ve seen, is by no means rock-solid — that we have a relatively firm fix on how humans read and understand texts, would we necessarily need or want a computer program to do things the same way?

    Take, for instance, the question of motivation: Would we want a machine that would read for the same reasons that we humans do? While it’s certainly not inconceivable that some post-singularity artificial intelligence might decide to curl up with a good book purely for purposes of personal enrichment or enjoyment, it’s hard to see this as a high-priority design goal on the part of its human architects. If anything, our current concept of a knowledge-acquisition machine seems closer to the state of affairs described by Ashwin Ram [1999, p. 258]:

    People read newspaper stories for a reason: to learn more about what they are interested in. Computers, on the other hand, do not. In fact, computers do not even have interests; there is nothing in particular that they are trying to learn when they read.

    Lacking, at least at the present stage of AI development, any innate goals of its own, all of a computer’s motivations for reading, as for any other task, must originate from the outside — from us. Machines read, if they do so at all, to serve our purposes, whether those purposes are answering questions about the text, or summarizing news articles, or collating reports for analysis, or, in the most generic case, producing some output in response to what has been input.

    Note, however, that this wholly instrumental nature of machines’ reading has the effect of placing an even greater premium on their ability to accurately represent and reason about what it is they have read. After all, absent any internal imperatives, a tool’s only reason for being is that it performs its assigned task well.

    (Not to put too fine a point on it, consider that a person who knew both Russian and English might enjoy reading War and Peace in the original, yet draw the line at writing it all back out in translation. Now contrast this case with that of a machine-translation system that likewise inputs War and Peace in Russian, and likewise produces no output. Clearly, although the person’s experience is entirely plausible and readily justifiable, a machine-translation program that stops halfway through the job like this would have no conceivable raison d’etre whatsoever.)

    This, by extension, implies that, while knowledge-modeling and inferencing may or may not be optional for human readers, they are mandatory for any computer system that purports to read and understand stories. As we saw, humans encountering the description of a fatal fall — from either a fourteen-story building or the Bridge of San Luis Rey — might be forgiven for not intuitively making the connection to grievous injury or death. A story-understanding program that failed to do so, however, would be hard put to justify its very existence.

    As an example of a system that would seem to flunk that test, we have James Meehan’s account of his travails in trying to program an understanding of this self-same phenomenon of falling into an early story-telling program called TALE-SPIN [Meehan 1981, p. 218]:

    Here are some rules that were in TALE-SPIN when the next horror occurred:

    … If you’re in a river, you want to get out, because you’ll drown if you don’t. If you have legs you might be able to swim out. With wings, you might be able to fly away. With friends, you can ask for help.

    These sound reasonable. However, when I presented “X FELL” as “GRAVITY MOVED X,” I got this story:


    Poor gravity had neither legs, wings, nor friends. …

    As far as TALE-SPIN was concerned, gravity was lacking something much more important than just appendages and acquaintances: it was lacking access to any overarching framework that could integrate this fundamental force of nature meaningfully into the rest of TALE-SPIN’s microworld.

    Such frameworks, or schemata, are in turn said to be (analogues of) the foundational constructs by which we humans come to grips with our natural and social environments. In their totality, they comprise that faculty of “common sense” which, as we saw above, is key to our ability to comprehend information on the fly.

    As we have seen, it is this commonsensical or background knowledge, built up over the course of a lifetime’s experience in the real world, that story-tellers like Lawrence Sterne and Thornton Wilder take for granted on the part of their audiences — and that their silicon-based audiences have so far lacked. If endowing a computerized text-understanding system with the requisite constructive reasoning ability is truly what is needed for accurate knowledge acquisition, then this will involve explicitly encoding thousands (millions?) of propositions into a knowledge base, and providing mechanisms for rapidly matching them against the situation under analysis.

    And even then the effort may prove unavailing. But that’s a story for next time.


    Meehan, James (1981), “TALE-SPIN,” in Roger C. Schank, Christopher K. Riesbeck, eds., Inside Computer Understanding: Five Programs Plus Miniatures, Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum, 1981.

    Noordman, Leo G. M. and Wietske Vonk (1993), “A More Parsimonious Version of Minimalism in Inferences,” Psycoloquy: 4(08) Reading Inference (9). http://www.cogsci.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?4.08.

    Ram, Ashwin (1999), “A Theory of Questions and Question Asking,” in Ashwin Ram and Kenneth Moorman, eds., Understanding Language Understanding: Computational Models of Reading, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 253-298, at: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/faculty/ashwin/papers/git-cc-92-02.pdf.

  • 'Cyber bank robbers' steal $1bn
    Up to 100 banks and financial institutions worldwide have been attacked in an “unprecedented cyber robbery”, claims a new report.
  • Could driverless cars own themselves?
    A world where cars own themselves and even have kids
  • Watch Furbacca, A Furby Chewbacca, Sing The 'Star Wars' Theme
    The Hasbro showroom at this year’s Toy Fair includes products tied to “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Ant-Man,” “Spider-Man,” “Jurassic World” and “Transformers,” but it’s the tiny Furbacca that was the biggest draw. The Furby version of Chewbacca from “Star Wars” has already been profiled by Mashable, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, io9, The Dissolve and Nerdist, and isn’t even out in stores until this fall. To see what all the fuss is about, HuffPost Entertainment took a tour of the Hasbro showroom on Sunday with the hopes of interacting with the little fuzzball. We succeeded: Watch below to see Furbacca sing the “Star Wars” theme (and then switch over to the “Imperial March” when it gets annoyed).

  • Hackers Steal Up To $1 Billion From Banks
    NEW YORK (AP) — A hacking ring has stolen up to $1 billion from banks around the world in what would be one of the biggest banking breaches known, a cybersecurity firm says in a report scheduled to be delivered Monday.

    The hackers have been active since at least the end of 2013 and infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries, according to Russian security company Kaspersky Lab. After gaining access to banks’ computers through phishing schemes and other methods, they lurk for months to learn the banks’ systems, taking screen shots and even video of employees using their computers, the company says.

    Once the hackers become familiar with the banks’ operations, they use that knowledge to steal money without raising suspicions, programming ATMs to dispense money at specific times or setting up fake accounts and transferring money into them, according to Kaspersky. The report is set to be presented Monday at a security conference in Cancun, Mexico. It was first reported by The New York Times.

    The hackers seem to limit their theft to about $10 million before moving on to another bank, part of the reason why the fraud was not detected earlier, Kaspersky principal security researcher Vicente Diaz said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

    The attacks are unusual because they target the banks themselves rather than customers and their account information, Diaz said.

    The goal seems to be financial gain rather than espionage, he said.

    “In this case they are not interested in information. They’re only interested in the money,” he said. “They’re flexible and quite aggressive and use any tool they find useful for doing whatever they want to do.”

    Most of the targets have been in Russia, the U.S., Germany, China and Ukraine, although the attackers may be expanding throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, Kaspersky says. In one case, a bank lost $7.3 million through ATM fraud. In another case, a financial institution lost $10 million by the attackers exploiting its online banking platform.

    Kaspersky did not identify the banks and is still working with law-enforcement agencies to investigate the attacks, which the company says are ongoing.

    The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a nonprofit that alerts banks about hacking activity, said in a statement that its members received a briefing about the report in January.

    “We cannot comment on individual actions our members have taken, but on balance we believe our members are taking appropriate actions to prevent and detect these kinds of attacks and minimize any effects on their customers,” the organization said in a statement. “The report that Russian banks were the primary victims of these attacks may be a significant change in targeting strategy by Russian-speaking cybercriminals.”

    The White House is putting an increasing focus on cybersecurity in the wake of numerous data breaches of companies ranging from mass retailers like Target and Home Depot to Sony Pictures Entertainment and health insurer Anthem.

    The administration wants Congress to replace the existing patchwork of state laws with a national standard giving companies 30 days to notify consumers if their personal information has been compromised.

  • New 'House Of Cards' Season 3 Teaser Hints At Marital Trouble
    Those of us lucky enough to catch some of “House of Cards'” third season during this week’s Netflix leak have a rough idea of where the political drama is headed. But a new teaser for the show reveals that things aren’t at their best in the Underwood household.

    Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) pose for an uncomfortable presidential photo in the latest teaser. She “recoils” from his touch, which can’t be good for the co-conspirator power couple who are always on the same page with their manipulative schemes.

    Based on the vague episode descriptions we got a look at during the leak, we also know that (spoiler alert) season three will be about tensions with Russia, Claire’s involvement with the United Nations, and a hurricane. All of that sounds great, but like, where’s Cashew?

    “House of Cards” season three premieres Feb. 27 on Netflix.

  • Even 'Doom' Uses Selfie Sticks Now
    Here’s proof that there really is a special place in hell for people who use selfie sticks.

    A well-known game modifier on Saturday released an add-on to “Doom,” the famous 1993 computer game in which a space marine battles an onslaught of demons. The new add-on allows the main character to take pictures of himself with a selfie stick.

    The modification, titled “InstaDoom,” also comes with the ability to apply 37 Instagram-inspired filters to the game’s imagery. Cacodemons can now look just as beautiful as your avocado toast.

    A space marine selfie in “InstaDoom.”

    Though it’s more than 20 years old, “Doom” has a thriving community of fans who take particular pleasure in modifying the original game. InstaDoom creator Andrew Stine, who uses the name “Linguica” online, is one of the game’s best-known devotees. In 1998, he co-founded Doomworld, a site that has become a central hub for news and modifications relating to the game. Doomworld gained some media attention in 1999 for defending the game’s violent content following the shootings at Columbine High School.

    Since then, video games have only become more realistic and more violent. But most don’t offer selfie sticks — which are becoming so popular that museums have recently started to ban them. So for now, this decades-old game still has a modern edge.

    If you want to play “Doom” without digging up an old DOS machine, it’s available for $4.99 on Steam. You can download InstaDoom here.

  • Researchers Test Device That Lets Deaf Children Hear For The First Time
    WASHINGTON (AP) — At age 3, Angelica Lopez is helping to break a sound barrier for deaf children.

    Born without working auditory nerves, she can detect sounds for the first time — and start to mimic them — after undergoing brain surgery to implant a device that bypasses missing wiring in her inner ears. Angelica is one of a small number of U.S. children who are testing what’s called an auditory brainstem implant, or ABI. The device goes beyond cochlear implants that have brought hearing to many deaf children but that don’t work for tots who lack their hearing nerve.

    When the ABI is first turned on, “she isn’t going to be hearing like a 3-year-old. She’ll be hearing like a newborn,” audiologist Laurie Eisenberg of the University of Southern California tells parents. She outlined the research Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    The children don’t magically understand and use those sounds. “It’s going to take a lot of work,” Eisenberg cautioned.

    Angelica cried when her ABI first was switched on, scared by the sounds. But five months later, her mother says the youngster uses sign language to identify some sounds — that was a cough, that’s a dog barking. And she’s beginning to babble like hearing babies do, as therapists work to teach her oral speech.

    “It’s just so awesome to hear her little voice,” said Julie Lopez of Big Spring, Texas, who enrolled her daughter in the study at USC, where researchers say she’s progressing well.

    Many children born deaf benefit from cochlear implants, electrodes that send impulses to the auditory nerve, where they’re relayed to the brain and recognized as sound. But the small fraction born without a working hearing nerve can’t make that brain connection.

    The ABI attempts to fill that gap by delivering electrical stimulation directly to the neurons on the brainstem the nerve normally would have targeted. Here’s how it works: The person wears a microphone on the ear to detect sound, and a processer changes it to electrical signals. Those are beamed to a stimulator under the skin, which sends the signals snaking through a wire to electrodes surgically placed on the brainstem.

    The Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 2000 specifically for adults and teenagers whose hearing nerves had been destroyed by surgery for a rare type of tumor. It doesn’t restore normal hearing, but can help to varying degrees.

    Then about a decade ago, an Italian surgeon started trying the ABI in deaf children, whose younger brains are more flexible and might better adapt to this artificial way of delivering sound.

    Now, spurred by some successes abroad, the first U.S. studies in young children are underway at a handful of hospitals. Hearing specialists are watching the work closely.

    There are children “who are not being helped in any other way,” said Dr. Gordon Hughes of the National Institutes of Health, which is funding Eisenberg’s study. And cochlear implants proved “there’s a critical time window when the brain is very receptive to auditory stimulation and can develop speech communication in ways that are surprisingly good, if the stimulation is started early enough.”

    The studies are small, each enrolling 10 to 20 children. Ages vary; the Los Angeles study will implant starting at age 2, while some others try earlier. Children then receive intensive therapy, to learn to hear.

    The studies must prove safety, since the ABI requires delicate brain surgery in healthy children.

    “We’re talking about real surgery to go into a deep area of the brain,” said Dr. Marc Schwartz, a neurosurgeon with the House Clinic and Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Los Angeles, who is part of the USC study. “This is a precise operation that requires exacting technique.”

    In skilled hands, complications appear rare, said Robert Shannon, a USC professor of otolaryngology who helped develop the device. Post-surgery, stimulator complications can include non-auditory sensations such as tingling of the face or throat.

    Next questions include who are the best candidates, and what benefit to expect — if children really will develop speech as well as with cochlear implants, and hear well enough to talk on a phone. Scientists know far more about how to stimulate the inner ear than the brain directly, Shannon noted.

    “What we’re giving to these kids is something very different than what any normal system would be getting,” he explained. To untangle that scrambled pattern, “the brain is picking up the slack. It’s covering our tracks.”

  • VIDEO: Woz's wonderful watch (and more)
    Steve Wozniak talks to the BBC about the future of the watch, and shows off his very own unique timepiece.
  • Proposed Drone Regulations Complicate Amazon Delivery Plans
    (Changes “pilot” to “drone” in the third paragraph)
    By Alwyn Scott
    NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Reuters) – The U.S. aviation regulator proposed rules on Sunday for commercial drone flights that would lift some restrictions but would still bar activities such as the delivery of packages and inspection of pipelines that have been eyed by companies as a potentially breakthrough use of the technology.
    The long-awaited draft rules from the Federal Aviation Administration would require unmanned aircraft pilots to obtain special pilot certificates, stay away from bystanders and fly only during the day. They limit flying speed to 100 miles per hour (160 kph) and the altitude to 500 feet (152 meters) above ground level.
    The rules also say pilots must remain in the line of sight of its radio-control drone, which could limit inspection of pipelines, crops, and electrical towers that are one of the major uses envisioned by companies.
    The FAA acknowledged the limitation but said those flights could be made possible with a secondary spotter working with the pilot of the drone.
    “This rule does not deal with beyond line of sight, but does allow for the use of a visual observer to augment line of sight by the operator of the unmanned aircraft,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.
    The draft rules, nearly 10 years in the making, still must undergo public comment and revision before becoming final, a process expected to take at least a year.
    If they survive in their current form, they would be unlikely to help Amazon.com in its quest to eventually deliver packages with unmanned drones, since they require an FAA-certified small drone pilot to fly the aircraft and keep it in line of sight at all times – factors not envisioned in the online retailer’s plan.
    Huerta also said, “We don’t consider or contemplate in this rule carrying packages outside of the aircraft itself.”
    Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, Paul Misener, said the proposal would bar the company’s delivery drones in the United States. Misener also urged the FAA to address the needs of Amazon and its customers as it carried out its formal rulemaking process.
    “We are committed to realizing our vision … and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need,” Misener said in an emailed statement.
    Other countries have taken a more permissive stance towards delivery drones. In September, logistics firm DHL said its use of drones to drop off packages to residents of a German island was the first such authorized flight in Europe.
    “The United States cannot afford to lag behind other countries in technological innovation because of regulatory foot-dragging,” U.S. Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, said in an emailed statement.

    Huerta, who said the agency had tried to be “flexible” in writing the rules, said they set a framework and would evolve based on discussions with industry and technology developments.
    The rules continue current restrictions against filming of crowds by news organizations, but Huerta said he expected those procedures to be developed as part of discussions with news groups.
    Separately, President Barack Obama issued a memo outlining principles for government use of drones, covering such issues as privacy protections and oversight of federal drone use.
    The FAA’s draft rules appeared less onerous in some aspects than the industry had been worried about. There had been concern, for example, that they would require drone operators to attend a flight-training school and obtain a certification similar to that of a manned aircraft pilot.
    Commercial drone operators would need to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration. But they would not need to undergo the medical tests or flight hours required of manned aircraft pilots.
    “I am very pleased to see a much more reasonable approach to future regulation than many feared,” said Brendan Schulman, a lawyer who works on drone issues at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York.
    The proposal would benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers as it would enable them to scout fields more efficiently, said R.J. Karney, director of Congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
    The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), also praised the draft. The group’s president, Brian Wynne, called it a “good first step in an evolutionary process.”
    But privacy advocates were concerned there were not enough limits on when law enforcement agencies would be permitted to use drones for surveillance.
    The proposal “allows the use of data gathered by domestic drones for any ‘authorized purpose’, which is not defined, leaving the door open to inappropriate drone use by federal agencies,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, in an emailed statement. (Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Susan Cornwell in Washington and Peter Rudegeair in New York; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Nick Zieminski and Frances Kerry)

  • Newly Discovered Exoplanet With Extreme Seasons Called A 'Real Maverick'
    Two groups of astronomers working independently in Germany have discovered a massive new exoplanet that’s quite strange–for a few reasons.

    The newfound exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-432b, was monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope from 2009 to 2013 and identified as a planetary candidate in 2011. Using the 2.2-meter telescope at Calar Alto Observatory in Andalucía, Spain and the Nordic Optical Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands, the researchers are now confirming that, indeed, it’s a planet.

    (Story continues below image.)
    kepler 432b
    lllustration of the orbit of Kepler-432b (inner, red) in comparison to the orbit of Mercury around the Sun (outer, orange). The red dot in the middle indicates the position of the star around which the planet is orbiting. The size of the star is shown to scale, while the size of the planet has been magnified ten times for illustration.

    Analyzing the data from both telescopes, the researchers discovered Kepler-432b is incredibly dense; though it’s around the same size as Jupiter, its mass is six times that of the gas giant. Its orbit around its host star, a red giant with a radius that’s four times that of our Sun, is also unusual.

    “The majority of known planets moving around giant stars have large and circular orbits,” Dr. Davide Gandolfi, an astronomer at Heidelberg University’s Center for Astronomy in Germany and a researcher involved in the discovery, said in a written statement. “With its small and highly elongated orbit, Kepler-432b is a real ‘maverick’ among planets of this type.”

    Due to the orbit’s elongated shape, Kepler-432b’s seasons are extreme, with temperatures ranging from 932 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. A year on the planet corresponds to roughly 52 Earth days, according to the researchers.

    And the planet is only one of five observed orbiting a red giant host star at such a close distance. Red giants are stars in their last stage of life. They can grow to become anywhere from 10 to 100 times their original size, and as they grow, any planets nearby are at risk of being devoured.

    So though Kepler-432b has been able to survive near its star so far, it likely won’t be around for much longer.

    “The days of Kepler-432b are numbered,” Mauricio Ortiz, a PhD student at Heidelberg University who led one of the two studies of the planet, said in the statement. “In less than 200 million years, Kepler-432b will be swallowed by its continually expanding host star.”

    Two papers describing the discovery have been published in the January 2015 issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

  • Bank Hackers Steal Millions Via Malware
    PALO ALTO, Calif. — In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.

    But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to Ukraine to investigate, it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems.

  • The 5 Best Hotels For Free Wi-Fi
    If you’re not able to unplug every time you travel (and let’s face it: most of us aren’t), then you’ll need to stay somewhere with great Wi-Fi. Some might assume that every modern hotel offers a free Internet connection, but sadly that is not the case.

    And the best hotels for free wireless connections are not, in fact, what you might think: Best Western is a power player; Quality Inn’s connection is super speedy. And those swanky hotels? They’re not always what they’re cracked up to be.

    It should be noted that sometimes not every hotel in a particular chain has free Wi-Fi, and sometimes free Wi-Fi may only be available in the hotel’s common areas, not in the rooms. But by and large, there are some brands that can be trusted when you need a speedy, free connection. Here’s the breakdown.


    Of all hotel chains that advertise free Wi-Fi, Best Western is among the very best, according to a recent study from Hotel WiFi Test, a site devoted entirely to testing Wi-Fi service. The company’s research found that nearly all hotels in the Best Western chain have functioning, free Wi-Fi, and it’s faster than what you’ll find at Marriott or Sheraton.


    Out of 26 hotel chains that Hotel WiFi Test studied, Quality Inn had the number-one fastest free Wi-Fi. Add a cup of their free coffee to the mix, and you’ll power through any business trip.


    As of Feb. 14, 2015, Hyatt is offering free Wi-Fi at locations worldwide. No reports yet on how speedy the service is, but it exists. And THAT, dear friends, is a game-changer in itself.


    Last year, Loews ushered in what will hopefully be a new era of luxury hotels offering free Wi-Fi. You’ll find free Internet at their super-swanky properties all over North America.


    As far as budget hotels go, this is about as best as free Wi-Fi can get. Over 75 percent of Ramada hotels have free Wi-Fi available, Hotel Wifi Test found, which is better than many chains who advertise free Wi-Fi but don’t offer it in every location. Ramada’s free Wi-Fi is also incredibly speedy, beat out by just a few other chains.

  • Net Neutrality Is Now Just 'Net Ridiculous'
    On Feb 26th, 2015, the FCC is supposed to reveal the full plans for Net Neutrality but Waiting for Godot is probably a better idea if you expect something to happen anytime soon.

    What is ‘Net Neutrality’, ‘Title II’, ‘reclassification’, the ‘Communications Act’?

    The FCC is supposed to be announcing a plan to ‘reclassify’ the network infrastructure and the Internet Service (ISP) that is delivered over it, as ‘Title II”, which is named for a section in the Communications Act of 1934 (amended in 1996), “Title II: Common Carriers”. The Agency has been nice enough to supply a ‘Fact Sheet’, and one the FCC Commissioners, Ajit Pai, also has put together his version of a ‘Fact Sheet‘.

    However, Feb 26th, 2015 will most likely be remembered like the day the when the world was supposed to end, on October, 21, 2011 (it was originally May 21, 2011). I was on the subway at the very moment and there were even posters prominently scattered around the subway car to remind us, and they even included that this was to take place at 3PM, EST (if I remember correctly). When the time passed, while one older woman appeared relieved, most were laughing about it, which had started before the ‘fateful’ event.

    Net Neutrality is now a traveling circus show — and it will continue for years and the date is, well, meaningless.

    According to those who are friends of, or are funded by the phone and cable companies, (referred to as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or broadband providers) they have been ranting that the proposed plan by the FCC will raise rates, add new taxes, and apply new, odious regulation while it also harms innovation in services and applications, and slows, if not stops investment in infrastructure. My personal favorite is from FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai who told The Hill that it “could embolden foreign leaders in North Korea, Iran and other authoritarian states to increase the grip on the Internet…”. I’ll get back to this.

    On the advocates side, they claim it is the best thing since sliced bread, it will ‘free the Internet’ and block harmful acts, while some believe it will even end world hunger and global warming, if applied properly (OK, I’m just kidding about ending hunger…).

    I note that getting the FCC to actually attempt to use Title II as a solution is a small victory.

    But all of these posturings, platitudes, rants, demands and denials, really don’t matter. Like greyhounds at the dog race, waiting to hear the ring of the bell — groups, companies, individuals, political parties, and boatloads of lawyers are going to sue the FCC to stop anything from being done. AT&T has said that this is the path they are taking, whatever shows up.

    Ars Technica writes:

    “AT&T seems resigned to the near-certainty that the Federal Communications Commission will reclassify broadband as a common carrier service in order to enforce net neutrality rules. But it isn’t going to let the decision stand without a legal challenge…”

    Net Neutrality Rules, if Applied, May Kill Your Communication’s Rights Anyway.

    While I’m all for the need of Net Neutrality rules, after going through the FCC Fact Sheet and examining the sections of the Communications Act that will be erased or ‘forebeared’, meaning that the rules are still in place but are not going to be enforced –we all lose if this fact sheet resembles the final order — and it were to be implemented.

    The FCC claims that it is “Fostering Investment and Competition”, and yet it has decided to kill any hopes of serious competition, or lowering rates, and there will be no ‘data-trail’ for anyone to check to see how we get played yet again by the providers.

    The FCC’s plan:

    “To preserve incentives for broadband operators to invest in their networks, Chairman Wheeler’s proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, encouraging Internet Service Providers to invest in the networks American increasingly rely on.

    The proposed order does not include utility-style rate regulation

    • No rate regulation or tariffs
    • No last-mile unbundling
    • No burdensome administrative filing requirements or accounting standards.

    To put this into English:

    a) “No rate regulation or tariffs”
    — Let the companies charge what they want and force customers onto contracts where they lose their rights — ‘tariffs’ are filed documents about the price of service and other specifics. Contracts are what the company decides are the rules. Today, you can not sue the wireless companies for harms; you have to arbitrate; and since they wrote the contracts…

    b) Rate Regulation — is when there is no competition to lower rates, and the FCC or state ‘regulates’ the price of service to make sure that it is ‘fair and reasonable’. Since the FCC and state commissions have abandoned examining most communications bills and their charges, this would almost be moot, but for the fact that it is needed now because the networks are not open to direct competition.

    c) “No last mile unbundling” means — Keep the networks closed to all forms of competition rather than open the network infrastructure which would foster the delivery of voice, cable TV and high-speed Internet services by competing providers. As we wrote elsewhere, Net Neutrality was caused when the FCC closed down the networks to direct competition. The Telecom Act of 1996 required that the local phone companies open the phone wires coming into homes and offices so that you, the customer, could choose your phone, broadband, Internet, and on upgraded networks, even cable service.

    The networks were closed around 2004-2005 when the telco-cable plan was to get the FCC to block competitors and led by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who now runs the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the cable lobbying association, they decided to shut down competition in the US, killing off 7000 small ISPs and putting the two largest competitors, AT&T and MCI up for sale.

    d) “No burdensome administrative filings” — means erase all data and information requirements. In 2007, the FCC stopped publishing “Statistics of Common Carriers” which started in 1939 and was the staple of financial information about the companies, including the state utilities, like Verizon NY, or AT&T California.

    New Networks Institute’s reports about Verizon New York should have been done for every Verizon, AT&T and Centurylink state — but the states are not collecting adequate information and the FCC has been on a steady path to erase the obligations to supply information.

    e) Removal of Section 214? — This section appears to be missing in the Fact Sheet. Section 214 of the Communications Act came into ‘view’ when Verizon filed after the Sandy storm in 2012 to essentially shut off or abandon areas of New York and New Jersey were the copper wires had been harmed. Verizon also gave customers VoiceLink, a wireless service that can’t handle data applications, like alarm circuits.

    Bottom line: If this section is removed — If your line breaks — you’re screwed. Or if Verizon and AT&T want to shut off the copper and replace your service with wireless — they can without asking permission.

    Forebear This

    And the way the FCC is going to do some of this wholesale destruction of Title II is by using “forbearance” — I.e., the FCC will use Title II, but gut it, removing whole sections of the law.

    The FCC writes

    “Major Provisions Subject to Forbearance:

    o Rate regulation: the Order makes clear that broadband providers shall not be subject to tariffs or other form of rate approval, unbundling, or other forms of utility regulation
    o The Order will not impose, suggest or authorize any new taxes or fees – there will be no automatic Universal Service fees applied and the congressional moratorium on Internet taxation applies to broadband.

    Elsewhere the fact sheet states:

    o The proposed order does not include utility-style rate regulation.

    PUNCHLINE: The FCC’s plan ends up with — the networks are NOT going to be opened to competition; you will have no choice of ISP, broadband provider or cable provider, except from the incumbent wired companies. There will be no price decreases because there is no competition or “rate regulation”, and if your line breaks — tough.

    So, Verizon shuts off your wired phone service, and doesn’t upgrade it to fiber — to bad.

    And there is nothing about fixing the communications bills, the deceptive advertising, the ‘made up’ fees that we detailed on our mark up of a Time Warner Triple Play bill, where the advertised price of $89.99 actually cost $190.77 after the second year — an increase of 112% above the advertised price.

    I summarized some of the issues: “2015: The Trend Line for Communications Services — Phone, Broadband, Internet, Cable TV & Wireless – Sucks”

    Contrary View: I Didn’t Know FCC Commissioners have a Sense of Humor.

    Ajit Pai, is currently a Republican FCC Commissioner, but was also a “former associate general counsel” for Verizon Communications.

    Pai also has strange bedfellows. In 2013, he spoke at an American Legislative Exchange (ALEC) event and congratulated the group on their good work. ALEC is an organization that is designed to allow corporations to create model legislation that is used by state legislators (most of which are funded by the very corporations through campaign financing or grant/foundation money for their area), to help the corporation’s agenda, over the politician’s constituents.

    Commissioner Pai said:

    “I am honored to be with you today to give the keynote address at this meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Task Force on Communications and Technology. It isn’t every day that a group comes to Washington, DC to advocate for a vibrant free market, limited government, and federalism….

    “I congratulate you on the good work you’ve done on these issues in the past and look forward to working with you in the future. And going forward, please keep making your voices heard here in Washington. I know that the work can seem painstaking, but you have a lot to contribute as we enter the dawn of this new and exciting technological age.”

    And he even noted that the ALEC Task Force developed ‘model legislation’, which was created at ALEC and was molded by the funders of ALEC’s telecom work, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner.

    “The Task Force on Communications and Technology deserves special thanks for encouraging these reform efforts and for developing model legislation like the Advanced Voice Services Availability Act.”

    ALEC’s bills include blocking municipalities from doing upgrades where the incumbents have failed to deliver, or erasing Title II laws through deregulation, which passed in the majority of the US state legislatures.

    But it is Commissioner Pai’s stance on Net Neutrality that recently attracted attention. Pai stated that Net Neutrality is very bad. The Hill’s recent article’s headline reads:

    “Net Neutrality will help foreign leaders control the Internet FCC Republican says strict Internet regulation would harm US credibility abroad.”

    And it goes on to say:

    “Tough net neutrality regulations in the U.S. could embolden foreign leaders in North Korea, Iran and other authoritarian states to increase the grip on the Internet…”

    And if you want irony? Here is the man who called advocates “chicken little” because they are convinced the sky is falling.

    “In the story of Chicken Little, an acorn falls on a young hen’s head, and she becomes convinced that the sky is falling. Some in Washington have had that same reaction to the IP Transition… I worry that we are well on our way to becoming like Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and the other characters who join in Chicken Little’s hysteria. All too much ink is spilled in this item discussing every conceivable harm that might come with the IP Transition.”

    Pai also wrote a “Fact Sheet”, though I’m not sure why it’s called ‘facts’. What is really amusing/distressing about his points is that they directly contradict what is in the FCC’s released “Fact Sheet”.

    Pai writes:

    • “President Obama’s plan opens the door to billions of dollars of new taxes on broadband.
    • President Obama’s plan will reduce competition and decrease consumer choice.
    • The plan implements Title II public-utility regulation that was designed for a monopoly. A one-size-fits-all regulatory framework intended to regulate a monopoly will push the broadband market in that very direction
    • President Obama’s plan will slow broadband speeds for American consumers and the deployment of high- speed broadband.”

    Meanwhile Pai appears to be doing this as part of a larger plan. The Washington Post reports that the Republicans will attempt to short circuit any changes. “The Republicans’ new strategy looks much like the old: Argue that the FCC’s proposed rules will stifle investment, hurt innovation and raise prices for consumers.”

    The kicker:

    As we showed in our previous articles, reports, filings,

    • Verizon’s entire ‘Fiber-to-the-Premises’ networks are already Title II.
    • These FTTP networks were constructed based on charging all local telephone customers extra, (at last in Verizon NY) regardless as to whether they can actually get Verizon’s FiOS services; they are defacto investors as they paid for the construction.
    • The company used Title II to also get the state-based rights-of-way.
    • The company failed to inform the FCC, the courts or the public of this fact — that Title II is the primary classification used for the deployment and investment in fiber optic services.
    • And Verizon is using utility regulation to do this — today.

    There is no competition today, especially for high speed networks. And there have been no investigations as to how Verizon et al collected billions per state to build out the networks. And there are no investigations of how much money customers paid for the construction of networks they never got. There’s even been no serious investigation of what customers are paying today.

    If the FCC’s Fact Sheet points become law, it will just get worse. Or worse, if the Republicans decide to write a new bill that erases the laws, (which is their plan).

    But, the bottom line is — At least this FCC is attempting to do something, and using Title II is better than previous slash and burn positions. Over the last fifteen years we had Chairman Michael Powell, who helped to close the networks and protect the incumbent phone and cable companies — and he was rewarded as the head of the cable association, the NCTA. Chairman Martin, a Republican and Chairman Genachowski, a Democrat, were empty suits who attempted to place band-aids on the issues or not ‘do the right thing’.

    However, Net Neutrality itself doesn’t solve America’s communications problems and we hope that the FCC decides to actually investigate our claims that a) Verizon failed to disclose that the networks are already Title II, and b) that the cable companies have not only charged customers for network upgrades of the cable plant under something called the “Social Contract”, (this hidden charge should have stopped being billed in 2001), or that the bills are unreadable and covering over ‘rate increases’ and ‘made up’ fees, but there are also a host of other issues that need investigation, especially in light of the pending merger.

    To get the full story about how we ended up here, see “The Book of Broken Promises: $400 Billion Broadband Scandal & Free the Net”

Mobile Technology News, February 15, 2015

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.

  • VIDEO: Bright future: Light therapy school
    Two experiments with light are trying to help Swedish citizens cope with the long dark winters.
  • Why We Still Can't Stop Talking About Online Dating
    Before a time when the world was obsessed with flavor of the week apps and shiny new tech startups only to forget about them as quickly as you can swipe left, I got hired at an online dating site.

    The year was 2010 and I had just turned 21 years old. The concept of dating online was more publicly uncomfortable then, although, almost 5 years later, the reaction remains more or less the same when people learn that I work for PlentyOfFish. Sometimes shock, often an involuntary facial twitch, always questions. Although the positioning of online dating in conversations is changing, one thing remains the same: we’re having the conversations. On the way to work, in the line at Starbucks, out for drinks with friends on Friday night, we’re having the conversations. So what is the big deal about online dating, and why can’t we stop talking about it?

    Because We Still Don’t Know How It Works…But It Works

    When we create these digital portraits for ourselves online, we’re navigating in a space we don’t really understand, but excites us nonetheless. This also makes us wary, though. We meet a jerk at a bar and we chalk it up to bad luck. We meet a jerk while we’re online dating, and it starts more of a conversation because we can’t make sense of the moving parts. The onus can be on cyberspace for bringing this loser to your inbox and not your own judgement. Still, most days I’d bet on the good judgment of matching algorithms and data scientists behind the scenes of a dating site over a great deal of my friends at the bar.

    Even so, in the media you’re still more likely to hear about an online first date gone wrong than Harry and Sally (and thousands of people just like them every year) who met online and lived happily ever after, because those battle stories reassure us that there are still people out there who haven’t found anyone either! The thing is, Harry and Sally have told their friends, and their friends have told their friends, which results in a great deal of signups for us, and at least 1 in 5 marriages for those who are keeping track.

    Because We’re Curious

    Dating online means putting yourself out there – like really out there. Your hopes and dreams and wish list for an ideal partner is out there for your exes, coworkers and aunt Barbara to stumble across, and that can be scary at first. Maybe aunt Barbara actually met someone, and that pushed you over the edge, or maybe you heard that a celebrity is now considering joining a dating site after her latest breakup. Either way, you don’t want to be left behind.

    So before you know it, you’re signing up too. And it’s strangely optimistic, to see those rows of hopeful faces smiling back at you, all of them single. So like a high school dance, you hang out on the outskirts for a while, maybe even until someone makes the first move and messages you. All of a sudden, our false modesty vanishes and the experience becomes more human than humiliating because you’re actually allowing yourself to have fun.

    Because It’s Always Evolving

    There was a time, so I’ve been told, when dating was not always this way. Despite this, I’m inclined to go the tough love route and tell you, sorry, but this is the way it’s going to be from now on. Technology has been seamlessly and irreversibly integrated into almost every nook and cranny of our existence, and the advancements in the online dating space are remarkable.

    We’re obsessed with maximizing efficiency and tailoring all of our experiences to best fit our needs, but when it comes to our love lives, maybe we’re still more old-fashioned than we’re willing to admit. We routinely blog about deeply personal aspects of daily life, order our groceries, reserve a Car2Go, plan trips across the world and customize our own Nike sneakers, all online, but when it comes to dating online, we pretend it’s still just a little too out there.

    But that’s OK! We’re still afraid that our stories won’t quite stack up when we’re recounting to our grandchildren that yes, “Grandma was checking her PlentyOfFish app on the commute to work and saw that Grandpa had selected her as a Favorite, and the rest is history.” We may not necessarily have the ancient family feuds or years spent oceans apart, but that’s only because life has changed. Dating has changed, and online dating will continue to evolve. But the hope and the intimacy and the love, that’s still the same. Besides, you have nothing to worry about, because in 10 years all the romantic comedies will be about online daters anyway.

  • VIDEO: YouTube celebrates tenth anniversary
    Video sharing site YouTube celebrates its tenth anniversary.
  • Best Tweets: What Women Said On Twitter This Week
    This week was full of all types of Valentine’s Day preparations from the flowers ordered to anti-love sentiments tweeted. For everyone who happens to be single this holiday, Twitter user NYC Blonde tweeted an encouraging reminder: “If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive another Valentine’s Day alone.” Damn straight.

    And if you’re celebrating the holiday with a significant other, Gennefer Gross had some great advice on how to swoon your other half: “If you want to sweep her off her feet this Valentine’s Day, take her to a place with free WiFi and bring a phone charger.” But actually.

    For more great tweets from women, scroll through the list below. Then visit our Funniest Tweets From Women page for our past collections.

    Eminem’s old publicist wakes up in a cold sweat. “I had the dream again,” he says to his wife. “That he had Twitter in 1999.” “Sssh, baby.”

    — Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) February 9, 2015

    My compassion is so thin and bitchy right now, it just got offered a modeling contract for Abercrombie & Fitch.

    — bourgeois beth (@bourgeoisalien) February 9, 2015

    I’m not saying I’m a domestic goddess, but I did just put clothes in the dryer without spilling my wine.

    — Sarcastic Mommy (@sarcasticmommy4) February 10, 2015

    anxiety is the best alarm clock

    — Lindy West (@thelindywest) February 10, 2015

    If you want to sweep her off her feet this Valentine’s Day, take her to a place with free WiFi and bring a phone charger.

    — Gennefer Gross (@Gennefer) February 7, 2015

    Inexplicably, I had a dream about Stephan Hawking. Or Eddie Redmayne. I couldn’t tell. EVEN IN MY DREAM.

    — Dagmara Dominczyk (@DagDom17) February 11, 2015

    When you stuff your socks into other socks it’s enforced cannibalism

    — caitlin stasey (@caitlinstasey) February 12, 2015

    There’s a special Hell for ugly criers, and it’s full of mirrors.

    — SuperCynthia (@Super_Cynthia) February 12, 2015

    Plot twist: WebMD says you’re just thirsty

    — Varla (@GelasticGoGo) February 7, 2015

    Out of 7 billion faces in the world, yours is the one I most want to smash in with a baseball bat

    — les misérSLOB (@B1gBrainsMcGee) February 10, 2015

    If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive another Valentine’s Day alone.

    — NYC BLONDE (@NYC_Blonde) February 12, 2015

    Relationship status-
    Reading the inside of my Dove chocolate wrappers to feel loved.

    Please pity me and send me more chocolates
    and cash

    — NotTHATSheila (@peb671) February 11, 2015

    I slipped on ice and discovered I’m a natural at break dancing

    — Envy Da Tropic (@envydatropic) February 7, 2015

    Calm down shouty museum man. I think it’s pretty obvious that I know how to ride a dinosaur skeleton.

    — Noodles (@Dawn_M_) February 11, 2015

    There’s a girl in barre class who won’t wear socks even though it’s mandatory, I am certain she hates vaccinations too

    — Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) February 12, 2015

    Deliriously sick & in hotel bed. Watching “19 Kids & Counting” sniffling, “Maybe those Duggars DO have life figured out. That looks nice.”

    — Jen Kirkman (@JenKirkman) February 13, 2015

    A yawn is a silent scream for coffee.

    — Rachel Hollis (@msrachelhollis) February 12, 2015

    I can’t wait to be angry at my husband tomorrow because I told him I didn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day and he listened.

    — K in VT (@karlainvt) February 13, 2015

    Experts anticipate drastic increase in phone malfunction among single males on February 14 with a 90 percent margin for reporting bias.

    — Amanda Duberman (@AmandaDuberman) February 11, 2015

    10 hour left for me to get a Valentine. I’m now standing on the street singing “Blank Space” at the top of my lungs. This has gotta work.

    — Ali Spagnola (@alispagnola) February 13, 2015

  • Social Media Is Another Canvas for Millennial Artists
    I was born at an interesting time because my generation has grown up right in the middle of the internet age. I remember learning how to use Internet Explorer on a bulky desktop computer in grade school, and by the time I finished high school classrooms were beginning to get iPad minis and 3D printers.

    The internet has changed many aspects of our everyday lives. How we learn, how we communicate, how we access information, and the list goes on. I want to talk about how the internet has become a game changer in how we view art and other forms of media.

    As a millennial artist, I have to be very familiar with the internet and social media. It’s my best option to launch my artistic career, and every young aspiring artist has already realized this.

    That’s why teen musicians upload their music to Youtube or Soundcloud, teen filmmakers put their work on Vimeo, and teen artists are all over Tumblr and Instagram. It’s not an uncommon thing for young artists to already have an online portfolio, personal website, or run multiple social media accounts.

    Social media provides multiple user friendly platforms for millennial artists to promote themselves: on Facebook I can share my art updates with friends and family, on Twitter I can share links in a witty tweet about my work and hope it goes viral, on Instagram I can post pictures from my studio and get new fans each day. It’s incredibly easy to put work on the internet and the feedback is instant.

    The likes and comments start to flood in only seconds after I post a photo and by the next day almost everyone in my network range has seen my latest post, and if I use multiple hashtags then I can reach even more viewers outside my network. It’s easy and efficient, but with a large portion of the art world now digital, there are new distractions for young artists that didn’t exist before.

    Because the feedback is instant, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and the hype. I know very well that there are young artists who fall under this trap. It’s not uncommon for people to experience a kind of buzz from the number of likes they can generate on social media the very same way a smoker gets a buzz from tobacco. That’s why social media can become so addicting.
    In this day and age numbers matter more than they actually should. How many followers do I have? How many likes did I get? How many comments do I have on my latest status update? How much hype can I generate?

    Eventually “look at what I just made” turns into “how many likes can this get?”

    Hype builds ego. It’s the same reason why music artists that were once good at the beginning of their career start to make formulaic radio hit singles just to stay in the spotlight. The fame and hype reaches their head, and suddenly it’s no longer about their art. Some artists lose their concentration with this distraction and will cut corners just to please their audience before they’ve even come close to mastering their craft or reaching their full potential. There’s a certain kind of danger that exists when you start to put your happiness and satisfaction in the hands of others.

    That’s also why I’ve personally decided to cut back on my social media use. I deleted my Twitter and Instagram account and temporarily unpublished my personal website and online portfolio. My logic was that I don’t want the hype and numbers to distract me while I’m still developing my craft. I want to be a master in my field, so I don’t have time to get caught up in a distraction that shouldn’t exist. I want to be a great artist someday, and that won’t happen if I become satisfied by likes and nice comments from being a “good” artist.

    Social media is every young artist’s best friend and worse enemy. It’s hard to escape the distractions of the internet because it’s also the best place to start our artistic careers. Social media is just another canvas for millennial artists, and how we paint our online presence and usage is another art form in and of itself.


  • 2015 Will Be the Year of the Services Marketplace, But Only if the Price is Right
    Everything in our lives is going to be available in the push of a button.“- @Shervin

    The service economy is going through uberification. Service marketplaces are aggregating consumer demand through mobile apps (and some websites) and fulfilling that demand through offline services. This phenomenon has left little in the services sector untouched. All of the industries below are booming with upstarts looking to be the next “Uber for X.”

    Transportation: black cars, rideshares, buses, parking, private jets, bikes and rental cars
    Home Services: veterinarians, cleaners, baby sitters, handymen, movers, auto mechanics, locksmiths, laundry, errands, dog walkers
    Delivery & Logistics: package delivery, messengers
    Hospitality: hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts, and quiet spaces
    Food & Beverage: groceries, fast food, and booze
    Dining & Drinks: reservations, payments
    Health & Beauty: massages, beauty services
    Goods & Services: creative goods and creative services

    At the top of the ladder, 2015 is shaping up to be the year for service marketplace platforms as speculation intensifies around IPOs for Uber and Airbnb indicating that the so-called sharing economy is about to go mainstream. The halo effect of these IPOs will surely impact the future of the platforms listed above.

    A potential pitfall for many of these platforms will be their pricing strategies. Pricing strategy is especially important for marketplaces, as pricing doesn’t just effect revenue, but also the incentive structure for their ecosystems. Because these marketplaces need significant liquidity to succeed, small changes in pricing structure can have enormous impact on growth and profitability for these businesses. Over the last year, we’ve seen platforms that have set up the right pricing structure for their marketplaces pull ahead of those who haven’t.

    Two Types of Marketplaces

    Marketplaces can be categorized as providing commoditized or un-commoditized services. The difference on this spectrum revolves around the degree to which the product or service can be standardized.

    For example, Uber provides a commoditized service because the passenger doesn’t care about much besides getting from point A to B in the car they selected. Therefore, they should be setting the price on behalf of their producers. However, Airbnb provides an un-commoditized service because its renters potentially care about location, number of bedrooms, WiFi, pool, pet policy, etc. The more factors that influence a purchasing decision, the less commoditized the service offering will be and the more likely producers should set their own prices for their services.

    With all the investment in and press coverage of these service marketplaces, we decided to take a closer look to see which ones could have trouble growing due to a misalignment between pricing and the degree of standardization.

    Commoditized service providers should set the prices for their users.
    Un-commoditized service providers should allow their producers to set prices.

    Commoditized service platforms that aren’t price setters

    Commoditized service platforms try to set their own prices so they can provide more value to consumers by setting standards for pricing. Here are a few which may want to reevaluate if they should control prices given the ecosystem they are playing in.

    TaskRabbit is in the on-demand home services market and competes with the likes of Handy and Homejoy. They have been around for longer and, as a result, we assume their legacy has been preventing them from adopting a true commoditized positioning. Instead of standardizing price for home cleaning, they give you low, medium and high options. Instead of making it easy for the consumer to know they are getting a quality service by standardizing cost & quality, they leave it up to the consumer to choose if they are getting the right deal amongst their three different options.

    If you’re looking for a parking space, ParkMe and SpotHero provide a marketplace to rent one from owners with spare inventory. Owners are able to set their own prices, but the following scenario shows why this strategy is ill-advised. Imagine yourself searching for a parking space and one spot is $10/day whereas the one next to it is $20/day. The $10/day option is obviously a no brainer, which creates a disequilibrium in the ecosystem since the platform isn’t able to optimize for supply and demand.

    Finding a parking spot is a commoditized service. There are a limited number of variables to find the right place to park your car. Is it close to me, in a garage vs. on the street, valet or not, etc. Outside of these variables, price is the only other primary determining factor. For the parking platform that can figure out how to bring a level of standardization into the industry, huge success awaits them. The challenge is that there is an existing industry with existing prices and a lack of transparency. When a platform can assert itself as the technology middleman, it should be able to standardize pricing and ensure efficiency in the market.

    Instacart is a grocery delivery service that formerly charged a markup on supermarket prices plus a delivery fee. This model was unsustainable and forced them to recently change their business model. Now, they want supermarkets to pay a fee to be a part of their ecosystem. What Instacart recently realized is that grocery shopping and delivery is a commoditized service.

    Their former hybrid pricing strategy lacked transparency because there was no information on how the markup was calculated or what its true dollar amount was. This recent reset of their pricing strategy is a step in the right direction because it standardized prices. By subsidizing buyer participation one can expect more buyers to join their ecosystem, which will in turn increase supermarket participation.

    Postmates is a delivery service with couriers who buy what you request at any store or restaurant and deliver it to you. They have a different pricing model where delivery fees start at $5 and are determined by the distance from pick-up to drop-off, and the capacity of the platform (surge pricing). Additionally, a 9% service fee is applied to the purchase price of items. While Postmates was more transparent about its pricing from the start compared to Instacart, the grocery delivery platform may soon have an advantage because of its ability to eliminate fees that users still have to absorb when using Postmates.

    Price automation in an un-commoditized setting

    On the other hand, what happens when an un-commoditized marketplace is a price setter?

    YourMechanic is a platform that connects car owners with mechanics. Car owners enter information about their car’s problems and the platform finds them help. Based on the information entered, YourMechanic automates a price. This price is guaranteed even if fixing the problem takes longer than calculated. This practice can upset producers who feel the platforms aren’t pricing their service appropriately since there can be a high degree of customization involved. Price rigidity and the potential for customization in an un-commoditized setting don’t go well together.

    For the Winners, the Price is Right

    Throughout the services sector, the marketplaces that have correctly aligned their pricing structure with the kinds of services they offer have consistently pulled ahead of those who haven’t. The major winners like Airbnb and Uber have gotten it right, as has more recent up-and-comer Handy. Meanwhile, many potential “Uber for X” companies have simply tried to copy the on-demand nature of Uber without understanding how the business model works. These companies aren’t likely to get very far, while their more astute competitors are poised to have a big 2015.

    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and if you have any other examples.

  • How to get a date using data
    Could an algorithm help you find true love?
  • VIDEO: Obama: 'Make cyber space safer'
    US President Barack Obama has urged technology companies to give the government greater help to improve cyber security.
  • Modern Love: Swipe Right or Left
    My parents met on the side of a small town road in the summer of 1975. My mom’s car broke down and my dad stopped to help. They started talking and that was it. A year later they got married, and this July they will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary.
    Isn’t that the sweetest story? It’s so sweet it gives me diabetes. Basically, my parents owe their marriage to a 1968 Ford Galaxy overheating on a hot day.

    Do I want this magical story for myself? Sure, but it’s not likely.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that’s not really how things work anymore; in fact, I think that’s actually how horror movies start. It seems that these days, it’s all on social media. I recently went to a friend’s wedding who met her husband on Twitter. Before they met, I literally remember asking her something like, “Who is this (name redacted) weirdo that keeps tweeting you?” Now they’re married and being all cute in California. Seriously?

    Some research suggests that as many as one in three to one in five relationships are born online (FYI I don’t think Tinder was included in that research… just saying). Technology has given us a plethora of possibilities in the game of love. But the question is why do we keep losing that game? Allegedly more than half of marriages end in divorce, and as I creep into my late 20s and early 30s, the number of exes people have, even from just dating, is increasing at an alarming rate. Isn’t all that baggage exhausting?
    “Our modern dating practices have evolved,” explains Alysha Trujillo, a love and relationship counselor based in Denver, Colorado. Trujillo has a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, but more importantly, she knows how the modern world dates. According to Trujillo, “We have become dependent on things being immediate and easy, and establishing a relationship is no exception.”

    I asked Trujillo quite frankly if traditional marriage is even an option anymore, or are we doomed to a reality stuck in season one of Sex and The City? She’s optimistic, stating, “Building relationships is difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

    So what is the problem? Why are so many of us horrible at dating? Why do some people have 10 plus exes? Why do some leap from relationship to relationship like it’s a game where everyone loses and we all catch Chlamydia?

    OK, enough questions, let’s get some answers.
    Trujillo explains, “A sustaining and fulfilling relationship starts with your own self awareness.” Before even jumping in the dating pool, Trujillo wants us to establish what we need, what we want, and to literally ask ourselves: what are you looking for? If that’s a love connection, then calm down and lower your expectations for yourself and your date. Then take your time.

    Trujillo believes part of the problem lies with our modern tendencies, “If something doesn’t immediately tickle our fancy, we are on to the next bigger and better thing.” Real chemistry takes time and all the stalking on Facebook people do can sometimes ruin that. So perhaps next time you meet someone you like, maybe don’t peruse through all their photo albums, confirm that you’re cuter than their ex, and fantasize about your yearly trips to Belize.

    Technology has greatly improved our options in love, but it comes at a cost, “The modern dating process doesn’t offer the time that could facilitate the growth of (the right) type of authentic connection.” Even though we move at super sonic speed, relationships can move at a glacial pace.

    Overall, Trujillo’s advice on dating in a modern world is relatively simple: find out what you want, be yourself, and know that it’s not going to happen overnight.

  • Quirky Street Sign Warns Of Facebook Dangers
    SAN FRANCISCO — Chronic speeding had been a persistent problem along a steep, busy street in a Bay Area city, until officials installed some unconventional safety signs that are getting attention and possibly, obedience.

    The signs may help with another modern problem: habitual Facebook updating.

    Since January, Hayward Boulevard in Hayward has boasted attention-grabbing signs urging pedestrians to ignore their smartphones for a minute while crossing the block, and telling drivers that speed limits are not optional.

    hayward street signs

    One sign, designed by Frank Holland, the city community relations officer, tells pedestrians: “Heads up! Cross the street. Then update Facebook.”

    Another tells drivers to stick to 35 mph because “it’s a speed limit not a suggestion.” It includes an image of 35 written on a sheet of paper slipping into what appears to be a suggestion box.

    Holland told HuffPost that traditional signs weren’t discouraging drivers from gunning it on the hilly road.

    “If you don’t take an unconventional approach, you run the risk of blending into the background the way everything official does,” Holland said. “If you just drive through any city, you’re bombard with messages. We had to find a way to break through.”


    In all, there are seven new signs to supplement conventional signage about speed limits and other roadway hazards.

    So far, anecdotal proof shows the signs are working, Holland said. The city hasn’t compiled accident or ticket data.

    The concern is that any beneficial effect from the new signs will be lost as the novelty of their message wears away.

    The only criticism Holland says he’s heard is that some people have called the signs “corny.”

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  • Apple Working On Electric Car: WSJ
    By Abhirup Roy and Alexei Oreskovic

    Feb 13 (Reuters) – Apple Inc has a secret lab working on the creation of an Apple-branded electric car, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

    The project has designed a vehicle that looks like a minivan, the newspaper quoted one person as saying. It would take years to finish the project, and it is not certain if Apple will eventually build a car, the Journal said. (http://on.wsj.com/1zBD9sL)

    The news signals that Apple is sharply raising its ambitions for automotive technology, which has become a prime area of interest for Silicon Valley companies ranging from Google Inc to ride-sharing firm Uber to electric car-maker Tesla Motors Inc.

    The connected car, or vehicles with a full range of Internet and software services beyond mere navigation and communications, is considered one of the ripest areas for expansion for technology companies.

    Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

    Now, the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research and development unit, Johann Jungwirth, has defected to Apple, according to a LinkedIn profile, which said his title was head of Mac Systems Engineering.

    Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

    The Financial Times reported earlier that Apple had created the secret lab and that Jungwirth had joined the new research team. (http://on.ft.com/1A4ELi5)

    Two sources told Reuters that Apple has recently tried to recruit from the automotive industry in fields such as robotics.

    The research lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the Financial Times said.

    The Wall Street Journal said that the Apple project, code-named “Titan,” employed several hundred people working a few miles from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

    Apple executives have met with contract manufacturers including Magna Steyr, a unit of Magna International Inc . A Magna spokeswoman declined to comment.

    Google is working on plans for a self-driving car, but that is not part of Apple’s plan, the Journal said.

    Trying to design and build an actual car would mark a change for the iPhone maker, which researches and discards plenty of projects but has so far mainly stuck to its core expertise in mobile and electronic devices.

    But it has been open about wanting to integrate its core iOS software into automobiles with CarPlay.

    Along with HomeKit and HealthKit, the idea is to extend Apple’s software dominance into industries including home devices, healthcare, and automobiles. (Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru and Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; Editing by Edwin Chan, Joyjeet Das, Christian Plumb, Peter Henderson and Lisa Shumaker)

  • Iowa Wants to Let You Carry Your Drivers License On Your Phone
    There’s now a technology to replace almost everything in your wallet. Your cash, credit cards, and loyalty programs are all on their way to becoming obsolete. Money can now be sent via app, text, e-mail — it can even be sent via Snapchat. But you can’t leave your wallet home just yet. That’s because there is one item that remains largely unchanged: your drivers license.

    If the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles has its way, that may no longer be the case. According to an article in Des Moines Register, the agency is in the early stages of developing mobile software for just this purpose. The app would store a resident’s personal information, whatever is already on the physical licenses, and also include a scannable bar code. The plans are for the app to include a two-step verification process including some type of biometric or pin code. At this time, it appears that specific implementation details are still being worked out.

    The governments of United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates had both previously announced their own attempts to experiment with the concept. It’s becoming increasingly common to see mobile versions of other documents. Over 30 states now allow motorists to show electronic proof of insurance.  It only follows that the drivers license would be next.  But the considerations around that document are different — it is perhaps the most regulated and important document that a person carries.

    At first thought, the idea seems rife with potential security and privacy issues. It is well known at this point that nothing is unhackable; and if a project is made on a government contracting schedule, the likelihood of a breach is only greater. There’s already a contentious legal debate regarding law enforcements’ abilities to search your devices. Everywhere there is growing concern about what else apps, once installed, can be used to collect or carry out in the future.

    Questions of security, however, must take into account context, and there, it can be argued that our current regimes of physical documents have been an enormous failure. Having every state choose their own approach for issuing IDs has led to patchwork regulations and glaring weak points in the system that criminals have repeatedly taken advantage of.  Drivers licenses today are regularly forged, stolen, and compromised — it’s far from a secure situation.

    There have been major advancements in the technologies that are readily available to consumers. New phones now come standard with features like Near Field Communication (for systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet), and increasingly, biometric scanners (to use your face or fingerprint to unlock your home screen). In combination with existing practices like using end-to-end encryption, smart cards, and PIN codes, a technological solution may be feasible, theoretically. How these systems perform in real world conditions, on this scale, remains to be seen.

    Chris Wiesinger, President of Trace Intercept, a consultancy focused on issues related to digital identity, sees the upside to adopting new technologies as far greater than the potential risks. Wiesinger argues that we are “awash in a world of credentials.” It’s become far too much for individuals to properly manage. He explains that with the inclusion of systems like Apple’s Touch ID, there is a unique opportunity to leverage a new security infrastructure, “I believe all the technologies to make this a high-security operation are already in play, and just need to be orchestrated effectively.”

    Having viable digital counterparts to the physical documents and cards we use will allow us to lessen the severity of issues like fraud.  But Wiesinger believes that the larger issue that needs to be addressed is the way we approach identity as a whole.  What he is advocating for is a larger change in empowering individuals to gain agency over what personal information and attributes are shared, and in what context.  Digital drivers licenses, as well as all the other credentials, could play an important role in making this ecosystem possible.

    In Iowa, the success of their pilot study will likely depend more on issues of policy and execution than technological performance. Current plans allow for digital drivers licenses to be used at airports — it would be wise to restrict security-related use cases till the implementation is much farther along. The state should work with the private sector to start by letting residents use their digital licenses for low-level transactions like verifying age with alcohol and checking into a hotel. It is still too soon to allow a digital license the same authority as the physical one.  Although, that day may come down the line.

    Some have argued that this discussion will soon become irrelevant because of the amount that is already known about us. When our objects, devices, and institutions know not just who we are, but extremely specific details of our behaviors, the function of a legal identification document becomes unnecessary. It’s true that we are quickly losing our ability to choose when and by whom we are identified.

    Despite that, it is unlikely that we will ever see physical documents completely replaced. Throughout history identification documents have been used to signify recognition. A paper document is proof of your existence in the world, it’s an acknowledgement by the government that you have legal rights. There are few forms of control as powerful as the ability to issue or confiscate someone’s identification paperwork. For that reason, don’t expect physical documents to ever go away — their symbolic value will exist long past their day-to-day utility.

    Follow @twadhwa

    This article originally appeared on Forbes — Disruption and Democracy.

    Check out my upcoming book, Identified: How They Are Getting To Know Everything About Us.

  • The Coolest Astronaut In The Galaxy Talks Sade, 'Star Trek' And Why Struggling Is Key To Success
    Leland Melvin was propelled by many a rocket during his time as a NASA astronaut, but just two weeks ago the 50-year-old was launched to viral stardom by a single tweet.

    While researching the Challenger explosion, reporter Adam Aton came across Melvin’s official NASA portrait from 2009. Within hours, Melvin’s self-described “big cheeseburger smile” — and his two rescue dogs that he snuck into the photo — were a big hit on the web.

    This is an official portrait for astronaut Leland Melvin. Also, his handle is @Astro_Flow. I’m in awe. pic.twitter.com/KHWVo94mZO

    — Adam Aton (@AdamAton) January 28, 2015

    “When you take your picture, you take your family,” Melvin told The Huffington Post. “But I wasn’t married and my family was all in Virginia, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I take my boys?’”

    Melvin has since hung up his spacesuit, having retired from NASA exactly one year ago. Now, he hosts the Lifetime competition “Child Genius,” which is wrapping its first season. Melvin took some time to talk to The Huffington Post about having grit, the power of reinvention and the best music to jam to during an international space smorgasbord.

    On Balancing Science And Art
    “My mom gave me a chemistry set —one of these age-inappropriate non-OSHA certified things — when I was six or seven,” Melvin said. “I blew up her carpet and got a spanking, but that was something that really activated my brain to say ‘Hey, this science thing is cool.’”

    As an educator, Melvin preaches STEAM — which doesn’t have anything to do with blowing things up.

    “I focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” Melvin said. “Arts has to be in there. When you think about arts and culture, that’s the thread that connects us all on the planet.”

    On Embracing Failure As A Stepping Stone To Success
    Drafted in 1986 by the Dallas Cowboys, Melvin had dreams of a football career. But a hamstring injury during practice dashed his hopes for good, and he continued with his education until he landed at NASA.

    After years of intensive training, Melvin suffered another injury that once again threatened to end his career. At NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a giant pool used to train astronauts for spacewalking, a technician forgot to include a pad in Melvin’s helmet that would allow him to clear his ears as he was submerged.

    “When I came out of the water, I was completely deaf,” Melvin said. “Blood was coming out of one ear, the doctor was talking to me and I couldn’t hear anything.”

    After surgery and a three-week hospital stay, his hearing began to return — but he was told he’d never fly in space.

    Rather than quit NASA, Melvin went to Washington, D.C. to work in the administration’s education programs.

    “That’s when we lost the space shuttle Columbia and all my friends,” Melvin said, his voice breaking as he spoke about the 2003 disaster, in which the shuttle was destroyed during re-entry after a 16-day space mission. “As we went around the country for the different memorial services, the chief flight surgeon said ‘I’m watching you clear your ears and I see the good work you’re doing for this country trying to inspire kids and teachers.’”

    The surgeon signed a waiver for Melvin to fly in space.

    “You have to have grit,” Melvin said. “What was that thing that got you over the edge? Grit comes from failure.”

    On Erasing Boundaries In Space
    During a 2008 mission to the International Space Station, Melvin said the lead commander invited his team to a meal: “‘You bring the rehydrated vegetables, we have the meat.’”

    “We’re having this meal, we’re floating food to each other’s mouths and listening to Sade on the computer — I think ‘Smooth Operator‘ is playing,” Melvin said.

    “Then I looked back on the planet from the space station — there are no borders. It’s one blue marble spinning below you. And here I am working with people from around the world we used to fight against: the Russians, the Germans. We were breaking bread and working in harmony at 17,500 miles per hour. If you had more people able to see this vantage point, it would shift and maybe make you want to do more good to save our civilization.”

    On How ‘Star Trek’ Inspired Him
    Space has always been ahead of the curve, even in pop culture, Melvin said. He cites ‘60s-era “Star Trek” for its diverse cast and depictions of interracial (and even interspecies) romance.

    “[Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry was trying to show a future of people living and working together, trying to show a future for the universe,” Melvin said. “I remember when Nichelle Nichols, who was playing Lt. Uhura, said she was going to quit ‘Star Trek.’ She was in a hotel in Georgia and met Dr. Martin Luther King and he told her she cannot quit. She was portraying a leader, an African-American woman on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. He saw her as one of the she-roes of the time.”

    On The Power Of Reinvention
    “My dad was a science teacher. He played in a band for extra money,” Melvin said. “When I was six or seven he brought a bread truck home and said ‘This is our camper.’ I said ‘No, that’s a bread truck.’

    “Over the summer, he worked to convert it into an RV for camping, because as teachers, it’s the cheapest way to take a vacation,” Melvin said. “I learned to be an engineer over that summer.

    “That Marita Bread truck became our camper because my dad had the vision to take a $500 bread truck and take us around the country. You can have a vision for something even if other people can’t see it. You just have to actualize it.”

  • Is the Road to Solar a Solar Road?

    By Don Willlmott

    If solar power is ever to truly hit the mainstream, we’re going to need a lot more solar panels in a lot more places. Roofs alone won’t do the trick. That’s why the environmental blogs lit up a few months ago with the news that a bike path capable of generating solar energy opened in the Netherlands. Solar bike paths? Solar roads? Sounds great; let’s do it! The only thing getting in the way is some very daunting math.

    The world’s first solar road–all 230 feet of it–is in Krommenie, a town outside Amsterdam. A joint project of private investors, the government, and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, the SolaRoad consists of concrete modules measuring 2.5 by 3.5 meters. Solar cells are embedded in the concrete below a one-centimeter layer of tempered glass on one side of the road. Its creators hope that one day, the solar power the road generates can be used for things like street lighting, traffic control, or even electric cars. Right now it only generates enough power to light up about three Dutch homes.

    Construction of the world’s first solar road in Krommenie, outside Amsterdam

    Although it has a glass surface, the designers have given it some friction so its 2,000 daily riders don’t slip. The bigger design issue is that the road can’t face the sun head-on, so its energy-collection capabilities aren’t optimized. The good news is that a solar road doesn’t have to eat up additional land and can run right through the middle of densely populated areas.

    How much did this small-scale experiment cost? Would you believe $3.7 million? That’s a little more than $16,000 per foot for those of you keeping score at home. At that price, a solar bike path running the entire 13-mile length of Manhattan would cost about $1.1 billion, making it cost-prohibitive, to say the least.

    Artist’s rendition of a solar road in Sandpoint, Idaho

    Still, future costs are sure to trend downward as others innovators push the technology forward. One example is Idaho-based Solar Roadways, which launched a successful Indiegogo campaign last year to fund its vision of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels you can drive on–compete with LEDs to “paint” lines and heating elements to melt snow and ice in northern climates. The company has also received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highway Administration.

    The folks at Solar Roadways contend that if every road in the United States were solar, we’d cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent. This may be a road worth traveling.

    Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel, and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites.

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  • Weekend Roundup: Merkel in the Middle as Post-Cold War Europe Falters
    The whole idea of European integration was to anchor Germany in Europe to avoid another world war and to spread prosperity across the continent with a single market and common currency. Russia agreed to German unification after the Cold War in exchange for the West not absorbing Europe’s eastern frontier into its sphere of influence.

    Now democratically elected governments in Athens and Kiev — and the responses in Berlin and Moscow — are challenging both post-Cold War arrangements. Angela Merkel, as chancellor of Europe’s unrivaled power, has become, for better and worse, the crisis manager in the middle.

    In an interview, European statesman Carl Bildt says Merkel is best to deal with Putin, but Ukraine is a free country that should decide its own status. Writing from Moscow, Ivan Sukhov places the West’s betrayal of its promises to Russia at the heart of the crisis. Nina L. Khrushcheva argues that Putin holds the upper hand with the ready military capacity to keep the West guessing what he’ll do next. Writing from Vladivostok, analyst Artyom Lukin expresses the worldview held by many in Russia and China that the West is seeking to subvert its governments through civil society organizations seeking to foment “democratic revolutions.”

    Gianna Angelopoulos pleads for the rest of Europe to give Athens some breathing space, writing, “all we are saying, is give Greece a chance.” Phil Angelides calls on Europe to take Obama’s advice on Greece and fashion a policy of growth instead of austerity. Writing from Paris, European parliamentarian Sylvie Goulard scores Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ call for WWII reparations from Germany as a “truly bad” idea that strikes at the very foundation of the European Union. To round out the European political landscape, The WorldPost offers a useful field guide to the rising far-right parties that are emerging across the continent as European unity cracks.

    In light of its February anniversary, Mahmood Delkhasteh remembers the democratic sentiments of the “Iranian Spring” in 1979 as the Shah was overthrown — but before the ayatollahs took over.

    As Jordanian jets pound ISIS positions in Syria, Prince Hassan writes from Amman that promoting human solidarity is a better strategy than seeking revenge. Writing from Beirut, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke says that the aim of the brutal immolation of the Jordanian pilot was to light the fuse of polarization in the pro-American kingdom that has a peace treaty with Israel. Pakistani activist Farheen Rizvi laments the waning enthusiasm for fighting jihadis in her own country. In a joint appeal, Felix Marquardt, Anwar Ibrahim, Tariq Ramadan and Ghaleb Bencheikh call on “Muslim democrats” around the world to unite.

    WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Istanbul on the worldwide social media outrage over what appears to be a hate crime against Muslims in North Carolina.

    As Boko Haram launches its first attack in another African country — Chad — and a Nigerian archbishop warns of the threat the group poses to the continent, this week’s “Forgotten Fact” turns to Nigeria and asks whether the upcoming elections could deepen that country’s divisions.

    Turning toward the future, our Singularity University series this week chronicles how transformative technologies are arriving sooner than we could have imagined and also looks at the future of crime. In advance of the WorldPost conference on the future of work in London on March 5 and 6, author Nicholas Carr wonders whether we might be too quick to surrender meaningful work to robots. Fusion this week takes us on a tour of “the coolest cloning lab” in Argentina, which reproduces competitive polo ponies. It also examines what the brain looks like when the emotions of love strike.

    Finally, writing from Hong Kong, Chandran Nair corrects the misimpression that China is a “valueless wasteland,” noting that by mid-century it is likely to host a population of Muslims larger than Saudi Arabia’s and a Christian population larger than any other country in the world.


    EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels is the Associate Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are Associate World Editors.

    CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

    EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

    CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

    The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

    Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

    ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

    From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


    The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

    We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

  • Oregon High School Takes On Week-Long 'Survivor' Competition, We All Win
    “Survivor” may be in its 30th season, but a high school just put a whole new spin on it.

    On Jan. 29, Oregon City High School kicked off its own version of “Survivor.” Twelve high school seniors participated, and they weren’t allowed to leave the school for a full week. One winner emerged at the end — but cash wasn’t the incentive.

    “Each night two people will be eliminated after competing in a prize and immunity challenge,” the school’s website reads. “Winner wins a Macbook Pro! What a great addition when starting college next year!”

    The entire school got involved; daily videos went up on the site, and an entire Twitter account was dedicated to the competition. At the end of the week, student Mitch Brown emerged as the lucky winner.

    Brutal as “Survivor” was, contestant Lucas Paris said it was a blast.

    “People don’t understand even though it’s a game, we still love each other,” Paris told The Oregonian. “They only see when we are talking crap about each other. They don’t see when we are playing Phase 10 and laughing.”

    H/T MTV

  • Tech firms urged to share data with US
    The US president urges tech firms to share more information with security services, as leading figures gather for a summit in California.
  • 9 Funny Someecards To Keep You Laughing Through Valentine's Day
    You can run, but you can’t hide. Valentine’s Day is coming.

    You tried to distract yourself this week. You listened to the continual onslaught of Brian Williams stories, you freaked out about Jon Stewart’s choice to leave “The Daily Show,” and you read every single review of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But starting at midnight, it’s all love and cupid and mushiness for 24 hours straight.

    We’re here to help you through the day in the best way that we know how. Here are the week’s funniest Someecards to keep you laughing through the Valentine’s Day misery. Good luck!

    Need more jokes? Check them out below!

  • Don't Get Fired. Get Feedback.
    It happened on a Wednesday. I was in my cubicle preparing for a meeting I felt unqualified to lead, nervously scribbling down an agenda. I was pumping myself up with the freshest single at the time, Like a G6, when I heard my boss shouting over the sea of cubicles, penetrating my ears over Far East Movement’s fresh beats.

    “JEREMY, can you come into my office please?!”

    Her normally calm yet confident voice had risen to a sharp, irregularly stressed pitch. Nervously, I arose from my desk and peeked over the divide, searching a sea of coworkers for an empathetic eye. With everyone glued to their computer screen, seemingly aware of what’s to come, I found none. Taking this as a sign of my inevitable fate, I embarked on the long, lonesome corridor to her office.

    Dead man walking
    As I passed through doorway, the temperature seemed to rise 10°. Still clinging to hope that this was another friendly catchup, my confidence took a hit when she said, “Can you shut the door behind you?” On the surface I calmly obliged, and shut the door as gracefully as I could as if proving that I could do something…anything right. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I was soon concerned that the growing beads of sweat from my torso would seep through my $12 button down and expose my deepest fears. As daintily as a 6’2″, 215lb, 22 year old man-boy could, I crossed my legs, committed to a calm and collected demeanor. There was a long, pregnant pause. She studied me for what felt like hours. Surely she knew how uncomfortable I was, and I remember thinking to myself:

    Out with it! Put me out of my misery!

    How did I get here?
    Six months ago, I was shaking hands with my college dean, accepting a diploma on behalf of the school of business at the University of Wisconsin. In lieu of higher paying consulting gigs, I instead accepted a job in Intuit’s rotational development program, convincing myself that learning shouldn’t stop after college. This program focused on developing future leaders and offered the unique opportunity to switch jobs every 6 months (without having to get fired).

    I was 3 months into my first rotation in Intuit’s Employee Management division (i.e. payroll software for small biz). My first foray into product management wasn’t even the largest of my insecurities. Having just moved to a new state, starting my first job in an industry I knew nothing about, with a side of an ongoing inferiority complex, I was desperately seeking the slightest indication of how much (not if) I was fucking up my job/product.

    Refusing to relinquish the only power I had left, I waited for her to speak. Unintentionally holding my breath, I clutched my fists in preparation when she finally broke the silence.

    Manager: “Jeremy, I want you to know, we’ve really valued your work here. Everyone really likes your ambition and personality.”

    Me [in my head]: “shit. past tense. ‘valued’. Here it comes. I wonder if I’ll cry.”

    Manager: “I’ve heard from several people that you are far exceeding expectations, and many of your teammates can’t believe this is your first job out of school.”

    Me: [shock and disbelief followed by complete silence]

    Manager: “One thing I think you could work on is being more prepared for meetings and more confident while you’re in them.”

    Me: “That’s great feedback. I’ll try and work on that. Thanks!”

    That was it. I wasn’t fired. I was actually doing a great job, but I somehow convinced myself that I was the weakest link and was so terrible that I needed to pack my things. I peeled my dampened shirt from the leather chair back, and skipped back to my cube.

    Could this have been avoided?
    In short…yes. There is one major contributing factor that lead most of us (especially those just starting their career) down this inferiority entrenched path toward being on a totally different (and more dramatic) page than our managers. I didn’t know how to measure my performance AND…

    There was no regular, ongoing channels for positive and constructive feedback.

    This is especially true in fields where your output/performance isn’t easily measurable (ex: product management). After years of class projects, grades, midterms, and finals, I had no idea how to grade my own performance. The lack of positive praise from coworkers led me to believe I wasn’t earning a gold star.

    Old habits die hard
    My overwhelming joy of still having a job was short-lived and soon backslid to focusing on what I was doing wrong.

    “She was probably just being nice. I’m so unprepared for meetings and often lose control of the room. I’m still teetering on the edge of unemployment.”
    Even after praise, my mindset hadn’t changed. Only now, I didn’t have to speculate that SOMETHING was wrong. Instead of living in fear, I decided to never get blindsided again by taking a more active role in my development.

    I started asking for feedback on everything
    Seriously. I even asked coworkers if my breath smelled bad before a meeting with the CEO (note: it did. Luckily, I had a mint handy). I immediately felt better about my situation because I removed all doubt in regards to what I was and wasn’t doing well.

    Ongoing feedback makes a ton of sense for a few key reasons:

    1. Inconsistent feedback tends to skew negative: The mentality of ‘only say something when something is wrong’ creates a vicious cycle of feedback fear where even if it’s coupled with praise, we tend to only hear how we’re fucking up. This gives the recipient the impression that they aren’t doing anything right which has a HUGE impact on confidence (and ultimately job performance). Instead, get in the habit of sending positive and constructive feedback to at least one teammate per week AND ask them to reciprocate. This creates a more open culture where feedback recipients can get used to both positive and constructive feedback.
    2. More prepared for the annual review: All big companies are largely the same in that they need to know how you performed relative to your peers to make pay/promotion/bonus decisions. This typically consists of providing your manager a list of peers who give you feedback and completing a self-review. It only takes 3 or 4 of these longform feedback requests to fuck up your day. It’s easy to put them off and/or not put the appropriate amount of time into each. Not to mention they are regularly back-weighted with examples spanning over the last 4 weeks instead of the intended 12 months because your teammates can’t remember accomplishments from 9 months ago. Instead, build out your annual review over the course of the year by collecting and providing small pieces of feedback each week. At the end of the year, all you’ll need to do is compile the data and send it off to your manager (who will be smitten that they don’t have to chase down and remind all of your coworkers to give you feedback).
    3. Get on the same page as your manager: Don’t leave your manager in a black box when it comes to your personal and professional development. Instead, include them in your feedback loops. Give him or her visibility into what people are saying about you AND (this part is important…) how you plan to address the constructive feedback. Be diligent about what items you choose to focus on. Not only does this show them that you care about your career, it also prevents situations (like mine) where I was sure I was getting fired and my manager thought I was exceeding expectations.
    4. Treat your job like you treat your car: If you care at all about your car, chances are you take it into the shop every 3-6 months for a tune up (change the oil every 3k miles, rotate tires, check brakes, etc). We don’t wait until our engine seizes up from lack of oil to see a mechanic, right? So why would we wait until the annual review to make small adjustments in our day to day? Imagine, you finally get your annual review. Turns out you did a good job and are getting a decent raise, but several coworkers said you need to better manage your time and not overcommit on deliverables. Well guess what? It’s too late to make any material adjustments that affect your review/salary/bonus. Better luck next year, champ. Instead, gather weekly feedback to stay on top of development areas as soon as they come up and address them on the spot.
      Eventually, I gained enough confidence where I wasn’t asking for feedback just for validation (which is common for early career employees) but for true growth and development issues. Even years later, ongoing feedback is still a huge part of my professional growth plan and increases transparency into how I can perform better in my job*.

    Up next in this series of the power of feedback: How to give constructive feedback. Follow me to be notified when it’s live, and please like this post if you had a chuckle or a relatable experience.

    *I’m currently starting my own company that makes getting feedback fast and easy. If you’d like to be notified of our launch, you can sign up here! Thanks for reading.

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