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Mobile Technology News, December 1, 2013

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

  • Apple iPhone 5s versus Google Nexus 5
    Two of the hottest smartphones on the market right now come from two companies that were once close allies, but have been divided by Google’s decision to enter into the smartphone market with a very similar product. While Apple may or may not have legitimate grievances about what transpired depending on your view, there can be little question that consumers have benefited as a result of what transpired. While their current respective flagship smartphones offer similar functionality, the Apple iPhone 5s and the Google Nexus 5 are both symbolic of how the two companies differ fundamentally in th


  • Jay Nixon Calls For Special Session On Missouri Boeing Jobs Project
    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon wants state lawmakers back at the Capitol next week in hopes of persuading the Boeing Co. to land its new 777X jet plant in Missouri.

    Nixon on Friday called a special legislative session to begin Monday in order to approve an economic incentives package of up to $150 million annually that he said must be completed quickly before Boeing decides where to the build the new commercial airplane. The aid for “large scale aerospace projects” would be offered through four existing Missouri programs that help finance job training and infrastructure improvements and reward companies for expanding their payrolls.

    Lawmakers will have to act quickly, because states face a Dec. 10 deadline to submit proposals to Boeing, Nixon said. The company hopes to make a decision early next year. Boeing already employs about 15,000 people in Missouri, including thousands of machinists in the St. Louis region.

    “Building this next-generation commercial aircraft in Missouri would create thousands of jobs across our state and secure our position as a hub for advanced aerospace manufacturing — and that’s why I am committed to competing for and winning this project,” Nixon said Friday in an emailed statement.

    Missouri lawmakers are to convene their regular session Jan. 8. Calling a special session allows the governor to limit the focus of what lawmakers can consider — in this case, only the airline incentives. Deferring to the regular session could have created delays because the incentives would have competed with other topics on the legislative agenda.

    Legislative leaders have generally supported the Boeing project but have reserved judgment on the specific incentives package.

    “I think it’s exciting that we’re being considered, but we are a long way from being awarded the contract,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka. “We just have to put our best foot forward.”

    Jones said House Republicans will caucus Monday and rely on the Democratic governor to put forward specific legislation. He said it makes sense for that legislation to start in the Senate, where the proposal could face its biggest test from some Republicans who have sought to curtail other tax credits.

    “I am strongly opposed to the tax credit,” said Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar. “I’m not sure what it would take to convince me that it’s a good idea, given the way it picks winners and losers and favors the giants like Boeing against the job creators like other small businesses.”

    Jones said that because of the tight deadline, it’s best to consider the Boeing incentives as a stand-alone item and tackle a more comprehensive tax credit overhaul during the regular session.

    Nixon’s special session proclamation makes no mention of offsetting the additional incentives with reductions to existing incentives, such as those for low-income housing or historic preservation.

    The governor said he’s not seeking to create something special for Boeing.

    “It’s important to note that these are the same targeted, fiscally responsible programs that are available to any company creating significant numbers of high-paying, family-supporting jobs,” Nixon said. “This legislation will simply give us added capacity to compete for this type of massive aerospace project.”

    Any incentives Missouri offers could face stiff competition. Officials in Alabama, California, South Carolina, Texas and Utah are among those who have discussed trying to entice the company.

    “We’ve sent out requests for proposals to more than a dozen locations,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in an email Friday. “We’ll be taking a look at all of them once they come back in mid-December.”

    Nixon met with Boeing executives last week in St. Louis and later issued a statement in which he said the meeting had been “extremely productive.”

    Boeing initially offered to build its 777X in Washington state but sought concessions from union machinists. After the union rejected a proposed contract, Boeing started talks with other locations. Washington state still plans to compete, and a package of tax breaks valued at $9 billion through 2040 was approved during a November special session.

    Missouri lawmakers in recent years have signed off on large state incentives packages aimed at specific industries.

    Lawmakers in 2008 authorized $240 million of tax credits for Bombardier Aerospace to build passenger jets near Kansas City International Airport, but the company chose to manufacture them near its Montreal headquarters.

    Two years later during a special session, Missouri authorized up to $150 million of incentives over a decade for the automotive industry. Those have been used by Ford and General Motors to expand production in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.

  • Search 'Festivus' On Google For A Hilarious Surprise
    Prepare for the airing of grievances!

    Google is celebrating “Festivus” a little early this year. The holiday, which originated on the show “Seinfeld” in 1997, generally takes place on Dec. 23. In celebration of the the holiday, when you search “Festivus” Google displays the traditional “Festivus” pole, as described on the show.


    Google celebrates “Festivus” every year, in honor of Frank Costanza’s anti-consumerist winter holiday. We’re just grateful Google isn’t making anyone participate in any of the traditional “feats of strength.”

    [h/t Search Engine Land]

  • First iPad Mini vs. Retina: No contest
    Going from the original iPad Mini to the Retina Mini is pretty jarring. Use the new Mini once and the old one is doorstop material.
  • Debating Killer Robots

    Last week, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Ethics and Technology held a debate between Ron Arkin and Robert Sparrow over the ethical challenges and benefits of lethal autonomous robots (LARS) or “killer robots.” The debate comes amidst increasing attention to LARS, as the United Nations has recently agreed to discuss a potential ban on the weapons under the Convention on Conventional Weapons framework early next year. Moreover, we see more media attention in major media outlets, like the Washington Post, the New York Times, Foreign Policy and here on Huffington Post as well. With NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Article 36 also taking up the issue, as well as academics and policy makers, much more attention may also be on the horizon.

    My purpose here is to press on some of the claims made by Prof. Arkin in his debate with Prof. Sparrow. Arkin’s work on attempting to formulate an “ethical governor” for LARs in combat has been one of the few attempts by academics to espouse the virtues of these weapons. In Arkin’s terms, the ethical governor acts as a “muzzle” on the system, whereby any potentially unethical (or better formulated “illegal”) action would be prohibited. Prof. Arkin believes that one would program the relevant rules of engagement and laws governing conflict into the machine, and thus any prohibited action would be impossible to take. Sparrow, a pioneer in the debate on LARs, as well as one of the founding members of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), is vehemently skeptical about the benefits of such weapons.

    Some of the major themes in the debate over LARs revolve around the issue of responsibility, legality, and prudential considerations, such as the proliferation of the weapons in the international system. Today, I will merely focus on the responsibility argument, as that was a major source of tension in the debate between Arkin and Sparrow. The responsibility argument runs something like this: since a lethal autonomous weapon either locates preassigned targets or chooses targets on its own, and then fires on those targets, there is no “human in the loop” should something go wrong. Indeed, since there is no human being making the decision to fire, if a LAR kills the wrong target, then there is no one to hold responsible for that act because a LAR is not a moral agent that can be punished or held “responsible” in any meaningful way.

    The counter, made by those like Arkin in his recent debate, is that there is always a human involved somewhere down the line, and thus it is the human that “tasks” the machine that would be held responsible for its actions. Indeed, Arkin in his comments, stated that human soldiers are no different in this respect, and that militaries attempt to dehumanize and train soldiers into becoming unthinking automatons anyway. Thus, the moment a commander “tasks” a human solider or a LAR with a mission, the commander is responsible. Arkin explicitly noted that “they [LARs] are agents that make decisions that human beings have told them to make,” and that ultimately if we are looking to “enforce” ethical action in a robot, then designers, producers and militaries are merely “enforcing [the] morality made by humans.”

    However, such a stance is highly misleading and flies in the face of commonsense thinking (as well as legal thinking) about responsibility in the conduct of hostilities. For instance, if a commander tasks Soldier B to undertake a permissible mission, where Soldier B will have very little, if any, communication with the commander, and in the course of Soldier B’s attempts at completing the mission, Soldier B kills protected people (like noncombatants, i.e. those not partaking in hostilities), then we would NOT hold the commander responsible. We would hold Soldier B responsible. For during the execution of his orders, Soldier B took a variety of intervening decisions on how to complete his “task.” It is only in the event of patently illegal orders that we hold commanders responsible under a doctrine of command responsibility.

    Arkin might respond here that his “ethical governor” would preclude any actions like targeting of protected persons. For instance, Arkin discusses a “school bus detector” whereby any object that looks to be a school bus would be off-limits as a potential target, and so the machine could not fire upon that object. Problem solved, case closed. But is it?

    Not by a long shot. Protected status in persons or things is not absolute. Indeed, places of worship, while normally protected become legitimate targets if they are used for military purposes (like a sniper in the bell tower, or storing munitions inside). Thus programming a machine that would never fire on school buses only says to the adversary – “hey! You should go hide in school buses!” Thus it is the dynamic nature of war and conflict that is so hard to discern, and attempts at codifying this ambiguity are so highly complex that the only way to accomplish this is to create an artificially intelligent machine. For otherwise, creating a machine that gives tactical and strategic advantage to the enemy, or in Arkin’s words providing “mission erosion” is beyond a waste of money. Thus creating a machine that would not become a Trojan Horse requires that it is artificially intelligent and can discern that the school bus is really a school bus being used for nonmilitary purposes — a machine that, it appears, Arkin would be uncomfortable with in the field.

    The final argument in Arkin’s arsenal is that if the machine, artificially intelligent or not, performs better at upholding the laws of war than human warfighters, then so be it. More lives saved equals more lives saved, period. Yet this seems to miss a couple of key points. The first is that the data that we have regarding all of the atrocities committed by service men and women are data points of when things go wrong. We do not have data on when things go according to plan – for that is considered a ‘nonobservation’. Think in terms of deterrence. One cannot tell if deterrence is working, only when it is not. Thus saying that humans perform so poorly is only telling part of a much larger tale, and one, I’m not certain, requires robots as a solution to all of humanity’s moral failings. The second is Sparrow’s main point: using such machines seems profoundly disrespectful of the adversary’s humanity. As Sparrow argues, using machines to kill distant others, where no human person takes even a moment to consider their demise, robs warfare of what little humanity it possesses.

    Thus I hope that while we continue to think about why using robots in war is problematic, from moral, legal and prudential perspectives, we also continue to press on their touted “benefits.”

  • New Technology Helps Stores Track Your Every Move This Season
    WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a big question for marketers: What kind of a buyer are you? And, as important, what are you willing to pay?

    In the search for answers this shopping season, consumer behavior online and off is being tracked aggressively with help from advances in technology.

    And it can happen whether buyers are on their work computers, mobile devices or just standing in the grocery aisle. The data can be connected with other personal information like income, ZIP code and when a person’s car insurance expires.

    Retailers say these techniques help customize shopping experiences and can lead to good deals for shoppers. Consumer advocates say aggressive tracking and profiling also opens the door to price discrimination, with companies charging someone more online or denying them entirely based on their home price or how often they visit a site.

    “You can’t have Christmas any more without big data and marketers,” said Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy. “You know that song where Santa knows when you’ve been sleeping? He knows when you’re awake? Believe me, that’s where he’s getting his information from.”

    Consumer tracking has long been a part of American consumerism. Retailers push shoppers to sign up for loyalty cards, register purchased items for warranty programs and note ZIP codes to feed their mailing lists. Online stores and advertising services employ browser “cookies,” the tiny bits of software code that can track a person’s movements across the Internet, to analyze shoppers and present them with relevant pop-up ads.

    More recently, marketers have developed increasingly sophisticated ways to combine offline and online data that creates detailed profiles of shoppers. They also are perfecting location-tracking technology as a means of attracting new customers and influencing shoppers as they wander through brick-and-mortar stores.

    A major push encourages shoppers to agree to be tracked in exchange for a good deal. Brick-and-mortar stores used to balk at customers who used smartphones to compare prices at rival stores, but retailers like Target are now pushing their own mobile apps and offering in-store Wi-Fi. The mobile apps entice shoppers with coupon deals or ads as they move throughout a store, while in-store Wi-Fi is another way to track a consumer’s online movements.

    To further lure buyers, major holiday retailers, including Macy’s, Best Buy and JCPenney, have partnered with the Shopkick mobile app. If shoppers turn on the app while in their store, they can be rewarded with discounts or song downloads for trying on clothes, scanning barcodes and making purchases.

    Another app, Snapette, blends American’s addiction to social media sites with location technology. Aimed at women keen on fashion, consumers can see what accessories or shoes are creating a buzz in their particular neighborhood, while stores get a chance to entice nearby shoppers with ads or coupons.

    Not all new technology tracking is voluntary. Stores have been experimenting with heat sensors and monitoring cellphone signals in their stores to see which aisles attract the most attention. One product called “Shopperception” uses the same motion-detection technology in the Xbox Kinect to track a customer’s movement, including whether they picked up a product only to return it to the shelf. In addition to analyzing customer behavior, it can trigger nearby digital signs offering coupons and steering shoppers to certain products.

    The company contends that the technology is less intrusive than other tracking devices, including security cameras, because a person’s image is never stored and their movements only registered as a data point.

    Marketers also are learning to overcome limitations with software cookies. One tech startup called Drawbridge claims to have found a way to link a person’s laptop and mobile device by analyzing their movements online, enabling advertisers to reach the same consumer whether they’re on their work computer or smartphone.

    But how all that information is used and where it ends up is still unclear. The Federal Trade Commission, along with several lawmakers, has been investigating the “data broker” industry, companies that collect and sell information on individuals by pooling online habits with other information like court records, property taxes, even income. The congressional Government Accountability Office concluded in November that existing laws have fallen behind the pace of technological advancements in the industry, which enables companies to aggregate large amounts of data without a person’s knowledge or ability to correct errors.

    “There are lots of potential uses of information that are not revealed to consumers,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America. To protect themselves, “consumers still need to do quite a bit of shopping to make sure that they get (what) meets their needs the best and is the best price.”


    Follow Anne Flaherty on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneKFlaherty

  • Cape Wind Project In Massachusetts Faces Deadlines For Tax Credit
    BOSTON (AP) — As it seeks investors, a project off the Massachusetts coast that aims to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm must reach fast-approaching benchmarks or risk missing out on hundreds of millions in critical funding.

    To qualify for a tax credit that would cover a major portion of its capital costs, Cape Wind either must begin construction by Dec. 31 or prove it’s incurred tens of millions of dollars in costs by then. Also, a $200 million investment — the only one of a specific dollar amount Cape Wind has announced — is conditioned on whether developers can fully finance the rest of the project by year’s end.

    With less than two months until the deadline, Cape Wind isn’t publicly discussing financing efforts. It also has yet to start on-site construction and isn’t detailing how it can qualify for the tax credit, only that it expects to.

    Even if Cape Wind fails to qualify, spokesman Mark Rodgers said, “We will move this project forward, we will secure financing and we will construct the project.”

    The 130-turbine, $2.6 billion Cape Wind project was proposed for Nantucket Sound in 2001 and touted as a large, clean energy source near a high-demand coastal area. It’s been delayed by a thick bureaucracy and opponents who say the project will ruin the sound and threaten wildlife and maritime traffic.

    Cape Wind has sold about three-quarters of its planned power output to two local utilities and aims to be producing power for homes and businesses in Massachusetts by 2015.

    First, it must continue to lock down what financing it has and get more of it.

    Of two major federal tax subsidies available to renewable energy projects, Rodgers said Cape Wind is pursuing one, an investment tax credit, which could cover a hefty 30 percent of its capital construction costs.

    But to qualify for the credit, the project must have begun construction by Dec. 31. Alternatively, Cape Wind can qualify if developers incur 5 percent of the wind farm’s cost by year’s end.

    If the project doesn’t qualify for the credit, Cape Wind would be left to fill a huge financing hole. And under its deals with the utilities, failure to obtain the credit would increase the starting price of its power from 20 cents per kilowatt hour to 22.7 cents, with 3.5 percent annual increases.

    It’s unclear how that would impact the average utility customer’s bill. But estimates when the utilities struck their deals (and Cape Wind’s starting price was projected at a lower 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour) indicated their average ratepayers would pay about $1 to $1.50 extra per month for Cape Wind’s power.

    Any further bump in price is sure to inflame critics, who frequently note that Cape Wind’s power is far more expensive than other energy sources, including more than double that of land wind.

    Though Cape Wind hasn’t started erecting turbines in Nantucket Sound, IRS regulations provide other ways to qualify as having begun construction, said Arnold Grant, a tax law expert at Reed Smith, which helps develop renewable energy projects but isn’t tied to Cape Wind.

    For instance, if an offshore wind farm’s turbine supplier is doing significant work off-site, that can count toward having begun construction.

    Grant also said meeting the 5 percent costs milestone doesn’t even require the company to spend the money by Dec. 31. The delivery of goods from a large equipment contract, for example, can help a company meet the threshold, even the company hasn’t paid the contract by year’s end.

    The bottom line, Grant said, is that companies looking to qualify for the investment tax credit can usually figure it out.

    “The rules are out there. You need to satisfy them, but there are different ways of doing it,” he said.

    Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Wind opponent, said the fact construction hasn’t started in the sound speaks to Cape Wind’s slow progress, whether it gets the credit or not.

    “They can’t begin physical construction in Nantucket Sound, so any other means of wasting taxpayer money on Cape Wind would be obtained through a loophole,” Parker said.

    It may be a steeper climb for Cape Wind to secure more than $2 billion in financing by year’s end to meet the conditions of the Danish pension fund PensionDanmark’s $200 million investment.

    Even if PensionDanmark comes through with a commitment, the project appears well short of the needed financing, said Parker. Cape Wind is pursuing a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, but it’s unknown when a decision will be made.

    Parker said she doubts Cape Wind can be financed without it.

  • Angry Birds Seasons Updated For The Holidays

    It’s that time of the year!  Turkey has been consumed, Christmas trees and Menorahs are being lit and a new update for Angry Birds Seasons is available in the app store for the holiday and winter seasons!  That’s right, Rovio has just dropped version 4.0 of Angry Birds Seasons for iPhone and the HD […]

    The post Angry Birds Seasons Updated For The Holidays appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Review of Noreve Leather Case for iPad Mini

    If you go into your local Apple store or really any retailer big or small you will see dozens of cases for the iPad Mini.  While some are great and functional, a lot them lack style.  And if you find one that does have style it lacks functionality it seems.  It’s hard to find the balance.  Noreve, […]

    The post Review of Noreve Leather Case for iPad Mini appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Polaris Office 95% Discount for Black Friday

    Infraware, an innovative mobile software and service company that helps people work and play better, today is thrilled to announce a special price promotion for Black Friday. Polaris(R) Office will be temporarily on sale, available in iTunes App Store for just $0.99, a 95% discount from the […]

    The post Polaris Office 95% Discount for Black Friday appeared first on AlliOSNews.

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