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Mobile Technology News, December 5, 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.

  • Microsoft vows to boost Internet encryption, transparency
    Likening government Internet surveillance to malware, Microsoft’s chief general counsel says the company is taking steps to protect the privacy of online communications.
  • WSJ: Apple has signed deal with China Mobile for latest iPhones
    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a formal agreement between Apple and the world’s largest — and up till recently, the biggest iPhone holdout — carrier, China Mobile, has been signed. The story is confirmed only by a single, unnamed source — normally a violation of journalistic standards — but other evidence to support the contention has appeared, including a pre-order site connected to China Mobile serving a wealthy Shanghai suburb and state media announcements.

        



  • Sub-$200 HP, Dell models most popular Black Friday laptops
    Hewlett-Packard and Dell offered some of the least expensive and most popular laptops on Black Friday, according to Gap Intelligence.
  • Appeals court considers Oracle's Java copyright claims
    Oracle is appealing a judge’s ruling last year that its APIs were not copyrightable, which led to the dismissal of claims against Google.
  • Your Guide to Common SEO Penalties and How to Recover From Them
    What if you build it, and no one comes?

    A great website, that is.

    Many times, a lack of website traffic is due to common mistakes that cause the search engines to penalize you. These mistakes can be attributed to a number of different causes, but one thing is certain – if you have a penalty, you need to take steps to remove it or the effectiveness of your SEO campaign will grind to a halt.

    Here are the most common types of mistakes that could be resulting in a penalty, and how to address each one.

    Link penalties

    Before Google launched its Penguin algorithm update, it was common to focus on getting links in quantity, without regard for quality. The more links, the better the search rankings. Automated tools sprouted up everywhere that would acquire thousands of links a day by spamming forums and blogs with nonsense, and cheap, useless articles were published on notorious content farms to acquire links with exact-match anchor text.

    But those days are over. Now, since the release of Google Penguin, manipulative link building can trigger one of the biggest penalties there are. Links that exhibit certain manipulative characteristics, such as their anchor text distribution, are easily identified by Google and will be either individually penalized, or cause a website to be penalized as whole.

    There are two ways to find out if you have a link-related penalty. First, check your Google Webmaster Tools account to see if you have any messages from Google about unnatural links. If not, check the “manual actions” section to see if there are any manual actions listed.

    If neither of the methods provide any clues, check your Google Analytics traffic and look for a sharp drop in organic search traffic on any specific day between now and April 2012. If you see a marked drop that corresponds to one of the known Penguin algorithm refresh dates, you likely have a link-related penalty.

    To resolve this, you’ll need to audit all the inbound links to your website to find the ones that could be considered spammy or manipulative by Google. Most people will need help with this step; professional link audit services are available if you need help.

    Once you identify these links, you’ll need to do your best to get them removed. This often involves finding the contact information for each webmaster and emailing them, requesting that the link be removed. Then, disavow the remaining links (the ones you weren’t able to get removed) using Google’s disavow tool.

    Content penalties

    You’ve heard people shouting “Content is king!” for years now, but if that content adds no value, then it’s more like a joker.

    Google’s Panda algorithm update was designed to combat thin, low-quality content. Panda penalizes sites and pages that don’t provide value to visitors.

    If you’ve been affected by Google Panda, Google advises you ask yourself these questions:

    • Is the information trustworthy?
    • Is the content written by an expert or is it shallow in nature?
    • Is the content duplicated, overlapping or redundant on the site (is it the same thing over and over again with just some words changed around)?
    • Are there spelling and grammar mistakes?
    • Is the content short, unsubstantial or otherwise lacking in specifics?

    The Panda update did something that was unique; unlike the past where only the offending pages would be affected, Panda penalized the entire site if low quality content was found even on some parts of it.

    So, how do you figure out if you’ve been hit by Google Panda? Similar to the steps to follow if you’ve been hit by Penguin, you’ll need to assess your Google Webmaster Tools account for any clues, as well as your Google Analytics account. See if you can correlate substantial drops in organic search traffic with days that correspond to known Panda updates.

    In addition, like your link profile audit, you should perform a content audit of your site. Make sure that all content adds value; anything that doesn’t should be removed.

    Layout penalties

    For the search engines to reward you with better rankings, they have to be able to find your content and they have to feel confident that your content is presented to your viewers in a user-friendly, intuitive, unobtrusive manner.

    This is particularly important with content that exists “above the fold” (ie, content that’s visible without scrolling down the page).

    The top portion of every page should not contain a bunch of ads. In fact, too many ads anywhere on the page will result in a penalty.

    It’s definitely ironic that a company that makes its money from advertising (while placing ads all over its pages) penalizes other websites for too much advertising, but it’s an unfortunate fact that websites just have to deal with. This isn’t to say you can’t have any ads on your pages; they just need to be kept modest, especially if they are above the fold.

    Over-optimization penalties

    Google actually penalizes sites that have been “overly optimized.” Sometimes, webmasters take it to the extreme when applying on-page SEO best practices, and they’ll over-apply them. An example of this would be a dog food company wanting to rank for the keyword “dog food,” so they include that phrase 50 times within a single blog post. According to Matt Cutts, the over optimization penalty was implemented to “level the playing field.”

    This penalty can be tricky to understand though. When Google speaks of over optimization they are talking about “black hat webspam” or using loopholes and shortcuts to obtain better rankings.

    On their blog, Google specifically states that if you’re optimizing your site in ways that benefit the user, you won’t suffer any penalties. Google gives examples that include:

    • Making the site more crawlable
    • Making the site easier to navigate
    • Speeding up page load times
    • Making content easier to read

    Basically, anything that helps you rank better without improving the user experience could be considered over optimization.

    While over-zealous site owners are often guilty of over optimization, less than reputable SEO companies often make their money by promising quick results. Site owners who fall for this pitch often find out later that their SEO agency was using tactics that caused them to get penalized down the road. If you work with an SEO firm, make sure that they are reputable and not using shady tactics that could get you in trouble with Google.

    Conclusion

    To avoid these sorts of penalties, review your SEO strategy periodically to ensure that it complies with the quality guidelines of the search engines.

    If there’s ever a question that what you’re doing might result in a penalty, consult a professional. The penalty landscape has become convoluted with all the new rules and algorithms, so confusion is understandable.

    But regardless of what you do, remember this: Recovering from a penalty is usually more expensive, time consuming, and difficult than implementing a proper strategy which won’t get you penalized. If you’re looking for help changing direction with your SEO strategy, or think you’ve been penalized, see my article, “How to Evaluate and Overhaul Your SEO Strategy.”

  • Obama Says He's Not Allowed iPhone For 'Security Reasons'
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The troubled mobile phone maker BlackBerry still has at least one very loyal customer: U.S. President Barack Obama.

    At a meeting with youth on Wednesday to promote his landmark healthcare law, Obama said he is not allowed to have Apple’s smart phone, the iPhone, for “security reasons,” though he still uses Apple’s tablet computer, the iPad.

    Apple was one of several tech companies that may have allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) direct access to servers containing customer data, according to revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The companies deny the allegation.

    Obama fought to keep his BlackBerry after coming to the White House in 2009, though he said only 10 people have his personal email address. Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton used email during their presidencies.

    BlackBerry, a Canadian company formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd, virtually invented the idea of on-the-go email, but lost its market stranglehold as rivals brought out more consumer-friendly devices, like Apple’s iPhone and phones using Google’s Android software.

    The company recently halted plans to be sold and is trying to chart a new course by focusing on large business and government clients.

    (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Paul Simao)
  • Gaming's Other Great Schism: Hardcore versus Casual
    By Noah J. Nelson (@noahjnelson)

    This holiday season, the video game industry is looking to reignite sales as two game titans, Sony and Microsoft, launch the next generation of game consoles.

    Their target demographic is the group of dedicated players known as hardcore gamers. Dive into the wide world of video game culture on YouTube and you’ll hear that term–hardcore gamer– being thrown about.

    So what exactly is a hardcore gamer?

    “Well a hardcore video gamer would be somebody that is there at every single midnight release,” said Kelly Kelly, known in competitive e-sports circles as Mrs. Violence. “Playing the game for at least 5-6 hours, beating it within maybe 48 hours of release. That would be a hardcore gamer right there.”

    Kelly qualifies. She makes a living as a gaming personality. You can find her online most nights, streaming matches of “Call of Duty” to her many fans.

    That’s right, gamers stay up at night and watch other people play video games the way sports fans watch football. It’s about the most hardcore thing a gamer can do.

    More than 32 million people worldwide watched the world championships of the strategy game League of Legends this month, That’s acording to the makers of the game.

    At the other end of the spectrum are the people playing cell phone games like Words with Friends.

    “I have parents,” said Kelly, “and they love those games. and they ask me all the time: does this make me a gamer? Yes. Absolutely it makes them a casual gamer.”

    Casual gamers. That’s the other big group that gets attention from game makers. Inside gaming culture, “hardcore” and “casual” are tribal divisions.

    For the hardcore, gaming is the passion. Casual players enjoy games, yet they don’t steep themselves in gamer culture rites like midnight openings. Still, as the gaming population grows, and gets older, exactly where those two tribes begin and end gets a little blurry.

    Case in point: Ben Hill, who describes himself as an attempted casual gamer. Hill is 38 and as of a few weeks ago a first time father. Once upon a time, he was hardcore:

    “I remember beating my brother up because he made the wrong type of noise when I was fifth boss in Kung Fu,” said Hill. “I was like ‘You ruined this game for me!'”

    Hill has chilled out a lot since then, but he says that when he plays anything–even just a puzzle game on his cell phone–he still feels the pressure to excel.

    “So I can somehow feel that I’ve been productive in my entertainment today,” Hill said with a laugh. “Which in of itself is ridiculous because one of the reasons we adopt entertainment as part of our lifestyle is to avoid that constant American rat race of being X-percentage productive and efficient in a given day.”

    Analysts at the research firm NPD Group say that Core gamers still spend more than others buying games. They note that those who play casual games like Candy Crush Saga are the fastest growing segment of the market.

    “I think there is an antagonism from the hardcore towards the casual,” said Jeff Cannata who reviews video games as the host of the webseries “Newest, Latest, Best.”

    “I think there’s this perceived threat of the hobby which the hardcore appreciate at a deeper level… being dumbed down, being simplified to bring in a wider audience.”

    The industry has begun to split development along the cultural divide, churning out less challenging mobile games and speeding up production of large blockbusters.

    This means more games for everyone. But the monolithic gaming culture that Hill and Cannata grew up with may become a thing of the nostalgic past.

    A version of this story originally appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered.

    Public media’s TurnstyleNews.com, covers tech and digital culture from the West Coast.

    Go to Turnstylenews.com | Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Tumblr

  • Broadcom CTO's crystal ball shows wearable widgets, gigabit broadband (Q&A)
    In an in-depth interview, Henry Samueli predicts a lot more bits in our future with multigigabit Wi-Fi, LTE, and home broadband. Moore’s Law is a tougher challenge, but Broadcom plans high-end CPUs, too.
  • The Daily App: CloudOn — Microsoft Office on the Go
    Apps come and go, but when it comes to software for work, Microsoft Office seems to endure. Released in 1983, the earliest versions of Office ran on MS-DOS, then lauded for its ability to display limited text formats, though fonts were still a distant dream. And two years later, Microsoft released Office for Macs, when the two companies were still on friendly terms.

    As the years rolled by, Word — and its later cousins, Excel and PowerPoint, among others — became entrenched in offices, schools and home computers around the world, adding features and components to stay up-to-date. It’s such a stalwart that it still powers much of Microsoft’s revenue growth.

    Even as competition ramps up from cloud-based products like Google Drive, chances are you still opened a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document to do your job. But as the workplaces become decentralized, you need agile and flexible software to work with different devices at home and on the road. Office, though, is anything but agile.

    Microsoft tried to keep up — it released Office 2013 and updated Office 365, which lets you access all its software online. But they’re clunky, especially on smartphones and tablets. Need to edit Word or Excel on your phone? Have no fear — here are some apps to help you work on your phone.

    What’s the App?

    Even with keyboard and accessories, creating documents on an iPad is awkward. That’s where CloudOn, free on iOS, delivers. You get a lot of Word, Excel and PowerPoint features in an elegantly, lightweight package.

    The app is easy to set up. Sign up for cloud storage from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or SkyDrive and login from within the app. It connects quickly and seamlessly. From there, you can edit, create and store documents on those services. CloudOn treats it like one workspace — you can change, rename and even email and share documents.

    Beyond Office, you can also read and view images, PDFs and other file types as well — no need to open several programs.

    CloudOn is basically a version of Office 2010, but it’s not easy to use on a touch screen. Once you get used to the layout, though, you can easily format text with a wide choice of fonts and type styles. You can also insert page numbers and tables, but it’s difficult to select the element to work with — I had a hard time highlighting text and cells, for example, especially on the iPhone’s tiny screen.

    The interface shows the most popular editing and reviewing tools upfront, with a lot of functions tucked away due to the limited screen space. It’s hard to find everything you need, but it’s all there. There are a few idiosyncrasies, too. I noticed when you hold the backspace key down, it doesn’t keep deleting.

    Excel’s functions are mostly there, but macro or VBA functions are missing, so you can’t run complex spreadsheets or merge documents with source files. You can import pictures, though, but it’s not very intuitive and takes a few steps.

    Working remotely with others is tricky, too — you can only share and email files from the File view, for example, and not the Recent Files tab. And you need a constant 3G connection, but if your Internet drops out, don’t panic — it all auto-saves everything. Undoing unwanted changes is a pain, though.

    The biggest drawback is the mouse controls. Simple tasks like drag and drop, arranging items and even navigation are often tedious. The pinch-to-zoom is scrolling is great, but you’ll need to tap or hold a lot, or various combinations of the two. The software runs quickly, but the usability could be easier.

    You’ll Want It If

    You work on multiple devices, within multiple settings and use several storage services shared between your co-workers, and you need a simple yet powerful way to look at documents on your phone or tablet. For a free app, CloudOn does a lot. And if you need to untether from a PC or laptop, it gets the job done nicely.

    It’s Not My Thing — What Else Ya Got?

    If you want to do away with the PC or laptop and just do all your work on an iPad, CloudOn is simply too limited — it’s designed for on-the-go work. To turn the tablet into a spreadsheet-making, presentation-designing, word-processing workhorse, you need a more robust app like QuickOffice Pro HD for iPad or Android.

    Both versions cost $20, but it’s well worth it for the full access to functions like formatting and tracking, as well as seamless saving and updating to cloud services like Google Drive. There’s a bit of lag as you type, though, but QuickOffice is one of the best office apps around. Google bought it out earlier, so it’ll tie to more services in the future.

    Microsoft’s Office app won’t arrive until late 2014, so you’ll have to improvise a patchwork of apps and cloud services until then. CloudOn isn’t the most powerful or agile solution, but for its price and convenience, it’s a great stop-gap for any on-the-go worker that doesn’t want to lug around extra devices.

    This article was published by Mobiledia and originally appeared here.

  • Is it ethical to block adverts online?
    Is choosing to block online advertising ethical?
  • NSFW YouTube Comments Have Never Been Classier (VIDEO)
    We wish YouTube commenters could be this refined when they’re getting raunchy with one another.

    YouTube comedy channel Dead Parrot is back with its third installment in the glorious web series “YouTube Comment Reconstruction,” this time featuring a re-enactment of users discussing the ethereal song “An Ending (Ascent)” by Brian Eno.

    The short black-and-white film opens on seasoned British actors Grahame Edwards and Eryl Lloyd Parry, both dressed to the nines and sitting at an elegant table. The two sit in silence for some time, seemingly soaking in the vastness of one another’s presence, before commencing a recitation of comments originally written by YouTuber users Liamscoolchannel and Craig Jones.

    Watch as their banter quickly shifts from a mediation on the human spirit to a sudden recounting of oral sex.

    The only thing missing from this video is a tumbler of 60-year-old scotch and a fine Cuban.

    (Hat tip, Laughing Squid)

  • VIDEO: The fuel cell under Al Gore's London HQ
    A fuel cell has been fitted in the basement of a new development off Regent Street in London.
  • Looking for SEO? Create Content, Be Social

    SEO in the Past

     

    Take everything you have ever heard about SEO and chuck it!

    Well maybe you don’t have to go that far, but here is the thing.

    If you are looking to build a site that Google loves and has you showing up on the first page every time, then maybe it is time for you to realize the rules have changed a little bit.

    In the past search was impacted by one thing more than anything else — Link Building.

    It was Link Building efforts that kept SEO and PPC marketers focused because it was the quantity and more importantly the quality of links that was going to drive page rank up and therefore position in a Google Search.

    After Link Building, SEO was heavily focused on formatting.

    SEO experts would turn their attention to using the keywords in the right header tags (H2, H3) and then splatter the keywords throughout the content and using italics, bold and underline to further improve search rank.

    Link Building is still very important, but some other factors have become immensely important and B2B marketers need to take notice.

    SEO Today: Quality Content, Socially Authoritative

    One of the first questions clients always ask is about SEO. How do we drive SEO to be found on Google?

    While the traditional SEO items I mention above are important, I usually take clients down a different route. This route covers two areas. Their content strategy and marketing efforts as well as their social media, curating and sharing strategy.
     

    SEO and the Role of Content

    First question, do you have a blog and do you keep up to date with quality content driven to answer your prospective clients most important questions about the solutions you offer?

    If they say no, then I know we are starting at zero.

    Even the most optimized B2B site if just a static products and services website will have a hard time growing and sustaining traffic.

    Wondering just how important content is? Check out this Searchmetrics visual aid showing the content factors driving search.

    Factors SEO Content

    In short, to improve in almost all of these areas you need more high quality content.
     

    SEO and the Role of Social Media Signals

     
    The second question I ask is, how does your organization use social media?

    • Are you consistently sharing the content you are (or aren’t) creating across the platforms?
    • Do you curate and share other useful content to build trust and relationships with potential clients interested in similar subject matter?
    • Is your brand engaged and having conversations with readers in your target audience?

    The purpose of this question is to basically find out one thing… Is the brand social and do they have an engaged community of any sort that shares content?

    Because here is a less known secret of SEO that most B2B’s are failing to realize.

    Social sharing is a huge driver of SEO! Looking for proof? Check out this second study from Searchmetrics.

    Factors SEO Rank Social

    Notice anything here?

    Seven of the top 8 factors driving SEO are Social sharing related and not traditional SEO drivers whatsoever!

    Want SEO? Drive Content, Get Social

     
    For companies asking the old how do we improve SEO question, the answer is simpler than you may think.

    The challenge for businesses is that unlike in the past where the building process was more about following steps, grabbing backlinks and properly formatting content, the rules have now changed.

    If you want better SEO then you need to be creating more content, and driving it through social channels. It really is (or isn’t) that simple.
     

    Looking to better understand what drives Social sharing? Check out this great graphic from Marketing Charts.

     

    Social Sharing Motivations

  • Closing the Global STEM Gap
    The development of the silicon microchip in the mid-1900s gave rise to our current digital age, and the global economy has been heavily dependent on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ever since. While European and Asian countries demonstrate their commitment to STEM through the stellar academic performance of their students in these fields, American teenagers once again find themselves lagging behind. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released the results of their 2012 standardized tests, and they found that American 15-year-olds ranked 30th in math, 23rd in science and 20th in reading — roughly the same results as 2009, the last time PISA conducted these tests.

    So, in light of these disappointing results, the question becomes: How do we maintain our competitive edge in the century ahead? Clearly, there is work to be done in our educational system. But maybe more importantly, American culture needs to place a renewed emphasis on STEM and generate an excitement for science in young people that we haven’t seen since the era of the space race. In short, we need to make STEM fun and fascinating again.

    At Girl Scouts, fun and learning go hand in hand, and STEM activities are a crucial component of the programming we offer girls. Younger girls express high levels of interest in STEM, but that interest tapers off as girls reach the middle school and early high school years, and girls are often discouraged by society, both actively and passively, from pursuing their interest in these fields. By nurturing and encouraging girls’ early interest in STEM and making it fun for them, we can keep them engaged, help them perform better in school and ultimately, encourage them to pursue careers in STEM fields.

    Along with partners like AT&T and the Clinton Global Initiative, among others, Girl Scouts is committed to working with school systems to promote STEM learning, and our programs often complement classroom curricula. Our IMAGINE Your STEM Future series currently helps high school students explore STEM subjects, creating a hands-on experience that gives them the opportunity to discover new interests and develop new skills.

    Exposing both girls and boys to STEM, early and often, is the easiest way to help facilitate their continued interest in these fields. Fostering an environment that encourages the exploration of STEM will help us close the global STEM skills gap and ensure that American students remain competitive in an increasingly digital and STEM-centered global environment.

  • Benedict Cumberbatch And Jennifer Lawrence Are The King And Queen Of Tumblr
    On Dec. 3, Tumblr released its list of the most re-blogged actresses and actors of the year. As Vulture pointed out, there were a ton of British people on the list (as well as a lot of niche, teen shows), but what was mostly unsurprising were the male and female winners: Jennifer Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch! So, here, in all their GIF-errific glory, 16 reasons why Jennifer Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch are the king and queen of Tumblr.

    jen1

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    jen2

    ben1

    jen3

    ben3

    jen4

    ben4

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  • Scandiweb: Latvia's Magento Magicians
    201ldn't have 2-06-27-techscapelogocolumn1.jpg

    Where is Latvia? What is Magento? What is Scandiweb?

    Let me handle those questions in their proper order.

    1. Latvia is one of the “Baltic countries” located on the northern rim of Europe, across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm and sandwiched in between its Baltic partners Estonia to the north and Lithuania to its south. With a population of about two million, it’s capital is Riga, a beautiful old city with superb architecture reminiscent of Paris or Prague in places. Latvia was a country besieged in the 20th century first by Stalin and his Bolshevik murderers, then by Hitler and his Nazi degenerates and finally — as if that wasn’t enough — Stalin again. Though their official language is Latvian, most Latvians speak Russian and many refer to themselves as “Russian.” Latvians, in my experience, are fun-loving, uber-intelligent people who enjoy technology to its fullest. Given their awful dictatorial experiences, they are about as resilient a people as one could find on this planet and are delighted by meeting new people and talking about technology.

    2. Magento is an E-commerce web application which has attracted a strong following amongst retailers and online merchandisers with over 180,000 clients from small online shops to big department stores. It is also Open Source, which I just love; and far more importantly, developers also love Open Source platforms. Started in 2007, Magento has been a pioneer in the transitioning of e-commerce on mobile devices. In 2011, eBay bought Magento.

    3. Scandiweb is a small company of 50-plus young tech people based in Riga, the capital of Latvia. I have a fascination with Russia and Eastern Europe (EE) and have been to Riga many times. There is a different kind of mind in these regions, one where mathematics and software algorithms rule the day and are embraced not feared as they sometimes are in the West. Riga has some bad-ass programming minds and capabilities as most of the giant EU tech/telecom companies have discovered; they partner with and usually end up acquiring these Petrie-dishes of software coding activity.

    Antons Sapriko is the CEO of Scandiweb. He is perhaps one of the foremost examples of how I profile Eastern Europeans above. Sapriko won the Latvian Math Olympiad and possesses one of those highly mathematical minds which can translate to computer programming very easily.

    2013-10-11-ScandiwebAntons1.jpg

    Having studied at university and been fascinated with early programming classes, Sapriko then went on to study IT at the University of Copenhagen, a top regional business school and there became mesmerized by Magento. Couple this software interest with Sapriko’s early entrepreneurial experience washing cars at age 11 and you have one well-rounded tech entrepreneur.

    As a 21-year old in Riga, he first worked for an international furniture manufacturer but quickly decided he “wasn’t happy with that career. So I decided to travel the world for a while,” he told me. “I spent a year or so cleaning beaches in Spain from an oil spill there around 2001,” he said making me think giving something back is an imperative ingredient for business success.

    And as this quote from Sapriko clearly shows, he’s got a clear vision around turning others on to Magento too. “What excites me at Scandiweb is our ability to take programmers from beginners to world-class professionals. I love watching former interns become certified Magento developers and teachers for the next bunch of newcomers. Every year our unique training and development model opens new possibilities we never imagined.”

    Scandiweb is the type of start-up that could certainly put together your web site — if that’s all you wanted. Like many of these EE tech/programming start-ups, Scandiweb is way into the deep back-end of their technology projects meaning the user interface/experience (UI/UX) are not their main concern but the way the web client connects and works with the entire back-end technology and database is where they really shine. And within those confines, to define them even further, Scandiweb focuses exquisitely on the “E-Commerce enabling” of highly retail-oriented websites … websites that sell things.

    With more than 50 employees based in Riga and one developer in another programming hot-spot, the Ukraine, Scandiweb seems entirely focused on growth but managed growth according to Sapriko. Sporting clients such as Puma, Avis, Diesel, Lego, NASDAQ, Pandora, Qatar Air, Loreal and Metallica, to name a few, Scandiweb has become a crucial specialist in E-Commerce web implementations as opposed to a generalist.

    According to Sapriko, “Yes, we are Magento focused company, their associate partner and I guess one of the biggest Magento agencies in the world. Both in terms of Magento developers and more than 200 projects we worked on; across 17 countries; from Brazil to Australia,” he told me with aplomb.

    When I asked Sapriko about some of the sites that best displayed the uniqueness of Scandiweb’s work, he responded quickly, “Let’s try this one. Typerings is the only web site that allows you to order a ring with engraving or your custom image online. Usually ring engraving is a cumbersome process: you have to find a man who can do it; go there; select fonts; write text; pay in advance; then come in few days to get it ready. Here you can do it all at once any time of the day, any day of the week,” Sapriko said excitedly. Now the Typerings link above is just to their homepage which is not the real specialty of Scandiweb, which is one click away on the “Design your Type Ring Now” page and that is indicative of the highly Magento-based work Scandiweb does.

    Spariko continued explaining:

    It was not our desiring, We made a technical implementation to make it work fast, to allow the store owner to upload more fonts, more ring models, etc and etc … many technological details here but the idea itself is great. With Typerings, we did all, minus the graphical design and rendering engine to display all nice shades and rotation of the ring. But we did all-around work there, like getting data from rendering engine, sending the ring 3-D models, fonts, other info and then getting designed ring back and sending it to the machine file ready to process.

    Asking for another example, Sapriko didn’t hesitate for an instant. “A somewhat cool site optimized for iPad and interesting product is Rossini Shop.com and it was optimized for iPad long before Responsive Web Design became a fashion. It allows the browser to see product detail together with the product list without the need for extensive clicking back and forth, so tiresome in tablets.” Yes Antons, that is very tiresome indeed… I’m so sick of it, I could cry.

    Now I realize both of the above examples aren’t big brands like the other Scandiweb clients listed are and I think this is indicative of a problem I’ve seen for years where big brands don’t let the small, entrepreneurially-driven companies that serve them use their web work as reference material — to show what they can do for other prospective clients. They often times have it built into their contracts that the vendor cannot use the work they’ve done for them in any way. This in my un-humble opinion, is patently unfair and must stop.

    Scandiweb now has a presence in Riga, Ukraine, London and a new, small office in NYC. “We’re a service company right now,” Sapriko observed, “but we also have our own product we’re developing — a learning system internally at the company.” Hmmm, I wonder what that’s all about: Sapriko wouldn’t elaborate.

    What will the future hold for Sapriko and Scandiweb? “I want to find a U.S.-based partner, so I can create a more interesting future for my colleagues.”

    I confess I didn’t know a lot about Magento when first meeting Sapriko. But now after a complete education by the Latvian, I’m excited about the future of the Open Source’ Magento and companies like Scandiweb that specialize in it.

  • What Headlines Would Look Like If We Lived in a Mathematically Literate World

    Our World: Market Rebounds after Assurances from Fed Chair

    Mathematically Literate World: Market Rebounds after Regression to the Mean

    2013-12-04-HL1.jpg

    Our World: Firm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Daring Strategy, Bold Leadership

    Mathematically Literate World: Firm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Good Luck, Selection Bias

    Our World: Gas Prices Hit Record High (Unadjusted for Inflation)

    Mathematically Literate World: Gas Prices Hit Record High (In a Vacuous, Meaningless Sense)

    2013-12-04-HL2.jpg

    Our World: Psychologists Tout Surprising New Findings

    Mathematically Literate World: Psychologists Promise to Replicate Surprising New Findings Before Touting Them

    Our World: After Switch in Standardized Tests, Scores Drop

    Mathematically Literate World: After Switch in Standardized Tests, Scores No Longer Directly Comparable

    2013-12-04-HL3.jpg

    Our World: Controversial Program Would Cost $50 Million in Taxpayer Money

    Mathematically Literate World: Controversial Program Would Cost 0.0001 Percent of Taxpayer Money

    Our World: Proposal Would Tax $250,000-Earners at 40 Percent

    Mathematically Literate World: Proposal Would Tax $250,000-Earners’ Very Last Dollar, and That Dollar Alone, at 40 Percent

    2013-12-04-HL4.jpg

    Our World: Poll Finds 2016 Candidates Neck and Neck

    Mathematically Literate World: Poll Finds 2016 Predictions Futile, Absurd

    Our World: One Dead in Shark Attack; See Tips for Shark Safety Inside

    Mathematically Literate World: One Dead in Tragic, Highly Unlikely Event; See Tips for Something Useful Inside

    2013-12-04-HL5.jpg

    Our World: Local Heat Wave Seen as Sign of Global Warming

    Mathematically Literate World: Local Heat Wave Not Seen as Meaningful Indicator of Global Trends

    Our World: Veteran Baseball Player Enjoys Breakout Month

    Mathematically Literate World: Veteran Baseball Player Enjoys Transient Good Fortune

    2013-12-04-HL6.jpg

    Our World: Market Share for Electric Cars Triples

    Mathematically Literate World: Market Share for Electric Cars Rises to 0.4 Percent

    Our World: Still No Scientific Consensus on Global Warming

    Mathematically Literate World: Still 90 Percent Scientific Consensus on Global Warming

    2013-12-04-HL7.jpg

    2013-12-04-HL8.jpg

    Our World: Rates of Cancer Approach Historic High

    Mathematically Literate World: Rates of Surviving Long Enough to Develop Cancer Approach Historic High

    Our World: Hollywood Breaks Box Office Records with Explosions, Rising Stars

    Mathematically Literate World: Hollywood Breaks Box Office Records with Inflation, Rising Population

    2013-12-04-HL9.jpg

    Our World: Economist: “Eliminate Minimum Wage to Create Jobs, Improve Economy”

    Mathematically Literate World: Economist: “Eliminate Minimum Wage, then Pray Our Model Has Some Basis in Reality”

    2013-12-04-HL10.jpg

    Our World: Average Football Player Earns $3 Million, Lasts 4 Years in NFL

    Mathematically Literate World: Average Football Player Earns $0 Million, Lasts 4 Years in High School

    2013-12-04-HL11.jpg

    Our World: Politician Promises to Fund Math Education

    Mathematically Literate World: Politician Promises to Fund, Meddle in Math Education

    Our World: Illegal Downloaders Would Have Spent $300 Million to Obtain Same Music Legally

    Mathematically Literate World: Illegal Downloaders Probably Would Not Have Bothered to Obtain Same Music Legally

    2013-12-04-HL12.jpg

    Our World: Unemployment Rate Jumps From 7.6 Percent to 7.8 Percent

    Mathematically Literate World: Unemployment Rate Probably a Little Under 8 Percent; Maybe Rising, or Not, Can’t Really Tell

    Thanks for reading! If you can tolerate my drawings (a big “if”), you might also enjoy A Math Professor Consults on a Hollywood Movie and the economic satire 20 Steps for Trading Up from a Paper Clip to a House.

    This first appeared on mathwithbaddrawings.com. You could also check out Fifty-Five Million, my new blog that aims to bring a math-literate perspective to education statistics.

  • VIDEO: Israeli firms woo foreign investors
    Israel’s high tech companies are in London to woo European investors.
  • NSA Tracking Billions Of Cellphone Records Daily: Report
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

    The NSA inadvertently gathers the location records of “tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad” annually, along with the billions of other records it collects by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the newspaper said in a report on its website. Such data means the NSA can track the movements of almost any cellphone around the world, and map the relationships of the cellphone user. The Post said a powerful analytic computer program called CO-TRAVELER crunches the data of billions of unsuspecting people, building patterns of relationships between them by where their phones go. That can reveal a previously unknown terrorist suspect, in guilt by cellphone-location association, for instance.

    The program is detailed in documents given to the newspaper by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden. The Post also quotes anonymous NSA officials explaining the program, saying they spoke with the permission of their agency.

    Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment on the report.

    The DNI’s general counsel, Robert Litt, has said that NSA does not gather location data on U.S. cellphones inside the U.S. — but NSA Director Keith Alexander testified before Congress his agency ran tests in 2010 and 2011 to see if it was technically possible to gather such U.S. cell-site data. Alexander said that the information was never used for intelligence purposes and that the testing was reported to congressional intelligence committees.

    But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time that Alexander could have explained more. “The intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret,” Wyden said, though he would not elaborate on the extent of the program. Wyden is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have introduced legislation to trim NSA’s surveillance powers.

    Alexander and other NSA officials have explained that when U.S. data is gathered “incidentally” overseas, it is “minimized,” meaning that when an NSA analysts realize they are dealing with a U.S. phone number, they limit what can be done with it and how long that data can be kept.

    Rights activists say those measures fall short of protecting U.S. privacy.

    “The scale of foreign surveillance has become so vast, the amount of information about Americans ‘incidentally’ captured may itself be approaching mass surveillance levels,'” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program.

    “The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people,” said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

    ___

    Online:

    http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/national/how-the-nsa-is-tracking-people-right-now/634/

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