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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.
  • VIDEO: Mobile scanner that detects disease
    A mobile scanner which can detect diseases in less than one hour from a small drop of blood has been developed
  • VIDEO: The tech behind facial recognition
    Glasses that tell you who you are looking at
  • Cybersecurity: The insider threat
    How firms combat insider fraud and theft
  • 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.

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