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Mobile Technology News, January 24, 2014

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

  • Microsoft earnings beat expectations
    Microsoft posts better-than-expected earnings on the back of strong Xbox sales and demand for its cloud services.
  • Apple tops Samsung as world's largest chip buyer in 2013
    At $30 billion, Apple tops Samsung in 2013 chip spending, but market dynamics could favor the South Korean giant in 2014.
  • Apple Updates iWork Apps for Mac, iOS and iCloud

    Apple has released a significant update to all of their iWork apps across all of their platforms – Mac OS X, iOS and iCloud.  The updates impact all three of the apps that comprise iWork and each of the apps – Keynote, Numbers and Pages – have all seen some significant enhancements and changes.  It […]

    The post Apple Updates iWork Apps for Mac, iOS and iCloud appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Briefly: Zoom's iQ5 mic for iPhone and iPad, DEVONtechnologies update
    Zoom has launched its iQ5 microphone for iOS devices this week, offering the ability to capture audio in 90- or 120-degree fields, adjustable by a switch on the device. Including two microphone elements in a mid-size configuration,the iQ5 records 16-bit/44.1kHz audio with an analog-type mic gain wheel. Fitted with a Lightning connector, the microphone has three auto-gain levels, built-in timing, automatic recording, and a dedicated headphone jack.

        



  • Samsung's quarterly profit declines
    Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones and TVs, reports a drop in quarterly profit for the time in two years.
  • As Surface surges, consumer PCs soften, Microsoft says
    While the company was upbeat about Surface and Xbox One, it cited continued weakness in the consumer PC market.
  • In Search of TV Episodes: How Not to Reward Fan Loyalty
    Once upon a time, broadcast and cable networks scheduled their programs in a fairly predictable manner. You could count on the new season of shows in the fall, with special episodes during the sweeps (November, February, May, and July). The summer used to be filled with either reruns and/or reality fare.

    These days the broadcast and cable television programming lineup changes nearly every week. New shows launch throughout the year, while others are placed on hiatus in order to conserve episodes for a later season run. The viewer has to stay on their toes in order not to miss an episode of their favorite show.

    One would think that with all the options available beyond “live” viewing, staying on top of a season’s worth of television should be easy. This is far from the case. Hunting down episodes is akin to a scavenger hunt gone awry.

    Along with an estimated weekly base of 5 to 6 million viewers last season, I am a loyal fan of the ABC-TV primetime drama Nashville, which returned from its winter hiatus last Wednesday. I modestly time-shifted my viewing to enjoy it without interruption, skipping through all the advertising.

    However, unless I remain vigilant and set my DVR, reloading earlier Nashville episodes is hard to do.

    A robust video streaming ecosystem includes online streams of the networks; video-on-demand libraries of cable and satellite operators; streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon; and micro-transactions through iTunes. So refreshing my memory for the mid-season return by catching up on back episodes of Nashville (as well as a handful of other shows, from Community to Sherlock, returning to the small screen this month) would appear to be simple.

    But the library of Nashville episodes is divided among several competing services. Even the network does not offer the full catalogue of content to its viewers. Rather, the viewer is sent on a scavenger hunt for back episodes.

    Networks are missing opportunities to cultivate loyalty to their product and to serve their best customers by making it too difficult to find the content they like. In other industries, distribution is a matter of convenience and not a roadblock for the consumer.

    Can you imagine forcing users of Tide laundry detergent to shop at different retailers every week in order to remain loyal to the brand? Tide is on the shelves of every major retailer, and it is up to the retailer to court the customer based upon the shopper experience.

    Imagine if a novel was parceled out chapter by chapter to only specific retailers at specific times. The reader would grow frustrated, forced to hunt down bits and pieces of a narrative across different retail access points.

    This seems absurd in nearly every marketplace, but this is happening in the television business. Full access to content should be made available to audiences. Like other industries, let the intermediaries court the audience’s business based upon experience as opposed to roadblocks. Unless a viewer subscribes to multiple streaming services, it is very difficult for fans to enjoy full season runs of their favorite shows.

    You would assume that abc.go.com would be the most logical place to find back episodes of a show on its network. I downloaded the ABC network viewer app only to learn that I can’t get to ABC programming unless I first authenticate my TV service provider.

    What ABC tried to make available to any fan of its programming was quickly barricaded by the intermediaries. The network had a choice: serve the fan and upset the intermediaries who pay the networks considerable sums of money in carriage fees, or limit access.

    Once I got through the firewall (I am a Comcast Xfinity subscriber), I was treated to a promo spot from ABC touting the service with the disclaimer in fine print, “Show and episode availability subject to change.” The freshman season of Nashville was missing, and only a handful of episodes from the current season are available: episodes 201, 202, 203, 209 and 210. The fan is left with a huge hole of content that is sitting in some other intermediary’s library.

    Next, I searched the video-on-demand library of my TV service provider. I quickly discovered that the landscape gets even more confusing. Comcast Xfinity offers its subscribers some episodes online-only and others both online and on television. When I patched together the offerings from Comcast, I could only account for episodes 201 and 202 (online only) and 203, 209, 210 (television and online).

    After two stops in this scavenger hunt, I am still missing the entire freshman season of Nashville, along with the middle episodes of the current season.

    Perhaps I would find the Holy Grail on Netflix. As a Netflix subscriber, I have been filled with angst over the much-publicized Jan. 1 expiration date, when numerous contracts between content providers and Netflix expire. But Nashville was not there.

    Even though I pay for two streaming services — Comcast Xfinity and Netflix — I still cannot piece together a full season of my favorite TV show.

    So I try Hulu and Hulu Plus. I was able to find five episodes of the current season on the “free” part of Hulu eight days after they air on ABC. Why eight days late? Because some advertisers will pay the network for audience viewing in what is known as “C7”: live plus seven days post air (while others will only pay for “C3”). After day 7, the network audience rarely counts toward ad revenue, so off the episode goes to streaming land.

    If I am willing to fork out another $7.99 a month and subscribe to Hulu Plus, the episode count doubles to 10 episodes. But Nashville fans on Hulu are not happy. Here are a few comments I found on the Nashville landing page:

    “Why can’t I find Season One?”

    “I’m still waiting for Episode 7.”

    “I need Episode 9, I’m having withdrawals, they take forever to put new episodes up here.”

    After four stops, Season One is still missing. And only bits and pieces of the current season can be found in any one place.

    I am making one last attempt: iTunes. I finally found what I was missing, and for the price of $2.99 per episode, I can view Nashville all the way back to the pilot. Despite subscribing to multiple streaming services, my only option to access the full library is to pay à la carte for the privilege.

    No wonder Congress is taking on this issue. In the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last year, the issue of who has control over what television content consumers can both access and pay for is coming to light.

    Currently, the intermediary calls the shots, and consumers are left to pay for bundles of content that in some instances include programs that they do not want, and in other instances (as witnessed with Nashville), the bundles are incomplete. True fans of content are still left to exercise micro-transactions in order to access the full library that is currently splintered across multiple competing service providers.

    Who is the customer here? One would think that a fan of any TV show should be the most valued asset in the media economy. But from the experience of simply trying to piece together one television show, it appears that the intermediaries are in the drivers’ seat.

    As networks dole out bundles of episodes for exclusive windows to competing service providers, the audience is left with only a patchwork of its favorite content. In a highly fractured media ecosystem, it’s hard enough for audiences to find great programming and become dedicated viewers.

    If the networks continue to make distribution deals that put great content behind firewalls, they are limiting the potential to drive audience loyalty and corresponding economic value from their core product: the television shows they put on their air.

    Networks should make access to their product both universally accessible and convenient to the end consumer. Let the TV service providers compete for the audience’s business based upon value and service as opposed to restricted access.

    Judy Franks is a lecturer at The Medill School, Northwestern University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in media studies and consumer insight. She is the author of Media: From Chaos to Clarity.

  • I Quit Social Media (And I Don't Miss It Yet)
    A few weeks ago, I wrote about my decision to quit social media for 30 days. Now, more than halfway through my detox, I can truthfully say I don’t miss the apps and bookmarks banished from my browsers and devices.

    The first day was admittedly a bit of a struggle — or, more specifically, the first several minutes. I’d just returned to New York after a long trip back to the Midwest for the holidays, and I was missing my friends and family. I’d also been tossing and turning for a good half hour, unable to fall asleep. If this had been a normal evening, I’d reach for my phone and start scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feeds to see what folks back home were up to (because there’s always at least one person posting a random musing at any given time). I didn’t want to inadvertently wake my loved ones, so calling and texting were both out of the question.

    Really, I probably could have gotten away with checking my feeds that night. My detox started the next day — and fine, since it was 12:45 a.m., it was technically 45 minutes into “the next day.” But I hadn’t slept yet. And since I hadn’t slept, it wasn’t really “tomorrow,” yet. Right?

    The disappointment I felt at the thought of surrendering before I’d even started my resolution was, thankfully, more powerful than the need to check my Facebook feed. Instead, I read a magazine.

    That was the toughest things ever got. Since then, it’s been surprisingly easy to abandon my social media accounts. It’s actually been, dare I say it, enjoyable. My stress levels have dropped. I have time for other things (so much time that I nearly forgot to write this update — whoops). Plus, I’m sleeping better, and we all know how important sleep is for mental health and overall wellness. Instead of keeping touch via social media (which now feels like such a passive way of communicating), I’ve been calling, texting, and video chatting my friends and family.

    Though there’s no way to know for sure, I’m convinced quitting social media is responsible for these changes. I’ve sequestered myself from the content that moves me to compare my haves/have nots to others’ and overanalyze my life and my choices.

    I’ve also taken up crocheting. But that’s another story.

    Since the publication of my initial post, we’ve received dozens of inspiring notes from readers who are either currently evaluating their own social media use or who have already conquered their FOUL (the fear of an unfulfilled life).

    Thinking of going on your own social media hiatus but need additional encouragement? Read on for advice straight from the mouths (keyboards?) of HuffPost readers.

    Responses have been edited and condensed. Names used with permission.

    Right before I read your article — literally, 15 minutes — I deactivated my Facebook account. I have been afraid to do it for a long time, although I’ve wanted to. It sounds so silly to say that, but I have a similar story, having moved to San Diego from New Jersey eight years ago and using Facebook as a tool to “stay in touch” with family and friends.

    I too, however, found myself being a constant lurker, wondering what I was missing out on and suddenly feeling dissatisfied with my own life. Having a 14-month-old makes it easier to use Facebook as my socialization and friendships, since getting out of the house can be rather difficult, but it always made me feel bad about my life and myself … There has GOT to be something more productive to be doing with my time … So here’s to 2014. To new hobbies and projects instead of constant snooping!

    — Lana Schoen

    I too suffer from your condition. Since waking up I check my Facebook and begin an endless cycle of scrolling and refreshing. I’d even read all the comments on pictures of people that aren’t even friends of mine outside of Facebook. Comparing what they had to what I lacked, how they looked to how much I want to lose 10 pounds, and how much fun they were having at the moment compared to me… It only occurred to me this year to stop comparing and focus on my life.

    So, this year I made a permanent decision. I deleted my Facebook app from my phone and only have the messaging app. That way, anybody who wants to stay in contact is free to, while I keep myself away from scrolling when I’m bored! The only time I get on Facebook now is to upload my pictures for family members and friends to see, while also giving me the ability to look back without worrying about memory use. But those comparing days are over for me.

    — Diana Vazquez

    For months and months I’ve been depressed… my hubby and I have targeted the problem… Facebook. Although I was smart enough to get those braggers off my wall, I too have been feeling somehow unfulfilled, missing out. Even this New Year’s. Before Facebook, I NEVER cared if I was in bed before midnight. This year, I was like, “OMG, I should have stayed up. Look at what I missed!”

    What? If I didn’t see stupid drink posts and ridiculous New Year’s Eve party hat wearing, I would have never felt like I missed anything … Instead, I should have been happy to have chosen reading in bed and hitting the sack earlier than the fireworks. My life is wonderful with my amazing husband. Why do I need more? I’ve never wanted what others have … I’m a big believer that technology has changed this world into a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, even more than it used to be. Not good.

    — Lauren Shepard, Mantra Creative, Tampa, Fla.

    Rather than having a New Year’s resolution, I thought that I would have a personal challenge. I deleted Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter from my phone in addition to deactivating Facebook. I planned to reactivate after a month, but I am enjoying the benefits of unplugging so much that I may go longer.

    For years, I have been interested in the effects of social media and read articles about it for fun. Although I acknowledge that there are benefits of social media, I think that there are a lot more negative effects. In particular, the social comparison you wrote about, the lack of fully being present, and the lack of real-life interaction. I worried about not staying connected but realize that I can reach out to friends in other ways. Missing someone becomes more real when you can’t see them in the virtual world.

    I have noticed I have a lot more time to do productive things that benefit me such as reorganizing my room, working out, and cooking. The biggest thing I have noticed is how clear my mind feels and how present I am when I am with family and friends.

    — Leah Dornbusch

    When the new year came around and I was at a church service, my gut, instinct, [or] perhaps God himself told me that it would be a good idea to do a social media fast. I didn’t give myself a clear timetable, only a “just do it” mentality.

    I have to admit that it’s been quite difficult. It feels as if I’m fighting compulsive behavior to need to know what’s going on in the lives of hundreds of people I’m not all that close to. And I know that shouldn’t be the case.

    What I’m realizing is that while it’s difficult, I’m also doing other things to compensate, like actually using my time to be productive and get something done for work or reading a book. Additionally, I’m calling and texting people a lot more to directly find out how they are doing and engage in conversation as opposed to relying on social media. And more than anything, I find myself actually being “present” during good, happy and unexpected moments, taking them in, instead of snapping a picture and posting it on Instagram waiting for “likes” to start popping up.

    — Jimmy A. Hernandez

    I feel exactly the same way. I have already deleted my Facebook and Instragam accounts when I found that my obsessive checking was ruining my day. I’d see posts and pictures of couples, babies, homes, travel, and fitness accomplishments, which made me feel really disenchanted with my own life. I have a great job, great friends, a small but fabulous apartment and work out every day, but somehow the comparisons stung. I am a pretty private person and don’t feel the need to share major accomplishments via social media but would rather share with a few close friends and family.

    I definitely agree where the chronic checking or need to see others’ updates was keeping me from enjoying the present moment and making me doubt just how fabulous my life really is. Many of my close girlfriends feel the same way. We also agree that a lot of the posts on Facebook or Instagram are staged. Staged in order to project a certain image of what their life is like. Perhaps all these posts are really smoke n’ mirrors and we are all just trying to keep up with Jones via social media? How much is really true? … Living a simple, minimal life where you can focus on the present moment, relish in your own accomplishments (big and small) and share things with a [close-knit] group of friends rather than projecting to strangers feels amazing.

    — Leah Simeon

    I made one attempt to quit Facebook in January of 2013. I failed after a couple months. A few weeks ago I decided to quit all social media (except Pinterest, of course!). This time it stuck (so far) and I feel more secure about myself than ever. It is such a self-esteem killer and I see one friend in particular suffering — using social media mostly to make her life seem more “fun” and “exciting.” I, on the other hand, finally realized it was making me miserable and cut it out!

    — Anonymous

    I’m at day four right now. I was mostly a Facebook addict, only glancing at Twitter occasionally, and I don’t have an Instagram [account] at all, but I can identify. I decided to commit to a two-week break as a New Year’s resolution, so I deactivated my account on Jan. 1. It hasn’t been difficult. Surprisingly easy, in fact, and while I feel I’ll be back (after my two-week goal), I think even this short break has taught me to utilize the site differently.

    Like I said, it’s only been four days, but it has been so easy that I know the effort is worthwhile. I’ve reached out to friends via text and made a few phone calls to try and get back to more “real life” friendships.

    — Kelly Gallagher

    I read your post and I couldn’t agree more. Young adults, like myself, are in a precarious place in life. Completing our educations, looking for our dream jobs, dealing with relationships and friendships, and all the other things young people deal with. Throw in social media updates into the Crock-Pot, and how easy it is to access our Facebook and Instagram accounts from our phones, and we create a situation of unnecessary anxiety.

    I’m currently working on my second degree, and I know I have a bright future. But you see posts of your friends/acquaintances in Dubai or at weddings, and you start to wonder if you’re doing things right … it’s important to take a break when one feels that way. Social media wasn’t created to make you feel inadequate. Take a step back and regroup.

    — Kika Anazia

  • Refrigerator Busted Sending Spam Emails In Massive Cyberattack
    Your fridge is trying to tell you something.

    Not that you’re out of milk, or that you left the door open (again), but that it has the inside line on some primo male enhancement pills.

    A refrigerator was discovered among a “botnet” of more than 100,000 Internet-connected devices that sent upward of 750,000 malicious emails between Dec. 23 and Jan. 6. So-called “smart” appliances, like multimedia centers, TVs — and yes, a fridge — were behind more than 25 percent of the volume, Internet security firm Proofpoint reports.

    It’s believed to be the first cyberattack involving the “Internet of Things” — a term given to a vast range of devices that operate independently of conventional computers. Despite the humorous imagery of a fridge as an ice-cold criminal, experts warn devices like unprotected smart fridges could be a magnet for criminals in the future.

    “Botnets are already a major security concern and the emergence of thingbots may make the situation much worse” said David Knight, general manager of Proofpoint’s Information Security division, in a release. “Many of these devices are poorly protected at best and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur. Enterprises may find distributed attacks increasing as more and more of these devices come on-line and attackers find additional ways to exploit them.”

    Proofpoint declined to specify which make and model of refrigerator had been compromised, but Knight did tell the Los Angeles Times he believes the burden of securing devices is the responsibility of the manufacturers making the appliances, not the consumers buying them.

    “I don’t think a consumer should be expected to know and fix if their refrigerator has been compromised,” Knight told the outlet. “The industry is going to have to do a better job of securing these devices.”

    But don’t blame your fridge for its bad behavior — it was only trying to fit in with the cool kids.

  • How do businesses cope with Bitcoin?
    The attractions (or not) of accepting virtual currencies
  • These $100 3-D-Printed Arms Are Giving Young Sudan War Amputees A Reason To Go On
    Fifty thousand people, many of whom are children, have lost limbs in the war in Sudan. The number of victims is staggering, but one company is working to help by developing inexpensive prosthetics that can be made in about six hours.

    not impossible

    Mick Ebeling, co-founder of Not Impossible Labs — a group that works to “crowd-solve” daunting health care issues — was inspired to find a way to help the mounting number of amputees in Sudan after reading a particularly heartbreaking story published by Time magazine in 2012. The piece profiled an American doctor living in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains and one of his young patients, Daniel Omar.

    Now 16, Omar lost both his arms to an Antonov bomb two years ago while taking care of his family’s cows.

    “Without hands, I can’t do anything,” he told Time. “I can’t even fight. I’m going to make such hard work for my family in the future. If I could have died, I would have.”

    daniel omar

    Fresh off of having created the “The EyeWriter,” a gadget that allowed a paralyzed graffiti artist to paint again, Ebeling was inspired to tackle his next health care challenge.

    He patched together a team capable of producing a low-cost, 3-D-printed arm, Business Insider reported. Backed by Intel and Precipart, an engineering company, the group included the South African inventor of the Robohand and an Australian MIT neuroscientist.

    They devised a way to print an arm in about six hours and that costs about $100, according to Time.

    It’s a pretty incredible feat considering that a standard prosthetic arm can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000, according to Disability World.

    Prepared to launch “Project Daniel,” Ebeling then headed to Sudan equipped with 3-D printers, laptops, plastic and a “goal to build Daniel an arm,” he said in a video about his project.

    Ebeling succeeded in creating an arm for Omar, which has helped restore some of the teen’s independence. He was able to feed himself for the first time in two years.

    Ebeling then went on to train local volunteers in the printing technique, so that they could help victims on their own.

    “If we could teach the locals how to do it themselves, the project could live long after we left,” Ebeling said in the “Project Daniel” video.

    Since Ebeling returned home, the lab has been able to print an arm a week and, according to Business Insider, Omar is now working at the hospital helping to change the lives of other amputees.

    If you think “Technology for the Sake of Humanity” sounds like a decent idea and you’d like to see more solutions like this, consider supporting Not Impossible here.

  • Microsoft just made it harder to break up the company
    Latest sales for Surface, Xbox, and Bing present the next CEO with an increasingly tough decision.
  • Digital Retouching Is Getting Out of Control

    The young and super talented Hungarian singer, Boggie, does not only reveal her new track but also her secret digital make-up in her latest video. It carries a somewhat deep message about how women are nowadays perceived by the public.

    But hasn’t retouching been a part of photography and cinematography for hundreds of years? Working in advertising and creating inspirational images have made me biased to a certain extent. Aren’t we all naturally attracted to beautiful images? So, how much retouching is too much? More importantly, should someone be blamed for the upcoming generation’s deformed perceptions of beauty, created by the advertising industry to meet customer demand?

    Having said that, I believe that extremity leads to danger in all parts of life, not only in image alterations. Discussing this issue is, by all means, healthy. After all, everybody sees life through different lenses. Illusions are illusions and a reality check is important every now and then.

    At the end of the day, it is good for women to learn how to apply the right amount of make up, be it real or digital.

    Just think about it!

  • Net Neutrality Misses Real Internet Problem: ADOPTION
    For the past ten years, since then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell introduced the four Internet Freedoms, we have lived in a de facto net neutrality state. Sure, there have been bumps in the road where corporate overreach temporarily compromised some service offerings, in limited instances. But in those handful of cases, regulators and our system of American jurisprudence stepped in, and, ultimately, the public Interest prevailed.

    In my lifetime, substantial parts of the Internet have never been outright blocked, and the Net has been and will continue to be neutral (a very strange phrase, I might add, for such a dynamic ecosystem).

    What, then, is all the fuss about last week’s D.C. Circuit ruling in Verizon v. FCC?

    The reality is that the decision struck a sort of equilibrium between regulatory and corporate interests, and the net effect is a benefit to consumers. The FCC has unequivocal authority to regulate broadband and Internet service providers in their provision of the same. What’s more, its transparency rule – the one that says ISPs must publicly and prominently disclose their network management practices (like efforts to block or prioritize Internet traffic) in advance – was affirmed. For the record, the network management practices are what “net neutrality advocates” claim they’re concerned about. At the same time, the D.C. Circuit vacated the parts of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Rules that expressly call for non-discrimination and anti-blocking. The result: ISPs get to experiment with business models now, just like edge providers. Sponsored data anyone?

    So what’s the problem? Everyone seems to lose a little, win a lot in this decision. Yet, some folks are acting as if the Internet is broken (don’t tell Al Gore, he wouldn’t approve) and that we’re headed toward a doomsday scenario.

    Rhetoric aside, provided neither the FCC nor Verizon appeal last week’s decision, we can safely say we’re comfortably still in the net neutral zone we’ve been in for the past ten years.

    But there is a bigger problem the Chicken Littles of the world fail to recognize. While we argue ‘what ifs’ about the injustices that could occur should our ISPs decide to go all 1984 George Orwell on us, nearly 100 million Americans still lack broadband access in their homes. That has nothing to do with net neutrality and everything to do with broadband adoption.

    Depending on which statistics you use, fixed broadband connectivity is available to 95-98% of the country. Yet a full third of our population – mostly low-income, rural, or traditionally underserved communities (read: African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and poor Whites) – remain offline. Studies have shown, it’s not just cost that keeps people offline, especially when programs like Internet Essentials and EveryoneOn (formerly Connect to Compete) offer broadband at starting prices of $9.95/month and computers for as low as $150.00.

    What we have in this country is a broadband value proposition problem, and we’ve not yet done a good enough job of explaining to people just how and why broadband really matters to them. It’s bigger than the question of ‘whether I will be able to access the content of my choosing if XYZ Corp gets its way’. The answer is a resounding NO if you’re not even connected to the baseline “information super highway.”

    Gaps in digital literacy and fear of technology still negatively impact too many people in our society, especially when you consider that the technology and telecommunications sectors of our economy account for a full one-sixth of the national GDP. If half the energy that’s spent arguing problems of tech privilege was actually channeled toward awareness and education campaigns and training programs, we might actually be a more connected nation in which even the most economically disadvantaged among us would be situated to survive, succeed and thrive in life because broadband connectivity enables them to enhance their educational pursuits, obtain affordable healthcare, apply for better employment or receive much-needed job training, or build the latest app or widget that feeds both that secret entrepreneurial drive and the desire for personal wealth creation that so many of us hold near and dear to our hearts wrapped in dreams deferred that we never pursue because we don’t know how or where to get started.

    As someone who has always benefited from technology (I’ve had a computer since I was two; I even bare the distinction of having been bullied while attending Pine Tree Computer Camp at the age of four – though I’m not sure what it says about me that I was picked on by certified computer geeks), the thought of living a life without access to, and the ability to use, the latest technology seems unfathomable. And yet, I am very mindful of how fortunate I am, and just how much (and what) my privilege allows me to do, see, and believe.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with tying ourselves in knots with hyperbolic hypotheticals about what evil fate with befall the webernet and the world in the wake of the D.C. Circuit’s latest decision. In fact, some of the jibber jabber has gotten quite creative and is downright entertaining in certain instances. But the reality is, on balance, net neutrality is safe and we can expect to see some innovation down the pike that could benefit consumers more than the skeptics might think. At best, all this chatter enhances our ability to be rhetorical, linguistic and legalistic gymnasts. At worst, we’re continuing to distract ourselves from the issues that matter most. After all, the question of net neutrality is wholly obsolete to roughly 33% of America’s population.

    If we’re really concerned about the fate of our country and the globe, then we’d stop fretting over the neutrality of the net and really focus our energy on improving its adoption.

  • So Now You Can 3D Print Replicas Of Your Very Own Baby (PHOTO)
    Using ultrasound images or pictures of your newborn, the aptly named company 3D Babies can make a life-like representation of your infant.

    But the Internet seems to be divided: Is the concept creepy or cool?

    “Your pregnancy with this child is a once in a lifetime experience. Recall those feelings with your own 3D Baby,” the company’s website states. The figurine is made using “the latest computer graphics and 3D printing technology.”

    Buyers can customize skin tone (light, medium or dark) and choose from a range of fetal positions. Just like a real life baby, a life-size 3D baby (8 inches crown to rump) will cost you a pretty penny. In this case, $800.

    The idea stemmed from two parents who wanted to cherish the memories of their pregnancy experience and share it with others.

    “This is a great way to share the excitement of your new baby with family and friends. Your 3D Baby will be a treasured family remembrance of your pregnancy and new baby,” the website states.

    Whether the replicas are strange or sweet is up for debate, however.

    “I think it’s just uncanny to see an inanimate object that so closely resembles a living person you know intimately,” The Stir’s Adriana Velez wrote, noting that she’s personally not a fan of the idea. Others disagree: “I think it could be quite cool….am sure as adults a lot of us would love to see what we were like at the beginnings,” a Metro UK commenter wrote.

    Don’t have your own baby from which to fashion a model? Worry not: CNBC notes 3D Babies is offering figurines of little North West, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s daughter, for $250.

    It should be noted that 3D Babies isn’t the first company to “immortalize infancy.” In 2012, Japanese engineering company Fasotec partnered with Parkside Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo to produce 3D replicas of fetuses by converting a MRI scan of the mother’s womb to a 3D model filled with resin.

  • For Some of Us, WWW = IRL
    No doubt you’ve seen some manifestation of a species of essay wherein the author goes cold turkey on the Internet for some length of time, and proceeds to discover themselves anew, or some such. The proliferation of these pieces, and the moral or revelatory high ground they often claim, often makes me roll my eyes so far back that I can read my own thoughts. That’s why this piece by Nathan Jurgenson was such a breath of fresh air. See here his take on this particular meme:

    This concern-and-confess genre frames digital connection as something personally debasing, socially unnatural despite the rapidity with which it has been adopted. It’s depicted as a dangerous desire, an unhealthy pleasure, an addictive toxin to be regulated and medicated. That we’d be concerned with how to best use (or not use) a phone or a social service or any new technological development is of course to be expected, but the way the concern with digital connection has manifested itself in such profoundly heavy-handed ways suggests in the aggregate something more significant is happening, to make so many of us feel as though our integrity as humans has suddenly been placed at risk.

    But has it? Certainly one can be on the Internet, or on one’s smartphone or what have you, “too much,” but what exactly that means has more to do with what one is doing while online than whatever percentage of one’s day is spent doing it. In other words, if you’re staring at Facebook for 12 hours a day, you have a problem, but “the Internet” isn’t it.

    Anyway, more to the point I want to get to, here’s Jurgenson again, talking now more generally about the popular opinion that somehow we’re all overdosing on iPhones, and the “disconnectionist” gurus who blatantly avert their eyes from Retina displays while aloft their high (and very IRL) horses:

    The disconnectionists see the Internet as having normalized, perhaps even enforced, an unprecedented repression of the authentic self in favor of calculated avatar performance. If we could only pull ourselves away from screens and stop trading the real for the simulated, we would reconnect with our deeper truth.

    This is what always bothers me about these types; the assertion or suggestion that we’re not being truly ourselves online. And as someone who has found the exact opposite to true, indeed, as one who has in many ways been redeemed by the Internet Age, I say, fuck that noise.

    As I’ve now documented ad nauseum on my blog (and shall again!), I am a fairly severe introvert. Personal interaction in “the real world” with human beings corporeally in my presence is exhausting and stressful to me, even when said humans are those I love and trust. This has lead to a great deal of energy wasted on hiding myself, be it trying to blend in unnoticed in hostile-seeming situations (like school or when something horrible like sports are taking place), to presenting a falsely extroverted version of myself in evaluative situations like job interviews. I wear myself out in pretending to be a person who, say, really enjoys small talk and networking, or by donning any number of awkward, gawky masks — like those worn by actors of ancient Greece, but so absurdly top-heavy as to make me stumble and topple over mid-choral ode.

    With the exception of performing as an actual actor or musician on stage, the real world has been stifling to whoever or whatever the hell it is I “really” am.

    Online I’ve found a taste of liberation. Not only do I feel more free to expound upon all manner of subjects, to make dumb jokes, and to promote myself with a sincerity I could never muster in meatspace, but perhaps more importantly, I more often feel at ease in simply explaining things about myself as a person, to talk about my kids and my day-to-day life, to unpack some of the mundane stuff as well as the heavier things. Behind the screen, at the keyboard, at the flick of the scrolling display, even in the midst of the cacophony of the Internet, I can communicate without so much of the same noise within my own mind, where each synapse second-guesses the next.

    It’s not so much that I use the Web as some kind of giant confessional with “like” buttons, but that I can just relax a bit more and talk about even boring and trivial things about myself. I even find it easier to be curious about others and their own trivialities, which I rarely am in physical space. I can breathe.

    I’d be curious to know whether many or most of the folks who espouse disconnection are extroverts, if they are biased by their own inclination toward revitalization through in-person human contact, all within a “real world” already largely constructed around extroverted predilections. If I’m on to something, well then of course they see the online life as valueless, or as phony. It doesn’t serve their own needs. But for me, and I suspect for my kind, the Web is the means of expression, the gateway into general society, that we’ve been waiting for. We’re damn lucky it came about it our lifetimes, and you better believe that for us, it’s real life.

  • U.S. Senator To Introduce 'Kill Switch' Legislation To Combat Phone Thefts
    U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will introduce legislation in coming weeks to fight a growing trend of smartphone thefts nationwide by forcing the industry to adopt technology that makes it impossible to reuse stolen devices.

    Klobuchar’s bill would require all phones sold in the United States to have a “kill switch” that shuts down a phone’s call capabilities, Wi-Fi, games and other features when it’s reported stolen. The wireless industry has resisted such a feature, raising questions about whether the legislation will succeed.

    The bill — the first of its kind in Congress — would empower the Federal Communications Commission to issue fines or other penalties against phone manufacturers or wireless carriers that do not comply.

    In an interview, Klobuchar told The Huffington Post that she decided to introduce legislation after hearing about a recent surge of smartphone robberies targeting students at the University of Minnesota, and discovering that phone robberies had become a nationwide problem.

    About 1.6 million Americans had their phones stolen last year, according to Consumer Reports. About 40 percent of robberies in major U.S. cities involve mobile devices, the Federal Communications Commission has noted.

    In her eight years as a prosecutor, Klobuchar said she rarely encountered a phone theft case, but the problem has now become an epidemic.

    “There’s been a major shift,” she told HuffPost. “And that has to do with the value of these phones.”

    Stolen phones can be resold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars on an underground market that connects buyers and sellers around the world. The same iPhone that can cost an American customer just $200 with a two-year service contract can fetch as much as $2,000 in Hong Kong or Brazil, where import taxes have driven up the price of Apple products.

    Klobuchar, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer rights issues, said she plans to hold a hearing on the topic in the coming months.

    Klobuchar is the latest elected official to pressure the industry to find a solution to what has become an international public safety issue. California State Sen. Mark Leno (D) plans to introduce legislation next month that would require every new smartphone sold in the state to carry anti-theft technology.

    San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched their “Secure Our Smartphones” initiative last summer, aimed at pressing the industry to adopt technology that could make stolen phones worthless to thieves. More than 100 officials from across the country — including district attorneys and high-level police officials from eight major cities and attorneys general from six states — have joined the effort.

    Apple and Samsung have responded to the growing pressure by announcing new security features last summer that they said would allow consumers to render their devices useless once stolen.

    But the effectiveness of Apple’s new anti-theft feature, which was introduced in September, is still unproven, and wireless carriers have rejected the rollout of Samsung’s kill switch feature to preserve their profits from selling phone insurance, according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

    Meanwhile, thefts of smartphones and other mobile devices increased in several major cities in 2013, including New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

    Paul Boken, whose 23-year-old daughter, Megan, was killed in an iPhone robbery in 2012, told HuffPost that Apple needs “to do more to make users aware of the usefulness” of its new anti-theft feature. He also said he was “very disappointed” with the rest of the industry’s “lack of progress on the issue.”

    But he was encouraged by Klobuchar’s legislation to deter phone thieves.

    “Initiatives to do something about it seem to be gaining momentum,” he told HuffPost.

  • Edward Snowden Has No Regrets
    Edward Snowden took to the web on Thursday for a chat on a WikiLeaks-affiliated website raising money for his legal defense. In response to reports that some members of the intelligence community want him dead, the former National Security Agency contractor said he has “no regrets.”

    A BuzzFeed story last week quoted a Pentagon official as wanting to put a bullet in Snowden’s head. “It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect,” Snowden said Thursday.

    The real reason to be afraid, he said, is that the Pentagon official and others quoted in the story are charged with enforcing the Constitution — but they apparently think they’re allowed to skip over its due process protections.

    “The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated,” Snowden added. “Doing the right thing means having no regrets.”

    A number of prominent U.S. officials — including President Barack Obama — have suggested Snowden should return to the United States to face trial for leaking information about the NSA. Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, seemed to open the door on Thursday to some sort of negotiated settlement for Snowden, who has been holed up in Russia since June.

    But Snowden is having none of it. Because he is charged under the Espionage Act, he said, “there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.”

    “Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself,” Snowden said.

    Snowden is correct on both points of law. The World War I-era Espionage Act does not contemplate a public interest defense. Former Army private first class Chelsea Manning was explicitly denied the opportunity to raise such a defense during her court martial, at least until sentencing. Similarly, Snowden would likely only be allowed to raise evidence of his motivations during the sentencing phase of a trial.

    The whistleblower protection act Obama signed into law in 2012, meanwhile, contains no protections for government contractors employed for the purpose of national security, as Snowden was.

    Earlier in the chat, Snowden rejected claims in a November Reuters article that he had stolen coworkers’ passwords to gather the documents he leaked. “I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers,” he wrote.

    Snowden also claimed that he “made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen.” That’s a claim the NSA has rejected in the past.

    Snowden’s chat took place on the same day that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a body appointed by the president, voted that the NSA’s call records collection program is illegal. It was the latest in a line of vindications for Snowden: last Friday Obama said he would seek to change the way the program operates, and in December a federal judge found that it was likely unconstitutional.

    Snowden has been on a minor media blitz in the midst of these developments. In December, he gave the Washington Post a lengthy interview, and earlier this week he called claims by some in Congress that he was a Russian spy “absurd.”

    “My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistleblower protection act reform,” Snowden wrote in the web chat. “If we had had a real process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real, independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the President seems to agree needed to be done.”

  • New Website Aims To Make Pet Adoption More Like Online Dating
    Have you ever wished that adopting an animal were more like online dating?

    No? How about just the fun parts and no rejection, and then you get an exceptional, well-matched new pet at the end of it?

    A new website — now in its beta stage; the full launch is expected soon — aims to bring the least frustrating aspects of looking for love online to the pet rescue market.

    AllPaws.com is the pet project — ahem, sorry — of Darrell Lerner, an entrepreneur whose previous ventures involved actual dating websites.

    With his background, and after surveying the most popular pet adoption websites, Lerner thought he could create a “more forward-thinking, user-friendly” website that would “help a lot more pets get adopted,” he recently told HuffPost. “And, as part of that, if I get to pet a dog every once in a while, it’s win win win.”

    What makes the site more forward-thinking and user-friendly is also what makes it more like an internet dating website: Users have a whole host of preferences they can use when winnowing down potential pets, beyond the standard ones of age, gender and species.

    The extras include coat length and color; animal size; pets’ grooming needs; if they’re good with dogs, cats or kids; if they can live in an apartment; if they’re vaccinated. You can choose a pet who’s playful or one who likes to sit in laps (or one who is both!). You can choose pets by energy level, by the amount of training they’ve had, or how much shedding you can expect once they move in.

    There’s more. AllPaws allows users to save searches, mark favorites, share animals on Facebook and Twitter and even send direct messages. (No, not to the animals themselves. C’mon. It’s to the shelters and rescue groups.) Forums where pet lovers can interact are in the works.

    Lerner says the point of all this is to “make the process more efficient, and generate better matches” — so that ultimately, people will end up with the right pets for them. Which in turn, hopefully, will lead to fewer people returning their adopted pets due to late-discovered incompatibilities.

    “We’re going to be helping animals,” he says. “I really think we’re going to do quite a bit with this site in short order.”

    So far, more than 5,000 people have registered with AllPaws, Lerner tells us. He gave us some figures on how many pets have been listed so far, too: 52,183 dogs, 41,050 cats, 1,258 rabbits, 395 horses, 276 birds, 658 “small & furry” animals (like gerbils and Guinea pigs), 79 barn yard animals (like goats and alpacas) and 238 reptiles.

    Unlike actual online dating sites, however, as of late January, AllPaws has exactly zero pigs.

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