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Mobile Technology News, June 5, 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.

  • Apple Informs Developers to Family Sharing Enable Their Apps for iOS 8

    With WWDC 2014 still happening in San Francisco, Apple is already letting the wider developer community about changes they need to make to enable Family Sharing in iOS 8.  As you read in our iOS 8 highlights post, Family Sharing allows a family of up to 6 members with a common credit card to share […]

    The post Apple Informs Developers to Family Sharing Enable Their Apps for iOS 8 appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Japan firm unveils 'human-like' robot
    Japanese firm Softbank unveils “Pepper”, a robot which it says can read human emotions and which is due to go on sale to the public next year.
  • Apple Posts New iPhone 5s TV Ad – Strength

    Apple has released a new TV ad for the iPhone 5s and has posted it on their YouTube channel.  The advert, entitled Strength, focuses on applications & devices that strengthen our lives through activities. Most of the apps and devices in the ad focus on health and measuring our activities so we can track them. […]

    The post Apple Posts New iPhone 5s TV Ad – Strength appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Chevy, Ferrari sneak-preview CarPlay implementations at WWDC
    While most of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference focuses on forthcoming software, there is also some hardware to be found at WWDC — three vehicles parked inside the conference hall feature sneak previews of Apple’s CarPlay iOS technology incorporated into forthcoming vehicle models from Chevy and Ferrari. In addition, an after-market CarPlay solution kit from Pioneer was featured in a customized 1965 Ford Mustang. Apple gave USA Today a demo of the Chevy Spark EV implementation.



  • 'Slenderman' Creator Eric Knudsen Speaks Out On Wisconsin Stabbing
    MILWAUKEE (AP) — The man who created Slenderman, a spooky character popularized in short stories, video games and films, and an administrator of a website that collected the works expressed their condolences Wednesday to a 12-year-old girl who was stabbed by two fans and to others affected by the tragedy.

    A spokeswoman for Slenderman creator Eric Knudsen and an administrator for creepypasta.wikia.com said they have been overwhelmed with calls and messages since news broke that the girls charged in the weekend stabbing told police they wanted to curry favor with Slenderman and prove he was real. “I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act,” Knudsen said in a statement released by spokeswoman Sue Procko.

    Creepypasta administrator David Morales said the site clearly states the stories there are fiction and its rules bar use by anyone under 13.

    “We are not teaching children to believe in a fictional monster, nor are we teaching them to be violent,” Morales wrote in an email.

    He noted that administrators have not allowed any new Slenderman stories to be posted since 2012 because they want users to come up with fresh ideas. Since Knudsen posted the first Slenderman stories and photos in an online forum in 2009, hundreds of other writers, artists and programmers have created horror stories featuring the tall, thin, faceless man in a black suit.

    “Overall, the community has deep condolences to the family of the victim and all those who were involved,” Morales wrote.

    The two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged as adults in the stabbing face 65 years in prison. The victim remains hospitalized.

    Slenderman fans defended the stories and the community that’s gathered around them.

    “It fosters a lot of good conversations and friendships online, as well as creativity between fellow creators,” Ryan Lelache, a Slenderman fan from New Jersey, wrote in an email.

    Lisa Morton, vice president of the Horror Writers Association, said the genre “helps us to explore and understand our own fears.”

    “The horror characters that rise to the top and become the best known are speaking to contemporary cultural anxieties,” added Rhonda Brock-Servais, an English professor at Longwood University.

    ___

    Anderson reported from Madison, Wisconsin.

  • Briefly: Bastille to play WWDC, retractable headphone iPhone case
    Apple has revealed that its annual party thrown in conjunction with WWDC, Bash, will feature a performance from English rock band Bastille. Held at the Yuerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Apple is additionally giving invited developers promotional codes for two free Bastille downloads on the iTunes Store. Bastille is best known for their current hit, Pompeii.



  • Taiwan's answer to Google Glass
    The Asian underdog taking on Google Glass
  • Finding the Right Tech Policy Solution
    The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) mid-May meeting has generated divisive rhetoric from the right and many progressives. Yet, as the public comment period spans over the coming months, and as individuals and groups weigh in on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s compromised proposal for new Open Internet regulations, it is important to step back and gain some clarity on what truly matters in this debate. Specifically, that the guidelines proposed by Chairman Wheeler strike the proper balance between holding companies accountable for their behavior and encouraging the kind of innovation that has defined the Internet’s success.

    While the concerns that many proponents of strong net neutrality rules hold may seem sensible, the truth is that pursuing draconian regulations in a knee-jerk reaction is simply unnecessary and could potentially hamper future innovation. Further, the demands to regulate broadband as a utility like the old phone monopolies of a departed era, I believe, are a step too far.

    There does not seem to be any real evidence that ISPs have an incentive to violate net neutrality principles, simply because it is inherently important to their customers that they are able to access an open Internet, and in a competitive marketplace, angering your customers is a death knell to your business.

    In fact, the kind of discrimination net neutrality supporters so fear seems to rear its head in other areas of the tech industry, but receives little scrutiny. Google, as much a gatekeeper to the Internet as any ISP, actively solicits money from companies to place products and services in favorable search locations on its interface. Small start-ups are certainly disadvantaged when web users are enticed to their bigger competitors on the world’s most popular search engine.

    Moreover, just the other week Amazon reportedly delayed shipping a bestselling book in an alleged effort to gain leverage when negotiating a deal with the book’s publisher. It is hard to find a better example of the kind of behavior that strong net neutrality supporters would condemn in a similar situation involving an ISP and online content. One could argue that these two instances could cause greater consumer harm, yet we remain focused on regulating the Internet with a 20th-century mindset.

    Unfortunately, the time and energy that has been spent fighting the net neutrality battle has diverted attention away from more pressing issues such as furthering broadband deployment in underserved minority communities or ensuring that all kids in both urban and rural areas have access to a laptop, tablet, or other smart device with access to affordable high-speed Internet.

    The reality is many Americans rely on Internet technologies in a major way, and policymakers must prioritize policy issues that actually extend the vast benefits of the high tech industry and avoid tinkering around the edges in pursuit of an elusive regulatory utopia.

    Ultimately, this net neutrality debate only exists because of legal and regulatory ambiguities caused by outdated and archaic laws and regulations. The best thing that could happen for every side of this debate would be for Congress to pass a new Communications Act that would clarify the confusion and disagreement. A new law could ensure that different parts of the Internet ecosystem operate under a uniform set of rules. This would give consumers and businesses a level playing field on which to compete, ensuring that the dynamism of the Internet continues to grow in the years to come.

    While reforming the Communications Act will undoubtedly take some time to accomplish, regulators at the FCC are right to do what they can now on pressing issues. And Chairman Wheeler has the right framework in mind that avoids the pitfalls of antiquated telephone-era regulations so we can hopefully address the net neutrality debate and move on to other more worthwhile pursuits for the public.

  • Sprint, T-Mobile Near Acquisition Deal
    (Reuters) – Sprint Corp (S.N) has agreed to pay about $40 per share to buy T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.N), a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday, signaling progress in a long-contemplated deal to merge the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers.

    At that price, about a 17 percent premium to the carrier’s Wednesday close, T-Mobile would be worth more than $32 billion. But the person said many other details needed to be worked out that would affect how much money changed hands.

    Deutsche Telekom owns 67 percent of T-Mobile and is expected to keep a 15 to 20 percent stake of the combined company as part of the deal, the source said on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

    Other details such as financing and due diligence also need to be worked out, the source added.

    Still, the broad agreement between Sprint, owned by Japan’s Softbank Corp (9984.T), T-Mobile and other parties on issues such as price show that both sides are making progress.

    U.S. regulators have been vocal about their opposition to the deal, one of several mega-mergers awaiting clearance, and it remains unclear how either side intends to overcome that obstacle.

    The telecoms and media sector is in the throes of a major consolidation, with AT&T Inc (T.N) eyeing DirecTV (DTV.O) and Comcast (CMCSA.O) trying to merge with Time Warner (TWC.N).

    That may create a clutch of media and wireless giants and leave Sprint an also-ran with an inferior business, the source told Reuters.

    Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son had long been eager to buy T-Mobile and merge it with Sprint, creating a carrier with the resources to upgrade its network and better compete with market leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless (VZ.N).

    For Deutsche Telekom, an exit from the United States would allow it to beef up its operations across Eastern Europe.

    But the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department have raised concerns about such a tie-up, revolving around the risk that it could raise prices for consumers. U.S. regulators rejected AT&T’s $39 billion takeover bid for T-Mobile US in 2011.

    “The agencies have tipped their hand and the parties know that,” said an antitrust expert who spoke anonymously to protect business relationships.

    They “must think that they have stronger arguments and they’re willing to battle them out with the agencies. That has to be part of their calculus here.”

    Sprint declined to comment on the story, which was first reported by Bloomberg. T-Mobile did not respond to requests for comment. Softbank and Deutsche Telekom were not available for comment.

    (Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington, Marina Lopes in New York, and the San Francisco newsroom; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Ken Wills)

  • 'Mormon Match' Dating Site Fights Trademark Claim Filed By LDS Church
    When Jonathen Eller attempted to get his dating website, “Mormon Match,” off the ground, he encountered an unexpected problem- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which he is a member.

    The Church’s business arm, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., handles its intellectual properties, and it has made numerous trademark claims against Eller for the use of the term “Mormon,” reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit which defends digital civil liberties.

    The EFF has submitted an amicus brief to a federal judge on Eller’s behalf, which urges the court to quickly resolve the dispute for the sake of the small business, as well as to “help deter future trademark ‘bullies’ from abusing the legal process solely to deter lawful conduct.”

    Eller’s introduction for Mormon Match, hosted on the URL dateamormon.com, declares:

    Let me be the first to welcome you to the future home of Mormon Match! I want you to know that this site is being built by actual LDS singles. Like you, we’re a little worried about the lack of local options in our ward, we’ve already tried the other “LDS” dating sites (not built or maintained by LDS peeps) with only battle scars and creepo stories to show for it, and we aren’t getting any younger!

    Indeed, the average marrying age for Mormons has gone up which is perhaps one of the reasons that Eller feels there is a need for his site. LDS men and women are encouraged to date with marriage as the end goal, and there are even single churches in Utah which can help members find like-minded partners with fast-growing congregations. A pastor for a singles church, Robert Norton, told HuffPost Religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem, “When I started in this position three years ago, we had 229 members. Today, we have 800.”

    Robert Schick, an attorney for Intellectual Reserve Inc., told The Houston Chronicle, “We believe we are well within our rights to protect both the use of the name of the church and the image of the Salt Lake temple and to make clear that the plaintiff’s business has no connection whatsoever to the church.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ website states, “‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ ‘Liahona,’ ‘Book of Mormon,’ and ‘Mormon’ are trademarks of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.”

    The landing page initially featured a photograph of the temple in Salt Lake City, which has since been removed.

    “The name of this service simply describes what it’s doing – matching up Mormons,” commented EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language.”

    “This case can and should be dismissed now,” added EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri. “The specter of expensive litigation shouldn’t be a tool used to coerce Internet entrepreneurs and other content creators into succumbing to meritless infringement claims.”

  • Finding a Big Data "Safe Space" for the Energy Sector
    The oil industry was one of the original “smart” industries, but its tradition of leadership in using data to improve operations, enhance security and serve markets has been diminished over time by the counterintuitive incentives imposed by regulators.

    As the sector transforms in response to a supply-side revolution and prepares to engage with global markets more directly through exports, the industry should be freed to build the next generation of infrastructure with efficient markets, security and consumer needs in mind.

    One of the satisfying things about working in the oil business is how real it is: an actual physical substance is extracted, chemically upgraded and put to use every day in the real world by real people. That means it can be easy to forget how much the oil sector has relied on data collection and analysis to drive efficiencies that have served consumers well, and how a change in methods of collection and analysis can alter the way efficiencies are identified, implemented and achieved.

    Business historians have recently come to appreciate the role that data-led analysis played in the success of the oil business in America — starting with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, the company that built much of the groundwork and infrastructure on which not just the energy business but the broader North American economy relies. Pursuing relentless standardization based on the result of constant early data collection from then-balkanized production and transport methods allowed the development of the contemporary oil sector, and the importance of data collection has been enshrined in both energy companies and at energy regulators — the existence of an entire federal Energy Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy is testament to the accepted value of data in energy sector decision-making.

    But for an industry accustomed to collecting, handling and leveraging large amounts of data, oil companies have been perceived as laggards in taking advantage of the monitoring innovations of the past decade, innovations that have prompted huge shifts in industries from media and retailing to health care.

    “Analytics have quickly transformed how internal corporate functions operate and how entire industries capture value,” Dian Grueneich and David Jacot note in a recent article in the Electricity Journal discussing broader analytics and efficiency trends in the energy sector. But current estimates for unmanaged, or unstructured, data in the oil and gas industry run up to 80 percent of the total collected, and a recent Microsoft study noted that a third of oil and gas executives in a May 2013 survey expected their data storage needs to double in the two years to May 2015. The Microsoft survey identifies huge outstanding needs in managing data growth, integrating disparate business intelligence tools and then in using those tools to analyze data for insights.

    Falling behind on data can have real and potentially terrifying implications. Oil majors were awakened to the risks posed by cybersecurity breaches in August 2012 when hackers damaged an estimated 30,000 computers at the offices of Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil companies and a major exporter to global markets. As an investigation of the incident from the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted, cyberattacks are a common tool for Iran-sponsored threats to global businesses and states, with the oil and gas sector an obvious target.

    Those companies with the most exposure to multiple parts of the industry and to the broader economy have now begun to implement the kinds of big data collection, archiving and management programs that became widespread in other sectors long ago. As the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has noted, early attempts at growing the “digital oilfield” have proliferated at international oil companies, and oilfield services giant Halliburton garnered headlines last year with its purchase of data management firm Petris, but the subject remains on the industry sidelines, secondary to traditional political considerations perceived as central to permitting of new proposed projects.

    If the forecasts are for big data to proliferate, and the consensus is that oil companies have done too little to date to prepare for it, the question is why a sector with a strong technological bent and a tradition of data leadership has not embraced the Big Data Revolution.

    The Dark Side of Data: Regulation and Lawsuits

    The industry’s regulated nature is rooted in good intentions, but is starting to show signs of confounding the original legislative intent — that of prompting companies to compete and serve markets in efficient and fair ways.

    When you can’t measure, you can’t manage, but what isn’t measured also can’t then be a source of new, invasive and potentially disruptive compliance mechanisms.

    “Energy commodities organizations are subject to significant regulatory retention and data compliance concerns,” noted software company Tarmin CEO Shahbaz Ali in a Pipeline & Gas Journal paper last year. As the subject of electronic discovery requests, the unstructured data already generated but often left unmanaged by oil and gas companies forms “a veritable cornucopia of risk,” Ali noted.

    The industry needs to find ways to make and measure small errors without fear of massive regulatory implications (and the lawsuits that accompany them), or it will continue to founder in the face of shifting market needs and will wait for large and potentially-preventable failures to occur before acting.

    The North American oil and gas industry is on the verge of facing a major step-shift in engagement with world markets it needs to be free to innovate in serving. The imminent expansion of natural gas through both existing liquefied natural gas terminals and the roughly 35 billion cubic feet/day of proposed export capacity currently at various stages of permitting pose huge new data challenges and opportunities for operators. The ongoing debate over the potential removal of an export ban on crude oil that could finally open global markets to U.S. crude oil supply would also challenge existing data collection and analysis practices, all at a time when access to energy is a key component of global security and U.S. geopolitical power. To build a next-generation industry that is appropriately resilient requires moving beyond the “digital oil and gas field” to a fully digitalized oil and gas sector.

    “Resilience is fundamentally the certainty of small cheap continual failures against the potential for a massive failure at the core,” Egon Zehnder consultant Christoph Leuneberger said in a recent discussion on resiliency practices for extractive industries. Without expanding data collection and analysis practices, oil companies cannot discover what is going wrong, and without discovering what’s going wrong they cannot improve on safety or market efficiency metrics.

    While no one would sensibly argue for sweeping deregulation of the oil industry, a more constructive dialogue between the major players in the sector, government representatives and broader stakeholders in an atmosphere of learning rather than accusation is needed. Oil companies should be able to go about that process of discovery and learning without fear that any new problem implies a matching new regulatory process.

    The popularity of the “big data revolution” at first glance may seem too trendy for application to oil companies, and the issue of how it relates to daily practices and compliance efforts may seem esoteric. But if we want to build a resilient, efficient and powerful energy sector in the U.S., a safe space to explore the implications of the big data revolution in the heavily regulated oil sector is needed.

    Peter Gardett is Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and Entrepreneur in Residence for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. As Founding Board Member of New York Energy Week and chair of the Commodities event committee, he will welcome industry leaders to a panel on the subject of data and commodities on June 17, 2014. Find out more about New York Energy Week here.

  • Teaming Up on Facebook to Fight Childhood Cancer
    This story was produced in partnership with Facebook Stories. Submit your own Facebook story here.

    In September 2011, our family was faced with the unthinkable news that our 2-year-old daughter Starla had acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer that is rare among children. When the doctors told us Starla would need to start chemotherapy the very next day, our hearts dropped. As a parent, you can’t prepare for this.

    Trying to do anything they could to help, my sisters created an event on Facebook, “Prayers for Starla Eve Chapman.” Family, friends, and friends of friends joined the event and shared their prayers for my daughter, which meant a lot to my husband and me. We saw the love and support from everyone, and after about a month, I decided to switch from a Facebook Event to a more permanent Facebook Page: “Team Starla Support Page.” I wanted to create a place for people to gather together to pray for Starla, and to start raising awareness for childhood cancer. People don’t always realize that children get cancer and go through the same chemotherapy that adults do.

    I watched my daughter lose her hair and her appetite. She was tired and nauseated, experiencing vomiting and weight loss. We lived through what the St. Jude’s commercials don’t show. Starla was in the hospital for six months with only three short visits home. She went through five rounds of intense chemotherapy, with each round carrying its own set of side effects.

    Early on in her treatment, Starla went into remission. We thought she’d be able to continue chemotherapy and be fine, but in January 2012, Starla’s heart failed. After a seizure, she went into cardiac arrest, and it took two minutes of chest compressions before she was revived. Chemo had taken a toll on her heart, and it was functioning at only 6 percent capacity. The doctors told us she would die. Our only hope was prayer. I posted on Facebook and asked people to join us in praying for a miracle.

    That miracle came, and over the next few days, Starla gradually improved.

    Around this time, Starla’s Page grew from 500 people to 20,000 people. People from all over were thinking of us and sending messages. I had no clue where they all came from, but they were the most supportive group of people you could find. Starla recovered and was able to continue her chemotherapy to reduce the chances of relapse.

    Through it all, I shared everything on the support page. Every raw emotion and feeling is documented. Some people I know asked how I could post so much of my personal business on Facebook, but I didn’t think of it that way. To me, the Facebook Page is a ministry. These people didn’t know us, but they prayed for us. They bought “Team Starla” bracelets to help us pay our bills. One man who owned a UPS Store offered to mail out the bracelets to save us the shipping cost. He later gave us VIP tickets to an Alabama football game. A Christian artist we’re fans of sent Starla a box of goodies and later invited my husband and me on a free cruise where she performed a song inspired by Starla called “I’m a Fighter.” And thousands of people have shared their support through words, for which we’re so grateful.

    Today, Starla is almost 6 years old and is thankfully still in remission. She still has to take eight types of medicine a day and visit the cardiologist twice a year, but she’s a normal child going to school, playing t-ball, taking ballet and being a big sister. We share every milestone with her more than 30,000 supporters. We’ve also started a small foundation to give back and help other families dealing with childhood cancer.

    We are so proud that Starla has been honored as Alabama’s Child Champion for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals this year. We hope her story shows people that with faith, anything is possible. And we’re going to keep doing our part to raise awareness for childhood cancer and help other families feel the love and support we received from everyone over the past three years.

    DeAndra Chapman lives in Bay Minette, Ala., with her husband and two children. She runs The Proverbs 3:5 Foundation to help other families affected by childhood cancer. Like Team Starla on Facebook.

  • Central African Republic Puts A Ban On Text Messages
    While the Central African Republic stands on the precipice of genocide and protests rage in the capital, the government in Bangui has banned text messages on the nation’s mobile networks.

    As Reuters reports, the decision comes in the wake of a campaign by organization Collectif Centrafrique Debout that rallied for a general strike on Thursday in protest of the country’s rampant violence by sms.

    According to the BBC, a directive was sent to CAR’s four mobile phone network carriers with the order to cease their services until further notice. Texters who try to send a message in spite of the ban will be doing so in vain, receiving a notification in French of “SMS not allowed” according to Agence France Presse. There is no notion of when the ban may end, with AFP reporting that the letter to mobile companies merely stated the order was in force “until further notice.”

    Beyond an act of censorship, the ban reflects the further deterioration of a nation where thousands have been killed and over a million displaced since a bloody campaign of ethnic and religious violence plunged the country into chaos late last year. International peacekeeping forces deployed to the country have so far been unsuccessful in containing the violence.

  • The Cyber Cold War: What Issuing Arrest Warrants Means and What Can Still be Done
    We are in a second cold war. The recent indictments of Chinese military officers have definitively shown this to be a fact, yet it is just one of many silent blows back and forth in this bloodless war behind closed doors in which both governments claim they are not involved. Do these indictments actually mean anything? In short, they don’t mean much. To the government of China it is a mere bloodied nose, and a show that we do in fact know the faces behind the hacking. That being said, the indictment is real and carries real consequences. For the officers named in the indictments, any online services or credit cards they have with U.S.-based companies can be shut down or seized, and they can be arrested for traveling to any number of countries around the world that have extradition treaties with the U.S.- including Seychelles, where the Chinese government is opening its first overseas military installation.

    Just like the original cold war, the only way to keep our heads above water is to keep improving the technology that is keeping us safe. It has been 21 years since both Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) cryptography came out, and even the newest generation of firewalls are just deeper inspecting versions of the third generation firewalls that came out in the mid-’90s. It’s not hard to believe that the Chinese already have those figured out. Therefore, the only effective method to stop our trade secrets from being stolen is to stop worrying so much about collecting as much information as we can from the internet, and finding new ways to protect the information that we already have on the internet. At present TOR (the onion router) is the safest way for an individual or a site to protect themselves, but it has slow load times and a relatively low user and knowledge base, and even the most advanced login systems are the two-step verification methods like the military’s CAC card and password system or Hushmail’s text message and password system. The fact remains though that current methods are not secure enough, and we need new security technologies — such as webcam based color/character recognition for two-step verification or encryption methods to protect data from automated systems or “bots.”

    In any case, we as a nation need to change our priorities. I will be the first to admit that NSA surveillance originally began with good intentions to protect us, but they have gone much too far. Likewise neither the NSA, nor the nation as a whole, have gone far enough to stop the potentially dangerous hacking other than issuing a few indictments against people that are out of our reach. Perhaps if private companies stop funding new ways for us to talk to our friends, and the NSA stops trying to listen into those new ways to talk to our friends we can develop new technologies to keep our information safe. Lest we forget, being hacked by the Chinese is happening now, whereas one email about a terrorist attack out of the 100 billion emails sent daily is yet to be seen.

  • I Went Off the Grid for 3 Hours

    I went three consecutive hours without personal electronics. So I’m enlightened now, or something.

    I should admit that the deprivation was not a self-imposed ascetic exercise, but rather a government-imposed order. I had to pick up a new passport from the US embassy in Tel Aviv and personal electronics are prohibited in the US embassy in Tel Aviv. From where I live, Tel Aviv is a 30 minute train ride, and once in Tel Aviv, the embassy is another thirty minute jaunt from the train station. The errand would take two hours round trip, plus whatever time I spent at the embassy.

    Now I’m not one of those people obsessed with their iPhone. Sometimes I don’t even have it on (like when it runs out of battery or after I drop it in the toilet) and sometimes I don’t even have it with me (like when I’m swimming under water). But to commute two hours without any devices seemed outrageous. It’s not exactly safe for a woman to be traipsing along urban streets without a phone. It’s like the embassy wants me to be murdered and deprived my First Amendment right to Instagram my final moments.

    Besides, I really need my phone because I get so many important emails that I have to open and ignore.

    Yes, it’s surreal to eschew devices for that long. And I know what you’re thinking — so surreal that it needs to be live-tweeted. But I couldn’t live Tweet it! I didn’t have a phone! Instead I recorded the experience by memory — not hard drive memory or cloud memory, but brain memory — and I will try to recount it now:

    7:14 a.m. I print a map on paper showing me how to get to from the train station to the embassy. The next train to Tel Aviv is at 7:30 and it’s a nine minute walk to the station, which I know from the 38,923 times I’ve walked there before. I begin my journey.

    I’m almost there. What time is it? Oh my god, there’s no way to know! I have no phone and haven’t owned a watch with numbers that I can read in a decade. Based on the sun it must be some time between sunrise and high noon. Did I miss the train? Can I saunter or do I need to hustle?

    I arrive at the train station at 7:23, nine minutes after I left my office.

    Waiting for the train. I wonder who’s liked my latest Facebook status. Oh my god, there’s no way to know! I just stare at the ground until the train comes. There are some sparkles in the sidewalk. That’s nice, I guess, but I’d rather see how many people liked my status.

    The train arrives. As usual in Israel, it’s a clusterfuck of people trying to get on before letting people get off. Ha! An Orthodox couple is trying to get on with eight kids, a two-seat stroller, and a bundle of balloons! It’s my duty to Instagram this scene, but I cannot.

    On the train I manage to get a seat. It’s the greatest miracle to ever happen in the Holy Land. I know that I can’t work on my computer because I wasn’t allowed to bring my computer. I know that I can’t read on my Kindle because I wasn’t allowed to bring my Kindle. I was prepared for this. I’m just going to relax and listen to some music as I gaze reflectively out the window.

    Shit, I don’t have my iPhone or even my hot pink iPod nano from 2007. I guess I’ll just gaze reflectively out the window without music. Ah, the meditative landscape between Rehovot and Tel Aviv. Strip mall. Vacant lot. Pile of dirt. Rushing before my eyes, stirring reflections and introspection.

    I think, “Who needs iPods? There is a music to life itself.” Mostly the music coming from the headphones of the woman sitting next to me. But in addition to her One Republic song I hear the shush of the speeding train; the open mouth chewing of the man across from me; the wails of the eight children in that Orthodox family. It’s beautiful in a way, in a way that makes me miss my iPod and noise-canceling headphones.

    I think that thought was funny and that I should Tweet it. Shit, never mind. And that tweet — like so many in the 2.5 hours to come — dissolved into the ether like a child’s whisper on a forgotten island, before that island got wifi.

    The train arrives in Tel Aviv. The station is called Hahagana. I chuckle because my iPhone autocorrects Hahagana to hahahaha. Aw iPhone, you were always doing things like that. I miss you.

    I venture out of the train station, guided only by my instinct and my paper map. I feel like a turn of the century explorer! I mean, turn of the 20th to 21st century because the map is printed from Google maps rather than streaming live on my phone.

    I know the embassy is toward the sea, so I set off seaward with a determined stride that deserves some musical accompaniment. If I had my iPod I’d put on Robyn, “Dancing on my Own” (because that’s the only song I listen to since my last breakup). Instead I have to listen to the song that is stuck in my head, which is the theme from Jurassic Park. Rather than maintaining my determined stride, I start to amble and contemplate the implications of Jurassic Park.

    Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. That’s the take home message of Jurassic Park. Well that, and the fact that we’d be fucked if raptors existed. Could we have outdoor sporting events? No way, raptors would get you. Could we have picnics or allow children to walk to grade school? Nope, not with raptors. All our buildings would need steel grates over the windows and doors. Electric fences everywhere. I wonder if they could climb trees. I bet they could swim.

    “Do do do do do, do do do do do, do do do do dooo dooo doooo doooo” [that's my written interpretation of the Jurassic Park theme, but you know what I mean]

    Twenty minutes later? Forty minutes later? I don’t know because I have no way of keeping time, but the point is, many minutes later I arrive at the embassy.

    The embassy is a bad place. Everyone is distressed and thinks that their distress is more urgent than your distress. They feel entitled to cut you in line and they are aghast when you cut them in line. They have no devices to keep them cool and entertained during the indefinitely long wait. The only thing to watch is other people looking anxious. The only thing to think about is your own anxiety over getting a new passport.

    I cut some people in line and take a number — 247 and we’re on 184. I take a seat. I stare at the number sign. I look at my number. I watch the people at the various service windows. I decide that if raptors existed we’d have peace among humans because we’d be too busy fighting raptors to fight each other. Do do do do do, do do do do do… Eventually I get my passport without undo hassle and travel one hour home, relieved but still deviceless.

    10:23 a.m. I’m back in my office. I immediately check Gmail/Twitter/Facebook and run a general Google search on my name. Six people liked my last Facebook post, Jo Clarkson who sat next to me in AP European History is engaged, and The Huffington Post tweeted an article about habits for healthier skin.

    Thank god I’m back on the grid!

    I went three hours without devices and this is what I learned: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

    What? That’s just a line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Okay, never mind. I already knew that. I didn’t learn anything.

    Annelia Alex blogs at bannelia.com

  • I'm the Chairman of the Board
    For the first time in known history an algorithm has been given a seat on a corporate board of directors. I always suspected that algorithms would take over the world, but this is an unexpected development.

    Deep Knowledge Ventures, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm, appointed the algorithm, named Vital, to its board last week, according to Business Insider. Deep Knowledge is a firm that focuses on age-related disease drugs and regenerative medicine projects, and it wants Vital to help the board make investment decisions. Vital, (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences), was developed by Aging Analytics UK.

    Is this a good idea, or a PR stunt that can encounter unexpected consequences? I am not suggesting that Vital will try and take over the world, or even the firm, but there are many examples of algos-gone-wrong – lessons from which its fellow board members may want to learn.

    A fictional example is SkyNet of Terminator fame. In the movie, SkyNet was a computer system developed for the U.S. military as a global defense network, which had command over all computerized military hardware.

    But SkyNet went wrong. When it began to ‘learn’ it eventually gained self-awareness, along with the paranoia and anxiety that plagues much of human kind, and decided that people wanted to destroy it. The consequences were not pretty, millions were killed, and SkyNet became the poster boy for algorithms-gone-wrong.

    In April 2011 Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at UC Berkeley, and one of his postdocs observed that a book on Amazon – Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology – was priced at $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

    The next day they checked again and found the book was priced at $2.8 million. Before anyone at Amazon noticed, the price rose to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). Eisen and his postdoc realized an interaction of pricing algorithms from two competing booksellers caused the issue.

    In August, 2012 one of broker Knight Capital’s ETF trading algorithms lost control, spinning away to losses of $440 million in less than an hour, and nearly bankrupting the firm (it was subsequently sold).

    But algos are not all bad, many can be used for good as well. Algorithms are used for online social activities; they can help you find friends on Facebook or to decide which films you might enjoy on Netflix. They can set you up with people that you may enjoy dating, or even marrying, like on Match.com. They can assist you in everyday Google searches, ensuring that you are directed to the most likely sources of information.

    Still, it seems that algos can “break bad” just like people do, only with perhaps exponentially more potential for financial damage. Like SkyNet, Vital has been deployed to make decisions that will impact the fate of human beings. Deep Knowledge says that Vital will make investment recommendations about life sciences firms by poring over large amounts of data. Then Vital gets to vote on whether the firm makes an investment in a specific company or not.

    So is Vital a good algo or a baddie? Most algos only break bad because of lapses in human judgment when designing them. Self-learning algos, which draw conclusions from incoming data, have even more potential for going rogue. Only careful planning and assessment of possible unintended consequences can prevent an algo from making expensive mistakes.

    In Vital’s case, he is only being asked to make decisions by scanning data on prospective companies – looking at their financing, clinical trials, intellectual property and previous funding rounds – then decide if they are a good investment. And he gets to vote on it, along with the human members of the board.

    It could well be that Vital is a better board member than his colleagues. It’s not as if human board members did a great job at managing their companies pre-2008 (or even post-). I saw an unofficial survey that said a potted plant would make a better board member than a human, and algos came second after the plant (to protect the innocent, we will not name the plant).

    Vital could be the precursor for many more algos on boards around the world. The only caution is that, before the algo is promoted, the company needs to be sure what it is asking for.

    Deep Knowledge’s Vital reminds me of another powerful computer, Deep Thought of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Deep Thought was asked to provide the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

    After the great computer program had run for “a very quick seven and a half million years” it answered: “42.”

    Which suggests that you really have to know what you are asking for.

  • Apple's iOS 8 enhancing Location Services, adding Visit Monitoring
    With Apple’s new iOS 8 release will come improvements to Location Services. In the new revision, users will recieve additional notifications that apps are using Location Services with new requests, and at the same time, allowing developers to get more location data with Visit Monitoring, a feature allowing developers to see what locations a user may be at more often and with more granularity than current functionality.



  • Diamonds and Tech Are a Girl's Best Friend

    If diamonds are a girl’s best friend then Smart Jewelry is mine! In this week’s episode of Hardwired I tested out some high tech smart jewelry that is both chic and functional.

    I started off by visiting Martin Katz at his Beverly Hills jewelry boutique to try on some extravagant, head-turning jewelry, including a $2.9 million, 40-karat diamond ring! That was really fun but also terrifying, I was so nervous that I was going to lose something!

    After the boutique I got to check out what’s trending in jewelry tech. First, I tried out the Sesame Ring, which is a great solution if you always lose your bus or train card at the bottom of your bag. It’s a ring that has a built in smart card so you can just wave your hand over the sensor. They are made using 3D printing so they can be customized with different designs. I was also wearing the Shine fitness monitor. The Shine tracks a lot of the same things as some of the monitors I tried out in Performance Tech: heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, etc. What’s unique about Shine is that it can be worn as a super sleek and elegant necklace or bracelet!

    Next, I tested out some gadgets that are great if you’re planning on spending some time outside this summer! The June UV Monitor is a metallic gem that can be worn as a bracelet or a brooch and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Throughout the day it monitors your UV exposure and can alert you if you’re getting too much sun. Another awesome device I discovered is the Diffus Solar Handbag. It is a purse that charges your devices, which is perfect for me because I’m always on the go and I’m always connected. It’s powered by solar panels on the outside, which means it’s both convenient and green!

    Do you have a favorite piece of smart jewelry? Join the conversation by tweeting @aoloriginals, @ijustine, #AolHardwired #gethardwired!

  • 7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now
    Procrastination is an art, and we’ve got just the tools you need to make your wasted time a masterpiece.

    It’s Wednesday, which means we’re back with 7 fresh, new sites for you to distract and entertain you through the mid-week slump.

    Check out this week’s picks below and let us know about any new sites you think we should feature.

Related posts:

  1. Mobile Technology News, June 1, 2014
  2. Mobile Technology News, June 2, 2014
  3. Mobile Technology News, June 3, 2014
  4. Mobile Technology News, June 4, 2014
  5. Mobile Technology News, June 23, 2013
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