Is your life ruled by your tech? Do you have a Pavlovian reaction to the notification tones of other people’s smartphones? If so… it might be time to unplug. I know — it’ll be hard. Your cell phone calls, text messages, television shows, email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and multitude of apps, web sites, and other technological wonders have become embedded in your daily routine. They’re a constant part of your life, now, right? Unplugging would just be… I don’t know… weird, or something.
Don’t worry, though, you won’t be alone. At the time of this writing there are already 1,382 people and climbing who have pledged to stand with you as you boldly step forward, out of the teeming masses, and turn your shit off.
Ok, so I admit that I’m not really taking “National Day of Unplugging” seriously. I like the idea — I even practice it on my own from time to time — but I’m not much of a joiner. What I find interesting is that there has become a need for something like this, at all. We’ve become so overwhelmed by the constant deluge of information that’s hammering into us on a daily basis that people actually feel the need to band together and say “no more!”
Well, no more until tomorrow, anyway.
This brings me to questions: Will turning off your gadgets from sunset on Friday March 23rd, 2012, until sunset on Saturday, the 24th, actually accomplish anything? Also… will the people who made the pledge actually be able to follow through? On the National Day of Unplugging page of Causes.com, they say that you can use the time to (among other things) “connect with loved ones” and “eat together.” But what if your loved ones and/or potential eating partners are best reached and coordinated with via social media, email, or cell phone? What if you have a flat tire on your way to meet them? What if, the universe help you, you are waiting for the bus and you are soooooooo Freaking Bored without your favourite iPhone or Android game that you feel compelled to throw yourself repeatedly into the flimsy plastic wall of the bus shelter? Huh? What then?
Still… if you are getting up close an personal with bus shelters because you can’t be alone with your thoughts for a few moments instead of playing Angry Birds, then I’m thinking that unplugging for a day probably isn’t going to do too much for you, anyway. You may be better off unplugging forever and hiding yourself away in a remote mountaintop monastery that can’t get cell phone service. Or, maybe… now I know this is a bit radical, and all, but hear me out! Maybe you could consider practising a bit of moderation in your life. A bit of balance, or something. I don’t want to come off sounding like some “dirty hippy” or something — but I think it’s worth a shot!
National Day of Unplugging is a fun idea, and I agree wholeheartedly with its message and the principles behind it. I think there are a lot of people who could benefit from a day off from the socio-tech-connected world and get back to a bit of tangible Zen. I think people should take it beyond just one day, though, and adopt aspects of it into their day to day lives. Without that… I’m not sure I see the point.
The mark in question is a gargantuan, scannable QR code taking up 42 feet of rooftop space atop one of Facebook's new buildings.
The code was painted by crafty Facebookers during a company hackathon in February. The story goes that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a "Space Hackathon," via Facebook of course, to encourage team members to make the new office space their own.
An article from Venture Beat.
Crowdtilt wants you to take the pool of money your friends gather for a vacation and put it online. The company does crowdfunding for small groups of people who already know each other; friends and family looking to pool their money for a common cause.
Since the company’s launch in February 2012, it boasts 21 percent transaction growth each week and 34 percent repeat use from people looking to collect money from friends for concert tickets, vacations, and gift buying.
The process is what you’d expect if you’ve ever used Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding site. The person who creates the campaign sets a “tilt” point at which the campaign will hit its funding goal and an expiration date after which no new funding can be pledged. People can contribute to complete stranger’s campaigns, but most stick those created by their friends.
Crowdtilt launched in February with backing from Y Combinator. The company presented onstage at the incubator’s demo day, trying to drum up more funding for the service.
Crowdtilt is one of 39 companies presenting at Y Combinator’s Demo Day Spring 2012 event.
An article from CNN.
Finally, fans of the world’s most famous boy wizard can follow his fight against the evil Lord Voldemort on their e-readers.
The entire “Harry Potter” series is now available in digital form atPottermore, author J.K. Rowling’s website for all things Potter, ending what was easily the biggest e-book holdout in the literary world.
The books come in a downloadable format that is compatible with all leading e-readers, tablets, personal computers and smartphones — including Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Readers seeking the e-books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s site will be directed to Pottermore to buy them.
“For years our customers have loved reading Harry Potter books in print, and have made them the best-selling print book series on Amazon.com,” said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle content. “We’re excited that Harry Potter fans worldwide are now able to read J.K. Rowling’s fantastic books on their Kindles and free Kindle reading apps.”
“By offering the NOOK editions of this popular series, long-time fans and first-time readers can experience the magic of Harry Potter in a new, exciting way and read what they love, anywhere they like,” offered Jim Hilt, Vice President of e-books for Barnes & Noble.
All seven books in the series will be available in English, at prices ranging from $7.99 to $9.99, through an agreement with Pottermore.
Rowling didn’t agree to make the books available digitally at all until last year, a full 14 years after the first, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published. (It was published in the United States as “Sorcerer’s Stone” the following year).
“I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation,” the British author said last year in an announcement on YouTube. “I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have.”
The content side of the Pottermore site, which promises users an interactive journey through the Harry Potter universe, is still in beta testing. It’s scheduled to go live in April.
Not always a fan of the latest technology, Rowling famously wrote the Potter series by hand. Through the years, Rowling and her representatives expressed two reasons for being slow to the e-book world: a fear of online piracy and the desire for readers to experience her books the old-fashioned way.
The Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies and been translated into more than 60 languages.
Tuesday’s e-book launch is the second time Rowling has made news in recent weeks.
An article from BBC.
Technology to allow smartphones to scan their users’ fingerprints through their screens as an identity check has been patented by Sony.
It describes a range of ways to build “light-transmissive displays” to allow sensors to look out of the screens.
It says an unidentified material would obscure the sensors so users would only see graphics telling them where to place their fingers.
Sony has not given any indication of when it might introduce the feature.
It would not be the first time a smartphone has offered a fingerprint lock – Motorola Mobility launched the Atrix last year – a handset with a biometric scanner fitted to its back.
However, Sony’s application suggests that allowing the scan to be carried out via the front of the phone would simplify the process.
“[It would] allow even a user who is not familiar with the fingerprint authentication to readily execute an input manipulation for the fingerprint authentication,” the patent document says.
Many technology analysts predict that mobile phones fitted with near field communication (NFC) technology will be used in place of credit cards to buy goods in the near future.
To feel safe with the idea consumers may demand that their phone’s security checks are more robust than a four-digit pin code.
‘Better video calls’
“Making transactions easy for consumers is something that is a goal for retailers and technology providers,” Brian Blau, research director at Gartner told the BBC.
“Having something like this that securely guarantees the users’ identity can only be a good step forward.”
Sony’s patent document suggests handsets with a camera sensor behind the screen would also be better for video conferencing,
It says the handsets could have bigger displays without increasing their overall size since they would not have to leave space for a camera at the top of the phone.
It adds that the move would also help to prevent the “uneasy feeling” created at present when users do not maintain “eye contact” because they are looking at each other images on their screens rather than directly into the phones’ cameras.
Sony is not alone in seeking a way to solve this problem.
Apple filed for a patent four years ago to place a camera sensor in the centre of a computer screen so that users could naturally video conference with each other and take self-portrait pictures of themselves while looking at own their faces. It has yet to put the innovation to use.
An article from MSNBC.
You’re browsing the Internet on your iPhone or iPad when you’re suddenly prompted for some personal information. But you’re no dummy: Before you enter it, you check the URL bar to confirm that you really are on a trusted site. When you’re sure, you type in the information. Careful as you were, you still may have handed sensitive data to a bad guy.
How is that possible when you’re absolutely certain that you’re on a trustworthy website? Because right now you can’t trust the URL bar on your iOS device’s mobile Safari browser, thanks to a security exploit.
This can be exploited to potentially trick users into supplying sensitive information to a malicious website, because information displayed in the address bar can be constructed in a certain way, which may lead users to believe that they’re visiting another website than the displayed website.
MajorSecurity has created a demonstration of the exploit. You can check it out by following this link on a device which is running iOS 5.1. After pressing the “demo” button on that website, you will see Safari open a new window which displays “http://www.apple.com” in the URL bar, even though the website you’re viewing is actually hosted on “http://www.majorsecurity.net.”
There’s no fix for the issue right now, but it shouldn’t take long for Apple to patch the exploit. In the meantime, you should be careful about which links you follow.
An article from Fox News
If you have a smartphone, you have to buy a data plan as well, which could add around $360 a year or more to your bill. And recently, wireless carriers have implemented new pricing, data limits and “throttling” (cutting your data to a trickle if you use too much) that can make figuring out plans downright baffling.
You could be one of those people using a smartphone as you did your old phone— for calling and texting. In that case, you might need only a minimal plan. But discovering mobile movies, streaming music, apps and video chat is like opening a Pandora’s box (in fact, Pandora is one of the services you might get hooked on). Your data appetite could quickly grow.
If you like to email, download a few photos and post to Facebook, for example, you can possibly get by on a gigabyte per month, but if you want to stream music and watch the occasional TV show, you may need around 3 gigabytes. And if you’re a big video viewer, you’re looking at 5 gigabytes or more.
To get a sense of what you may want to do and how much data you’ll need, please see our handy chart.
An article from CNN.
Facebook has weighed in on a practice by some businesses asking employees or job applicants for their passwords to the popular social-media site.
In a nutshell? Facebook says don’t do it unless you want to get sued.
“This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” Erin Egan, the site’s chief privacy officer, wrote Friday on the site’s Facebook and Privacy Page. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
Egan said that Facebook has seen a “distressing increase” in reports of job candidates being asked for their passwords over the past few months. She notes the practice violates not just the user’s privacy but also that of his or her Facebook friends.
It also might violate employment laws, according to the post.
“(W)e don’t think it’s right the thing to do,” she said. “But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”
Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the practice. The group said they’ve gotten multiple reports of people either being asked for their passwords or required to “friend” managers when they were applying for jobs.
Robert Collins of the Baltimore area testified before the Maryland Legislature in February that he was trying to reapply for his corrections officer job after taking a leave of absence when he was told he needed to hand over his password to prove he had no gang affiliations.
“I did not want to do it, but because I really needed my job and he implied that this was a condition of recertification, I reluctantly gave him the password,” he told Maryland lawmakers, who are considering outlawing the practice.
In her post, Egan said that Facebook will consider going to court if it hears of the practice continuing.
“Facebook takes your privacy seriously,” she wrote. ” We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.”
It is already against Facebook’s terms of service to share a password.
“You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account,” the agreement reads.
NOW, more than ever, you’ll want to be extra picky about the photos you post on Facebook: we’re not just talking crazy party photos, but those close-up shots of you and yours, no matter how crazy or sweet. That’s because Facebook said Thursday it has made some “enhancements” to its photo viewer including high-resolution photos, that on a large display, can be “up to 4 times bigger than before.”
That means zits et al will appear in their inglorious truth (although some people already Photoshop anything they put on the social networking site).
Photos now will “automatically” be shown in the “highest resolution possible,” Facebook said in an announcement.
And if you really want to analyze and scrutinize others’ photos, you now can also expand a photo “to take up your entire computer screen,” if you’re using the newest versions of the Firefox or Chrome Web browsers. All you have to is click the arrows at the top-right corner of a photo to expand it to fullscreen.
Those of you who are interested in photography itself can learn even more about the details on Facebook’s Engineering page. And if you want to know more about tools you can use to make your photos look better (other than Photoshop), visit Facebook’s Photo Viewer page in theHelp Center.
You can view more information about this update on Facebook’s Information Page.
Rovio Entertainment today announced the launch ofAngry Birds Space, available now for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices, as well as the Mac and PC, with PC retail copies to follow shortly. Angry Birds Space marks the first integrated entertainment launch for Rovio, with merchandise, animation and books available in retail at the same time as the game.
From floating through space in zero gravity, to using the gravity of nearby planets to set up spectacular trick shots, Angry Birds Space takes the gameplay that fans already know and love to a totally new level. With brand new birds, brand new superpowers, and a whole galaxy to explore, the sky is no longer the limit!
“This is Rovio at its finest, and we are more than excited to bring Angry Birds Space to all our fans worldwide,” said Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio. “This launch marks a huge step for us as a company, and our whole team and partners have really pulled together to bring out a fantastic array of exciting products and experiences. We hope that our fans will find all things Angry Birds Space as delightful as the Rovio family does.”
Angry Birds Space features 60 interstellar levels, with regular free updates in the pipeline. Even more content is available through in-app purchase, starting first with the iOS version. Included in the game are many hidden goodies, secret levels and cool space content. Gameplay has been thoroughly optimized for all platforms, including full Retina display support on the new iPad.
To celebrate the launch of Angry Birds Space, Rovio and partners hosted a series of launch events for fans of the game in Beijing, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Seattle and Tokyo. Today, Earth is officially the epicenter of fun in our galaxy!
Angry Birds Space is available for $0.99 from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch, and Angry Birds Space HD is available for $2.99 from the App Store on iPad. Both are also available at www.itunes.com/appstore.
Angry Birds Space for the Mac is available for $4.99 from the Mac App Store.
Angry Birds Space is available for Android devices for free with advertising. Ad-free versions of Angry Birds Space will also be available on Android for $0.99, and an HD version for Android tablets for $2.99.
An article from Huffington Post.
The company hosting the frozen data of millions of users of the file sharing site Megaupload says somebody needs to pay the company’s bill or allow it to delete the data.
Carpathia Hosting filed an emergency motion this week in U.S. federal court in Virginia seeking protection from the expense of hosting the data of up to 66 million users. It says it is using more than 1,100 servers to store the 25 million gigabytes of data.
In the motion filed Tuesday, the Virginia-based company said it is paying $9,000 a day to host the data, which works out to more than $500,000 since January. That is when U.S. authorities shut down the Megaupload site and worked with authorities in New Zealand to have its founder, Kim Dotcom, arrested.
U.S. prosecutors are seeking Dotcom’s extradition from New Zealand, where he remains under house arrest. They accuse him of racketeering by facilitating millions of illegal downloads of copyrighted material on the site.
Megaupload says many of its users are legitimate and storing important files on the site.
Carpathia said in January it would work with a nonprofit group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to try to preserve the data. In its court filing, the company said it had so far refrained from deleting the data given the interest from so many parties in keeping it.
Among those asking for the data to be saved is the Motion Picture Association of America, which wants it kept for possible civil action.
Carpathia said another reason it can’t delete the data at the moment is because it would “risk a claim by a party with an interest in the data.”
It is asking the court to either have others take possesion of the data, ensure that Carpathia be paid until the completion of the case or let it delete the data after allowing users access for a brief period for selective copying.
Carpathia is seeking a court hearing on the motion next month.
In another development in the case, a judge in New Zealand on Thursday released a ruling that Dotcom be allowed up to 60,000 New Zealand dollars ($49,000) per month from his frozen bank accounts to pay for his living expenses as he prepares his defense. He is also allowed the use of one of his cars, a 2011 Mercedes Benz.
New Zealand authorities in January seized Dotcom’s assets, which included 10 million New Zealand dollars ($8.1 million) worth of bonds and a fleet of luxury cars.
An article from Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.
Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.
Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.
“Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. “The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”
The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.
“It is a vast expansion of the government’s surveillance authority,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period.
The government put in strong safeguards at the NCTC for the data that would be collected on U.S. citizens for intelligence purposes, Rotenberg said. These new guidelines undercut the Federal Privacy Act, he said.
“The fact that this data can be retained for five years on U.S. citizens for whom there’s no evidence of criminal conduct is very disturbing,” Rotenberg said.
“Total Information Awareness appears to be reconstructing itself,” Rotenberg said, referring to the Defense Department’s post-9/11 data-mining research program that was killed in 2003 because of privacy concerns.
The Washington Post first reported the new rules Thursday.
The Obama administration said the new rules come with strong safeguards for privacy and civil liberties as well. Before the NCTC may obtain data held by another government agency, there is a high-level review to assure that the data “is likely to contain significant terrorism information,” Alexander Joel, the civil liberties protection officer at national intelligence directorate, said in a news release Thursday.
The NCTC was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to be the central U.S. organization to analyze and integrate intelligence regarding terrorism.
Cellphone carrier T-Mobile USA Inc. said Thursday that it is cutting 1,900 jobs nationwide as it consolidates its call centers in an effort to reduce costs and remain competitive.
Seven of its 24 call centers will be closed by the end of June. About 3,300 people work at the centers slated to be shuttered, but T-Mobile said it plans to hire up to 1,400 people at the remaining 17 centers.
The call centers slated for closure are in Allentown, Pa.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Frisco, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; Lenexa, Kansas; Thornton, Colo. and Redmond, Ore.
The company said that workers whose jobs are eliminated will have a chance to transfer to the remaining call centers.
“These are not easy steps to take, but they are necessary to realize efficiency in order to invest for growth,” Philipp Humm, T-Mobile CEO and president said in a statement.
T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Wash., is the smallest of the four national carriers and is dealing with steep subscriber loses, resulting in fewer calls to its call centers.
In last year’s fourth quarter, T-Mobile lost a net 802,000 subscribers on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. It is the only national carrier not offering the iPhone, the popular Apple Inc. device now carried by all three of the company’s larger rivals.
In addition, a $39 billion bid by AT&T Corp. to take over T-Mobile was thwarted last year by antitrust concerns.
T-Mobile said it will restructure other parts of its business during the second quarter. That includes plans announced previously to modernize its network, add new technology and hire more sales staff. The company employs about 36,000 people.
It announced in February that it will revamp its wireless data network this year, making it compatible with iPhones and other smartphones.