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.
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 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 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.
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.
AN Android version of the extremely-popular photo-sharing app will be released “very soon,” according to the company’s founder. The arrival of the new app will end months of frustration for photographers who carry Android devices and can’t participate in Instagram’s white-hot world of social photography. Instagram earned the honor of being Apple’s iPhone app of the year for 2011. The Instagram team has not yet given a date of release.
REVOLVER MAPS is a very cool widget that you can embed into your website. The widget allows you to see where your website visitors are coming from. Every visitor leaves an eternal dot on the globe, recent visitors are tagged by the labels showing flag, city and state. The Revolver Map is also EXTREMELY easy to set up. It only takes a matter of seconds (no registration required). Overall, this is a really cool widget. I would recommend it.
If you would like learn more, or get your own Revolver Map, please visit their site.
MOTOROLA (NYSE: MMI) has publicly announced that about 100 Xoom devices were not cleared of all of the original owners content during the refurbishing process. About 100 Motorola Xooms were sold to Woot.com between October to December 2011 were the only tablets affected. According to Motorola, any information may be vulnerable, including: photographs, documents, passwords, usernames and more.
In their press release, they deeply apologized: “Motorola sincerely regrets and apologizes for any inconvenience this situation has caused the affected customers. Motorola is committed to rigorous data protection practices in order to protect its customers, and will continue to take the necessary steps to achieve this objective.”
Motorola is offering customers who purchased and then returned a Motorola XOOM Wi-Fi tablet to Amazon.com, Best Buy, BJ’s Wholesale, eBay, Office Max, Radio Shack, Sam’s Club, or Staples and a few other independent retailers between March and October 2011 a complimentary two-year membership of Experian’s ProtectMyID™ Alert to mitigate any risks. Original owners are advised to contact Experian at 1-866-926-9803 to sign up for the credit monitoring service. These original owners are also advised to take precautionary measures to protect their identity, such as changing their email and social media passwords. Original owners who performed a factory data reset prior to returning the device are not impacted.
If you purchased a refurbished Motorola XOOM Wi-Fi tablet from Woot.com between October and December 2011 you are encouraged to visit motorola.com/xoomreturn or to call Motorola Mobility Customer Support at 1-800-734-5870, select Option 1, in order to determine if their tablet is affected.
To view the Press release from Motorola, please visit this site: http://preview.tinyurl.com/7amzn3p
SPAIN has “copied” the SOPA act idea. The government has passed a law taking off pirate websites. The law is called the “Sinde” law.
An article from The Verge.
The Spanish government has passed an anti-piracy law that offers a way for copyright holders to have sites that illegally host content and those that link to them (read: trackers) taken down. It’s known as the “Sinde law” after the Spanish culture minister who originally pushed it, and it creates a commission headed by the Secretary of Culture that receives and investigates claims from copyright owners against websites. Once the commission reaches a decision (hopefully within ten days of receiving the complaint), a judge will look over the finding and, if the site owners can be contacted, request that the infringing material be removed or the site shut down. If that’s not possible, the judge will be able to order ISPs and other web hosts to have the site taken offline. That seems to offer a little bit more protection from overzealous abuse than the controversial SOPA bill in the US, but it’s not clear how these pulldowns will work on a technical level or how they’ll affect the broader internet. Unfortunately, none of that appears to have been a concern for Spanish lawmakers, so it looks like we’ll just have to find out in practice.