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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

iOS 7 camera to detect blinking, smilingThe updated camera that’s coming along with iOS 7, Apple’s next-generation mobile operating system, is expected to help the photographer capture better people photos.
In addition to be completely redesigned from the ground up, the camera improvements will have facial expression detection — potentially taking a photo after someone blinks or smiles. 9to5 Mac broke the news on this little gem of a feature, reporting that the add-on was part of the iOS 7 beta 2 launch from Monday.
Facial recognition was actually introduced with iOS 5 (front-facing camera for FaceTime), the new APIs will now detect expressions like blinking or smiling — features that are now found on most new point-and-shoot cameras.
The new camera in iOS 7 includes square-cropped photos — perfect for big-time Instagrammers – and a bevy of editing filters to choose from.
As MacRumors points out, Apple has been dedicated to improving the camera with additional features. For example, iOS 5 finally let us take photos by using the volume shutter control and iOS 6 brought us panorama capabilities.
It’s no wonder that the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 rank as the three most popular cameras on the popular photo sharing site Flickr.
The new camera capabilities in iOS 7 will certainly be put to good use when the iPhone 5S is released alongside the new operating system sometime this fall — likely in late September. The camera internals of the iPhone 5S are expected to include a higher megapixel count and dual LED flash, which could help photos from looking so washed out when flash is needed.
Some critics are already complaining that Apple is taking existing technology — such as blinking and smiling recognition to trigger a camera shutter — and making it seem like they came up with the idea in the first place.
But, hey, who cares. I for one am excited about taking better photos on my iPhone.

View the original article here
11 improvements Apple brought to iOS 7 beta 2iOS 7 beta 2 shows off new features of next-generation operating system
Apple gave developers the second beta version of iOS 7, the company’s next-generation mobile operating system, filled with some expected and unexpected features.
iOS 7 was formally introduced two weeks ago at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference. A finalized version for the public is expected to rollout in September, alongside a new iPhone.
According to multiple reports, iOS 7 brings several minor interface tweaks — a more polished look, as one developer described it. Here are 11 examples:
Many weren’t sure if Apple was bringing back its built-in recording software. The app is back in iOS 7 with a much simpler look, similar to the rest of iOS 7.
Just like today’s iOS devices, Apple greets us with a welcome screen the first time we use it. iOS 7 is no different, and matches its completely redesigned look.
Find My iPhone is a great app, especially if a thief nabs your iPhone. In iOS 7, iCloud now offers new languages the specify that the app will help users locate, lock, erase and prevent re-activation.
Are you ready for a male Siri? He’s here in iOS 7 beta 2. Many developers are also saying Siri is significantly faster.
In the first beta of iOS 7, some users experienced double notifications. Those have been fixed in the second version of the developer-only operating system.
Reminders have been slightly redesigned to look more like the app Clear. Again, the Apple-based app keeps with the iOS 7 clean design.
The first beta of iOS 7 didn’t include iCloud backups. Apple has returned them in the second beta.
Spotlight is said to be much quicker when searching for items on your iPhone or iPad.
Apple’s music app had a mess of problems that have been fixed in iOS 7 beta 2. Most importantly, lock screen album art looks normal on an iPhone 4/4S again.
Apple updated the weather app to include a new icon that can bring up a listing of the weather in all of the cities tracked in the app.
Everything about the completely redesigned multitasking works much smoother with the second beta.

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Microsoft reorg a reality: Xbox One OS now under Windows divisionAs rumored, Microsoft has confirmed that the company will be going through a reorg via a memo from Steve Ballmer. The memo details a massive restructuring of the company dividing everything into a number of divisions. As a result, it seems that the Xbox division will now be split across two departments.
In Ballmer’s memo [via All Things D], he outlines the new divisions: Business Development and Evangelism, Marketing, Engineering, Advanced Strategy and Research, HR, Legal, Finance, and Operations.
Under Engineering, the division will be segmented under four units: Operating Systems, Applications and Services, Cloud and Enterprise, and Devices and Studios.
As previously rumored, Windows Chief, Julie Larson-Green has been named as the person in charge of Devices and Studios, which includes the management of the Xbox One hardware. Its widely believed that Don Mattrick was pinned as the candidate to take on this role before he moved over to Zynga. Larson-Green will also be responsible for Studio management.
The Operating Systems unit will be headed by Terry Myerson, former head of Windows Phone. Myerson will oversee Windows and Xbox One’s software functions including OS and software Apps. This is a telling move, showing the direction Ballmer wants to take the Xbox in.
As a result of this reorg, financial reporting will no longer be broken out into distinct business units like Xbox/Entertainment. This may make it much more difficult for investors to determine the performance of specific products such as Windows Phone, Bing and Xbox One in the future.
Its alarming that the OS for the Xbox One will now be helmed by the Windows division. Its been rumored since back in 2001 that the ‘old school’ cronies in charge of the powerful OS division has objected to the money losing Xbox. Its not surprising as Microsoft is a software company and is used to enjoying profit margins higher than 60 percent.  
The original intent of the Xbox was to levy the game console as a Trojan horse by paving a road into the living room for Windows. With the Xbox’s OS software under Myerson, the direction of how the platform will operate will ultimately come from his area. Ballmer did emphasized collaboration between the various departments as the key to succeeding.
With Don Mattrick out, its concerning that there is no longer a ‘games guy’ in the leadership position at Microsoft.

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Sony and Insomniac Games recently announced a new entry into the Ratchet & Clank series with Into the Nexus. This will be a proper Ratchet & Clank adventure experience, unlike the last two entries in the franchise.
Insomniac tried their hand at co-op multiplayer with Full Frontal Assault and All 4 One. The studio is going back to the roots of the series with Into the Nexus with a story that acts as a epilogue to where things left off from A Crack in Time.
As a fan of the Ratchet & Clank
series, I am looking forward to checking the game out. Into the Nexus is part of the Future Series part of the cannon storyline starting with Tools of Destruction. The game is set to drop this holiday over Blu-ray and PSN download.

In other news, Guerrilla Games dropped a nine minute gameplay video of Killzone: Shadow Fall. The gameplay session focuses on the OWL drone that seems to do pretty much everything including making you dinner. The video shows off some interesting application such as performing remote hacking by sending the OWL out to it. It can also act as a portable zipline that can be used anywhere.
The OWL has several modes of operation you can activate via DualShock 4‘s touch pad: a stun mode, which creates an area-of-effect shock blast that stuns enemies and disrupts electronics; an attack mode, in which the OWL attacks anyone within range or targets a specific enemy; a shield mode, which creates a one-way energy shield in front of you; and finally, a zipline mode, which allows you to quickly and safely reach lower areas.

You can also customize your OWL with a unique skin. Pre-ordering your copy of the game at certain retailers can net you a bundle pack that includes several OWL Skins, Soundtrack and special MP moves.
Posted in Games, Industry, PlayStation 3, PS3, PS4 | 10 Comments » Read more from Mike Ferro
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Apple was once the king of commercials, with its ads being head and shoulders above the competition. Unfortunately that’s no longer the case, with Apple’s new iPad ads failing to inspire. Other companies, including its sworn enemy Microsoft, are happily filling the void left by Apple’s disappearance into the advertising abyss.
Apple recently unveiled several new ads for the iPad. The ones released so far have been titled Alive
, Together, and Hollywood (embedded below), the latter making its debut during the 2013 Academy Awards. They’re all OK, but just “OK” doesn’t compare to the quality of commercials Apple has become renowned for over the decades.
Part of the problem Apple faces is that for the first time in its history it’s absolutely on top. The world is changing, and the post-PC era has definitely arrived. This means that Apple, with its trio of iPad, iPhone, and iPod goodness, is at the peak of its powers.
This is a problem, though it’s obviously a nice one to have. Everybody has heard of Apple, knows what products it sells, and knows whether they want one and whether they’re ever likely to buy one. Which makes commercials much less important in terms of turning people onto the company and its wares.
The knock on effect of this is that the drive to innovate and be creative has been removed. When Apple was the underdog it took an incredible effort to get people to even notice the company. Now, it’s the other way around, with insipid and uninspiring commercials only likely to turn people off.
In other words Apple has become Microsoft, the company that never quite got advertising because it never actually needed to do so in order to make money. Microsoft has more recently broken out of this decades-long funk and released positive adverts with a strong message at its core. Because it’s had to in order to stay in the game.
The question that must be asked then: Has Apple got too big, too successful, and too powerful to really care what promotional efforts it’s pumping out into the ether?

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LG G2 Smartphone to Arrive in August
The upcoming LG G2 Smartphone will arrive in the United States as early as August, according to LG CFO David Jung.
The FCC documents don’t provide a lot of details about the phone, but we know it’s got the model number LG-D801, and it’ll support HSPA and 4G LTE wireless networks.
Speaking to Korea’s The Kyunghyang Shinmun (translate) recently, the executive spilled a few beans about the flagship smartphone. The device will reportedly launch in South Korea in August, followed by North America and Europe in September, and by additional markets in October.
In terms of U.S. carrier support, Jung noted that Verizon is in line to offer the G2. Engadget reminds us that recently leaked FCC details also suggest that AT&T and T-Mobile will offer the smartphone.
I would love to see all four major carriers stand behind the Optimus G2 the way they do HTC and Samsung’s flagships. Not only would it put additional pressure on these two rivals, it would also enhance LG’s image. Seeing as how the Moto X is rumored to have a wide release, LG would look out of place selling its biggest device in a limited capacity.
The way LG has been teasing the forthcoming G2, I suspect the phone-maker has big plans for the device.

View the original article here

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Governments from the local to the national are increasingly interested in "wellbeing," that subjective notion that's harder to measure than per capita income or GDP, that comes closer to capturing what we more vaguely think of as happiness. We'd all like to have it: quality of life, life satisfaction, fulfillment.
As researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan State University put it in a recent study on the topic, with a technological twist:
Happiness matters. For example, when a sample of Britons were asked what the prime objective of their government should be – “greatest happiness” or “greatest wealth”, 81% answered with happiness (Easton 2006). In a set of other studies conducted around the world, 69% of people on average rate well-being as their more important life outcome (Diener 2000). Psychologists still argue about how happiness should be defined, but few would deny that people desire it.
We typically gauge happiness, among individuals and whole communities or demographics, with survey questions like "how satisfied are you with your life?" But surveys cost money and contain their own biases. And so these academics, led by Johannes Eichstaedt and Andrew Schwartz, began to wonder if they could glean some sense of a community's wellbeing from the firehose of daily updates many of us voluntarily communicate about ourselves on Twitter.
Alexis Madrigal wrote several months ago about an earlier research project that tried something like this, manually coding the "happiness content" of tweets coming from different parts of the country to find the happiest cities in America. This latest study, also described by the authors on the Follow the Crowd research blog, takes a slightly different strategy and also dissects some of the correlates of "wellbeing" embedded in the language of our tweets.
The study examined 82 million tweets, mapped from nearly 1,300 U.S. counties and collected between June of 2009 and March of 2010 (each county had at least 30,000 twitter words geotagged to it). As the researchers found, Twitter can reveal a lot about wellbeing, not just among individuals (that's not such an impressive feat), but at the level of whole communities.
The researchers built a model of language drawn from these tweets that could significantly predict community-level wellbeing, as measured against more traditional results from surveys. Socio-eonomic information about a place is often considered a rough proxy for wellbeing (people tend to be happier when they're not broke). But these researchers found that by combining socio-economic data with this model of Twitter language, they could build a particularly powerful tool for predicting wellbeing, without the use of any formal surveys at all.
This map from the paper shows a measure of life satisfaction using more traditional survey results, in these same 1,300 counties:

"Characterizing Geographic Variation in Well-Being using Tweets" by Schwartz et al.
And here is a map from the researcher's own predictive model combining socioeconomic factors and Twitter language:

"Characterizing Geographic Variation in Well-Being using Tweets" by Schwartz et al.
Certain topics encoded in our tweets correlate particularly well with the counties that have high and low wellbeing. Tweets relating to exercise and the outdoors ("training," "gym," "waves," "mountains," "camping") rated positively, perhaps, the researchers suggest, tying back to evidence that exercise reduces the risk of depression.
Also on the high-wellbeing list: a cluster of words related to "ideas," "suggestions," and "advice," signs of people tapping their social networks to problem-solve. Tweets about "meetings" and "conferences" similarly suggest engagement. And tweets mentioning "support" and "donate" hint at pro-social activities that have also been linked to higher life satisfaction. These are some of the high-wellbeing (in green and blue) and low-wellbeing (red) word clusters that emerged from the study:
What's most compelling about the whole paper is that tweets from individual people seem to tell us something not just about their own wellbeing, but about the wellbeing of the places where they live. And this pattern holds even though we know that Twitter is its own self-selecting ecosystem, with an over-representation of young and technologically savvy users. As the researchers explain it (bold emphasis is ours):
The fundamental result of this paper is perhaps surprising: we can predict (on average) the happiness of one set of people (those who answered the [life satisfaction] questionnaires) from the tweets of other people (people in the same county). This is, however, consistent with findings from other methodologies. People in the same county tend to share the same culture and environmental affordances (e.g., hiking, music, or good employment), and attitudes towards them (being excited or bored).
Happiness is asserted to be contagious (Fowler and Christakis 2008) and it has been suggested that although educated people are happier, on average, than less educated ones, there is an even stronger benefit to living in a community of educated people with arts, culture and entertainment (Lawless and Lucas 2011). Thus, the tweets of other people can indicate what it’s like to live around them, influencing one’s own happiness.

Emily Badger is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard
, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area. All posts »
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Contact: Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /
PITTSBURGH—It would be impossible to compute all of the ways a piece of cloth might shift, fold and drape over a moving human figure. But after six months of computation, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley, are pretty sure they've simulated almost every important configuration of that cloth.
"I believe our approach generates the most beautiful and realistic cloth of any real-time technique," said Adrien Treuille, associate professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon.
To create this cloth database, the team took advantage of the immense computing power available in the cloud, ultimately using 4,554 central processing unit (CPU) hours to generate 33 gigabytes of data.
Treuille said this presents a new paradigm for computer graphics, in which it will be possible to provide real-time simulation for virtually any complex phenomenon, whether it's a naturally flowing robe or a team of galloping horses.
Cloth Simulation
Doyub Kim, a former post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon, will present the team's findings today at SIGGRAPH 2013, the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, in Anaheim, Calif.
Real-time animations of complex phenomena for video games or other interactive media are challenging. A massive amount of computation is necessary to simulate the behavior of some elements, such as cloth, while good computer models simply don't exist for such things as body motion. Nevertheless, data-driven techniques have made complex animations possible on ordinary computers by pre-computing many possible configurations and motions.
"The criticism of data-driven techniques has always been that you can't pre-compute everything," Treuille said. "Well, that may have been true 10 years ago, but that's not the way the world is anymore."
Today, massive computing power can be accessed online at relatively low cost through services such as Amazon. Even if everything can't be pre-computed, the researchers set out to see just how much was possible by leveraging cloud computing resources.
In the simulations in this study, the researchers focused on secondary cloth effects — how clothing responds to both the human figure wearing the clothes, as well as to the dynamic state of the cloth itself.
Kim said to explore this highly complex system, the researchers developed an iterative technique that continuously samples the cloth motions, automatically detecting areas where data is lacking or where errors occur. For instance, in the study simulations, a human figure wore the cloth as a hooded robe; after some gyrations that caused the hood to fall down, the animation would show the hood popping back onto the figure's head for no apparent reason. The team's algorithm automatically identified such errors and explored the dynamics of the system until the error was eliminated.
Kim said with many video games now online, it would be possible to use such techniques to continually improve the animation of games. As play progresses and the animation encounters errors or unforeseen motions, it may be possible for a system to automatically explore those dynamics and make necessary additions or corrections.
Though the research yielded a massive database for the cloth effects, Kim said it was possible to use conventional techniques to compress the tens of gigabytes of raw data into tens of megabytes, a more manageable file size that nevertheless preserved the richness of the animation.
In addition to Treuille and Kim, the research team included CMU Assistant Professor of Computer Science Kayvon Fatahalian, and, from Berkeley, James F. O'Brien, professor of computer science and engineering, Woojong Koh, a Ph.D. student, and Rahul Narain, a post-doctoral researcher.
More information, and a video, are available on the project website, This research was supported by funding from the Intel Science and Technology Center for Visual Computing, the National Science Foundation, the UC Lab Fees Research Program, a Samsung Scholarship and gifts from Google, Qualcomm, Adobe, Pixar and the Okawa Foundation.
Follow the School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU.
In the simulations in this study (pictured above), the researchers focused on secondary cloth effects — how clothing responds to both the human figure wearing the clothes, as well as to the dynamic state of the cloth itself.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Music (model number S6010) was launched at the end of last year running Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with the promise of a future update to Jelly Bean.
Now the update is ready, and it looks like it’s being rolled-out in the UK first. Bringing Android 4.1.2 to the handset, the update can be downloaded over the air, or via Samsung Kies.
At the moment, the Galaxy Music S6010 costs less than €150 unlocked. It’s a decent little smartphone for that money, featuring: dual stereo speakers on the front, Sound Alive & SRS technology, FM Antenna, 3 inch QVGA display, Wi-Fi, HSDPA connectivity, GPS, 3MP rear camera, 850 MHz processor (single core), 521MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory, MicroSD card support, and a 1,300 mAh battery.

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Apple takes in more than twice the revenue of Microsoft and loses market shareApple earned twice the revenue of Microsoft last quarter but still lost over 10 percent of its market value.  What does that say about the differing expectations concerning Apple and Microsoft?  Mostly that investors expect more out of Apple and when they don’t get it they are quick to punish the company.
The Washington Post reports that Apple’s revenue for last quarter was $54.5 billion, up from $46.3 billion.  Microsoft announced that its revenues were $21.46 billion for the quarter up from last years $20.89 billion for the fourth quarter. $54.5 billion versus $21.46 billion. Hmmm.
Apparently investors were disappointed that Apple’s growth seems to be slowing even though Apple’s sales of the iPhone were an all time high of 47.8 million. Still Apple has lost 35 percent of its value since September dropping from a high of $705 per share to $450.5 as of the close of the stock market today. As The Register points out, there were some unique aspects to Apple’s earnings figures.
And that’s where things get interesting. As Apple’s CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who shared the call with Cook, pointed out, the quarter reported on Wednesday had 13 weeks; last year’s Q1 had 14 weeks. "As such," Oppenheimer said, "average weekly revenue was $4.2bn in the current-year quarter, compared to $3.3bn in the year-ago quarter." That’s a per-week revenue increase of 27.2 per cent.
Meanwhile Microsoft’s ending price on the stock market was $27.63 which was a gain of $.07 percent for the day. The Verge pointed out that Microsoft’s 2012 fourth quarter revenues increased just 2.7 percent over the same period last year.
But here is where the difference lies.  Investors see Apple growth as slowing and think that Apple’s potential for future growth has diminished.  Microsoft’s investors see potential increased growth because of the various different facets of Microsoft’s company.
Here’s the rub.  While Apple’s iPhone has sold well this year, there are parts of the world where the iPhone is too expensive for the market. Cheaper Android and even Windows Phone smart phones will sell in greater quantities.  For instance, reports that Apple is in fifth place when it comes to the smartphone market in China, in part, because most people can’t afford an iPhone.
PCs and Macs are taking a drubbing as consumers drift away from computers to tablets.  While the iPad still remains wildly popular, Microsoft tablets are just getting started and are expected to increase in market share.
Whether you agree with the prognosticators or not, you can’t argue with the disparity in revenue between the two companies.  Of course, that’s just last quarter.  We have whole new year of competition ahead of us.  Let’s see how they finish next December.
Posted in Microsoft | No Comments » Read more from Susan Wilson
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The ability to get Windows 8 on the cheap (in a legal and legitimate way) is ending soon. But is Microsoft doing the right thing in upping the price of its latest operating system?
Anyone choosing to upgrade to Windows 8 from XP, Vista, or Windows 7 has, until now, been able to do so on the cheap. By taking advantage of Microsoft’s admittedly generous early discounts, it’s been possible to justify switching to the latest operating system, even if you’re not convinced it’s worth the time and effort to do so.
However, things are changing, and soon.
The promotional pricing for Windows 8 that Microsoft chose to offer from launch is ending on Jan. 31, 2013. The offer has meant that anyone buying a new Windows 7 computer could upgrade to Windows 8 for just $15, and anyone with an older computer (XP or newer) could upgrade to Windows 8 for $40.
From next month the price of upgrading will increase to $120 for Windows 8 (Core) and $200 for Windows 8 Pro. This has caused a considerable amount of consternation among some people, who have complained that Microsoft is somehow ramping the price up to take advantage of consumers after the initial frenzy of interest has died down.
As pointed out by Paul Thurrott, this isn’t actually the case. The promotional price was always temporary and always going to end a few months after Windows 8 was launched into the wild. The new price is also the same price as Windows 7 was after its initial promotional period ended. In other words Microsoft is doing things completely by the book.
That isn’t the end of the story though. Maximum PC argues that Windows 8 is a different beast from Windows 7, and that the cut Microsoft gets from everything sold through the Windows Store means the initial asking price for the OS should be lower. There’s also the fact that Windows 8 isn’t doing anywhere near as well as Windows 7, which adds to the argument for pricing it accordingly.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we witness a u-turn from Microsoft on this one. The current promotion will lapse, but there’s nothing preventing them from instituting a brand new one.

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10 Mac OS X Mavericks features you'll absolutely loveOne of the more exciting and “why didn’t they do it like that before” type features in Mac OS X Mavericks is the new and enhanced multi-monitor mode ability.
For those who spend half their time on-the-go and the other half in the home office, a MacBook Pro with Retina display and Apple 27-inch cinema display is the perfect setup. The only problem is that the current way of using two screens totally killed the one great feature of Mountain Lion: Full screen mode.
When you through an app into full screen on your MacBook, the monitor would black out. What’s the point? Full screen gives us the screen real estate we desire, so let’s use it.
Last week, Apple introduced Mavericks, which updates how we use multi screens. Here’s a great demonstration of it in action:
As the video shows, it’s not perfect. We can no longer stretch apps throughout multiple screens. (Let’s be honest, though, if you have 6 massive monitors, do you really need to stretch apps?) And it appears his biggest gripe is that he can’t look at the “pretty wallpaper” throughout all six of his monitors. Talk about first world problems.
Another thing this video points out is that you can switch between the old and new mode, which is interesting, because the old mode is so bad.
Mac OS X Mavericks is coming this fall for $19.99 from the App Store. Some of its new features include  App Nap, enhanced Notification Center and Finder Tabs.
Posted in Apple, Mac, news, opinion | No Comments » Read more from Andrew Dodson
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Smartphones now normal for AmericansIf you live in the United States, the chances are you own a smartphone. And if you’re black, it’s probably an Android.
The percentage of American adults with a smartphone has gone from 35 percent to 56 percent in the past two years. The proportion with a standard cellphone (usually defined as one where you can’t install applications) is now 35 percent, leaving just nine percent of people without some form of mobile phone.
The figures come from the a survey for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which says it’s the first time the smartphone ownership has passed 50 percent. Last year’s figure was 46 percent.
As you’d expect, the proportion of smartphone ownership peaks among 25 to 34 year olds (81 percent), dropping consistently among older groups and falling to 18 percent for people aged 65 or older.
Ownership is significantly stronger among richer people and those with a higher income (which may simply correlate to being richer), while urban and suburban folk are almost 50 percent more likely to own a smartphone than rural dwellers (which could be a combination of income and shitty coverage.) Pew noted that the older somebody is, the more effect income has on whether they own a phone: it’s a status symbol for middle-aged and a norm among the young.
Men are slightly more likely to own a smartphone than women (59 percent to 53 percent), while there’s a potentially surprising racial breakdown with ownership at 53 percent among white people, 60 percent among Hispanic people and 64 percent among black people.
Another particularly notable racial point was that both white and Hispanic people had an almost identical split between iPhone and Android ownership (roughly 26 to 27 percent in both cases.) However, only 16 percent of black people had an iPhone, compared with 42 percent having an Android handset.
Posted in Android, Apple, smartphone | No Comments » Read more from John Lister
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Will algae or seaweed solve our fuel problemsEarlier this week Joule Unlimited secured $70 million in funding.  The company happens to have algae facilities that turn carbon dioxide and sunlight into biodiesel and ethanol.  Meanwhile Bio Architecture Lab was able to get seaweed to create chemicals and biofuels.  Both processes use patented organisms to create the biofuel.
Joule Unlimited’s new funding will allow the company to continue building its facility in Hobbs, New Mexico.  According to Technology Review the facility will allow the company to begin scaling up its production operations in five acre increments.  Each acre is covered in SolarConverters that consist of “clear panels circulate brackish water and a nitrogen-based growth medium bubbling with carbon dioxide.”  Joule’s genetically modified algae continuously converts sunlight and CO2 to fuel within that medium.  Eventually the company hopes to have all 1,000 acres covered in SolarConverters producing biofuel. 
Currently Joule’s algae have reached 60 percent of that 20,000 gallon goal. In order to continue moving towards that goal, the company is continuing to tweak the algae by “limit[ing] all biological processes that compete with fuel.” Once the genetically modified algae are perfected that could mean 20,000,000 gallons of biofuel total per year.  The company has previously said that once the modified algae are perfected they should be able to produce 20,000 gallons of biofuel per acre. 
According to Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) there process “first transform[s] seaweed into a renewable chemical intermediate, and from this intermediate, chemicals and fuels are produced through chemical synthesis or fermentation.” BAL considers seaweed to be a better feedstock that even algae because it doesn’t require the use of any land or fresh water.  That’s important since fresh water is scarce in many parts of the world.  Even areas that currently have abundant fresh water are expected to see water shortages in the future.  Preserving land and fresh water for habitation and food crops only makes sense.
Seaweed fuel illustration Bio Architecture Lab
After the demise of GreenFuel in 2009, the viability of algae based fuels was questioned. Other algae based biofuel companies have continued forge ahead. According to algae based biofuels have already been successfully tested in Navy ships and commercial airlines flights.  Unfortunately, the cost of algae based biofuel is not currently competitive.  Joule expects its process to be affordable once it is maximized and scaled up.  BAL is working toward the same goal but is not as far along.
Algae and seaweed may someday provide all the fuel we need for our transportation and chemicals to replace other fossil fuel products like plastic.  We won’t see that happen for years to come.
Tags: algae, Bio Architecture Lab, biofuel, biomass, Joule Unlimited, seaweed, SolarConverters Posted on: January 21st, 2012 by Susan Wilson
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iPhone 5S bringing slow motion video recordingApple’s iPhone 5S — the next-generation model that’s expected sometime this fall — has to bring some additional features on top of a snappier processor. Slow motion video could be one of those features.
According to multiple reports, there is code hidden inside iOS 7 — the latest generation iPhone and iPad operating system that’s supposed to rollout with the new iPhone — that offers video recording at 120 frames-per-second, or fast enough to record slow motion videos. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone lineup already offers this features.
From MacRumors:
According to our analysis and testing of the code, “Mogul” is a feature in development that allows the iPhone to capture video at an exceptionally fast and precise rate. Specifically, our testing indicates that the feature can allow the iPhone to record video at a rate of 120 frames-per-second (FPS). The resolution at which this 120FPS video could be recorded at, however, is currently unclear.
While recording in slow motion, action seems normal, but on playback, those 120 frames per second are shifted back to the normal 60 frames, giving the action a dramatic look and feel. Get ready for some amazing running videos.
Or really boring pet videos.
Much like Siri was reserved only for the iPhone 4S when it was discovered in coding of iOS 5, 9to5 Mac found out that the hidden features of slow motion doesn’t work on an iPhone 5, which makes most of us believe that the feature will only be available on the iPhone 5S.
Apple is expected to release the iPhone 5S in September or October. It’s expected to feature a faster processor and potentially 128 GB of storage. An improved camera has also been rumored, so a video-centric new feature isn’t entirely out of the blue. Plus, high-speed video is typically a larger file size. Apple could start the iPhone at 32 GB and let it go up to 128 GB.
Apple is also rumored to be releasing a cheaper, plastic-version of its iPhone at a cheaper price that would rollout with the iPhone 5S, in a move to increase its marketshare. The cheaper iPhone could start at 16 GB, to help keep the price low.

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Grand Theft Auto V gameplay video released As teased by Rockstar yesterday, the studio has released the first gameplay footage of Grand Theft Auto V and it looks amazing. Its hard to believe the game is running on current gen technology as Rockstar squeezes out every last ounce of power.
According to Rockstar the gameplay footage was captured in-game running directly off the PS3 hardware. Could the PS3 be the lead platform this go around?
The video demonstrates how players can switch between the three main characters to accomplish team based objectives. For example while one guy is crashing through the windows shooting guns blazing, you can switch to a second character across the street with a sniper rifle and start taking out the other enemies.
The seamless transition almost reminds me of Dragon Age, where you can switch between characters on the fly to continue the battle. The weapon gameplay mechanics have been much improved for a Max Payne look and feel. The vehicle driving also looks solid.
While the video didn’t reveal much about the online multiplayer mode, it did show a small snippet near the end. It seems like air traversal will be a big thing in multiplayer as a jet flew by manned by a player.Due to some confusion about the platform the game was running on, Rockstar confirmed that the game was indeed running off the PS3 in the forums.
Just to clarify for those asking, this particular video was captured with footage from the PS3 version of the game.
Also, make sure to check out a pair of Q&A’s we did with Game Informer that debuted today with more details on customization and gun combat in GTAV (along with some new screens), plus an interview for French speaking fans at Jeuxactu:
Sony has an exclusive PS3 bundle deal with Rockstar as well for those interested in pick up a current gen console.

Posted in Games, Industry, PlayStation 3, PS3, Xbox 360 | 59 Comments » Read more from Mike Ferro
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One of the reasons the iPad has sold in such high numbers, and kick-started the tablet revolution to boot, is the sheer variety and number of things you can do with the Apple device. However, I doubt whether anyone had thought of this particular use before… until now. Meet the iPotty, a training toilet designed to house an iPad.
I have neither an iPad or children, but if I did, I’d try and keep the two as far apart from each other as possible. An iPad isn’t exactly cheap, and kids aren’t exactly known for taking care of expensive gadgets. However, for those parents that can afford the risk, the iPad offers a possible learning tool for children that’s simple and intuitive to use.
The iPad is so simple to use that even the youngest children can get to grips with it quickly. To the point that it may even help to entertain them while they’re learning to use the toilet.
That’s the essence of iPotty, a new product from CTA Digital that was on display at the recent CES 2013 in Las Vegas. The iPotty is a normal potty with the addition of a stand designed to accommodate an iPad. The idea is that kids will be much happier to sit on a plastic toilet waiting for nature to take its course if they have a tablet loaded with apps in front of them.
There are no specific apps designed for use with iPotty, but there are existing toilet training apps available. Personally I’d put Angry Birds
on there instead, or load the iPad with cartoons and press Play as soon as the child sat down to do their business.
The iPotty also comes with a screen guard and a seat cover so that it can be used on other occasions. According to BBC News the product is set to go on sale in March priced around $40.
Posted in iPad, News | 1 Comment » Read more from Dave Parrack
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The iPhone 5 debuted in September 2012, so rumors are ramping up about Apple’s next handset. Photo: Alex Washburn/Wired
Each week, there are dozens of Apple rumors, reports, and patent filings that hint at what’s coming out of Cupertino next. Some are legit, but most are totally bogus. We parse the week’s rumors for you, ranking them in order from “utterly ridiculous” to “Duh, of course.” First up…
DON’T COUNT ON IT: Leaked photos of the iPhone 5S shell, plus specs
A Chinese-language site called C Technology (reposted by BGR) published pictures of what could be the iPhone 5S shell. There’s no way to verify these photos as being accurate, as they look pretty much identical to the iPhone 5, and we’ve seen how easy it is for other manufacturers to ape the iPhone.
As for specs, a “4-inch IGZO display with the same Retina resolution as the iPhone 5, an A6 processor clocked a bit faster than the current model, quad-core SGX 554MP4 graphics, 2GB of RAM and an upgraded LTE radio,” they sound pretty reasonable, but simply can’t be verified at this point.
DON’T COUNT ON IT: Apple may delay the introduction of the iPhone 5S
Apple could be upgrading the next iPhone to a 4.3-inch Retina display screen, and that could delay the launch of the next handset until the end of the year, according to the Taiwanese newspaper the Commercial Times
(as reported by Bloomberg).
Apple just
upped the screen size of the iPhone last year, giving developers a new 4-inch screen size to accommodate. Apple is also revealing a revamped iOS 7 interface in the fall that will require a lot of app developers to redesign their apps so they fit in with the new look. So, another form factor for developers to have to wrangle? No. It’s too soon. Apple also traditionally iterates on the form factor every other generation, which would mean the next iPhone would share the same design cues and dimensions as the current iPhone 5.
VERY DOUBTFUL: Apple patent details in-display fingerprint technology — and it’s delaying the iPhone 5S
Apple patent filings are hit or miss. A patent could be an indicator of a technology the company is dedicating significant resources towards, or it could be a decoy to lead competitors (and the press) away from what it’s actually working on. One of the latest is that Apple is working on in-display fingerprint sensing technology. Apple’s been rumored to be including biometrics in upcoming iOS devices since it acquired fingerprint security firm Authentec in the fall of 2012. It’s possible that Apple could include this technology in an iOS device this year or next.
A related report suggests that iPhone 5S production is delayed because of poor fingerprint sensor yields, pushing the launch of the next iPhone into September. September, you say? The same month the iPhone was released in 2012? Wow, it really does sound delayed.
ASK AGAIN LATER: Apple pitching ad-skipping as part of its new TV service
This report lands in the middle of the list because well, Apple’s TV doesn’t exist yet, but the source is strong. Former WSJ
reporter Jessica Lessin writes on her own blog that Apple has been talking with cable companies and television networks about allowing users to skip the commercials, as long as those skipped ads are paid for.
Apple’s been coy about its endeavors in the TV space, and various rumors and reports have been swirling since 2011. It seems the major snags holding up the platform’s launch are in deals with TV and cable networks, if all the rumors and reports are to be trusted.
SIGNS POINT TO YES: Apple is aggressively hiring for its smartwatch project
Apple is on a hiring spree to dedicate personnel and resources to its rumored smart watch project, says the Financial Times
(via MacRumors).
The smartwatch project itself is akin to Apple’s television project — a lot of signs are indicating there’s something in development, but there’s no hard proof yet. However, based on Apple’s recent hirings, it does seem the company is working on a wearable device of some kind. 9to5Mac detailed a number of sensor and fitness experts that have gone to work for Apple recently. Apple also snatched up former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve to work on “special projects.”
WITHOUT A DOUBT: Apple is ramping up next-gen iPhone production
According to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek and sources familiar to AllThingsD, Apple is kicking up production levels for its next iPhone. Considering the last iPhone was released in September 2012, and Apple seems to have moved to a fall release date for its flagship handset, this report is spot on with where we’d expect Apple to be at this point in the year. Or: Duh, of course Apple is ramping up iPhone production right now.
Related, Digitimes reports that Apple’s integrated chip orders are also ramping up. If Apple is ramping up overall iPhone production, then yeah, integrated chips are a part of that, too.

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How many phones do you want to use in two years? One? Two? Four? Photo: Arial Zambelich / Wired
The new upgrade and “no-contract” plans from T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless are made for people who frequently feel the burning need to get the newest, greatest device on the market.
Unlike traditional smartphone plans, which require you to wait up to two years between purchases to get a new phone at a price fully subsidized by the carriers (usually $100 or $200), these new plans let subscribers acquire a brand new phone as often as twice per year. But when you switch to a newer phone, you’re either borrowing the handset from the carrier and handing it back when it’s time for your next upgrade, or you’re buying it at a higher, unsubsidized price and paying it off in monthly installments that get tacked onto your bill. That might sound like a sweet deal on the surface — there’s potentially no up-front payment for a phone and no need to wait out a two-year contract to get another shiny handset. However, these plans come with so many caveats and restrictions that they’re only worth it to people who are desperate to be super-trendy and must
own the latest gadgets. Also, the options to buy the phones are more costly, so these plans will only appear attractive to people with the extra money to spend.
The major carriers apparently think there are enough people beneath this umbrella, or at least enough customers who can be tricked into thinking these plans are a good buy. But if you’re switching carriers or starting off fresh and the advantages of these new upgrade plans do
suit you, at least be informed. Check the chart below to see which deal is best for you. But keep in mind that you’ll end up spending a whole lot more to own your device.T-Mobile JumpAT&T NextVerizon EdgeStandard Two-Year ContractAvailabilityNowJuly 26August 25NowCost of Phone (iPhone 5, 16GB)$21/month, $156 up front$32.50/month (total cost divided by 20 months)$27.08/month (total cost divided by 24 months)Typically $200 up frontAllowed UpgradesTwice a yearEvery 12 monthsEvery six monthsVerizon, Sprint (Google sells unlocked version for AT&T and T-Mobile)Total Phone Payments Required Before You Can UpgradeSix payments: $28212 payments: $39050-percent of phone cost: $325Up front of $200Cost of Service (Individual)$10/month to enroll in Jump, $50 to $70 for service$60 to $140$90 to $140Same as above, depending on carrierWhen You Can Leave CarrierAfter you've paid off your last handset in full or returned it.After you've paid off your last handset in full or returned it.After you've paid off your last handset in full or returned it.After two-year contract.Total Cost of Phones w/ Max Upgrades Over Two YearsFour phones: $1,128; own noneTwo phones: $780; own noneFour phones: $1,300; own noneOne phone: $200; own oneMain Drawbacks and CaveatsYou must pay the full unsubsidized price for a phone in order to own it, or else give it back when you upgrade. To leave the carrier, you must return the device or pay for it in full.You only get to upgrade once a year. You must pay the full unsubsidized price for a phone in order to own it, or else give it back when you upgrade. To leave the carrier, you must return the device or pay for it in full.You have to pay for half of the phone before you can upgrade. You must pay the full unsubsidized price for a phone in order to own it, or else give it back when you upgrade. To leave the carrier, you must return the device or pay for it in full.You have to wait two years to upgrade.

If you must go with one of these new-fangled upgrade plans, T-Mobile’s is the best deal. You can upgrade up to twice per year (though you don’t have to) and the cost per phone at minimum upgrade time is the least costly. You do still have to fork over a down payment up-front, and there’s a $10 monthly charge to enroll in Jump, but the less expensive data plans make up for that.
AT&T’s plan is the biggest rip-off. You have to complete 12 months worth of phone payments before you upgrade. Assuming you’re upgrading to the latest, most expensive smartphones, then you’ll end up paying for more than half of the phone, and well over the amount you’d have paid had you opted for a two-year contract. Verizon isn’t much better, considering you have to pay for half the cost of the phone to upgrade. Both carriers still charge their standard service plan rates.
Essentially, these plans are high-cost rental services that want to take advantage of your desire to be on top of the continuous, churning wheel of smartphone releases. The fact is: Most phones are still good after two years. They might not be the newest, fastest and shiniest, but they’re usually still working fine and capable of running the latest software. And of course, there’s the negative environmental impact of frequently upgrading your mobile devices to consider. Join these plans at your own risk and expense.

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