Saturday, August 30, 2014

10 Teams Show Off Their Final Tricorder XPrize Prototypes

Every geek in the known universe knows what a 'tricorder' is, but for you uninitiated it is that nifty gadget you've seen used at some point almost every episode of Star Trek. It was capable of scanning for just about anything from minerals on planets to health issues in patients. Unfortunately that is where real world science and Sci-Fi have yet to meet...for now that is!

A competition with a $10 million purse was launched back in 2012 to spark interest in creating such a device. Dubbed the competition, dubbed the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize, tasked teams with the challenge of creating a device that can quickly and accurately diagnose 16 health conditions. The devices had to work in a non-invasive way, be portable, re-usable, and easy enough to operate that a medical professional need not stand by (essentially easy enough for anyone to use).

In total Twenty-one proposals were received, and from those the XPrize judging panel chose 10 finalists for 7 different countries.Now comes the hard part as the finalists must deliver prototype Tricorders by May. They will be tested and evaluated for several months, in part by real patients.

The winner, slated to be announced in January 2016, will get $10 million in prize money put up by the Qualcomm Foundation. The San Diego wireless giant hopes the competition jump-starts the mobile health industry.

The finalists are:

For further details on each of the teams can be found here and to view the mock-ups of their entries checkout the full slideshow via

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter Recaps Their Night With The Emmys

During the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, fans and stars a like took to social media in droves to share their excitement and join in on all the red carpet action with everything from behind the scenes photos and videos to fan reactions to their favorite stars winning or loosing. Today Twitter gives us a closer look at the #Emmys in 140 words or less.

According to Twitter and Nielsen Ratings there were over 1.1 million Tweets about the show (+-3 hours) during the live telecast (8-11 p.m. ET). The most mentioned stars included Emmys host Seth Meyers, and Breaking Bad co-stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston.

Here’s an embeddable graphic that includes the most shared Twitter photos from the evening:

Aside from being a great night for Twitter and the television industry, it was also a fashion extravaganza as the “Twitter Zip Line Camera,” the @TodayShow’s Vine 360 Booth, and @Yahoo’s Twitter Mirror took the red carpet pre-show to the next level. The zip-line video footage was featured on NBC’s Twitter account and the syndicated “Access Hollywood” program. In addition, part of E!’s “Live From the Red Carpet” coverage will be viewable online at and on air, and NBC’s Today show with the Vine 360 booth were published to the “Today” social accounts.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is Your iPhone 5 Having Battery Issues? Apple May Replace It For Free

Apple has discovered a flaw on the batteries of what they are saying is “very small percentage” of iPhone 5's can led to the phone “suddenly experiencing shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.” The affected iPhone 5 units were originally sold between September 2012 and January 2013.

For those impacted by the flaw the replacement program will be available at Apple Retail Stores, Authorized Apple Service Providers, and via AppleCare. To find out if you're eligible, Apple has a serial number checker here.

Apple recommends that all iPhone 5 owners backup their data, turn off Find My iPhone, and erase all content and settings before visiting their Apple Store or returning the phone to have the battery system replaced. Apple says it won’t repair phones with other problems like cracked screens. If you’ve already paid to get your battery fixed (and you’re eligible for this replacement), Apple is offering refunds.

This iPhone 5 battery replacement program is the second time Apple has had to use the replacement program to fix the iPhone 5 this year. Previously Apple offered to fix units affected by sleep/wake button issues.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Can Now Inherit Digital Data And Accounts In Delaware

In the sad event of a loved one's passing their physical possessions typically go to their family members. Sadly however, the same inheritance laws generally do not apply to digital accounts, such as email or social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Which unfortunately, due to policies prohibit the sharing of passwords and generally deny access to anyone other than the original owner. Delaware is looking to change that in a major way. They just became the first state to pass a "Digital Inheritance" law.

Last week, according to Arstechnica, Gov. Jack Markell signed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act. This law gives heirs and executors of wills the legal authority to take control of a digital asset or devices, just like any other physical document or item.

With the passage of the law, family members of the deceased or those that have been incapacitated will now have full legal access to any and all digital assets. Allowing them to either continue the usage of say their social media account (perhaps as a tribute page) or granting them access to important things like contact lists for email accounts.

According to Ars some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have few existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs. These existing laws however are not nearly as broad as the new Delaware law and do not grant access to nearly as much data or accounts.

For now, the state's version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware, however it is noted that people creating family trusts could conceivably use this Delaware law to their advantage, even without residing in Delaware. They could setup the trust to be governed by Delaware law

“If a California resident dies and his will is governed by California law, the representative of his estate would not have access to his Twitter account under HB 345,” Kelly Bachman, a spokeswoman for the Delaware governor’s office, said by e-mail. “But if a person dies and his will is governed by Delaware law, the representative of that person’s estate would have access to the decedent’s Twitter account under HB 345. So the main question in determining whether HB 345 applies is not where the company having the digital account (i.e., Twitter) is incorporated or even where the person holding the digital account resides.”

While this is seen as an important first step, Suzanne Walsh, an attorney with Cummings and Lockwood in Connecticut and chair of the UFADAA committee, told Ars that she is hoping more states will eventually adopt their own versions of the law further guaranteeing access to digital accounts..

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Facebook Messenger Privacy IS An Issue And Why You Should Be Concerned

Over the past week you've likely read several reports raising concerns over Facebook's new messenger app and the alarming number of permissions the app requests access to. While many sites, including Facebook themselves, have tried to detract from the original reports, stating that those articles are from alarmists that don't really understand the app permissions. That doesn't mean that you should trust buy into those reports any further than you should the original flag raisers.

Why is everyone so concerned about the Facebook App?

First let me start by explaining why so many people have raised flags over the new app and why they are voicing concerns. When installed the Facebook Messenger App requests what many see as a rather large number of permissions. Those include the ability to take pictures and videos; record audio; send/receive and edit text messages; and read your calls logs and contacts - all things Facebook says you need in order to contact and interact with your Facebook friends within the app.

The concern here, and in my opinion rightfully so, is that there are no specific details as to how these permission will be used.  In their response, Facebook said "that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they're named doesn't necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them." This doesn't exactly detail what these permissions are doing however. For instance, why does Facebook need to see me phone's contact information given my friends list on FB should already be accessible to the app? Or why does it need direct call or SMS/MMS access if I'm only using the app to send messages?

Sure the Facebook Messenger app does need some of these permission for authentic reasoning, but it hardly needs all of them. So why add them? My guess it is future thinking on Facebook's part. They want the app to become your go to service for all your messaging and calling needs. So they add those permissions now just in case they launch more services down the road.

What about my privacy? Why should I still be concerned?

Let me say first and foremost this boils down to one thing and one thing only! Do you really trust Facebook (or any other site for that matter) with access to your entire device, your location and all these permissions? You are trusting that they won't do anything bad, negligent ect with all that information they are collecting on you. So the question here is should you really trust them, or trust that they won't sale that information?

What they did with that so called 'emotional experiment' should show just how much influence your devices and social media websites can have over your daily life. If they are willing to cross that line the where does it stop? Facebook is already utilizing location information and background noise to start control the ads you see and the info you see in your news feed. Controlling what information a person has access to can be a very powerful tool and a very harmful one if used wrongly.

This is where most of my main concern comes from. The overall scope of data they are accessing and the overall lack of transparency shown when it comes to how they are using that data and these new permissions.

Unified services mean an end-all to privacy!

It wasn't too long ago that we used several services to satisfy all of our communications and web needs. You had separate services providers for search, email, chat and social media. The a few years ago many of those services started to blend into what we have now. Unified service providers with unified log-ins. These days you likely use your Facebook log-in for more than just Facebook and of course your Google log-in now works across all Google services and likely many of your favorite sites.

While this makes things easier for the end user it also makes it easier for these sites and services to closer track their users which in turn quickly erode away at your privacy. When Google unified its privacy policy it quickly came under fire with a lawsuit filed via EPIC. In that case the concern was that the aggregated data would allow for more accurate, targeted advertising.

The problem there lies not with the actual social media services, but Google's back end advertising service that is being tied to all the rest of its sites. This is similarly where we sit today with Facebook and some of the concern over the site's policies. Previously most of our social media sites where just that, websites not actual services. Today those sites looking to diversify want to become our all-in-on location for more services. Facebook, Apple, Google et al. don't just run single side services anymore. They run giant conglomerations all tied together that provide many different services under the guise of one entity.

These giant entities now have cross platform access to higher levels of user data than ever before! They can not only access emails, messages and on-site data. But they are accessing user location information, daily habits, and off site information and details (something Facebook is currently facing lawsuits over).

I for one think it is about time that someone starts to question the validity of these unified services and privacy policies. How about you? Do you think this is 'much ado about nothing'? Or are users concerns really valid?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

New Flagship Phones From Samsung & Apple Expected To Be Announced In September [Update]

The two largest players in the smartphone market are reportedly planning major announcements early next month and if the speculation holds true we'll see at least two new flagship phones announced!

Update: In typical Samsung fashion the company all but confirmed earlier reports that they'll be annoucing the new Note 4 at the Sept. 3rd event. A teaser image was released today with 'Note the Date' and the Note 3 style pen window.

Earlier this week we saw several reports that Samsung had sent out invites to a Sept. 3rd press event (another Samsung Unpacked event). The timing for the event falls in line with previous speculation that the tech giant would be announcing their latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 4, prior to the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

While the invite doesn't specifically mention the Galaxy Note 4, or any other devices for that matter, the timing would be inline with previous announcements. Rumors also suggest that we may see more than one device released from Samsung during the event, or during IFA conference. If those rumors hold true we may see more than one smartphone or perhaps a new Galaxy Smartwatch or other wearable.

Not one to be left behind Apple is also said to be planning a major announcement for early in September. Reportedly Apple will be revealing the iPhone 6 at a media event on September 9th. Recode reports that Apple will hold an event that Tuesday to announce the next line of iPhones, which if you have been following the rumors are expected to include not one but two, new models.

Of course this is all still speculative to say the least. However, the rumor mill surrounding both companies has been running overtime lately and that generally doesn't happen until right before major releases.

What can we expect from these new devices?

While there is nothing official yet known about the Galaxy Note 4  rumor has it the device will feature a 5.7-inch QHD display. It is also rumored to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 chipset with an Exynos variant for markets without LTE. It will also be accompanied by at least 3GB of RAM, at least a 16MP rear-facing camera, and will most likely run on Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Other enhancements are said to possibly be a retina scanner, UV sensor and of course many of the updates seen in the Galaxy S5 like fingerprint scanning, heart rate monitor and the TouchWiz enhancements like Ultra Power Saving Mode, Download Booster and more.

Apple's highly anticipated iPhone 6 series is rumored to be the 'biggest' launch for iPhone yet (and yes they mean that, both literally in device size and scope of sales). It has been rumored for quite a while now that Apple's next iPhone would come in two sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. If that holds true the 5.5 inch model would be the biggest iPhone to date!

Other rumored improvements are said to be Sapphire crystal screens, higher resolution displays with more pixel density, aster and more efficient processors, NFC support and a few camera enhancements.

Friday, August 01, 2014

GameStop Now Requires Fingerprints To Trade Games At Some Stores

In an attempt to combat crime several state and counties have created ordinances requiring pawn shops or second-hand sellers to fingerprint customers looking to sale or trade goods. According to GameSpot popular gaming retailer GameStop has taken that requirement and applied it to some of the company's Philadelphia locations.

Originally reported from CBS Philadelphia, it appears as though GameStop stores in some Philadelphia are location have started requiring that customers who wish to trade in games provide a fingerprint scan for "certain transactions." When GameSpot buys used video games from customers, the chain says it is following a local law that allows the store to collect thumb prints, which go into a database to help law enforcement track down thieves who fence stolen goods.

However, the law isn't as cut and dried as GameStop seems to be making it out to be and in fact the company may simply be acting on their own. According to City Solicitor Shelley Smith, the city has not contacted GameStop to make such collections and the nature of the company's business is such that it does not specifically have to abide by the pawnbroker’s ordinance:

“What GameStop does doesn’t meet any of the elements of the definition in the code, so the pawnbreaker ordinance doesn’t apply to GameStop.”

GameStop has issued a statement on the matter, saying the initiative was implemented at the request of local authorities and has been in place since the beginning of July.

"It's a process that we've recently implemented (starting in early July) in Philadelphia area stores at the request of the Philadelphia police department," the GameStop representative said. "[It] is a practice we've also put into place in other parts of the U.S., depending on local or statewide second-hand dealer or pawn broker laws. However, at this time we are reviewing the process to determine if it's one which should be continued in Philadelphia."

In several interviews conducted outside the local GameStop many customers voiced concerns with the new program. Customers told KYW Newsradio they were not thrilled with the company policy:
“I really don’t appreciate it. You fingerprinted me like I’m in a police district. No, I’m at a game store.”
“That is a little absurd, it’s just a video game.”
“I think it’s an overreach. It’s going too far.”
“I know that it only happens to people who go to jail, they get fingerprinted.”
“When I went, I got my finger scanned when he broke it out and said ‘I need your fingerprint,’ I said, ‘for what’?'”

The Philadelphia Police Department says the company is being proactive by storing fingerprints in a secure database – LeadsOnline – which is the nation’s largest online investigation system. This still begs the question however, if the city is not requesting the stores to meet the requirements then is this even lawful? Or should it be consider a violation of customer privacy?

We'd love to hear your feedback. Would you submit to fingerprinting in order to swap your games?