Blog Archives

Gripe all you want on social media, Chicago not bringing back ‘I voted’ stickers

Illinois primary voting

Chicagoans may have taken to social media to complain about not getting “I voted” stickers after casting their ballots in Tuesday’s primary, but that isn’t doing much to sway city election officials.

In other words, don’t expect to see them pop up — or make a comeback, the city issued them years ago — in polling places during the November general election, said Jim Allen, a spokesman for Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners.

Stickers don’t drive turnout, Allen said. “Voters come to the polls for the candidates, contests and issues on the ballots, not stickers,” he said. “If stickers were so important, why does Chicago pretty much always beat suburban Cook County in turnout?”  Read More

Sony hackers dump more chunks of stolen data, promise another ‘Christmas gift’

Sony Pictures

The Guardians of Peace, the hackers who plundered Sony Pictures’ servers, has leaked more data swiped from the movie studio – and threatened a bigger document dump in the run up to Christmas in a set of sinister messages.

It comes amid claims the Sony subsidiary’s bosses knew its systems had been hacked, and sensitive information leaked, in late 2013.

 “We are preparing for you a Christmas gift,” said the first message, which was briefly posted on Pastebin and Friendpaste on Saturday, stating: “The gift will be larger quantities of data. And it will be more interesting. The gift will surely give you much more pleasure and put Sony Pictures into the worst state.”

The message included torrent links to a new 6.45GB archive of uncompressed data titled “My Life At The Company – Part 2,” according an analysis by consultancy Risk Based Security. The archive contains 6,560 files in 917 folders.

The message also included five anonymous email addresses for people to send in requests for what data should be released next.

The postings were taken down quickly “for legal reasons,” as Friendpaste put it. Given Sony’s legal barrage against the media, threatening dire financial penalties if any more of the leaked data is reported, both sites presumably thought it prudent to pull the plug.  Read More

Google tests ultra high-speed wireless Internet technology


Google is seeking FCC permission to test new technology which could marry the speed of Google Fiber to wireless services.

In an application to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday, the tech giant requested permission to conduct tests in California across wireless spectrums. Of particular interest, asnoted by Reuters, is a rarely used millimeter-wave frequency that is capable of transmitting vast amounts of information across the air.

According to the publication, the tests could signal the creation of the base technology for use in high-speed, wireless connectivity — part of Google’s plan to extend its reach in the Internet service provider industry. If so, this would obliviate the need for underground cables or fiber. A fast broadband service beamed into our homes could act as an extension to Google’s slowly expanding Fiber service, which offers up to one gigabit in upload and download speed — but laying the groundwork is a slow process.

The application, signed off by Google Access and Energy division chief Craig Barratt, documents a 180-day test which the company says will provide “valuable insight into Google’s technology innovations and potential business plans and strategy.

” Although much of the application is redacted in order to protect confidential data, the tech giant states that the purpose of the test is to “expeditiously test radios in a way that is likely to contribute to the development, extension, expansion or utilization of the radio art.”

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Manners are still a minefield as modern technology confuses


Debrett’s, an authority on British manners, has published for the first time the questions they are most frequently asked by the public. But are manners something people still take seriously and how have they changed, asks Luke Jones.

Far from which fork to use for asparagus or how to address an Earl, the most popular questions asked of Debrett’s have a modern flavour. E-cigarettes, mobile phones and aeroplane seats are troubling the polite most of all.

A lot of technology is still relatively new, says Jo Bryant, an etiquette tutor at Debrett’s. “We’ve learned how to use them from the mistakes we’ve made, from when we have been rude or upset people.”

The polite use of mobile phones was the most queried. But new developments in communication technology have always thrown up questions of manners. An article in the Surrey Mirror in 1932 called for a phone code of conduct to be introduced, to stop the wasting of “valuable minutes”.

“Don’t mumble. Don’t shout. Speak slowly and naturally. Don’t exasperate your friends by leaving a maid who behaves like a nervous ninny to take phone messages. Teach the girl to answer properly.” The article even suggested regularly ringing your own number to check whether those in your own home “answer calls in the right way”.

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Hello Ello, Goodbye Facebook: Social media network without ads woos US users

Screenshot of Ello

Can social networks products function without advertising? So far, the most successful example of a social media product that didn’t rely on any advertising is WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for $19 billion.

While WhatsApp hasn’t been flooded with ads for now and it looks unlikely in the future, a new social media website called Ello, which has been created by California-based artist and designer Paul Budnitz, is premised on the no advertisers policy. Ello is invite-only for now and according to this post on TheDailyDot is also attracting several members of the LGBT community.

The website’s homepage says the idea is to not treat the user as a product and to keep user data and privacy safe. The page reads,  Read More

Dell unveils new laptops, tablets running Android and Windows 8

Dell on Wednesday unveiled its newest line of tablets and laptops, including an updated 13-inch ultrabook and a couple of Android tablets.

 Dell unveiled several new tablets, including a two Android tablets at 7 inches and 8 inches. Those products, the Dell Venue 7 and Dell Venue 8, run on Intel processors and will retail for $149 and $179, respectively.

The Dell Venue 8 Pro runs Windows 8 and comes with an optional stylus. It will retail for $299. Dell also showed off the Dell Venue 11 Pro, a Windows 8 tablet with optional detachable keyboard. Using the keyboard provides 17-plus hours of battery life, said Neil Hand, Dell’s head of tablets.

“A billion people will be using tablets over the next few years,” Hand said. “They’re already changing what consumers are doing right now. The question is what are we going to do to go off and lead in this market? We are really dedicated to growing a tablet business in the company and making sure we lead in that space.”

 The XPS 13 includes up to 10.5 hours of battery life and an updated Intel processor, dubbed Haswell. Sam Burd, vice president of Dell’s personal computer group, said it’s the “most compact 13-inch laptop on the planet” and has a full HD touch display.  Read More

More than free data: FreedomPop launches carrier-killing mobile service with free calls and texts

More than free data: FreedomPop launches carrier-killing mobile service with free calls and texts

For wireless Internet provider FreedomPop, the endgame was always to offer a completely free mobile service.

One year after successfully launching with the radical idea of offering free mobile data and cheap devices, FreedomPop today is launching a full-featured free mobile service, which comes with 500 text messages and 200 anytime minutes. It also comes with the company’s usual 500 megabytes of free data.

Like FreedomPop’s existing services, the new service runs on Sprint’s network. But while FreedomPop has recently moved to Sprint’s LTE network for its latest hotspot, the company is relying on the slower WiMax 4G network for its first phone, the HTC Evo Design, which it will offer for $99. FreedomPop is only buying up refurbished Evo Design units, which helps it cut costs, founder and chief executive Stephen Stokols told me.

Of course, FreedomPop’s service isn’t free forever: You can pay $10.99 to get unlimited voice and text (with no contract), and similarly you can pay for extra data. With its initial service, FreedomPop was the perfect way to get your grandmother online, or just about anyone who doesn’t need a dedicated broadband or cellular service. Now, FreedomPop has become the best way to get your older relatives fully connected.

After scoring $5 million in funding back in July, Stokols says FreedomPop has more than tripled its customer service staff. Now the company is able to respond to issues within a day, where it used to take more than three days. In a previous chat, Stokols mentioned that the company’s biggest mistake over the past year was underestimating its customer service needs. With this launch, he isn’t making the same mistake.  Read More


Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer dances at tearful send-off

Steve Ballmer

The 57-year-old danced to Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, and declared that the company would “change the world again”.

More than 13,000 Microsoft employees had queued to be a part of the annual company-wide event.

The firm has not yet announced a replacement chief executive.

Mr Ballmer will retire within the next year and will leave the company in a strategically precarious position as it looks to claw back lost ground in the mobile sector.

While at the helm, he became known for his vigorous and enthusiastic presentations in which he would routinely declare his love for Microsoft and its products.  Read More

BlackBerry reports large second quarter loss

Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry reported a major net second quarter loss Friday and said is is burning cash at a higher rate as it moves to execute a tentative deal that could take the company private.

Revenue for the quarter ended Aug. 31 was $1.6 billion, with a net loss of $965 million, or $1.84 a share. That compares with revenue of $2.9 billion and a loss of $229 million, or 44 cents a share, for the same quarter last year.

Adjusted net loss from continuing operations was $248 million, or 47 cents per share. The per-share loss was on the low side of the 47 cent-to-51-cent range that BlackBerry warned of last week, when it announced preliminary results and plans to lay off 4,500 employees. Wall Street analysts had expected a loss of 49 cents a share.  Read More

Google unveils major upgrade to search algorithm

Google has unveiled an upgrade to the way it interprets users’ search requests.

The new algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird, is the first major upgrade for three years.

It has already been in use for about a month, and affects about 90% of Google searches.

At a presentation on Thursday, the search giant was short on specifics but said Hummingbird is especially useful for longer and more complex queries.

Google stressed that a new algorithm is important as users expect more natural and conversational interactions with a search engine – for example, using their voice to speak requests into mobile phones, smart watches and other wearable technology.

Hummingbird is focused more on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor, Caffeine, which was targeted at better indexing of websites.

“We just changed Google’s engines mid-flight – again”

Amit SinghalSenior VP, Google Search

It is more capable of understanding concepts and the relationships between them rather than simply words, which leads to more fluid interactions. In that sense, it is an extension of Google’s “Knowledge Graph” concept introduced last year aimed at making interactions more human.  Read More

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