Friday, May 20, 2011

Silent Film App Can Make You a Techie Charlie Chaplin

Silent Film App Can Make You a Techie Charlie Chaplin

by Christina Bonnington,
April 8th 2011

Nothing adds nostalgia to a just-taken iPhone video like retro visual effects and silent film-inspired title cards.

The Silent Film Director app for iPhones can transform any video you take into a ’60s-style home movie or a 1920s-esque silent film, taking that Instagram effect and amping it up a few notches.

The app is available in Standard and Pro versions. With the Standard version, you can record or upload video and render it with a variety of video effects (including Black & White, ’70s Home Video and Sepia), add a soundtrack (default, or your own), and adjust the playing speed and quality of the video. With the Pro version, you get additional advanced features like title cards and transitions, and the ability to mix photos and video with separate effects.

The app is pretty straightforward to use. In Standard Mode, you’re taken to a screen that lets you choose the desired effect, quality, soundtrack and time scale, then you can either make or load a video. If, instead, you click on Pro Mode, you can add a project by clicking on the plus sign in the upper right hand corner, or work on a previously started project.

After naming a new project, you can adjust the same properties as Standard Mode, and click Add to start inserting customizable title cards, editable video clips and photos. You can rearrange and edit each section of your video using the Timeline.

I tried out the Pro version of the app with a video taken of me trying out a remote-controlled mechanical chair at a warehouse robot party (yes, I said warehouse robot party).

See Video:

Although I wish the preloaded music options automatically “finished” with a couple closing piano notes at the end, the app is easy to use and a fun way to spruce up some unexciting video footage … or create your silent film opus.

The Silent Film Director App is currently available for $0.99 in the App Store.

Thanks Alex!

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DIY: Adjustable Mic Stand From An IKEA Lamp

DIY: Adjustable Mic Stand From An IKEA Lamp

by Kyle Thibaut,
April 8th 2011

Having an adjustable mic stand is essential for home recording or podcasting. Those mics are so sensitive that you really have to place them in the right position. Unfortunately, decent articulating mic stands can be expensive. But, if you’re close enough to an IKEA store to buy an IKEA TERTIAL lamp, then you can make your own. It’s as easy as removing the bulb and head of the lamp and attaching a microphone to the end with a microphone mount.

Head over to IKEA Hackers for the how to.

[via Lifehacker]

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MTbiggie is a DIY Surface for the masses

MTbiggie is a DIY Surface for the masses (video)

by Terrence O'Brien,
April 11th 2011 8:25 PM

Practical or not, there is no denying the nerd-gasm inducing wow factor of Microsoft's Surface. Of course, Surface is expensive -- like, unless you're a millionaire you're probably not buying one for personal use expensive. There are some DIY solutions out there, but designer and developer Seth Sandler has come up with the cheapest and easiest yet. Built from about $400 worth of material (some of which you probably have lying about your home / apartment / dungeon), the MTbiggie brings big-screen multitouch to the masses. Like the hacker's previous homebrew multitouch device, the MTmini, there's nothing particularly difficult to find here. All you need is a couple of chairs, a mirror, a projector, an infrared webcam (which you can easily hack together with some old film negatives and cardboard), a big sheet of paper and an equally large piece of clear acrylic. Just set it all up according to the instructions in the video below and in no time you be finger painting and playing Angry Birds on a screen that dwarfs your iPad -- and possibly your kitchen table, too.

See Video:

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Google Linux servers hit with $5m patent infringement verdict • The Registe

Google Linux servers hit with $5m patent infringement verdict

by Cade Metz,
April 21st 2011 7:02 PM

A jury has found that in using Linux on its back-end servers, Google has infringed a patent held by a small Texas-based company and must pay $5m in damages.

In 2006, Bedrock Computer Technologies sued Google and several other outfits – including Yahoo!,, PayPal, and AOL – claiming they infringed on a patent filed in January 1997. The patent describes "a method and apparatus for performing storage and retrieval...that uses the hashing technique with the external chaining method for collision resolution", and the accusation is that companies infringed by using various versions of the Linux kernel on their servers.

At least some of those sued were using Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on the back-end. Google apparently uses its own version of Linux across its famously distributed infrastructure.

Bedrock is based in, yes, eastern Texas, a region famously friendly to patent holders. On April 15, an Eastern District jury found that the patent is valid and that Google has intend infringed. Google uses Linux on employee desktops (the so-called Goobuntu flavor) as well as its back-end servers. And since the suit was filed, the company has also used Linux as the basis for its Android and Chrome OS operating systems.

Asked to comment, a Google spokeswoman said: "Google will continue to defend against attacks like this one on the open source community. The recent explosion in patent litigation is turning the world’s information highway into a toll road, forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims, and wasting resources that would be much better spent investing in new technologies for users and creating jobs."

According to the jury verdict, Google infringed two claims in the patent. The first claim describes an information storage and retrieval system comprising:

  • a linked list to store and provide access to records stored in a memory of the system, at least some of the records automatically expiring
  • a record search means utilizing a search key to access the linked list
  • the record search means including a means for identifying and removing at least some of the expired ones of the records from the linked list when the linked list is accessed
  • a means – utilizing the record search means – for accessing the linked list and, at the same time, removing at least some of the expired ones of the records in the linked list

The second claim also includes a "means for dynamically determining maximum number for the record search means to remove in the accessed linked list of records". The jury found that Google did not provide by a "preponderance of evidence" that these clams were invalid.

Bedrock has also asked for an injunction preventing Google from infringing on its patent, but the court has yet to rule on this. Red Hat has also intervened in the case, asking the Bedrock patent be ruled invalid. ®

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Facebook caught exposing millions of user credentials • The Register

Facebook caught exposing millions of user credentials

by Dan Goodin,
May 10th 2011 7:23 PM

Facebook has leaked access to millions of users' photographs, profiles and other personal information because of a years-old bug that overrides individual privacy settings, researchers from Symantec said.

The flaw, which the researchers estimate has affected hundreds of thousands of applications, exposed user access tokens to advertisers and others. The tokens serve as a spare set of keys that Facebook apps use to perform certain actions on behalf of the user, such as posting messages to a Facebook wall or sending RSVP replies to invitations. For years, many apps that rely on an older form of user authentication turned over these keys to third parties, giving them the ability to access information users specifically designated as off limits.

The Symantec researchers said Facebook has fixed the underlying bug, but they warned that tokens already exposed may still be widely accessible.

“There is no good way to estimate how many access tokens have already been leaked since the release [of] Facebook applications back in 2007,” Symantec's Nishant Doshi wrote in a blog post published on Tuesday. “We fear a lot of these tokens might still be available in log files of third-party servers or still being actively used by advertisers.”

While many access tokens expire shortly after they're issued, Facebook also supplies offline access tokens that remain valid indefinitely. Facebook users can close this potential security hole by changing their passwords, which immediately revokes all previously issued keys.

The flaw resides in an authentication scheme that predates the roll out of a newer standard known as OAUTH. Facebook apps that rely on the legacy system and use certain commonly used code variables will leak access tokens in URLs that are automatically opened by the application host. The credentials can then be leaked to advertisers or other third parties that embed iframe tags on the host's page.

“The Facebook application is now in a position to inadvertently leak the access tokens to third parties potentially on purpose and unfortunately very commonly by accident,” Doshi wrote. “In particular, this URL, including the access token, is passed to third-party advertisers as part of the referrer field of the HTTP requests.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said there is no evidence the weakness has been exploited in ways that would violate the social network's privacy policy, which steadfastly promises: “We never share your personal information with our advertisers.” Facebook on Tuesday also announced it was permanently retiring the old authentication routine.

Doshi, who was assisted by fellow researcher Candid Wueest, said there's no way to know precisely how many apps or Facebook users were affected by the glitch. They estimate that as of last month, almost 100,000 applications were enabling the leakage and that over the years “hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties.”

Facebook over the years has regularly been criticized for compromising the security of its users, which now number more than 500 million. The company has rolled out improvements, such as always-on web encryption, although users still must be savvy enough to turn it on themselves, since the SSL feature isn't enabled by default.

As indicated above, all previously issued access tokens can be cleared by changing your Facebook password. Readers who aren't sure if they're affected might want to err on the side of security and update their password now. ®

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Apple to support reps: "Do not attempt to remove malware" | ZDNet

Apple to support reps: "Do not attempt to remove malware"

by Ed Bott,
May 19th 2011 7:00 AM

Apple is actively conducting an internal investigation into the Mac Defender malware attack I wrote about yesterday (here and here). An internal document with a Last Modified date of Monday, May 16, 2011 notes that this is an “Issue/Investigation In Progress.”

The document (shown below) provides specific instructions for support personnel to follow when dealing with a customer who has called AppleCare to request help with this specific attack.

There are two different resolution paths, depending on whether the customer says Mac Defender / Mac Security has or has not been installed.

According to this document, if the caller says he or she has not installed the software, the support rep should “suggest they quit the installer and delete the software immediately.” That is followed by this disclaimer:

AppleCare does not provide support for removal of the malware. You should not confirm or deny whether the customer’s Mac is infected or not.

If the software is already installed, support personnel are instructed to make sure all security updates have been installed using Software Update. They are then to direct the customer to the “What is Malware?” Help document using Finder. The final step is clear:

Explain that Apple does not make recommendations for specific software to assist in removing malware. The customer can be directed to the Apple Online Store and the Mac App Store for antivirus software options.

Finally, that is followed by these four bullet points.


  • Do not confirm or deny that any such software has been installed.
  • Do not attempt to remove or uninstall any malware software.
  • Do not send any escalations or contact Tier 2 for support about removing the software, or provide impact data.
  • Do not refer customers to the Apple Retail Store. The ARS does not provide any additional support for malware.

Apple has not responded to a request for comment on the ongoing Mac Defender attack or this policy.

How do Apple’s competitors handle Windows malware infections?

Microsoft provides free telephone support for security issues to all customers, regardless of whether the software was purchased at retail or as part of a new PC. Microsoft Support Article 129972 (last updated May 17, 2011) contains these instructions:

How to obtain computer virus and security-related support

For United States and Canada

The computer safety team is available for computer virus and for other security-related support 24 hours a day in the United States and in Canada.

To obtain computer virus and security-related support, follow these steps:

  1. Before you contact a support engineer, make sure that you run updated antivirus software and updated spyware removal software on the infected computer.For more information about how to obtain a free computer safety scan, visit the following Microsoft Web site: For more information about antispyware software, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
  2. Call 1-866-PCSAFETY or call 1-866-727-2338 to contact security support.

For locations outside North America

To obtain computer virus and security-related support for locations outside North America, visit the following Microsoft Web site:

A page at Microsoft’s Security TechCenter includes similar information for security professionals.

Dell directs customers to third-party security software partners for removal. It also offers paid malware removal services for $129 (phone) or $229 (in person). The service uses the tag line “No fix. No fee.”

HP provides a similar paid service. “Virus and spyware removal” are included in the services offered with the HP PC Tune-up Service. It’s available for a one-time fee of $99 or a monthly subscription fee of $10.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Social networks must police kids' profiles, says EC • The Register

Social networks must police kids' profiles, says EC

April 21st 2011 7:18 AM

Social network sites must ensure that children's profiles are visible only to the child's friends and cannot be found on a search engine, the European Commission has said.

The Commission adopted its stance after a survey (13-page/198KB PDF) found that an increasing number of children were flouting social network age limits to set up their accounts. The survey was funded by the Commission and published by the EU Kids Online network.

EU Kids Online quizzed 25,000 young people across Europe and found that 38 per cent of children aged between nine and 12 have a social network profile. The figure was 77 per cent for children aged between 13 and 16. Most social networks ban children under the age of 13 from having profiles.

"Growing numbers of children are on social networking sites but many are not taking all necessary steps to protect themselves online. These children are placing themselves in harm's way, vulnerable to stalkers and groomers," Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said.

"All social networking companies should ... immediately make minors' profiles accessible by default only to their approved list of contacts and out of search engines' reach. And those companies that have not yet signed up to the EU's Safer Networking Principles should do so without delay so as to ensure our children's safety," Kroes said.

The Safer Social Networking Principles (19-page/901KB PDF) are self-regulatory guidelines that social network companies can adopt to meet EU safety standards for protecting minors.

Under the Safer Social Networking Principles, companies agree to provide clear, targeted guidance to allow children to navigate their services safely.

They also agree to limit exposure that children have to age-appropriate content and delete underage users from their service. The companies must also give users the tools to adapt privacy settings, block unwanted contact and report inappropriate content, the Safer Social Networking Principles say.

In 2009, 17 major web firms signed up to adopt the guidelines. The Commission shortly plans to publish an evaluation of how successful the guidelines have been implemented by some of those companies that adopted them.

The EU Kids Online survey found that the number of children using social network sites is growing, with many children falsifying their age to meet age limits on the sites.

"Many providers try to restrict their users to 13-year-olds and above but we can see that this is not effective," one of the report authors, Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics and Political Science, said.

The survey also found that 27 per cent of children aged between nine and 16 make their social network profiles open to the public to view. Children aged between nine and 12 were no more likely to restrict access to their profiles than the teenagers surveyed, the report said.

"Children are rather more, not less, likely to post personal information when their profiles are public rather than private or partially private. One fifth of children whose profile is public display their address and/or phone number, twice as many as for those with private profiles. It cannot be determined here whether this is deliberate or is because some children struggle to manage the privacy features of their SNS," the EU Kids Online survey report said.

"Around half of the children who use SNS say that they have included at least one of these three things on their SNS profile; their address, their phone number or the name of their school. By far the most common is the name of their school," the report said.

The report also highlighted the problems children face in changing their privacy settings on SNS.

"Just over half of the 11-12 year olds rising to over three quarters of the 15-16 year olds know how to change the privacy settings on their profile. Children’s ability to manage privacy settings vary somewhat by SNS, suggesting differences in design, none of the SNS stands out as particularly successful in providing settings that children can manage," the report said.

"Given its popularity, it is of concern that almost half of the younger Facebook users, and a quarter of the older Facebook users say they are not able to change their privacy settings. Since not all children can manage privacy settings, it is possible that those whose profiles are set to ‘public’ have not done so on purpose," the report said.

The European Commission's reaction to the survey comes on the same day that Ofcom, the UK's media regulator, reported that children's online activity has increased in the past year.

Ofcom conducted a media literacy survey (107-page/500KB PDF) and found that nearly half of parents think their children, aged between five and 15, know more about the internet than they do.

The survey also found that 41 per cent of parents said their children aged between 12 and 15 have access to the internet in their bedroom, which is a rise from 31 per cent in 2009.

Copyright © 2011,

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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Seth's Blog: The future of the library

The future of the library

by Seth Godi,
May 16th 2011

What is a public library for?

First, how we got here:

Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as a small house. As a result, only kings and bishops could afford to own a book of their own.

This naturally led to the creation of shared books, of libraries where scholars (everyone else was too busy not starving) could come to read books that they didn't have to own. The library as warehouse for books worth sharing.

Only after that did we invent the librarian.

The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

After Gutenberg, books  got a lot cheaper. More individuals built their own collections. At the same time, though, the number of titles exploded, and the demand for libraries did as well. We definitely needed a warehouse to store all this bounty, and more than ever we needed a librarian to help us find what we needed. The library is a house for the librarian.

Industrialists (particularly Andrew Carnegie) funded the modern American library. The idea was that in a pre-electronic media age, the working man needed to be both entertained and slightly educated. Work all day and become a more civilized member of society by reading at night.

And your kids? Your kids need a place with shared encyclopedias and plenty of fun books, hopefully inculcating a lifelong love of reading, because reading makes all of us more thoughtful, better informed and more productive members of a civil society.

Which was all great, until now.

Want to watch a movie? Netflix is a better librarian, with a better library, than any library in the country. The Netflix librarian knows about every movie, knows what you've seen and what you're likely to want to see. If the goal is to connect viewers with movies, Netflix wins.

This goes further than a mere sideline that most librarians resented anyway. Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get better and cheaper as the years go by? Kids don't shlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won't unless coerced.

They need a librarian more than ever (to figure out creative ways to find and use data). They need a library not at all.

When kids go to the mall instead of the library, it's not that the mall won, it's that the library lost.

And then we need to consider the rise of the Kindle. An ebook costs about $1.60 in 1962 dollars. A thousand ebooks can fit on one device, easily. Easy to store, easy to sort, easy to hand to your neighbor. Five years from now, readers will be as expensive as Gillette razors, and ebooks will cost less than the blades.

Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.

Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data.

The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books. Just in time for the information economy, the library ought to be the local nerve center for information. (Please don't say I'm anti-book! I think through my actions and career choices, I've demonstrated my pro-book chops. I'm not saying I want paper to go away, I'm merely describing what's inevitably occurring). We all love the vision of the underprivileged kid bootstrapping himself out of poverty with books, but now (most of the time), the insight and leverage is going to come from being fast and smart with online resources, not from hiding in the stacks.

The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.

The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it's fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.

The next library is filled with so many web terminals there's always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don't view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight--it's the entire point.

Wouldn't you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.

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Librarians fight for a role in a digital world - The Globe and Mail

Librarians fight for a role in a digital world | May 16th 2011

In a time before the internet, children gathered among stacks of books arranged according to letters and numbers taped to their spines. There, a wise person known as a teacher-librarian would guide students’ imaginations to far off places through the pages of atlases, encyclopedias and other rare texts.

Today, many Canadian children have never even seen a school librarian and never will. Nova Scotia has none, and the full-time equivalent of just three are left in all of New Brunswick. At least one school board in Ontario hasn’t had a teacher-librarian in 15 years, and numbers have declined in Alberta and British Columbia as well.

Spring is a hard season for bibliophiles, as school boards across the country set their budgets for next school year. In recent weeks at least two Ontario boards have decided to cut library staff.

Teacher-librarians have been among the first to be sacrificed when boards make cuts, and the digital innovations they help students navigate are now being used as the justification for eliminating their jobs, and Canada is bucking an international trend of investing in school libraries.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, will release a special report on the decline of school libraries on Monday.

The study shows that less than 12 per cent of Ontario elementary schools have a full-time librarian, and small communities, particularly in the north, are most likely to go without. Today, barely half have even a part-time librarian, down from 80 per cent in 1997/98.

The group’s concerns are about more than nostalgia: School libraries and librarians have been linked to several measures of student achievement, including standardized test scores and a love of reading. Most studies have come out of the United States and Australia, but Canadian researchers confirmed in 2006 that these benefits transcend borders and remain strong in a post-internet world.

“It’s not surprising that when you’ve got engaged teacher-librarians, they’re going to engage the students more and the more they engage our children the better they learn,” said Donald Klinger, the Queen’s University professor who led the new study.

What did surprise Prof. Klinger was the strength of the association between students’ performance on standardized tests and the presence of school librarians: His study showed scores were boosted by as much as 8 per cent.

Reasoning that digital records can replace teacher-librarians is backward, according Roger Nevin, a high school librarian in Peterborough, Ont. He said that he and his colleagues are on the front lines explaining the limitations of Wikipedia, protecting online student privacy and preventing cyber-bullying.

“A lot of people don’t realize their kids’ library is very different from when they went to school,” said Mr. Nevin, who is also the president of the Ontario School Librarian Association. “Two-thirds of my job now is dealing with technology.”

The OSLA decided at a recent emergency meeting to begin surveying and counting its membership. Part of the problem is that a lack of research and federal oversight in education gives only glimpses of their dwindling numbers.

“The role of the teacher librarian has not been well understood across the country, and it’s very hard to make a case for a position for which you don’t have very clear guidelines, policies and expectations,” said Dianne Oberg, a professor at the University of Alberta whose research focuses on school libraries.

In April, declining enrolment forced the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board in southern Ontario to make up a projected $8-million to $10-million reduction in provincial funding. Trustees voted to lay off 16 secretaries, several teachers, and nearly all 39 library technicians. At the same time, Peterborough’s Catholic school board, east of Toronto, also said it is cutting library staff.

“We have to get past the old concept, the old tradition of what libraries used to be...” said Cathy Geml, associate director of education for the WECDSB. Books quickly become outdated and inaccurate, and the board is focusing its resources on internet research.

“We have people in various capacities in the secondary schools that are teachers and administrators who could support and teach digital literacy throughout the day.”

But that’s exactly what teacher-librarians are supposed to do, Prof. Oberg said. Since they became a mainstay of public education in the 1960s, teacher-librarians have improved and modernized the classroom.

“It amazes me that we have as a society decided in Canada to pull back on teacher librarians,” said Prof. Oberg. “….While in Europe over the last 10 years, in Norway, in Sweden, in Portugal, Italy, Finland, there have been major national programs for improving school libraries and investing in school libraries as a force for improvement of education.”

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Voice mail? That's so last century -

Voice mail? That's so last century

by Daniella Wexler,
May 16th 2010

The Pew Internet and American Life Project last fall reported that teens were texting five times more often per day than adults. And Nielsen Co. said teens send an average of six texts every hour they're awake. Texting overall jumped 31 percent in 2010, according to CTIA - The Wireless Association.

This may be why an informal survey of 57 people by The Inquirer found a clear generation gap when it comes to voice mail.

More than half of the 35 respondents younger than 35 said they were in no rush to check their voice mail, listening to it only every few hours or days.

Seventy-six percent of those younger than 35 said they favored texts or e-mails, while those older than 55 said they preferred phone calls and voice mail.

"I hate checking voice mails," said one young participant. "Once I accidentally got fired because I missed a voice mail from my boss telling me to come in - got it a week later."

Checking voice mails often requires a separate phone call, which can be a deterrent. Why waste phone plan minutes if you can just return the missed call? IPhones solve the problem by archiving messages so that they can be played back with one touch, but many young people still don't see the point.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Bob Varettoni said his company does not disclose statistics regarding voice-mail usage but noted that text usage had skyrocketed over the last few years, from 9.6 billion texts sent or received by Verizon Wireless customers in the United States during the first quarter of 2006 to 180 billion texts sent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Parents text now, too, if only to keep in touch with their children.

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Ban on Twitter, Facebook election-night posts draconian

Ban on Twitter, Facebook election-night posts draconian

by Paula Simons,
April 20th 2011

Average Canadians and media outlets who post poll results from the country's East Coast before polls close in B.C. could face fines for "premature transmission" of Elections Canada information.  

EDMONTON — Imagine living in a country where the government made it a crime to report on election results, where the state actually imposed a nationwide media blackout to prevent people at one end of the country from knowing how, or whether, people at the other end were voting.

Imagine living in a country where it was illegal for ordinary citizens living in Newfoundland or New Brunswick to post comments about election results on their personal Facebook walls before the polls had closed on Vancouver Island.

Imagine living in a country where you could face a maximum $25,000 fine, or up to five years in prison, for "tweeting" about election results in your region on Twitter without government permission.

It shouldn't be hard. You already live there.

Back in 1938, when radio was king, Canada's election law was amended to include a ban on the "premature transmission" of electoral results across time zones. The idea was to prevent radio broadcasts of election results in Eastern Canada from influencing voter behaviour in the West.

The law, frankly, was always patronizing and paternalistic. There has never been any evidence that voting patterns in the West were, or would be, influenced by results from the East. Even if they were, why should the government deny voters in the West the opportunity to cast their ballots in the most informed way possible?

In 1938 and even 1988, the ban was reasonably enforceable. There were only a handful of national TV and radio broadcasters, and they all followed the law. Newspapers, which couldn't even publish their print editions until the next day, followed the law, too, as a matter of course.

This, though, is 2011, a digital universe in which media consumers expect TV channels and newspaper websites to provide them with live, breaking news in real time. It's a social media universe in which ordinary Canadians are now passionately engaged in talking about politics with people across the country via Twitter and Facebook, where online political and social communities transcend geography.

Yet Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act still prohibits transmitting the results of the vote in any electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the polling stations close in that other electoral district.

That means on May 2, it will be illegal for Postmedia News — or the CBC or Radio-Canada or the Globe and Mail or the National Post or any other national media outlet — to maintain a live website with up-to-date results. At least until after the polls close in B.C.

It will also be illegal for a regional newspaper or broadcaster in Atlantic Canada to put up live web results for their local audience — because then we backwoods westerners might have the temerity to sneak a peak.

It will also be illegal for any citizen, journalist or not, to tweet or blog or post something on a Facebook wall about the election results, until all the polls are shut.

Ordinary citizens aren't immune. In 2000, Elections Canada brought charges against a Vancouver blogger and software designer named Paul Bryan after he dared to publish election results from Atlantic Canada on his small-audience blog. Bryan was fined $1,000. He fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, with major media outlets from across the country joining his battle. It did no good. In 2007, by a vote of 5-4, the court upheld Bryan's conviction, and Section 329.

The four minority judges were passionate in their dissent.

Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for her dissenting colleagues, put it this way: "There is only speculative and unpersuasive evidence to support the government's claim that the information imbalance is of sufficient harm to voter behaviour or perceptions of electoral unfairness that it outweighs any damage done to a fundamental and constitutionally protected right."

The law is even more absurd today, when our country is in the middle of an interactive social media revolution, and when more and more readers get their news not from hard copy "newspapers" but from 24-hour live news sites.

You only have to look back to 2008, when we had our last federal election, to grasp how remarkably our media ecosystem has altered in just 2 1/2 years. Section 329 has been rendered obsolete by new forms of mass communication, forms of media that could hardly have been imagined in 1938.

Realistically, Elections Canada cannot possibly enforce a nationwide ban on premature tweeting or blogging or Facebooking of election results. It's the equivalent of King Canute commanding the sea to go back.

Nonetheless, John Enright, who speaks for Elections Canada, says his agency has no choice but to administer the law as written. Citizens are allowed to phone or text friends, or send private e-mails. But posting to a Facebook wall, to a webpage or to Twitter will be considered a violation.

"The legislation is still on the books, so our role as Elections Canada is to administer the legislation that is before us," says Enright. "If there's a breach of the law, Elections Canada is not going to discriminate between the Mothercorp and Joe Smith down the street."

You have to sympathize, at least a bit, with Elections Canada. Staff there have been given an impossible, ridiculous assignment.

The law may be ridiculous, but Elections Canada bureaucrats didn't write it — and the Harper government didn't fix it, after the 2007 Supreme Court ruling.

Ironically, a decade ago, when blogger Paul Bryan was charged with breaching the act, the National Citizens Coalition was firmly on his side.

"These jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control," said the NCC president, one Stephen Harper, at the time. "The government's law is outdated and just plain wrong."

Harper was right then. Now, his own government's law is even more outdated.

Last week, the CBC and CTV went to court to seek a declaration that Section 329 was unconstitutional, but the court declined to hear their arguments before May 2.

We can only hope that this election will finally prove to the courts that such a news blackout is not only a condescending relic of the 1930s that treats voters like sheep, but also an unenforceable law that criminalizes routine social media conversation and denies Canadians the right to the kind of in-depth, interactive, online news reporting they have come to expect, and undoubtedly deserve.

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Learning To Fly: The Four Stages of Social Business

Learning To Fly: The Four Stages of Social Business | Apr 22nd 2011

Time to talk about social business planning again. My mother always told me, you have to "walk before you run" and as it turns out, the same is true for organizations looking to move from social media as a set of un-connected, chaotic collection of skunk work initiatives to a coordinated and purposeful initiative that works through the entire organization. Of course, this will take time—years most likely. But it's inevitable in my estimation. As I've said before—the end game is integration. The above chart is generic—it can be applied to some organizations (especially large ones with a global footprint). If your company wants to learn to fly and integrate a social "layer" into everything you do here are a few thoughts as you plot your own roadmap:

Crawling: People, Process, Procedure
In the initial stage of the evolving your business into one that not only leverages "social media" in one function (such as marketing), an organization must come to the point where it realizes it "has a problem". Then the first stage can begin on the right footing. "Crawling" involves putting in the right infrastructure which includes some organizational re-design. This is when the center of excellence should be formed and where education, standardization and active listening is put in place.

Walking: Managing Your Properties
With some basic infrastructure in place, an organization must now "take stock" of all the social properties which either exist or need to and devise the appropriate strategy to get these properties moving in the right direction. In this stage assets like content are especially important as it's lower risk than really diving in deeply and over-engaging. However, this is also the stage where an organization really defines its engagement strategy across multiple business functions, from employee to customer care to outward marketing and more.

Running: Ecosystem Engagement At Scale
At this stage, an organization has put in the internal and external designs in place and are running multiple social initiatives at a global scale with an established degree of efficiency. Most importantly an organization has evolved into one that can engage with multiple stakeholders to the level that works for its business (regulated industries will have unique challenges here). At the running stage, multiple ecosystems are also connected—for example the process and tools for managing scores of social networks have been formalized.

Flying: Social Innovation & Organizational Integration
Organizations at this stage have not only integrated "social" ito most everything they do—they are using the intelligence to improve their business, create new products and services and can digest data in ways that predict potential future outcomes. Organizations which "fly" have embedded a social mindset into much of what they do and have re-tooled entire business functions. For example, an organization which has completely overhauled its customer service function to work as effectively as it does in channels such as a call center (at scale) are at the flying stage in some degree.

From my experience talking and working with large global brands—very few are even close to flying but most seem to have a desire to get there at some point, understanding that the process will be a long and winding road. I've found this model resonates both at the CMO, CEO and senior management levels. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

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Bodychecking banned by Ontario hockey body - Ottawa - CBC News

Bodychecking banned by Ontario hockey body | May 6th 2011 10:24 AM

Beginning of Story Content

The Ontario Hockey Federation's decision to ban bodychecking will likely draw more players to the game and keep others from dropping out, experts say.

The federation is making the change — which affects players between the ages of six and 21 — in an effort to create a safer environment for new players to develop skills.

"Probably the hottest topic over the course of the winter was concussions and some of the injuries that were occurring in the game," said Tony Martindale, executive director of the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario.

"I think the biggest concern is we all have to look at ways of keeping kids in the game longer."

The rule change, which was announced Wednesday, affects house league and select players in most of the province, though Ottawa and Thunder Bay aren't governed by the OHF.

Ottawa house and select leagues are governed by the Ottawa District Hockey Association, while Hockey Northwestern Ontario governs leagues in the Thunder Bay area.

House league includes players of all skill levels while select teams are made up of the top house league players.

York University health professor Alison Macpherson, who was among the first researchers to call for bodychecking to be disallowed in recreational hockey, calls it a great first step.

"I know some parents keep their kids out of hockey, especially out of competitive hockey, because they worry about the injuries that might ensue when kids are allowed to bodycheck," she said Thursday.

Bodychecking debated since 1981

OHF spokesman Phil McKee says parents have been calling on officials to ban bodychecking for years.

"Bodychecking's been a debate at every level for the past 30 years," he said. "It's been discussed since 1981."

Until now parents who wanted their child to play non-contact hockey didn't have many options, said Macpherson.

"There is pretty good scientific evidence that bodychecking, especially under the bantam level (age 13 and 14), leads to injury in youth ice hockey," she said.

A study published last year found kids who were bodychecked were about 2.45 times more likely to suffer an injury than kids who didn't play with body contact and 1.7 times more likely to suffer a concussion, she said.

"Kids are more likely to play if they think they're not going to get hurt," said Macpherson. "Which is great because we have an obesity epidemic."

End of Story Content

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lynx launches social media app

Lynx launches social media app

by Rosie Baker,
May 6th 2011

Unilever’s Lynx brand has created an app that aggregates social media content for friends that want to produce a digital record of a get together. .

The Lynx Stream has been developed to aggregate Facebook, Twitter and mobile activity including video and pictures into a combined stream that can be shared via social media the next day.

Users can organise an event and invite friends to participate in the stream. Members can remove or delete content at any point.

Josh Dean, Lynx senior global brand manager says the brand wants to build communities around owned media platforms.

Dean adds: “Unilever is in the business of selling products but also building strong brands. The Lynx Stream is a piece of masterbrand activity - a brand equity driver - it’s not about products.”

The Lynx Stream will also act as a media channel to promote future brand and product campaigns, but Dean maintains that its core function is as a social platform.

The free app launches on iPhone and Android in the UK today (6 May). It was developed by US based agency Razorfish.

The app may be rolled out globally under the Lynx/Axe brand dependent on feedback to the UK pilot.

Unilever doubled its digital investment last year and CMO Keith Weed has previously spoken about mobile as being “exceptionally important” to driving growth for Unilever the business.

The Lynx brand is one of the FMCG company’s most innovative brands in the digital space. It previously used Apple’s iAd platform as its primary media channel for the launch of the Fallen Angels campaign for its new Excite range and an augmented reality experiential campaign using digital billboards to project its “fallen angels” onto the high street.

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Need Some Part Time Work? Use Your iPhone: Tech News and Analysis «

Need Some Part Time Work? Use Your iPhone

by Ryan Kim,
May 4th 2011 4:00 AM

The iPhone has been quietly taking money out of people’s pockets with its addictive apps. But a new app is looking to put some money back, by turning iPhone users into an on-demand mobile workforce. Gigwalk is launching publicly in the App Store after a six-month beta, offering a way for iPhone users to make up to $1,600 a month doing temporary mobile tasks like collecting and reporting real world data with their phones.

The app allows companies of all sizes to quickly deploy mobile workers that can send back data from the field. Real estate companies can use it to get pictures of properties, product companies can find out if retailers are properly featuring their wares and mapping providers can use it to confirm points of interest or a street name. TomTom, for instance, uses Gigwalk to verify its maps.

Ariel Seidman, CEO and co-founder of Gigwalk, said the iPhone is creating the opportunity to build a purpose-based network where companies can leverage the distribution of all of these phones for business purposes. That in turn can create a new economy that benefits both companies and iPhone users looking for some extra money.

“We’re turning iPhones into a global workforce where businesses can collect real-world data on the ground,” Seidman.

Gigwalk is also announcing a $1.7 million seed round today, with investment from Reid Hoffman of Greylock Discovery Fund, Jeff Clavieer of Softech VC, Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal, Bill Trenchard of Founder Collective and Alex Lloyd of Accelerator Ventures.

Seidman said Gigwalk — which is available in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Miami — is replacing work that used to go to temp agencies and Craigslist. But the company is not just trying to bring employers and iPhone users together, it’s creating a routing system that uses reputation to deliver jobs to the most proficient nearby Gigwalkers. Gigwalkers can earn anywhere from $3 to $90 or each gig with a $1,600 cap each month. Seidman said Gigwalkers in the beta were often people with seasonal jobs and students.

Seidman said that with its public launch, companies can submit their own gigs without having to coordinate with Gigwalk. He said there are a wide array of applications for this kind of work, giving companies access to a pair of eyes on the street at any time. He expects companies will eventually integrate Gigwalk into their business plans, leaning on its workforce for more and more jobs. Gigwalk wins by taking in a percentage of each job payment.

I think Gigwalk is a cool idea and a logical step for companies already looking to outsource small tasks. Devices like the iPhone are turning into real world sensors that can report back all kinds of data. Why not harness that distributed power and call upon it when you need it? These devices are not just able to capture data but they’re able to report back instantly over wireless networks. It’s a win both for companies needing temporary help and iPhone users looking for a little spending cash. If they’re like me, they could use some more money after all the apps they’ve downloaded.

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Could this PaperPhone be the future?

Could this PaperPhone be the future?

by Gloria Si,
May 6th 2011 3:22 AM

Gloria Sin is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes about the tech toys that you can't live without for ZDNet. She has little patience for poorly designed user experiences, and is not afraid of opening the guts of her own machines for repair or hacking her gadgets for new uses.

She has written for, Popular Science, Olympic News Service; she currently covers the startup scene in the Tri-State area for

Prior to ZDNet, Gloria was the online editor for Dance International, and dabbled in web design and social media consulting. When she is offline, you will find her at an ice rink living out her figure skating dreams. Follow her on Twitter.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

ICT classes in school should be binned – IT biz body • The Register

ICT classes in school should be binned – IT biz body

by Lewis Page,
April 21st 2011 8:10 AM

Schools should stop teaching ICT lessons in their current form as the subject is failing both pupils and employers, according to trade bod Intellect.

"We believe that ICT in its current form should not be a statutory programme of study," says John Hoggard, Intellect education honcho.

"Takeup of ICT courses is falling – GCSE courses in ICT show a 57 per cent decline in numbers between 2005 and 2010.  And the basic ICT skills being generated by the education system are not meeting the needs of pupils or their potential employers. Our member companies tell us that they often have to spend considerable time up-skilling employees as a result of the current ICT teaching," he added.

Intellect and its biz partners believe that the way ahead is to embed basic ICT competency across every subject and teach higher-value computing skills separately. The organisation's response to a recent gov review of the national curriculum says that computing should be a separate subject available to pupils from Key Stage 3 onwards with options to follow a progression path where they learn increasingly more advanced skills. Intellect also says that computing should also be part of the English Baccalaureate.

Intellect's industry partners suggest that apart from advanced computing skills for some and ICT competence for all there is a critical need for general mathematics-based sci/tech knowledge – an area often referred to as STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths).

"STEM skills and a flow of students with those skills are not only crucial to the future success of our business but also to the success of the UK high tech industry," says Tim Hatch of Intel, who is a member of Intellect's education group.

"Intel sees other countries, especially emerging markets, evaluating the skills they need and developing curriculums to match to ensure future growth.  It is vital that we develop our advanced computing, STEM and basic ICT skills in the UK to ensure we can compete with these emerging economies and this work needs to begin in our schools."

Intellect argues that interactive and multimedia technology should be used across all lessons, which would help every pupil, no matter what subjects they might later choose to specialise in, to acquire ICT competency. The organisation suggests that tech biz could play a role by supporting training for teachers.

Intellect's document on ICT and computing in schools can be read here (four-page PDF/137KB). ®

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Ingenious owner saves Rare Porsche from flood with floating parking spot -

Ingenious owner saves Rare Porsche from flood with floating parking spot

by GM will bring,
May 4th 2011 2:00 PM

Matt HardigreeThe owner of what appears to be a rare 964 Porsche 911 saved his car from the floodwaters encroaching his or her property near Louisville, Kentucky with the help of what looks like an inflatable cushion tethered to the house.Update!

April's severe weather wasn't limited to just tornadoes as flooding occurred across large swaths of the country, including in Kentucky along the Ohio River. Given the height of the property above the river, this landowner seems to recognize the threat of flooding. But what of the car?

With a garage on the floor level it looks like this owner went the extra step to make certain his/her pride and joy wasn't destroyed using an inflatable raft tied to the corner of the house (presumably so the 911 doesn't float in the wrong hands).

Exactly what 964 is worth this kind of treatment? Hard to tell from this one aerial shot, but the widebody kit and overall look indicates it could be one of the Porsche America Roadsters, of which only 250 were made. Even if it wasn't, only 702 C2 turbo-look roadsters were ever built.

If anyone knows who owns this car please let us know what it is or if it survived the cresting of the river.

UPDATE: Commenter Estaboga used his Google Earth skills and some information from friends to find the house and points out why the flotation might have been necessary:

I spoke to one of my co-workers who has seen the house firsthand, and he said it sits up a lot higher than what it looks like in the Google Earth image. So one can surmise that the access road through the marina got flooded before he could get the Fly Yellow Cab out, so enter the flotations devices. Well played sir, well played.

Well played, indeed. Another reader also points out that the device in question is an inflatable boat lift. Probably built by Air Dock.

Photo: AP

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Monday, May 2, 2011

AT&T’s Suitcase Cell Tower Delivers Extra Coverage in a Pinch

AT&T’s Suitcase Cell Tower Delivers Extra Coverage in a Pinch

by Christina Bonnington,
April 25th 2011

Emergencies and natural disasters are when we need reliable communication most — and that’s often the very time that cell towers get swamped and fail us.

In order to prepare for such situations, AT&T has released the Remote Mobility Zone, a kind of impromptu cell tower in a small package that can be quickly deployed after disaster strikes (or when connecting to regular towers just isn’t happening). They can be set up in any area AT&T normally offers coverage, when the service is disrupted for whatever reason.

First is the “Fly Away,” a portable cell tower packed into a suitcase that government and first responders can use to get cell service back to an area quickly. “Fly Away” incorporates a satellite dish that can be mounted on a car or truck and is powered by a generator or some other outside power source. It takes about half an hour to set up, and can support data services (at sub-broadband speeds) and up to 14 calls at once.

The “Fixed-Site Solution” establishes a mounted dish that can be used as a back-up communications system to support up to 100 simultaneous users.

Finally, “Park and Use” is a government-only integrated car system that provides mobile cell service through roof-mounted satellites. Clients of these services can also subscribe to AT&T WIreless Priority Service to ensure that key personnel have access to the network by prioritizing the traffic that passes through.

Hopefully, such solutions will prevent problems like Verizon experienced during the Northeast’s Snow-pocalypse this year, where the carrier dropped at least 10,000 emergency calls. But if these measures aren’t already in place in an area, it could still take hours or days for first responders to reach the site and set up these services.

The personal cell phone towers cost between $15,000 and $45,000 (plus annual fees) and will be available to corporate and government entities.

Remote Mobility Zone [AT&T via Fast Company]

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Geely McCar comes with an electric scooter for people who hate walking

Geely McCar comes with an electric scooter for people who hate walking

by Dana Wollm,
April 25th 2011 1:37 PM

Find the use of your legs inconvenient? Behold the Geely McCar, an ultra compact, two-door car that still manages to tuck an electric scooter in the back. Geely, the Chinese company that now owns Volvo, is hoping you'll use it for everything from golfing to navigating urban sprawl to traversing the Mall of America parking lot (and then escorting yourself to the Cinnabon once you're inside). The car itself comes in two versions: an all-electric one with a 12kWh battery that claims up to 93 miles on a charge, and a hybrid iteration that promises up to 31 miles on just electric power and 373 on a mix of gas and electricity. The scooter, meanwhile, can last up to 18 miles -- and be swapped out for a wheelchair for people with disabilities. Since debuting at the Shanghai Auto Show, there's been no word on whether the McCar will ship stateside, why this arrangement beats packing your own scooter -- or how much McDonald's loathes that name.

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Facebook & Video Chat App for PlayBook Coming in May

by Stan Schroeder,
May 2nd 2011

A native Facebook app and a video chat app for BlackBerry PlayBook are coming in May, RIM has announced.

The Facebook app will offer all the standard Facebook bells and whistles, including viewing and adding friends, managing friend requests, browsing through profiles and interacting with wall posts and photos. Uploading and managing videos and photos should be easy, and if you connect the PlayBook to an HDTV you’ll be able to see them in full 1080p glory. Finally, news feed management and interaction as well as chat will also be included.

Video chat will work on Wi-Fi connected PlayBooks, offering one-click video and voice calls, incoming call notifications, as well as in-app friends list and call log. The app will enable users to switch cameras from front to rear (if you want to show someone what you’re seeing), preview their video image before placing the call, as well as turn audio and video on and off as needed.

Both apps will be showcased this week at the BlackBerry World 2011 conference in Orlando, Florida.

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