Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
27 June 2013

North Korea Builds Its Own Tablet, Fails to Include the Internet


North Korea has come out with what’s basically its own version of an iPad: The Samjiyon.
Unlike the iPad, which is used to access the Internet to get movies, books, and music in addition to communications and basic web-browsing, the Samjiyon does not get Wi-Fi, and is instead basically a touchscreen tablet devoted to delivering government propaganda and also slingshot games, because North Korea.

Even though the Samjiyon can’t access the Internet, you can still use it to enjoy the media that comes built in to the tablet. Predictably, this media centers around praising Kim Jong Un as a great general and teaching children such important skills as how to properly line up, draw a red flag, or offer unquestioning support of their Glorious Leader.

Fake iPad or food storage? Tough call.
There are a few games as well: Slingshot, the requisite Angry Birds ripoff; several combat-themed games, most of which revolve around shooting tanks; and a sports game, in which you flick basketballs towards a hoop. No word on whether or not Kim Jong Un’s BFF Dennis Rodman makes an appearance in that last one — personally, we’d rather see him shooting tanks, as we all know that the real official sport of North Korea is “fake warfare.”

Not sure the lack of anything resembling fun will take people’s minds off the fact they live in North Korea.
While Kim Jong Un remains a walking joke and occasional meme subject whose threats of warfare are laughed off in the West, he does still manage to make life pretty terrible for people actually living in North Korea. While we can’t do anything about that, we are glad to hear that there’s at least one project siphoning resources away from the regime’s uglier military aspirations.

In fact, this sort of tech arms race could be just the thing to keep Kim Jong Un and company busy not building nuclear weapons. What are the odds we can convince the UN to drop a Nokia NGage off near North Korea in a box marked TOP SECRET?

(via NKNews and NorthKoreaTech, image via Zennie Abraham, European Commission DG ECHO, Joseph Ferris)

iOS 7 includes the ability to control your iPhone or iPad using head movements


Discovered by an anonymous tipster, iOS 7′s “Accessibility” section now includes a feature that allows you to control your iPhone or iPad with left or right head movements. We’ve tested this ourselves and found it to be quite accurate, but it’s quite tedious to control your device this way since it cycles through all of the options on the screen and you move your head when it is bordering around the option you want.

You can also make the left or right head movement act as a home button, start Siri, open Notification Center, open the App Switcher, decrease volume, increase volume, or simply tap.
While this feature is meant as an option for accessibility users, it is definitely a unique foray into Apple’s usage of additional sensors/cameras for controlling your device.

25 June 2013

Dropbox CEO Shares Screenshot Of His Bank Account The Moment His Company Raised Its First Million

By Christina Chaey
21 June 2013

Facebook Announces That It’s Out Of Ideas

How the internet’s most powerful company became a clone mill.
Image by Macey J. Foronda/Buzzfeed

The most important thing to understand about Facebook is that it can’t lose. It has, and it will, and sometimes it should. But it can’t.

Facebook, to Facebook, isn’t a service, or a site, or an app, but an internet. It’s imagined internally as the next internet, where the connective tissue is people rather than content. This is the closest thing Facebook has to a unifying mission statement (or, as people in the Valley would call it, earnestly, a “vision statement”).

As Facebook passed 500 million users, then a billion, it seemed to be coming true. Facebook began co-opting the rest of the internet without even really trying: It became, by sheer force of user numbers, a destination for things it wasn’t originally imagined for. It started as the most popular profile site, then became the most popular photo site, then a dominant “content” outlet. The mission statement became a worldview. The vision became dogma. Planet Facebook became, to Facebook, the center of the solar system.

Facebook’s complete change of perspective coincided with its IPO. It was during the run-up to Facebook’s public offering that Zuckerberg told investors the following:
We make decisions at Facebook not optimizing for what’s going to happen in the next year, but to set us up to really be in this world where every product experience you have is social, and that’s all powered by Facebook.
Facebook has continued to grow since. But other services have grown faster. Facebook’s response, from its new, privileged perspective, has been to behave with a mixture of jealousy and ruthlessness. It blatantly ripped off Snapchat with Poke, which was a flop. It responded to the rise of messaging apps with a messaging app of its own, which was a success. It released a clear Instagram rip-off, which was a failure, before buying Instagram. Today, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom took the stage to give an uncharacteristically forced and wooden speech about a new video feature in his app. The invitation to the event said, “A small team has been working on a big idea.” Systrom’s script included, more than once, the phrase, “This changes everything.” The app, in every important way, resembles Twitter’s suddenly popular Vine.

The differences: Videos are longer, there are filters, and there’s an image stabilization feature. It’s Vine+, or Vine 2.0. Instavine. Indeed, Vine can and probably will add at least some of these features, which Vine’s founder teased yesterday. (It should be noted that Vine borrowed liberally from Instagram in terms of design. But its core concept — short, sequentially edited mobile video, executed well — was theirs.)

As if to justify his baldly hyperbolic statements, Systrom explained that he was excited because “130 million people on day one are going to have access to video in the way that they have access to pictures,” which both explains why Facebook supremacists have a point and demonstrates what they don’t understand: that a large audience doesn’t turn someone else’s idea into a big idea, and it certainly doesn’t make it yours.

This represents Facebook’s biggest and most perplexing problem: supreme self-confidence uninhibited by extreme myopia. It’s why it released Home, a product that anyone outside of Facebook, down to a normal user, could have realized was a flawed idea. It’s why Facebook treats users’ data as if they have no choice but to stay — and why it interprets growing user numbers as permission to keep doing what it’s doing, but more aggressively.

Another way to interpret this: Facebook is out of ideas. In its view, nobody else can truly innovate, because without Facebook, an innovation doesn’t matter — an idea isn’t a big idea until it’s on Facebook, the real internet, with its billion graphed-out users. Facebook’s own innovations, like Graph Search, are limited by the same skewed perspective; they’re all based on the premise that people want more Facebook.

Journalists have long joked about how The New York Times responds to a scoop it didn’t get: either by following it and pretending it’s the publication’s own, or by publishing a story designed to take the wind out of the original story’s sails. In media terms, Facebook is the website of record. Nobody else gets scoops.

Even more, it resembles the bizarre and lucrative start-up “copycatting” trend, in which non-American investors take ideas that are successful in America and brazenly replicate them in non-English markets, that has made entrepreneurs the world over unimaginably rich (though from the perspective of Facebook, the flow is reversed — the outside internet is the rest of the world, and Facebook is America).

Instagram video will be popular because Instagram is popular; unlike Poke, Instagram video will inherit its user base. This will also mean that Instagram video will make a lot of money. It’s certainly intended to: The first Instagram video most journalists saw today was a Lululemon ad, below.
For the user, though, the calculation is different. As we experiment with new apps, new sites, and new ways of using the internet, Facebook is reverting to an old form: It’s not home, it’s a destination. Which makes co-opted features and copied ideas seem less like friendly natives, or even transplants, than like hostages — abductees, beamed up to Planet Facebook.
20 June 2013

The Stupid Startup Clone War

    There Are Over 50 Instagram Ripoffs: The Stupid Startup Clone War

    By Sam Biddle

    One of life's grand injustices is that it's very hard to come up with an idea that's both original and good. Even harder to make money from it! But that's not stopping anyone from trying to cash in with a half-baked version of someone else's startup. Uber for nose jobs. Pandora for plants. Silicon Valley has a serious imagination problem.
    This is already the stuff of stale punchlines—just use this stupid startup idea generator.

    Ha. Except that last one is real. BabyClip describes itself as "an easy and fun way for moms to discover and share babies/kids product recommendations," and is a near pixel-for-pixel duplication of Pinterest. The site and its founder, Tao Yang, occupy a slot on AngelList, an enormous directory of fledging startups hoping to cop a hurried check from a less-discerning investor. BabyClip isn't alone. When you search AngelList for the words "instagram for," you get an avalanche of unoriginality, startups that shamelessly pitch themselves are the something of something else. A sample:
    • Viddy ("Instagram for video")
    • Just Sing It
    • Playvuu ("Instagram meets YouTube")
    • MightBuy ("Instagram for Retailers")
    • Trendabl ("Instagram for fashion with brands and celebs")
    • Pictorious
    • Kinderloop ("Secure Instagram for child carers & parent")
    • Sharelook
    • Incuvo
    • Opuss ("Instagram for Words")
    • Waddle
    • ProductGram
    • clikd
    • Puppystream ("Instagram for dog owners")
    • Pixplit
    • SimpleCrew
    • ishBowl
    • MyStyle
    • Werdsmith ("Instagram for Writers")
    • Zazzy ("Instagram for Jewelry")
    • PicThatWord ("words with friends meets instagram")
    • InstaCam
    • Readingly
    • Scribz
    • NuffnangX ("Instagram for Blogs")
    • oogababy
    • GifBoom
    • Crowd Surfn
    • Mixtape
    • FrameBlast
    • Poasty ("Instagram for Yearbooks")
    • Modera ("Instagram meets “Hot or Not” and makes it a Klout for fashion" [???])
    • Sparkly
    • FoodShootr ("Instagram meets Foursquare for food")
    • TextaPet ("Instagram for pets")
    • Braggr
    • Karmr
    • Bedloo
    • Kisstagram
    • bottlcap
    • Picturizr
    • Hooplenz ("Instagram for basketball junkies")
    • Miletu
    • Divinely ("The Christian Instagram")
    That's not even all of them. And we can laugh all we want, but some of those have locked down hundreds of thousands (or millions) in funding.
    It's not just Instagram. There are the "________ of Pandora" clones:
    • Rockify ("Pandora for music videos")
    • Hotlist ("Pandora for your social life")
    • DealSquare ("Pandora radio for local deals")
    • StyleSeek ("Pandora for E-Commerce")
    • Umano
    • Deeno ("Pandora for Children's Media")
    • ContextMedia
    • Fashon Metric
    • Pearescope ("Pandora for your social graph")
    • Dhingana ("Pandora for Indian Music")
    • Coursebook
    • Friendeo
    • Snackr
    • MyDROBE
    • Widdle
    • inkWIRE
    • Hoppit
    • Frogo TV
    • Vititude
    • YogaTailor ("Pandora for Yoga Videos")
    • Matchik
    • Swirl It!
    • Froof ("Pandora for your palate")
    • Next Glass ("Pandora for wine")
    • Wine Cue ("Pandora of wine")
    • Jobs You'll Love ("Pandora for Jobs")
    • Vintage Graphs ("Pandora For Wine")
    • GigDog
    • Prevail Health Solutions
    That last one describes itself as "Pandora for mental health," which is a manifestly bad idea—psychiatry on shuffle?—but is a real thing. Reality and stupidity are by no means mutually exclusive in this world. Let's see the Uber clones—a highpoint in catering to the 0.0001%:
    • Caviar
    • Handybook
    • Swifto ("Uber for Dog Walking")
    • Ringadoc ("Uber for doctors")
    • ("Uber for Laundry")
    • Get Maid ("Uber for Maid Service")
    • ServiceRoute (Uber for snow plows, lawn mowers and trash trucks")
    • Medicast
    • StudyHall
    • FoodCouriers
    • Flinja ("Uber for jobs")
    • EvoLux ("Uber meets AirBnB for Helicopter Transport")
    • Where Is My Bus?
    • Aperiteu
    Many of these bill themselves as "Uber for food," which has existed for some time now. Aperiteu claims to be Uber for French food, so, at least that's something? "Where Is My Bus?" wants to be "Uber for Busses," and yes, it is spelled wrong.
    The Airbnb clones—you can pretty much guess their slightly altered purpose from the name:
    • Weddingful ("AirBnB & Etsy for Weddings")
    • Kodesk
    • Shared Earth ("Airbnb for land owners," also known as COMMUNISM)
    • ThingShare ("Airbnb of Tools")
    • ("Airbnb for food")
    • Surfelocity ("The AirBnb for surf trips")
    • Fun2Boat ("AirBnB for Boats and Yachts")
    • Boatbound ("Airbnb for boat rentals")
    • Roomz ("AirBNB for shared accommodation," not to be confused with "Airbnb"
    • fitboo
    • Gastromama
    • becoacht
    There are not enough idle boats out there bobbing in the waters to justify multiple "AirBnb for boats" startups, I promise you this.
    Pinterest clones are maybe the most brazen, as they often look exactly like Pinterest:
    • Sworly ("Pinterest for music")
    • Pixcited ("Pinterest for Men")
    • Feistie ("Pinterest meets IMDB for Music")
    • BabyClip
    • KidKidBangBang ("Pinterest for Paranoid Parents" [???])
    • CherryPic'd
    • Anywhen ("Pinterest for history")
    • Anjuna ("Pinterest style website for Big Fat Indian Weddings")
    • Ysper ("Pinterest for what to eat in a restaurant," called in other parts of the world a "menu" or "Yelp" or "Foursquare" or "a friendly waiter")

    The people behind these sites are to blame for hoping they can make a buck on a pre-existing trademark. They chose to come up with a name like "Sworly" or "Froof," names more suitable than taboo sex maneuvers than businesses. They chose to make it happen. But they didn't choose a business climate that rewards this kind of slavish crap. When Vine launched at the beginning of the year, it was pretty much universally labeled (and more importantly, celebrated) as a video Instagram. Now the "real" Instagram for video is expected to drop tomorrow—and everyone will pick up the pom poms once more, encouraging, I'm sure, another wave of plodding, soulless clones.

    Fab—basically Amazon for nice stuff—is worth a billion dollars after today. These are the examples to follow. These are things that get rewards. The money machine is clogged with gunk because it's clogging itself
    13 June 2013

    The design of iOS 7: simply confusing

    The new iOS is better and worse all at once

    What I saw today at Apple's annual WWDC event in the new iOS 7 was a radical departure from the previous design of the company's operating system — what CEO Tim Cook called "a stunning new user interface." But whether this new design is actually good design, well, that's a different story entirely.
    Apple did indeed tout a completely rethought mobile OS, one which isn't technically a great distance from its predecessor but is an incredible deviation on design. Gone are lush, skeuomorphic objects, dials, and textures (in fact, Apple took several potshots at itself about the faux-felt and wood textures of the iOS of yesteryear). Instead, they have been replaced with stark, largely white and open app spaces; colorful, almost childlike icons; pencil thin, abstract controls for settings. New, Gaussian blur-transparency layers slide over your content, creating thick smears of soft color; notifications and other incidental information float above your work area on semi-translucent panels.
    The icons are the first missteps in Apple's new approach

    The icons are striking to see, and they're the first sign that there are points of confusion and even missteps in Apple's new approach. For starters, the icon styles vary wildly from app to app. Game Center is now a collection of 3D globs, rendered together against a white background, while the Camera icon recalls something more like clip-art — an icon set against a rudimentary gray gradient that seems to want to be more abstract than it is. It looks shockingly basic, and more childish than elegant. The same goes for Weather, an amateur mishmash of sun, clouds, and a gradient background that was highlighted as part of Apple's new "grid system." It might be on a grid, but it doesn't look very good. The Maps icon is a mess: too many colors and lines intersecting at once. Messages' word balloon is so puffed up and oversized compared to its fine point that it looks like it will topple over. Another journalist remarked to me that the Settings icon looked more like an oven burner than a set of gears. I agreed, and still do now as I sit looking at it. It looks like clip-art of an oven burner, and again, that lazy gradient isn't doing the icon any favors.

    Weirdly, though there wasn't any mention of active icons in iOS 7, the calendar displays the correct date (as it always has), and the clock icon is updated with the current time in all the screenshots we've seen. Weather, however, frustratingly remains unchanged. Don't even get me started on weather. Okay, fine: again Apple seems to ignore the utility of glanceable information, keeping safely to an annoying dance of swipes and secret menus to get to basic information... like the current temperature.
    Again Apple seems to ignore the utility of glanceable information

    But with the icons, there's an enormous feeling that Apple's designers couldn't decide on a direction. And for all the jokes about skeumorphism, I would have preferred something nearer to the company's previous efforts than the new set, which seems closer to bathroom signage than even the Windows Phone's plainness.

    It's not just that the icons on the homescreen feel and look like the work of a lesser designer. They also vary across the system. For instance, the camera icon is a different shape in other sections of the OS, like the camera app or the lockscreen. Shouldn't there be some consistency?
    Elsewhere there is trouble — instead of correcting issues with the notification panel and alerts, Apple has simply given them a fresh coat of paint and several layers of sub-navigation. Your notifications will still interrupt your work at the top of the screen, and when you slide down the panel you're now presented with the option of flipping between the kinds of notifications you want to see. Even closing notifications looks harder, the small "X" box now nearly invisible against that soft blur background. But fundamentally these are unimproved from Apple's last attempt, offering no action to take (which the company did actually just add to the forthcoming version of OS X), and doing nothing to actually speed up your productivity on the device.

    The Control Center, a new option which can be summoned with a quick swipe up from the bottom of the screen, is actually a great idea but its design and organization of items is bizarre. It is an odd, jarring collection of functions. Toggles for oft-used controls, a brightness bar, a music player?

    AirDrop accessibility? A flashlight app? The clock? It feels like for lack of a better location Apple lumped all the other stuff into a single, messy space that floats above your onscreen content, making the already busy utility a visual strain. The idea is good, the execution is troubling.
    Inside apps, iconography has been transported from the familiar to the confusing. Take a look at those new controls in Safari. What's that box with the arrow on top of it? It appears to be your sharing options, but it doesn't look like any sharing icon you know. It's almost as if in an attempt to move away from familiar shapes and textures, Apple has confused its design with new shapes and textures — weird ones. Less useful ones.
    But it's not all a loss, or a miss. In fact, there are some extremely beautiful aspects of iOS 7 — aspects that lead me to believe that the raw materials for a more cohesive and useful OS are there, if perhaps a little buried.
    The raw materials are there, if perhaps buried

    The typography in the majority of the apps is gorgeous, leaning heavily on Helvetica Neue and putting an emphasis on bigger, more readable type. App redesigns from the Calendar to the Camera introduce welcome changes. A new multitasker finally gets it right with what amounts to a carbon copy of the webOS card methodology. Little changes like the subtle, gyroscope-responsive parallax wallpapers, the ability to open notifications and controls on your lockscreen, and the new back gesture within apps show that Apple is still invested in the tiniest details.
    Apple is showing that it can adapt, borrow, and tweak ideas from the competition, that it can expand what iOS feels and looks like as well as what it can do. The problem now is that it seems to be buckling a bit under the weight of an end-to-end redesign. I'm hopeful that in the next few months, as Apple ramps up for the introduction of new hardware at its fall event, some of the design and functionality issues that have yet to be addressed will be nipped and tucked. And perhaps the designers and engineers in Cupertino will revisit simply bad design decisions, like those obstructing notifications or the cluttered Control Center.
    Until then, however, at least Apple fans and foes have something new to argue about.
    10 June 2013

    Unhackable Quantum Cryptography Can Be Hacked

    By Michael Mayday

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) researchers use advanced modeling and simulation equipment as they work on the DHS Control Systems Security Program.

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) researchers use advanced modeling and simulation equipment as they work on the DHS Control Systems Security Program. Credit:Reuters Quantum cryptography has long been considered the holy grail of cryptographers, allowing them to send messages with a technique which, thanks to the laws of physics, is guaranteed to only be readable between two parties. If anyone tried to intercept a quantum message, the message, or the means of decrypting it, would be destroyed and those sending and receiving the message would be alerted.
    Or, so scientists thought.

    While the underlying theory behind quantum cryptography is still solid, everything else - from equipment to human interaction- is not. Therefore a quantum encrypted message can still be intercepted and decrypted, according to quantum physicist Renato Renner.

    For example, in 2010, a hacker developed a method of overwhelming a photon detector used in quantum encryption with a strong pulse. That pulse, The Register reports, can cause quantum equipment to malfunction and operate as normal, allowing a third party to intercept a message without alerting its users of a compromised system.

    Since then, as Wired reports, other means of compromising quantum cryptography have been discovered. For example, the low-powered lasers used to send out an encrypted message today can only send out one photon - used to send both the key to decrypt a message and the message itself - at a time. But there is the possibility that such a laser will also send out a second photon with the same encrypted message. If this happens, all a hacker has to do is intercept the second photon.

    But there is a new method of quantum cryptography which holds promise for encoders. It's called quantum key distribution and it doesn't try to prevent interlopers from decrypting information. Rather, the technique, as The Economist explains, aims to alert encoders that a particular line of communication isn't secure. This is accomplished by having one encoder send a series of photons - the particles which produce light - to the person receiving the message before sending an actual encrypted message. Each of these photon particles will have a certain property, like a spin of the particle or its polarity, which can't be reproduced due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal - a quality of quantum physics which stipulates that one can never know both the spin and polarity of a particle at the same time.

    If a third party attempts to tap a line in order to intercept a message, the some of the photons will be destroyed, alerting the two encoders that someone is trying to listen in. That technology is roughly 10 years away.

    Even if the technique is mastered, quantum encryption still has one massive vulnerability: the human element. People are still capable of accidentally leaking the key to a message by accident. As physicist Richard Hughes, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist notes, "nothing is unbreakable."

    Technically, it should take code-breakers longer than the existence of the universe to crack modern keys. But there are work-arounds thanks to advances in modern computing power, newer mathematical algorithms and the ability to install malicious spying programs.
    05 June 2013

    Bling it! Super-extravagant Smartphones And Tablets

    Got a million dollars to spare? Crave kicks off a series on the ultimate luxury entertainment with a look at some of the most opulent mobile tech around.
    By Leslie Katz

    Who said iPhones had to be affordable?
    (Credit: Stuart Hughes)
    Close your eyes and imagine money. Lots and lots of money. Stacks and stacks and bags and briefcases full of... oh, you get the picture.

    Now, imagine you were to possess such vast sums of cash. What would you do with it? Update your antiquated wardrobe? Purchase a new home or 5? Bid on a space date with Leo DiCaprio? Write a check for a $15 million black-diamond iPhone? Yes, there is such a thing; you can find out more about it in the gallery below.
    Over the weeks to come, we'll take a look at some of the most ultra-luxurious tech out there, starting with a few seriously blinged-out smartphones and tablets. Some of the grandiose gadgets you'll see in this week's collection might make you roll your eyes, while others might inspire you to pick up a few hundred extra hours at work.

    Either way, put on your shades and get ready to stare into the face of some majorly bright and shiny gear. And be sure to check back on Crave every Tuesday for the next six weeks. We'll be bringing you lots more ultimate luxury entertainment in the form of lavish home theater setups, deluxe cars, and lots more. Now if you'll excuse us, our Lamborghini Egoista awaits.

    28 May 2013

    Size Matters:how I went from an iPhone to a really big Android phone

    I thought I wanted something 'iPhone-sized,' but I was wrong

    HTC One (AT&T)
    Late on the night of September 9th, 2012, I was sitting at my kitchen table, going over notes for a piece I was writing about video game arcades. The next morning at 6AM I was bound for an Amtrak train which would take me to Pennsylvania, then to Baltimore, on a four-day trip of interviews for the piece. I was packed and ready for bed. I was exhausted, and as I brushed my teeth, thought of the next day’s work.
    I’d like to be able to say that I went peacefully to bed, my iPhone tucked underneath my pillow as I was wont to do, but that isn’t what happened. What happened, instead, was a series of events involving my phone, a toilet, and a bowl of rice at 1AM. As I removed the SIM card from the phone and buried it in rice, still vibrating and refusing to power down, I didn’t know that my phone was definitely, totally, completely dead.
    I went to bed angry at myself for dropping my phone into a toilet

    In horror, I quickly and hastily chose from among the dozens of tester phones I am routinely surrounded by. I passed up a Windows Phone as too foreign since I have so little experience with them, and settled on a European version of the HTC One S. It was bigger than my iPhone, which I didn’t like, but it was close enough in size that I thought I could manage for the unavoidable four days of hell I was surely in for. After all, traveling with a brand-new phone when I’d need access to my emails, maps, music, and text messages with only minutes to make the switch was not ideal in any way. I went to bed afraid and confused, angry at myself for dropping my phone into a toilet. As I struggled to figure out how to set the alarm on this dreaded device and silence its notifications, I cursed it openly.
    This was my introduction to Android.
    I was suspicious of sizing up: I assumed that my days of multitasking one-handed were over, and they were. The One S wasn’t mine and it wasn’t an American phone, which seemed to cause it occasional data problems, but, other than that, I loved it. I got on that Amtrak train on September 10th groggy and acutely aware that I was going to be uncomfortable with my phone for the duration of the trip.
    It’s now been so long since I touched an iPhone

    But I was wrong. By the end of the trip I was emailing other Verge writers, effusively praising the glories of Android. Rdio worked beautifully! The notifications were so much better than the iPhone’s! My email, oh God, my email. I composed long, beautiful emails in dead spots where I had no service and it quietly sent them later on. The Twitter app seemed... better. It loaded faster, I thought. The battery life was better than my iPhone’s. I could effortlessly Gchat, 24 hours a day! Editing documents on my phone was something I could actually do realistically now. Oh, and the maps put the iPhone 4 to shame. There were other, smaller things, too, but I can’t remember them, because it’s now been so long since I touched an iPhone.
    The most important thing was that the transition, which I’d sort of wanted but feared for several years, was seamless, mostly because I already used so much Google stuff. This should come as no surprise to switchers and long-time Android users, but it did to me. I’d messed around with Android phones over the years, but had lazily stuck with iPhones, consistently, since their debut back in 2007. There were plenty of things I didn’t like about the iPhone, but I’d never encountered anything I considered a deal breaker. Nothing but absolute force made me change. And when I did change, I never looked back.
    The HTC One S

    I didn’t even try to turn my iPhone back on when I got home four days later. In fact, I didn’t try to turn it on for about six months (it’s dead, as I suspected). And, while I’ve been actively window shopping for a phone to call my own since last September, I never once seriously considered buying a new iPhone.
    A few months ago I started saying that while I loved Android, my ideal Android phone didn’t exist for AT&T. Let me describe it: It’s an Android phone, made by HTC, and it’s about the size of an iPhone. It has LTE. The size was really the one remaining annoyance, I guess. Though I’d adjusted just fine to the extra height and width of the One S four months ago or so, I still had it in my head that the ideal phone for my smallish hands was roughly... iPhone sized.
    Enter the Facebook phone, also known as the HTC First. No phone could fit my wish list more perfectly, and once I realized that the Facebook veneer was optional, I assumed this would be my next phone. Finally, I thought, someone woke up and made what I’ve been dreaming of! And it's HTC! HTC whose Beats by Dre (don’t laugh, they rule) I adore and now require, whose hardware is, in my opinion, the best in the industry, whose Sense skin I actually really like. Thank you, HTC!
    Finally, I thought, someone woke up and made what I’ve been dreaming of

    But I didn’t buy it. Instead, I decided to give the also-brand-new HTC One a spin. The One is HTC’s newest, beautifully designed and built flagship Android phone. Sure, it has some weird home screen stuff on it which made me mad to look at, but it was easily disabled, leaving me with Sense, which as I said, I’m a fan of. The One was also quite large by my standards and I assumed that I wouldn’t want to buy one because of that.
    Again I was wrong. Now, it’s not like this phone is giant, but it feels different, and it takes some getting used to. The first few days were uncomfortable, and I thought about going back to the One S until I found a phone I wanted to commit to. I briefly thought, "I should just get that Facebook phone," as my thumb struggled mightily to reach the notification drop down one-handed. By the end of the first week, though, I had adjusted. There were some things that I knew I wasn’t willing to budge on that would make it hard for me to abandon the One: First, the screen, which is large, is also incredibly beautiful; it’s beautifully built, and it seems to be indestructible, though I haven’t tried dropping it in a toilet... yet.
    My hands needed to learn to stretch

    The truth is that while I spent months imagining — and talking about — a phone which was exactly the HTC First, I was all the while adjusting to a different and better reality: that of a slightly larger phone. The smaller "iPhone-sized" dream was just a red herring.
    It’s been almost eight months, and one month ago, I finally relinquished that HTC One S, trading it in for the much larger, but very similar, HTC One.
    Here’s the thing: I’m probably a pretty standard smartphone user, in that I find something I like and I stick with it. I don’t switch phones every few months or even every year. Change isn’t hard, it’s just not something I’m interested in. I go with what works, and I think that’s what most people should do. I’ve had five phones in around seven and a half years, counting the few months I used the HTC loaner. But it’s an inescapable reality that despite myself, I’ve once again adapted to the modern world. It turns out I was wrong: the phone didn’t need to fit my hands, my hands needed to learn to stretch.
    21 May 2013

    Indian American Teen Eesha Khare Invents Wondrous 20-sec Charger,

    Eesha KhareEesha Khare (AP)

    An 18-year-old Indian-American girl has invented a super-capacitor device that could potentially charge your cellphone in less than 20 seconds.

    Eesha Khare, from Saratoga, California, was awarded the Young Scientist Award by the Intel Foundation after developing the tiny device that fits inside mobile phone batteries, that could allow them to charge within 20-30 seconds.

    The so-called super-capacitor, a gizmo that can pack a lot of energy into a tiny space, charges quickly and holds its charge for a long time, NBC News reported.

    Khare has been awarded USD 50,000 for developing the tiny device. She has also attracted the attention of tech giant Google for her potentially revolutionary invention.

    According to Khare, her device can last for 10,000 charge-recharge cycles, compared with 1,000 cycles for conventional rechargeable batteries.

    "My cellphone battery always dies," she said when asked about what inspired her to work on the energy-storage technology.

    Super-capacitors allowed her to focus on her interest in nanochemistry "really working at the nanoscale to make significant advances in many different fields."

    The gadget has so far only been tested on an LED light, but the good news is that it has a good chance of working successfully in other devices, like mobile phones, the report said.

    Khare sees it fitting inside cellphones and the other portable electronic devices proliferating in today's world.

    "It is also flexible, so it can be used in rollup displays and clothing and fabric. It has a lot of different applications and advantages over batteries in that sense," Khare added.
    31 January 2013

    The BlackBerry Z10 is Here

    Finally BlackBerry Z10 has been officially launched. The flagship BlackBerry 10 smartphone is here with a 4.2-inch display with a pixel density of 356ppi, an 8-megapixel camera rear and a 2-megapixel front cameras and all the connectivity options one can ask for in a smartphone. The BlackBerry Z10 runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core processor in concert with 2GB of RAM. There is also 16GB of internal memory along with a microSD card slot. And yeah, the battery is removable too!

    Read on for the detailed specifications or check out the BlackBerry Z10 review from our brothers at BGR Classic.
    • Processor: Dual-core 1.5GHz
    • Display: 4.2-inch, 4 point multi-touch LCD display, 1280 x 768 pixel resolution at 356 DPI, Touch On Lens
    • Camera: 8-megapixel rear facing camera, auto=focus, 5X digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording; 2-megapixel front facing camera, 3X digital zoom, 720p HD video recording
    • Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB Internal Storage, hot swappable microSD slot
    • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4/5GHz
    • GPS: Assisted, Autonomous, and Simultaneous GPS
    • Battery: 1800mAh Removable; Talk Time: up to 10 hours on 3G; Standby Time: up to 305 hours on 3G, up to 316 hours on 2G; Audio Playback: up to 60 hours; Video PlayBack: up to 11 hours
    • Sensors: Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Proximity, Gyroscope, Ambient light sensor
    • Connectivity: NFC ・microUSB ・microHDMI-Out ・Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
    • Size (LxWxD): 130 x 65.6 x 9 mm
    07 December 2012

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Price Dopped by 20pc

    Samsung today dropped price of its 10.1-inch Android tablet, the Tab 2 10.1, by approximately 20 percent, according to online retailer Saholic. The tablet, which was earlier priced at Rs 31,990, is now available for Rs 25,900. The timing of the price drop indicates that tomorrow’s impending iPad Mini and iPad 4 launch in India could have something to do with it.

    The iPad mini will be priced in India from Rs 21,900 onwards while the iPad 4 will start from Rs 31,900 upwards. Industry insiders and retailers are expecting the iPad mini to be a runaway success in India, where Apple products typically have been expensive and out of reach of most people who aspire to own an Apple product.

    Having said that, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has better specs with a 10.1-inch WXGA display, 3G connectivity, microSD card slot among others. However, when it comes to tablets, consumers have chosen the iPad over Android tablets even though they offer better specifications and are available at lower price points than comparable iPad variant. We doubt that this price drop would dent the sales of the iPad mini but it is well worth a try.


    HTC Butterfly Global Version Announced

    HTC today quietly announced the international variant of the Droid DNA, which it is calling HTC Butterfly for the global audience. The device was first announced as the HTC Butterfly J in Japan and was rumored to be called HTC Deluxe. The Butterfly’s calling card is its 5-inch 1080p display, which we believe will have the highest pixel density on any smartphone in the world. Read on for more details.

    Apart from the display, the Butterfly features a 8-megapixel camera with a 28mm lens, F2.0 aperture and a backside illuminated sensor, which should give it better low-light performance. Then there is the 2.1-megapixel front camera that can shoot videos in 1080p resolution. As will most top-end HTC smartphones, it comes with a dedicated ImageChip for zero shutter lag and faster image processing. HTC has also added five levels of flashlight that is automatically set depending on the distance from the subject.

    The HTC Butterfly runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage with a microSD card for good measure. HTC has not revealed what version of Android it runs but we are assuming it would be running Android Jelly Bean 4.1. No word on pricing or availability either.

    HTC Butterfly key specifications
    • Dimension: 143 x 75 x 9.08 mm
    • Weight: 140 gram
    • Display: 5-inch 1920 x 1080 pixels LCD 3 with Corning Gorilla Glass 2
    • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz
    • Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage with microSD card slot
    • Camera: 8-megapixel rear, 2.1-megapixel front cameras
    • Battery: 2020 mAh
    04 December 2012

    Pope Gets On Twitter

    You can follow the pontiff on twitter
    03 December 2012

    Why Mobile Map Apps Are Actually Getting Worse

    It's the one part of your phone that might not be getting better. Why every major mobile company is re-creating reality from scratch. posted

    For a few wonderful years, the mobile mapping landscape sat on an easy-to-navigate pangea. Google Maps was the default location app on the iPhone and Palm OS, and an easy-to-download app on Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS. The Android version was typically a bit better than the others, but its underlying data set was the same. It was solid, predictable and consistent. It was good enough to trust, no matter the platform.

    Consider the new geography: Windows Phone uses Bing Maps, while iOS uses Apple Maps. Palm OS sank into the ocean, and BlackBerry isn't far behind. Now Amazon, which released its first tablet late last year, has struck out on its own, giving Kindle developers access to yet another mapping service alternative to Google Maps, based on Nokia's Navteq data. (Microsoft licenses some of this same data; Apple licenses from TomTom; Google has its own.)

    Here's Amazon's pitch, if you could call it that:
    The Amazon Maps API provides mapping functionality for Android apps on most Kindle Fire tablets. If your app uses Google Maps, which is not available on Amazon devices, you can migrate your app to the Amazon Maps API. The Maps API offers interface parity with Google Maps.
    While Amazon's announcement contains lots of information about how developers can use Amazon's maps, it doesn't explain why they should. The main reason appears to be, "because we say so."
    The continents have drifted apart. The only major platform that uses Google Maps as its default mapping service is Android — and only Google-approved versions of Android. The Kindle Fire is based on Android, and shares much of its code, but presumably Google demanded a licensing fee to include maps.

    Viewed separately, each of these moves makes sense: Apple is in direct competition with Google, Amazon is trying to establish its own platform, and Microsoft is doing all it can to position Windows Phone as a truly different alternative to Android and iOS. For a time, companies were dropping Google Maps due to high licensing fees, but Google has since slashed them dramatically.
    But taken together, they're a perfect representation of what's happening in mobile right now. Terrified by competition, motivated by real, consequential patent threats, and hungry for the personal data — and ad dollars — that location-based services are so good at extracting from their users, every major-platform company is scrambling to disassociate with its former partners and re-create what they once could just buy or borrow. The fear is so deep and the competition so fierce — or at least, the anticipation of competition so acute — that these companies are constructing literal alternate realities: different representations of where things are on the planet's surface.

    A search for "restaurant" near your location right now would be different depending on what kind of phone it was sent to. And until Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon (which is mostly licensing Nokia's maps and listings) catch up with Google's all-aware location database, it might result in different longitudes and latitudes for specific points of interest. This is a mostly not-good thing, at least in the short term: Apple Maps was so useless, its project manager was fired from Apple.

    This period of distorted reality will most likely end in just a few years, as mapping platforms either get better and reach parity or reconsolidate. But for the time being, it's only going to get worse — don't be surprised if, when Facebook finally pulls the trigger on its mobile OS, it makes its own maps too.
    30 November 2012

    WhatsApp Gets Bug, Spammers Make The Most Of It

    WhatsApp users on Wednesday were in for a rude shock, when they  first found everyone on their contact list swith their status field listed “error: unknown” and then got a terse message from the CEO of the company complaining about how they weren’t making money and you needed to forward the message to all your contacts to prove you were a legitimate user.

    Thankfully though there’s little to worry about: WhatsApp remains free to use, the CEO doesn’t hate as you as much as you thought from his message and it was just a spam message that made the rounds as a feature of the messaging service was affected.

    On Wednesday morning, the official Twitter handle for WhatsApp put out the following message:

    However within hours a message had begun to circulate on the messaging service saying the service was to become paid and that you needed to forward the message to stay on the service for free:

    “Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp): we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill.”

    And since everyone loves getting/using things for free, the message did the rounds with most people forwarding it to all their contacts. However, while the status message update feature has been restored to normal on some phones it is still displaying the error message on others.

    If you still have the error message, you’ll just have to trust the folks at WhatsApp on their promise and wait for it to be restored to normal. And in case you don’t believe us check out the eerily similar messages that have done the rounds of WhatsApp in the past.
    28 November 2012

    How Google Plans To Search For The Unsearchable

    The company wants to improve its mobile search services by automatically delivering information you wouldn’t think to search for online.

    By Tom Simonite
    For three days last month, at eight randomly chosen times a day, my phone buzzed and Google asked me: “What did you want to know recently?” The answers I provided were part of an experiment involving me and about 150 other people. It was designed to help the world’s biggest search company understand how it can deliver information to users that they’d never have thought to search for online.

    Billions of Google searches are made every day—for all kinds of things—but we still look elsewhere for certain types of information, and the company wants to know what those things are.

    “Maybe [these users are] asking a friend, or they have to look up a manual to put together their Ikea furniture,” says Jon Wiley, lead user experience designer for Google search. Wiley helped lead the research exercise, known as the Daily Information Needs Study.

    If Google is to achieve its stated mission to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible,” says Wiley, it must find out about those hidden needs and learn how to serve them. And he says experience sampling—bugging people to share what they want to know right now, whether they took action on it or not—is the best way to do it. “Doing that on a mobile device is a relatively new technology, and it’s getting us better information that we really haven’t had in the past,” he says.

    Wiley isn’t ready to share results from the study just yet, but this participant found plenty of examples of relatively small pieces of information that I’d never turn to Google for. For example, how long the line currently is in a local grocery store. Some offline activities, such as reading a novel, or cooking a meal, generated questions that I hadn’t turned to Google to answer—mainly due to the inconvenience of having to grab a computer or phone in order to sift through results.

    Wiley’s research may take Google in new directions. “One of the patterns that stands out is the multitude of devices that people have in their lives,” he says. Just as mobile devices made it possible for Google to discover unmet needs for information through the study, they could also be used to meet those needs in the future.

    Contextual information provided by mobile devices—via GPS chips and other sensors—can provide clues about a person and his situation, allowing Google to guess what that person wants. “We’ve often said the perfect search engine will provide you with exactly what you need to know at exactly the right moment, potentially without you having to ask for it,” says Wiley.

    Google is already taking the first steps in this direction. Google Now offers unsolicited directions, weather forecasts, flight updates, and other information when it thinks you need them (see “Google’s Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead”). Google Glass—eyeglass frames with an integrated display (see “You Will Want Google’s Goggles”)—could also provide an opportunity to preëmptively answer questions or provide useful information. “It’s the pinnacle of this hands-free experience, an entirely new class of device,” Wiley says of Google Glass, and he expects his research to help shape this experience.
    Google may be heading toward a new kind of search, one that is very different from the service it started with, says Jonas Michel, a researcher working on similar ideas at the University of Texas at Austin. "In the future you might want to search very new information from the physical environment,” Michel says. “Your information needs are very localized to that place and event and moment.”

    Finding the data needed to answer future queries will involve more than just crawling the Web. Google Now already combines location data with real-time feeds, for example, from U.S. public transit authorities, allowing a user to walk up to a bus stop and pull out his phone to find arrival times already provided.

    Michel is one of several researchers working on an alternative solution—a search engine for mobile devices dubbed Gander, which communicates directly with local sensors. A pilot being installed on the University of Texas campus will, starting early next year, allow students to find out wait times at different cafés and restaurants, or find the nearest person working on the same assignment.
    Back at Google, Wiley is more focused on finding further evidence that many informational needs still go unGoogled. The work may ultimately provide the company with a deeper understanding of the value of different kinds of data. “We’re going to continue doing this,” he says. “Seeing how things change over time gives us a lot of information about what’s important.”
    26 November 2012

    How Wifi On Planes Works

    By Rosie Tomkins
    Watch this video

    The rise of in-flight Wi-Fi

    • More airlines providing Wi-Fi on their flights
    • Norwegian Air first airline in Europe to offer free Wi-Fi
    • Gogo system installed on 1,600 U.S. jets, according to CEO
    • Row 44 provides satellite-based system that can access internet even over the ocean
    As the globe has become increasingly outfitted with wi-fi hotspots and cell phone towers, the skies have long been the last refuge from constant connectivity. That's changing, however, as more airlines are realizing wi-fi's earning potential.

    By its own estimate, one of the fastest-growing companies in America is Gogo, which was the first to successfully hook up planes with internet. It has since installed systems on several U.S. carriers, including Delta, American and US Airways.
    According to its CEO, Michael Small, Gogo's profits grew from $37 million in 2009 to $112 million in the first six months of 2012.
    "We're now on over 1,600 commercial aviation jets, which is nearly half the U.S. fleet. We've done that in four years, which is extraordinarily fast," says Small. "In just a few more years, it will be done in America."

    Though airlines pay to install the equipment, they also reap the rewards; Gogo charges the customers for internet usage -- between $5 and $20, depending on flight duration -- and shares its revenue with the carriers.
    "More travelers are aware of our service, and many of them want it," says Small. "One in five say they will switch a flight to get our service."
    The drawback with Gogo's system is that it uses an air-to-ground network of cell phone towers it built across the United States -- each with a 250-mile radius of coverage -- meaning its wi-fi isn't available when flying over water. Internet on Gogo-outfitted planes is therefore limited to domestic flights. This is where California-based firm Row 44 swoops in.
    Row 44 also installs wi-fi on airplanes, though unlike Gogo, it relies on a satellite system, meaning passengers can access internet even when flying over the ocean.
    "This is a distinct advantage, given that two-thirds of the planet is covered in water," notes John LaValle, Row 44's CEO. Also, satellite systems give passengers more options, due to better bandwidth.

    "Air-to-ground has certain inherent limitations in terms of the amount of data that can be processed through the network of cell towers on the ground -- for example, live TV really is an impossibility," says LaValle, whose company also offers that service as part of its package. "In a satellite environment, you're able to get much more data through the pipe."

    But the satellite system is substantially more expensive than using cell-phone towers, and has the added drawback of taking longer to install. As airlines lose money for every day a plane is out of commission, this can make the process rather costly. Some carriers, however, find it's worth the price.
    Mango Airlines and Southwest are among the airlines using Row 44's service, with Icelandair soon to follow. What's more, Norwegian Air Shuttle, which has also joined the fray, has just this month started offering wi-fi to passengers free-of-charge -- the first airline in Europe to do so.
    "We had a trial period where we offered it free to passengers, and we saw increases on those routes; it went up volumes," notes Boris Bubresko, head of business development for Norwegian Air Shuttle. "After that, we decided to keep it free."
    At the moment, connectivity is a perk; airlines that provide wi-fi or mobile services on board stand out. This will change, though, as customers increasingly start to expect the amenity, rather than merely appreciate it. LaValle feels that era has already dawned.
    He says: "I was on a plane recently that wasn't wi-fi equipped, and this guy sitting across the aisle opened up his laptop and he couldn't find the hotspot. He slammed it down and said, 'I can't believe this, I really needed to get a lot of work done on this flight!'
    "I think we're already at that point where everyone fully expects connectivity."

    Source: CNN
    12 November 2012

    4 must-have Gadgets on Your Diwali Shopping List

    By Aseem Gaurav 4 must-have gadgets on your Diwali shopping list

    New Delhi, Nov 12 :
    The auspicious occasion of Diwali is considered to be best time of the year when you can go for shopping for gadgets and other electronic items. The widely celebrated festival is the perfect time and reason for you to go and purchase the things you always desired.
    If budget is not your constraint, we are giving you a list of top four gadgets that you can go for in order to make the festival of lights a memorable one.

    iPad Mini

    With iPad Mini, Apple has made a sincere attempt in bringing the Apple tablet experience to a brave new budget world. The iPad Mini's screen measures 7.9 inches diagonally—compared with 9.7 inches for the larger iPad. The Wi-Fi version of the tablet is 308g, lesser than both the Nexus 7, which comes in at 340g, and the Kindle Fire HD 7", which is nearly 395g. The iPad mini has roughly 35 per cent more screen real estate than other 7-inch tablets. It has stereo speaker grilles on the bottom along with a new Lightning port. The volume button is on the right side, along with the mute/screen lock switch. It's running on the same 32-nm A5 chip as can be found in the new iPod touch. The iPad Mini has two cameras. The first is the main iSight camera which shoots 5-megapixel images and records 1080p HD video. The FaceTime camera has a lower 1.2-megapixel resolution. The iPad Mini's battery life is just as good as the full-size iPad's. You can also access 275,000 iPad-optimized apps for the iPad. The tablet is good for reading books, watching videos and listening to music.

    Nikon Coolpix S800c is an elegant point-and-shoot running on Android with a nice touch screen, Wi-Fi, GPS, and full access to the Google Play store and all the apps and content you'd find on other Android devices. The overall photo quality from the Nikon Coolpix S800c is above average for a point-and-shoot with its features, suitable for prints up to 8x10 or slightly larger and Web use. It is officially available in the Indian market for Rs. 20,950.

    Samsung Galaxy SIII
    Make no mistake; Samsung Galaxy SIII is the best smartphone available in the market. According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, the S III captured an impressive 11 per cent share of all smartphones shipped globally and it has become the world's best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever. It has got everything that a user can ask for: the latest version of Android, a whopping 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD screen and a whole suite of Apple-beating features. The device is powered by Exynos 4 Quad (1.4GHz) processor, has 720 x 1280 pixels resolution, and offers 16/32/64GB RAM depending on model, plus expandable MicroSD card. It has 8MP auto focus camera with LED flash and 1.9MP front facing camera with HD recording at 30fps and face recognition. Some notable features of the smartphone include S Voice, S Beam, AllShare Play, All Share Cast, Pop up play, Best photo and more. The device’s My Movies app enables the users access to hundreds of Indian movies, trailers and film songs. Samsung's phone also features a 4G LTE option, while the iPhone 4S plods along on 3G technology. All this makes it easy to understand why the smartphone topped charts.

    The Executive headphones

    Beats Electronics has recently unveiled The Executive headphones, which come equipped with the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature. “The Executive represents a new distinctive, sophisticated design for the Beats By Dr. Dre brand that focuses on craftsmanship using premium materials such as aluminum alloy, stainless steel and leather. The soft leather headband and comfortable ear cups are designed for long wear and a unique folding design make Beats Executive headphones easy to carry on-the-go,” the company says in its promotional material. The company says the headphone has been designed to in such a way that it can be used without interruption to a height of up to 35,000 feet. The Executive is available in a single colour option -- silver, for $299.

    20 September 2012

    Why Are 5 Million Kids On Facebook if it Doesn't Want Them?

    In this photo illustration, a Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through glasses held by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

    Facebook has an ugly little secret, a number disclosed nowhere in its voluminous filings to become a public company and now only vaguely addressed by corporate officials.

    An estimated 5.6 million Facebook clients - about 3.5 percent of its U.S. users - are children who the company says are banned from the site.

    Facebook and many other web sites bar people under age 13 because the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires web sites to give special treatment to children 12 or younger. The law aims to stop marketers prying personal information from children or using their data to advertise to them. Sites must get parental permission before allowing children to enter, and must take steps to protect privacy.

    Facebook declines to acknowledge that many of its efforts to block children are not working.
    The issue has taken on new relevance as the Federal Trade Commission finalizes rules to further restrict companies and Web sites that target youths or are geared to young audiences.

    Facebook, the world's leading social media company with 955 million users, has said that the law does not apply to it because it explicitly restricts use of its site to people aged 13 and older.

    Facebook has made some progress in identifying preteens and excluding them from the site. A June Consumer Reports study showed that Facebook eliminates as many as 800,000 users under age 13 in a year through its tiered screening process, which the company declines to describe.

    The study still estimates 5.6 million children are on Facebook, a figure that experts say includes many who create accounts with help from their parents.

    The Consumer Reports data comes from a January 2012 survey of 2,002 adults with home Internet. Participants were chosen by TNS, a research firm. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

    "It's not surprising to us to see 12-year-olds sneaking onto Facebook," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, saying the situation was "particularly complicated" if parents helped them. "Is it troubling? In some ways it is. Is it a story in black and white? Not really."

    A Reuters test of Facebook's signup process shows that a child could bypass the site's screening features with relative ease. The site effectively blocked a fictitious sign-up from an underage prospective user. But after an hour's wait, the site accepted a sign-up using the same name, email, password and birthday but citing a different birth year.

    Facebook declined to discuss the data or describe its efforts to outlaw children. Spokesman Frederic Wolens said in an email that Facebook is "committed to improving protections for all young people online".

    Larry Magid, who serves on Facebook's advisory board and co-directs the Internet group Connect Safely, said he and others studied the issue for a year and found no way to tell if children were lying online.

    "The only solution that I am aware of is to access some sort of national ID or school records," he said. "There are good reasons that we don't do this. ... I'm sure this is really easy to do in totalitarian regimes."

    Senator Richard Blumenthal, an outspoken privacy advocate whose youngest child is 18, said children's vulnerability to potential sexual predators and susceptibility to advertising were reasons to keep the 12-and under set off most web sites. "Our children were not on Facebook at that age, and they would not be now," he said.

    When gullible preteens or "tweens" go online they often reveal sensitive data, said Kathryn Montgomery, who teaches at American University and was an early advocate of the 1998 COPPA Tlaw.

    "What we hoped to do with these kinds of rules is to get companies to act responsibly toward kids. It's not easy to do," said Montgomery.

    Facebook now boasts 158 million U.S. users, according to May figures from the data firm comScore. If the site more effectively banned children, it could stand to lose about 3.5 percent of its U.S. market.
    Ironically, one reason it's easy to game Facebook's screening process is the law passed to protect children. COPPA bars companies from saving most data on children. The FTC has said it would look skeptically on companies saving childrens' names or email addresses even if the data simply helped them prevent children logging onto their sites.

    Children who aren't savvy enough to game Facebook's system often get parental help, according to a 2011 study headed by Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research. She found that 55 percent of parents of 12-year-olds said that their child was on Facebook and that 76 percent of those had helped the child gain access.

    "Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services," said Facebook's Wolens.

    On Facebook, children are exposed to advertising for sugary, high-fat foods, the kind increasingly pulled from children's television shows.

    "We found lots of food products on Facebook being advertised, including many which are targeted to children," said Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

    One is Kellogg's new Krave cereal, a product which is roughly one-third sugar. With advertisements featuring an animated, pudgy Krave Krusader, it now counts 456,000 "likes" on Facebook.

    Kellogg's said it did not intend to market Krave to tweens and complied with an industry initiative to not market high-fat, high-sugar products to children. "Krave follows Facebook's policy that all fans must be 13 or older," the company said in a statement.

    Dr. Victor Strasburger, chief of the division of Adolescent Medicine, University of New Mexico Department of Pediatrics, said the Krave Krusader ads are part of what he called "unethical" appeals by sugary cereal makers. Nearly 20 percent of U.S. children aged 6-17 are obese, according to a 2011 government report.

    Child advocates say that even if Facebook is not appealing directly to children, the company needs to realize that ads aimed at teenaged users will also attract tweens, who imitate older peers.

    "I don't think Facebook deliberately goes out and gets kids at the moment," said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. "I think when they target teens the way they do, they know that they'll pull in a lot of younger kids."

    (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Andrew Hay)