Category Archives: Computers, Science & Technology

Facebook’s Solar Airplane WiFi!

Facebook WiFi PlanesI know, right?!? Hooray for ubiquitous WiFi! And, solar-powered planes… geek out alert!

Facebook’s solar-powered planes will provide Wi-Fi to the ‘burbs

Ars Technica – By: Casey Johnston – “Facebook revealed a new research lab on Thursday that will develop “aerospace and communication technologies” to bring Internet access to areas that have not yet been networked. One of the Connectivity Lab’s projects includes a plane that can remain in the air for months at a time, broadcasting Wi-Fi to regions below.

The plane technology comes from Ascenta, a UK company that specializes in high-altitude long-range aircraft. On Thursday, Facebook announced its acquisition of the company for $20 million. The planes would be solar-powered and would fly over suburban areas at an altitude of 20 kilometers, above where commercial airlines fly.

For more remote areas, like mountain ranges, Facebook and Connectivity Labs hope to put up satellites that not only cover the area with network access but talk between each other via free-space optical communication using infrared laser beams.

The project bears some similarity to Google’s Project Loon, which uses untethered balloons flying in the stratosphere to broadcast Internet connections. The balloons create a mesh network at the same altitude that Facebook’s solar planes would occupy and provide 3G speeds. Project Loon is still in the experimental stages, but the company anticipates that it could be deployed for use in military communications or in disaster areas.”

Pebble Watch Breaks Kickstarter Record!

Pebble WatchThey rasied 1 million dollars in 40 minutes, a new record! People must really want this watch!

Pebble Time Set New Kickstarter Records

I4U News – By: Luigi Lugmayr – “A new Pebble Smartwatch has been revealed on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Pebble offered the new color smartwatch Pebble Time again as a Kickstarter project and it reached the modest funding goal in no time. Now the campaign is over and Pebble raised over $20 million from about 78,000 supporters. Pebble broke the record of fastest project to raise $1 million (49 minutes). Pebble also became the most-funded campaign in Kickstarter’s history after receiving more than $13.3 million in pledges after the first week.

‘We cannot thank the Pebble community enough for their monumental support. We continue to listen to and be inspired by the backers who believed in us and supported our vision from day one,’ said Eric Migicovsky, Pebble CEO according to CNN.

Pebble released a steel version of the Pebble Time soon after the original Pebble Time got unveiled. Pebble will now be spending the coming months hard at work polishing every last detail of Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, finishing Pebble timeline, and ramping up the production process.

While the numbers sound impressive they are not in the bigger picture. The Apple Watch sales numbers will just make the 78,000 customers for the Pebble Time look like nothing. Apple is expected to sell millions of Apple Watches in the first wave when the first Apple smartwatch goes on sale in April.

About Pebble Time

The new Pebble Time is a color e-paper smartwatch that offers up to 7 days of battery and a new timeline interface that highlights what’s important in the wearer’s day. The new color e-paper display has a high contrast and always-on, perfect for displaying incoming notifications and the watch face. Compared with display technology like LCD or OLED, power consumption is minimized, enabling Pebble Time to achieve a battery life of up to 7 days.

Pebble Time’s new microphone lets users send voice replies to incoming notifications or take short voice notes. Pebble used the latest technology to maintain water resistance so consumers can swim or surf with Pebble Time. It is not water proof to the degree that it can be completely immersed in water.

Sending voice replies works with most major Android apps including SMS, Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and hundreds more. For iOS users, voice replies are currently limited to Gmail notifications. Pebble is working to enable voice replies for more apps.

Pebble Time is 20% thinner than the original Pebble at just 9.5mm. Its ergonomic, curved design fits comfortably on either wrist and slides easily under dress shirts.

Pebble Time is much better looking than the current Pebble. The lens is crafted from scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass with a bezel made of stainless steel. Like our previous watches, it’s water resistant – perfect for a run in the rain, water-balloon battle or a swim.

Pebble has also evolved the smartwatch user interface. The base concept is a timeline. notifications, news, reminders and events are laid out chronologically instead of being trapped inside separate apps. With one click, see what’s coming up next. Your timeline connects to calendars, alarms, and apps, organizing all kinds of relevant information along with quick actions. Similarly, recall the past.”

Microsoft Acquires LiveLoop

Microsoft is like the Borg… you will be assimilated! If you are an interesting, small company!

Microsoft acquires LiveLoop

India Today – “Microsoft has been on a sort of a race to acquire start-ups in the recent past. Its latest acquisition is LiveLoop. LiveLoop is a program which aids in converting PowerPoint presentations into a URL format. With this, anyone can check the URL, and PowerPoint need not be downloaded on the machine. As a result of the acquisition, the program will be closing down on April 24. Microsoft is known to remove traces of the acquired team’s work after acquisition.

Using this technology, Microsoft might be hoping to make it easier to access PowerPoint online in the coming days. Although there is already a PowerPoint client available online, it is not that user-friendly.

Microsoft has not revealed the amount it shelled out to acquire LiveLoop. This move comes after it had acquired the calendar app Sunrise for $100 million and e-mail client Acompli at a price of $200 million recently. Under the new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has become more open to making low-cost acquisitions, and not necessarily big names.”

LibreOffice is Coming On-Line!

LibreOfficeWould you like a version of LibreOffice that would be available via the web, like Office 365 from Microsoft? Well, it is coming!

SecureDrop 0.3, LibreOffice Online, and more news

Open Source News – By: Scott Nesbitt – “If you’re looking for a free and open source alternative to Google Drive or Microsoft Office Online, you’d have a hard time finding it. While there are services like Framasoft and Sandstorm, they’re collections of disparate applications that don’t work all that well together.

Two companies, IceWarp and Collabora, are coming together to bring the popular open source LibreOffice productivity suite online. The online version, called LibreOffice Online, ‘is intended to guarantee complete document cross-compatibility with the desktop version of LibreOffice,’ according to InfoWorld.

There’s currently no release date for LibreOffice Online. The first releases won’t pack all of the features and functions of the desktop version. According to Collabra, the online edition will only have “a subset of the features available in LibreOffice desktop versions.” But if IceWarp and Collabra succeed, this could be big for LibreOffice.”

Google Now Has Been Updated on Chromebooks

ChromebooksChromebook users get a Google Now update, and, it seems to be popular.

Chromebook Devices Get Google Now update

Voice Chronicle – By: Seth Charlton – “Android users have the access of Google Now for a while now and even though it may have not picked up as anticipated, users are utilizing it. It is being used by those Android users who would probably be searching a program capitalizing on full Android integration as well as all things which Google will bring by connecting the application through one interface.

Chromebook users will be next set of people to have access to the software as Google is planning to roll out the Google Now launcher for the Chrome OS Beta Channel. The update will result in Chromebook users getting access to Google Now app launcher.

Google community manager for Chrome, Ernest Cabrera, stated that the new launcher is amazing to begin fresh activities on Chrome OS such as launching apps or performing Google search.

He added that its simple, fast and aids in getting things done. Cabrera added they have increased search for helping to find what one is searching for in a quick way along with putting the apps being used most often to one’s fingertips as well as bring power of Google Now to the Chromebook.

If one is an Android fan and one does not know Google Now still, one can know that it tracks activity using other Google software and also formulates what one may require for the future. If one puts a location in the calendar for meeting, Google Now would remind a person when its time to go depending on the time it would be taking to drive there. One doesn’t even need to set a calendar reminder.

Google Now can also keep a person updated on many things such as News that one may be interested in especially using an Android-powered device.”

The New Macbooks Won’t Run Windows 7 in Boot Camp

I love my 17 inch MacBook Pro, but I use Parallels rather than Boot Camp. But, this is still a bummer for those that do!

Latest Apple MacBooks Will Not Have Windows 7 Boot Camp Support

Tech times – By: Judy Mottl – “Apple MacBook lovers likely won’t be loving the latest news regarding the impending revamped 13-inch MacBook Pro or how it impacts MacBook Air. Apple is eliminating Boot Camp support for installing Windows 7 on the two laptops.

The move means MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners will either have to upgrade to Windows 8, hang tough until the arrival of Windows 10, which is due to arrive sometime in the second half of this year, or tap third-party virtualization software.

The Apple support page, which doesn’t offer insight or an explanation of the move, does provide very easy to follow instructions on installing Windows on the Mac using Boot Camp. It does advise laptop owners to use the software update option to ensure that OS X and the laptop’s firmware are up to date. Boot Camp, which is Apple’s tool for installing Windows, will work with Windows 8 and later versions.

The 2014 MacBook Air and 2014 MacBook Pro are the only Apple notebooks that will now be supporting Windows 7. Yet, the OS can be used on newer MacBooks if virtualization technology, such as Vmware Fusion and Parallels, is used.

The news isn’t likely good, given that many consumers have stuck with Windows 7, and even Windows XP, which Microsoft doesn’t even support any longer, given the headaches that came with Windows 8 and even Windows 8.1. Many consumers did not like Microsoft’s new tile desktop design and new user interface changes. However, holding onto an old OS — Windows 7 debuted in 2009, after all — isn’t a good thing either, given compatibility issues with new apps and new system requirements on hardware. Yet, Windows 7 is the most relied on Microsoft OS at this point.

It is extremely likely there will be a huge Windows migration move by consumers and even enterprises when Windows 10 arrives, as it promises to bring back many interface elements Windows users liked. Microsoft has said it will provide a free upgrade to Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users when it launches Windows 10.

For now, those who jumped on the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display or the two options (11-inch and 13-inch) MacBook Air laptops have a decision to make regarding use of a Windows OS.”

Geek Software of the Week: Virtual Router!

Virtual RouterYou aren’t going to believe this, but Microsoft is turning out Open Source projects! What?! Yep, check it out!

Virtual Router

“What is Virtual Router?

Virtual Router is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 8, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Using Virtual Router, users can wirelessly share any internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any Wifi device (Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android Phone, Zune, Netbook, wireless printer, etc.) These devices connect to Virtual Router just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)
Where can Virtual Router be used?

  • Anywhere you are!
  • Home
  • Office
  • School
  • Airport
  • Bus Station
  • The Park
  • Grandmas House
  • The In-Laws
  • Absolutely Anywhere!
  • No Advertising, No Hassle

Unlike similar applications, Virtual Router is not only completely Free, but will not annoy you with any advertisements. Also, since Virtual Router is not ad-supported, it does not track your web traffic the way other ad-supported applications do/can.

The Wireless Network create/shared with Virtual Router uses WPA2 Encryption, and there is not way to turn off that encryption. This is actually a feature of the Wireless Hosted Network API’s built into Windows 7 and 2008 R2 to ensure the best security possible.

You can give your ‘virtual’ wireless network any name you want, and also set the password to anything. Just make sure the password is at least 8 characters.

BTW, this project is written entirely in C#.”

Open Source Sirius Takes on Siri!

SiriusCross-Posted from the Hand Hand Hack – Move over Siri! Now, there’s an Open Source alternative for Linux users!

Meet Sirius, the open-source Siri clone that runs on Ubuntu

PC World – By: Chris Hoffman – “Sirius is an open-source virtual assistant, a bit like Apple’s Siri (pictured above), Google’s Google Now, or Microsoft’s Cortana. But unlike those well-known helpers—and like Linux itself—Sirius is an open platform anyone can use and contribute to, from universities to startups. It’s currently being tested on Ubuntu, and you can download and install it on your own Linux PC today… if you’re particularly adventurous.

How it works
Sirius includes speech recognition, image recognition, and text recognition components. Ask it a question, and Sirius will analyze the meaning of the words, then extract the relevant knowledge from Wikipedia.

One big feature Sirius offers is the image recognition integration. For example, you could take a photo of the Eiffel Tower and ask ‘when was this built?’ Sirius would analyze the image, determine it was the Eiffel Tower, and then go find out when the Eiffel Tower was built. The big commercial assistant programs don’t yet offer a similar feature. This University of Michigan video provides a good introduction.

Organizations like Google, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are funding this project, but don’t expect Google to replace Google Now any time soon. Instead, it’s being developed by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Clarity Lab, and technologies from it may one day make it into the commercial virtual assistants.

But Sirius isn’t just a dry research project—it’s actual software you can download and run today.

Get the code
This project is licensed under the BSD license and hosted on GitHub, so anyone can contribute and play with the code. You’ll also find a ‘Sirius Suite’ download package, which you should use if you want to install this stuff on your own Linux PC.

sirius interface from video
This isn’t a piece of ready-made consumer software, so getting it on your own PC involves compiling the code from source. Sirius is built from many other open-source projects, including Carnegie Mellon University’s Sphinx for recognizing speech and UC Berkeley’s Caffe deep learning framework software. For image recognition, it uses OpenCV’s SURF. To answer all your questions, Sirius uses Carnegie Mellon’s OpenEphyra software. All of these bits of software are included in the Sirius Suite package.

Linux desktop environments and distributions could one day integrate this software with a pretty graphical interface, providing their own alternative to Siri, Google Now, and Cortana.

Yes, you could use this stuff on your own Linux PC today and impress your friends. Cortana integration is still in development in Windows 10, and Apple hasn’t made any moves to add Siri to Mac OS X. Currently, the best you can do on Windows and Mac OS X—and yes, Linux too—is use Google Now in Google Chrome.

But Sirius isn’t just a cool little open-source program to install. It’s a long-term vision for ‘the Linux of virtual assistants,’ an open project anyone can improve and use for their own needs. That’s something worth supporting—and something worth looking forward to.”

The NEW Apple TV May Yet Be a Reality Soon!

Apple LogoI still love my Roku, but this does sound intriging! After all, I am an Apple guy too!

New Apple TV device to appear midyear, report says

c|net – By: Don Reisinger – “The Apple TV set-top streaming box will reportedly get an update later this year that could finally bring some long-awaited features to the device.

Apple will unveil a new Apple TV box at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) later this year, Buzzfeed is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the company’s plans. The Apple TV announcement will come in tandem with the unveiling of a software development kit that will allow developers to bring apps to the set-top box, according to the report. Apple TV currently has apps, but those are automatically added to the device. The update would deliver an App Store to the Apple TV, similar to the App Store on iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad.

The Apple TV box has been on a strange odyssey since its debut in 2007. The original device was designed to bring iTunes content to a customer’s television and was followed by subsequent versions that stripped away the need for onboard storage and focused solely on streaming content to the television. An updated Apple TV device hasn’t appeared since 2012.

The Apple TV box currently offers access to iTunes content, as well as a host of apps, ranging from YouTube to HBO Go. Owners can also rent and buy movies and television shows from the device. The Apple TV device will also play host to HBO’s upcoming streaming-only service, called HBO Now, starting next month. It’ll initially be the only TV streaming device to support HBO Now, beating out competitors Roku and Google’s Chromecast.

Years ago, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously called the Apple TV a ‘hobby’ and gave little indication that the product would feature prominently in the company’s product roadmap. Indeed, over the last several years, some analysts have said that Apple has treated Apple TV as little more than an afterthought.

The tide, though, appears to be turning. At its special event earlier this month announcing more details on Apple Watch, Apple said it has reduced the price on the Apple TV to $69 from its previous $99 price tag. Apple also touted that it has sold 25 million Apple TV units since the product’s inception in 2007.

Just a week later, a report surfaced in The Wall Street Journal claiming Apple is working with television networks to launch a service later this year that would let users stream programming from a range of providers, including ABC, CBS and Fox. The service would be available on Apple’s iOS devices and the Apple TV. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET.)

The Buzzfeed report claims Apple is looking to sweeten the pot a bit. The new Apple TV box would come with a new design and more storage than the current device’s 8GB to allow for the storage of apps. The Apple TV device could also include a Siri voice control feature and support for Apple’s home automation platform HomeKit, the report says.

So far, pricing and other key details, like improvements to the device’s operating system, are unknown. Apple has yet to announce an official date for WWDC 2015. It typically hosts the show, which caters to developers who create software for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system and OS X operating system for laptop and desktop computers, in early June. Apple hosts a keynote address to kick off the event, which would likely be where the company announces an updated Apple TV.

Apple declined to comment.”

“Ugly Mail” Helps You Track Tracking

Yes, they ARE tracking you, if you open your email! Be aware, and be safe!

A Clever Way to Tell Which of Your Emails are Being Tracked

Wired – By: Brian Barrett – “While you’ve likely never heard of companies like Yesware, Bananatag, and Streak, they almost certainly know a good deal about you. Specifically, they know when you’ve opened an email sent by one of their clients, where you are, what sort of device you’re on, and whether you’ve clicked a link, all without your awareness or consent.

That sort of email tracking is more common than you might think. A Chrome extension called Ugly Mail shows you who’s guilty of doing it to your inbox.

Sonny Tulyaganov, Ugly Mail’s creator, says he was inspired to write the ‘tiny script’ when a friend told him about Streak, an email-tracking service whose Chrome extension has upwards of 300,000 users. Tulyaganov was appalled.

‘[Streak] allowed users track emails, see when, where and what device were used to view email,’ he recalled to WIRED. ‘I tried it out and found it very disturbing, so decided to see who is actually tracking emails in my inbox.’ Once the idea for Ugly Mail was born, it only took a few hours to make it a reality.

The reason it was so easy to create is that the kind of tracking it monitors is itself a simple procedure. Marketers—or anyone who’s inspired to snoop—simply insert a transparent 1×1 image into an email. When that email is opened, the image pings the server it originated from with information like the time, your location, and the device you’re using. It’s a read receipt on steroids that you never signed up for.

Pixel tracking is a long-established practice, and there’s nothing remotely illegal or even particularly discouraged about it; Google even has a support page dedicated to guiding advertisers through the process. That doesn’t make it any less unsettling to see just how closely your inbox activity is being monitored.

Using Ugly Mail is as simple as the service is effective. Once you’ve installed it, the code identifies emails that include tracking pixels from any of the three services mentioned above. Those messages will appear in your inbox with an eye icon next to the subject heading, letting you know that once clicked, it will alert the sender. Tulyaganov also confirmed to WIRED that Ugly Mail also doesn’t store, save, or transmit any data from your Gmail account or computer; everything takes place on the user’s end.

Ugly Mail appears to work as advertised in our test, but it has its limitations. It’s only built for Gmail (sorry… Outlookers?) and is only available for Chrome, although Tulyaganov says that Firefox and Safari versions are in the works. And while it’s effective against Yesware, Bananatag, and Streak, those are just three pixel-tracking providers in a sea of sneaking marketers. Tulyaganov has indicated that Ugly Mail will continue to add more tracking services to its list, but it’s not clear yet how long that might take. The onrush of users after receiving top billing on Product Hunt may help speed up the process.

If you’d like take take the extra step of just blocking pixel tracking altogether, another Chrome extension called PixelBlock—also referenced on Product Hunt—automatically prevents all attempts, instead of Ugly Mail’s more passive strategy of simply informing you that they’re happening.

Pixel tracking isn’t going away any time soon, and Ugly Mail is an imperfect way to prevent it. But it still offers a valuable glimpse at the marketing machinations we’re all exposed to every day, whether we’re aware of them or not.”

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