Codebreaker - Most Commented

Pages

OMG! LPRs make us LOL nervously

LPRs you ask? License plate readers, like the ones found on the two sole roads leading in and out of Tiburon, Calif., that can feed police a list of plate scans at up to 60 per second. Police use the scanners to spot stolen cars or people who might be wanted, but privacy advocates are raising concerns about everybody else. Tiburon has been using LPRs since 2009, and now similar readers can be found all over the country.

Ars Technica reports:

In late July 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates sent requests to local police departments and state agencies across 38 states to request information on how LPRs are used.

Law enforcement officials in Tiburon say crime has dropped one-third since the cameras have been up and running. The nation’s capital sports the most densely packed area of LPRs, sporting more than one every square mile. A major privacy concern that keeps popping up is data retention. Again from Ars:

"I want to give law enforcement all the tools to catch the bad guys, but I don't want to yield to [a] Big Brother state," Utah State Senator Todd Weiler, a Republican, told Ars. "There has to be a happy medium, but part of the happy medium is showing how long you need to store the data."

So far, lawsuits challenging LPRs are being upheld.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Germans: they love David Hasselhoff and are wary of Facebook

Facebook’s use of facial recognition software has always been a bit off putting for a lot of people since it associates faces with names and can display your name without you saying that’s okay. Facebook says its software is fully compliant with European Union privacy laws but German Data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar isn’t so sure. He says it breaks the rules for Facebook to accumulate a database of images of users’ faces without the users’ consent.

From the BBC:

The database is used to power its Photo Tag Suggest feature - a function which works out who someone in a picture is based on previously gathered photographs of that person.
Users can then choose to tag their friends, who are then notified that a new picture of them had been uploaded.
The feature, like many on Facebook, operates on an opt-out basis, an approach heavily criticised by Mr Caspar who has demanded that the database is destroyed.
He argued that it was gathered without users' consent and therefore illegal.


The German government has now re-opened an investigation of Facebook’s practices. The investigation had been suspended while similar complaints from the Irish government were being investigated.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Flash for Android is dead

Adobe’s Flash program is on its way to becoming kind of a computery version of the coelocanth: so sparse in population that while it will exist, many will believe it to have become extinct. As of today, Flash Player is gone from Google’s Play store and Flash’s parent company, Adobe, says it has halted developing it for Android devices. The decision to pull it was Adobe’s and it did so even though it was a well-reviewed bit of software among Google users.

From the BBC:

But Adobe said it was removing the option to install the plug-in because it was likely to exhibit "unpredictable behaviour" when used with the latest version of Android, known as Jelly Bean.
It also suggested that smartphone owners who had upgraded to the latest system should uninstall the Flash Player if it was already on their device.


All signs now point to HTML5 being the standard for animation on web sites, a standard that YouTube is now adopting as well. Apple, famously, has never allowed Flash on its iPhones and iPads saying it was too heavy a product that burdened devices more than it helped them. Adobe says it is confident that Flash still has a big future on PCs. Don’t stop believing, there, Steve Perry.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Here’s the iPad Mini, probably

Remember when people were surprised by Apple announcements? Like, the company rolls out... a phone! (spit take) What?! Where did that come from?! Now, we see the train coming a mile away. A number of sites, while still citing anonymous sources, say they are confident that leaked images of the iPad Mini are the real thing and that this is what we will be seeing at the Apple launch event on September 12th.

The link there is from 9 to 5 Mac but there is also much the same information from Apple devotee John Gruber who thinks it will resemble the iPad more than a middle point product between the Pad and the Phone. Gizmodo did its own mockup based on what was being widely speculated.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Now you can use your S-Pen and jot a S-Note. A Galaxy Note 10.1 roundup

Samsung is letting loose an update to its Galaxy Note tablet today, as the Galaxy Note 10.1 is now officially on sale. Phorget about the phablet - the original Galaxy note was dubbed a “phablet” because it had phone capabilities but was the size of a small tablet - the new version has a 10.1-inch screen, and it’s all tablet. One feature it kept is the stylus, or as Samsung calls it, the S-Pen, which the company says is perfect for using with its pre-loaded note-taking software called S-Note. S-Neat, I S-Guess. But what other features are included... I mean besides adding “S” to words?

PC World:

The Galaxy Note 10.0 also comes with a customized copy of Adobe Photoshop Touch, allowing users to do fine-grained, professional-quality photo editing.
The tablet also comes with universal television remote software and it even offers recommendations based on previous TV viewing habits.

If cost is your guide, Time offers this note:

The Galaxy Note 10.1 with 16GB of storage lists for $499, the same price as a 16GB iPad. But the 32GB Galaxy Note is $549, $50 less than a 32GB iPad. And while there’s no 64GB model, the tablet’s microSD slot lets you add a 32GB memory card for $20 or less, bringing capacity up to 64GB for a grand total of about $570 — a steep discount off the 64GB iPad’s $699 sticker price. Both the 16GB and 32GB variants offer wi-fi but no cellular option and come with 50GB of Dropbox online storage for two years.

Walt Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal review has this to say about the unique, split-screen feature:

While in this multiscreen mode, each app takes up half the screen, and you can copy and paste content between them. I liked using this feature, but found copying and pasting often required multiple, clumsy steps, like taking screen shots of what's in one app, and then cropping.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Making a parody song using video game characters can pay the rent

 

No eggs! (That’s MTR slang for: for real.) Minecraft, the game where players build virtual worlds, hunt for diamonds, and try to avoid creepers, has spawned a cottage industry of YouTube videos that feature block-headed characters from the game. There’s a guy in England who even sells “Form This Way,” his version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” on iTunes. He tells the Wall Street Journal, “It just about covers monthly bills - or at least the rent.”

Just to be straight, these videos are not low-budget throwaways that people spend a few minutes hacking together. These people are passionate about their gaming and even more passionate about their videos. Millions upon millions are clicking to watch too.

The godfather of Minecraft song parodies may be Jordan Maron, a.k.a. CaptainSparklez, maker of the hugely popular Usher parody. In his version, dubbed "Revenge," a cube-shaped Usher figure in trendy glasses and a half-unbuttoned shirt sways and croons, " 'Cause baby tonight, the creeper's trying to steal all your stuff again."
The video has more than 54 million views on YouTube, a strong showing to Usher's original video, at more than 75 million views.

 

 


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Why is my state so...

You know how on Google, the search engine sometimes fills in the rest of your query before you’re done, at least with suggestions based on what everyone has been searching for? Like just now I typed in “Marketplace Tech Report” and it suggested “Marketplace Tech Report NPR”. Sigh.

Anyway, blogger Renee DiResta was curious about what each state was known for, either by its own residents or others so she put together a map that is going to suck up at least some of your time. You hover over a given state and it gives you four auto-fills for searches that start with “Why is (state name) so...”

For example:

Why is Minnesota
so liberal?
so windy?
so humid?
so awesome?

OR

Why is California
so liberal?
so broke?
so anti-gun?
so expensive?

Illinois is pretty sad, Pennsylvania is pretty strange.

From the LA Times:

Under culture, she notes that people are googling things like why are states so backwards, bad, boring, crazy, dangerous, hated, racist, stupid, trashy and weird. And sometimes, we google more positive questions like why a state is so great, which Montana, New Hampshire and New York each receive.


-
|
Aug 16, 2012

Branch is expanding, it’s reaching new places, it’s growing in many directions, it’s...uh...

Look, I’m not finding the right term for what Branch is doing but the latest entry in the Twitter-imitation derby went public beta this week and it’s starting to get a good deal of notice. Basically, it’s Twitter without the 140-character limit.

From the New York Times:

Branch entices people to start a longer, more in-depth conversation about a specific topic and invite others to join the discussion. Unlike most social networks, where anyone can join in and add their verbose opinions, only people involved in the conversation can invite others. This includes friends on Twitter and other social networks.


Although the project was funded by a tech incubator, the founders of Branch don’t come from the tech world but from politics and were inspired to create a forum where people could discuss things and have “healthy debates”.
Oh brother. This is going to go in one of two ways. Option 1, we’ll never hear from this thing again. Option 2, it’ll just get nasty and abusive and everyone will be a jerk. You don’t think that could ever happen on the internet, could it?

 


-
|
Aug 15, 2012

AT&T’s new software is a parent trap

Ensuring that the next generation of teens will slam doors in a huff, throw eye-daggers, flip up the collars on their leather jackets and rebel, a new AT&T video shows it’s testing software that will let parents remotely turn off voice and texting abilities on their kids’ phones. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Verge reveals what’s below sea level:

The video shows an AT&T marketing manager demonstrating how an iPad app could be used to remotely block calls, messaging, and internet access on a child’s device. It also shows how the app can be used to set up email alerts for excessive speeding, or to let you know when your child is trying to initiate a call or text message. And a “Safety Violation Summary” screen gives an overview of the dangerous driving behaviors recorded, like harsh acceleration or taking turns too quickly. The video mentions that the same tools could be used to prevent professional drivers from texting while driving as well.

You know what a nervous, new teen driver needs after his or her first week in rush hour traffic? A debrief. Nothing says “I trust you” like going over your kid’s acceleration patterns. And what’s this about “professional drivers?” The days of the “how’s my driving” sticker are numbered, if employers will be able to remotely answer that question.

I’m sure insurers are champing at the bit too. Your 2015 interaction with an insurance agent could look like this:

YOU: I haven’t had any tickets or accidents for five years. How about a rate reduction, Mac?
MAC: Hmmmm, OK, let’s pull up your scorecard. Heavens! Your phone tells me you’ve been rounding corners at an excessive rate. In fact, you have gone so far as to run over a curb. You sir not only deserve a rate increase, I will be phoning the authorities to have them add you to the Most Likely to Hit a Pedestrian list.

Oh well, I guess there’s always a driverless car...


-
|
Aug 15, 2012

You won’t believe what Facebook is going to try: MORE ADS

Shocker, right? Facebook? ADS? WhatEVER, dude. Yeah, the company is still scrambling for ways to generate mountains of cash to pay for a service that the whole world uses for free and to match Wall Street expectations in the process.

A test program will show users ads from companies directly in the news feed. So you’re checking your updates, seeing what friends are up to, dinking around, and then WHAMMO! AN AD FROM DEPENDS ADULT UNDERGARMENTS OR SOMETHING.

From Bloomberg:

Under the program, companies can place ads in users’ main feeds on smartphones and personal computers even if those members or their friends haven’t signaled they like the advertiser, said Annie Ta, a spokeswoman for Facebook. Until now, these types of ads only showed up on PCs to the right of the Facebook News Feed, which displays activities by friends and companies or groups a user has “Liked.”

These ads would show up on smartphones as well as on the web. Ignore this news as it relates to the web because this is all about mobile, which is the future of everything. Facebook has been trying to figure out how to make money in that space since, according to recent reports, 20% of users only look at Facebook on mobile. Big obnoxious display ads don’t work on mobile.


-
|
Aug 15, 2012

Pages

About this collection

Your guide to technology and the modern world.