Codebreaker - Most Recent
Test drive an iPad at the airport
Terminal D, and soon terminal C, at New York’s La Guardia Airport has recently been remodeled. How? Think iPads. Lots of iPads. OTG Management, the company that runs all the concessions at the airport sprung for the $15 million dollar facelift, which gives travelers access to what looks like rows of cozy library tables and chairs, each with its own iPad. Just punch in your flight number for access to a tablet. In addition to getting flight status updates, you can order food and drinks to be delivered to your seat (see where OTG comes in now?).
OTG Chief Executive Rick Blatstein says he saw boarding-gate areas as an untapped sea of potential customers—lots of people sitting around, unhappy, with money to spend. "You look at people in gate-hold areas and it looks like they are waiting for a root canal.''
When the remodeling project for terminal C finishes up, OTG says there will be 2,000 iPads in rotation. the company has plans for a similar projects in Minneapolis and Toronto, adding 2,500 tablets to each. Somebody needs to do a follow up story in a year, when all the iPads have seen the abuse of millions of greasy finger swipes.
Sussing facts via app
SuperPacApp is a new app for iPhone and Android phones that says it can help you tell whether a campaign ad is being truthful. The app comes out of the MIT Media lab and the folks at Knight Foundation and works similar to music identifying apps like Shazam or SoundHound. So, like those music apps, when you see or hear an ad, you hold your phone up and SuperPacApp “listens” then searches databases for honesty. Oh, I wish there was a database of honesty.
The app pulls in data from non-partisan watchdog groups, such as PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, which routinely rate the accuracy of ads and political statements. Since there’s no central database, the app team has to find all of the commercials manually. “We’re plugged in with those journalists and they’re feeding us ads on a one-off basis. And then, separately, on our own, we’re signed up for all the newsletters and press sheets that alert us to when new ad’s are put out there,” Siegel told CNN.
Cool but clunky, because unless you sit around with the app open waiting to hear a commercial, you’re probably going to miss out. I suppose people have DVRs now, though, so I guess you could not skip all the commercials and wait around to fact check political ads, if that’s your thing.
Fans will make your landspeeder dreams come true
Next to Tattooine, the best place to test out a flying bike that kinda looks like a Star Wars landspeeder is probably the Mojave Desert. That’s where Mark De Roche and his team at Aerofex tested theirs. The design uses two big fans, pointed towards the ground, to lift the bike up to 15 feet in the air and send it whizzing at speeds that tops out at 30 mph. Gizmodo points out that it doesn’t look like it takes much training or effort to hop on one of the bikes and go for a spin.
The human pilot just have to lean and balance in a natural way, much like you do while driving a bicycle or a motor bike. It's all instinctive, says De Roche: “since [the pilot's] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him.”
Sadly the speeder bike isn’t for public consumption, at least not yet. Aerofex hopes they can sell a finished version to the military. Again from Gizmodo:
The company thinks that it can be used for heavy lifting in rough terrains, without having to care about wheels or caterpillar tracks. And, unlike helicopters and other flying devices, this one can go in between trees and canyons: “they have unique performance advantages [...] as they have demonstrated flight within trees, close to walls and under bridges.”
Dell cuts forecast as PC sales keep flopping
A few days ago, it was reported that Apple has become the valuable company in history. But the way the world sometimes works is that if one company is doing well then another company might be doing poorly. And that company is apparently Dell, which changed forecasts in profits, lowering them by 20 percent. Part of it, says the company, is just the plain old slow economy. Part of it is a gradual shift into being more of an enterprise company rather than a personal sales company. But it goes deeper than that and it points to a significant shift in what people want out of their computers.
Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell’s strategy of using acquisitions (DELL) to add software, storage and networking equipment has been slow to offset declining sales of desktops and laptops, which account for half (DELL) of revenue. Consumers and businesses increasingly favor the iPad and other tablet computers over traditional machines.
Twitter heat map shows rudest and nicest places
I’m still not sure that Twitter is the best barometer of who we are as a society. Rarely, for instance, do we shout “RT!” before quoting someone in real life. But the Ukrainian (?!) web development company Vertaline has made some interesting maps of the United States based on where people say “Good morning” and “F*ck you” the most.
You won’t believe it but New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago tend to come up a lot among the rudest areas of the country. Those bigger metropolises do pretty well for Good Morning as well but are trumped by the South. Not much seems to be happening in the Great Plains and places like Wyoming, which is probably because not much really ever happens in the Great Plains and places like Wyoming.
Take that Squarebucks
It was just a couple weeks ago, that Square announced a deal with Starbucks, which will give customers mobile payment options in all of the coffee king’s 7,000 + U.S. locations. Now, PayPal announced that it’s going to partner up with Discover to enable mobile all over the freaking place - 7,000,000 U.S. merchant locations. From AllThingsD:
Discover may not hold the same cache among consumers as Visa and MasterCard, but it reaches nearly as many merchants, roughly 95 percent of the two other payment networks combined. And when matched up with PayPal’s more than 50 million users in the U.S., the two could mark the first mobile payments network that spans both millions of users and millions of locations.
Mick (Visa) has the moves and Keith (MasterCard) has the licks, but the stones were nothing without Charlie Watts (Discover). You gotta have a back beat. Maybe Square can partner with Bill Wyman (Amex) and try to get back some satisfaction.
Expect to see the deal in action on the retail front next spring. The companies say that come April 2013, you will be able to use your PayPal card or phone number and a PIN (no card needed) anywhere Discover is taken.
Michigan begins a test to see how smart cars can be
The U.S. Department of Transportation began a new phase in a project, joining researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, that will track data from vehicles in hopes to make driving safer. The $14.9 million, yearlong study began yesterday will have cars talking to each other on a dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) system, similar to Wi-Fi but operating on a specified band of spectrum the FCC has set aside for autos. Break it down The Verge:
The deployment includes approximately 2,800 cars, trucks and buses, 300 of which are getting aftermarket safety devices to beam data like position, velocity, and acceleration to and from neighboring vehicles and infrastructure ten times every second. Another 64 will be "fully integrated," with safety systems installed during production, while the remainder will have simple transmission-only devices.
Researchers say DSRC is better than Wi-Fi for a couple reasons. First off, it’s faster and more reliable. Also, be able to track you. It’s specifically being deployed for safety reasons. So when a giant bus comes barreling through a red light, getting ready to crash into that tiny two-seater you drive because it fits into more parking spaces than other cars, you won’t be pressed into the city’s newest manhole cover. DSRC will tell your car and the bus about the impending collision with (hopefully) enough time for you to react or for your car’s auto-brakes to kick in. It won’t, however, use information from the bus’ data to give the driver a ticket.
Bonus green points! Again, from The Verge:
… it’s hoped that the project will have green spillover effects for the environment. Drivers will be able to get accurate real-time traffic updates directly from cars ahead of them, and be given alternate route suggestions. If all goes according to plan, fewer accident-induced backups and better use of less-congested roads should lead to less efficiency-sucking idling.
Foxconn gets improved grades from watchdog group
Clearly, Apple’s biggest manufacturer is feeling the heat from Mike Daisey! Okay, probably not. But Foxconn is treating its workers better than it used to, according to a new report from The Fair Labor Association.
The Fair Labor Association said on Tuesday local laws require the companies -- which came under fire over conditions at the plants blamed for a series of suicides in 2010 -- to reduce hours by almost a third by 2013 for the hundreds of thousands working in Foxconn plants across southern China.
Foxconn said on Wednesday it would continue to cut overtime to less than nine hours a week from the current 20, even though that could raise labor costs while also making it difficult to attract workers.
That last bit sounds like a lot of spin coming from Foxconn, presenting the idea that the workers really WANT to work incredibly long hours building iPads. But there might actually be something to it. Foxconn factories are known to be among the better places to work in China, if you have to be working in a Chinese factory anyway. Foxconn is under pressure to meet the demand of Apple and turn a profit in the process. It’ll be interesting to see if there are more reports after production of the iPad Mini really kicks in.
Sites accused of collecting inappropriate data from kids
Big companies want to have successful web sites that draw people in and convert them from web surfers to paying customers. And any marketing professional knows that if you can form brand loyalty early in a customer’s life, you have a shot at putting money in the bank for a long time.
But for crying out loud, folks, QUIT COLLECTING PERSONAL INFORMATION FROM CHILDREN. So goes the complaint against several popular websites as reported in the New York Times. A coalition of privacy groups has filed a complaint with the FTC about the practices of six popular sites, charging the sites with attempting to collect email addresses of the friends of people who visit the site.
From the Times:
At least one company, however, said the accusation mischaracterized its practices, adding that the law allows an exception for one-time use of a friend’s e-mail address. As of late Tuesday, the companies said they had not received copies of the complaints. Obtaining information about adults’ social networks to e-mail marketing messages to their friends is a common industry practice called “tell a friend” or “refer a friend.” But now an increasing number of children’s sites are using the technique by inviting children to make customized videos promoting certain products, for example, and then sending them to friends.
The sites cited by the advocacy groups include McDonald’s HappyMeal.com; Nick.com, the Nickelodeon site owned by Viacom; General Mills’ ReesesPuffs.com; SubwayKids.com; another General Mills site, TrixWorld.com; and Turner’s CartoonNetwork.com.
“It really shows that companies are doing an end run around a law put in place to protect children’s privacy,” said Laura Moy, a lawyer for the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit group in Washington that led the complaints. “Under the law, they can’t just collect e-mail addresses from kids and send them marketing material directly. So they are embedding messages saying, ‘Play this game and share it with your friends,’ in order to target the friends.”
New efforts to fight computer viruses in cars
With the online car, comes online viruses. What, you thought we could just have nice things and NOT somehow pay a horrible price? There’s ALWAYS a horrible price. You can own an incredibly powerful computer that fits in your hand but you’ll miss out on real life. You can be connected to all the friends you’ve ever known but you’ll forget what friendship actually is. Always a price, folks. Always a horrible price.
Reuters reports that hackers employed by Intel’s McAfee security division have been holed up in a garage somewhere on the west coast trying to break into a car. Have you tried the coat hanger trick, guys? Sorry.
Car computer security is causing a lot of worry because the technology surrounding car computers is growing fast. Whenever a technology grows fast, you can be sure that the security element and the regulatory elements will be lagging behind, thus increasing the risk of bad guys.
"You can definitely kill people," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit organization that helps companies analyze the potential for targeted computer attacks on their networks and products.
To date there have been no reports of violent attacks on automobiles using a computer virus, according to SAE International, an association of more than 128,000 technical professionals working in the aerospace and the auto industries.
Yet, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said his company had tasked its security engineers with making its Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant as possible to attack.