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Cell Phone-Capable Airplanes Coming in 2013

You will remember those clumsy airplane phones in the back of the center seat which, for a hefty price, could let you reach out and touch someone from 30,000 feet. What you get these days is an announcement about turning off all your battery-powered stuff until you reach altitude. And don't even think about making a call. The tide, however, could be shifting. The new Boeing 747-8 Dreamliner, now in production, could let people use their cell phones as soon as next year, although at the moment FAA rules won't allow this over U.S. airspace. So there is First Class, Business Class, and here an idea: Quiet Class.


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Sep 23, 2012

Dark Matter Survey Camera: Looking Through the Lens

A super cool camera with super-cooled components has taken its its first photos. Scientists at Fermilab created a digital camera with 570 megapixels, and it's just captured a nice shot of star clusters 17,000 light years away. 

Josh Freeman, director of the Dark Energy Survey says the camera is pretty unique -- attached to a telescope with a 13-foot mirror on it. Beyond the value of basic scientific research, this thing also offers a lesson for anyone buying a digital camera: It's not all about the megapixels.  The Dark Energy camera doesn't just have LOTS of light-gathering pixels, pixels stuck on a massive sensor bigger than your head. 

"Even if you have a good digital SLR camera," says Freeman, "it's maybe a couple of inches across. This camera is more like two feet across."

Freeman's team of 200 international scientists has a five-year mission: to boldly use the camera perched in a Chilean observatory to learn about origins of the universe. Not a bad goal -- and one that may be attainable, with that kind of gadget. 


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Sep 19, 2012

From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, it pays to work in high tech

The Internet, high tech and computer manufacturing industries continue to boost local and state economies with competitive jobs and high wages. On average, a high-tech worker in the private sector earns 77 percent more than a worker with a non-tech job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled by the industry trade group TechAmerica.

But not all states are created equal. Explore the U.S. by the number of jobs and businesses in the high-tech industry, and see how each state ranks in terms of average wage for a high-tech career in this interactive map from the desk of the Marketplace Tech Report.

All week, we'll be exploring the technology industry from heart of the third-largest state in terms of the tech jobs economy - New York City, also home to the new Tech Report with Host David Brancaccio.

Innovation Nation. Click through to see how your state ranks in terms of high-tech jobs and wages. Explore the interactive map.

 


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Sep 17, 2012

Phone Companies Could Be Overcharging You for Data

Turns out, the phone company could be overcharging you for going online while you're mobile. Researchers at UCLA compared how much data smartphones used while connected to the internet to what the phone company was charging (read their paper here). In areas of lousy coverage, some customers were billed for data that never showed up. Tom Simonite at MIT's Technology Review says one researcher was trying to watch a video on his phone while riding the train...

"And then the train went into a tunnel, he lost the signal, and the video cut out and he didn't get to watch any more of it, but the carrier kept sending data his way. As far as their system could tell, data was being streamed to his device. And so when the bill came in, there was about 7 percent more data on his bill than he had actually been able to use on his device."

According to paper co-author Chunyi Peng, it's an architectural problem--an issue of how carriers measure data--and maybe not a malicious one. But considering how confusing a cell phone bill can be (have you ever looked at all those separate line items?), it's a problem in need of a solution. Especially now that nearly half of us are using the kind of phones that could potentially play video and use other streaming capabilities. 


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Sep 16, 2012

Will Amazon announce a phone today?

Amazon is hosting a big announcement today and for quite a while we’ve been expecting some combination of Kindles and Kindle Fires to be on the launch pad. Late last week, the company said that it was “sold out” of the Kindle Fire, which is a slam dunk indication that the old model, which showed up less than a year ago, is being replaced.

From ABC News:

The next version of the Fire has been rumored to have a faster processor and an updated design. There have also been rumors that Amazon might release a larger 10-inch tablet this week.

The thing to really watch for here is whether Amazon also announces a smartphone at this event, something that The Verge says is very possible:

Multiple sources have confirmed to The Verge that Amazon is working on a smartphone that runs a variant of the Kindle Fire's Android-based operating system, and we're now hearing that the device will be shown to the press tomorrow.

The Verge also reports that Amazon’s new Kindle will feature a “Paperwhite” display - even clearer - and have an 8-week battery life.


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Sep 6, 2012

FCC to test wireless speed

If you ask any salesman at the wireless stores and kiosks at the mall how fast their company’s network is, you’ll likely get some variation on, “Oh, it’s REALLY fast”, which doesn’t ultimately help you all that much. The company’s advertisements aren’t much better, each boasting about speed without providing much in the way of quantification.

The FCC is going to do something about that. The Commission will hold a meeting on September 21st to begin to develop a program for monitoring mobile network speeds. The FCC has been doing that with broadband networks for some time. 

All Things D quotes FCC Chair Julius Genachowski:

“We know from experience: Transparency on broadband speeds drives improvement in broadband speeds. Our new mobile broadband measurement initiative extends the program to smartphones and other wireless devices. It will empower consumers and encourage improvements in mobile networks and programs, benefiting millions of Americans.”

It will be interesting to see if the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world embrace this testing or if they lobby against anything that could put their claims at risk of being defied by reality.


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Sep 6, 2012

Sec. Clinton calls for joint effort on security between U.S. and China

A big day for people named Clinton yesterday. President Bill gave a pretty big speech at the DNC in Charlotte, meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary was in China attempting to forge a rather bold new initiative: cooperation on cybersecurity.

Hillicon Valley quotes her:

"Both the United States and China are victims of cyber attacks. Intellectual property, commercial data, national security information is being targeted," Clinton said in remarks at the press conference. "This is an issue of increasing concern to the business community and the government of the United States, as well as many other countries, and it is vital that we work together to curb this behavior."

There’s a lot going on here, obviously. It’s logical for two superpowers to work together on a big effort. China, however, has been the source of a lot of cyberattacks within the United States and it’s often unclear whether the attacks are coming from private citizens, the Chinese government, or some combinations of the two. Then there’s the fact that China strenuously censors the internet within its borders.

It might also just be a diplomatic charade: two countries playing nice discussing something that will never come to fruition in a meaningful way.


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Sep 6, 2012

This crazy Romney tax return hacker story is crazy

The value of the Internet currency known as Bitcoin rose yesterday for a pretty weird reason. Hackers claim to have obtained the tax records of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney from Pricewaterhouse Cooper and say they will release the records unless the Romney campaign pays them a million dollars in the hard-to-trace Bitcoin currency.

From Venture Beat:

Bitcoins are an electronic currency unregulated by any central authority. Users are self-policed and receive instant payments of Bitcoins through an encrypted process that verifies each transaction and does not allow it to be undone. Bitcoins are difficult to exchange for actual dollars, but are otherwise a very private way of exchanging cash. This makes the currency preferable for those who don’t wish to be identified.

The Secret Service is investigating the claims, which were first posted on Pastebin, a message board site commonly visited by hackers. Pricewaterhouse Cooper is denying the claims, or at least saying that it has seen no evidence of a hack. A lot of the chatter in the hacking world is pretty dubious of the claims as well but we live in a world where anyone can go on some website, say they pulled off a big crazy hack, and it becomes news.


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Sep 6, 2012

Farmville 2 launches but does anyone care? I mean, I do, a little, thus the memo item here, but in a larger sense, you know?

Way back when we started doing Tech Report and dinosaurs roamed the earth and the internet was steam-powered, Zynga was a big success story. This was thanks in large part to Farmville, the hyper-addictive, hyper-social game that had millions of people studiously maintaining farms of pretend crops and make-believe livestock. Then things went South: follow-up games from Zynga didn’t make quite the splash and people realized that the games were pretty stupid (a fact that they could have arguably deduced much earlier in the process.

Now Zynga’s offering up Farmville 2 and there’s a degree of poetic sadness in the scenario being presented.

From the LA Times:

While the harvesting theme remains, there are no coins that come bursting out of every click in "FarmVille 2." The original game's two-dimensional artwork yields to three-dimensional graphics in the second version. Quests in the new game are less about rescuing lonely livestock and more about building an empire out of the wreckage of a neglected family farm.

“See, the farm represents the ruinous state of our company after lots of layoffs and people realizing our games are lousy!” a spokesperson for Zynga didn’t really say.


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Sep 6, 2012

That fancy new Windows 8 phone can sure take great video

Nokia really wants you to believe that headline. It created it’s own video of a fun-loving couple on a bike ride using their new Lumia 920 Lumia phones. Wow, look how smooth that video is... and they’re on bikes too! One problem: the video wasn’t shot using the new phone.

The Verge was first to point out the error:

... there's a curious reflection in the window of the trailer in the background. It's not a young man riding his bicycle alongside the cheerful model, but instead a big white van with a lighting rig and a cameraman standing in the doorway — with what appears to be a large camera rig. Whatever he's holding, we can reasonably agree it's not a Lumia 920.
Owning up to the mistake, Nokia issued an apology for the misleading ad, which reads in part:
In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilization (which eliminates blurry images and improves pictures shot in low light conditions), we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only. This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet. We apologize for the confusion we created.

The apology was accompanied by a new, hastily shot video that really does show the new phone’s image stabilization capabilities.


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Sep 6, 2012

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About this collection

Attitude Check is a regular segement from Marketplace and Gallup Editor in Chief Frank M. Newport public opinion of the economy on issues from income to politics to consumer confidence with data, insight, and expert commentary.