Friday, 11 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Free College: How to Audit Courses From 7 Elite Schools Online”


Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Free College: How to Audit Courses From 7 Elite Schools Online”

Free College: How to Audit Courses From 7 Elite Schools Online

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 05:02 AM PST

Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, reporter and humorist who also contributes to TruTV’s, Playboy’s and He can be found on the web at or on Twitter @thisisdannyg.

Getting accepted to a prestigious Ivy League school has its perks — and its price tag. But thanks to the Internet, you don't have to take on mountains of debt to snag a piece of that educational pie.

SEE ALSO: How Online Education Is Changing the Way We Learn [INFOGRAPHIC]

Image courtesy of Flickr, Paul Lowry

1. Yale

This honorable institution has educated some of the most brilliant minds of our time, from Nobel Prize winning laureates such as Sinclair Lewis and George Whipple to Pulitzer Prize winners like David McCullough, Thornton Wilder and Bob Woodward.

The Open Yale Courses are a great place to start your online education. The program offers a wealth of deep information on a variety of scientific, historical and artistic subjects from some of the university's top professors. The online college courses can be viewed through YouTube and iTunes to help you learn from the bigwigs on the go.

Image courtesy of Flickr, pgoyette

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More About: classes, college, contributor, education, features, online education

Zynga CEO to Employees: We’re a Meritocracy

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 02:59 AM PST

After an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested Zynga has been demanding that some employees surrender stock options they were previously granted, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus sent a memo to employees, claiming the article paints the company in a “false and skewed light”.

In the note, obtained by Fortune, Pincus says dismisses WSJ‘s claims, calling Zynga a “meritocracy” thathas been built in an “ethical and fair way”.

“The Wall Street Journal posted a story last night (copied below) which paints our meritocracy in a false and skewed light. The story is based on hearsay and innuendo which is disappointing but is to be expected as we move towards becoming a public company,” says Pincus in the note.

WSJ‘s story claims that Zynga has decided that some employees have too many unvested shares, asking them to return a portion of them back or be fired. Fortune has another take on the story, claiming that Zynga’s management is well within its rights to “punish” employees who haven’t been performing up to the company’s standards by asking them to surrender unvested shares, basically describing the practice as cutting the employee’s pay.

It’s definitely an unusual practice, and one likely to raise controversy, especially before the company’s IPO. After it goes public, Zynga will likely have to implement clear and transparent rules and regulations on how it rewards — and punishes — the “citizens” of its meritocracy.

Zynga’s long-awaited initial public offering is due mid-November, with the company hoping to raise between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, at a valuation close to $20 billion.

Zynga's New Headquarters

There is a Zynga RV at the entrance.

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More About: Mark Pincus, meritocracy, trending, Zynga

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NASA to Send a Car-Sized Rover to Mars This November

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 01:08 AM PST

NASA is undergoing final preparations to launch its most advanced rover to Mars on November 25.

The rover named Curiosity will be carried to Mars by an Atlas V rocket, which is already awaiting liftoff at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Curiosity weighs one ton, and it’s twice as long as earlier Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. It has a 7-feet mast which will carry cameras and a laser-firing instrument which will enable it to study targets from a distance, as well as a 7-foot-long arm for studying targets up close.

All in all, the rover carries 10 scientific instruments; among other things, the rover will be capable of determine the composition of rock and soil samples, gather weather information and measure radiation levels.

If everything goes according to plan, Curiosity will land on the Mars in August 2012, where it will examine the Gale Crater which NASA calls “potentially habitable.”

Besides laying down the foundation for a possible manned mission to Mars in the future, Curiosity should also bring important pointers for answering the question of whether life has existed on Mars.

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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[via NASA]

Image courtesy of NASA

More About: Curiosity, Mars, Mars rover, NASA, rover, space, space exploration

Sorry Muppets, Billy Crystal’s Hosting the Oscars

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 10:40 PM PST

muppets oscars billy crystal

Despite a grassroots Facebook and Twitter effort for the Muppets to host the 84th Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose eight-time host Billy Crystal. The Oscar vet is second to only 18-time host Bob Hope for most emcee stints.

The selection follows a whirlwind day of Oscar buzz. After Eddie Murphy backed out of hosting the Awards, now-selected host Billy Crystal’s name trended on Twitter.

In addition to Crystal, several other candidates stood out as potential hosts. Notably, the Muppets, weeks before their feature film debut Nov. 23, attracted a major following on a non-official Facebook fan Page “The Muppets Should Host the 2012 Oscars” as well as a Twitter account @MuppetOscars.

SEE ALSO: First Full-Length Muppets Movie Trailer Debuts [VIDEO]

It appears the Page was created earlier this year (a linked blog first posted in February), yet following the Murphy announcement fans rallied behind the campaign, ferociously commenting about “how awesome” a Muppets-hosted show would be.

Though the Twitter campaign — which has gained more than 11,000 followers — has been tweeting periodically throughout 2011, it revved up its efforts in the past day. Even though Crystal was chosen as 2012′s official host, the handle leaves Muppets fans with lingering hope for a cameo at the show.


In all seriousness, do you think Jim Henson’s beloved puppets would have made good Oscars hosts? Or was this campaign an Internet joke?

BONUS: Eddie Murphy Out as Oscar Host, Twitterverse Explodes

Zach Braff

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Tidal, the Startup That Gets Big Exposure for Blog Posts

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 10:15 PM PST

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Tidal

Quick Pitch: Tidal puts content from independent blogs onto large publisher websites.

Genius Idea: Unlimited content for publishers, exposure for bloggers.

The Huffington Post started a trend of exchanging exposure on websites for unpaid contributions.Tidal, which opened to the public on Thursday, has made this exchange convenient — but with a focus on passionate bloggers who write about topics such as fashion, food, sports and home improvement.

Here’s how it works: Bloggers sign up on the Tidal website and tell the service what their blog is about. The service looks at factors such as Klout score, comments and other indicators to decide what publisher would be a fit for the content. Meanwhile, publishers who pay a monthly fee get a dashboard where they can browse blog posts recommended for them. They can instantly publish posts they like on a dedicated site.

Bob Vila Nation, Zagat Fork & Tell and Teen Vogue Fashion Click are three clients who have started to aggregate blog posts using Tidal.

Founder Matt Myers says that branded sites and ecommerce sites have also signed up.

Tidal publisher dashboard

Tidal seems like a no-brainer for such publishers. Instead of paying for each piece of content from a source such as Demand Media or Contently, they pay a monthly fee for access to as much content as they want.

Lack of compensation for their work makes the system seem like less of a good deal for writers. But Myers says that the company focuses on content from blogs people write for fun.

"For them it's the exposure, opportunities for promotion, events," he says.

Bloggers who syndicate with Tidal get dashboards to track where their content is posted and how much it is seen. Although their full blog posts — not excerpts — are posted on publisher sites, those sites do link back to the original posts. Myers says that “traffic does leak back,” and writers keep all ownership of their work.

Without an excess of quality posts to populate it, Tidal would lose its appeal among publishers. Its success depends largely on whether passionate bloggers are willing to make the trade of content for visibility on these terms. Throughout the beta, more than 5,000 of them have been.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Auris

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, blog, content, Tidal

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John Cho Talks “Harold & Kumar,” Facebook Impostors and the Art of 3D [VIDEO]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 08:23 PM PST

Since the release of Avatar, we’ve seen all kinds of movies get the 3D treatment; it was only a matter of time that stoner films would follow suit. Throw in some 3D, some raunchy humor, Neil Patrick Harris and some seriously spiked eggnog and you’ve got A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

Mashable spoke to John Cho, better known as Harold in the cult film series, about the film, re-teaming with Kal Penn, shooting in 3D and his Facebook impostor.

John also took the time to answer questions our community asked via Twitter and Tumblr.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is in theaters now. Let us know in the comments what you think about the 3D-ificiation of cinema.

More About: 3D, 3d movies, harold & kumar, john cho

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Hands On: iOS 5.0.1 Upgrade is Fast, Easy [PICS]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 07:22 PM PST

As we reported earlier today, Apple has just released a free update for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, both iPads, and the third and fourth-generation iPod touch. Watch how easy it is to update iOS 5 over the air, without using iTunes.

Designated iOS 5.0.1, the update claims to fix that battery longevity bug, and in addition, owners of the original iPad get the additional multitasking gestures (already possible on the iPad 2), everyone gets better synching with documents in the Cloud, and Aussies can more accurately dictate text using voice recognition.

Some of us have already noticed longer battery life with the 5.0.1 update (we’ll test that further as the days go by), but the big novelty here is the way you can upgrade an iOS device over Wi-Fi, otherwise known as an over the air (OTA) update. Android users will laugh, because they been doing this for years.

But for those of us using iPhones and their brandmates, this is a big deal. As Mashable’s Christina Warren emphasized earlier today, it’s no longer necessary to plug your iOS device into iTunes and wait for the entire 852.5MB operating system to download. Just the part that needs fixing is downloaded — this time it’s 55MB which took only a few minutes before it started installing.

SEE ALSO: How to Get Apple's First Over-the-Air iOS Update

For some iOS users, it’s even easier — they’re getting a “push” notification of version 5.0.1′s availability, with a small red-encircled “1″ on the Settings icon that leads them to the update. We didn’t get that push notification, but we’ll show you how to update your iOS device without it. Here’s the step-by-step upgrade procedure, which took a grand total of about 10 minutes to download and install:

Start the Update

Tap the Settings icon, select General, tap Software Update. If you need the update, here's where it'll let you know.

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More About: downloads, iOS 5, iPhone 4S, upgrade

LinkedIn Unveils Dashboard for Groups Statistics

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 06:34 PM PST

LinkedIn has unveiled a new Group Statistics dashboard that allows group admins to drill down into the demographics and growth of their groups.

The new dashboard, as CEO Jeff Weiner describes it on Twitter, turns relevant information about each group into an infographic-style display. This information is summarized on a dashboard, but can also be broken down in three areas: “Demographics”, “Growth” and “Activity”.

“We've designed each infographic view to highlight the most important signals you'll need to help you understand your group better,” LinkedIn Data Visualization Designer Anita Lillie noted in a post on the LinkedIn blog.

Let’s use the Fans of Mashable group as an example. The Dashboard summary shows Mashable with slightly more than 24,000 members, garnering 59 comments last week with 9% of its members located in the New York City area. Diving deeper using the “Demographics” tab, we can see that 4% of the group’s members come from the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and London.

The Group Statistics dashboard also illustrates the group’s growth, displays how many new members the group has gained in the last week and shows a graph of the group’s week-over-week growth. The “Activity” tab highlights how many discussions occurred within the group. It even lets you know how many group members received a promotion or changed jobs.

The business-oriented social network has been placing a greater emphasis on its Groups feature in recent months. Last week, the company announced its members have created more than 1 million groups.

More About: linkedin, Linkedin Groups

5 Google Paid Search Products You Need to Know

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 05:31 PM PST

For many digital marketers, the fall of 2011 might be remembered for bringing dynamic advertising to paid search. Google’s newest offering, said to flip “the search engine on its head,” does away with the traditional keyword advertising approach in lieu of matching landing pages with the right user search.

Dynamic Search Ads is just one of dozens of innovations Google has made to its AdWords product over the past few years. Google paid search has evolved to include everything from video to coupons and a call feature, all in the name of improving advertiser results. Not every Google product is a good fit for every advertiser – in fact, some of its offerings aren’t even available to the masses yet. But Google is nothing if not progressive, and for this reason many of them warrant a closer look.

  1. Google Image Search. Instead of advertising exclusively on Google’s web results page, this product allows brands to place their listings next to Google Images. Typically, this approach is best suited to those who’ve noted a distinct benefit to presenting consumers with a product image up front. The campaign is set up through AdWords, except that instead of uploading ad copy alone, the advertiser also submits an image that will precede the organic image search results on the page.
  2. Google Media Ads. Previously known as Google Video Plus Box, this program was initially tested in beta with advertisers ranging from automotive to CPG. A box beneath a standard search ad would display a web-only video such as an instructional product clip, and advertisers would pay the equivalent of their cost-per-click text ad bid when the video hit the 10-second mark. The unit has since morphed into Google Media Ads and is open only to the entertainment vertical (at least, so far).
  3. Google Product Ads/Extensions. Similar to the video extension, this unit allows brands to include additional promotional material in their text ads. The ad pulls information from an advertiser’s existing Google Merchant Center account and can include anything from images to business center maps, product titles, detailed descriptions, and prices. Brands can promote their entire product inventory through paid search and, in theory, generate more qualified clicks because they’re providing the user with more product information up front.
  4. Google Redemption Ads/Offer Extensions. Through this program, brands can deliver a coupon directly to search engine users from their paid search ads. Several user options exist, including having the coupon emailed to a desktop or texted to a mobile phone – they can even be saved to a user’s Google Wallet. Redemption options, too, are varied: depending on what the brand is looking for, consumers can redeem in store, online, or by mail.
  5. Google Call Extensions/Metrics. When generating phone calls is a campaign priority, Google’s call feature can help. Advertisers include in their paid search ad a unique toll-free number provided by Google that links to the marketing client’s existing phone number. Advertisers can then track which AdWords campaigns their calls are coming from, along with the duration of the calls and the caller’s area code, through their existing Google account.
  6. Google Sitelinks. One of the most useful of Google’s newer products, Sitelinks affords the ability to include up to six additional links in your AdWords text ad. This gives brands complete and immediate control over the pages, products, and messaging they wish to promote.

    Considering the length of time it can take for Google to re-index a site, and the urgency of updating ad copy and Sitelinks for such events as new product line launches, this can be a critical advantage. “You’re giving the user seven links to choose from and letting them select exactly where they want to go,” says Nathan Lewalski, one of Enlighten’s senior interactive media planners, “but you’re also gaining a competitive advantage by owning more real estate on the results page.” Click-through rates on these ads tend to be higher because users instantly know what to expect from a site. “Without paid search,” Nathan says, “it’s unlikely the user would see a brand’s newest messaging or get sent directly to new pages in time.”

Google is infamous for experimenting with its AdWords products (not to mention giving them countless different names). The advantage for advertisers is a glut of program options and a fresh take on how to supercharge those two little lines of text. Take some time to learn what’s new in Google Ad Innovations. The company’s next unit could be the one you’ve been waiting for.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hillaryfox

More About: Advertising, Google, Marketing, mashable, Search

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How Citizen Journalism Is Reshaping Media and Democracy

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 05:02 PM PST

Layla Revis is vice president of digital influence at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. Her specialties include international affairs, tourism and multicultural marketing.

"So long as the dominant culture's images of the world continue to be sold to others as the image of the world, image makers are being unethical." — Jay Ruby

The global media market is dominated by roughly nine or ten transnational corporations: General Electric, AT&T/Liberty Media, Disney, Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom, Seagram and Bertelsmann. However, with the advent of social media and blogging, the role of the citizen journalist is becoming more valuable than ever. He has the opportunity to present a unique perspective — to breathe fresh air into a society herded by mainstream media.

The citizen journalist provides invaluable information that can democratize media, as well as nations. For instance, the arrest of 29-year-old Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah of prompted Cairo activists to demand his release.

Working with 14 other clandestine reporters in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, citizen journalist Ryan Boyette and his colleagues have been documenting Sudanese government atrocities by gathering testimonies, photos and video from survivors and eyewitnesses. The team often includes GPS coordinates that locate the attacks, which they transmit to organizations like the Enough Project and Satellite Sentinel Project via solar-powered laptops and satellite phones.

When asked about his work, Boyette communicated his frustration with the lack of global attention the Sudanese crisis had been receiving. The Enough Project explains, "Boyette said he was translating the testimony of an elderly man who had fled the fighting when he realized he needed to bring the stories directly to influentials in the United States."

These citizen journalists fight to create a well-informed public in which media also serves as moral education. This philosophy radically departs from mainstream journalism, an overarching goal of which is to sell its product. Citizen journalism, on the other hand, allows marginalized people to reclaim their voices, to tell their otherwise silenced stories firsthand.

With the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements, we've already seen the ability of digital media to democratize. Twitter and mobile technology have allowed citizen journalists to more effectively broadcast the consequences of a repressive Iranian regime – even when major news outlets were blocked. And user-generated images of Abu Ghraib prison allowed a wider public to view immediate content in the palm of its hand.

Charlie Beckett, founding director of Polis, the London School of Economics and Political Science's forum for international journalism debate, explains, "[Networked Journalism] may contribute to the reformation of the global public sphere by connecting with the world beyond the newsroom…and by transforming the power relationship between media and the public [to reformulate] the means of journalistic production."

As traditional newsrooms become more constrained by time and resources, the advent of user-generated content on the web can only strengthen journalism. For example, media offshoots like BBC's User-Generated Content Hub, Reuter's partnership with blogging network Global Voices, and sites like PJ Media can significantly lower operating costs. On Reuters' Africa website, bloggers contribute first-hand perspectives, giving Africans a chance to speak for themselves through a blog linked directly with a mainstream media network.

Such online tools not only allow citizens to feel increasingly connected to their communities, but they also provide the opportunity for more balanced reporting. Of course, readers must be able to trust their citizen reporters. Beckett notes, "They are not usually in it for the money…Untrustworthy or irrelevant bloggers tend to get ignored."

However, there's always the question whether networked journalism will eventually eliminate the role of the practiced journalist. In that case, consider a certification process that would maintain ethical standards of practice and promote self-regulation, net neutrality and accuracy.

The main takeaway is that citizen journalists act as another check and balance to the mainstream press. Sociologist Michael Schudson explains, "When minorities and women and people who have known poverty and misfortune first-hand are authors of news, as well as its readers, the social world represented in the news expands and changes."

The ultimate question is: How will global media conglomerates handle this change? One thing is certain — systematic online migrations and newsroom layoffs are prompting fast change. As media outlets and technology shift to include the citizen reporter, readers will adapt and – hopefully – welcome the fresh voice of democracy.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, jcarillet, Flickr, S a l e e m – H o m s i

More About: blogging, citizen journalism, contributor, features, journalism, Media

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11/11/11 Is “Nerd New Year” — Here’s How to Turn it Up to 11

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 03:42 PM PST

Nerds and numerologists get ready: the last binary date of the 21st century is approaching.

Friday is 11/11/11 — a highly significant date if you believe in the power of numbers. No doubt thousands of us will see the preponderance of ones as a good time to turn over a new leaf — start that new diet or exercise routine, perhaps. There is some logic to this: as a memorable date, it makes it easy to celebrate your profound change of direction in years to come.

Friday is also Veteran’s Day, of course, and thus imbued with solemn significance. The First World War ground to a halt at 11 a.m. local time on the 11th of November 1918. This, then, will be the first time the world has ever gathered to remember the fallen at a time when every last number on the clock — including the two-digit year — is 11.

But it’s also a date to celebrate, at least for programmers who think in binary code. One group of hackers has dubbed it “Nerd New Year.” They’ll be lining the streets of Redwood City, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for an outdoor hackathon and party, including the countdown to Nerd New Year itself at 11:11 p.m. “It is ON,” organizer Adam Rifkin told Patch. (That’s a binary joke, by the way.)

Meanwhile, the makers of ChannelCaster — a media-sharing app for Android — will be marking the occasion by launching a channel dedicated to the movie This Is Spinal Tap, and screening the film more than 11 times during the day. The startup got its name, OneLouder, from the movie’s classic scene where the fake rock band reveals its amps are able to “turn up to 11.”

Android fans have another reason to celebrate: 11/11/11 marks the release of the highly-anticipated Droid RAZR. Verizon Wireless shops will open at 11:11 a.m. to start selling the device. If you feel like taking a stroll from the phone store to the multiplex, you may be able to catch a screening of Saw director Darren Lynn Bousman’s new horror flick: 11/11/11.

And if you’re more interested in contributing to a movie than passively watching one, you have a couple of options on 11/11/11. The One Day On Earth project is putting together its second visual record of the human experience. Meanwhile the 11/Eleven project is inviting digital submissions of every kind — audio, video, blog post, tweet — from the big day. The planned result: a two-hour documentary to be screened in September 2012.

It isn’t just the tech and entertainment worlds taking note. Las Vegas has been swamped with nearly 4,000 wedding applications. South Korea has seen a similar rush — but in the delivery room, with expectant mothers demanding c-sections on the lucky date.

If you miss the festivities, the next binary six-digit date will be here in slightly more than 88 years — on January 1, 2100. So if you’re planning on sticking around for that, it may be time to start that diet and exercise plan.

Image courtesy of Kichigai Mentat, Flickr

More About: binary

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Asteroids Gunner Takes Classic Game to the Next, Mobile Level

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 03:09 PM PST

Asteroids Gunner Opening Screens

The opening screen is a clear indication that this isn't your father's Asteroids.

Click here to view this gallery.

An aircraft carrier-sized asteroid zipped by Planet Earth Wednesday. It was hundreds of thousands of miles away from this blue orb, but if a flying chunk of rock ever targeted our home, one would hope that we'd be able to shoot it out of the sky before it arrived. Perhaps we could practice with Atari's new Asteroids Gunner.

The company that brought us the classic Asteroids Arcade game (as well as the Atari console and countless other classic titles) is now focusing some energy on the mobile space. Today it unveiled Asteroids Gunner, a nifty update to the original Asteroids games that includes 200 "stages," 100 Recruit levels with varying abilities (I'm currently a "Master-at-Arms"), a number of different spacecraft and fairly rich graphics.

Gunner is a far cry from the Asteroids of old; which was essentially a two-dimensional, black and white, vector-graphics game that pushed the envelope for its time (and hooked this author). In this latest version, the rocks and ships have dimension. The thrusters shoot out red and orange jets of fire and the explosions are tiny but semi-realistic—and this all happens on your iPhone or iPad.

Controlling the game on the iPhone is easy. You place your thumbs on the two virtual controllers. One is for steering and thrust, the other is for aiming your cannon. The game features power-ups, awards, health stars and shields–and it really seems to tax the iPhone's A5 graphics system. When we ran the game for a few minutes, the back of the phone got quite warm (CPUs of all kinds throw off heat when they're working hard).

The game is free and available in the iTunes Store today. Check out the gallery and let us know in the comments if you're still hooked on Asteroids.

More About: Apple iPad, apple iphone, Asteroids, atari, ipad, iphone, mobile games

Google+ Circles Get a Boost With Katango

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:53 PM PST

Google has acquired Katango, a startup that has developed advance people-sorting algorithms, in order to improve the quality of Google+ Circles.

“Katango was founded a little over a year ago to develop social algorithms that improve people’s online social interaction,” the company said in an announcement. “We’re excited to join the Google+ team and carry on fulfilling that mission. Google+ is seeing tremendous momentum, so it’s a perfect time to join and make Circles smarter for millions of people.”

Katango, previously known as CafeBots, was the first company funded by the Kleiner Perkins sFund. Earlier this year, the company launched an iPhone app to make it easier to message groups of people across Facebook, email and SMS.

SEE ALSO: Google+: The Complete Guide

The company’s strength is in its algorithms for social organization. Katango uses social cues to group a user’s friends and colleagues. Its technology is significantly more advanced than the code behind Facebook’s Smart Lists.

Google could well use that technology to improve its social network. Circles, the Google+ feature that lets users share content with different groups such as friends, family or colleagues, is central to Google+’s design. But sorting friends into circles is a tedious affair. Katango should make that process far less painful.

"We were impressed by the Katango team's innovative approach to making your social circles smarter, and we think they'll be a great addition to the Google+ team," a Google spokesperson told Mashable. Google also announced on Thursday that it had acquired Apture to add better search context technology to Chrome.

We have a few screenshots of what Katango was working on before the acquisition. Check them out and let us know what you think of Google’s newest purchase in the comments.


Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Google, Google Circles, Katango

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Yelp Mocks Rick Perry in iPhone App Update

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:42 PM PST

Yelp fixed three types of bugs in its iPhone app on Thursday: Bookmarks-related bugs, iOS5 styling and layout bugs and “um… uh, what’s the third one? Let’s see… Bookmarks iOS, layout and the um.. the third one we can’t recall. Oops.”

So says the app’s latest update page, which pokes fun of Rick Perry’s inability to recall the third federal government agency he would eliminate if he were president.

Perry drew the blank Wednesday night during CNBC’s “Your Money, Your Vote” GOP debate and stumbled for more than 40 seconds on the question before resorting to “oops.”

It’s not just Yelp that has been drawing attention to the incident since then.

A video clip of the memory lapse has made the top spot on the YouTube Politics channel’s list of Top 5 Hot Political Videos. YouTube news and politics manager Ramya Raghaven wrote that the video is the most-viewed video in both Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, two key Iowa cities for GOP hopefuls with eyes on the Iowa Caucus in January.

As the gaffe quickly became an Internet meme, Perry joined in on jokes from Yelp and others with a poll on his website: “What part of the federal government would you like to forget about the most?”

BONUS: 10 Unforgettable On-Air Political Bloopers [VIDEOS]

Rick Perry: "Oops"

2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry drew a massive blank Wednesday night during CNBC's "Your Money, Your Vote" GOP debate. On stage in Michigan, Perry attempted to rattle off three federal government agencies he would eliminate, but failed to remember number three: "Commerce, education and the … uh, um, what's the third one there. Let's see … " The mental block lasted about 40 more seconds before Perry uttered, "Oops."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: rick perry, yelp

LazyMeter Could Make Your To-Do List a Done List

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:32 PM PST

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: LazyMeter

Quick Pitch: LazyMeter is the cure for the overwhelming to-do list.

Genius Idea: Focuses on daily goals so users will finish their to-do list every day.

Never-ending to-do lists can be overwhelming, especially when it seems as though there’s never enough time in the day.

LazyMeter is a virtual task manager that prioritizes your tasks to help you focus on one day at a time. It’s faster than writing and scratching off tasks on paper, and it differs from other to-do lists by measuring your success at the end of each day.

“The goal is to change the way people feel about work,” says Aaron Franklin, co-founder of LazyMeter. “Everyone ends up with a never-ending to-do list that makes them feel overwhelmed, but LazyMeter focuses on helping them feel accomplished at the end of the day by showing them how much they’ve done.”

This is how it works: Add all of your tasks that need to be completed either that day or in the future into LazyMeter and use the drop-and-drag to prioritize each item. Once you complete a task, check it off and it will disappear from your list.

But let’s be real, who actually completes all of their to-dos? That’s where the pause button plays a role. It lets you clear your list every day by processing all of your tasks so nothing is ever forgotten. Just let LazyMeter know when you want to remember a task again, and it will add it to your to-do list for that day.


LazyMeter helps you take your to-dos off your mind.

The pause button helps you take your to-dos off your mind, and it gives you an idea of your procrastination. Once your list is empty, your work is finished and you can enjoy the rest of your day without worrying that you forgot something


LazyMeter measures your productivity (green) and procrastination (yellow).

Users can click on the green check button to see their progress. Franklin says the measurement data can improve productivity and teach users to learn to plan their days better to get more done.

“It’s not about doing more things during the day, it’s about doing the right things and feeling good about it,” says Franklin. “How you feel at the end of the day is important and LazyMeter magnifies the feeling of satisfaction when you cross things out on paper.”

There a number of other online to-do lists, all slightly different from one another. Remember The Milk, also an iPhone app, has a browser add-on in Gmail that connects tasks with your emails, contacts, and Google Calendar events; Voo2do highlights overdue tasks in red and Toodledo determines the most important tasks for you to work on at the moment. LazyMeter is the only to-do list that attempts to improve productivity by measuring level of success and procrastination through visual graphs.

Launched in August, LazyMeter now has approximately 10,000 users with about 500 daily users. LazyMeter will soon be available on iPhone and Android devices.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, LazyMeter

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10 Unforgettable On-Air Political Bloopers [VIDEOS]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:21 PM PST

Rick Perry: "Oops"

2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry drew a massive blank Wednesday night during CNBC's "Your Money, Your Vote" GOP debate. On stage in Michigan, Perry attempted to rattle off three federal government agencies he would eliminate, but failed to remember number three: "Commerce, education and the … uh, um, what's the third one there. Let's see … " The mental block lasted about 40 more seconds before Perry uttered, "Oops."

Click here to view this gallery.

Wednesday night’s “Oops” memory lapse from U.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry is now one of many notable political gaffes caught on video. Just like the clip of Perry’s mental block, the nine other videos in the gallery above have been etched into our mind’s eye for better or worse.

SEE ALSO: 5 Years of YouTube Politics [INFOGRAPHIC] | YouTube’s New Politics Channel

Do you recollect these bloopers? Did your favorite not make the list? Sound off in the comments.

BONUS: “I’m Only Human” Music Video

We’ve all made mistakes, and some of us — maybe even the politicians above — have turned to this 1986 classic hit from The Human League to help cope with any embarrassing repercussions.

More About: 2012 election, Politics, viral videos, YouTube

Like Social Profile Photo Hacks? Create One for Mashable’s Google+ Page

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:08 PM PST

When Google+ launched brand pages earlier this week, Mashable was quick to join the social network. We’ve been jumping into our page by talking about social media and technology as well as hanging out with our community to hear more about what you want from us on the network.

As another way to bring our community into the creation of Mashable’s Google+ Page, we decided to crowdsource its design. We think Google+ profile photo hacks are extremely cool, so we’re hosting the first Mashable Photo Hackathon!

We’re asking you to create a Google+ profile hack that we can post on our page. Send us a photo or description of what you think our Google+ page should look like. The entry that showcases Mashable culture in the most unique, fun and creative way will be featured on our Google+ page!

We’re provided a template above, which you’re welcome to use to create your entry. You can submit by dragging your art into the widget below. If you aren’t artisically inclined, please tell us your ideas in the comments.

Loading …

More About: Google, Photos

Billy Crystal Announces via Twitter That He’s Hosting the Oscars

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:02 PM PST

Actor and comedian Billy Crystal announced via Twitter that he is taking over the hosting duties for the 2012 Oscars.

The move comes a day after Eddy Murphy quit as host of the 84th Academy Awards. Murphy left a day after show producer Brett Ratner stepped down after using a homophobic slur while promoting Tower Heist, which also stars Murphy.

“Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions,” Crystal says in his tweet. “Looking forward to the show.”

The Twitterverse was quick to pounce on Murphy’s departure with suggestions of its own for a replacement host. In fact, “Billy Crystal” started trending not long after Murphy announced his departure. It seems the fans will be getting what they asked for.

This will be Crystal’s ninth time hosting the Academy Awards. He last hosted the popular awards show in 2004.

Check out some of the Twitter reactions to Murphy’s departure in the gallery below. Clearly Billy Crystal didn’t listen to Jason Kaplan’s suggestion.

Zach Braff

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: billy crystal, Oscars, trending, Twitter

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Facebook Readying FTC Settlement Over Privacy [REPORT]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:47 PM PST

Facebook is getting ready to propose a settlement to the Federal Trade Commission over charges the company was deceptive when it changed privacy settings in 2009, according to a report.

The proposed settlement would require Facebook to get “express affirmative consent” if it makes “material retroactive changes,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “people familiar with the situation.” The settlement is still awaiting final approval from the FTC commissioners. Representatives from Facebook could not be reached for comment.

Under the agreement, Facebook would need to submit to independent privacy audits for 20 years, according to the report. Google agreed to similar terms in March, when it settled with the FTC.

The FTC’s probe began in 2009, when it asked its then-350 million users to update their privacy settings. The investigation came after some consumer groups charged that Facebook didn’t provide enough safeguards for users’ privacy with the update.

More About: Facebook, FTC, Google, trending

Twitter Rules the Photo-Sharing Roost … on Twitter [STATS]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:41 PM PST

twitter image

New stats show that Twitter has taken over the picture-sharing market from third-party apps such as TwitPic and Yfrog. Third-party apps used to be the only way users could share images through the social network, however, Twitter jumped into the arena late this summer with its own uploader baked into the standard tweet box.

The official Twitter app has quickly climbed to the top. According to Skylines, a social image search site, 36.1% of photos shared on Twitter come through the official image uploader. TwitPic is in second place with 30.3% and Yfrog is in third with 21.1%. Instagram is in fourth place with just 12.5%. Its low ranking is both surprising and impressive. Instagram has quickly shot up in popularity as a premiere photo app for iOS devices. This means that while 12.5% may seem low, it’s coming only from people using iPhones or iPads. Not bad considering the three leaders work with web images and most major mobile carriers.

The stats are bad news for TwitPic, which previously held 45.7% of the picture-sharing market just five months previous. While some sites are already ringing the death knell for third-party photo apps, the stats shows that TwitPic and Yfrog are hanging in there. It is clear, however, that these apps will need to do something to differentiate their services from Twitter’s uploader if they want to survive.

Twitter’s photo-sharing win brings up the question of whether official apps and services risk killing competition and third-party innovation. This is becoming ever-more clear as Twitter ramps up its features such as URL shortening.

twitter chart image

BONUS: Meet the Top 15 Photographers on Instagram

@mikekus: Photographer's Choice

Who: Mike Kus. A graphic designer, web designer and illustrator living in Bath.

Followers: 82,085

Photos: 451

Favorite Filter: Earlybird

How he's using Instagram: "I try to use Instagram to document my daily life and to photograph what surrounds me. I live in Bath, U.K.; so most of my pictures [are] places and people around Bath."

Inspired by: "I carry my iPhone everywhere and when I see something that interests me I take a shot. There's nothing I particularly set out to do. I like photographing architecture and people, mainly."

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, netzkobold

More About: isntagram, photo sharing, Social Media, twitpic, Twitter, yfrog

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Google: Mobile Holiday Shopping Searches on the Rise

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:29 PM PST

A quarter of Google searches related to holiday shopping have come from mobile devices– at least in Australia. The search giant’s Australia site saw a 220% spike in shopping searches coming from mobile devices this year.

Australia has the second-highest smartphone usage in the world. Singapore is first. Google estimates, by the end of this year, more than 50% of Australian adults will own smartphones. It seems many of those smartphone owners are using their devices to search for this season’s gifts, to contact local businesses and to search for businesses’ locations.

“One in 5 sometimes even bypass the PC to make online purchases directly via their mobile phones,” Google’s head of retail in Australia and New Zealand wrote in a blog post. “So what does this mean for retail? To start with, it means that more people are looking for them, in more ways, and in more places: on the bus, from the train, even from the sofa while watching TV.”

Although Google’s data only relates to Australia, business owners everywhere should take note of the trend. Having a mobile-friendly website is almost a necessity for local businesses. Google reminds businesses that company websites can be as simple as including contact information, store location and hours of operations for mobile users to see.

We’ve already seen new ways of using mobile devices and apps for shopping this season. J.C. Penny will have QR codes on tags that let buyers record a personalized voice message. And a new app from Lucky Magazine has joined the ranks of shopping tools for mobile devices.

How will you use your smartphone to assist with holiday shopping this year?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter

More About: Google, Holiday, shopping, smartphones

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Forget Check-In, New App Lets You Arrive

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:13 PM PST

Instead of checking in, a new app paves the way for you to simply “arrive.”

Arrived, which launched on Thursday, automatically checks you into locations based on your phone’s GPS data and tells friends that you’re there.

Here’s how it works: You select locations — as specific as an address or as broad as a country — for which you’d like to alert friends of your presence. You add friends from your phone book (Facebook friends coming soon) to each location who will receive either a text message or, if they are also using the iPhone app, a push notification every time you’re there.

The idea is to automatically notify friends when you’re in a place where it might make sense to connect in person. You might, for instance, have different groups of friends you alert when visiting Chicago or New York, friends who work nearby whom you alert at your favorite happy hour bar and a workout buddy to ping when you’re at the gym.

“We help you manufacture your own serendipity,” founder and CEO Clarence Wooten says.

There are other practical applications. One of the private alpha testers, for instance, uses it to let his 13 year-old daughter notify him when she gets home from school.

Arrived has several features that prevent it from becoming as creepy as “automatic checkins” might first sound. There’s a setting that will remind you of your outgoing arrival notifications before they are sent and give you an option to cancel them. Users can also put friends on “pause” if they’d like to stop sharing location information with them and go “incognito” if they want to stop notifying everyone.

Apps such as Mayor Maker and Shopkick have also experimented with automatic checkins. Arrived has used a similar technology to for a different purpose: Instead of making it easier to earn rewards from Foursquare or brands, it makes it possible to tell specific people.

The function is not much different than sending a mass email or text message to a group of friends to tell them you’re in town, except that you only have to set it up once.

Says Wooten: “We want to put the face-to-face back into social.”


Start creating a notification by selecting a place.

Click here to view this gallery.

Photo courtesy of istockphoto, mathieukor

More About: Arrived, automatic checkin, checkin, foursquare

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Ashton Kutcher Is Making a Big Twitter Mistake

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:56 PM PST

Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Ashton Kutcher decided to hand over the management of his Twitter feed to Katalyst Group, a company he co-founded, because "a collection of over 8 million followers is not to be taken for granted." The implication is if he had fewer followers, it might be something he could take for granted or, perhaps, more lightly.

I guess that's fair. Eight million is a number I can comprehend, but cannot imagine on my own Twitter feed, which hovers at 35,000. On the other hand, I do not take my 35K followers for granted. In fact, I doubt even those with 2,000, 200 or 15 followers take them for granted. The audience, no matter what the size, matters.

For those of you who don't already know, Kutcher's actions, which he explained in a post called “Twitter Management,” came after he tweeted a defense of fired Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno's assistant coach has been caught up in an intense child sexual abuse scandal. Kutcher somehow missed the entire controversy and posted a knee-jerk response that was not, to put it lightly, well-received.

Now Kutcher has decided that he can't be trusted with his own feed. It's too precious. There are too many people watching and he doesn't want to massively fail in front of them. "While I will continue to express myself through @Aplusk I’m going to turn the management of the feed over to my team at Katalyst Media to ensure the quality of it’s [SIC] content."

In other words, from now on, you @APLUSK followers will never know if it's Ashton tweeting or a Twitter account handler. There's also a chance that all future tweets be run through a "PC" (Politically Correct" filter). This is a shame. The best accounts on Twitter, and I think Ashton's has been one of them, are those that are managed by the account holders. Obviously, there are situations where the Twitter account is for a brand or product and it's impossible to know who is tweeting what. However, when the account is for a celebrity or other notable person, there's a certain excitement and entertainment value in knowing that they really thought and said that tweet.

Look, I am not defending what Kutcher said. I am astounded that he seemed totally unaware of this huge, national story. Yet, while some people don't believe his defense, I'm willing to cut Kutcher some slack. Sometimes, we're busy, not looking at the TV or our social feeds and miss something big. In our always connected world, it doesn't happen often anymore, but it does happen.

I've made my share of mistakes online and on Twitter. It's not fun. In reality, everyone makes mistakes. Owning up to them, as Ashton did is a good thing. I'm also all-too-familiar with the feeling you get when you first realize that you've messed up. Queasy is the word that comes to mind. And when the negative response starts flowing in, the natural reaction is to want to run away. That said, while I have considered closing my Twitter account on one or two occasions, I can't imagine someone else tweeting for me.

Over the years I have seen many celebrities run away in horror from their Twitter accounts. The celebrity makes a flippant comment or criticism in Twitter, the audience reacts and then the celebrity makes the mistake of answering for it on Twitter. It almost inevitably ends in said celeb taking a "Twitter break." Most of them slowly creep back to their accounts by the time all has been forgotten or forgiven. It's true, anonymous individuals can be merciless on the service, especially when you've inadvertently picked one of their favorite scabs—they cry out in pain and then complain about the blood. It's always dramatic and angry and the celebrities are usually stunned.

Kutcher, though, is supposed to be different. He understands social media. He invests in it. I think he loves it. And he has to know that by handing any part of his Twitter feed over to handlers he is destroying it.

More About: aplusk, ashton kutcher, trending, Twitter

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Beyond the Roomba: How iRobot’s Technology Is Making War Zones Safer for Soldiers

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:35 PM PST

The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo does not just manufacture technology. They make Do machines — super-powered creation engines designed to help the people who do, do more, do better, do in brand new ways.

You might be familiar with iRobot for its household products, the Roomba vacuum and the Scooba floor scrubber. But the company also purveys something a bit more, well, badass. Its Packbot is a military robot that has been on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, the rocky rubble of the World Trade Center and the radioactive turf of Japan’s nuclear reactors.

Mashable spoke with Tim Trainer, VP of operations for iRobot’s Government and Industrial Robots division, about the 510 Packbot, its capabilities, how it’s controlled and what’s next.

The Beginning

iRobot was founded in 1990 by MIT roboticists to develop machines to improve daily life. At one point, the government requested whitepapers from the company for a reliable robot with the maneuverability to climb stairs. In 1997, the government came back and approved iRobot’s design, asking to see a developed prototype. What resulted was the precursor to the iRobot, which has been built upon over the years to become more rugged and durable. While “famous” robots like Rosey Jetson and R2-D2 have humanoid characteristics, iRobot chose function over form, shaping their robots to fit the tasks they’re created to do.

The 60-pound 510 Packbot’s primary duty is EOD — explosive ordnance disposal. It enters dangerous areas and disarms bombs so that human troops don’t have to. The robot is operated with a 4.9 or 2.4 GHz radio that has a 15″ operator control unit (OCU), which is essentially a laptop with a game-style controller that’s used to manipulate and maneuver the robot and to gain “situational awareness” from the robot’s 3-D imagery, taken with 312x zoom cameras that work in all levels of lighting.

The Packbot can be equipped with sensors for various scents and sounds so that it can offer the operator and his squadron important information in the face of chemical warfare, hazardous materials and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at checkpoint inspections and other dangerous situations. The Packbot’s “manipulators” — its arm-like appendages — enable it to lift 30-pound loads and place bomb disruptors precisely as it roams around at six or seven miles per hour. Depending on what sensor kits are installed on the Packbot, it costs around $100,000 to produce one robot.

The Packbot isn’t the only iRobot for military use; it has a few robot siblings, including the First Look and the 710 Warrior. The First Look is a five-pound robot with a one-pound OCU that can be easily carried in a backpack. The First Look robot can be thrown through a window and then provide reconnaissance of villages and urban environments with its four cameras. They allow for what Trainer calls “hasty situational awareness.” The Warrior is a 350-pound robot with the ability to lift 150 pounds, so it’s used for larger EOD missions and can even sustain the weight of an X-ray machine, which is useful in certain missions.

All of iRobot’s military robots are driven by the company’s “Aware 2″ intelligence software, which has plug-and-play capability across all the machines. Trainer says Aware 2 is where future innovation play for the company, as it provides the building blocks for the robots’ reconnaissance abilities.

Two recently added features are retrotraverse and self-righting. If a Packbot loses communication with the operator, it will automatically retrace its steps to the last place where it had communication, hence “retrotraverse.” And in a situation where a Packbot is flipped in rough terrain, the robot is self-righting and can flip itself, eliminating the need for a human to suit up and enter a dangerous area. Aware 2 is being further developed to increase a Packbot’s autonomous capabilities, says Trainer.

All military robots undergo thorough testing with the government to make sure the machine is suitable for use. Future iterations of the Packbot will allow the information on the OCU to be transmitted to a command center; currently only the operator can see what the Packbot is encountering.

Packbot in Action

The Packbot’s first real-world deployment was actually in the wake of the September 11 attacks, when they were used to test the structural integrity of Ground Zero before first responders went in to search for people.

While the Packbot can be implemented in myriad situations, it’s been most useful for IED defeat; more than 4,000 Packbots have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Packbots have uncovered numerous IEDs, and each instance has saved the lives of several troops. One such Packbot, “Scooby Doo” (above), is preserved in the iRobot headquarters. Its operator had etched on the side of the robot how many IEDs it had conquered: 19.

Trainer says it hard to quantify how many lives have been saved by Packbots, but 3,000 is a good guess. “It's a hard number to validate, but a significant amount of life has been saved with robots, hence the growth” he says.

Packbots have found plenty of work beyond the borders of the Middle East, too. They’ve been sold throughout the U.S. and worldwide to police departments for hostage and SWAT situations and EOD missions.

Over the past six months, two Packbots and two Warriors have been roaming around Fukushima in the aftermath of the tsunami. “Packbots were the first robots to enter reactors 1, 2 and 3, outfitted with HazMat sensors,” says Trainer. “They’re able to map out the high radiation areas, the low radiation areas and validate the structural integrity of the coolant systems before they were re-energized.”

Packbot’s sibling, the Warrior, has also been used in reactor facilities in Japan. By affixing an industrial vacuum to the warrior, the Warrior was able to reduce radioactive debris by 20%. The deployment in Fukushima was iRobot’s first foray into high radiation environments, but the robots have been holding up for more than six months.

iRobot’s Portfolio

The iRobot is a feat of engineering and technology, but iRobot’s prowess isn’t limited to military and industrial goods. The company also purveys home robots, like the Roomba and Scooba cleaners.

“Both [divisions] are important from a business perspective and they give us a nice mix of products,” says Trainer. “Sometimes the commercial market is up, sometimes the government market is up, so it gives us some diversification.”

There’s actually a symbiosis between military and commercial robots — parts of the Packbots may lend themselves to mass-production in the home market at a lower cost. And then there’s the aspect of revenue — profits from the successful commercial goods can help finance some of the more expensive systems — Trainer says the revenue is roughly 45% from military robots and 55% from commercial ones.

Last year, the company generated more than $400 million in revenue and had a team of 600. The military robot business is expected to grow from $5.8 billion last year to $8 billion in 2016, in part because the U.S. Department of Defense wants to replace one-third of its forces with robots by 2015. Since August, iRobot has announced a $21 million order from the U.S. Navy, a five-year, $60 million contract with the U.S. Army’s Robotic Systems Joint Program Office and an $11 million order from U.S. Army Contracting Command.

Series Supported by Lenovo

The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo makes machines specifically for the innovators. The creators. The people who move the world forward. Machines like the Lenovo ThinkPad and IdeaPad, meticulously engineered with visibly smart second-generation Intel® CoreTM processors to help the people who do, do what’s never been done.

More About: features, irobot, mashable, robots, Tech Innovators Series

Siri Finds Your Face with Infrared Light

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:28 PM PST

One of Siri‘s best features is the ability to “raise to speak,” which activates the voice-commanded personal assistant when the phone is raised to your face. But how does Siri know when the iPhone 4S is close to your face?

iFixit decided to answer that question and promptly disassembled an iPhone 4S to see how it ticks.

The answer? There is an infrared sensor that is always activated on the device.

During our iPhone 4S teardown, iFixit buddy Markus noted that the new iPhone had a rather unusual-looking black component next to the ambient light sensor….

Now that the teardown is wrapped up, we've re-opened the mystery and made a neat discovery about the 4S: that black component is an infrared LED, and the little bugger almost always wants to know if you're nearby.

Users don’t have to worry about health risks of the infrared LED. The amount of light emitted by the sensor isn’t nearly strong enough to damage eyesight (though we still wouldn’t recommend staring at the sensor — or any source of light, really — for a long period of time). This also doesn’t mean your iPhone now works as a flashlight. Infrared light has a wavelength longer than visual light for humans, meaning there’s no way you’d detect the sensor unless, as iFixit points out, you are a snake, fish, mosquito or cheap digital camera.

SEE ALSO: Siri vs. Furby: When Two Worlds Collide [VIRAL VIDEO]

The iPhone has always had some sort of proximity sensor, such as for when the screen shuts down during a call to avoid accidentally pressing buttons with your cheek. In older models of the iPhone, these sensors would only activate when a call was made. Siri’s “raise to talk” feature, however, requires the sensors be on whenever the screen is active. Presumably these sensors can also differentiate between your face and, say, your pocket, otherwise Siri’s going to be doing a lot of eavesdropping.

BONUS: How to Teach Siri to Tweet

1. In your Mac or PC browser version of Twitter, you must first enable Twitter text messaging (if you've already done this, you can skip to step 5). Do this by clicking on the drop-down list on the top right (next to your twitter handle) and selecting Settings. Keep in mind that if you don't have unlimited texting, this could get expensive.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, meophammantovani

More About: apple, Gadgets, iphone, iPhone 4S, Mobile

Sexting Teens Twice as Likely to Be Depressed [STUDY]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:16 PM PST

Sexting teens depression

High school students who sext — the term for texting sexually suggestive or explicit messages or photos — are more likely to be depressed, a new study reveals.

The preliminary findings of an Education Development Center study show 13% of students engage in sexting, 10% of students have sent sexts in the past year, and 5% have sent sexually explicit photos of themselves. The teens involved in sexting were more likely to attempt suicide (13% vs. 3%) and were twice as likely to report depressive behaviors (36% vs. 17%).

The study, which does not specify whether sexting causes depression or vice versa, polled 23,000 teens in Boston’s western suburbs. The students polled are mainly from middle or upper class communities and 74% are white, making the findings most applicable to similar groups.

SEE ALSO: iPhone App Simulates Teen Dating Abuse

The findings also revealed students identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual and students who were sexually active are more likely to sext than their heterosexual and non-sexually active counterparts. Students who sext also spend more time on their phones.

The preliminary findings, which will be further analyzed, explain there are multiple causes of sexting. “Sext messages may be sent as a deliberate form of cyberbullying, but they also may be sent as a way for youth to engage within online communities,” says an EDC statement.

Given the perils of sexting, it’s fortunate the practice appears to be in decline, Dr. Michael Rich, associate professor at Harvard told Teens now better understand their vulnerability when they send an explicit photo, which comes with the risk of prosecution for pornography or that the image spreads to unwanted recipients.

Image courtesy of Flickr, JPott

More About: Mobile, sexting, study, teens, texting

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How to Get Apple’s First Over-the-Air iOS Update

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 11:58 AM PST

Apple pushed out iOS 5.0.1 to users Thursday, following weeks of complaints over lower-than-expected battery life.

The release is important — not just because it is the first step toward solving a very real problem — but because it was the first test of Apple’s new over-the-air (OTA) update system.

By delivering updates OTA, users don’t have to worry about connecting to a computer or iTunes to get the latest software. As long as an iOS device is connected to Wi-Fi and has at least 50% battery life (or is plugged into a power outlet), it can receive the update, no computer required.

This process goes a long way toward streamlining the post-PC future.

Getting the Update

You can manually check for iOS updates by going to the Settings app and selecting “General” and “Software Update.” This will query Apple’s servers. If an update is found, you are given the option to download and install the file.

Apple will also alert users of system updates, the same way it does in Mac OS X.

Apple’s roll-out for the 5.0.1 update was fairly fast. In New York City, I was able to get the update OTA almost immediately. It took my colleagues in California a bit longer — perhaps an hour — to receive the update.

My own non-scientific polling on Twitter makes it look like Apple issued the update to all phones, on all carriers, at the same time.

Installing the Update

After downloading the file, your device will instruct you that it needs to restart. This is similar to what happens doing the traditional iTunes-tethered update procedure.

After a restart, the new update is loaded and the device should appear unchanged. The only difference: this time iPad 1 users have multi-touch gesture support and iPhone users should get better battery life.

A Difference in File Sizes

One of the most interesting aspects of the OTA update process is the difference in file size. Downloading the update for my iPhone 4S OTA, my download size was 55.5MB. The full download via iTunes direct from Apple’s servers is 852.5MB.

The same discrepancy is also true for the iPad. Why the difference?

In order to minimize download times and server load, Apple has likely optimized its update process to deliver just the files that need to be altered via OTA update. Meanwhile, the iTunes version of the update includes the full version of the OS installation image. We’ve asked Apple for confirmation and will update this story with the response.

For most users, it will be faster to update their devices OTA than by using iTunes, thanks to this smaller download size.

Minimum Battery Requirements

Although Apple recommends that users download an OTA update to their device with it plugged into power, as long as the battery is at least 50% charged, it will install without a hitch.

If a device doesn’t have enough of a charge, iOS will refuse to install the update. (Thanks, @AaronSkwarcan)

Going Off Without a Hitch

Early reports indicate that iOS OTA updates are installing without a hitch. I polled my Twitter followers, asking about any problems, and aside from needing to be connected to Wi-Fi or plugged into power, no one reported any issues.

How did your iOS OTA update process go? Let us know in the comments.

More About: apple, iOS 5, iOS 5.0.1, OTA updates, trending

Senate Rejects Bill to Repeal Net Neutrality

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 11:43 AM PST

The U.S. Senate has voted not to move forward with a resolution that could have overturned the net neutrality rules the FCC passed last December.

By a vote of 52-46, the Senate killed the Republican-backed "Disapproval of Federal Communications Commission Rule Regulating the Internet and Broadband Industry Practices." The vote followed party lines.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), would have kicked off a process that could have overturned the FCC’s decision to prevent broadband providers from blocking access to individual websites or applications. Supporters believe that some regulations are necessary to stop ISPs from blocking or discriminating against content flowing through the web. Opponents believe that net neutrality amounts to government over-regulation of the Internet.

"The Internet and technology have produced more jobs in this country than just about any other sector," Hutchison said earlier this week. "It has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem and it does not need fixing."

Despite the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar “resolution of disapproval” in April, the Senate vote was mostly symbolic. Tuesday President Obama threatened to veto the bill, and there was little chance Congress would have been able to override the veto.

"It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world," the White House said in the veto threat.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, FotoAta

More About: Kay Bailey Hutchison, net neutrality, president obama, trending, U.S. Senate

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How Sports Illustrated Got Ahead of the Tablet Publishing Competition [VIDEO]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 11:14 AM PST

One of the first publications to format for the iPad, Sports Illustrated has continued to adapt its issues for tablet technology. The magazine’s editor Terry McDonell spoke with Mashable editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff at the Mashable Media Summit last Friday.

SEE ALSO: 8 Digital Trends Shaping the Future of Media [VIDEO]

McDonnell explained that Sports Illustrated didn’t aggressively hire additional staff to bolster the new tablet frontier. Instead, the magazine’s employees had to rapidly learn to incorporate a digital component into their everyday editorial tasks. According to McDonnell, it paid off.

The Mashable Media Summit in Pictures

Media Summit 2011

The Mashable Media Summit on Nov. 4 at the Times Center in New York City attracted professionals in digital, tech, advertising, sales, marketing, mobile and publishing from all over the world.

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Presenting Sponsor: AT&T

More About: features, ipad, journalism, magazine, mashable media summit, Media, Video

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Lost Steve Jobs Interview Reveals Man on the Cusp of Change

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 10:54 AM PST

Next week, a nearly 70-minute unedited interview with Steve Jobs will hit select movie theaters for a limited run. The film, titled Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, is actually an extended interview, recorded in 1995 for the PBS miniseries, Triumph of the Nerds.

Only 10 minutes of this interview ever found its way into the final broadcast version of Nerds. Robert X. Cringely, who produced the miniseries and conducted the interview with Jobs, had hoped to include more of the interview in future Nerds sequels, but the master tapes were lost en route from London (where production took place) and the U.S.

Miraculously, director Paul Sen took it upon himself to make a VHS copy of the interview during the editing process and stowed it away in his garage. After Jobs died, Sen found the tape. As Cringely explains on his blog, that interview will now be presented to the public at special screenings at Landmark Theatres across the country.

We had a chance to talk to Cringely about the interview, the process of getting it into theaters and Jobs’s legacy.

How Steve Changed After the Interview

Cringely’s interview with Jobs has always been viewed as seminal. It was this interview that convinced Noah Wyle to take the part of Jobs in the TNT telefilm, Pirates of Silicon Valley — and it was this interview that best encapsulated Jobs before he returned to Apple in 1997.

Recorded in 1995 — when NeXT was floundering, Pixar was not yet a success and Microsoft and Bill Gates were on top of the world — it captures Jobs before his momentous second act and his unprecedented third acts of business.

I asked Cringely to talk about how he saw Jobs change after this interview took place, as he found success again (and again) and as he made his way back to Apple.

NeXT Made Jobs Focus on Operations

Cringely says that NeXT was “Steve’s only real experience with failure. It’s not even that NeXT failed, but in comparison to the past, the Apple II and the Mac, it was [a failure].”

What Jobs took away from NeXT, says Cringely, was a fundamental appreciation of operations. “Apple, before Steve left, was a mess,” Cringely says. “It was so successful, it didn’t matter what money was spent on or how it was used. It could be thrown at anything for any reason.”

At NeXT, Jobs was using his own money and it was here, according to Cringely, that Jobs learned how to run a tight ship.

Apple’s focus on operations — a focus that has been central to current CEO Tim Cook’s tenure at Apple — is one of its biggest strengths.

SEE ALSO: WATCH: Steve Jobs’s Biographer on “60 Minutes” [VIDEO]

Family Life Changed Steve

Although Cringely bristles at the thought that Jobs changed in the sense that “he was no longer an asshole at work” (Cringely says he most certainly still was), getting married and having three more children had an enormous impact on Jobs.

“It was astounding to see him with his children,” Cringely says. “No one expected him to be a family man — and he was! He was an asshole at work, but at home he wasn’t.”

Cringely says that being a father — and being part of a family — gave Jobs a “different kind of appreciation for the customer experience.”


I also asked Cringely to expand on how Jobs changed after his cancer diagnosis. He said that in accepting his mortality, Jobs “began to think about how he would be remembered and how he would be seen by history.”

Cringely says that Jobs was acutely aware of his legacy and what that would mean. That’s why, he says, Jobs chose Walter Isaacson to write his biography.

“Isaacson had the prestige that Steve sought, but not the technical or industry knowledge to ask the really hard questions.” In that way, Cringely says, “Steve was able to reveal parts of his story, without giving everything away.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview will play at select Landmark Theatres on Nov. 16 and 17. Additional plans for a digital release are also in the works.

BONUS: 15 Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes

Jobs quote from 2005 Stanford commencement address. Posted by livinglauren.

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More About: apple, features, Film, indie films, robert x. cringely, steve jobs, steve jobs: the lost interview, Top Stories, trending

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