Thursday, 23 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How Earth-Friendly Is Your Smartphone? AT&T Wants to Know [VIDEO]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How Earth-Friendly Is Your Smartphone? AT&T Wants to Know [VIDEO]”

How Earth-Friendly Is Your Smartphone? AT&T Wants to Know [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 05:00 AM PST

How “green” is your smartphone? AT&T’s new program will rate the environmental impact of devices in its portfolio.

The Eco-Rating program will launch later this year, and the rating will be noted on the packaging of each AT&T device.

In a YouTube video posted Wednesday, Jeff Bradley, senior vice president, devices, of AT&T Mobility says, “the labeling system will be pretty straightforward.”

AT&T’s Eco-Rating system will let consumers know how their smartphones are treating the planet. Smartphones will be judged in four categories:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmentally preferred materials
  • Responsible end-of-life treatment
  • Environmentally responsible manufacturing

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) — a sustainability consulting firm — developed the Eco-Rating tool with AT&T. In the YouTube video, Vijay Kanal, director, information and communications technology at BSR, says the program will analyze factors such as how easily a smartphone’s battery can be recycled and the resources used to produced those devices.

A survey by Deloitte shows that 54 percent of more than 6,000 people surveyed “consider sustainability to be one of their decision-making factors in product and store selection.”

Will you be interested to see how your AT&T smartphone rates? If your phone rates poorly, will you consider getting a different device? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, loops7

More About: att, environment, smartphones

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YouPorn User Emails and Passwords Exposed

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 02:19 AM PST

Thousands of user emails and passwords from pornographic site YouPorn were exposed in a security breach, the Associated Press reports.

The security breach was allegedly caused by a third-party chat service, which “failed to take the appropriate precautions in securing its user data,” according to Kate Miller, spokeswoman of YouPorn parent company Manwin Holding SARL. YouPorn has shut down the breached server and notified its users about the security breach.

To make matters worse, a list of user emails and accompanying passwords (in plain text) is already circulating online. The list contains some 6,400 passwords, and it’s already been widely publicized, looked over and analyzed – for example, a word cloud of the most popular passwords from the site has been created by researcher Ashkan Soltani.

YouPorn is one of top 100 visited websites on the internet according to Alexa, which makes this security breach a high profile one. It’s also highly embarassing for users, many of which probably do not want to be publicly associated with a pornography site.

The lesson to be learned from the incident is the usual one: do not use the same login credentials for multiple sites. Additionally, if you use services such as this one, choose an e-mail and/or login and password that cannot easily identify you.

[via AP]

More About: hack, hackers, security breach, youporn

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Why One Startup Wants Your Mobile Carrier to Act Like Your Bank

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:47 AM PST

Google, PayPal and major credit companies are all making land-grabs for the emerging mobile payments industry. Mobile carriers — used to controlling profits made from mobile phones — want to avoid being squeezed out.

Now, thanks to a startup called BOKU, there’s a mobile payment solution that could satisfy all sides.

The product, BOKU Accounts, works like a debit card issued by your mobile carrier instead of your bank. Users receive an NFC-enabled sticker they can attach to any phone — as well as a mobile-carrier-branded MasterCard.

The financial management of Boku’s product works a little differently than its earlier offering, direct carrier billing. In that product, any purchases made with mobile phone numbers show up on mobile phone bills. The system lets people who don’t have credit cards shop online.

With BOKU Accounts, however, users deposit money into a separate account with their mobile carriers. Credit card providers aren’t cut out of the process. Everybody’s happy.

“[Credit card] networks rely on banks as issuers to attract, retain and manage users,” explains BOKU SVP of Product & Marketing David Yoo. “Banks have limited access to users — well, in relative terms.

“There are only 2 million credit cards, according to Nilson Report. However, mobile operators have access to 6 billion users. If the right solution can be worked out, mobile operators can become one of the largest issuing partners of credit card networks in the world.”

That sounds great for credit card companies, but why would a consumer transfer money into a separate account instead of opening a credit card with a bank? BOKU’s value proposition is this: it’s a mobile payment system not tied to specific phones or terminals.

Unlike Google Wallet, which requires an NFC-enabled phone, or the PayPal wallet, which requires merchants to install a software upgrade in their terminals, BOKU works with whatever hardware each party in the transaction happens to have. If the retailer’s terminal isn’t NFC-enabled, that means the customer is just swiping a regular credit card.

What is different is that merchants can communicate with customers before and after the transaction. A BOKU-powered rewards program lets merchants target deals at people who fit specific demographics within a certain proximity. Each time they do so, they pay those customers’ mobile carriers.

Users can set their phones to be alerted when certain types of deals are pushed out. They can also set budgets and be alerted when they approach their limits. If they’re using a feature phone, they get text messages instead of push notifications.

It’s not dissimilar to the deals programs in the Google and PayPal Wallets, but it’s viable on existing hardware.

Beyond that, everyone involved in the payment should be satisfied. The carriers, and BOKU, get paid when merchants send offers; credit cards (for the time being, MasterCard only) get their usual transaction fee from the merchant. And users get something like a real-time Mint with coupons — but not yet.

Not a single carrier is currently offering Boku, though one of them in the UK is running a pilot program. Through its direct carrier billing product, the startup does, however, have relationships with more than 200 of them.

If your carrier to offer Accounts, would you sign up? Let us know why or why not in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, mevans

More About: Boku, mobile payments

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10 Free Android Apps You’ll Use Every Day

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 08:56 PM PST

1. Alarm Clock Plus

You can start every morning with this alarm clock app. If waking up is tough for you, this app lets you set several alarms, each with its own ring tone.

Are you the type that sub-consciously turns your alarm off in your sleep? There's a math feature that makes you solve a simple equation to dismiss it. This way, you know when it's really time to get out of bed.

For $.99 more, you can also get the app with no ads.

Click here to view this gallery.

From the moment you wake up in the morning to the second you close your eyes at night, your smartphone is probably the first and last thing you touch. Mobile tech helps you stay organized, productive and entertained.

Because Android works seamlessly with Google products, you already have Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps and your calendar installed when you activate the device. These services are great for managing your daily routine, and there are a number of apps you can grab to supplement them.

SEE ALSO: Did You Get a New Android Phone? Do These 5 Things Immediately

Here are ten free Android apps that will make your life easier. You can download them from your phone or through the Android Market on the web.

More About: android, Android apps, features, Google

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Marketers: What Mobile Users Will and Won’t Put Up With [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 08:29 PM PST

Mobile Shopping

Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are even more connected to their mobile devices than you might think.

Nine in 10 young adults spend between one and five hours on their mobile devices daily. Nearly one in 10, meanwhile, are on their gadgets between five and ten hours each day. Just under a third would actually like for brands to send them promotions via smarthphone and tablet, but more than half say that it’s “extremely important” to be able to opt out of such come-ons.

This is all according to a study by mobile interaction and payment agency mBlox, which commissioned a December study of more than 4,000 young mobile users in the United States and United Kingdom. According to mBlox’s chief marketing officer Michele Turner, the research provides important insight as advertising and marketing to people on the go continues to proliferate.

“With 2012 largely being seen as the advent of mobile commerce, this research helps validate the huge revenue potentials for brands and an appetite by consumers for mobile marketing,” Turner said in a statement.

In just one illustration of mobile’s importance to advertisers and marketers, Google reported that mobile devices accounted for 41% of searches for Super Bowl TV ads during the game earlier this month.

But brands need to be careful about how they target those mobile users and how much knowledge they reveal about them. While 30% of survey respondents said they want offers to be located nearby, two-thirds said they don’t want brands knowing their whereabouts. More than half worry about their credit card information being stolen, and nearly half fret the risk of signing up for fake websites.

Check out mBlox’s infographic below, and let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: infographics, Marketing, Mobile

Adele Is First To Go Double Platinum on iTunes

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 08:05 PM PST

Like many artists before her, global pop star Adele experienced a post-Grammys album sales boost, selling 730,000 copies of 21 in the past week. Unlike every other artist in history, however, Adele is the first person to sell 2 million copies of one album on iTunes in the U.S.

The album, which has been out stateside since Feb. 22 of last year, reached double platinum status on the heels of Adele’s Grammy appearance: She won six awards and performed for the first time since being sidelined by vocal cord hemorrhaging and subsequent microsurgery.

SEE ALSO: Adele Finds Her Voice on Twitter | Are Artists Luring Grammy Votes Via Social Media?

The new figures, posted on the Columbia Records Tumblr blog Wednesday, mark the biggest sales week for 21. The album has hit number one on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart 21 times and has sold 7 million copies in the U.S. and 18 million copies globally.

BONUS: Adele Inspires Crop of YouTube Musicians

A long list of musicians have covered Adele’s smash hit “Rolling in the Deep,” which she performed at this year’s Grammys. In the following gallery, you’ll find acoustic, beatbox, choir, duet, garage rock, guitar, live, mashup, military and piano versions.

Acoustic: Boyce Avenue

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Adele, celebrities, Columbia Records, Entertainment, grammys, itunes, Music

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Use Online RSVP Tool to Help Your Party Make A Splash

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 07:35 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: Splash

Quick Pitch: Splash offers a simple way for event planners to manage and share events with guests.

Genius Idea: Splash users can track RSVPs and post event photos on a customizable event website.

Planning the perfect event can be a lot of pressure — ordering the food, booking the talent, picking the decorations and, of course, how to get the guest to the party.

Ben Hindman, the creator of an event planning startup, thinks he has the answer: a Splash page.

Splash launched this week and offers a simple way for event planners to invite guests to events. It helps with every step from pre-event promotion and production to reliving memories with photos. Guests can RSVP on Splash by entering their names and emails, and they can find everything they need to know about the event at the same place. Directions to the event are provided via Google Maps.

Splash features Twitter chatter about the event, and event planners can moderate what tweets are posted. The idea is that guests will also share the event with friends on social media to create buzz about the party. After the event, the Splash page manager can post pictures to the Splash page for guests to look at.

“I discovered something peculiar about successful events: They never die,” Hindman said. “As an event planner, you have two equally crucial jobs: generate excitement leading-up to the big day and capture memories from the event that will live on forever.”

Splash is powered through One Clipboard, Hindman’s four-month-old event planning startup that allows planners to plan, budget, schedule, brainstorm, share files with team members, and more. Splash event pages can be created quickly with a template. You just plug in a photo — or chose from stock photos — and add the who, what, when, where and why details.

Hindman started developing Splash in early 2011 to add on to OneClipboard, which has about 300 event planners budgeting millions of dollars. As a former director of events, Hindman knows how difficult it can be to keep track of every little detail for a huge event. His goal was to make event planning easier and more organized. Splash is free to use. Try out Clipboard, too, with a free 15-day trial, and after that pricing plans start at $24 per month.

“Our goal is to enable anyone, novice or pro, to create an experience that their guests will never forget,” he said.

To get a better idea of what Splash is all about, check out one of Hindman’s events.

Photos courtesy of Splash

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, event planning, spark of genius series

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Samsung Totally Copies Us With Galaxy Note ‘Street Challenge’ [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 07:07 PM PST

The Samsung Galaxy Note, a so-called “superphone” that has a massive 5-inch screen, gives quite a first impression. Not only is it huge, but it sports an accessory that has waned in popularity over the last few years: a stylus.

Those odd physical qualities are why we took it out to the streets to see what real people thought when they were suddenly confronted with the gargantuan, pen-toting Galaxy Note (you can see our video below). It seems Samsung’s people thought the idea was good enough to do themselves, and they created a “street challenge” for the Galaxy Note, pitting the company’s quasi-tablet against an iPhone.

Sure, with challenges designed to highlight the Note’s unique features, the video contest is certainly rigged (Spoiler alert: the Galaxy Note wins). But it’s an effective way to highlight the Note’s interesting and sometimes-useful ability to draw on screencaps via the stylus. Can users crop images and then draw on them or even combine them? Yes. Will anyone actually do that? Perhaps. Is it a game-changer? That’s for you to decide. At least the exercise feels more real than that nutty Super Bowl commercial.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note Up For Pre-Order Online At AT&T

Can’t get enough of watching people on the street reacting to the Samsung Galaxy Note? Something tells us this isn’t the last of the street challenges. And of course, you can always check out our review and unboxing to tide you over.

Does Samsung’s new video make you want to take another look at the Galaxy Note? Share your excitement (or whatever) in the comments.

More About: android, samsung, Samsung Galaxy Note, stylus

Advanced Infrared Camera Keeps Soldiers Farther From Dangerous Targets [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 06:31 PM PST

An advanced camera could help save the lives of U.S. soldiers in combat. The new camera was developed to navigate dangerous war conditions — darkness, bad weather and obscure surroundings.

The camera was developed as a part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) AWARE program — or the Advanced Wide Field of View Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation. The goal is to continue to provide more capable tools for soldiers to use that overcome size, weight and power barriers.

“Increased standoff distance can help protect warfighter lives,” DARPA said in a statement. “This is especially true when an infrared scope is needed for nighttime action.”

The new infrared camera is lightweight, so it can be used in many situations on the ground and air. The camera can be used for target identifications, multiple target tracking and surveillance of a scene.

The new gadget utilizes advanced infrared capabilities to help U.S. war fighters see more clearly than other cameras have allowed. Soldiers on the ground can use the camera instead of trekking into unknown territories to determine what’s ahead. The camera can be used day or night in any weather conditions.

Tell us in the comments what you think of this new imaging technology. Can you think of other technological advances that can be used to keep soldiers safe?

More About: DARPA, U.S. Military, Video

NBA Fans to Decide Dunk Contest via Twitter in Most Connected All-Star Weekend Yet

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 05:57 PM PST

Tweets, apps and status updates will join the usual barrage of dunks, three-pointers and no-look passes more than ever this weekend at the NBA’s annual All-Star event.

For the first time, fans will be the sole dunk contest judges via Twitter, SMS and website-based voting. The league is also partnering with the social app Shaker to create a one-stop forum for fans to interact, chat and watch exclusive content.

Updates to the NBA’s GameTime mobile app bring new channels for fans to stream the 90-plus hours of video content the league has planned for the weekend — ranging from on-court highlights to off-court fun in Orlando.

League executives say this year’s will easily be the most digitally and socially connected All-Star function to date.

All-Star Weekend has really become a celebration of basketball, attracting a global audience and bringing together the best players from around the league,” Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA's vice president of marketing, told Mashable. “Given the global nature of social media, it’s the perfect time to ramp up our efforts in the social space.”

The NBA has long been at the forefront of embracing social media among pro sports leagues. Many of its players were early adopters of Twitter, in particular. Today the NBA claims more than 240 million fans of the league, its teams and players across Twitter, Facebook, and Chinese social networks. But the NBA’s social drive fits into a larger strategy, too.

“We are committed to delivering great content to our fans 24/7. More and more we’re using social media as the lens for that, so to speak,” Rosenthal Brenner said.

The tweak to the Sprite Slam Dunk event, an enduring fan favorite, is the biggest change in store this year. Fans will be able to vote by tweeting the hashtag #SpriteSlam along with a letter corresponding to their favorite dunker, as well as through text message and the website. One contestant, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, even invited fans to submit dunk ideas to him via Twitter.

The league is also brining back its popular All-Star Pulse feature, which tracks trending topics on Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend. And a similar, but new, social initiative this year is the Social Spotlight, which will showcase top tweets, photos and videos from fans on The spotlight is part of an added effort to “really visualize” the NBA’s social offerings this year, said Christina Miller, who manages the league’s digital efforts.

But the video options through the Game Time mobile app and a host of exclusive written content on show a digital engagement emphasis beyond just social media.

For a league keen on new technology, the slew of digital offerings is what Rosenthal Brenner said will make this year’s “the biggest All-Star Weekend yet — at least until next year.”

Do you think the NBA is doing a better job than other pro sports leagues of leveraging social and digital technology? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Social Media, sports, Twitter

Google to Launch TV Service

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 05:42 PM PST

Google is looking to get into the paid TV business.

The company filed an application last week to provide video service to residents of Kansas City, Mo., according to The Wall Street Journal. If approved, the service could launch as soon as a month from now, according to the article, which cites a “media executive currently involved in negotiations to license channels to the service.” Offerings in the video package would include live TV as well as on-demand and online access to TV channels, according to the report, which was based on an earlier article by The New York Post.

The source told the WSJ that Google plans to look beyond the Kansas City market and into other areas where Verizon’s Fiber Optic Services (FIOS). Controlling the pipes to TV subscribers would offer Google a new revenue stream.

Reps from Google could not be reached for comment.

The Kansas City application coincides with another request to put a satellite antenna farm near the company’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. That addition could allow Google to receive movies and TV shows that could be bundled with a new Internet service in Kansas City that promises to be up to 100 times faster than the average Internet connection.

Google chose Kansas City for its ultra-fast service last March. Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., beat out about 1,000 other municipalities for that honor. That fiber-optic-based Internet service is expected to go live there this summer.

This isn’t the first time that Google’s ambitious plans for TV service have been exposed. The Wall Street Journal also reported in November that Google was in talks with Disney, Time Warner and Discovery Communications about providing content for its fiber-optic based video service in those cities.

More About: Fiber Optic, Google, Media, trending, TV

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Nostalgia Overload: New Tumblr Challenges You to Draw Classic Video Game Maps From Memory

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 05:13 PM PST

What is it about video game worlds that etch themselves so vividly in our mind’s eye? A fun new user-generated blog aims to unearth the latent digital cartographer in you.

Mapstalgia is the brainchild of Josh Millard, a self-described “nerd-type” from Portland, OR. It’s a Tumblr where readers submit video game maps they’ve drawn from memory. The idea for the site came out of idle discussion on the message board Metafliter, where Millard works as a moderator.

“It occurred to me that there’s millions of people walking around with potent memories of common fictional game worlds,” Millard tells Mashable. “I asked a few friends to draw some maps, started up a simple blog for it, and here we are.”

The response since he launched the site in January has been substantial. “I was banking on a few dozen [submissions] by the end of the first month. Instead, I’ve received more than three hundred so far and they’re still coming in,” says Millard. “Folks [realize] this is not just neat to look at, but something they can actively participate in. Total lightswitch moment: ‘Oh, hey, wow, I bet I could do a map of Mario/Zelda/Doom/Zork…’ ”

SEE ALSO: 10 Classic Video Games You Can Play Online for Free

The site currently has 3,245 followers on Tumblr, according to Millard, and the submissions — sometimes several dozen a week — keep coming in. And the content is varied. “Everything from the world maps to single-screen vignettes, from rough folk art to serious draftsmanship. It’s wonderful seeing all the different ways people can approach the same basic idea. And to approach what is essentially improvised amateur cartography at the same time — few of us are artists, but fewer still are mapmakers.”

One might look at some of them more impressive offerings and question whether they were really produced from memory, as the terms of the site suggest. Right now, Millard is working on the honor system. “Someone certainly could pretend to remember … [but] I don’t lose sleep over it,” he says. “I’ve known enough people with remarkable visual or spatial memory (and spent enough time replaying specific video games myself) that I have no trouble believing the more ambitious renderings are the genuine article.”

That may be why a project like this tickles the fancy of gamers. There’s something about world immersion that allows us to recall spatial details of games in very precise ways. “In a game, you’re not just going for a walk — you’re exploring with a purpose,” Millard says. “There’s an instinctive need to keep yourself oriented. And there’s a cost to getting lost or being surprised — you get hurt, you die, you have to start over and do it again.”

“After the third rock is the bad guy, so you count rocks. The secret weapon is two screens over and one screen up, so you draw a map in your mind,” he goes on to explain. “You’re not just looking at a map, you’re living through it. That’s a potent experience.”

If Mapstalgia continues gaining readership and submissions, Millard says it may outgrow Tumblr. “Tumblr has been great for the zero-effort launch of this, but it’s not really designed to accommodate the museum sensibility that I think would serve Mapstalgia well in the long run.” Millard is also thinking about options for creating posters or coffee table books, but acknowledges the hurdles in securing the rights to user generated content. For now, the Tumblr-based DIY museum continues to feed gamers’ appetites for nostalgia.

What’s your favorite classic video game? Do you think you could draw the map from memory? Check out a few of Mapstalgia’s best submissions below for inspiration.

1. Metroid - Zebes

The seminal sci-fi platformer for the NES was full of secret doors, passageways and hidden items.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Entertainment, features, Gaming, tumblr, video games

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Awesome New ‘Borderlands 2′ Trailer Gives September Release Date [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 04:56 PM PST

Gearbox and 2K Games announced Wednesday that the sequel to the popular Borderlands will have a Sept. 18 release date for XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in the U.S., and on Sept. 21 internationally.

The new trailer for Borderlands 2 released by 2K Wednesday showed off new playable characters, new skill tree selections, and environments that look radically different from the original game. Borderlands 2 will be a similar style to the original, with RPG character leveling combined with First-Person Shooter elements to make what the developers call a shooter-looter. The game will again be set on the planet Pandora, and should have a similar Western feel to the original, where players pick up quests through non-player characters and bounty boards.

The sequel will also support four-player network multiplayer as it did in the past, as well as split-screen play for local players.

Along with the release date, 2K announced Borderlands Premiere Club will be available to those who preorder the game from retailers. It will include a new Golden Gun Pack, a Vault Hunter’s Relic which will help boost a player’s loot, and a Golden Key that unlocks a mystery in game.

Borderlands was originally released in 2009 for the 360, PS3 and through Steam for Mac and PC. It has sold 4.5 million copies since its release.

The trailer also promises “870 Gazillion more guns,” and features Borderlands mascot/tutorial robot Claptrap dancing to dubstep, so it’s definitely worth a watch to fans of the series.

What do you think of the Borderlands trailer? Let us know in the comments.

More About: borderlands, Gaming, PS3, Xbox 360

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Newly Launched PlayStation Vita Gets Twitter, Flickr and Netflix [PICS]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 04:20 PM PST

Vita Store

Applications can be downloaded via the Vita store, under the Applications tab.

Click here to view this gallery.

If 15 games available at launch for PlayStation Vita wasn’t entertaining enough, early adopters of the game system are in for a treat. Free Twitter, Flickr and Netflix apps are now available for download at the PlayStation Store.

The influx of social media apps brings this portable gaming system into tablet territory. The 5-inch OLED screen really steals the show and apps are easy to access with the impressive touchscreen. Vita gamers will have to wait longer for Facebook or Foursquare apps to surface.

The Sony Twitter application is LiveTweet, built specifically for the Vita. It works as well as any other Twitter clients. Twitter streams run on the middle-right of the screen, with icons for mentions, lists and direct messages available next to it. The app also allows you to attach pictures taken from your Vita’s camera to your tweets.

The Netflix application looks very similar to other mobile incarnations. It allows you to browse movies and access your instant queue. Vita users can also fast-forward and rewind with the analog stick. Simply, pause with the X button. Note: The movies will look bright on the system’s OLED, but drain battery significantly.

SEE ALSO: PlayStation Vita: Everything You Need to Know

Photography fans will be able to view Flickr pictures on a beautiful interface that allows you to view photos in full screen. The Vita’s huge screen makes photo viewing, commenting and tagging a breeze.

The applications are accessible in the PS Vita store, under the “Applications” header on the left menu. The Playstation Vita connects to the system’s app store over WiFi and 3G networks. The wifi-only model is $249.99 and the 3G/wifi-capable model is $299.99.

Tell us in the comments what you think of the social media apps on the PlayStation Vita mobile gaming system? Do these apps enhance your gaming gadget experience?

More About: Facebook, flickr, netflix, PlayStation Vita, PS Vita, sony, Twitter, Vita

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Guy in ‘College Freshman’ Meme Now Stars in a New ‘College Senior’ Meme

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 03:44 PM PST

"Successful College Senior" Meme

He's back. DRINK! The college student — whose 2007 photo of himself as a freshman catapulted into meme territory last year — has made an unexpected and triumphant return to web stardom as a senior this week.

The new image immediately caught the attention of Reddit users, who cleverly wasted no time turning it into a "Successful College Senior" meme. A "Lazy College Senior" meme already exists.

Click here to view this gallery.

He’s back. DRINK! The college student — whose 2007 photo of himself as a freshman catapulted into meme territory last year — has made an unexpected and triumphant return to web stardom as a senior this week.

Five years ago, a photograph captured University of New Hampshire student Griffin Kiritsy as a seemingly happy-go-lucky freshman. In mid-2011, the image got the familiar white-text-over-photo meme treatment on Quickmeme: “Hangs 20 beer signs in dorm. Only ever tasted Miller Lite.” The “College Freshman” meme has since been whipped into countless variations to poke fun at all things relating to first-year students.

“The worst part is that 90 percent of those memes don’t apply to me,” Kiritsy recently told his school’s student newspaper, The New Hampshire.

The newspaper’s story delved into the history of the original photo and featured a new picture of Kiritsy striking the same pose but this time as a senior.

The new image immediately caught the attention of Reddit users, who cleverly wasted no time turning it into a “Successful College Senior” meme (see gallery above). A “Lazy College Senior” meme already exists.

SEE ALSO: Bug-Eyed Student's Basketball Face is Internet Famous

Memes involving college humor tend to resonate universally as students and alums across the globe can easily relate to the content. This month alone, college-specific memes are spreading at an unusually rapid pace on social channels, particularly on Facebook where students are creating Facebook groups just to showcase their schools’ memes.

"People feel plugged in to this production of laughs based off school culture," Northwestern University student Gabe Bergado recently told Mashable.

Can you create a funnier “Successful College Senior” meme than the ones in our gallery? Take a stab at making your own at Quickmeme and share a link to yours in the comments below.

More About: college, humor, memes, reddit, trending

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Microsoft Accuses Motorola of Being a Patent Bully [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 03:17 PM PST

Irony, thy name is patent law. Microsoft filed a complaint with the European Commission against Motorola for aggressively asserting its patents, charging that Motorola ignored commitments it made to support industry standards. The filing comes shortly after Apple registered a similar complaint.

In a post titled “Google: Please Don’t Kill Video on the Web,” Microsoft says Motorola (which Google is in the process of acquiring) has broken its promise on the contribution it made to developing standards for streaming video and connecting devices to the Internet via Wi-Fi. The post alleges that Motorola is making unfair demands for compensation on the patents it holds for technologies like H.264, a standard video format.

In a searing example, Microsoft says Motorola demands $22.50 on any $1,000 Windows laptop sold to satisfy its 50 patents on H.264. To use the standard at all, Microsoft says, it must satisfy 2,300 other patents, which costs the company a grand total of two cents. Microsoft says Motorola’s demands not even “remotely close” to reasonable, and it’s hard to disagree.

Patent expert Florian Mueller of Foss Patents definitely appears to agree with Microsoft’s point of view, describing Motorola’s behavior as “FRAND abuse terrorism,” calling out Samsung on behaving similarly. (FRAND stands for fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory.)

“I can see what Apple and Microsoft are complaining about,” Mueller wrote in a blog post. “If every owner of standard-essential patents behaved like Motorola, this industry would be in chaos, and grind to a halt.”

SEE ALSO: Microsoft Wants $15 for Each Android Handset Samsung Sells

There’s a lot of noise over this issue since the patents in question are key to industry standards, affecting potentially thousands of products and some of the fundamental abilities of those products (like accessing the Internet). That’s why Microsoft says Motorola broke a promise: that it would make its patents available on reasonable terms — basically, that it wouldn’t be jerk about them.

That might sound more than a little ironic when you factor in that Microsoft holds many patents on the technology behind Android, and could be making as much as a $1 billion on all those phones Google sells every year.

Google certainly sees the irony, with a spokesperson telling Mashable that “Microsoft’s complaint is just another example of their attempts to use the regulatory process to attack competitors. It’s particularly ironic given their track record in this area and collaboration with patent trolls.”

Regardless, Mueller says he’s confident the European Commission will make clear to Motorola that its attempts to cash in on its standards patents won’t succeed: “As a European consumer, I don’t want to be held hostage by companies that use industry standards as a nuclear weapon and restrict choice,” he wrote.

What do you think? Is Motorola behaving worse than others who have asserted intellectual property rights? Or is this just business as usual for patent law? Let us know in the comments.

More About: apple, Google, microsoft, Motorola, patents

Apple Investigator Has His Doubts About Nightline’s Foxconn Report [INTERVIEW]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 02:51 PM PST

ABC’s Nightline offered viewers a rare glimpse inside the Foxconn plants that produce Apple products Tuesday night.

Apple has faced increased criticism concerning the working conditions within its factories. Fair-labor and human-rights groups have petitioned Apple to change its policies. And much of the credit for that goes to monologuist Mike Daisey.

In early January, the radio program This American Life aired an episode titled “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” The episode took a closer look at the issue, based on an excerpt from Daisey’s one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. In the show, Daisey, a lifelong Apple fan, describes traveling to China to see the conditions of the Foxconn factory for himself.

Mashable spoke with Daisey this afternoon about his thoughts on the Nightline report, the open-sourcing of his play and his new approach to using technology.

About Nightline

As Daisey made clear on his personal blog, he believes the Nightline story itself was an “inherently positive” development because it is bringing greater attention to a very important subject. Still, Daisey does have a few issues with the report.

The first issue is one of bias. As Nightline acknowledged in the segment, ABC News is owned by the Disney Corporation and its CEO, Bob Iger, is a member of Apple’s Board of Directors. Moreover, the Steve Jobs Trust is Disney’s largest shareholder. (In the interests of full disclosure, Mashable has a syndication partnership with ABC News.)

While Daisey wasn’t implying that ABC News or Nightline breached journalistic ethics in creating the report — and he specifically reiterated that — he does question why the news organization was granted access to the story in the first place.

Meanwhile, Daisey has major problems with how the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is performing its audits on Apple factories. Daisey says he has been unable to find anyone associated with any labor organization who would go on the record to say that the audit is being performed in a “correct” or “typical” way.

The FLA denies that it is doing anything to whitewash the results of its audit, but Daisey is skeptical. Ultimately, he believes that real change will not be achieved until true NGOs that are not associated with corporations or governments can start setting the standards and overseeing these labor audits. Beyond that, the corporations themselves will need to be willing to make changes, even if it means giving up profit margins.

Why Just Apple?

Of course, Apple isn’t the only company that uses Chinese suppliers and factories to make its products. Foxconn is the world’s largest maker of electronic components. The company’s major customers include not just Apple but Amazon, Sony, IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Samsung, Panasonic, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, Vizio, Nokia and Intel.

I asked Daisey about the focus on Apple and whether focusing on just one company obscured the issue.

As the most valuable technology company, “Apple is the biggest fish,” he responded. “Since the biggest fish was caught, of course it’s going to be the primary target.”

Moreover, Daisey believes that Apple holds more responsibility than many others.

Labor and factory conditions, he says, “are an industry-wide problem but [they] are also Apple-specific.” By that, he means that because of how tightly Apple controls its supply chain — a fact that has been a point of honor for the company — and because its profit margins are so much higher than the industry average, Apple is a bigger part of the problem.

To support his claim, Daisey cited a Bloomberg report that compares Apple’s profit margins to those of Foxconn. Over the last five years, Bloomberg‘s data shows that Apple’s margin has more than doubled — while those at one of Foxconn’s Taiwanese plants have shrunk.

Open-Sourcing a Monologue

As a “monologuist,” Daisey does not work from a script. For This American Life, Daisey adapted his show to fit for radio. Still, the nature of the topic and the public interest in his work convinced him to put together a narrative and outline that others can access, disseminate and use.

Earlier this week Daisey did just that by releasing The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs in an open-source format that anyone can download.

In the first 24 hours, Daisey says the script has been downloaded about 27,000 times. That’s an incredible number in and of itself, but it’s especially compelling because the audience has been largely comprised of artists, playwrights and others involved in the theater.

Daisey will continue to perform his show across the country but now others can create their own interpretations and presentations as well. Daisey hopes that by opening up his art, more can be done with it.

I asked Daisey about a filmed version of his play and he told me that it’s something he’s actively thinking about. The production and staging details need to be worked out, but it’s certainly something Daisey wants to pursue.

Learning to Enjoy Technology

I asked Daisey if he would continue to buy Apple products. The truth is, he doesn’t know. Right now Daisey is using the same equipment he used when he visited China three years ago. Once the prototypical early adopter, Daisey has changed his mindset and now continues to use technology as long as it works. “I find I enjoy my tools more,” Daisey said, about leaving the realm of the cutting-edge always-on alpha user.

Still, at some point, his phone will break. Will he get an iPhone? As an informed consumer, Daisey says he’ll evaluate his options — he might even buy used equipment — and as a realist he hasn’t committed to no longer buying Apple devices. Still, all of this work is clearly weighing on him.

Daisey holds out a bit of hope that by the time he needs to upgrade, the audits and regulations taking place in factories will have left them much better off.

More About: apple, features, Foxconn, interview, mike daisey, Nightline

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Why Most People Say They’re Addicted to the Internet [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 02:37 PM PST

Are you addicted to the Internet?

If so, you’re not alone. Some 61% of people feel addicted to the Internet and are unable to quit browsing, according to an informal survey.

Opinion pollster SodaHead surveyed 602 visitors to its site Feb. 16. about whether they experience Internet addiction, and found that many people are self-diagnosed addicts.

Women experience addiction more than men, with 64% of women compared with 55% of men reporting the symptoms of addiction.

Interestingly, respondents addicted to other behaviors were less likely to be addicted to the Internet. Only 48% of smokers, compared with 65% of non-smokers, experience addiction. The margin between drinkers and non-drinkers was narrower, with 57% of drinkers and 64% of non-drinkers describing themselves as Internet addicts.

SEE ALSO: Afraid of Losing Your Phone? You May Have Nomophobia, Like Half the Population

Among respondents who felt addicted, teenagers between 13 and 17 were worst off, with 73% reporting addiction. As respondents get older, they reported subsequently less addiction, with the exception of those 65 and over, who feel more addicted than their counterparts between 45 and 64.

The poll found that the Internet users who spend the most time online were the least likely to be Internet addicts. Those between 45 and 54, on average, spend the most time each week online, reporting almost 40 hours of browsing each week. Teens, who feel the most addicted spend the least amount of time online, reporting only 22.3 hours per week of use.

Do you consider yourself an Internet addict? How many hours do you spend online each week? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, alex-mit

More About: Internet addiction

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Apple, Google and Other App Sellers Cut Privacy Deal with California

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 02:21 PM PST

Your favorite mobile apps should soon be making it a lot more clear when they intend to use your data.

The Attorney General of California, Kamala D. Harris, announced Wednesday a deal with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion; the companies agreed to strengthen privacy protection for users that download third-party apps to smartphones and tablet devices.

In the deal, the companies said they would require app developers to clearly spell out what data their apps can access and what the app or company does with that data. The deal also makes app store custodians such as Apple and Google, who run the App Store and Android Market, set up a way for users to report apps that don’t provide a clear-cut explanation of their privacy policies.

According to a statement from Attorney General Harris’ office, if an app developer doesn’t meet these new privacy-policy requirements, they could be charged with a crime under California law.

“California has a unique commitment to protecting the privacy of our residents,” said Harris. “Our constitution directly guarantees a right to privacy, and we will defend it.”

Android users are well aware that developers on the platform are required to ask them for permission before accessing their personal data, but they’re not told how or why their data is being accessed. Apple also doesn’t allow any software on its App Store that takes personal information without asking, but developers haven’t been transparent on that platform, either.

In fact, Harris’ office says, only five percent of all mobile apps offer a privacy policy. And developers across both platforms have come under fire recently for coding software that transmits users’ personal data unbeknownst to them.

That controversy managed to pique the interest of some members of Congress, who sent a letter of inquiry to Apple.

Should lawmakers intervene when the creators of popular platforms like Android and iOS may not be doing enough to protect the privacy of their users? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: amazon, android, apple, blackberry, Google, Hewlett-Packard, iOS, microsoft, privacy, research in motion, RIM, webOS, windows phone

8 Ways Pinterest Is Inspiring Projects

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 02:18 PM PST

Cupcakes on Pinterest

How is Pinterest inpsiring you to take action?

As Pinterest looks to turn the corner from buzz-worthy startup to mainstream social network, everyone seems to be talking about it. Most unique about it, though, is the way it inspires people to pin project-related content, be it recipes, design ideas, or wedding plans.

But is it compelling people to actually create based on what they pin?

For our latest collaboration with CNN iReport, we asked you to tell us how you’re turning pins into projects. We love social media, but we also love when online and offline experiences converge. We wanted to know how people are using Pinterest to find and organize things that give them creative inspiration – and then how they execute these projects in real life.

For those who have yet to join (the site is invite-only), Pinterest is a curatorial site that calls itself a "virtual pinboard," which allows users to capture and organize images from the web. The still growing site has captured the zeitgeist of the social web in early 2012. It is now over 10 million members strong, and receives 12 million monthly unique visitors.

SEE ALSO: The 10 Most-Followed Brands on Pinterest

We received stories of people baking, crafting, and designing a home office. We even heard from a mother who took her two sons on a jet-powered tour of downtown Detroit.

Here is a look at some of the best ways people are using pins to create projects. You can also see the featured submissions chosen by iReport in their post.

Baby Blankets

Lissables is an active member of Pinterest and uses the site to pin items she has sewn, quilted, and crochet. Lissables said she taught herself to sew an entire baby blanket (right) by finding tutorials on the site.

Click here to view this gallery.

Are you using Pinterest to do projects but missed our call for submissions? Let us know how in the comments.

More About: ireport, pinterest

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10 Staggering Facts Behind Apple’s Foxconn Factory

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:50 PM PST

1. Hourly Wages

Foxconn workers get paid $1.78 an hour.

Click here to view this gallery.

ABC's behind-the-scenes look at Apple’s supply plant in Shenzhen and Chengdu confirmed a lot of what we already knew: Conditions are grueling, employees are overworked and underpaid, and living quarters are crowded. However, some of the stats revealed through Nightline’s 17-minute special surrounding hourly wages, living costs and the process that goes into making Apple devices were staggering.

Nightline anchor Bill Weir was the first reporter to be allowed into the controversial Foxconn factory following years of reports about the harsh working conditions at the facility, which creates Apple products such as the iPad, iPhone and Mac computers. Foxconn is also a supply chain provider for Nintendo, Dell, HP and Intel products.

The special, which aired on Tuesday night, revealed that Foxconn workers get paid $1.78 an hour and live in a dorm room for about $17 a month, along with seven roommates. In addition, it takes five days and 325 sets of hands to assemble an iPad, according to Nightline. Meanwhile, workers can make 300,000 cameras for the device in just two shifts.

Foxconn employees have different roles. Some work with pieces of aluminum to form the iPad’s exterior design, along with the Apple logo, creating 10,000 iPads each hour. Weir said he had heard “horror stories” that workers were 13 years old, but noted most were in their late teens.

For more information about Foxconn’s suicide nets and working conditions, check out the gallery above.

SEE ALSO: Apple's Foxconn Operations Exposed in ABC Report [VIDEO]

This is not the first time Apple has been under fire for mistreatment allegations at its supply factories. In fact, the factories have been accused of mistreatment for years. Most recently, reports surfaced that some Apple workers threatened to throw themselves off of a roof in a protest of unfair treatment. Foxconn later said the dispute was solved peacefully.

According to a report by, Cook sent an email last month to Apple employees following an article published by the New York Times that detailed how factory employees in China face unsuitable conditions.

"Unfortunately, some people are questioning Apple's values today, and I'd like to address this with you directly," Cook wrote. "We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us."

He also promised Apple employees that the company will "dig deeper" and although it will likely find more issues that need to be addressed, it won't stand still or ignore the problems in the supply chain.

Are you surprised by any of the stats in Nightline’s special? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

All images courtesy of ABC Nightline.

More About: apple, Foxconn, ipad, iphone, Mobile, smartphones, tablets

Google Docs for Android Update Lets You Edit on the Go

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:36 PM PST


Google announced a Google Docs update for Android Wednesday, allowing for easy native editing from your smartphone and tablet.

The new feature was introduced in a blog post, in which Google says the update focuses on remote collaboration and is aimed at increasing users’ productivity. Google software engineer Vadim Gerasimov describes how he now can accomplish everything he does in the office — such as check his email and edit documents — with his Android during his morning commute to the company’s Sydney office.

“We want to give everyone the chance to be productive no matter where they are, so today we're releasing a new update to the Google Docs app for Android. We’ve brought the collaborative experience from Google Docs on the desktop to your Android device. You’ll see updates in real time as others type on their computers, tablets and phones, and you can just tap the document to join in.”

Google highlights an updated interface optimized for mobile working. You can pinch to zoom and focus or scroll out. Text-formatting options have been added, so you can create bullet lists and use color.

Google also announced an update to the presentation editor on the Docs Blog Wednesday, making changes unveiled in October to default settings for all presentations. The most significant enhancement is the ability to add and resolve comments about specific slides and shapes.

Do you like to get work done on the go? Will Google’s Android update help you work from more places than your office? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Premium Android Apps for 10 Cents Each

1. Tetris

This game has passed the test of time over and over again, and today you can enjoy the Android-optimized puzzle for only $0.10.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, juniorbeep

More About: android, Google, google docs

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Announces Social Media-Driven Music TV Channel

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:25 PM PST

Diddy Twitter Pic

Sean “Diddy” Combs took to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook this week to announce the launch of REVOLT TV — a new socially connected music and news-driven cable channel coming to the Comcast-NBC network in 2013.

Combs, the founder and CEO of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group and hip-hop artist, says he wants to connect music makers to music lovers. It’s fitting that the TV network using social networks to reach viewers would turn to YouTube to broadcast initial plans.

The television channel will deliver music videos, live performances and music news. Social media will drive audience interaction with the network and featured artists.

"REVOLT is the first channel created entirely from the ground up in this new era of social media" Combs said in a statement. "We're building this platform for artists to reach an extraordinary number of people in a completely different way.”

Combs has taken to Twitter in recent days to accept congratulations from fellow entertainers — and fellow Twitter heavy hitters — like Rihanna, Busta Rhymes, Ashton Kutcher and Ryan Seacrest.

He has also used the social network to clear things up about REVOLT. He stated it is “not a black network,” but rather all about music.

REVOLT TV will be one of the four new minority-owned independent networks to debut on Comcast between July 2012 and January 2014. Another big name joining Combs on television is NBA hall of famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, whose channel Aspire will deliver programs geared toward African-American families.

In the YouTube video, Combs mentioned watching MTV, HBO and BET growing up, networks now considered competition in entertainment television. An invitation has been extended to other major cable networks including Time Warner, DirectTV and Cablevision to carry the new channel.

Tell us if you will tune into REVOLT TV. Do you think it’s a smart move to mix social media with TV?

Image courtesy from Sean “Diddy” Comb’s Twitter account.

More About: Business, Media, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, Video, YouTube

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Nike Unveils Nike+ for Basketball and Workout Training

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:12 PM PST

Nike+ is no longer for runners only.

At an event in New York City Wednesday, Nike unveiled a line of digitally connected footwear — some designed for basketball, others for more general workouts — that records data about the wearer and syncs it to accompanying Nike+ Basketball and Nike+ Training apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and web.

The shoes are embedded with four pressure sensors and an accelerometer that can record distance, number of steps and jump height over time. The information used to help athletes better track their activity levels through the course of a workout or basketball game and, if they wish, compare it to others’ data.

The new footwear and apps will be available in retail locations and in the App Store, respectively, in the U.S., UK, France, Germany and mainland China on June 29.

Nike+ was first launched six years ago as a set of running products — shoes, a watch, an armband, a custom iPod nano, as well as apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and the web — that enables users to set goals, record their runs and progress, and compete for virtual badges and against their friends. More recently, the company released a fuel band that records the wearer’s total number of steps and time, and calculates speed and calories burnt in the process. More than 6 million people are apart of the Nike+ ecosystem, according to the company’s own estimates.

Nike+ Basketball

A promotional video for Nike+ Basketball.

Above all, Nike+ Basketball is designed to help users improve their basketball game. The shoes — the first of which is called the Nike Hyperdunk+, and will be worn by LeBron James this summer — measure how high, how hard and how quickly the wearer plays over time, and transmits that data wirelessly to his or her iPhone or iPod touch.

Players can then use the accompanying app to better understand their own game and, should other players have the app as well, compare their playing ability to others’. Who is the fastest person on a team? Who jumps the highest? Is that player jumping higher now than he or she was a month prior? Does one player’s energy drop off mid-game, and pick up at the end? All of this can be determined with the Nike+ Basketball system.

The app’s coolest feature is its “showcase” mode, which allows users to record video of their movements as well as superimpose their speed and jump height data onto the video, which they can then share with their friends.

Nike+ Training

A promotional video for Nike+ Training.

Inspiration is the key to the Nike+ Training program. The app contains a video library of short workouts in three difficulty ranges — beginner, intermediate and advanced — led by some of the world’s best-recognized athletes: tennis player Rafa Nadal, boxer Manny Pacquiao, track and field athlete Allyson Felix and soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo. Users can set up a program based on skill level, or choose individual workouts from the library. Ten athletes have already signed on to produce videos, and more will be added over time.

Accompanied with the Nike+ Training shoes — called the Lunar Hyperworkout+ for Women and the Lunar TR 1+ for men — users will be able to determine how well they’re keeping up with a workout and how they progress over time. Because the shoes can only measure distance, height and steps over time, the range of workouts is limited. Users won’t be tasked to do push-ups or sit-ups, for instance, because the shoes can’t record the necessary data about them. Thus, most of the workouts will involve legwork.

The Training app will also be useful to those who aren’t willing to fork over the as-yet-unannounced cost of the shoes. They can still follow along with the videos — the app will be free to download on June 29 — although they won’t be able to record their data.


Nike+ Basketball and Nike+ Training are welcome and impressive additions to the evolving Nike+ ecosystem, though I can’t help wishing, six years after its launch, that Nike+ had evolved further by now — that it was the center for all of my health data.

I want a system where I can store and dive into all of my wellness information, understanding how my sleep patterns affect my running performance, for instance, and how increasing my workout intensity or protein intake alters my weight. All of that could be achieved by allowing for manual input of that data in Nike+, or through a more elaborate set of Nike+-connected products — think watches that record sleep times, and scales that record weight and send it back to Nike+ — that would track some of the information manually. We’re certainly getting there, but not quite as fast as I’d like!

If you’re a Nike+ user, we’d love to hear what you think of the new products, and what features you’d most like to see from Nike+ going forward.

More About: basketball, fitness, Nike, sports, trending

FCC: Cybersecurity Is Crucial for America’s Future

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:03 PM PST

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Wednesday that failing to meet the “challenges” of cybersecurity will mean the U.S. will “pay the price in the form of diminished safety, lost privacy, lost jobs and financial vulnerability — billions of dollars potentially lost to digital criminals.”

The FCC chair called on Internet users, providers and policymakers to address multiple “cyber threats,” including botnet attacks, domain name fraud and IP hijacking.

Botnet Attacks

In a botnet operation, one computer can control millions of other computers via software called “malware” downloaded unbeknownst to the user. Those computers can then be directed to visit a specific website, overloading it with traffic in what’s called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Botnet attacks can be devastating to the average consumer, said Genachowski.

The FCC is working to prevent them by teaching Internet users about botnets and the risk they present. Genachowski called on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to form a voluntary “industry-wide code of conduct” to help educate customers on identifying botnet attacks and on how to handle them.

Genachowski said such an ISP-sponsored program must be done “in a way that doesn’t compromise users’ privacy.”

Traffic Highjacking

The second form of cyberattack the FCC has its eye on is IP hijacking. According to Genachowski, there’s a weakness in the way the Internet was built that nefarious types can exploit, causing traffic to be redirected through a network it wouldn’t normally encounter.

“The Internet is a network of networks,” said Genachowski. “Connectivity between these networks is based on an implicit trust that is the Internet's biggest strength, but can also be a major weakness.”

Genachowski highlighted the risk of IP hijacking by pointing to a 2010 incident, when 15% of Internet traffic was redirected through mysterious Chinese servers for approximately 18 minutes. That caused an “incalculable” cost in terms of intellectual property and data loss, he said.

IP hijacking could be fixed if ISPs voluntarily “adopted more secure routing standards,” Genachowski said, adding that they could reduce the cost of these upgrades by performing them during other routine maintenance procedures.

“The benefits of ISPs taking these steps to eliminate accidentally misrouted traffic would be enormous,” said Genachowski.

Domain Name Fraud

Domain name fraud happens when a “bad actor” change the identifying information of a website on the Domain Name System (DNS), which is a sort of phone book for the Internet. An Internet user can be directed to a website that looks fine, but is actually fraudulent — and is stealing the user’s personal data, such as credit card information.

“A report by Gartner found 3.6 million Americans getting redirected to bogus websites in a single year, costing them $3.2 billion,” said Genachowski.

How does the FCC plan to fix domain fraud?

According to Geenchowski, DNSSEC, a more secure version of DNS, would address DNS’s security shortfalls. It was adopted with privacy in mind, said Genachowski, and he urges all broadband providers to voluntarily start implementing it as soon as possible.

The Future of Cybersecurity

The FCC is following President Barack Obama’s lead, who in his 2013 proposed budget put aside money for a great deal of cybersecurity programs. In that budget, the president called cybersecurity an “emerging threat,” alongside nuclear war and terrorism.

Do you think the U.S. or other countries are prepared to deal with large-scale cyberattacks? What can be done to better protect the Internet from cybercriminals? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov

More About: cybersecurity, cyberwar, fcc, internet

PlayStation Vita: Everything You Need to Know

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:47 PM PST

PlayStation Vita

The PlayStation Vita is quite big when you first unbox it. The system is 7.2 inches wide, and 3.2 inches tall, with the 5-inch screen smack in the middle. It also weighs in at 9.2 oz. -- over half a pound.

Click here to view this gallery.

The new PlayStation Vita, the portable gaming device, launches Wednesday in stores across the U.S., Europe and Australia. For gamers who haven’t already pre-ordered their device, here’s what you need to know to decide if it’s right for you.

How big is this thing? Pretty darn massive. The Vita is 7.2 inches long with a 5-inch OLED screen dominating the front of the device. It also weighs a little more than half a pound. It’s not pocket-sized in the slightest. That may deter those interested in something that isn’t bigger than their smartphones; for others, it’s still smaller than a tablet.

How do I play it? The Vita added an analog stick from its predecessor, the PlayStation Portable. Along with the dual analog sticks and the familiar shape buttons, the Vita supports a multitouch screen on its display, and a matching one on the back. The back touchscreen hasn’t been utilized by a lot of games yet, but it adds an interesting element to the ones it does.

The Vita also supports a Sixaxis motion system that includes a gyroscope and accelerometer that can be incorporated into play.

What type of game cartridges does it take? The Vita uses a proprietary Flash memory card called “The PlayStation Vita Card.” While they are very similar in form to SD cards, the Vita can only run the Sony branded cards. The games are available on these cards, along with blank ones to store games and apps. The Vita does not have an internal SSD to support downloaded content, so anything downloaded must be stored on a Vita Card.

So what does this mean for my PSP games? Sadly, the Vita is only backwards compatible with PSP games purchased from the system’s store. Universal Media Discs have been axed, but that isn’t good news for players who invested in the previous system.

How does the store work? The Vita has access to the PlayStation storefront, where players can download new Vita titles instead of buying them in a retail store, as well as PSP and Mini titles. It also has applications and a wide selection of movies. It’s important to note that you’ll need a Vita proprietary memory cards to download and store your content.

What games are available? Lots. What would a new system be worth without a strong group of titles to support it? Thankfully, Sony didn’t skimp here, and brought plenty of first-party and third-party offerings at launch.

The strongest titles are Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which seems to be a full-fledged entry into the popular action-adventure series; Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a perfect port of the console version; Lumines Electronic Symphony, a sequel to the game that was an essential puzzle title for any PSP owner. There are a slew of titles to appeal to different demographics, such as FIFA Soccer for sports fans, Asphalt: Injection and wipEout 2048 for racing fans.

What about games to look forward to? There are a few interesting titles coming down the pipe that may help propel Vita sales. Hideo Kojima, the creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, says his studio is working on an untitled Vita game, as well as a Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. LittleBigPlanet will arrive on Vita on March 31; horror fans will see Silent Hill: Book of Memories on March 27.

SEE ALSO: PlayStation Vita: 15 Games You Can Play at Launch

How does internet connectivity on the Vita work? The Vita has wireless capabilities, but also can connect to 3G via AT&T. The data plan does not require a contract. It’s $15 a month for the 250MB option, and $25 for 2 gigs of data.

What are the social features of Vita? The Vita is dependent on a PlayStation Network ID to access many of its features, but it boasts many ways to connect with your friends on other Vitas or on the PlayStation 3. On a Vita, players can access their friends lists to see who is playing what, use a feature called Near to see if any of their friends are nearby playing on their Vita (or find other nearby players playing the same games as they are), and use the Party feature to text and voice chat with any of their friends on PSN.

The social features will work with some PS3 titles; currently wipEout 2048 players will be able to challenge wipEout HD players to tracks cross-console, for example.

What about other social networks? The Vita app store promises to support Facebook, Twitter (through their own client called LiveTweet), Flickr and Skype.

Can I use the device as a media player? Yes. The OLED screen looks amazing when playing movies. The Vita allows you to import your movies, music and pictures with its Content Manager app, while the Vita store allows players to rent and buy movies. Additionally, the ubiquitous Netflix has a Vita application.

What’s the battery life like? Sony promises a three- to five-hour battery life when playing games or watching movies, nine hours for music. In testing the unit, I saw even shorter times. After an hour or so of gameplay, I would see my battery drop to half power. What makes the short battery life problematic is that the Vita’s battery is internal, unlike the PSP’s, so you’ll need to always keep your charger handy.

Should I buy the Vita? If games alone are enough to satist you, and you wanted release titles that pack a punch compared to games on mobile phones and tablets — plus better control options — then the Vita might be for you. Hopefully the Vita Store will be as easy for smaller developers to ship to as the Apple or Android markets, to keep a wide variety of games available.

The proprietary cards and short battery life are a little frustrating, as is the lack of deep integration into existing social channels. Having apps is one thing, being able to update Facebook with a high score is another.

The Vita is a gorgeous, fun system to use, but it may have a hard time standing up to upcoming mobile games and systems.

More About: playstation network, PlayStation Vita, portable gaming, PS Vita, Vita

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Masternaut Tells You When You’re Driving Badly, Helps Save Gas [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:33 PM PST

Driving isn’t exactly eco-friendly, but one company has found a way to make it as green as possible — by improving your driving, and thus your gas mileage.

Masternaut, a gadget made in the UK, aim to make sure you’re being a safe driver. It is your own personal driving instructor, in effect; it attaches to the dashboard of your car and could reduce gas cost by up to one-fifth.

The system was created to give the driver near real-time feedback. It tracks your location with GPS while a gyroscopic inertial system detects acceleration and a microprocessor records use and revs. The little black box shrieks and flashes lights when it detects driving habits like sharp turns, accelerating or breaking too fast, which all contribute to ineffective use of gas.

The company thinks its product is a good way for companies to track their drivers’ performance and will shave fuel costs. It could also be a way for parents to keep an eye on their lead-footed teen.

What’s next in car driving help? Google patented a self-driving car.

Check out the video above to learn more about this tool. Would you use Masternaut? Do you need a little help toning down your road rage behind the wheel? Tell us in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Masternaut

More About: cars, Google Self-driving Car, gps

‘Facebook Parenting’ YouTube Video Is More Viral Than ‘Friday’

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:17 PM PST

Move over, Rebecca Black. Make room for Tommy Jordan.

The heat-packing, tech-savvy dad who plugged nine rounds into his daughter’s laptop in a YouTube-broadcasted fit of parental retribution is rapidly blowing the pop star’s notorious “Friday” video out of the water in the 24/7 viral video derby.

Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen,” uploaded exactly two weeks ago, has already amassed more than 28 million views on YouTube. That’s some 5 million more than the most recent re-uploaded version of “Friday,” which came back to YouTube in official form in September. But it’s a good deal less than the well over 100 million views the music video gained in its first life after originally appearing last February.

A closer look at the stats, however, reveals Tommy Jordan making a strong bid for viral-video supremacy.

According to a YouTube Trends blog post, Jordan’s video reached its viral peak with a whopping 11 million views the day after it was uploaded — which, as it happens, is also the first day Mashable wrote about the eight-minute clip. By contrast, that’s double the peak of Black’s video, which YouTube says was some 6 million views in a day.

Facebook Parenting” has also enjoyed a better reception than “Friday.” Of the more than 350,000 people who have clicked “like” or “dislike,” on Jordan’s video, the results are 91% positive. Reaction to Black’s video has been 80% negative since September. In a Mashable reader poll, meanwhile, more than 60% of respondents said Jordan did not “go too far” in shooting his daughter’s laptop, but more than 50% said she’ll still resent her parents.

In the week following its appearance, the North Carolina dad’s video also inspired more than 1,000 uploads tagged “facebook parenting” and gathered more than 215,000 comments, according to YouTube.

For the uninitiated, “Friday” was a unforgettable poppy tune that became a meme after gaining recognition from many as possibly the worst song and video ever produced.

“Facebook Parenting” came into existence after Jordan found a nasty Facebook note that his daughter had written to vent about her frustrations with chores and parental control. Jordan found the note, which his daughter meant to hide from her parents with privacy settings, when he accessed the family dog’s profile to upload photos. Incensed, he taped a rebuttal in which he read the note aloud and rebutted its key points before then shooting it full of hollow-point rounds on camera.

Forget the stats, though. Which video is the winner in your heart, “Friday” or “Facebook Parenting?”

BONUS GALLERY: Dad uses Facebook to address viral video of laptop shooting

After his video went viral (unexpectedly, he said) Jordan swore off media interviews but took to his Facebook page to answer some questions and pontificate on the state of parenting and technology. Check out this gallery for the rundown.

1. "Never again..."

In a post from Friday, Jordan says he was unprepared for the attention the video attracted.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Friday, Rebecca Black, viral videos, YouTube

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LinkedIn Buys Smart Email Startup Rapportive

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 11:46 AM PST

Rapportive, a startup that makes a Gmail add-on that displays social media info about contacts as you email them, confirmed on Wednesday that it had been purchased by LinkedIn.

Rahul Vohra, CEO of Rapportive, confirmed the acquisition on the company’s blog. “In business, partnership is dating — and we went on a lot of dates with LinkedIn. Slowly, but surely, we fell in love,” Vohra wrote. Vohra wrote that despite the new ownership, Rapportive will continue building its product. “At LinkedIn, we will support Rapportive, and we will continue to build beautiful products that make you brilliant with people.”

The confirmation comes after a report earlier this month from All Things D pegged the purchase price in the “low teens” of millions of dollars. Vohra did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Rapportive is a sidebar for Gmail that displays information from relevant email contacts' social media accounts, including LinkedIn, as you open and compose emails. It also lets you add those email contacts as friends on social networks without leaving your inbox.

The startup's website says its plugin looks up more than 20 million contacts every month — which, considering how many emails can come to one account, doesn't necessarily give much insight into the size of its user base. It competes with other personal relationship management products such as Smartr and Mingly

Gmail also released a "people widget" in May that had similar features to Rapportive, and the startup responded by integrating the widget into its product. Rappotive responded by integrating with Google’s widget.

Image courtesy of Flickr, smi23le

More About: deals, email, gmail, linkedin, rapportive, Startups

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Zipcar Wants to Make Your Car Part of its Fleet

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 11:39 AM PST

Zipcar’s 673,000 subscribers currently share its fleet of 8,900 vehicles. But what if they could also rent yours? The company announced on Wednesday that it’s taking a first step toward finding out.

Zipcar has led a $13.7 million round of funding in a peer-to-peer car rental startup called Wheelz.

Like similar startups Getaround and RelayRides, Wheelz runs an online marketplace (there’s also an iPhone app) on which neighbors can browse and rent each other’s cars. It’s distinguishing feature is that it focuses on college campuses and restricts members to those with campus email addresses. Students who don’t have cars can rent them from students who do.

“This investment is our first step in the direction of potentially offering a broader array of mobility services,” said Zipcar Chairman and CEO Scott Griffith, who will join Wheelz’s board of directors, in a statement. “We believe our strong brand and first to scale advantage put us in a unique position to exploit the network effects and business synergies Zipcar can bring to the broader mobility space.”

Although Zipcar brought in about $63 million in 2011, its net income was only $4 million. In order to scale, it currently needs to add and maintain new fleets of vehicles — an expensive affair. A peer-to-peer model like Wheelz’s, however, could help it scale more quickly and with much less capital by relying on other people’s vehicles. It could also allow Zipcar to enter rural markets that were previously not viable for its business model — and to do so while taking a cut of rental fees for vehicles it doesn’t even own.

The arrangement could also benefit Wheelz. Building a marketplace doesn’t do much good if nobody uses it, and Wheelz has plenty of competition. Zipcar’s cash and brand could help it beat similar services to new areas.

Zipcar has only announced that it will fund Wheelz, not that it will somehow incorporate its peer-to-peer model under its own brand. But we wouldn’t be surprised if Griffith’s suggestion of the transaction indicating a “first step” in “potentially” offering new services eventually becomes more concrete.

More About: cars, peer-to-peer marketplace, Wheelz, zipcar

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