It's History in the Making: Google's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Legal In California

California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on September 25, 2012 that clears Google's driverless cars for use on state-owned roads, as reported by Dylan Love at Business Insider. Technically this lets any company pursue driverless car plans, but Google is clearly the face of automated vehicles right now and the bill was signed at Google headquarters.

As seen on Google's blog on 9/25/12: California Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. is visiting Google Headquarters today to sign SB1298, a bill that creates a legal framework and operational safety standards for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.

What an incredible development!


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Amazon Shifts Tactics on Sales Taxes

Tax-free shopping on the Internet may soon come to an end, said Monica Langley in The Wall Street Journal. Republican governors in budget-strapped states, eager for revenue, are joining their Democratic colleagues by dropping their longtime opposition to collecting sales taxes on online purchases. Under pressure, Amazon, which has long relied on a 1992 court ruling that online companies don’t have to collect sales taxes if they lack a physical presence in the customer’s state, is now collecting taxes in six states, and by January 2014 will start doing so in seven more, including New Jersey, Indiana, and Virginia.

The irony is that Amazon’s capitulation on taxes could be the death knell for its offline retail rivals, said Barney Jopson in the Financial Times. The company is expanding its network of warehouses to states where it collects sales taxes, and plans to soon offer same-day delivery to millions of consumers. “If Amazon can deliver to work or home in three or four hours—and at little or no shipping cost to the consumer—then why bother with the store?” An Amazon promise of same-day delivery is “a major fear,” said New Jersey bookstore owner Rita Maggio. “I’m afraid we’ll never get back what we lost.”

- As seen in The Week
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The Smiley Emoticon Turns 30 Today!

The official birthdate of the smiley is September 19, 1982. It was created by Scott E. Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University. The two original "glyphs" by Scott were :-) and :-( Since Scott posted his first smiley proposal, MANY other smileys have been devised...

Smileys, also known as emoticons (meaning icons that represent emotion), grew out of the need to display feeling in the two-dimensional, online, written world. When speaking face-to-face (F2F), a person's facial expressions help you understand the meaning of what he or she is saying. Smileys are an attempt to bring that extra nuance to online communications by composing a face out of ASCII characters.

And, lest you think that's all, there are also now assicons and boobiecons... emoticons which highlight other parts of the body! And there are graphical smileys, straight-on smileys, Japanese smileys, special characters and full-on ASCII art, enjoy!

Check out the Original Bulletin Board Thread where the Smiley :-) was Proposed!

Here is NetLingo's special smileys page for a closer head tilting look so you can start using one for yourself 0*-)

5 Web Tools Every Student Needs to Know

It’s back to school time, and though most of us have mastered the use of social media to enhance our personal lives, what about mastering Internet and technology that can make us more productive instead of easily distracted? Neha Prakash of Mashable rounded up the best apps, tools and websites for students to streamline your school life and be more successful.

Google has given you a leg up though this year on that looming avalanche of paper assignments with its Google Docs research feature. It easily allows you to search online while writing and — the best part — footnote the paper with the click of a button. But be prepared to spend more time actually writing your paper since you now have no excuse.

Bookrenter.com will help you in the financial and academic realms. The site is one of many that lets you rent the books you need on a per semester basis for much smaller fees than purchasing them at school bookstores.

And for those annoying group projects, when organization is the hardest but most key part, use Trello to keep on track. It uses a set of boards and cards to assign tasks to specific people. All the members can be aware of what others are working on. It also lets you set priorities and due dates for each task. Trello can be accessed from your laptop, iOS device or Android device.

Group projects also require lots of file sharing. Instead of trying to pass around flash drives, head to Dropbox. Dropbox lets you easily upload anything from video and audio files to slide presentations and access it from anywhere. It’s also got a great free mobile app.

If Dropbox’s upload limits get you frustrated, CloudApp has a similar concept but offers unlimited uploads for files under 250 MB.

And we all know the first ingredient to a great school year is having a good teacher, so check out Rate My Professors before scheduling your classes. It works like Yelp, but just for academics. It rates teachers on easiness, helpfulness, clarity and even their looks. And other students can leave in-depth comments about their experiences in the class.

And just for good measure here’s another study app: Evernote Peek. It turns your iPad‘s SmartCover into a flashcard. No more stacks of index cards needed to memorize those geometric equations. It’s available for free in the App Store.

Check out this video to learn more about each of these tools!

- As seen in Mashable
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It's Back to (Online) School Time!

Advances in technology, coupled with increased demand for educational services, have given birth to a wave of new online learning options. According to Zev Gotkin in Mashable, this leaves infopreneurs with the opportunity to create exciting new ways for individuals to learn online. Here are five start-ups that are shaping the online education trend.


1. 2tor - 2tor is the first startup of its kind to offer full degree programs online at top-tier universities. It’s also the most highly funded. As of April, its total investments added up to a little under $97 million. 2tor partners with universities across the country to help them build and market their own online degree programs. The startup has created master’s degree programs for a variety of schools, including a master of arts in teaching at the University of Southern California and Georgetown University’s nursing program.

2tor is making waves for its web-based infrastructure that allows professors to easily share information with students, create interactive lessons, and provide lectures and opportunities for social interaction among students. Its iPad and iPhone apps even allow students to participate on the go. These varied services are allowing 2tor to lead the way as an online education startup.

2. Udemy - Udemy is unique because it allows anyone to take or build an online course, not just colleges and universities. Instructors can implement videos, PowerPoints, zip files, audio files, and PDFs to create a course and share it with the world. The site offers courses on technology, business, music, art, languages, math, science, games, sports, and more.

The basic premise is to crowdsource education. Much like blogging allows anyone to share information, Udemy allows anyone to create courses with nothing more than an internet connection. Many individuals with a desire to learn are cut out of the education system by rising tuition, housing, and commuting costs, but Udemy empowers anyone to share and learn at a more affordable rate.

3. EdX - Announced on May 2, 2012 EdX is the joint creation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard. The partnership strives to bring online learning to people across the globe and offers online classes for free. EdX courses include videos, quizzes, feedback, and more to help students navigate the material. In July 2012, the service received a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which shows just how much potential online education programs have to grow.

4. Voxy - This start-up is allowing users to “learn a language from life,” meaning they use context and flexibility to teach new languages via web-based and mobile technology. Voxy turns your real-world conversations, activities, and the media you consume into contextual language lessons. The service allows users to control the pace of their learning with tailored language lessons focusing on things that are of interest to them. The iPhone and Android apps also allow users to learn on the go.

Language acquisition is more difficult for adults, but Voxy’s customized pacing allows for a stress-free environment. Since January 2011, the site has grown to more than one and a half million users, and spent nearly a year as the number one education app in twenty countries.

5. Noodle - Noodle has created the very first search engine of its kind, devoted solely to navigating the vast sea of educational information available online. Noodle’s customized search engine helps students and their families to find resources for tutors, pre-K schooling options, guidance counselors, summer camps, MBA programs, and much more. Basically, this service is revolutionizing the way we search for and locate educational opportunities suited to our needs.

- As seen in Mashable
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Awesome Android Tips and Tricks

You don't need a degree in software engineering to get more out of your Android smartphone. Regardless of the kind of Android phone you're packing — be it from Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola or Sony, to name a few makers — Marc Saltzman of Digital Crave has a handful of helpful ways to unlock the capabilities of your favorite handset.

Unless otherwise specified, it also shouldn't matter what version of Android you're running on your smartphone, with the most popular today being Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") or the latest release, Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). To figure out what version you're running, go to the About section of your device, under Settings.

Many of these tips and tricks will work on Android-based tablets (including those powered by Android 3.x, a.k.a. "Honeycomb") as well as phone-tablet hybrids like the Samsung Galaxy Note and its built-in stylus pen.

1. Text or talk - If you're getting a call on your Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) device, you can swipe the screen to the right to answer, swipe to the left to ignore or swipe up to quickly respond with a text message — by default it's "I'm busy right now. I will call you later." On some models, you'll need to tap "Ignore With Text." But you can change this default message in the phone's app's Settings area to something else altogether.

2. Hi Mom! - If there's someone you call a lot, there's an easy way to set up a "quick dial" for them on your Android device. Simply tap and hold anywhere on your homescreen wallpaper and select Shortcuts from your list of options. Now, touch Direct Dial and select the person from your contacts list. If you have a photo of this person in your contacts then that's what you'll see on the shortcut icon, along with their first name. You can also use this little-known tool for one-touch texting, by selecting the Direct Message option instead.

3. Cutting corners - There are many dozens of handy shortcuts to speed up your time on Android devices — some tied to the web browsers, others to using the virtual keyboard and another set related to app management. But here are a few handy ones for those who use Gmail on an Android device: While inside of a message, tap the R key to reply to the message, F to forward it, A to reply to all (to everyone in the To: and Cc: field) or Y to archive an email (this last shortcut works inside of the message or while in the main inbox view). Compose a new email by tapping Menu + C or refresh your inbox with Menu + U.

4. Flash, on demand - Unlike the iPhone, Android devices are capable of displaying websites with Flash animation, video and games. But if you don't have a generous data plan with your carrier, or if you find loading Flash is slowing down your browsing, you can launch Flash on-demand. That is, you can tap to see or interact with Flash content when you want — and if you don't tap to start it, it won't load. To do this, go to the Settings of your web browser, select Advanced and tap to change the Enable Flash and Plug-Ins tab from "Always On" to "On demand" or "Off."

5. Siri, Shmiri - If you're a seasoned Android user you likely know Google has offered voice-based search for some time, but the voice-to-text dictation feature is really strong on the phone — especially with ICS. Tap the microphone icon to the left of the spacebar while inside of a text or email and start talking. Not only will you see the words typed out as you say them — unlike Apple's Siri, which shows you the words after you're done talking — but the accuracy is outstanding and you'll find this is much faster than typing out a lengthy message. Don't forget to say punctuation requests, such as "comma,' "period" and "question mark."

6. Speak easy - One of the advantages of Android over competing smartphone platforms is its integrated Google apps ranging from Search and Maps to Gmail to YouTube to Calendar to Google+ to Earth. One of the most powerful of the free services, however, is Google Voice, which lets you make phone calls (with cheap international rates), send and receive free text messages, transcribes voicemails into text, forward your number and set up custom greetings for different callers. Google Voice will quickly become your favorite app, so get to know it.

7. Say cheese - Quick — your friend is doing something ridiculous and you must capture the moment. Problem is, by the time you pick up and unlock your Android phone, launch the camera and snap the picture, it's simply too late. Well, here's a trick to enabling the camera from the lock screen so you don't miss the action. Instead of sliding the ring towards the center of the screen or typing in your PIN code or pattern, simply tap and hold the camera icon on the bottom right of your smartphone and drag it to the ring — it'll meet you halfway — and then let go to launch the camera pronto. Cool, huh?

8. Wild about widgets - One of the great things about an open-source platform is you can customize the look and feel of your Android's homescreen in a myriad of ways. Want "live" wallpaper that animates behind your icons? Too bad iPhone can't do that. Want to create one homescreen for work (with 9 to 5 apps) and one for play (5 to 9 apps)? Why not. Something else that separates Android from the IOS camp is Widgets, which you can add by pressing and holding down on the home screen; these can range from funky clocks and bookmarks to weather information and messages to photos and system information. Have fun exploring. If you're running ICS you can also resize these widgets on the fly.

9. Screen dream - Before ICS, it wasn't easy to snap a picture of what you're seeing on the device's display. To take a screenshot of a game, website, message or anything else, Android 4.x users can simply press the power and volume-down buttons at the same time. The screen will flash white, you'll hear a sound and the image be saved in your photo gallery. If you're on a non-ICS-device — such as Froyo, Gingerbread or Honeycomb — try the $5 No Root Screenshot It app, but be aware you'll need to connect your device to a computer via a USB cable to enable screenshots each time you restart the phone.

10. Don't leave home without it
- Increasingly, Android devices are shipping with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology under the hood. This wireless radio can be used to make payments at retail, vending machines or between supported devices, in place of using cash, credit or debit. Consider it an electronic wallet, of sorts, that lets you buy goods or services by tapping or swiping on a sensor. NFC-enabled phones -- such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, LG Viper 4G LTE and LG Optimus LTE — all work with apps like Google Wallet at supporting stores for NFC payments.

11. Freeze frame - You're likely aware there are a few photo effects built into your Android camera app. If not, from the photo gallery, simply tap Edit from the dropdown menu and you can brighten up a dark shot, add a film grain look, remove red-eye or tweak color (better yet, download the free Instagram app). But did you know ICS has another cool photo feature: when you're shooting a video with your Android device, tap the frame and it'll take a still snapshot and automatically dump it into your camera roll. Those running older Android devices can download an app, like Frame Grabber from Google Play (formerly Android Market), that do the same thing -- but you'll have to grab a still after the video has been shot.

12. Later gator - About to go on a long flight without any Internet connectivity? Those on an ICS device can save web content to read at a later time — without needing an app to do it (like Pocket). If you're inside the browser and come across something interesting you want to read at a later time, tap the menu tab and select "Save for offline reading" instead of "Bookmark," as the latter will require an Internet connection. This is also a good tip in case you're nearing your monthly data limit and want to queue up a few things to read offline.

13. Know when to fold 'em - If you need to clean up a messy desktop, perhaps littered with multiple app icons over multiple pages, you can press and hold on an app, drag it onto another one and it will create a folder and place them both in there. You can then tap and hold to rename the folder to something relevant ("Music Apps"), add more apps to the folder, if you like, and then rearrange where they go on your homescreen. You can also drag and drop shortcuts into folders, too, if you like, but not widgets.

- As seen in The Week
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