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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Hi my name is Erin, I'm a binge TV viewer

Tech-savvy young people have come up with a whole new way to watch TV, said John Jurgensen in The Wall Street Journal. The “binge viewer” compulsively views whole seasons of drama series in marathon sessions lasting a day or more, using new technologies like on-demand TV, digital video recorders, and streaming websites. Netflix says TV shows now account for 60 percent of its streaming volume, and has even introduced a feature that automatically plays the next episode of a series. TV networks aren’t happy, because binge viewers bypass advertising vital to their business, but the increasingly popular practice is “changing the economics of the industry.” Producers now create “highly serialized shows,” hoping to make streaming deals that invite bingers to devour them in one sitting. Immersing yourself in a well-told TV drama, psychologists say, produces “something akin to a trance”—making the characters, plot, and emotions they evoke seem more real.


Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in Slate.com, “but it destroys much of what is best about TV.” Series like AMC’s Breaking Bad are intended to be watched over periods of weeks, not hours—and gorging on them denies you a chance to develop a relationship with their characters, or to relish each episode as a story in itself. There’s nothing quite like the delicious suspense of a cliff-hanger—but “that pleasure evaporates when you simply click ‘play’ on the next episode.” To me, it’s disrespectful to watch the entirety of a nuanced, artful drama in “a few couch-buried sittings,” said Richard Lawson in TheAtlantic
.com
. “Something like Mad Men, which unfolds with elegant precision and demands a little thinking time, is probably best savored slowly.”

That’s silly, said James Poniewozik in Time.com. Is a great novel less wonderful if you read it in a long, “sustained trance,” or 20 pages at a time over the course of weeks? That’s purely a matter of personal preference; good storytelling “will take whatever viewing conditions you throw at it.” Besides, the era of everyone watching TV shows at the same time, the same way, is over, said Linda Holmes in NPR.org. Now you can watch your favorite series on “a big TV, or on a small TV, or on a tablet, or on a phone.” You can watch it on a train or bus, or in bed, in the afternoon, or at any time of day you like. How could that be bad?

- As seen in The Week
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Are you a tech slave or a tech master?

When William Falk, Editor-in-chief of The Week mused on the last of his summer vacation and wondered whether are we tech masters or tech slaves, I knew I had to blog his commentary because I and so many people I know, feel the same way... "Not so long ago, I would have found it unthinkable to work while on vacation, but that was before I traveled with a trio of tech gadgets.


"One fine day last week, with the sun peeking through the clouds and the wind hissing in the trees, I had my nose buried in work for The Week magazine. This was remarkably stupid of me, since I was on vacation on a beautiful island, and my family was waiting to go to the beach.

"Not so long ago, I would have found it unthinkable to work while on vacation; I recall glorious two-week sojourns where I had no contact with bosses, employees, even friends. But that was before I traveled with a smartphone, an iPad, and a laptop, and learned to like living in a constant stream of information and connection.

"Why do so many of us now work while on vacation, on holidays, on weekends? Not because we must, but because we can. When the ether around us pulses with wireless invitation, to disconnect requires a very deliberate act of will. Even the dopamine-pushers of Silicon Valley are becoming alarmed by just how addictive their devices have become.

"But we cannot rely on the tech wizards to save us, any more than we could expect tobacco companies to convince nicotine addicts to stop smoking. So: Will we be masters of our machines, or their slaves? The choice is ours.

"When I finally tore myself away from mine last week, I found myself on a spotless stretch of sand under a vast, achingly blue sky. Tumbling and hooting in the pounding surf with my daughter, I was fully present in the moment. Fully alive. And when we came back to the rented house, the devices were winking in the semi-darkness, beckoning me to re-engage with a world best left behind.

- By William Falk, as seen in The Week
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Technology: Is it making addicts of us all?

Next year, for the first time, “Internet use disorder” will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“The latest trend on the Internet,” said Tracy McVeigh in The U.K. Observer, “is to step away from the Internet.” With smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices reshaping how people work, communicate, and spend their free time, scientists and psychologists are starting to question what our reliance on these devices is doing to our minds.

Next year, for the first time, “Internet use disorder” will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, said Matt Richtel in The New York Times. Even in Silicon Valley, there is a growing concern that technology is taking over people’s lives. “We’re done with this honeymoon phase, and now we’re in a phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’” says tech guru Soren Gordhamer, who has organized an annual conference of digerati called Wisdom 2.0 to explore the need for balance in a wired world.

Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are now teaching their own employees meditation and “mindfulness,” and warning them of the dangers of constant texting, tweeting, and web-surfing. “It’s this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices,” says Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who consults with tech company executives. “People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”

Don’t blame the gadgets, said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic.com. It’s not your smartphone’s fault that you compulsively check your email “at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed.” It’s mostly the fault of our employers, who now expect workers to be available 24/7. We can also blame the “strange American political and cultural systems” that make us feel guilty about taking any time off, and obligated to meet the growing demand for nonstop productivity. People have iPhones in Britain and Germany, too, yet “Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans.”

Beware: We’re already paying a steep price for our digital obsession, said Tony Dokoupil in Newsweek. Research shows that constant use of these devices is actually rewiring the physical structure of people’s brains. Every time your phone, tablet, or computer pings with a new text, tweet, or email, it triggers a sense of expectation, and the reward centers in your brain receive a pleasurable “squirt of dopamine.” Over time, a brain habituated to these quick fixes shrinks the structures used for concentration, empathy, and impulse control, while growing new neurons receptive to speedy processing and instant gratification. Brain scans of Internet addicts—defined as anyone online more than 38 hours a week—can resemble those of cocaine addicts and alcoholics. Symptoms of Internet addiction can range from depression to acute psychosis. The Internet, in other words, is “driving us mad.”

I know of a good treatment, if not a cure, said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. It’s called nature. When we get into the great outdoors, the illusion of control that technology provides disappears, and we are “deflated, humbled, and awed all at once.” In the “vast natural cathedral,” we are reminded of a world much larger than ourselves—one that predates us, will outlive us, and at whose mercy we exist. To escape our “post-industrial self-absorption,” we all need to leave our iPhones at home at least once a week, and go take a walk in the woods. Your devices will be waiting when you get back, and you’ll be a bit saner when you rejoin the endless conversation.

- As seen in The Week
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That’s not my phone, it's my tracker!

The device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cell phone—guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan of The New York Times want us to stop calling them phones. They are trackers. Thanks to the explosion of GPS technology and smart phone apps, these are also taking note of what we buy, where and when we buy it, how much money we have in the bank, whom we text and email—and more. Cellular systems constantly check and record the location of all phones in their networks. If someone knows exactly where you are, they probably know what you are doing. People should call them trackers. We can love or hate these devices—or love and hate them—but it would make sense to call them what they are so we can fully understand what they do.

- As seen in The New York Times
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The SEC has a Porn Problem

One senior SEC attorney looked at porn eight hours a day, burning the files to CDs and DVDs when he ran out of hard drive space, said Tobin Harshaw in The New York Times. “You can’t make this shit up!” It turns out that while Wall Street was in “full panic” in the fall of 2008, senior officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission weren’t watching the markets. They were watching porn.


According to the SEC’s inspector general, 17 “senior-level employees,” some earning as much as $222,418 a year, were caught up in the porn sweep and disciplined. One senior SEC attorney looked at porn eight hours a day, burning the files to CDs and DVDs when he ran out of hard drive space. Another employee used Google to bypass the SEC’s Internet filter and gaze at “very graphic” images.

The revelations—which have been documented on the inspector general’s website since 2008 but drew little notice—are complicating President Obama’s push to strengthen regulation of Wall Street. How can he slap down the bankers knowing that “while they were busy leveraging our entire society,” the SEC’s “A-number-one enforcement team was surfing for smut”?

- As seen in The Week
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It's Summertime: Keep your tech in check!

How many hours a week do you work? Chances are, about 7 more than you think. According to a new study by Good Technology, Americans are working a full extra day per week—by answering phone calls and emails from home, and (shudder) vacation.


With precious holidays coming up in the summer time, it may be unrealistic to encourage everyone to go cold turkey on work correspondence. But according to Cathy Vandewater at Vault.com, there are three simple ways you can get control over your iphone—and even use it to your advantage for optimal downtime.

1. Taper your usage

There's a theory about the one week vacation: that the first three days of vacation are spent desperately trying to unwind, the middle two are relaxing, and the final two are spent dreading the return to work.

That's sort of a raw deal, especially if your time off is only one day.

Know thyself. If you're used to constant connectivity, immediately shutting off your device is probably going to be more stressful than it's worth: you'll just obsess over what you're missing, and squander time with family and friends by fretting over Something Important That You're Not Reading (!!!).

Is that you? Take the two seconds to check your work emails, and put your device back in the car. Just be disciplined about it: limit the number of checks per day, or do it in time intervals (checking every three hours, for instance). That should keep your worry brain in check, without driving everyone nuts.

2. Flag it—and forget it

Get an email that demands an answer? If you have one off the top of your head, shoot off a quick reply, but politely remind your contact that you're away from the office. They should get the message.

If task isn't urgent, but it is important, flag it for follow up when you're back on the clock. If you're the type to worry a lot about how you'll handle something, just knowing that you've designated it for later will give you permission to forget it. And a physical reminder will assure that you actually will get to it, which of course is important too.

3. Know your real reasons for checking

Sometimes it's not really concern for work matters that drives us, but that little shot of dopamine we get from seeing a new message in our inbox. Ah, we are indispensible. Knew it!

It's a great feeling to be needed, but if you're going to be at your best for those that rely on you, you need to recharge. Set aside your work self, and the needs of the office. Those can wait until after the barbeque. Instead, soak up sun, fun, and family for your personal self. Your relaxed, tanned, and well-fed work persona will thank you.

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Tasty Tidbits of Tech News

In our latest installment of Tasty Tidbits from the Tech Front, here are some recent news stories in case you missed them.

Tech: Apple ditches Google Maps
Apple is replacing Google Maps with its own mapping software, said Brad Stone in Bloomberg.com. The company announced that iPhones and iPads will soon run Apple’s new map app, with 3-D overhead visualizations of major cities, in order to ward off concerns that “it was becoming too dependent on its chief rival.” Apple also unveiled a new version of its mobile operating system, a revamped line of laptops, upgrades to the voice-recognition app Siri, and new agreements with Twitter and Facebook that make it easier for users to share updates.
- As seen in The Week

Apps that Verge on the Absurd
Last fall, digital designer Alex Cornell pitched a spoof app, but his boss loved the idea. “In Silicon Valley, it is getting tough to tell the difference between a joke and the next big thing,” said Geoffrey A. Fowler and Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal. Last fall, digital designer Alex Cornell pitched a spoof app that would let people grade anything, such as tree leaves or ice cubes. The idea was to “think of the most ridiculous possible app that no one would ever consider a real thing,” said Cornell. But his boss loved it, and now Jotly has tens of thousands of users and two competitors. Another app balanced between the absurd and the creative is Cloo, short for “community loo,” which helps urbanites “market their bathrooms to nearby smartphone users in need.” And there’s iPoo, the social network for people sitting on toilets. More than 200,000 people have paid $1 for the app, enough to put one of its designers through Harvard Business School.
- As seen in The Week

Hackers target LinkedIn and eHarmony
Hackers stole 6.5 million passwords from LinkedIn, the career-oriented social network, and 1.5 million passwords from dating site eHarmony last week. Cyber-security experts say the breaches should prompt users to create harder-to-crack logins, especially if the same passwords are used across a number of accounts.
- As seen in the Los Angeles Times

Dwindling Phone Time
Since the iPhone was launched in 2007, the amount of time Americans spend making old-fashioned voice calls on their mobile phones keeps falling. Wireless customers used an average of 826 minutes per month making calls in 2007, but just 681 minutes on average in 2011. The average call lasted 3.03 minutes in 2006, but just 1.78 minutes last year.
- As seen in The Wall Street Journal

Twitter-Guided Trading

Twitter and Facebook are revolutionizing stock trading, said Ariana Eunjung Cha in The Washington Post. Wall Street analysts are increasingly incorporating data from social media and Internet search trends into their investment strategies. Five years ago, 2 percent of investment firms used “unstructured” data in trading decisions, such as scanning comments on Amazon to predict sales or tallying job listings on Monster.com to discern hiring trends. Today, “that number is closer to 50 percent.” Digital data is so valuable, according to the World Economic Forum, that it qualifies as a new class of economic asset, like oil. London hedge-fund manager Paul Hawtin monitors millions of Twitter postings each day. When tweets trend happy, he buys; when they trend anxious, he sells. His fund was up more than 7 percent in the first quarter. “Big data is fundamentally changing how we trade,” said financial services consultant Adam Honore.
- As seen in The Week

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OMGWTF: Google Could Spend $10 Million On .LOL Domains

Textspeak continues to conquer all forms of communication and according to Owen Thomas in Business Insider, Google wants to take control of a new family of Internet addresses, .lol.

Vint Cerf, an inventor of key Internet technologies and Google's chief Internet evangelist, announced in a blog post that Google was applying to run the new top-level domain—what will be an equivalent to .com, .net, .biz, and other so-called top-level domains.

It's also seeking .google, .docs, and .youtube, in an effort to protect its brands and secure prime Internet real estate for properties like Google Docs.

Obviously, .lol has comedic potential—a bonus for a company that, aside from its hilarious annual April Fool's jokes, isn't known for its sense of humor. But at what price? Running a top-level domain isn't like registering a regular domain name like Google.com. The application fee alone is $185,000.

Domain-name expert Phil Lodico tells Bloomberg that Google could end up spending $1 million a year to operate .lol over the course of a 10-year contract.

Shareholders to GOOG: OMGWTF.

- As seen in Business Insider
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Google, Facebook, And Twitter Will Be The Only Winners In The Coming Domain-Name Disaster

Today begins one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Internet: the introduction of new top-level domain names, or "strings," that come at the end of Web addresses, according to Owen Thomas at Business Insider.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which oversees the whole domain-name system, is unveiling all the applications it's received at a press event in London on June 13.

Paul Sloan at CNET calls it "the greatest landgrab in Internet history." Everyone from Google to Go Daddy is applying for new strings like ".lol" and ".casa." Brands like BMW and Canon are angling to secure ".bmw" and ".canon," which will let them run websites that don't end in ".com."

That's the problem with this whole scheme.

After years of TV and radio ads touting Web addresses, consumers are somewhat familiar with strings like ".com" and ".net." Those pretty much define Web addresses in the popular imagination.

If you're a startup-founding hipster in Brooklyn or San Francisco's Mission District, you might just be a connoisseur of ".me" or ".ly." But as Bit.ly has found out, those are a bit too precious for most people—the Web-address shortening service had to get the slightly longer "bitly.com" just to be safe.

So now we're expecting people to understand that, say, "cars.bmw" is some kind of thing you can type into a Web browser and get to BMW's website?

Good luck with that. All this is going to accomplish is to pour a lot of money into ICANN's hands—new top-level domains cost as much as $185,000 to start up—and confuse the heck out of consumers.

Marketing chiefs everywhere are going to be in a panic trying to figure out if they need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to register their brand name as a string, just to keep it out of mischief-makers' hands. Outside of a few global brands, most won't be able to afford that kind of expense.

Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are going to make out like bandits. Why? Because anything that makes Web addresses even more confusing than they already are drives people to type things into a search box.

Or they head to easy-to-find Web presences like a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

Overstock.com learned this to its dismay when it tried to rebrand as "O.co." (That's not one of the new strings—it's Colombia's country domain name, used by some companies looking for an alternative to ".com.")

The online retailer ran a bunch of TV ads touting its rebranding. It even secured naming rights to a sports stadium in Oakland, Calif.

But consumers didn't get it. They typed in "o.com" or other variations into their browser.

Now Overstock.com has pulled back and is only using "O.co" internationally, where "Overstock" is a less-useful brand name.

If Overstock couldn't make it happen here with a huge TV push, do you really think marketers are going to be able to make these new names stick?

We leave you with these thoughts from Harper's about an earlier land grab, the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889:

The development of Oklahoma will in this respect resemble the settlement of Kansas, where it was found that the real settlers were in many instances men with some means, who came to take up the claims of those whom drought and mortgages and hard times had driven to the wall. Hundreds of people who were starved out of Kansas were among the first to enter Oklahoma with the intention of retrieving their scattered fortunes; yet as they went into Oklahoma with no more resources they had carried into central and western Kansas, it is not unlikely that the ultimate result will be the same. Men who have gone into Oklahoma and obtained quarter sections of land on the fertile parts of the river-bottoms, with the intention of pasturing stock on the sandy uplands, which are adapted for nothing better than grazing, stand a fair chance of keeping the mortgage company from the door, as, from present indications, it is not probable that the uplands will be disturbed for many years to come.

Good luck in the uplands, domain settlers.

- As seen in Business Insider
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